Our latest “Centerfield” column posted today on Art:21 blog…make sure to check it out! Caroline Picard interviews Matthew Goulish, co-founder of the collaborative performance group Every house has a door. A brief excerpt follows; go to Art:21 to read the piece in full!
This June, I saw a performance by Every house has a door, a collaborative group founded by Lin Hixson and Matthew Goulish in 2008 to “create project-specific collaborative performances with invited guests.” Having seen the piece in its intended context I want to ask questions outside its bounds. I appear like a kind of critic—a person asking the artist for something outside the presentation of a complete work. They’re Mending the Great Forest Highway is a dance for three men (Matthew Goulish, Jeff Harms, John Rich), with a DJ (Charissa Tolentino) and a narrator (Hannah Geil-Neufeld). It took place in the second floor gymnasium at Holstein Park in Chicago. Participants enacted a score of movement and sound presenting thematic elements from Hungarian folksongs, the tritone, and Benny Goodman. I wanted to ask about crisis, the framework of the theater, and the vocabulary of gestures—oblique responses to dance. Perhaps by asking them, perhaps through Goulish’s response, you might catch a ghost of the dance, left behind and buzzing in those summer-hot gymnasium walls.
Caroline Picard: How do you conceptualize the context for performance—do you frame it within traditional theater? How does time function within that context?
Matthew Goulish: Yes, theater as the container – less a set of conventions than of structures. Into it we place, let’s say, dance, writing, and music. We keep those elements distinct for clarity. Theater allows their coherent composition in time, the way the parts fit together. What happens first, second, last? What happens where? What echoes, and when? We have a sense of the parts in themselves (dance, music, writing), and another sense of the parts in relation as a cumulative experience (theater).
Can we call any room a theater if it contains theatrical events? What if we set up chairs in the afternoon at one end of a gymnasium that has windows and skylights? A little room noise might help the performance in unexpected ways. If we begin a 60-minute performance on June 18th at 2:00 PM, where will the sun be in the skylight when we end? (Read more).
This week: Mark Staff Brandl reports from Art Basel 2011!
Sometimes a book will sit on the shelf so long that it loses its specificity and becomes merely a faceless one of many. Recently I have been revisiting this group of old friends who are stacked shoulder-to-shoulder on my bookshelves like classmates in some dimly remembered second grade group photo. The Artists’ Cookbook by Madeleine Conway and Nancy Kirk is a 1977 publication by The Museum of Modern Art. This book has lived on my shelf since 1979 or so when my best friend’s mom gave it to me in a purge of superfluous reading material. As an elementary schooler, I had little use for a cookbook, especially of the gift book variety, but since I’ve kept it all these years, it must somehow appeal to me. Perhaps she sensed this. This is also the same women, who, when I was thirteen, offhandedly gave me the complete diaries of Anais Nin. Hmmm.
Subtitled “Conversations with Thirty Contemporary Painters and Sculptors,” The Artist’ Cookbook offers a photograph of the artist in the kitchen, a one-page discussion of his or her perspective on food, followed by a series of the artist’s own recipes. I can’t even begin to imagine what the authors said when they pitched this book. Maybe something along the lines of… “We could get Warhol to make soup” (146-148). “Marisol eats only ‘natural’ food” (97-102). “And oh yea, I hear Larry Rivers makes an excellent Bronx Chicken” (126-129). Now I love Willem de Kooning as much as the next person, but do I really want a recipe for his brother Koos’s Seafood Sauce? Maybe not, but somehow reading Robert Indiana’s recipe for Hoosier Borscht makes me feel as if I know something about him that his art doesn’t reveal.
The most charming artists in the book are Christo and Jeanne-Claude—listed only as Christo, of course, since it was 1977. Still, within the text they are treated equally as artists. But only one of them cooks, and that is Jeanne-Claude, and that is if you consider opening a can “cooking.” Their little introductory bio is both delightful and bullshitty. The photo, though, is what makes their story. In it, Jeanne-Claude and Christo are younger than I have ever seen them. Christo looks on as Jeanne-Claude giddily peers into a box of cookies. It was only when I was writing this that I realized that I have the same cookie tin. Though you can’t tell from the photo, the sides of the box are inscribed with marital advice. For example, Be to her virtues very kind. Be to her faults a little blind. As well as, And oft I have hear defended, Little said is soonest mended. This advice is well employed in our house. Judging by what by all accounts was a successful love affair, it seems that the advice worked as well for Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
The Artists’ Cookbook has been out of print pretty much since the moment it was published. Unlike other out-of-print art books, this one is still affordable, maybe because it does not fall tidily into any particular category. The interwebs show it starting at $25. Collecting vintage cookbooks right now is HOT HOT HOT, and this book would make a nice gift for someone who likes art and cooking, but not, perhaps, for someone who just loves to cook. These recipes are a little hit-or-miss.
The Artists’ Cookbook: Conversations with Thirsty Contemporary Painters and Sculptors
Madeleine Conway and Nancy Kirk
The Museum of Modern Art, New York 1977
Work by Alexis Ortiz, Julia Gootzeit, and Katie Schofield.
Fill in the Blank Gallery is located at 5038 N. Lincoln Ave. Reception Friday, from 7-11pm.
Work by Zoe Strauss.
Iceberg is located at 7714 N. Sheridan Rd. Reception Saturday, from 6-9pm.
Work by Marissa Perel.
Spoke is located at 119 N Peoria St, 3D. Performance Saturday, from 5-8pm.
Work by Eric Kaepplinger, Eric Cortez, and Joseph Palmer.
Chromopobia is located at 2303 N Oakley #1B. Reception Friday, from 6-10pm.
Work by Montgomery Perry Smith, Adam Hoff, Stephen Eichhorn, Max Reinhardt, Matt Sauermilch and more.
Heaven Gallery is located at 1550 N Milwaukee Ave #2. Reception Friday, from 7-11pm.
Edie Fake: I think a couple of things happen in a couple of different ways. First off, drawing a tattoo for someone is sort of like finding the perfect gift for someone you barely know. Part of a perfect gift is that it is entirely wanted and sort of surprising and I think it also has to have a little personal flair, some indication of who the giver is and why they would choose to give such a thing. So just the drawing/planning itself is already a lot more collaborative than just thinking about what you’d draw on your own. Then, you start tattooing someone and it’s a whole other thing. It’s a blood ritual and it’s craftsmanship and it’s fun and painful and casual too. I was only tattooing for a couple of years, but when I was working on someone there was this whole new process of understanding each line drawn, and also an understanding of why this tattoo was going to fit the person getting it. I think I was looking at the stuff I was tattooing like it was different sorts of heraldry. The person wearing the tattoo is a huge part of what the drawing becomes, both physically and energetically. That’s the biggest difference throughout the process. With drawings on paper I usually am pushing out a drawing with my own vision, and then it can have a really singular presentation. Tattoos temper your own version of how things should be with someone else’s ideas and I really love it because it can really push the way you draw into some strange places trying to figure out the common ground where “what someone wants” meets “what you want to give to them.” I’m not tattooing now, but I miss it a lot and I miss the way it pushed my drawings. I’m starting to casually put my feelers out for another apprenticeship here in Chicago.
EF: I’m not sure if my thoughts are organized enough to bring up anything worthy of being a philosophy! I do identify as a transsexual and I do think a lot about the expansiveness of language, the importance of self-definition and how that all relates to complicating gender and sexuality. Collapsing and expanding meaning of words and images can work towards a wild and playful vision of sex positivity as well; that’s what I strive for in drawings.
Multiple meanings are critical – I really think that’s what keeps visual, verbal and physical language alive, the way that new interpretations will always be added to the heap. I make a lot of work based on innuendo and word play. Coded meanings and visual decadence can provide a place where drawings can snap into something that complicates gender and implies new systems. For me, it’s impossible to articulate queerness in a direct and definitive way because it doesn’t exist like that – it’s much better pieced together through a drawing with many things happening, the interplay of different codes, sly language tricks, a collision of symbols, because all these things together gets more toward the idea of a border-less, boundless queer gestalt.
CP: Do you believe in a Utopia? (not necessarily something to implement, but something to work towards?)
EF: I don’t believe in some true, universal, obtainable utopia, or any kind of unified vision for a utopia, at all. However, I have experienced periods in my life I would definitely call “utopic” where I’ve felt amazing energetic kinship to those around me, or even just to myself… I should add, these were not periods that were free of problems or hardships, but they were times of feeling deeply connected to what I was doing and how I was living. Constantly scheming and trying to help others with their schemes.
I think the world is shitty and hard, really lovely things always fall apart, pain, violence, heartache and futility reign supreme. Flying in the face of that, a utopia notion in my head can push me forward, and encourage me to try to create good energy and critical work. Utopia as a constant push to conjure up how things could be better, and then the working your ideas into realities.
CP: In some way I was thinking about the utopia question because of the on-line project A Gay Utopia. I was wondering if you could talk a little about that–how did the project get started? What was it like developing work for an on-line and shared context?
EF: Before the Gay Utopia Online Symposium, I felt like the term was floating in the air a lot, especially the air over Chicago. In my experience, it was being used as sort of a rallying cry, to envision working for each other, creating networks, sharing resources, and helping each other build the things we wanted to see in the world. When I went on tour with Lee Relvas in 2006 she delivered this brilliant soapbox speech as part of our performance that culminated with asking the audience “Are you ready for a Gay Utopia?” Well, the answer to that was yes.
I’m unsure of how the Online Symposium started, but that project was the brainchild of Noah Berlatsky and Bert Stabler. It’s a wild grouping of folks that they brought together, and I’m really proud of the work I did for the project. There’s a wide range of how people approached the work there, and I think I approached it as someone who feels like “Gay Utopia” is a concept that nourishes me and is integral to how I see the cycles of my life tumble out. The Gay Utopia shares a lot with the Temporary Autonomous Zone and I am really invested in both of those, so I wanted to create a comic that reflected falling down that rabbit hole. When I settled on a long scroll down drawing, I also decided that the most important thing for me to show in the images was the close combination of destruction and ecstasy, love and fury going hand-in-hand, fueling each other. That’s a big part of my lived experience.
CP: I was thinking about tattooing again, and your description of its gift-quality. It made me think too about how you describe community and connectedness as being somehow central to those moments of utopic experience. In many cultures, it feels like tattoos have ritualistic significance–it’s a sign given at the coming of age, for instance, or after some epic experience. I was wondering if you feel like tattoos have a ritualistic resonance in your experience and what that might be?
CP: I was also reading that you do some performance work as well–can you talk a little bit about that? And maybe what it is like to physically embody something, (vs. describing it 2-dimensionally).
EF: I do occasionally do performance work. To me it seems much more like conducting a public experiment, whereas displaying a finished drawing is like showing off the answer to a long series of problems. Performances are so dependent on your openness and the openness of the audience and they hinge on both the clarity of your purpose and also your ability to convey that purpose in a non-didactic way. It’s usually a medium I use when I have a cluster of ideas floating around my head. To perform effectively – it is so hard! For me, performing is maybe the hardest, so I try to listen to my heart about it and know when I’ve got something cooking, and if I’m not really feeling it knowing to throw in the towel and forget it, I’ll just do some drawings, which I always have ideas and methods for.
Go here for more glimpses of Edie’s work.