Friday, September 30, 2005

vacation

going on vacation, be back next week.

In the meantime, go see Serenity.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo

Feeling a bit nostalgic today, so here's a great photo taken in my hometown Kalamazoo, Michigan. It was posted on the Kalamazoo Flickr, and is the work of Puja. The mirrored facade is from a downtown building I loved as a kid.


Another photo by Puja, taken at South Haven, on the shores of Lake Michigan. Not only is it a beautiful beach, but before they tightened security you used to be able to swim in the warm outflow from the nearby nuclear power plant. I'm sure it was harmless...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Sculpture in the landscape

Reading New Milestones : sculpture, community and the land published by Common Ground, an environmental charity in the UK. Common Ground's website describes itself as:
...internationally recognised for playing a unique role in the arts and environmental fields, distinguished by the linking of nature with culture, focussing upon the positive investment people can make in their own localities, championing popular democratic involvement, and by inspiring celebration as a starting point for action to improve the quality of our everyday places.
While the website is a bit difficult to handle (the designer is in love with flashing objects), I recommend the book. It's a straightforward documentation of the New Milestones project. For New Milestones, Common Ground matched several sculptors with areas of publicly used land in Dorset in the late 1980s. The sculptors, including Peter Randall-Page and Andy Goldsworthy, created pieces in tune with the landscape, making an effort to include interactions with the community and the history of the land. According to the publication, the underlying goals of New Milestones were (from pg. 75)
  • to enable ordinary people/groups to commission works of art for themselves
  • to create cultural touchstones
  • to release sculpture from the confines of gallery and sculpture park into places where people live, work and play...
  • to create new collaborations between countryside, environmental, art and community organizations
The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, near Wales, is another example of sculpture in the landscape. It's a bit more on the side of the traditional sculpture garden - though situated in a protected forest. I haven't visited but it sounds beautiful.

From "Forests" on the trail's website:
The question has been how to open visitors' eyes to the hints of history, the sense of awe and magic; above all to the sense of beauty of a living and productive environment. Foresters and natural scientists are perhaps too prosaic, too close to the text books which trained them. Could it be that artists who come with no specialist knowledge would be able to inspire visitors with works of art which are both a direct response to the forest and to the very spot where the work is placed?
Lastly, from a more academic article on public art by Wendy Ross (read it here):
Throughout the Forest of Dean visitors are constantly required to reassess their understanding of art and its role in society. Tradition is literally thrown to the winds. Conventional expectations of site, material, form and function are all challenged. Where in galleries the visitor is aware of prominent `Do not touch' signs, here full participation by the visitor is encouraged, indeed is unavoidable as the artworks assert their presence and that of the forest. Many of the sculptures in the Forest tease the visitor into physical participation. These works simply and quite directly intervene in the environment. They are not intrusive, but present themselves in such a manner as to be inclusive as opposed to exclusive.
I haven't come across an equivalent near the Washington Metro area, though we have our share of sculpture gardens. If anyone knows of a forest site close by, let me know.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

To Do list : 14th Street Galleries

I've been meaning to write up my notes from my visit to the 14th street galleries two weeks ago. Got distracted by Rodin. I am a baaad blogger.

Anyhow, check back later, maybe tomorrow. Highlights : I enjoyed the surprise of Kendall Buster's blue installation; and Jiha Moon's works on paper drew me in, even as I felt they were more uneven than the reviews I've seen so far suggest.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Danto talk

If, for some reason, you're reading this and you're in the NY area (or just have nothing better to do than take a four hour drive tonight), critic Arthur Danto is giving a curator's talk for his show The Art of 9/11 at apexart, at 6:30 pm. The talk is free and open to the public. So, you'll have to leave soon if you're going to make it from DC!

Apartment

Eric Deis, an artist based in Vancouver, emailed me with a link to his video work Apartment. It's a short, absorbing piece that reminds me a little of the way David Lynch turns familiar places unrecognizable by a subtle shift in reality.

From the artists statement:

Operating on the borders between fact and fiction, a residential apartment is transformed through a routine dousing of water from sources suggested, known and unknown. Through poetic visual rhythms, and soundscapes, the barriers between the natural and unnatural, and the transcribed and fact, are dissolved.

I would have liked the cuts to be slower, to linger on the surfaces as the water drips and cascades. The piece has gained an added eeriness in the aftermath of Katrina - all of those everyday, mundane household things that make up our lives made strange and threatening by the addition of water.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

First Pulse Projects

Check out First Pulse Projects, the website for the collaboration between a biochemist and two artists. Joy Garnett is currently in the show Blasts at G Fine Art.

Reading Rodin

Auguste Rodin has been one of my artistic heroes since I visited the Musee Rodin in 2001. Every few months I make the pilgrimage to the National Gallery's sculpture halls to worship The Age of Bronze. Rodin's emotional expression and belief in the "truth" of nature are a bit out of fashion these days; but for me nothing can beat the intensity of his sculpture or the delicate, erotic strength of his later drawings.

From Auguste Rodin : readings on his life and work, edited by Albert Elsen.

Rodin on drawing:
The greatest difficulty that one encounters in art, that which must be surmounted before everything else and which dominates all others, comes from the necessity of drawing well; only the knowledge of drawing permits one to compare, judge, express simplicity in fixing the essential. By means of drawing, the work takes on the power of natural things, without drawing, no truth.
Rodin on the artistic struggle:
He who, opposed, unrecognized, gives up and doesn't fight on for his personal comprehension of the beautiful doesn't deserve the name of artist. If he persists in his effort, affirming it even more strongly, he will overcome and will impose himself. In a work of art, however misunderstood at first sight, truth always asserts its rights.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Fear Art

NEWSgrist has posted a collection of articles around the controversial exhibition A Knock at the Door exhibit in New York.

From the show's website:
Anchored with works and artists already targeted by the Secret Service, the show expands to show how, with no accountability required of the federal government, any cultural activity could come under investigation. A Knock at the Door challenges the assumption that there is a clear line defining so-called "threatening" or "Un-American" art and activity, and that all art is an expression of the most basic foundation of a democratic society - the free expression and exchange of ideas.
Caryn James writes in the NYT :
As it turns out, the show is a thoughtful, legitimate exploration of one way in which American artists' lives have changed because of 9/11; it raises questions about artistic freedom that ought to be asked near ground zero. And the anger directed against the show reveals some chilling cultural trends: the devaluing of art as a proper response to 9/11, and the persistent, wrongheaded idea that to question the government is to dishonor the memory of those who died.
Hers is not necessarily the dominant opinion. From the New York Daily News:

The bottom line is that a show like this, staged as it will be in lower Manhattan during the heartwrenching memorials surrounding 9/11, is simply inappropriate, as should be clear to anyone from lower Manhattan with cultural aspirations. It is also insulting to victims and survivors and the country that was attacked.

And finally, 9/11 and "Inappropriate Art" from the Gotham Gazette (via NEWSgrist) which not only comments on this exhibit but on the politics surrounding the creation of the memorial.

I haven't seen the show, and I'm not sure I'll get up to NY before it closes, but questions that spring to my mind from reading these articles are : When is art inappropriate? Can art be inappropriate? If so, what makes a piece inappropriate? When, then, is art appropriate to a situation?

An attempt to answer the last question is made by Arthur Danto's show at apexart, The Art of 9/11. Danto writes:
[After 9/11] I thought the last thing on anyone’s mind was art. But by day’s end the city was transformed into a ritual precinct, dense with improvised sites of mourning. I thought at the time that artists, had they tried to do something in response to 9/11, could not have done better than the anonymous shrine-makers who found ways of expressing the common mood and feeling of those days, in ways that everyone instantly understood.
A Knock at the Door runs through October 1st and The Art of 9/11 until October 15.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Art (Finally!)

Okay, I'm cutting myself off from ranting about Katrina here, unless it's art related. Enough.

While it may not seem like it from my recent posts, I have left the computer and tv screen and seen a bit of art in the last week. It's always difficult to get a good look at art at the opening, so I hope I have a chance to revisit some of these shows. Here's an impressionistic rundown.

Last weekend the Dupont Circle openings were thin, due to the holiday.
  • Go Figure! at JET Artworks is an eclectic group show of figurative artists. The works I enjoyed most had a certain sense of fragmentation in common. Michael Tarbi's small, detailed drawings and Hunter Stamps' visceral sculptures use isolated pieces of anatomy in a psychological rather than clinical manner. The barely-there images in Lia Cook's exquisite black and white weavings recall pixellated photos, blurred newsprint, or faces emerging from smoke. In his DVD collage Screamtastic Justin Marshall assembles footage from slasher films of the 1970s and 80s to create a seamless, nearly wordless study of human gesture that shifts from creepy to downright funny and back in the blink of an eye. The characters in Amy Cutler's disjointed narratives wander through a world filled with jumbles of household goods, never as bewildered as they should be by their odd situation or the presence of the occasional crocodile.
  • Introductions at Irvine Contemporary Art was a group show of recent art school graduates. While diverse in media and focus this show was a let-down after the more engaging Go Figure!. Diana Al-Hadid's large gravity-defying sculpture was the only piece from the eight artists that caught my attention. None of the work from the recent graduates were as compelling as the Judy Pfaff print tucked in a remote corner of the gallery's back room. The show is now closed. I'm looking forward to the current show The Apollo Prophecies, which looks grandly strange.
I'll get to the shows I visited this weekend later.

Bringing the War Home

I know, I know, we're not supposed to be playing the Blame Game (is that a Milton Bradley product??) but these (and this) remind me of Martha Rosler's series Bringing the War Home.

Here's a gallery of Rosler's work. I didn't realize she'd done a new series (2004) of Bringing the War Home works until today. How fitting. I'm not sure the computer animation has the impact of the earlier photocollage, but it's hard to judge on the small screen.

The image is Balloons from Bringing the War Home (1967-72) and is from Rosler's website.

As a complement to the linked images above, read How Bush Blew It, from Newsweek. (nicked from Bat Guano's Brain). Regardless of the failings of local and state government and FEMA, Bush had an obligation as the leader of this country to be aware of what was happening, and to take action when it clearly became necessary. In my opinion this was his worst failing - not only was he completely oblivious to the catastrophe but he failed to be the strong leader he has always claimed to be.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Katrina stories

As a college student I was involved with Alternative Spring Break. I organized a volunteer trip to New Orleans for a week in the late 1990's. One of the things we were taught by the people we came to help was that they were not just a project to be fixed (especially in a week by college students!) but that they were people, with lives and stories of their own, who would be struggling on long after we were gone. That we got more from them, learned more from them, than we could possibly give back.

This is probably the cheezy bleeding heart liberal coming out in me, but after witnessing the endless reports of how badly people in need were treated (stories of water being lobbed at them off of trucks as if they were animals - when it finally came) I feel like maybe one way to heal some of the pain and humilation the victims must be feeling would be to collect these stories, to listen. To give back some dignity to people who lost everything they had then were punished and demonized.

This isn't art related but as a writer I'm interested in narratives, in the telling of stories. And this is the clearest personal story I've read from the people caught in New Orleans after the flood.

From a narrative by two members of the Paramedic Chapter of SEIU Local 790, in the city for a conference. Via NEWSgrist. These two mention being turned away from walking out of the city, as reported on FoxNews. Unlike the cable news, in this story the reason seems clear:
We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.
More from the same story:
Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.


14th Street Galleries

Oddly, the Washington Flyer (I think it's that free mag you can pick up at the airport) features a good article on the 14th Street corridor galleries and their openings this weekend. Check it out.

I don't know whether I'll make it to the Bethesda Art Walk tonight (it's been a long week) but I should be circulating around 14th street tomorrow night. I'm the one who kinda looks like I spend too much time in a library, staring at a computer screen.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Last Chance - Visual Music

Visual Music at the Hirshhorn Museum closes this Sunday. Give yourself a present this week and check out the show. If you've only seen it once go again, this exhibition is worth multiple viewings.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

More on DC artists for Hurricane relief

This might be repetitious, but it's for a good cause. I was outbid for JT Kirkland's great piece, but it's for the best - more money for the relief effort.

Updated list of pieces for sale or auction to benefit various charities at Alexandra Silverthorne's site.

The list at Washington DC Art News.

Two prayers that struck me from James Bailey's 58 Prayers for the Victims of Eastern Airlines Flight 304:
11- I don't have a word to describe what happened. I don't think there is such a word. And if somebody coins such a word I don't think it should be put into the dictionary. I think it would be better to leave that word alone

51- What's wrong with the world is that the world is not wrong. People are, but not the world. The world is always alright, no matter how wrong its people are
Part of a larger post titled The Crash of Eastern Flight 304 Into Lake Pontchartrain.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Mary Coble at Connor Contemporary Arts

I visited Mary Coble's performance last night near the beginning of the evening.
From the press release:
In hate crimes against the GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gendered] community words carved into the victim's body was somewhat of a common occurrence in comparison with hate crimes committed against other groups of people. Words like "faggot" and "dyke" were left in the individual's skin as a nauseating marker of why these individuals were killed. I have made the choice to amass the names of these victims and have them etched into my skin as a parallel to this gruesome tactic.
The concept and execution (the names were etched into her back with a tattoo needle) brought to my mind the story "In the penal colony" by Franz Kafka, where prisoners are punished by having their crimes etched across their bodies.
“Our sentence does not sound severe. The law which a condemned man has violated is inscribed on his body with the harrow. This Condemned Man, for example,” and the Officer pointed to the man, “will have inscribed on his body, ‘Honour your superiors.’”
The endurance aspect of the performance was hard to see at the time I viewed it, since less than ten names had been inscribed on Coble's back (out of potentially 100+ over 8 hours). As each name was finished, a small piece of paper was pressed over it, creating a reverse image of the name printed in Coble's blood. These blood prints are quite delicate and lovely.

Overall, I think it may not have been necessary to see the performance itself to appreciate the work (see this discussion at Thinking About Art). In some respects it might make a difference to the audience to be there - the knowledge that the event did happen is different in person than just viewing photographs of the event would be.

Read the Washington Post interview with the artist here.

If anyone can remember the name of the artist who also did a performance (in the early 90's I believe) where someone carved on her(?) back and took prints of the blood - I think the performance was related to AIDS - let me know. I wanted to compare Coble's work to that earlier piece.

Check out the documentation of the performance at Connor Contemporary Art starting September 9-October 22, and the reception on Friday, September 9th from 6-8pm.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Yet another way to help

My uncle lives in Baton Rouge and is a security screener at the airport there. Here's his call for help:
As of 12:30 pm today [Thursday] @ the Baton Rouge Airport we are doing twice the number of people we normally would and have no help in site from TSA / DHS [Department of Homeland Securtiy]. No manpower or anything has showed up.

You can help me and US, TSA here. We are going to basically be asked to take up the slack from New Orleans airport. Airlines like Jet Blue and United and South west are going to start operations here. The airlines we have are bringing in bigger planes and adding flights. WE NEED MORE SECURITY SCREENERS IN BATON ROUGE NOW!!!

Please put pressure on TSA and DHS to address this problem head-on before we sub-merge in the human tragedy of people trying to get out of here to somewhere safe where family is. Write or email TSA or your Senators and Congressmen for me and the pitiful 35 people here we have to process 2-3000 passengers per day so far we are asked to handle. We have people sleeping all over our airport. Baton Rouge's population is going to double by next week.

If you want to do something to help in this disaster, please do this for me. Do it for the victims so they can get the hell outta here. Think about 2 hours waiting to get through security with only the clothes on your back left to you. Lucky to even manage to get a booking on a flight. I'm serious. You will make a hell of a difference if you can put pressure on the FEDS to get us some help getting the survivors outta here.
As you've probably seen from the news, the New Orleans airport has been taken over by the rescue efforts and made into a makeshift hospitol. This is one (free) thing you can do. While you're at it, ask your representative why after all the hype of reorganization and funding the Department of Homeland Security, among other federal and local organizations, wasn't better prepared to deal with such a crisis, and why it has taken 4 days to start the relief effort when the news media managed to make it in to the area from the beginning.

Write your Representative.

How to write your congressperson.

Contact TSA.

Contact Department of Homeland Security.

More Katrina links

Forward Retreat on documenting the damage. I've been thinking of Sontag's book off and on since the Iraq war started, and it's been made relevent again with Katrina, but I can't remember enough to really make any coherant comments.

Interdictor- livejournal commentary from New Orleans (via Master Pip)

Two Americas : Sink or Swim from CommonDreams

Society's Net Snaps from Common Dreams

In America from Common Dreams

Survivors wait as disaster builds via Yahoo News

Hurrican Katrina and the Arts via Arts Journal

Katrina Destroys Music History Too via Village Voice

Simplify!

At the end of a great, concise essay on the Dan Flavin retrospective currently in Chicago (formerly at the National Gallery) Todd Gibson writes:
These two paths toward simplicity should serve as case studies for young artists today. Often it’s finding the essential kernel of the work and paring back everything but that—painfully difficult as it is to do—that leads to the development of a clear, unique, mature style.
I feel like I need to do that in my own work, but I'm not really sure where to start. I've talked a bit with JT Kirkland about how he moved from paintings to his wood pieces... anyone else out there want to share your story of how you "simplified" your work - how you got from point A to point X?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Local artists auction work for hurricane relief

Alexandra Silverthorne has compiled a list. Add to that JT Kirkland, who is offering a beautiful piece.

Another way to help

My uncle lives in Baton Rouge and is a security screener at the airport there. Here's his call for help:
As of 12:30 pm today [Thursday] @ the Baton Rouge Airport we are doing twice the number of people we normally would and have no help in site from TSA / DHS [Department of Homeland Securtiy]. No manpower or anything has showed up.

You can help me and US, TSA here. We are going to basically be asked to take up the slack from New Orleans airport. Airlines like Jet Blue and United and South west are going to start operations here. The airlines we have are bringing in bigger planes and adding flights. WE NEED MORE SECURITY SCREENERS IN BATON ROUGE NOW!!!

Please put pressure on TSA and DHS to address this problem head-on before we sub-merge in the human tragedy of people trying to get out of here to somewhere safe where family is. Write or email TSA or your Senators and Congressmen for me and the pitiful 35 people here we have to process 2-3000 passengers per day so far we are asked to handle. We have people sleeping all over our airport. Baton Rouge's population is going to double by next week.

If you want to do something to help in this disaster, please do this for me. Do it for the victims so they can get the hell outta here. Think about 2 hours waiting to get through security with only the clothes on your back left to you. Lucky to even manage to get a booking on a flight. I'm serious. You will make a hell of a difference if you can put pressure on the FEDS to get us some help getting the survivors outta here.
As you've probably seen from the news, the New Orleans airport has been taken over by the rescue efforts and made into a makeshift hospitol. This is one (free) thing you can do. While you're at it, ask your representative why after all the hype of reorganization and funding the Department of Homeland Security, among other federal and local organizations, wasn't better prepared to deal with such a crisis, and why it has taken 4 days to start the relief effort when the news media managed to make it in to the area from the beginning.

Write your Representative.

How to write your congressperson.

Contact TSA.

Contact Department of Homeland Security.

Oddly morbid coincidence...


This image seems strangely appropriate. It's a painting of mine titled Bathers (Bluebeard's Wives), oil and charcoal on canvas, 2004. It's not just the water that disturbs me, but the way the postures of the figures echoes the images on the news of the distraught refugees in New Orleans and Mississippi.

Times Picayune - reporting from New Orleans

Modern Art Notes - Katrina and the arts - Tyler Green has compiled a list of links regarding the effect of the hurricane and flood on arts organizations

KatrinaHelp Wiki Portal

Danto on Smithson

Read The American Sublime by Arthur Danto.
One of the most famous works of art in America, Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty transcends the "earth art" genre to which critics have consigned it, and has become an emblem of the American sublime. It is made of black basalt boulders, bulldozed into a straight line that stretches, jetty-like, 1,500 feet from the eastern shore in the upper reaches of the Great Salt Lake, terminating in a spiral with three whorls. From the air it has the look of a bishop's crosier with an unusually ornamental crook. It has a way of disappearing and reappearing, which somehow gives it a touch of magic. Soon after it was made, it was submerged beneath the saline water that gives the lake its name, and on re-emerging at a later time, when the water-level fell, it was covered with a dense patina of salt crystals. It is reached with difficulty, requiring a trek over rutted roads, and there is no guarantee that it will be visible when one gets there; I failed to see it on the two occasions I made the attempt. So the work is as elusive as it is compelling, and though it belongs to its moment in history, it also has the timeless air of some ancient monument left behind by a vanished civilization.