Posts Tagged ‘Felix’

Totem Recall

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

“I wrote to the National Portrait Gallery this evening requesting that they remove my work “Felix, June 5, 1994” from the “Hide/Seek” exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. As an artist who saw first hand the tremendous agony and pain that so many of my generation lived through, and died with, I cannot take the decision of the Smithsonian lightly. To edit queer history in this way is hurtful and disrespectful.” -AA Bronson on his Facebook page, 12/16/2010

This heroic artist and artworld fixture has made a bold, soul-searching resolution about his landmark work.  The work itself deserves the periodic attention it has received here and abroad.  In New York alone, I’ve spotted it at the 2002 Whitney Biennial, the Terence Koh lecture from 2009, and the current Whitney Museum show Singular Visions.  Interesting that the work is owned by the National Gallery of Canada.  How would that privately-funded institution respond to the Wojnarowicz controversy?

AA Bronson, Felix, June 5, 1994, 1994/99

What he said:

“I made this photograph of Felix a few hours after his death. He is arranged to receive visitors, and his favorite objects are gathered about him: his television remote control, his tape-recorder, and his cigarettes. Felix suffered from extreme wasting, and at the time of his death his eyes could not be closed: there was not enough flesh left on the bone.”

He continues:

“Felix and Jorge and I lived and worked together from 1969 until 1994. This communal life ended when Jorge died of AIDS on February 3, 1994. Felix followed shortly after, on June 5, 1994.

Since Jorge and Felix died I have been struggling to find the limits of my own body as an independent organism, as a being outside of General Idea. Over the last five years I have found myself, much like a stroke victim, learning again the limits of my nervous system, how to function without my extended body (no longer three heads, twelve limbs), how to create possibilities from my reduced physicality.

I have had to place Jorge and Felix and General Idea at a distance. This has been difficult, like escaping from my own skin.

Dear Felix, by the act of exhibiting this image I declare that we are no longer of one mind, one body. I return you to General Idea’s world of mass media, there to function without me.”

The other Felix: Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled, 1991, one of 24 billboards

To exhibit Felix was AA Bronson’s progress toward reconciliation and letting go of the kindred spirit he lost.  One can only imagine the haunting pain he feels every time he agrees to exhibit the work, opening and re-opening those wounds, again and again.  By recalling Felix from the Smithsonian, AA isn’t just reclaiming his artwork.  He is reattaching himself to the Dead, a morbid grafting, which must be as horrific as waking up next to his corpse.

Stephen Kaltenbach

Thank you, AA Bronson, for making this gut-wrenching and meaningful gesture.  I will always remember the first time I saw Felix in personl!  Visitors to Hide/Seek should know how fortunate they are to see this phantom limb of yours.
UPDATE: The kid stays in the picture

Mechanical Animal

Saturday, July 4th, 2009
The fifth installment of MoMA’s Performance Exhibition Series is the North American premiere of Mark Leckey in the Long Tail (2009) by Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey. The British artist, 45 years old, looks great.  With his coiffed long hair and manicured beard, he looks like a Northwestern folk singer.  Leckey fans might associate him with flamboyant patterns and pink pants, but the lecturer Leckey appeared on stage in a smart, modest ensemble befitting a young professor: maybe semiotician chíc?  And he’s lost weight, according to my Leckey insider.
“Part lecture, part monologue, and part living sculpture, the work traverses the history of television and broadcasting, incorporating the role of the BBC and the icon of Felix the Cat, while simultaneously addressing the “long tail” theory of internet-based economics,” says MoMA.
The well-rehearsed event begins with a demonstration of the mechanical scanner, which Leckey has recreated for the performance.  The mechanical scanner was the apparatus predating the televised broadcast, and an early instance of the dematerialized subject, preparing audiences for digital imaging, Lawrence Weiner, iTunes, flash drives, and Mike Teavee in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
The lecture continues into a description of The Long Tail theory, illustrated with a simple diagram, somewhat sperm shaped.  This theory describes the way mass markets and fringe markets are distributed to their respective consumers.  Given that consumable products and goods are gradually becoming dematerialized into digital formats and platforms, and given that these platforms can be inexhaustibly reproduced and redistributed, often for free, then it follows that fringe consumption can spread to infinity.  A good example is the downloadable torrent.  When you want to download the Sonic Youth discography, you just need to find the torrent online.  That massive file, with scores of albums and live recordings, gets disassembled and dispersed among tens, scores, hundreds, then thousands of “seeders.”  Then when you want to download it, you receive the bits of file from those seeders, until the download completes, at which point you become a seeder yourself, unless you delete it from your library, which would make you a “leecher,” because you aren’t giving back to the economy from which you are taking.  The more demand there is in downloading a file, the more  supply there will be, with time.
Leckey then connects this to “swarm intelligence,” in a monologue amped up with cool audio effects and droning synth sound.  We learn about stigmergy, feedback loops, and ley lines as Leckey describes example after example of ways that we get out of the universe what we put into it.
It’s a cosmic karma of consumption.  And it’s especially relevant to an artist like Mark Leckey, whose earlier video and installatio work deals heavily with subcultural behavior and signifiers.  Internet communication helps subcultural participants to find each other with ease, which increases their solidarity.  What happens, then, when the Long Tail of fringe and subculture is able to grow and grow and grow, never expiring, never disbanding, never vaporizing?  So Leckey’s anthropological practice moves from empirical field studies to speculative theory.

Mark Leckey in the Long Tail (2009)
Mark Leckey in the Long Tail (2009)

The fifth installment of MoMA’s Performance Exhibition Series is the North American premiere of Mark Leckey in the Long Tail (2009) by Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey. The British artist, 45 years old, looks much younger than he is.  With his coiffed long hair, manicured beard, and gaunt limbs, he looks like a Northwestern folk singer.  Leckey fans might associate him with flamboyant patterns and pink pants, but the lecturer Leckey appeared on stage in a smart, modest ensemble befitting a young professor:  semiotician chíc?  And he’s lost weight, according to my Leckey insider.

“Part lecture, part monologue, and part living sculpture, the work traverses the history of television and broadcasting, incorporating the role of the BBC and the icon of Felix the Cat, while simultaneously addressing the ‘long tail’ theory of internet-based economics,” says MoMA.  It’s sort of a TED lecture for the 300 audience members who attended on one of the three nights at the Abron Arts Center.

The well-rehearsed performance begins with a demonstration of the mechanical scanner, which Leckey has recreated for the event.

The Mechanical Scanner, 1929
Ready for my Close-Up: The Mechanical Scanner, 1929

He explains that the mechanical scanner was the apparatus predating the televised broadcast, and that its initial test-drive in 1929 with a Felix the Cat doll was an early instance in the timeline of dematerialization, preparing audiences for digital imaging, Lawrence Weiner, iTunes, flash drives, and Mike Teavee in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Mike Teavee Gets Transmitted
Mike Teavee Gets Transmitted

The lecture continues into a description of The Long Tail theory, illustrated with a simple diagram, somewhat sperm shaped.  This theory describes the way mass markets and fringe markets diverge and feed into each other.  Leckey extrapolates: Given that consumable products and goods are gradually becoming dematerialized into digital formats, and given that these platforms can be inexhaustibly reproduced and redistributed, often for free, then it follows that fringe consumption can copied, copied, and spread to infinity.

Felix Felix Felix
Felix Felix Felix

A good example is the downloadable torrent.  When you want to download the Sonic Youth discography, you just need to find the torrent online.  By now, that massive file, which contains scores of albums and live recordings, gets disassembled and dispersed worldwide among dozens, hundreds, then thousands of  torrent enthusiasts, nicknamed “seeders.”  Then when you want it, you find it online, download it, and begin to receive the bits of file from those seeders, until the download completes, at which point you become a seeder yourself, unless you delete it from your library, which would make you a “leecher,” because you aren’t giving back to the economy from which you are taking.  It also works with movies, video games, and other media. The more demand there is in downloading a file, the more supply there will be, with time.  -At least until the Feds and Hollywood flex harder.

Leckey then connects this to “swarm intelligence,” in a monologue amped up with cool audio effects and droning synth sound effects, part of his constructive invocation of special effects.  We learn about stigmergy, feedback loops, and Ley lines as Leckey describes example after example of ways that we get out of the universe what we put into it.

Mark Leckey in the Long Tail (2009)
The Man: Mark Leckey in the Long Tail (2009)

Internet communication helps subcultural participants to find each other with ease, which increases their solidarity.  What happens, then, when the Long Tail of fringe and subculture is able to grow and grow and grow, never expiring, never disbanding, never vaporizing?

The Stage: Mark Leckey in the Long Tail (2009)
The Stage: Mark Leckey in the Long Tail (2009)

 

It’s a cosmic karma of consumption.  And it really matters to Mark Leckey, whose earlier video and installation work deals heavily with subcultural behavior and symbols, especially his Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, 1999, which appropriates documentary video of British youf revelers and ravers in signature apparel and body language as they dance in nightclubs, synergistically generating an environment in which they can each subjectively dissolve into oblivion.  That’s the Golden Rule of the Dance Floor: The more you go nuts, the more I can go nuts, and the more we both enjoy vaporizing into a tingling sensation of ecstasy.

The Fog: Mark Leckey in the Long Tail (2009)
The Fog: Mark Leckey in the Long Tail (2009)

So Leckey’s anthropological practice moves from empirical field studies to speculative theory.  What will happen to the cultures he’s commemorated?  What will happen to his work?  And because I’m recording it, is this blog post part of the art?

The Stage: Mark Leckey in the Long Tail (2009)
The Stage: Mark Leckey in the Long Tail (2009)

And how about Leckey’s style of research-based projects that exude earnest interest, and not glib irony?  Leckey conveys that the material is genuinely cool, readily available, worth sharing, and highly transcontinental; it is not esoteric, inaccessible, nor rarefied.  There’s no self-conscious tail-eating.

Felix, 2007 and I Must be Dreamin,' 2007 by Joyce Pensato
Felix, 2007 and I Must be Dreamin,' 2007 by Joyce Pensato
IMAGES: Michael Bilsborough, except for Felix and Wonka pics

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