Archive for July, 2012

Scissor Sister

Monday, July 30th, 2012
Wu Tsang's hair

“Clearly,” was Wu Tsang’s response, when asked whether this performance was an homage to Yoko Ono’s landmark “Cut Piece.” A better question might have been, “What makes this different from that?” Or, why not “Rhythm 0” by Marina Abramović?  No Serbian roulette here at the final night of Blasting Voice, though I overheard post-show visitors calculating how long it must have taken for Wu to grow such long hair.

The climax came when one audience member, sensing a Gordian knot (or “not”) went for Wu’s bun. The audience objected – bun-cutting is taboo – until an ardent member snatched the shears (scissors seizure).  After the show, I asked him why, but he couldn’t explain.  But I hear that he attended every night of Blasting Voice, so maybe he understood the fourth wall better than most.

(l-r) Blasting Voice curator Ashland Mines with friend; performer Shayne Oliver

Blasting Voice

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Geneva Jacuzzi performs in the Blasting Voice series at The Suzanne Geiss Company:

“BLASTING VOICE is an exhibition conceived and developed by Ashland Mines (Ed. note: He is also DJ Total Freedom and brother of Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio) and organized by Kevin McGarry and Isabel Venero. For the main gallery space, Mines, in collaboration with Thunder Horse Video, designed a stage with an over-equipped sound system to accommodate a single performer (Ed. note: Those speakers are mostly for show). On nine nights throughout the show, this stage will be activated by 27 performances — both linguistic and non-verbal, acoustic and electronic — exploring poetic and formal dimensions of amplification. There will be an image projection designed by Seychelle OD Allah in the reception area.”

The Last Picture Show

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Trevor Paglen – The Last Pictures from Creative Time on Vimeo.

Something to look forward to: in September, and commissioned by Creative Time, artist Trevor Paglen will send into orbit a super album of pictures from Earth’s history. Encoded on a silicon disk built to last billions of years, the album will ride on the television satellite EchoStar XVI, eventually orbiting the planet approximately 23,000 miles above our leveled cities and decomposed copyright lawyers.

Ponder that for a moment. According to the Drake equation, it is surprisingly likely that a technologically advanced civilization will find the satellite. Will the civilization’s viewers have eyes? How many other satellites will zip around Earth? Will the satellites seem like artifacts of the Earth-dwellers? Or will be they be mistaken as Earth dwellers themselves? Through time travel, could the recipients respond? Return the package like an unwanted Delia’s catalog?

John Waters, "Return to Sender," 2003

But really, the gift of this show could be a challenge to look beyond the technology and scientific achievement of this project, and even beyond the promising teamwork behind engineers and an artist, and into a prior legacy: the searching gaze of our common imagination.

From Prometheus

“but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?” – John Donne

The precedents for this optimistic message-in-a-bottle are Carl Sagan’s Golden Records, packaged into Voyager 1 and 2 (and marketed here as Murmurs from Earth). Knowingly, the promo video above opens with Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground by Blind Willie Johnson, a track from Sagan’s collection.

“Send more Chuck Berry” was the alien response to the Golden Records, at least in a classic episode of Saturday Night Live. Will Paglen’s album have equitably exciting contents? Send more M.C. Escher?

From "The Newsroom" title sequence

Model Search

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Model Theories is a summer group show up now at fordPROJECT, the midtown penthouse art gallery above the Ford Models agency.  Model Theories is curated by two mathematicians, Philip Ording and Helena Kauppila.  Helena Kauppila is a math professor at Columbia and an artist. Philip Ording is a CUNY math professor and geometry consultant to Richard Serra; he also curated Proofs and Refutations last year at David Zwirner Gallery with his wife, Alexandra Whitney, the gallery’s Director of Research & Exhibitions.

Mary Ellen Carrol, John Duff in "Model Theories" at fordPROJECT

Proofs and Refutations looped around five coordinates:
1. Playing with axiomatic systems and what mathematician Hermann Weyl termed the “range of indeterminacy” made available by logical deduction.
2. Quoting Imre Lakatos: “Mathematics, the product of human activity, alienates itself’ from the human activity which has been producing it.  It becomes a living, growing organism, that acquires a certain autonomy from the activity which has produced it; it develops its own autonomous laws of growth, its own dialectic.”  The certain autonomy of mathematics results in unexpected forms and structures.
3. Despite its abstraction, mathematics is a human activity and it cannot be entirely insulated from political and psychological forces.
4. The intrinsic limitations of mathematical logic are points of departure for two artists in the exhibition.
5. Artists who employ arithmetic or geometry with such a degree of personal awareness that mathematics operates more as poetics than science.

To each of these premises, I’ll propose a very contemporary artist: for #1, Xylor Jane; for #2, Sam Lewitt for his ferrofluid installation at the 2012 Whitney Biennial or Frank Benson for his Human Statue (Jessie); for #3, Liz Deschenes for her  Tilt / Swing (360° field of vision, version 1); for #4, Christian Marclay for The Clock; and for #5, Sam Gordon for his recent Tromple L’Oeil solo show.  All of these are debatable, of course.

Liz Deschenes, "Tilt / Swing (360° field of vision, version 1," 2009

Model Theories feels like an elaboration of the third premise.  Maybe a concise illumination comes from Peter Coffin’s page on the Ford website.  It reads, “His artwork often integrates an informal objectivity with the subjective to generate a dynamic between the two.”  In form, his two sculptures in the show, from way back in 1998, are highly rational but available for visitors’ play; we are invited to rearrange them at will.  (I didn’t.  For me, the permission is enough.)

Adding scale to this exploration of autonomous abstraction versus inevitable human presence are two entries from Haus-Rucker-Co, an Austrian architecture group active from 1967-1992Air Unit is an habitable bubble extended from the facade of a building, quite similar to Oasis Nr. 7, which actually appeared for Documenta 5 at the Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel, and later in exhibitions at the V&A Museum, London, and the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg.  In contemporary Manhattan life, I’m envisioning a dialogue about penetrating layers of private access, and then ending up in a publicly visible container.  I’m also recalling The B-Thing, Gelitin’s bandit balcony at The World Trade Center.

Haus-Rucker-Co, "Air Unit (Projekt documenta 5)," 1972

Allen Glatter produces calligraphic drawings from a customized pendulum that swings above the drawing surface.  From the drawings, he has manufactured an aluminum sculpture that looks like a jungle gym or giant paper clip.  Although a mathematician might explore the statistical possibilities of reproducibility, fluid mechanics, or the interaction between stylus and surface, these drawings seem to depart from the dialogue about subjectivity.*  In fact, “the certain autonomy of mathematics results in unexpected forms and structures,” describes Glatter’s drawings and sculptures alike.  

Allen Glatter at fordPROJECT
Allen Glatter, "Walk On By;" Mary Ellen Carroll, "100 German Men," 1997

Mary Ellen Carroll’s series, How to make painting disappear, parallels the Glatter drawings in their apparent disembodiment.  On plywood and formica, they include silkscreen and hand painting, but appear machine-made.  Two are populated with repeating patterns, but one, In the UK – HSBC + NatWest, appears random.  It reminds me of aerial views of crowds, or maybe time-lapse documentation of a radar hard at work.  As a model of population, leveling, and demographics, this painting in particular corresponds to her 100 German Men, the result of quick interviews with men in Germany.  

Mary Ellen Carroll, "How to make painting disappear (In the UK - HSBC + NatWest)" 2012; Wayne Gonzales, "Grey Pentagon" (2005)

Mathematicians curating art shows!  More, please.  How about molecular biologists or particle physicists?  Post-Higgs Boson paradigm?  Scientists talking art, artists talking science.  Take the press release, for example, from Dawn Kasper’s new show, “Fuel for the Fire.”  It reads:

“…FUEL FOR THE FIRE In the 1980s, physicist Alan Guth offered an enhanced version of the big-bang theory, called inflationary cosmology… The centerpiece of the proposal is a hypothetical cosmic fuel that, if concentrated in a tiny region, would drive a brief but stupendous outward rush of space, a bang, and a big one at that… mathematical analysis also revealed (and here’s where the multiverse enters) that as space expands the cosmic fuel replenishes itself, and so efficiently that it is virtually impossible to use it all up. Which means that the big bang would likely not be a unique event. Instead, the fuel would not only power the bang giving rise to our expanding realm, but it would power countless other bangs, too, each yielding its own separate, expanding universe…”

Filament fractals: fordPROJECT's stairwell chandelier

*Even though the artist engineered the drawing apparatus and provides the catalytic gesture, he is no more causally responsible for the ensuing image as a beachcombing ant is responsible for drawing Winston Churchill.