Xavier Veilhan's Recording Studio of Our Dreams

Photo: Giacomo Cosua


Xavier Veilhan is a French artist born in 1963, living and working in Paris, whose work is mostly based in sculpture and installation. Parisians discovered him in the ‘90s when he was exhibited by Jennifer Flay. Today, he is represented by Andréhn-Schiptjenko (Stockholm), Galerie Perrotin (Paris, Hong Kong, New York, Seoul), Galeria Nara Roesler (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, New York) & 313 Art Project (Seoul). His body of work now brings him to attend Venice, where he was invited by the French Pavilion for the Biennale to present his installation “Studio Venizia,” a musical space in which professional musicians from around the world create new recordings.

Interview by Geraldine Postel 


In your installation for the French Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, you created a studio platform and curatorial program inviting other artists to participate. What motivates the artist to escape from this irresistible desire to be the only voice in such a manifestation?

It is not generosity, nor the wish to take a step back, but the logical result of the initial concept of the project: to create a situation that involves several actors. My stimulation and inspiration came from musicians and the whole creative process around music. “Studio Venezia” has become a mix between an exhibition space and a creative lab where people come to work one after the other.


Usually, in your creative process, do you like to share ideas with your curators or gallery owners?

When I have the idea of new work, I start to talk about it with the people from my studio. I refine the idea by exchanging with them, and once it is defined, I begin to work on it concretely. It is only then that I share it with galleries or curators.


The studio has very interesting architecture. Between visual arts, architecture, and music, your installation brings together the greatest aesthetic forms of creation. What did you seek to provoke?

I did not want to compete in terms of quantity of shapes, but rather to create something soft, with almost a domestic feel to it. I want people to feel good when they enter the French Pavilion, with all their senses: from the smell of the wood to the light and acoustic design. It is very important to inform the visitors about what is going on and how they should behave inside “Studio Venezia”. The fact that wood is used almost everywhere—floor, ceiling and walls—gives the impression of being in a closed environment, like a cave, which adds to this softness.


You have built a studio that hides a Neo-Classical building under panels of plywood in Okoumé, wood of the tropical regions. Does this choice of material have a relationship with its musical purposes?

Traditionally, wood has always been used to build acoustic spaces, like Renaissance theatres for example. It is also linked to the fact that theatre halls and philharmonics, just like recording studios, are similar to the inside of an instrument. And last but not least, wood is cheap and very easy to handle, especially plywood. All these different reasons explain why we chose wood as the main material of the installation.


Have you studied composition? Do you play an instrument?

No, unfortunately not. However, if I were a musician, I would probably just be playing the music. Instead, I have created an environment to simply listen, which is a dream situation for any music lover: I invite people I am a fan of, to create new pieces right in front of me, making it possible to live exceptional moments.


There is a real opening of artistic practice with the integration of the musicians and an acoustic chamber where the world is invited—a very beautiful idea, this collective energy, the team spirit that invites musicians and composers of great talent and renown. Do the visitors also participate in the musical process or do they remain spectators?

Visitors cannot participate in the sense that they cannot play the music, but they are definitely participating by having an effect on musicians, which I actually had underestimated. At first, I thought visitors would have been affected by being confronted to new kinds of music, but most of them are in fact open to new experiences thanks to the context of the Biennale. On the other hand, musicians are very much affected by the presence of spectators. There is a pressure—an empathic pressure, but a pressure nonetheless—that comes from the people in the room, which turns every moment into a performance. It is very interesting because it creates a new situation where recording becomes live recording, which changes the typology of the experience inside the pavilion into something new and hybrid, between performance and studio reflexion.


It’s a top playlist of guest musicians, from Chassol to DJ Chloé. Many of them are French but it also includes a bunch of international artists from Lee Scratch Perry to Thurston Moore, it goes far ... Why give an international dimension to the French pavilion?

It was not planned, it came naturally, but I am happy it occurred. Nevertheless, I think music is by essence international. The music you find in nightclubs all around the world, just like the music on Deezer, Spotify or iTunes is music before it is international music. Music transcends national boundaries, and even though musicians have their own nationality, their music is stateless.


Today while the show is underway, what are the highlights for you?

The other day, I was looking at Pietro, one of the mediators of Studio Venezia, moving stuff around and I realized the studio has been operational for 5 months already. It reminded me of how far we’ve come since the beginning of the project. To me every moment we live here is special in its own way. And there is always something happening, making the project emotionally very intense. I try to share a lot of these emotions on my Instagram stories.


The Venice Biennale is already one of the most important events of art, it is something between the Olympic Games and the World’s Fair. It is a principle of inviting a large number of countries to be represented by an elected artist / winner of a national competition that symbolizes the top of contemporary national creation. You are the gifted/chosen one of this edition and you chose to implement an installation that involves creating or performing other art pieces, an echo effect of creation in a studio. Does the art created by other artists in your studio becomes part of your work?

Yes and no. No, because the music created inside the French Pavilion remains the musicians’ property. And yes, because this music has been created and played for the first time here, which makes it belong in a way to the history of the place and the work. I am more interested in being able to share moments of creativity with musicians than in owning their creations.


Nietzsche has widely demonstrated that we are born from multiplicity, that the centre is everywhere. Do you think that this work shares this sentiment?

It is related in a way. “Studio Venezia” is born from a multiplicity of spaces and times. On one hand, there is the space of the installation in itself - the envelop – and the space for musical creation—the studio. On the other hand, there is the time of the exhibition—7 months—the time of each residency—a few days—and the time of the musical creation—the chronology of music in regards to its creation in the studio. These different spaces and times collide and intertwine to end up changing our perspective on music and on the format of the exhibition.


Marina Abramovic: In Residence in Australia and Urs Fisher at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles both invited other artists to create major exhibitions Similar to these two recent examples, your guest artists are not paid but fed, housed, washed, and in addition, they share the fabulous life experience of artists who work in community in a prestigious space. If they want to, and if the opportunity arises, they can also leave with their own musical creations to use as they choose. During a live recording for example, is there a clause that recommends attribution of production as coming from the studio Xavier Veilhan?

An important part for me is that the invited musicians are not paid. Our agreement includes the possibility to make new recordings, with the simple constraint of having an audience present inside the studio, but it is based on an invitation. There is no money involved, which I find interesting since it is different from nearly all other situations involving music. When one listens to music on streaming applications, when one buys a concert ticket, even with ads one can find on YouTube while watching music videos, there is always money involved. I want musicians to come to “Studio Venezia” with a blank page and no pressure related to money. That way they can take the creative direction they choose, without any financial obligation.


Here do you also play the role of producer, patron, or both?

I think I am more like a host who creates the situation. It is like being in your own house and inviting people over, which can lead to many types of exchange and creativity.


Do you have the feeling of multiplying yourself?

Not really. Actually, it is difficult for me to imagine what will be the result of this experience that has obviously and quite deeply changed me as a person. However, I have the feeling that it centers me more than it dislocates me.


You would of course prefer that the artists leave with the best memories of this magnificent experience. As a result, would you wish for them to get a mega-contract with an international producer, the creation in situ of a future chart-topping hit, or finding a soul mate? 

I would like this experience to create a link between all the musicians that have participated in “Studio Venezia”, like a community. I always give the example of universities and some art schools, like Sciences Po Paris or the Black Mountain College, that manage to make strong connections between students or former students. Twenty years after leaving school, one can connect or reconnect with people that one has never physically met but who have once studied at the same school. However, my goal is not to end up with this or that result. It would be more akin to a scientific experiment: putting two things in the same place and observing what happens.


Florence Müller Curates Fashion with Style

Florence Müller’s curatorial vision was introduced to the city of Denver in 2012 when she presented Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective at the Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building. As the first exhibition to highlight all forty years of the designer’s output, and Denver being the only US venue, it was an absolute showstopper that had people lining up throughout its duration, even during extended evening hours. In 2015, the DAM announced Müller as the institution’s Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art and Fashion. The following year she presented Shock Wave: Japanese Fashion Design, 1980s-90s, the first exhibition curated “in house” by Müller, with special focus turned to Denver’s local fashion collectors.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Müller and her curatorial assistant, Jane Burke, at the DAM offices where we discussed the future of the museum’s textile and fashion department, the recent boom in popularity of fashion exhibitions, and the landmark trends that put the United States on the fashion culture map.

-Interview by Hayley Richardson


The Denver Art Museum’s collection of textile art encompasses over 5,000 objects from Asia, Europe, North and South America, and range from archeological textiles to contemporary works of art in fiber. Under your curatorship this department now includes fashion and costume. Can you please talk about what it has been like to take this department in a new direction?

The museum had a huge fashion collection at one time, but it was deaccessioned about over a decade ago, so the idea now is to rebuild this area. It is challenging to acquire a collection that can illustrate the great couturiers and designers of the 20th century, but there is a lot to explore in the decades of the 1970s through the 2000s when you can still find very good examples of interesting designers. My goal is to make sure that the pieces acquired into the collection are seen by the public, so I coordinate acquisitions around the theme of exhibitions. For example, I acquired about 35 pieces for the Shock Wave exhibition, so they were able to be exhibited to the public right away and are now part of the permanent collection.

My curatorial assistant, Jane Burke, is currently working on an exhibition about a fashion illustrator named Jim Howard. Howard was active in New York in the 1950s through the 1980s, and did a lot of illustration for department store advertising. His archive is an excellent example of a coherent body of work with an artistic point of view on the history of fashion over the span of four decades. We hope to acquire some of his work as the museum has only a few engravings and fashion plates, so this will mark the beginning of a fashion illustration collection. I am very happy about this because fashion illustration is something that is rarely collected among fashion museums and it’s a shame because many of these items have already disappeared. Fashion illustrators were not seen as important as fashion photographers, which is one of the reasons their work was not acquired for museums. Right now, we have this opportunity to save one collection at the DAM and it’s great!


You have presented two exhibitions at Denver Art Museum: Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective and, as you just mentioned, Shock Wave: Japanese Fashion Design, 1980s-90s. The YSL exhibition featured environments that took the viewer inside the designer’s home and studio, or the closets of his patrons, and Shock Wave incorporated a variety of media like furniture design, photography, video, and more archival ephemera. Your curation goes beyond exhibiting clothing, it’s more about immersing the viewer within the place and time specific to the theme of the show.

Jane Burke: I think that’s a trend among museums these days, to do cross-departmental exhibitions. With fashion, you’re showing not only the garment but the person’s life, whether they’re a famous designer or a socialite, or the provenance of where the piece came from. You’re showing the lifestyle, or the era. You have to illustrate the bigger picture.

Florence Müller: When you have several types of objects belonging to different areas, whether it’s fashion, photography, artwork, and furniture like it was in Shock Wave, it’s an opportunity to catch the attention of more people. Some people may enter the exhibition who know a lot about design, but not so much about fashion. They will be attracted by the things that they understand, and then learn about new ideas related to fashion and other components of the exhibition. You can show that some movements, aesthetics, and new phenomena are not isolated. It is a way to show that fashion designers achieved great things, and were able to do so by maintaining connections with people in other fields. Shock Wave was the first fashion exhibition in the department, and it was meant to send a message that fashion is a form of art, and the Japanese designers were the best example to send that message clearly.

Jane: Florence illustrated, with the Japanese designers, that their work in fashion is so interrelated with other design concepts. Some were artists before becoming designers and their connection to the art world is strong. Rei Kawakubo from Comme des Garçons also designed  furniture at one point, and is really involved in the artistic direction of her brand from print media to photography. Issey Miyaki also operates this way. He now has a whole home line. I think fashion just intersects and overlaps naturally with a variety of mediums.

Florence: And Issey Miyaki has never called his company a couture house or fashion house. He’s always called it a studio, a design studio. He was looking, and is still looking at fashion not as just garments. For him, it is about designing ‘things,’ making ‘things.’ 


Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, which you co-curated with Olivier Gabet, opened at Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris this July. It is the largest exhibition dedicated to the designer. In an article for The Guardian, author Hannah Marriot states, “The golden age of haute couture may be decades past, but we are now living in the golden age of the blockbuster fashion exhibition.” What are your thoughts about this statement?

Yes, that is exactly what is happening right now. The day the exhibition opened in Paris, there was a line around the building of people who waited all morning to get in. As for the idea that the golden age of haute couture has passed, in the 1950s, couture was meant to dress very elegant women for the café society who lived a jet-set lifestyle and attended many events and parties. It was a lifestyle very special and specific to that time and it doesn’t exist today. You don’t have the opportunity of being dressed in a very exquisite manner because there aren’t any more of these big balls or private parties in people’s homes.

The phenomenon of today, though, is this obsession with selfies and having photos shared on the internet. There is the need of doing portraits or self-portraits at every moment of your life, and everyone is concerned with their own image. You could go to a party and be photographed and suddenly your photo is spread all over the world.

In regard to fashion exhibitions, people envision what they could look like in these garments when they enter the museum. During the opening of the Dior exhibition, I did the official visit with France’s First Lady, Brigitte Macron, and afterward I did a walk-through with a famous American fashion model. I think people have a very personal relationship with a fashion exhibition, and the first thought they have is, “What would I look like if I wore this?” Then they will read the exhibition text and learn something about what they see, who made it, and what was happening in the world. People are able to relate to fashion exhibitions because they can imagine themselves wearing the clothes and being part of the story.

Jane: At the show in Paris, there was a guestbook people could sign at the end of exhibition, and Florence tells this great story about it, about how people want to dream, which was the whole point of the exhibition. . .

Florence: There was a little girl who wrote in the book, ‘I love the exhibition, so beautiful. I am 10 years old and my grandmother promised to buy me a Dior dress when I turn 18 years old.’

[Florence then quotes the visitors book.]

Florence: ‘Thank you for this magnificent travel in the universe of elegance and absolute femininity. This exhibition is wonderful. [signed] The Parisian’

‘Where is Mr. Dior to thank him for all this beauty?’

‘The dream and grace for the service of women. Thank you for this beautiful moment. Very elegant.’

It’s funny because the word I put in the title is everywhere throughout the guests’ notes in the book. Dream. It is what we see in the first collection of Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior. It was like a dream ball in an enchanted forest. This idea that, in moments of crisis, you have to use beauty and dreams to work through difficult situations. I like to play on this paradox of ideas.

The other great thing about this exhibition is that we now are in a world where everyday clothes are becoming so simple and relaxed and sometimes not very aesthetic. I think it is great to show the opposite of this, just as an example, that you can think about and create dreams in the minds of little girls.


Cities like Paris, Milan, London, and Tokyo are epicenters of the fashion world, each with distinct styles and histories. What would you say are the defining traits or major contributions of fashion and style from the United States?

One of the United States’ biggest contributions to fashion is the development of sportswear. It began in the 1930s through the 1960s, and was something really new for its time. People in Europe were slow to accept sportswear as fashion because they were so ingrained in the tradition of elegance and couture, and sportswear is the total opposite. In America, sportswear expressed a new way of living that is more relaxed and connected with nature, and eventually designers in Europe started to incorporate sportswear into their collections. It was fashion designed for yourself and less for show, but was still developed in a very elaborate manner. American designer Claire McCardell was an important contributor to this idea of creating sportswear that could also be elegant by mixing simple materials like cotton but with elaborate cuts, forms, and shapes.

Another other important contribution is the phenomenon of the jeans and T-shirt style, which is distinctively American. Same with motorbike jackets and everything connected with the counterculture. When this style reached Europe by the end of the 1960s it was very desirable and influential. It totally changed the way Europeans dressed.

Today I think we are in a place between the two forces of T-shirt and jeans and sportswear, yoga clothes in particular, and designer clothes and cocktail dresses. There is a road in the middle of these two extremes, which is high-end street wear, street couture, which has been a huge trend over the past several years. Girls like Rihanna flaunt this style which has an interesting mix of the two extremes.   


In addition to being a curator, art and fashion historian, and writer, I understand that you also have created work as an artist and participated in artistic collaborations. Can you share more about this side of what you do?

A long time ago I worked in theater doing costume, makeup, and hair. Then I did photography but not for very long. I also did paintings and drawings. More recently I’ve worked with my husband Goran Vejvoda. We’ve done a lot of happenings and performances using video, choreography, costume, spoken word, and text. Really mixed medium. We did performances in Italy, France, Belgium, and England, but not in the US.

Most people in the fashion world do not know about these other things I have done. I don’t want to create confusion between my work in fashion and my work as an artist. But I use many of the elements and feelings I have from the fashion world in the happenings. The language of body, dress, the way you behave and move around a space and the way you speak, these are all different forms of communication, and by bringing them together I can create a great effect on the mind of the viewer. I did performances with Goran where I choreographed the dancers to change costumes in various sequences on stage, he did the music, and we both created the videos.

Goran and I are also working on a movie documentary about the history of sound art. We started with interviews while we traveled around the world, and accumulated all these videos and documentation. Goran is now working on the final edits and clarifying author rights.

Tim Gentles Sees Into The Mere Future


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

Interview by Natasha Przedborski


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

Interview by Brandon Johnson


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

Interview by Rebecca Manning


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

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

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


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

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


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

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



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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Dmitri Obergfell Is Processing History


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


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

Interview by Rebecca Manning


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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



Your Touch, Maria Antelman's Command


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


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


Interview by Brandon Johnson



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Connie Walsh's Sculpture in the 2nd Dimension

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

Interview by Emma Cohen


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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



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

Interview by Hayley Richardson


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

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


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

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




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

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


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

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




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

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


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

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




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

Interview by Liana Woodward


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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