March 25, 2013 · Print This Article
In the past couple weeks a myriad of media outlets have been chomping at the bit to comment on the first sale of a piece of art made on the rapidly rising social media platform Vine.Â The work in question was made by Angela Washko and presented at the Moving Image Fair by Kyle Chayka and Marina Galperina in their Shortest Video Art Ever Sold (SVAES for short) booth produced in collaboration with Postmasters Gallery. The sale of the work has been quickly marked as an easy target for many critical articles for a variety of reasons, however I feel that most takes have missed some of the more salient issues that surround this sale. I sought out Chayka, Galperina, and Washko to discuss not only their intentions with the project but also to examine what exactly this sale might signal in terms of a potential future for new media art production and saleability.
Before continuing, I feel itâ€™s important for me to say that I have serious misgivings about what the gesture of this sale means for contemporary digital art. That being said, I feel like the media coverage of this event hasnâ€™t given the participants a proper due, or has often been delivered from a somewhat askew and reactionary perspective (which I also might be guilty of). Although what follows is not an attempt to â€œget the story straight,â€ Iâ€™ll try to curb my personal trepidations in favor of unpacking the intentions of this project. Discussing the implications of this sale â€“ albeit from my hesitant vantage point â€“ come from an underlying respect for the curators to find ways of challenging media art and itâ€™s location within a contemporary market.
On first glance, SVAES presents itself as a very self-assured project in that it immediately places these works in the context of purchasing and ownership. As a markedly youthful project, SVAES revolves around showing Vine as a kind of media art shopping-network/sketchpad. The rapid adoption of this product by artists working online (from Ryder Ripps to Rollin Leonard) seemed of particular interest and importance for the curators. In our conversation over email, Chayka maintains that his and Galperinaâ€™s intention was always aimed at being tongue-in-cheek. Through employing this trending technology, Chayka articulates how initially the idea of asking artists to use Vine was a way of creating a semi-satirical entry point for this type of work within a larger art market:
I don’t think SVAES was trying to present any particular kind of aesthetic or enforce a style; it was just about giving artists an opportunity to try something different, more improvisatory. For many of the artists, video isn’t even their primary medium. This is more like a quick, expressive sketch, a video doodle, which seems like what Vine is made for.
Much of the press around SVAES positions the booth not only as aÂ â€“ in my mind seemingly unnecessaryÂ â€“ bridge between video art and netart (as Chayka articulates) but also as a way for fairs to start to include artists primarily working through the web. This kind of representation of a netart community points to the abnormality of netart to be shown within the art fair circuit (artists participating either lack typical gallery representation or have decided to work outside of/parallel to traditional art markets). A result of this representation â€“ combined with the curatorial decisions of Chayka and Galperina â€“ is that the booth acted not only as a segue for netartist to be considered within a video art context, but also served as one of the first representational outposts of this generation of artists within a bigger art market. There have been other efforts and offshoots, including LikeArtBasel, but the specific intentions combined with internal support from the Moving Image fair mark it in specifically unique ways. As a result, the SVAES project coyly suggests to the traditional art world a need for opening up traditional methods of distribution for the sake of staving off cultural obsolescence.
This attempt at expanding horizons was a particularly important gesture for Chayka, especially when considering how digital art inherently disrupts the standard channels of art collection and distribution. An important aspect of this disruption comes from the way that the curators dealt with asking artists to use this social media platform. Artists participating in SVAES withheld their videos from public consumption, only to be viewable at the Moving Image booth. If a work was purchased, however, the responsibility of distribution and hosting was put to the collector.:
The social media tie meant that until the piece was bought, you couldn’t see it online â€” the artist couldn’t publish it, no one could share it, it functionally only existed in the gallery space, it had scarcity. But then when it was bought it was put online instead of taken off, with the imprimatur of the collector. Collecting is at times a very public act, and people should be proud of the art they buy and the artists they support. Through the Vine format and the SVAES project, we mad a meaningful way for them to do that.
The proposed, and eventual, collector had the choice of reposting the video back to Vine or to keep the work within private circulation. The sale of a work implicates the collector in deciding whether or not to allow the work to return to its native networked environment. This curatorial decision is where â€“ in my opinion – the art in SVAES lives.
The unfortunate result of this artistic gesture is that it inadvertently undermines the work of the individual artist. In other words, Washkoâ€™s work â€“ and other SVAES pieces â€“ becomes a foil for a curatorial critique of the art market. Washkoâ€™s Vine is rendered somewhat irrelevant as soon as it is sold since the work no longer becomes about the artists and their piece, but more about the curators and the collector; at least this shift is where we find ourselves after the purchase has been complete. This process is not exclusive to SVAES as a model/format, but I wonder if the execution of this project is just highlighting an already standardized procedure within contemporary art sales in the form of an intentional gesture. If this is the case, maybe Iâ€™m not giving enough credit to SVAES. Even if this were so, the agendas involved in SVAES speak more directly to collection, distribution, or the way the net is expanding these horizons, and not to the content of each piece.
This is particularly worth noting given the content of Washkoâ€™s piece, entitled Tits on Tits on Ikea. The work, a shortened alternative of a longer video, was in part made â€œas a reaction to all of the [already existing] homemade porn vines,â€ while also following in a line of feminist investigation/criticism that informs Washkoâ€™s practice. To undercut this content seems to work against the artistâ€™s intentions of reflecting on this platform and the performative possibilities of short-form networked-video. When asked about the altered status of the work, Washko shared her ambivalent feelings about the overall process:
The thing that is important to [the Moving Image Fair] is that this so-called groundbreaking “Vine-art sale” happened within a framework they own.Â So it feels especially shitty when I’m not getting any love from them and also taking all of the heat for this project in several extremely spiteful articles, which I must admit are fun to deconstruct and respond directly to. I am thankful for having a very supportive community who are talking to me a lot about this experience as I try to process it, because it’s been really weirdâ€¦ this unexpected media response to this piece was really hard for me in a way, because this was a work I wasn’t ready to talk about yet.
Washko continued to explain how the sale of her vine went to a collector who has previously supported her work (Myriam Vanneschi), and that the $200 sale was a particularly personal gesture of a sustained artist-collector relationship. More importantly, the pointed backlash against Washko as an artists (as opposed to Vine as a product, or the Moving Image Fair as a cultural institution), strikes a disturbing chord since SVAES as a projects wants to critique institutions and not makers. Perhaps the vehement misrepresentation of the work and of SVAES speaks to the problems of presenting and selling work that embraces the sketching quality of Vine that Chayka discusses above. In my mind, relying on social networking as the primary platform of creative production is in itself a pressing problem within online art communities, and should be viewed as one of the primary sources of skepticism put toward this medium. Washko, however, discusses how this reliance is now part and parcel for how artwork is being made online:
We are already reliant on facebook/twitter/whatever to distribute work because the gallery system doesn’t support this kind of work and we realize that we have access to like-minded artists across the globe, and we can support each other by helping to find contexts where this work will be supported for each other.Â I think it is surely problematic to reinforce the value of these branded, evil(!) channels, however it is hard to deny the benefits they have to broadening audiences and finding better contexts for work.Â
Perhaps the underlying problem here is that artists working online (at least in America) have decided to choose either gallery representation or social media; both formats necessitating a sidelining of personal politics in favor of reaching a larger and more lucrative audience. For those that choose social media in favor of traditional gallery representation, the artist is left in a particularly vulnerable position since their personal web presences acts as a stand-in for institutional safeguarding (i.e., a museum or curator can take the brunt of criticism and not the individual artist). The sacrifice is becoming more and more daunting as issues of digital ownership and intellectual property online are quickly mounting an End User License Agreement event horizon. The problematic that Washnko describes is perhaps the central location of where my reservation against SVAES lies. When an artist makes work specifically for the context of any given social platform â€“ whether by choice or by invitation â€“ the work unintentionally becomes a supporter of that brand. Perhaps the most troubling thing is the willingness on the part of the artist or curator to submit themselves to the whim of a more dominant cultural identity like Facebook.
This is particularly the case when a work made with social media does not address the material specifics of that platform. At the opening comments at the Tumblr Art Symposium held at 319 Scholes, Christiane Paul addressed how few artists working in social media actually use the infrastructure or material of that media as a resource of creativity (a telling differentiation between the current generation of netartists and their predecessors). Paul quipped (and I’m paraphrasing here), â€œAre we really talking about Tumblr Art, or merely talking about art on Tumblr?â€ To that end, if artists online are willing to be making work using social media platforms, then how is that work reflecting on the platform on which they are distributing? More importantly are we even at the point now where questions like this are still relevant? Although SVAES is moving toward this critical position by questioning distribution, access, and ownership, in doing so it renders the content of each individual work as negligible and ultimately subservient to being just another vine in a digital bramble.
The week started off with a bang courtesy of Chris Krauss’ interview with Duncan MacKenzie and Anthea Black. If you haven’t listened to that yet, TUNE IN. Â What’s the T reports (among other things) the MCA has some great events coming up just as the Fireside Bowl had some great events in its past, Michelle OBama has bangs, and Â â€” responding at last to the bar’s painted window advertisement BANDS WANTED: an advertisement that has been up for a decade at least â€”Â art kids YOU KNOW are playing at the Mutiny. Read all about that (and more) here. Reminding you just how beautiful our world is, Paul Germanos posted some more incredible photographs that document art events, artists and art works from February in a post called : CHICAGO ART IN PICTURES.
Last Tuesday, guest blogger Jane Jerardi teamed up with Hannah Verrill to interview, film and edit a conversation with La Ribot,Â a performer, choreographer and visual artist:
“La Ribot recently came to Chicago to present the US premiere of â€œLaughing Holeâ€ and the video â€œmariachi 17â€³Â as part of the IN>TIME 13 Festival . Â Appearing for six hours at the Chicago Cultural Center, â€œLaughing Holeâ€ traveled to Los Angeles where it appeared at LACMA in early March. Â Prior to the â€œLaughing Holeâ€ performance, La Ribot sat down with local artists Hannah Verrill and Jane Jerardi to talk about her work. Â The video interview captures excerpts of her conversation with Hannah, with Jane behind the camera.”Â
West Coast Correspondent, Sarah Margolis-Pineo,Â published an interview withÂ Arnold J. Kemp, “a Portland-based visual and performing artist who is recognized for using glitter and a Duchampian sense of humor to explore issues related to identity and subjectivity.” When asked about where the work in Kemp’s latest show, WHEN WILL MY LOVE BE RIGHT, came from, Kemp replied:
“I come at things like a sculptor who is trying to make paintings. When I moved to Portland, I was very involved in making paintings that had a sense of humor. Sometimes theyâ€™d be all black paintingsâ€”Vampiresâ€”named for the idea that vampires donâ€™t have reflections when they look into mirrors. Another series were these glittering pink and black paintings that completely resembled the disco-era. But with this new work, I think it started with wanting to make something that people could really see my hand in. So, I donâ€™t know precisely how I arrived at it, but I was messing around in the studio with aluminum foil and what emerged were these mask-like objects. I have a history of drawing and creating things that resemble masks, but what was interesting about the aluminum foil, is that it really conveys the movement of my hand manipulating the material. I never thought to exhibit the objects themselves; instead, I used the quickest, easiest, and dumbest way of rendering them into an image, which was to use a scanner. With this series [ofÂ Aluminums], I began to play with framingâ€”the frame around the imageâ€”as a way to emphasize the idea of painting.”
Thea Liberty Nichols posted a great interview with Christy LeMaster, “the powerhouse behind theÂ Nightingale, a Chicago microcinema dedicated to screening experimental film.” LeMaster talks about how she started the microcinema five years ago, how she approaches curation and how the organization is transitioning. As Nichols puts it”
“[The Nightingale] a welcoming and unpretentious space thanks to her generosity and openness. The Nightingale engages in inclusive conversation surrounding the production, distribution and consumption of new work, but at the heart of everything it does, beats the fans, makers, viewers, colleagues and friends itâ€™s cultivated. LeMasterâ€™s ingenuity, sweat equity and contagious enthusiasm has kept the place humming for the past several years, and nowâ€”poised to celebrate a milestone anniversaryâ€”Â she was kind enough to recount the Nightingaleâ€™s gradual growth in scale and scope; discuss the film sheâ€™s currently making; and give us a teaser regarding the new website sheâ€™s developing, a project which will vault the community built in her brick and mortar space into the ether of the internet with the hopes of connecting and supporting even more filmmakers, cinemas and cinephiles.”
and, never forget, Mr. Holland’s wise words about delightenment.
by Richard Holland
If law school resulted in no other tangible change to my life/personality it truly cast in stone my cravingÂ for escapist entertainment. Iâ€™ve seen crime scene pictures galore, Iâ€™ve done legal aid work, I work withÂ BAS, Iâ€™ve seen enough horror. I like my entertainment light and happy, more or less.Â Also, I am a complete sucker for magical realism, I admit it, Iâ€™m out of the closet, you wanna makeÂ something of it. Any of you who got excited about Harry Potter, I dare you to scoff.
I saw this movie, shortly after itâ€™s release on the airplane back from Paris. The friend we were visitingÂ there, Adam Jolles (now the Chair of Art History at Florida State University), between spats with hisÂ dramatic, angry and lovely French girlfriend, raved about how much he enjoyed the movie and I mustÂ see it. So when I saw it available as an option on the flight, I figured why not.
What ensued was as over the top charming a movie as one could endure without slipping intoÂ diabetic shock. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Written by Jeunet with Guillaume Laurant, I had seenÂ Jeunetâ€™s work before with the unique films Delicatessen and City of Lost Children (far darker films, butÂ completely enjoyable, they are definitely on the â€œBrazilâ€ pile).
The filmâ€™s protagonist is Amelie (Audrey Tautou doing an excellent personification of every straight art-boyâ€™s dream girl) a shy, introverted waitress in Paris. Her simple life is set into upheaval by her fatefulÂ discovery of a treasure trove hidden in her apartment by a boy many years ago. After secretly returningÂ the box to the now middle-aged man and unexpectedly changing his life, she has an epiphany andÂ dedicates herself to elaborate attempts to aid others by giving fate a nudge (not all positive, she torturesÂ a cruel grocer in a masterful way). At the same time she stumbles upon and finds her perfect match in aÂ man who collects discarded photos from photo booths in Paris, who is just as much an odd-duck as sheÂ is. Wacky misadventures, misunderstandings, and tangents worthy of a Shakespeare comedy ensue.
If that wasnâ€™t enough the Yann Tiersen soundtrack is amazing.
It is cute, yes, sappy, probably, but if you are feeling like the world is a dark evil place, no one gives aÂ shit, everyone hates you, etc. this film canâ€™t help but generating some happy feelings.
Work by Ellen Garvens, Joanne Tilley, Yoni Goldstein, Meredith Zielke, and Thomas Joseph.
The International Museum of Surgical Science is located at 1524 N Lake Shore Dr. Reception Friday, 5-8pm.
Work by lionvsgorilla.
Fulton Street Collective is located at 2000 W. Fulton Market. Reception Saturday, 8pm.
Work by Stacey Holloway.
Fulton Market Gallery is located at 310 N. Peoria St. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Work by Joshua Albers, Daniel Bennett, Lauren Edwards and Kera MacKenzie.
Gallery 400 is located at 400 S. Peoria St. Reception Friday, 5-8pm.
Work by Meryl Bennett, Anita Brathwaite, Gracie Hagen, Julia Haw, Meredith and Anna, and Brittany Southworth LaFlamme.
HAUSER Gallery is located at 230 W. Superior St. Reception Saturday, 6-9pm.
Christy LeMaster is the powerhouse behind the Nightingale, a Chicago microcinema dedicated to screening experimental film. Itâ€™s a welcoming and unpretentious space thanks to her generosity and openness. The Nightingale engages in inclusive conversation surrounding the production, distribution and consumption of new work, but at the heart of everything it does, beats the fans, makers, viewers, colleagues and friends itâ€™s cultivated. LeMasterâ€™s ingenuity, sweat equity and contagious enthusiasm has kept the place humming for the past several years, and nowâ€” poised to celebrate a milestone anniversaryâ€” she was kind enough to recount the Nightingaleâ€™s gradual growth in scale and scope; discuss the film sheâ€™s currently making; and give us a teaser regarding the new website sheâ€™s developing, a project which will vault the community built in her brick and mortar space into the ether of the internet with the hopes of connecting and supporting even more filmmakers, cinemas and cinephiles.
TLN: April 5 marks the five-year anniversary of the Nightingale. Can you recap the activities and structure of your space over the last few years and let us in on what’s next?
CL: You say “5 years”, and it seems like it’s been so much longer; and at the same time, it feels like it’s happened at light speed. When I started the Nightingale it seemed like access was the issue; there was more work being made than was screened, and seeing one’s work in front of an audience should be the bedrock of artistic development. The city just seemed hungry for it. When I first began talking about starting a microcinema, people just rushed in to help. So I decided to do as many screenings as I could, and to not be overly precious about the idea of curation. There seemed to be a need for a community screening room as well as an experimental cinema; we got requests to be an auxiliary venue for other arts organizations; to screen social-issue documentaries; to host youth-media showcases; and to feature work from all the city’s art schools. And so the momentum became its own practical logic: What do we need right now? What do we have that we can use? Who is coming to town? What is the rest of her work like? Those sorts of questions often propelled me forward more often than “What should we be showing?” Luckily, generous and gifted people keep showing up to help. Patrick Friel has been presenting every month for years; Jon Cates and Nick Briz brought us UpgradeChicago for awhile; My dear friends Doug and Chloe McLaren have been managing tech concerns and special event details for years; Sally Lawton showed up a year ago asking to help out with screenings, and is now involved in every aspect of the place. It all happened pretty organically. I would ask for help as needed and people helped. The place runs entirely on a gift economy and volunteer labor. With exception of special events and multi-artist shorts programs, we always pay artists out of the door and spend the rest until it’s gone. For the most part we break even.
When I started, I gave the project a sunset date of five years so I could re-assess if I was happy doing the work and if the space was still needed. And here we are. I think it is still useful to do, but I am being pulled by other projects. So I am handing off. The main bulk of the work will be managed by five programmers/keyholders: Patrick Friel, Emily Kuehn, Jesse Malmed, Chloe McLaren, and Doug McLaren. They will all have autonomous use of the space. We have structured the new system around transparency. We have put all of the tools for running the space online, and gathered a group of volunteer staff to assist the programmers. And we are taking this moment to refresh the space in lots of other ways too. We will soon launch a kickstarter to get a new projector. We are overhauling the website and changing the look of the space. I am excited for the transition. It seems really natural. I can’t wait to see what happens next. I hope to still organize programs occasionally and think about the space in a more macro way.
TLN: The Nightingale has managed to transcend its programming by acting as an informal hub of community building. I know intentional communities, post-nuclear family structures and Utopias are all part of your research interests, can you tell us more about how they relate to the activities of your micro-cinema and your own arts practice?
CL: Early on, I decided on a few small details that have become our ritualsâ€” we make pretty tickets for every screening, we always have a raffle, we host a big potluck every year and film a trailer.
I’m really interested in issues around interdependence. I think in the wake of the implosion of the nuclear family, we’re all sort of floating into new models of how to take care of each other. I heard a woman say once, “co-dependence is no joke in a world without interdependence,” and that’s really led my interest. It was always more important that the Nightingale be accessible instead off curatorially perfect. And for a long time I didn’t think I had an art practice, I just thought I had projects. But over the last couple years I’ve started to see that all of my projects are concerned with the same issuesâ€” how do people establish interdependence outside of traditional means; heteronormative relationships, institutions of church or work? I think a lot of us arts organizers in Chicago are remaking a small corner of the world in a vision that we value. Utopia is social critique. We aren’t interested any more, it seems, in removing ourselves from society entirely, but a lot of people we know are working very hard to rebuild small parts of society from the ground up. The Nightingale is my vision of an interdependent cinema, and a lot of my other projects are concerned with the same dynamics. I’m working on a movie about utopias where I invite different arts organizations in Chicago to re-enact an intentional or utopian community from American history; I’m researching sacred harp choirs because of how they use performance as collaborative practice. I’ve been thinking about how to be a good collaborator for 10 years, and I’m only now applying it pragmatically.
TLN: Your network of colleagues and collaborators extends well beyond the city of Chicago, which makes you the perfect person to take on the build out of Splitbeam, an online resource you dreamt up and secured funding to implement. Tell us more about the project, its function and its design.
CL: It turns out that the experimental cinema community is pretty small; Splitbeam is an idea that I had over the last years at the Nightingaleâ€” I wanted a resource where I could see what other microcinemas were doing, and right now experimental moving image makers are working on a sort of punk-rock model where you book your own shows; we’re not really relying on media to travel independently of the artist very often. Splitbeam is a web directory of microcinemas, independent and alternative cinemas, and it houses a modular, open distribution that is meant to take some of the administrative burden off of curators and artists. I am lucky to be working on it with my good friends Nick Briz and Michael Castelle; Nick is doing the front-end design and Michael is handling the database, and I am taking on the research and organization. We received a generous grant from the Propeller Fund and used it to hire Sonnenzimmer to create a visual concept for the site. We’re going to work on it hard this summer and hope to launch in the Fall of 2013.
Interview conducted over email March 2013.