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Midway: Sam's Parking Garage, 360 W. Broadway
by Stuart Horodner
On Saturday, July 27th, from 1:00 to 10:00 p.m., Borax Films and Pilot Arts mixed art and life on a garage rooftop in Soho. It was a mixer in the old fashioned sense, a party conceived to bring together factions, to get to know each other. Viewers walked up a ramp and parked themselves in booths offering art, food, games of chance and small prizes. "Midway" was the name, but Fluxus was the game. Conceived as carnival = exhibition, it bisected the summer with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, "hey, let's put on a show" enthusiasm.
It may be that the participants in this event are too young for names like George Maciunas, Daniel Spoerri, Alison Knowles, Ay-O, and Dick Higgins to mean anything to them. They might not know about the Mail Order Warehouse that briefly occupied 359 Canal Street in 1964, filled with smart little object/events waiting to be shipped out to eager consumers. (The orders did not pour in.) They might not have attended street cleaning performances or impromptu concerts. No matter. Fun is fun, and somehow each generation makes its peace with the caring/not caring, attention/no attention, and confidence/doubt hurdles that confront us all. The only difference is, that unlike artists of the '60s who could conceive of an international "family" of Fluxers, circumventing the gallery system (and living with the consequences), artists in the '90s are likely to bemoan the state of galleries, and at the same time, desperately want one. Not only want one, but want one in the right neighborhood; on the right block; in the right building.
So, while they're waiting for the planets to realign again, for the limos to pull up, the piles of coke and all, artists try to create a venue. I mean, no one is going to quit making art just because Lannan stopped buying and Peter Ludwig's dead. O.K., there's a shortage of places to show and a tiny club of buyers. So, you wake up, assure yourself that ideas and efforts are a collateral of sorts, and try to find an audience to embrace them.
What do you do?
You have shows in your apartment; in law offices; in Wall Street buildings. If you're Borax and Pilot, you organize an exhibition, based on a carnival, which really is a party. And, how do you judge an art "party?" By who and what you saw? Downtown fashion? Did you win a prize? Did you meet someone? Did you have a good time?
Tom Waits's song "Step Right Up" was playing in my head. I had taken it with me to "Midway," the way one takes sunscreen for the beach. It was a protectant; a regulator; it would help condition my responses. A selection...
STEP RIGHT UP. Max Schuman's paint modified magazine covers with beefy portraits and riffs on Time (magazine)--time to dream; time to play; time to produce your own representations. They hang on a clothesline--an informal salon.
STEP RIGHT UP. Tara Fracalossi and Thomas Lail, head to toe in white outfits (KKK or aliens?) with dunce caps and dark shades offer an opportunity to guess the number of beans in a bowl. We will be in touch if you were closest.
EVERYONE'S A WINNER, BARGAINS GALORE. Matt Hausmann's basketball toss--there are three flaccid hoops, ranging from biggest to smallest. It's one dollar to play--become an artist (that one's easy), receive a grant (a little harder), and prosper (missed)--hitting the "Grant" returns 50 cents. (If you can get balls to float in a fishtank, you're really an artist.)
SOMETHING FOR THE LITTLE LADY. A sexy peasant woman (Rene) draped in a cotton duck gown by Elisa Jimenez, carries a basket of pinwheel texts. She talks up the show on street level, and later, meanders through the rooftop crowd. ( I'd follow her anywhere!)
WE GOT PERFUME. Two tough-as-nails blackjack dealers can't quite remember Karen Kimmel's house rules, but the prizes for 21 (her "fill in your phone number" beer "cozy" and matching tee-shirt) are well worth the risk. After all, if you lose your shirt trying, the dealers just might give you one of Karen's.
ACT NOW. ACT NOW. Three green tennis balls and good eye/hand coordination allow you to sink Steve West at his own dunking booth. When the original plan of having art world celebrity "dunkees" failed, West and fiance Lori donned swim gear. Let's face it, weekends in the Hampton's aside, was Mary Boone, or Josh Baer or some New York Times critic going to be anywhere near artists throwing things? West found out that it's much harder to sell yourself or a loved one as the target.
ONE SIZE FITS ALL. Ricci Albenda tries his steady hand with blue marker, tattooing willing chests with personalized words: "Crest," "Yeast," "Heron," "Either"...(Hair, cleavage, breathing,and slight embarrassment the obstacles to be overcome).
50% OFF. Carrie Cooperider's pain guillotine--small bread-head criminals--and louvre vegetal soup--canned with xerox labels... Part of a larger conceptual project or a try at grotesque catering?
DON'T SETTLE FOR LESS. Loretta Harms promises an all day sucking experience. Wait a minute, don't get too excited. The hours of licking pleasure come after removing the wrapper (with your face laser-printed on top) of a lollipop!
VOLUME, VOLUME. Will you please step forward and make a confession to Jon Tower, who, decked out in black priest's garb with red trim and black mask over his eyes, must have been as hot as Hell. Familiarity with the underworld could have been what he was waiting to talk about with anyone whispering their sins to him through the white funnel that led to his ear.
IT'S ONLY A DOLLAR. What's the matter with you? What are you looking at? Don't you know how hard it is to sit here and have people not "get it," not want what you're selling. It's only a dollar. You'd pay a dollar for a cup of coffee down the street, wouldn't you? You're paying for a coffee "event," aren't you? You're paying to be seen drinking coffee, on a leather high chair, in the window. That's what you're paying for. Why won't you pay it over here, for an art experience. You're being looked at here, too. We're all being looked at!
IF NOT COMPLETELY SATISFIED by House of Borax's productions of M'di and SirenSong, you've missed the boat. Their expanding of the theater's proscenium includes big gestures on a rudimentary stage, letting the seams show, attitude, trans-gendered sirens and studs, a tasty food court, and, last but not least, a talented troupe of fools. These plays were the big attention-getters. It was impossible to concentrate on anything else while they were unfolding.
DON'T BE FOOLED BY CHEAP IMITATIONS. For three dollars have your portrait done by "Lame Artist" Andrew Boardman, his drawing hand bandaged at the wrist. When I walked by, a pleasant looking fella' with a cast on his elbow was posing for his.
NEW & IMPROVED. Included Matthias Hammer's Jello shots in the shape of something I'm not quite sure of (looks like half a dog biscuit to me), Monroe Galloway's barbecue and kiddie pool, wisdom wafers with overused art quotes inside, tarot card readings, Karin Schaefer's video variation on the "Magic 8 Ball," and the cult of claude (Wampler).
FOLLOW THESE EASY INSTRUCTIONS. Stick your head through the holes in Tom Bejgrowicz and John Lavin's photo backdrops, and find yourself as King Kong on a cartoon Empire State building, or as one of the two players in an urban drama--overweight mugger or old lady muggee. Two for five dollars. Or, pick out a clown outfit and fright wig and become Heather Marie Vernon's siamese twin for the camera.
SEE YA LATER ALLIGATOR. Four hours seemed about enough for me. I took pictures, made notes, had a few beers. I noticed art and life reluctantly mingling, sniffing around each other. I was told this is likely to be a yearly event.
HOW DO WE DO IT? Paola Ruby Weintraub does it by silently playing out private rituals. In pale white make-up and wearing only a reddish slip, she uses minimal props to maximum effect. Having staked out the entrance/exit ramp she guaranteed herself an audience, and she mesmerized it. Drawing her 3 ring circus with chalk on the blacktop, she stepped in, and among chattering teeth (each in their own mini-circle) she sat furiously outlining and/or filling in black dots on the surface of a propped up mirror. Later, her prone body facing down ramp and thin plastic tubing under her hands (extending from a gallon jug of water behind her), she laid perfectly still, as a constant trickle of liquid flowed away from her, staining the ground. I got the feeling that, with or without the crowd, she was like Kafka's "Hunger Artist"--the truly satisfied spectator at her own event.
RECEIVE OUR FREE BROCHURE.
By looking at the places where looking takes place, artists and curators are finding other ways to consider the nature of "exhibition." Recent projects take their cue from "collections" such as the zoo, the circus, the fashion show, the library and/or the Olympics. Sue Canning's, Saul Ostrow's, and Yvonne Muranushi's joint effort, "Works for a Fun House," 1995, at E.S. VanDam, and Damient Hirst's one man-group show at Larry Gagosian are two fine examples. Their cool and devilish tone, distorto-mirrors, and nervous laughter offer one path into the next century.
"Midway," a friendly lite-spectacle of serious silliness, took a different road. Yoko Ono, Robert Watts, Ben Vautier, and Joe Jones are smiling somewhere.
New York, New York
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