For forty years, the Kohler Company in Kohler, Wisconsin has hosted a residency for artists. If you are not familiar with Kohler, just step into your bathroom or kitchen and take a peek. Kohler is best known as one of the country’s oldest manufacturers of sinks, toilets, bathtubs, and urinals. Despite the rather practical application of their products, the Kohler Company is dedicated to the marriage of art and industry. In commemoration of this historic four decade marker, the Kohler Arts Center in the town of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, has curated a retrospective of a diverse group of artists called Arts/Industry: Collaboration and Revelation. Many of the works on display are taken directly from Kohler’s own extensive collection.
Since this is a retrospective, there isn’t much that unifies the individual artworks as a whole, with the single exception of materials. The artists in residence work with the craftspeople at Kohler to utilize the available materials and manufacturing methods in the factory. This means nearly all of the work is vitreous china, cast iron, or bronze. This had an interesting effect on me as a viewer by drawing my attention to material in a way I usually ignore in a traditional gallery setting. It’s hard not to make comparisons between works when they all start with the same source material. Of the dozens of artists, I thought I might call your attention to two.
“Funeral Wreath” (2001), by Sarah Peters is slipcast, hand built, glazed vitreous china. At the size of an actual floral funerary, this sculpture conveys lightness and life. In fact, I was surprised when I read the title. There are no artists statements or wall tags, so I cannot know what Peters intended. Still, as I stood there marveling at the delicacy of the work, I couldn’t help but notice how often funeral flowers and wedding flowers look the same.
“Babel” (2008), by Jim Neel is a startling collection of slipcast chimpanzee soldiers, 50 of them. Some have no legs, some no arms, each soldier is unique. The complete work itself, dominates the room. “Babel” reminded me of the Chinese Terracotta Army that I saw in Seattle when I was little. Those soldiers impressed me then, and it was an interesting experience seeing Neel’s work in person. 50 sculptures is difficult. It’s too many to engage with individually, yet the grouping is still small enough to view from a fixed position.
Arts/Industry: Collaboration and Revelation is an interesting exhibition because it highlights how individual artists from different periods, approach the same materials while working in the same environment. The Kohler residency offers once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for artists to have access to the kind of industrial manufacturing that is closed to most artists. (You can read about and apply for the residency here.) This is a worthwhile exhibition. Certainly, if you find yourself in Wisconsin, you should stop by. There is another gallery space with a concurrent exhibition. Oh, and while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the bathrooms…all of them.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to be in conversation with artist-choreographer taisha paggett. Paggett, who splits her time between Chicago and LA, is one of the many Chicago artists to be included in this year’s Whitney Biennial. If you’re in New York this week be sure to check out her performance at the Whitney starting on Weds.
Paggett’s works for the stage, gallery, and public sphere include individual and collaborative investigations into questions of the body, agency, and the phenomenology of race. Here we discuss her interest in dance, performer-audience relationships, and feeling-thinking through performance. More information on her work and practice can be found here.
A collaboration with Yann Novak at the Mackey Garage, of the MAK Center for Architecture. Photo by Robert Crouch.
I thought we’d begin with a few questions around your interest in choreography and the body, focusing in on how both might communicate a certain set of politics and also what I perceive in your work as an interest in how knowledge is produced through the body. How did you arrive at choreography? What does dance do in your work and what are it’s limitations?
my work was initially interested in addressing identity and the scars of alienation from fitting into neither a black community nor a white community, as well as the experience of coming into my sexuality and having to confront another layer of otherness. (an immediate aside: i’m a bit self-conscious using these monolithic, over-generalizing terms but you must understand that where i grew up was insidiously segregated and conservative—there was a white side of town and a black side of town and i lived in and simultaneously belonged fully to neither). it took me some time to see that my story was not a thing to make work about over and over but rather a frame or a perspective from which to ask questions. i do believe that we are reflections of our surroundings—that environment is a living entity which informs us and vice versa, and perhaps its that perspective which makes me as fascinated with space as i am with bodies… human geographies and spatial geographies.
i wasn’t initially interested in making work, i was only interested in opportunities to dance without having to make many decisions. i loved moving, i loved the type of thinking it required and i loved utilizing my body. what propelled me into making work was the accumulation of experiences in which i had to recognized how differently my body and sexuality read on stage in relation to my peers. there was a Black (modern) dance world and a white one and i grew up in the latter (again with the monoliths…) dance is tricky because it’s very collaborative and so much about relationships and interaction. more often than not as a dancer you’re living through or interpreting someone else’s vantage point… over time i started to develop an analysis in class and rehearsal that made it hard to continue moving—as much as i loved it all, i got to a point where i could not overlook the fact that i was participating in a pedagogy and performance of privilege that did not align with and required a disavowal of my own experience of the world. on top of that, i became interested in better understanding this notion of Black dance and how it was being articulated.
i’m going to stop there because i realize that i’m going long on just one aspect of your question but it’s true that those experiences politicized me and propelled me into creating work. my work continues to think through and beyond the conventions and methodologies of dance as a way to approach and create performance structures. for example, training as a type of knowing… dance is a performing art form and bodies are perpetually changing so one must be diligent about training the body. there are certain actions that one repeats to train specific muscles. it makes me think about repetition as a conceptual framework for understanding how knowledge enters the body. we are what we repeat—consciously or not, which means our habits are a type of becoming as well. i’ve created structures based on the repetition of a single set of identifiable actions (for example, Decomposition of a Continuous Whole in which i was blindfolded and drew on a wall with pastels and crayons a set score of movements over the course of several hours). the beauty of repetition is that it’s never completely the same–something in our external or internal environment is always shifting despite our desire to stay consistent and that friction within the repetition is how i believe we come into knowledge.
Photo by Ashley Hunt.
what dance does in my work these days is give me permission to get elemental and create what to me feels like momentary utopias of people coming together to share an experience. stripping away the excess, stretching out the movement slow as if to slow down time so that we even breath together. i guess it gives me permission to create a contemplative space… i see performance as an offering on both sides: the performer offers an experience and the viewer offers their presence. i’m also interested in creating structures that make the viewer realize that their body is as much a part of the experience as mine is… a momentary togetherness. this is true of my work with Ashley Hunt as well—we’re interested in activating the physical and sensorial body of the “viewer”… that one cannot come to an experience with only their eyes…. that the formation of the political subject requires bringing the conscious body into the equation.
Watching documentation of some of your work I am taken by the way you pay attention to speed and the control with which you execute movements lends your performances a kind of uncanny quality, a sense of mystery that calls attention to the shapes made by the body. Can you talk a little bit about your approach, how you construct movement and compose the works?
i’m not certain how long i’ll be in this slow period but it’s still very fascinating to me. i construct a framework and score first and then live in the experience of fulfilling that score. in most cases i don’t know ahead of time exactly how i’ll respond to the score until i’m in it, and because repetition is often part of the equation, i have to grapple with retracing the previous iteration of the movement (as when the score loops and i start back at the beginning) and living in the experience of doing it again based on mental and muscle memory. my approach to slowness is, on a basic level, definitely about wishing to slow down time—in an era in which everything is accelerated i feel it’s important to have a practice that goes in the opposite direction—but it’s also about wishing to create an experience that i can track and grow through in some manner. tending to the world “out there” but also being able to construct a dialogue with my inner world, my mental fluctuations, the energies that get turned on in the performance experience.. . there’s a kind of martyrdom in dance sometimes where it’s all about the audience and being frontal and impressive and virtuosic and mostly directing energy out out out and i’m interested in other possibilities, other virtuosities… my process toggles between intuition and research. sometimes my structures are informed by a certain set of readings, and sometimes they are informed by a desire to wear a certain set of clothing because they remind me of something that i can’t easily articulate.
I am thinking now about what audiences can do. How they join the work and how, for lack of a better word, they might be manipulated in the process.
i’m not interested in manipulating the audience though i supposed that would be a logical sequence for those artists who wish to take it in that direction (draw the audience in to the work, get them activated, and then twist the scene against them..? it’s a bit predatory and not my mojo—or at least i HOPE the audience doesn’t feel manipulated in my work– but sure, bringing the viewer “in” always has the potential to become manipulative because they come with a certain vulnerability and set of expectations to simply be invisible watchers…) that said, i don’t feel there’s anything particularly radical about folding the audience into a work or seeing them as part of the work. for me it grew out of an interest in paying attention to the larger frames—not just what happens “on stage” but responding to the surrounding structures and systems as well.
American modern dance critic John Martin, writes in American Dancing from 1936, “What, then, is the means of contact between the dancer and the spectator? When we see a human body moving, we see movement which is potentially producible by a human body and therefore by our own; through kinesthetic sympathy we actually reproduce it vicariously in our present muscular experience and awaken such associational connotations as might have been ours if the original movement had been of our own making. The irreducible minimum of equipment demanded of a spectator, therefore, is a kinesthetic sense in working condition.” I believe Martin’s point here is to invite audiences to feel through dancing as opposed to thinking through dancing.
I really like this though i’d add the point that “feeling” ones way through a dance is the same thing as “thinking” ones way through… if dance can do nothing i hope it gets people to understand that ideas, feelings, logic, argument, etc etc etc can and does happen across the body. that’s what makes me so irritated by the popularity of competition dance (a la So You Think You Can bla bla bla franchise, not to mention regional competition dance etc, etc): it reduces all of that intelligence into spectacle and in that realm i don’t think audiences are feeling-thinking through their bodies and experiencing kinesthetic sympathy as much as applauding and salivating over skill and effort. i think it puts forth the idea that the body is something to champion, a lame horse to be disciplined rather than something to listen to and from which to think-feel. sure, this is one perspective and we need multiple perspectives, but this is what’s educating people on dance and that’s really unfortunate, a lost opportunity. i teach in academia and i witness and work with a lot of incoming students who’ve danced for most of their lives and can do a heap of cool technical actions and dance for hours, yet are disconnected from their bodies physically and psychologically. i’d go so far as saying those experiences within my teaching practice have played a great role in shaping what i pay attention to in my own work, my desire to move away from formal notions of virtuosities towards the more contemplative, nuanced, elemental, even murky and i can only hope that an audience is willing to go there with me.
Big announcements were totally trending this past week. We’ve all heard about Colbert’s leaving his seat at Comedy Central for Letterman’s coattails and George Lucas’s ridiculous plans for a museum in Chicago. In a Tribune article, Lucas called Chicago his “second home,” and his second choice for a museum location. WTT? hopes that if Rahm saw the website for the first go-around in San Fransisco he might not be so enthused on the prospect. We’re stoked that Lucas has decided to open his purse in Chicago, but why not have him take a look at the freaking Cultural Plan, Emmanuel?!
Anyway, WTT? is all about what’s going on on the ground and it’s a big game of musical chairs over here. After approximately 13 years as a producer for WBEZ, Alison Cuddy shocked the twitterverse last week with the announcement that she will be leaving the radio station on the pier for the post of Programming Director of Chicago Humanities Festival. Artistic director, Matti Bunzl, called Cuddy a “game changer” for CHF in a statement released last Thursday.
Other Chicago area shakeups include the appointment of Allison Glenn, former Program Manager of the Arts Incubator at the University of Chicago, as the new director of Monique Meloche. The gallery released the announcement via Facebook last Wednesday to much fanfare and many likes.
Jayaram speaking at the Cultural Center on April 3rd. Photo: Dan Rest.
Unless you just got back from a residency in Antarctica, you should already know former CAC director, Carolina Jayaram, is leaving the organization she brought back from the dead for the confusingly named United States Artists, a mega-fund for artist fellowships founded by the Big Four foundations (Ford, Rockefeller, Prudential and Rasmuson). What is news though, is that @USAforART is leaving Los Angeles for the new CEO’s chosen home of Chicago. Just when everyone seems to be moving towards the coasts, Chicago scores a big one against LA!
Local supporters of the organization were on hand for Jayaram’s announcement at the Cultural Center April 3rd, including USA Fellow David Hartt and Board Member, Jack Guthman. In her speech Jayaram gave a shout out to the women presidents who came before and lauded Chicago as the perfect place for USA to express it’s mission of elevating artists through generous annual fellowships. Jayaram also made some significant announcements regarding Chicago hiring and the parties that usually surround the USA award ceremony, hear it for yourself on the WTT? soundcloud.
USA Fellows David Hartt, Ella Jenkins, and USA CEO Carolina Jayaram. Photo: Dan Rest.
The Real Portlandia Curious about how to get your art from the auction haus to your home in California tax free? The NYT offers this informational guide that will make your blood boil. Even the schmancy business collectors using the tax loophole think the code should be “tightened.” Oye vey.
Can you eat attention currency? Is that like bit coin or something? While art collectors are busy evading taxes, the “avant-garde” are apparently duking it out for “likes”. Think it’s asinine? I’ll let Brad Tromel explain in his essay posted on Josh Abelow’s art blog (art blog). Talk amongst yourselves.
“Can I ask you a gossipy question?” Erik Wenzel is giving us all the gossip we could ever want but still leaves us wanting more in this vivid profile on the life and times of Rene Ricard. Wenzel recounts his meeting with the recently deceased and little known, but highly visible member of Warhol’s rat pack. Ricard dishes on The Radiant Child and why Julian Schnabel is a little bitch.
T around Town
There’s enough to go around.
I don’t know if it’s the weather or the addition of the Spring benefits and auctions but things have been really heating up around Chicago. Here are some of WTT?‘s top picks from the past two weeks.
Friday, April 4th, marked the introduction of the Drapes of Wrath, a new unisex jewelry line by Ashley Scott (aka Drapes). Scott’s Wrath debut followed the impressive look book for the collection, shot by Foto by Mateo and styled by Mister Wallace. It was just the spark we needed to set off the Spring.
Scott with her Wrath Pack.
The champaign filled affair took place in a east side loft that, like the line itself, was equal parts swanky and gritty. During the presentation Scott led members of her “Wrath Pack” (Mateo, Wallace, Impolite Society’s Elee Ecks, sound engineer Westly Parker and budding politician Derek Elliott Bagley) to a platform where she proceeded to “drape” them with her black fringed masterworks. The crowds eyes got progressively bigger as Scott plied her pack with distinctive square chains, ornate black fringe bolero tie/ brooches and what could only be described as the only hot boutineer we’ve ever laid eyes on. Big s/o and thank you to Drapes for inviting us to preview her lovely line and especially for rescuing my lost earing!
The Vision: Scott with Foto by Mateo & Mister Wallace at the premiere.
After the Drapes preview we had to sprint to Greg Ito and Jonah Susskind’s opening at the Hills Esthetic Center. Hailing from Northern California, the artists used their exhibition at The Hills as in experiment in working collaboratively. Something Other Than explores the potential of their collaboration and, with a huge stage-like platform in the middle, the art in the gallery itself. If this exhibition is any indication, they should definitely be working together more often. All the pink you could want and a curtain covered in pearls? Yes, please.
Ito & Susskind in front of Air Jordan Sailor Moon and the draped curtain.
Home Improvement at the Hills.
Curious about the gay mafia? You probably should have been at the Tony Green opening last Saturday at Iceberg Projects in Rogers Park. Curated by John Neff and featuring a swath of great Chicago artists, did someone say queer mafia?
Talk amongst yourselves.
A handkerchief embroidered with beard hair by Miller & Shellabarger.
Now you only have to go all the way to Rogers Park instead of NY to see #WhiBi artists.
Oli Rodriguez points out some mafia action to Jason Foumberg at the opening.
Surprising work by Tony Greene.
Latham Zearfoss with his curtain and work by Tony Greene.
We could have stayed at Iceberg forever, but we had tickets to the Summer Forum Fundraiser at TUSK. At 9PM the bidding was just getting serious. We witnessed a few bidding wars over work by Paul Cowan, Andrew Holmquist, Joel Dean and Kate Ruggeri. Art was purchased, friendships were severed, all in the name of fun-raising and supporting so much more than a residency. Missed the auction? You can still donate to the kickstarter.
Robert Chase Heishman trying to get the crowds attention for a raffle.
Karolina Gnatowski REALLY enjoying a walking taco made by Mr. EZ-Livin, Eric May, for the event.
The Summer Forum Posse featuring the return of Sarah Knox Hunter from Richmond!
Sarah and Joseph Belknap brought their cosmic energy and their moon rocks to the lux downtown Arts Club last Monday, April 7th. The evening featured a conversation with the artists and plenty of wine and cheese to go around. We unfortunately missed the First Friday featuring more Belknap rocks, but we heard a rumor that the duo will be exhibiting at the MCA BMO Harris Bank space soon.
Never before seen shots of the Arts Club sweet upstairs lounge!
Even more “T of the Town”!
SAIC Curatorial Fellow Ross Jordan with ACRE Director Emily Green at the event.
Sarah & Joseph ready for their close up.
Their garden installation, Afterglow, will be on view at the Arts Club until May 20th.
The Collection of Richard Hull & Madeline Nusser on view at ADDS DONNA
Last up for the T around Town is the show 858, works from the collection of Richard Hull & Madeline Nusser which opened yesterday at ADDS DONNA. Hull & Nusser’s collection is a splendid sampling of Chicago artists and various other odds & ends, situating the collection squarely within the legacy of Imagist greats included in the collection, Roger Brown and Ray Yoshida. Nusser and Hull were on hand, providing precious context. What a way to end the weekend!
Hull & Nusser at ADDS DONNA Sunday.
This small collage by Ray Yoshia was revealed to have been a birthday gift to Hull.
Litho on chiffon by William T. Wiley.
An assortment of objects and artworks in 858.
Header image features work in 858, The Collection of Richard Hull and Madeline Nusseron view at ADDS DONNA in Garfield Park until May 18th (the same day the Logan Square Farmers Market opens for the season!).
“Out of the Mouths of Artists” is a new bi-monthly series on the Bad at Sports blog. The series presents a space for guest artist bloggers– of varying career statuses– to write, to reflect, to pontificate on their current situations, failures and/or successes, and ideas on what it means to be an artist. “Out of the Mouths of Artists” also gives readers a glimpse into artists’ portfolios and studios.
3D Tortoise, 2014
Guest Post by Daniel G. Baird
I have been thinking a lot about tortoises lately. Or, rather, I’ve recently realized that they’ve been on my mind for some time without my knowing. I don’t mean the literal animal, but rather the idea of it as both carrying an exterior ‘world’ upon its back and also having an interior world (its home) affixed to the structure of its body. I see the tortoise relating to other structures in the world and it has recently emerged as a signifier in my own work.
In Hindu, Chinese and Native American mythology, the tortoise is a familiar character that holds the weight of an entire cosmology. It is like a little world. Underside as the surface, interior as the experienced world and shell as the enclosed sky. Because it is seen as containing a depiction of the world in its entirety, it necessarily enters into the question of origins; If the tortoise has the world on its back, then what world is it standing on? Its not the origin-mythology aspects of the tortoise that interest me however. I see the shell of a tortoise as a type of memory-object, something that in its form holds a reference to its own function. Tools also do this. Like the way a child-proof medicine bottle contains the idea of an eventual arrival at a mature understanding of objects in the world.
The tortoise lives a long life and through its endurance and longevity feels almost timeless. With a lifespan similar to ours, the tortoise carries the passage of time on its shell. Some sea-turtles have entire micro-habitats of barnacles and algae attached to their back.
At the present moment, floating 230 miles above our heads, a global research laboratory called the International Space Station is conducting experiments in biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology and other fields in a state of microgravity. For me, it is like the tortoise shell because it carries a world within itself. The ISS is a machine thats working to create conditions for life to exist in zero gravity. With all the knowledge it collects, we can imagine that it might have the capability to make the conditions of another earth within the harshness of space.
Another allusion to the metaphor of the tortoise that is on my mind relates to something more graspable and familiar to us. It can be found within the flat surfaces of computer screens and ‘smart’ phones. These things that transfer information via a representation share a direct affinity to the ancient cave-paintings that are at the root of the history of image-making.
Every device with access to the internet is a TARDIS-like object. In the popular Dr. Who television show the TARDIS is a time machine and spacecraft in an unassuming British police box (vessel) that has the peculiar attribute of containing an infinite space in its interior. It has a close relationship to the dichotomy of the physical and virtual. It is a vessel that carries an interior world.
At present Google is providing the platform for an accurate pictorial representation of the world accessible from the internet. With GoogleEarth we are presented with the Earth as an object to be navigated at will. Through this program, we can pseudo-experience and access locations in the world that are beyond our physical capabilities. Navigating within the Street-View option is a personalized endeavor. After you find your house, which is almost the first thing anyone does, you can transport yourself over vast distances and meander through unfamiliar streets, and never physically move an inch. I’m entertained by the idea that the devices in our pockets are like little tortoises that contain infinite worlds; when you look into the screen you are actually peering into its shell.
Google Earth image
The collating of diverse materials, processes and objects that have specific embedded ideas is one facet that could characterize the process in my work. I do not feel the materials and ideas emerge from a research-based practice but rather from a jogging around, and through, interests that have become accumulated and built upon from earlier pieces.
I try to engage in both the macro/micro and physical/virtual worlds of signification. For me, a gradation of earth tone colors has the possibility of pointing towards the structure of geological sediment, a 3d scan of an architectural detail contains the entirety of the building it came from or a used ejection seat has wrapped within it the narrative possibility of terror and release from the technological marvel of flying through the sky. The interest in the tortoise I feel comes from a desire I have towards creating an entire cosmology in a piece. Its use in recent work nods to this impulse.
Baird’s “Capsule (the Tortoise),” 2014
Daniel G. Baird (b. 1984) received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Recent Solo exhibitions include ‘Strata’ at Andrew Rafacz gallery, Chicago; ‘Vestige’ at the Institute of Jamais Vu, London; ‘Has the World Already Been Made? X4? at both Roots and Culture, Chicago, and Hedah, Maastricht; ‘Meridian’ at Robert Bills Contemporary, Chicago; ‘This New Ocean,’ at Appendix Project Space, Portland. Recent Group exhibitions include Bowling Alone, Andrew Rafacz Gallery; Merge Visible, Prairie Productions, Chicago, and Panoptic Measures, Elizabeth Foundation, NY. He will present work at LVL3 this spring and at Leeds College of Art and Design in 2015. See more of Baird’s work at www.danielgbaird.com.