Whether here in Chicago or elsewhere, the art and music that I see and hear—much less find time to write about—are the proverbial tip of the iceberg. As 2015 morphs into 2016, I’d like to revisit things that riveted my attention and stuck with me as days, weeks, and months collaged into the past year.
Also I’d like to thank artists and musicians everywhere whose talent and work create transformative experiences: moment by moment and year after year.
By the Moonlight, Gouache, tea stain, and photo-transfers on birch plywood, 2013
Mahwish Chisty’s work grabbed me when I came across it during an open house at the Carroll Street building where she has a studio. She juxtaposes features of South Asian miniature painting with other techniques and media to create tense, unsettling work.
Mahwish Chisty, installation detail, Chicago Cultural Center, 2015
The miniaturist style, with its associations of delicacy and beauty, antagonizes complacency about Predators, Reapers, and and other drones used by the US military to bomb Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. The Chicago Cultural Center’s summer artists-in-residence show exhibited paintings, multimedia works, and a video from Chisty’s trenchant drone series.
2012 Google Street photo of address in North Dartmouth, MA given in 1989 by hardcore band Intent to Injure
Marc Fischer and Public Collectors created Hardcore Architecture using home addresses for 1980s hardcore bands that were published in the fanzine MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL. The exhibition at The Franklin in Chicago showed punk rock ephemera along with recent Google Street photos of addresses where fans sent money in the hope of receiving their favorite band’s latest cassette.
Installation view of Hardcore Architecture at The Franklin. Photo by Paul E. Germanos
Public Collectors tracks down materials to document and memorialize cultural phenomena ignored by institutional collections. In addition to a catalog of color photos of bands’ addresses, the Hardcore Architecture project published booklets of interviews with Cryptic Slaughter’s Les Evans and photographer Bill Daniel, who got Texas hardcore on film.
Christine Wallers, Death of a Moth installation view, Roman Susan
For the past three years I’ve been wanting to get to one show or another at Roman Susan, a non-commercial storefront art space near the CTA red line stop at Loyola. There was no doubt I’d make the trek to Roman Susan for the show by Christine Wallers since her earlier work at Experimental Sound Studio and A&D Gallery displayed a signature mix of intelligence, finesse, and subtlety. Death of a Moth continued in this vein while staking out its own distinctive territory.
Christine Wallers, installation detail
Since Roman Susan is usually closed, the challenge for artists showing there is to create an installation to be viewed from outside the gallery. During the day, Death of a Moth used the abundant light of a large south-facing window to illuminate pendulous sail-like forms burnished with ink. After dusk the storefront became an evanescent spectacle of projected images, angular volumes, and copper wire cats-cradle—all shimmering and accompanied by mysterious sounds audible through the door’s mail slot.
Signifier at Links Hall in Chicago, with Hope Goldman, Johanna Furnans, and Julie Boruff (left to right). Photo by Gina Marie Robinson
Christine Wallers’ creations of ink rubbed into crumpled Tyvek appeared on the walls of Links Hall, where lighting artist Christine Shallenberg worked more magic. The occasion was Signifier, the first performance of a long work by choreographer Joanna Furnans.
Signifier, photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis
Furnans displayed her command of the lexicon of modern dance with choreography that bound the three dancers with geometrical precision. Whether introduced through movement or music, unexpected moments of wit counterbalanced the dance’s en pointe feminist significations.
Thoroughbred, at the beginning of the performance, Sector 2337 in Chicago, 2014
Jefferson Pinder orchestrates artworks that reference and use the human body, specifically bodies of color exhausting themselves as in Thoroughbred, an anxiety producing performance with four naked people running on treadmills that went faster and faster.
Jefferson Pinder, Overture: Star of Ethiopia video with installation view in background, Hyde Park Art Center, 2015
The theme of rhythmic exertion recurs in the extraordinary video, Overture: Star of Ethiopia that’s part of Onyx Odyssey, Pinder’s show at the Hyde Park Art Center until January 24. In works that display human bodies or inanimate objects, threat and menace cling to them like a shadow. Charred police clubs hang over the gallery entrance. Artifacts are trapped in a large glass showcase. Sharp-pointed rods thrust into the air. Pinder’s works reveal worlds where everything is ominous and danger is never distant.
Jefferson Pinder, installation view, Hyde Park Art Center, 2015
Onyx Odyssey shows and tells truths about race in America, painful truths that every generation must learn—and work to change. We need more artists such as Pinder with the chops to create art that activates awareness, healing, and action.
Installation by Kevin Maginnis at The Suburban, 2015
Like artists across the world Chicago artists grumble about insufficient exhibition and performance space—and inscrutable decisions of curators, gallerists, and other gatekeepers. Thankfully artists don’t settle for the status quo. They put their ingenuity to work and create spaces where art, friendship, and community flourish: in storefronts and storage rooms, front, back and side yards, vintage apartments, an abandoned bank, and the rafters-and-studs skeleton of a mansion.
Fereshteh Toosi, 331 N. Ridgeland, Terrain Biennial 2015
The Suburban, Michelle Grabner and Brad Killam’s home-based exhibition space finished an unusually long run in Oak Park in 2015 and shifted operations to Milwaukee. Meanwhile, at nearby Terrain, Sabina Ott and a phalanx of artists launched the second Terrain Biennial. It included 75 artists and 3 collectives at sites in 7 US states, Cambodia, Canada, and Denmark.
David Wallace Haskins, Skycube, Elmhurst Art Museum
Elmhurst Art Museum Biennial: Chicago Statements is up until February 21. Curated by EAM’s Staci Boris, this inaugural biennial features works by Chicago artists that are edgy, enigmatic, and playful. Ride on a swing, crawl in a tent; see, hear, and reconsider black and white assumptions about city life while discovering an art mecca in the park. Skycube by David Wallace Haskins remains on display until Spring 2016 and EAM’s McCormick House by Mies van der Rohe is now integrated into the exhibition space.
Agnès Varda, Autoportrait devant quelques hommes de G. Bellini, 1962
Last October, cinephiles and other art lovers were treated to CinéVardaExpo. Agnès Varda in Chicago. During her week-long residency at the University of Chicago Agnès Varda gave workshops, public talks, answered questions after screenings, and had an exhibition at the Logan Center. From her classic Cléo from 5 to 7 to her no-holds-barred Vagabond and other films, television work, photographs and installations, Varda transmutes the world around her into art. She’s incomparably her own woman et une artiste formidable.
Christina Mackie, Colour Drop, Renaissance Society, 2014
Even if 100 is the new 80, it’s still a lot of years. And that’s how long the Renaissance Society has been showing contemporary art in Chicago. Since its founding, the Ren has exhibited over 3400 artists, racking up name-dropping shows: Henri Mattise, Alexander Calder, Käthe Kollwitz, Joseph Cornell, Louise Bourgeois, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Joan Jonas, Kerry James Marshall, and Steve McQueen. With a full calendar of exhibitions and performances, this Chicago powerhouse makes the most of its quirky garret space in Cobb Hall, a neo-Gothic classroom building at the University of Chicago. Happy Ren-tenary!
Stony Island Arts Bank, Chicago
Rebuild Foundation continues to expand an important portfolio of neighborhood-oriented arts and cultural spaces on Chicago’s South Side with the 2015 opening of Stony Island Arts Bank. This latest rebuild by the organization founded by Theaster Gates, Jr. gives neighborhood residents and artists historic materials (Johnson Publishing’s Library, Glass Lantern Slide collection, vinyl recordings, etc.) and space to gather and organize, make and exhibit art, reinvent history and create the future.
Photo in DuSable Museum’s exhibition celebrating the AACM’s 50th anniversary
South Side and Magnificent Mile institutions marked the 50th anniversary of the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) with distinctively different exhibitions. The Museum of Contemporary Art mounted The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now, displaying items from AACM musicians alongside works by AfriCOBRA artists (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists) and others.
Kelan Phil Cohran, one of the AACM’s founders at the DuSable Museum in 2015
The DuSable Museum of African American History called its show Free at First: The Audacious Journey of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. It presented a streetwise view of AACM’s political and historical contexts and accomplishments through photographs, sculptural objects, musical instruments, garments, archival materials, audio and video recordings. Getting a guided tour by Ernest Dawkins (current AACM chairman) to the DuSable exhibition was a windfall for me—as was discovering the AACM’s liberating sound at the tender age of 18.
AACM musicians, 2015. Photo by Tony Smith
AACM articles of incorporation were displayed at the entrance to the DuSable show. Its founders listed nine points as the organization’s purpose, starting with “To cultivate young musicians and create music of a high artistic level for the general public through the presentation of programs designed to magnify the importance of creative music.” The 50th anniversary of course is being celebrated with live performances by AACM musicians in their spheres of influence across the globe. The next performance in a Chicago pop-up series at 1858 Grand is on January 31.
In 1965 the AACM stated that it would exist “in perpetuity.” And so it does—thanks to musicians and publics who perpetuate the AACM’s founding vision and principles.
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The front tire wobbles as the weight of the planking jerks the fork of the bicycle from side to side. It will take rhythm to get anywhere. It will require a centering–a perfect distribution of the unbalanced load. The salvaged wood scrap stretches across the handlebars, bending under its own heft as it distances from the bicycle on both ends. There are bricks in the back basket–a milk crate strapped with rope to the frame. It rubs the back tire like an out-of-place brake pad…the every-other-rotation kind of rub. The tires have the pancaked look of low air where the rubber meets the road. Conditions are ripe for an array of potentials.
This is a moment in a story. It is not necessarily the beginning, the climax, or the end. It is a picture of a picture–the recollection of an unclear memory, that morphs into clairvoyance only as it is repeated and deployed situationally. It is the word made flesh, and the flesh made word. It is the construction of one’s identity from available material–material that is both tangible and ethereal.
Überhaupt: was macht der Zeitgeist? 2015, oil, pencil on stitched canvas 90 1/2 x 137 3/4 inches, photo courtesy of Robin Dluzen
As I walked through Kati Heck’s inaugural exhibition, “Ins Büro!” at Corbett vs Dempsey, I found myself thinking about my own life as a scavenger–hoarding all the potential I could carry. I was seeing similar moments described in Heck’s images–potentials picked out of the mundane, or the recently discarded, and harvested to distribute into complex riddles with seemingly endless possibility. On the canvases, I could see the dialogue between the painter and the thinker. Between the subject and the object. Between the story and the fragmented reality in which it exists.
These concurrent and perpetual dialogues in Heck’s work are best understood through their relationships with the paint itself. For example, in the faces of central figures, there appears to be a deeply personal connection–not just to the sitter–but also to the technical precision by which she chooses to treat the face. Where there are sections of amplified care–smaller brushwork, attention to detail, and range in palette–there also seems to be amplified metaphor, or keys to following the artist’s inner dialogue.
ALLES-MEHR 2015, oil on canvas, 41 3/4 x 35 1/2 inches
“Alles-Mehr,” which google translated for me as “everything-more,” exemplifies this notion. In “Alles-Mehr,” one can follow the hierarchy of paint distribution–from the face, down to the jar of pickles, to the fabric, to the wood of the chair, to the skin, and to the wall. To me, the smaller marks represent larger roles in the image’s story. The larger marks are painting maneuvers. Small is big. Big is small. All are equally important to its existence as a painting–or as an aesthetically considered object of contemplation.
Here, a man appears to be in a pickle–as they say–four fingers deep. This idiom becomes the bedrock of the painting and it places the character in an air of mischief with an assuming look of low-cunning. The disappearing arm holds the glowing decoy–the legerdemain of the common wizard. Admittedly, this is merely one possible thread in a heap of narrative grist, but my guess is as good as the next viewer, and it doesn’t matter much if anyone gets it “right.”
Der süssliche Erinnerungsmehrwert 2015, oil on canvas, 94 1/2 x 78 3/4 inches photo courtesy of Robin Dluzen
In the painting, “Der süssliche Erinnerungsmehrwert,” Heck introduces a sculptural element to the painting by sewing canvas to the bottom of the frame where it becomes an extension of the painted fabric–it literally flows off of the rectangle and spills onto the floor. This move is indicative of Heck’s unflinching intuition–uninterrupted by any hesitation from exterior pressures. She doesn’t make decisions based on how it will be received, (see the velvet frame around the bad girl, “Petit Pity,” in the corner of the show)she responds directly to the impulse. Directly to the vision. Anything that is susceptible to transformation, is transformed. There is no shelter for this nomad–and although her work pulsates with influences from the establishment, she cannot be pinned down. She emerges with a triumph, or at least the execution and invention of something that could not be made by anyone else.
Petit Pity 2015, oil on canvas, velvet frame, 63 x 47 1/4 inches
In an interview for the exhibition catalog, Heck tells gallerists John Corbett and Jim Dempsey, that the title of the show, “Ins Büro,” means “go to the office” and for her, the office is the bed she keeps in her studio. It is a factory of dreams from which she extracts and deploys content, stamping them with her industrious logo before they leave the warehouse. In a fractal universe fragmented further by processes of the human mind, it is no wonder that Heck turns to her dreams as a means of deciphering any truth from the ether. The result may be a world without language. A visual world. A world seen and understood simultaneously.
The compulsion to realize this utopia is undeniable. It wants to be seen. It wants to be described. It is on the tip of your tongue too–the cusp of your visual field as you lay in the darkness and attempt to solve the world’s puzzles in the most quiet of spaces–the safest of landscapes–your dreams. However, it never quite satisfies. It never quite gives you the tools to see that place and how it works. It appears partial. As disconnected. As unimportant. It appears as meaningless potential–a moment frozen until it is thawed and put to work. Kati Heck in her Antwerp studio, attempts to bring that flight of fancy out of the castle in the sky and into her own reality. Whatever is constructed there–out of whatever material is available to revolutionize–may not be true, but for the maker, it is true enough.
If I were you, I’d go have a peak at her temporary office.
Corbett vs. Dempsey
1120 N. Ashland Avenue 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60622
December 11-January 26, 2016
and by appointment
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I was at a concert recently were I saw a piece by the American artist Devin DiSanto performed. It was Devin and my friends Rolando and Gudinni, folding papers, putting them in envelopes, placing the envelopes in certain positions, then doing some other stuff. Actually it wasn’t that exactly, but that was the idea: three guys doing bureaucratic things. I felt like Bartleby a little bit. As in, I imagine that’s what Bartleby’s workplace was like, what it looked and sounded like. Paper pushing, bureacracy. “I prefer not to.” The occasional bell ringing to signal something. I thought it was funny, and appreciated that it was happening. My friend came up to me and said they hated it. “It’s fucking Fascist!” they said. I said, “really?”
I don’t remember who wrote it, and because I never annotate novels, I’ll never find it—it was either Javier Marías or Roberto Bolaño, in a novel—but somebody wrote that Fascist writing is not writing done by Fascists, but rather writing that affords the same possibilities, or lack thereof, that Fascism does. That is, anybody can write a Fascist novel, or a Fascist art review, or a Fascist poem; anybody can make a Fascist composition or perform a Fascist performance.
If a Fascist work is one that allows for the conditions of Fascism within its performance or execution, what are the conditions of Fascism? I don’t know, really. I open one of my favorite books that I’ve never read: What do Rulers Do When They Rule? by Göran Therborn. I open the index to “F.” Fabre, J., Fichter, T. It’s an index of names. No Fascism. I think about what else I might have that might talk about Fascism and think of some books I left in Los Angeles, or maybe that I donated to Out of the Closet before I left—the one in Echo Park, on Sunset. I search Wikipedia: Fascism. The heavily annotated article—you can read it, too, obviously—tells us that there is no precise definition of Fascism, but that “one common definition” is that Fascism is composed of three negations: anti-liberalism, anti-communism, and anti-conservatism. It makes me think of Donald Trump, though: he’s not liberal, not communist, and not conservative. Maintaining this kind of position—I’m not this, nor am I that, and I’m not that either—also seems to me that it would depend heavily on a narcissistic, insistent personality, the kind of person that can lie without effort and with convincing force. “I’m not, but you are!” That kind of thing.
The next part of the Wikipedia sentence: Fascism often carries within it a particular aesthetic, one that vaunts youth, romanticism, violence, and masculinity. I can’t help but think of William Burroughs’s later novels, only a couple of which I’ve bothered to read, overwhelmingly wide in range and full of teenage cocks and teenage blood. There’s a great article online by Luc Sante that discusses whether or not Burroughs was Fascist, an article I found reading another great article, this time by Rebecca Solnit, where she wondered why read Burroughs when you can read somebody who didn’t shoot their wife. Why look at Carl Andre when you can look at somebody who didn’t kill Ana Mendieta. I think of the impressive-seeming Leon Golub retrospective that I avoided at the Rufino Tamayo, huge bleak mottled colors, young male blood, slogans. I felt my brain closing as I wandered in and left immediately. Maybe that’s what Fascist art is: art that makes your brain close. It wouldn’t be, I guess, just art that features beautiful young men, or art that is excessively romantic, or art that features violence; it wouldn’t even be a combination of the three. And no, it wouldn’t be art that makes your brain shut down, either; it would be art that makes you feel a strong sense of denial, art that unmoors something basic in you, something you need, something that you’re afraid of. Art that makes you feel proud, defensive, powerful, anxious.
The wall text introducing Nairy Bagharian’s Hand Me Down, at the Rufino Tamayo, is not helpful. Something about the contradictory legacy of minimalism, something about the visitor as muse, something about activating space or architecture, something about a second hand store. I walked through the show wondering what the contradictory legacy of minimalism is, exactly. The wall text said that it was about reducing sculpture down to its basic elements. I guess I was thinking: where does that become contradictory?
So I was thinking about Tony Smith’s Black Box, the one that got Michael Fried all angry. It’s a box, you know? A black box. I think the thing I’ve always said about Minimalism, usually to myself, is that it’s weird to me that everybody thinks Minimalism is so complicated when it’s really just about being a body in the room with a box. I thought about reading “Specific Objects” while walking into the space and looking at a charming photo of somebody’s hairy legs in yellow socks and sandals, sitting on the ground in a three-quarters metal frame. Reading “Specific Objects” made me feel uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure why. I wonder now if it’s because it takes a simple phemonological idea, like putting a box in a gallery and being like, “yo,” and makes it Very Serious. There’s nothing wrong with being serious, but making a bunch of sculptures that are all about bodies in space and not really talking about bodies at all is kind of weird. Especially when every room in every one of your studio buildings in Marfa has a bed! Come on, Donald! What’s it like to lay down and take a nap in a room with a Specific Object? What’s it like to fuck in a room with a Specific Object, or masturbate, or snore? What’s it like to get home late at night, reeking of campfire and whiskey, and vomit in a room with a Specific Object? That must be the contradictory legacy, I thought as I wandered around the vast empty spaces created by Bagharian’s installation. Objects that create an immediate relationship with the body, but seem afraid of it.
I’m trying to find a citation, another one, this one about the tendency of male artists to favor—nay, to need—abstraction, and how goofy that is, how dumb to think that anything good will come of eliminating the body from one’s work, and that women artists instinctually know that this is a ridiculous position, dumb, self-negating. Maybe it’s Fascist. Anyway, I’m pretty sure I read it in n+1, so I look in the most recent issue. I can’t find it in the review of Maggie Nelson’s new book, The Argonauts, but I find this: “Do castration and the Phallus tell us deep Truths of Western culture or just the truth of how things are and might not always be? It astonishes me to think that I spent years finding such questions not only comprehensible, but compelling.”
I think to myself, ok, maybe it’s in this short story by Ceridwen Dovey, the a letter to Sylvia Plath by a combat dolphin mother who has recently committed suicide—it sounds ridiculous, maybe, but it isn’t, it’s touching, direct, astute, beautiful, one of my favorite things that I’ve read recently—anyway part of what she writes is about Ted Hughes, Plath’s husband, who I guess wrote a lot about animals, vaunting them, vaunting animal-ness like Moretti vaunted machine-ness. “Reclaiming” some kind of -ness by submitting to some sort of “other” energy. But, like the dolphin says in her letter to Sylvia Plath, “human women need no reminder that they’re animals.” And later: “You took enormous creaturely satisfaction in food, in sex, in smells, in your own body and its workings. The smell of your pee first thing in the morning, the texture of your snot when you wiped it beneath a table, the feel of the sun tanning your belly brown and the fine hairs on it blonde, the ‘cowlike bliss’ of breastfeeding your infant son by starlight. You didn’t need any symbolic scaffolding to describe your experience as a female animal.” I don’t need a reminder that I am a machine—that I’m constructed—not because I’m a man, but maybe because I’m queer.
Symbolic scaffolding: maybe that’s the thing, the Fascist thing. The unmooring of something universal and basic but kind of scary, like being an animal, so that you feel suddenly this desperate and violent need to reclaim something that you’ve lost, but that you’re afraid to name. You shout “yeah!” at somebody who tells you something strong, something convincing, something macho and hard. Specific Objects! Yeah! DiSanto’s performance was certainly strong and convincing, self-contained and alienating, but in a way that was hard to notice—”really?”—that made you want to keep watching, keep participating as a viewer or listener or both. DiSanto ripped and walking around in a white t-shirt and jeans. If I remember right, there was a brief semi-participatory moment at the end, but everybody had already been negated and the cue was too subtle, so it didn’t work. Or maybe it did work, maybe the point of the piece was to produce this Bartleby sentiment in the audience so that when they were finally asked to do something, their response was a bewildered, “I prefer not to.”
I don’t know what I can tell you about Bagharian’s show. I had a notebook, but no pencil; I had a phone that wasn’t charged. I took a picture of a funny poem in the men’s room, near the furthest urinal, and then it died. I asked the lady at the front desk if there were papers or anything I could take with me, but she said no, they were only selling catalogs for the other two shows in the museum. I’ve been wondering recently about my relationship with art, and this seemed emblematic. The other day, as I was eating a quesadilla de chicharron, Tina Turner wafted over the market’s soundsystem like the smell of ripe fruit. I wondered, as everybody always does, “what does love got to do with it?” I wondered: do I have a crush on art? When I think about going to openings my hands get clammy and I find some reason, usually a dumb one, not to go. Then I tell myself I’ll go to this museum before the show ends, make an appointment at that gallery before that show ends, but of course I never do.
In the last month or so, I have missed something like ten openings, or complete shows, that I wanted to see. On November 28th, I missed El Aire Entre Las Cosas, the final exhibition for the current SOMA class, as well an opening at LuLu. I haven’t been to Bikini Wax since I went with Mauro, Rolando, and Jordan all that time ago. There have probably been 40 openings, and a bunch of them looked great. I haven’t been to Obrera Centro, even though Nancy invited me, the day after the Bikini Wax night; I haven’t gone to the Jeremy Deller show at MUAC. When I was in Oaxaca, I almost went to Parallel but then I looked at their website and saw they were in Miami. I’m sure somebody was at the gallery, but I didn’t go. Last Saturday, on Virgin of Guadelupe Day, a day for which thousands of pilgrims travel by foot or bicycle or van from all corners of the country, choking the air with fireworks to mark their progression, Jordan and I went to Casa Maauad because I thought the SOMA show was still up. It wasn’t. We walked to the taco cart on the corner of García Icazbalcega and Rosas Moreno, across the street from Luz y Fuerza. I looked at the poster hanging off the door at Lodos and wondered why I hadn’t bothered to make an appointment for that day; I wondered if I knew Francisco well enough to knock. I don’t. Jordan had two tacos de maciza and two de longaniza; I had one each of maciza, suadero, and longaniza. They were out of tripe. There’s a guy frying meat, a guy chopping meat, a woman taking payments, a son fetching bottled drinks, a fat man skinning onions. The chopping meat guy grabs a chunk of meat from the frying meat guy, chops it up wets a pair of tortillas in the grease shakes his hand to get rid of some grease grabs some meat puts in the taco asks you if you want everything on it grabs a handful of onion and cilantro distributes it perfectly pours some of their red sauce on it hands it to you. This all takes, like, one second. Then you eat it. Get some cucumber and radish and salt the hell out of them; put some papalo on there if you’re into it; there’s some onion marinated with chiles. We went for a little walk through San Rafael, a formerly Lebanese neighborhood that isn’t Lebanese anymore, to the Chopo. I wanted to see Martín Soto Clement’s show. The museum was closed. We walked back to the metro.
When I encounter emotional issues, or issues that involve some kind of emotional question—why am I angry right now, why am I happy right now, what’s love got to do with it—I turn to Susan Miller, the astrologist, or Roland Barthes, the semiologist. Spefically I turn to the Astrology Zone app on my smartphone and one of Barthes’s last books, A Lover’s Discourse. The other day, after finishing my quesadilla and my tlacoyo—a smallish paddle of corn masa, in this case filled with mashed fava beans and covered with cheese, chopped cactus paddles, and onion—I returned home and opened A Lover’s Discourse. I wanted to think that I identified with the eighth entry underabsence:
8. A Buddhist Koan says: “The master holds the disciple’s head underwater for a long, long time; gradually the bubbles become fewer; at the last moment, the master pulls the disciple out and revives him: when you have craved truth as you crave air, then you will know what truth is.”
I would like to think I’ve been missing all these events, avoiding all these galleries, people, and shows, because I am depriving myself of art in order to “prepare myself for what is Intractable” in it, like Barthes interprets the koan. But really I identify more with the first entry in anxiety: “I pick up a book and take a sleeping pill, ‘calmly.’ The silence of this huge hotel is echoing, indifferent, idiotic (faint murmur of draining bathtubs); the furniture and lamps are stupid; nothing friendly that might warm…” There’s something addictive about making these kinds of bad decisions, doing things that you know will make you feel bad, make you feel negated, cold, the room closing in around you. Decisions that remove the spirit from objects, decisions that allow you to believe that you are isolated from them or independent of them. I think this is what Fascism feeds off of, also: taking a stance that leaves you in need of direction.
There were three varieties of sculpture in Hand Me Down: low-slung white igloo-ey sculptures, each pulled apart slightly to reveal a hollow middle, excessively strong steel skeleton, and a drab interior paint job; pillowy leather-clad sculptures, organic shapes, pinned high on the wall on steel bars that recall a dance studio, with cute-colored knobs on each end; and naked steel sculptures, same kind of thick steel bar, hulking like Bourgeois spiders. I don’t remember how many of anything there were, but I remember wanting to lay down on the leather-clad ones (Chin Up), and I remember a rail created by two parallel bars on one of the naked steel sculptures (what were they called? you’ll have to check) pointing directly at the face of the bored, but kind-looking, museum guard standing behind it. I wondered about the muse part of the wall text. I don’t really understand what a muse is and I never have. When I compose or improvise I think of forms and fill them with content, or I play attention games: when this happens I’ll do x, for the next 5 minutes I’ll ignore everybody, etc. When I write I usually just vomit words for a while, take a break, then rearrange things so that they make sense, kind of. In no case do I receive anything from any supernatural source—are muses supernatural?—although maybe that would be cool. In Dodie Bellamy’s new book she talks about Kathy Acker: “Acker: One thing I do is stick a vibrator up my cunt and start writing—writing from the point of orgasm and losing control of the language and seeing what it’s like.” Is that a muse? The vibrator? Now I’m pretty sure I read that bit about men needing to abstract things in Bellamy’s book, When the Sick Rule the World, but I have no idea in which essay because, again, I didn’t annotate anything. I read half the book in one sitting, on a bus on the way to Oaxaca. Everything bleeds together in my memory. It’s like going to a city where you recognize enough of it that you always think you know where you are, but you never do. A place where you feel a kind of vague familiarity, but you’re still alone and lost.
I’m pretty positive I wasn’t the muse. I’m pretty sure I don’t like the whole idea of a muse, a muse seems like a thing that comes from this idea of geniuses or genii and I’m in general not into that. I don’t want to be part of it. Every old creepy art guy has a young “muse.” It’s like, why bother with the muse thing, just admit you like fucking young men/women. As I walked back through the Bagharian exhibition, after avoiding the Golub and being disappointed by the Heinz Peter Knes, I noticed that each room was at most half-filled, leaving a huge amount of space occupied only by guards and/or their chairs. I noticed, walking around, that the guards stood up from their chairs every time I entered the room. I wondered if that was part of their job description: when somebody enters, stand up. I noticed that, when they stood up, they would mirror me slightly, just to keep tabs. I entered a room and the the guards stood up; I moved and they moved. As I walked around each sculpture, wondering to myself if I look at sculpture like I look at guys in the street, if my art-viewing gaze is the same as my cruising gaze—I guess I’m not really cruising because I’m not intending for anything to happen, and I think cruising is pretty goal-oriented, but anyway, a gaze that is appraising and desirous, predatory and curious—a museum guard would be on the other side of the sculpture, keeping track of me without looking at me, keeping track of the sculpture without looking at the sculpture. I caught one guard looking at me while I stood behind one of the low-slung pulled-apart sculptures and looked at the shadow cast on it so subtilely, so thoughtfully and purposefully, by a nearby window. I moved, he moved, and I thought, “it’s like we’re dancing!” and loved it.
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Not to be confused with tfw Kevin Arrow blows your mind with some Obsolete Media Miami.
TFW: You’re For Real Over Art Basel
But you can’t look away because art?
Last year we lamented the Art World Spring Break that is Art Basel, and unsurprisingly, this year the focus remained on pretty much anything else BUT the art (see this utterly riveting article “In Miami, Booth Furniture as Compelling as the Art” in the New York Times). Add to this year the eerie and uncanny feeling that we were experiencing more of the week via Instagram than IRL and you find there really is no need to make the trip. You’ve heard it all already– it rained a lot, someone was stabbed, and the US’s biggest art mall remains unfazed.
Self-portrait as this girl in a Neo Rauch painting.
Epic rainstorm kept patrons trapped inside the Perez Art Museum Miami after the evenings festivities ended.
So why write about it at all? A fair question, unfortunately without an answer other than to highlight what WTT? found compelling and noteworthy. (Oh yeah, and for the photos. Mostly for the photos.) If it makes you feel any better, we actually decided to bring the WTT? column back after a letter from Duncan and the stirring Homeroom program, “Self-Portrait in a Kanye Mirror” last Tuesday at the MCA (more on that later), so we’ll try to keep this one brief.
Best text I received the entire week: “We are looking very birdcage, you won’t miss us.”
Coral Morphologic naturally kept us mystified with this work at Miami’s SwampSpace.
Sofia Leiby preparing the evening before her first Miami solo at Michael Jon Gallery next to the McAurthur Milk Factor in Little Haiti.
The ever fashionable Lizzie Newberry at the opening for “redew”, a beautiful exhibition of Miami woman artists presented by Maggie Knox in Little Haiti.
Virgo performing at the opening for “redew”, by Maggie Knox.
Highlights: The schadenfreude I experienced when the “monsoon” (in my mom’s words) literally rained on everyone’s Basel parade. Did you come here to “work”, or what? Also, The Littlest Sister Art Fair (and panels) at Spinello, Anselm Kiefer at Margulies Warehouse (a seriously WTF moment of awe), Coral Morphologic’s installation at SwampSpace, bbgrl Sofia Leiby’s exhibition at Michael Jon, the multicolored breakfast at The Sagamore Hotel (what was up with that art tho?), ceviche, and nearly everything at the Artist-Run Satellite fair in North Beach (hey, not mainland, but at least it’s north of Arthur Godfrey). Snacks.
With artists Misael Soto and Reed Van Brunschot with Van Brunschot’s installation at Spinello’s reprisal of its popular Littlest Sister Art Fair in Little Haiti.
One room of many giant Anselm Kiefer installations at the Margulies Collection.
Pro Tip: Limón y Sabor.
Artists Liz Ferrer and Efrain Del Hierro outside of the Ocean Terrace Hotel, the location for the Artist-Run Satellite Fair.
David Rohn left us breathless after this gorgeously draggy performance at Fantastical Vizcaya on December 5th.
NoLa artist Local Honey inside “Stupid Bar”, part of Baltimore gallery Open Space’s space at Artist-Run fair.
Sweet piece by Derrick Adams in Rhona Hoffman’s ABMB booth.
“Where the snacks at?” The Sagamore Hotel Brunch.
Artist Carol Ferdinand showing tourists how Miamian’s do rain in front of a José Bedia sculpture by the Sagamore’s pool.
Also was very feeling Martine Syms thoughtful, haunting “Art on the Move” project, NITE LIFE, at Locust Projects and on buses and signs around Overtown (pairs excellently and unfortunately with the news that David Beckham is building a soccer stadium there after richer neighborhoods turned him down. “This will be the most responsible stadium development in Miami history,” said no one truthfully ever.).
The beginning of Rashad Newsome’s “King of Arms Miami” parade in front of the de la Cruz Collection in the Design District.
Totally perfect giant post-it note by April Childers in the Penelope room at the Artist-Run fair.
Tapestries by SAIC Alum Robin Kang also in the Penelope room at Artist-Run fair.
Wish I could buy this Jenna Ransom drawing in The Alice’s Artist-Run hotel room.
Tara Long (aka Poorgrrl) performing at the ICA Miami party in a sad Drake t-shirt by Chicago artist David Leggett.
Can we talk about Hernan Bas for a second? Ok. Thanks.
Martine Syms’ bus wrap spotted by Locusts’ Amanda Sanfillipo.
Last but not least, Rashad Newsome’s weirdly under-attended and overly-awesome “King of Arms Miami” Parade in the Design District on Tuesday, Dec 1st. The FMU musicians were rad, Newsome’s lambo was out of control, and the voguing group from NY brought it despite the lackluster crowd, comprised of what seemed like more cameras than people, a pissed off looking Jeffery Deitch and our small group. The annual TM Sisters beach hang on Monday night. Oh, and one more, the performances at Vizcaya!
Trippy install of Robert Chase Heishman photographs and Lauren Clay wallpaper at LVL3’s Untitled booth.
Chicago fashion playboy, Vincent Uribe of LVL3, impeccably matching the gallery’s booth at Untitled with work by Lauren Clay.
Keijaun Thomas and I spent some time in the beautiful curated SEDIMENT presentation in the Artist-Run fair, “Gravity Assist,” featuring none other than lost Chicago boy, David Moré!
This article continued in the third column.
The Weatherman Report
Several Circles, 1926, by Vassily Kandinsky because wtf is going on with the weather rn.
Allison Glenn presents her Kanye Self-Portrait at the MCA on Tuesday night.
Reflections of Self-Portrait in a Kanye Mirror
Homeroom Channels Doctor West at the MCA
Free Tuesdays are generally bustling at the MCA, though I was still surprised to see that nearly 20 minutes before the much-anticipated Homeroom’s School Night: Self-Portrait in a Kanye Mirror was set to begin on Dec 15th, the (Wolfgang Puck?) Cafe was already filled to capacity, with overflow seats starting to fill up in the central hallway of the museum.
Billed as “a multimedia info show with artists and educators who assemble to reflect on the art and life of Kanye West through the lens of their own personal Yeezus” the evenings event featured Krista Franklin, Allison Glenn, and Lisa Yun Lee with Kevin Coval, J. Johari Palacio and Anthony Stepter. And reflect they did.
Fred Sasaki of Homeroom opened the evening with his own personal Yeezus demons, cracking self-deprecating jokes about his unending love for Kanye and his own son’s disapproval of rap music. The vibe was right as Sasaki led the crowd in taking Kanye-inspired “I am a god” selfies and in singing bars of West’s hit “Runaway”. While the roster was pretty long, the guests were stellar and each presentation was just how I like it, short and sweet. The first speaker up, Anthony Stepter, made a compelling attempt to equate his life with Kanye’s, referencing the artists fateful car accident that launched his career. Next was Allison Glenn on Kanye’s “interruptions” as they relate to her own practice as a curator and writer.
Jesse Malmed and I make our best “God” faces.
Following Glenn was what (almost) seemed to be a spontaneous audience performance of a mash-up of Kanye lyrics. Next, coming to the stage to the tune of West’s “Mercy”, J. Johari Palacio presented a light and amusing stream of consciousness on Kanye’s presumed internal monologue, while Lisa Yun Lee opted to use the opportunity to discuss everything from conservative conceptions of “Black Excellence” to misogyny in rap music. While Lee was riveting, she was unfortunately paired with Kevin Coval, who’s spoken word poetry alternating with Lee’s speaking felt awkward. Fortunately, Krista Franklin was there to bring it all back together, offering her own poetic read of Kanye in her piece, “Devil in a New Dress, Or Making Paper with Kanye West.” Stunning.
After the presentations a surprisingly poignant Q&A followed, with Stepter describing his own “constructed” understanding of race in response to a statement from an audience member on anti-Black sentiment. Afterward, many at the MCA adjourned to the Soho House, where J. Johari Palacio satisfied everyone’s need to listen to Kanye songs over cocktails and good conversation. A+++. We heard that audio should be available soon if you weren’t able to attend in person. Pair that with the special mix Palacio created for the evening and enjoy your own KW AP.
After the program ended, Sasaki confided that the School series has a cathartic effect over his personal obsession. While he may have let go of Kanye after last night’s event, he only reignited our own interest in the controversial figure– currently bumping Johari’s mix and thankful for Chicago. 😉
Reading is Fundamental
Because we hate Top 5 lists but love books.
The Papi Project by Oli Rodriguez.
The IRL book culmination of Rodriguez’s ongoing interdisciplinary project including 3D photographic sculptures, video, photography and performance that investigates technology, gay/queer hookup culture and loss through the artist’s attempt to seek out men who had sexual relations with his own father. We *think* the book is available for purchase at David Weinberg, which recently hosted a portion of the project in the “Pearly Foam” exhibition curated by Meg Noe.
Shallow Wounds: Two Accounts of Art Basel 2015. In this collaborative essay WTT? kindred spirits and fellow Miami natives, Rob Goyanes and Dave Rodriguez, expound on the oft felt Basel-related ennui, more flat tires, and Stitches getting punched in the face.
Lori Waxman’s Best of:
We’re super not into pointless lists (*cough*Newcity*cough*), so good news to us (and art writing in general) that Waxman’s waxing on Chicago art in 2015 is a meaty and thoughtful review of her favorite projects of 2015. We were particularly tickled to see Trunk Show’s delightful missives getting love from Lori. We’d also like to add that their twitter, written from the perspective of the 1999 green Ford Taurus him(?)self, is also pretty hilarious.
T around Town
Chicago, it’s been too long!
Because we all know that reviews are boring as fuck.
Alex Bradley Cohen drawing my portrait during his residency with Alberto Aguilar for Next Art Now in the Leo Burnett building. Catch boy wonder, Cohen, at his opening for Trunk Show at Tusk this coming Saturday afternoon.
Speaking of TS, we hope you caught their installation of work by Scott Wolniak in Brandon Alvendia’s “The Great Good Place” exhibition at Threewalls which closed Dec. 12th.
Chelsea Culp breakin’ all the rules at the opening for “The Great Good Place”.
An oldie but a goodie. Bodies at the Center, a performance by Gregg Bordowitz and Marissa Perel presented at the Chicago Humanities Fest in partnership with the ADA 25 Chicago on November 7th. These powerhouses got us thinking and it hasn’t stopped.
We’re still hung over from the overabundance of beauty (and wine) at Inside/Within’s first curatorial presentation, “asperity economy asymmetry austerity intimacy,” at The Franklin this past Saturday, Dec. 12th. Pictured is Chelsea Culp’s “Untitled (Sporty Spice)” on loop girl.
Another clutch work (get it, bananas? 😛 ) by Maddie Reyna in “asperity economy asymmetry austerity intimacy,” at The Franklin this past Saturday, Dec. 12th.
The cuties of No Coast (Aay Preston-Myint & Alex Valentine) at the Medium Cool gift fair at Prairie Productions on November 21st. Affordable work by Latham Owen Zearfoss and Math Bass? Please and Thank You.
Our everyday #WCW’s, Emily Green and Kate Bowen of ACRE holding down the bar at the opening for “Tele Nature, Post Ecologies” at ACRE Projects on November 8th.
November 8th also marked the return of long-dormant New Capital in Garfield Park. Reopening in a newly renovated space with work by Rebecca Beachy, “Inherencies” was a fittingly ritualistic treatment of the gallery space, utilizing burned animal bones and other natural materials to christen every inch. On view through February 2016.
A detail of work by Beachy embedded into the walls of New Capital.
One of the best exhibitions in our recent memory (where you at, Top 10 lists of 2015?), “Twin Rooms” curated by Ionit Behar and Pinar Üner Yilmaz at Julius Cæsar. Work by Bailey Romaine (and Assaf Evron sound piece in the back!).
More work by Bailey Romaine in “Twin Rooms” curated by Ionit Behar and Pinar Üner Yilmaz at Julius Cæsar on November 15th.
Robert Smith III and Jesse Malmed show off their red coats during a late late night shift of Pope.L’s “Cage Unrequited” at the MCA on Nov 21-22nd.
New work in “Post Self”, a collection of other people taking images by Nicholas Frank on view at Western Exhibitions.
Two Milwaukeean’s walk into a gallery. Alec Regan with Nicholas Frank at the opening for “Post Self” at Western Exhibitions last Friday.
Alberto Aguilar (framed by Elsworth Kelly) discussing his work “Room for Intimacy” in the Education Wing of the Art Institute at a private reception for the installation last week. The gave a detailed explanation of the installation before handing the room over to museum education associates for their use.
If you missed Wolfie Rawk’s excellently spooky subterranean video installation “The Island” you have one final chance, TONIGHT at Learning Machine. The closing will feature performance by Sofia Moreno and Rosé Hernandez so don’t be late.
Are the most interesting conversations around socially engaged art happening in your newsfeed?
While we appreciate the effort from Chicago magazine and Jason Foumberg, the recent article “How Chicago Artists Responded to the Laquan McDonald Video” was anemic at best. The fire-y headline left us wanting more. Most lacking was any actual response by artists to the recently released video of the police shooting. It is mostly milquetoast responses by some [highly regarded] Chicago artists. There are some proverbial “shots fired,” wherein [Chicago-ish?] artist and provocateur Pedro Velez calls to Chicago’s main man, Theaster Gates, to make a statement on the situation. Gates apparently declined to comment.
While the Chicago Mag piece tamely leaves it at that, an interesting Facebook thread on Foumberg’s wall continues the conversation with quoted artists Dawoud Bey, Kate Ingold, Robb Stone and Velez adding additional context to their short statements in the article. Regarding Velez’s opinion on Gates, Bey writes “I also disagree with Pedro’s putting Theaster on the spot…as he has in other instances in the past. Not to slight anyone else, but Theaster’s tangible contribution to the city and his own community speaks volumes for his deep engagement.” A lively conversation ensues covering everything from Joe Scanlan’s lecture at UC, to Kanye West’s honorary doctorate at SAIC in 2015.
Meanwhile, in a strange and parallel universe, Chicago Tribune did manage to get a response from Theaster Gates for an article in the paper’s Lifestyle section titled “How to be a good neighbor with Theaster Gates” (can’t make this shit up). The piece does dance around some political concerns, like when Trib’s Lisa Skolnik asks, “I’ve heard you don’t like the word “gentrification.” What term do you prefer?” to which Gates responds “…I hope that what I’m doing is ethical redevelopment…”, but loses me when the “lifestyle” questions come out. Favorite mode of transit? “Roller-skating; I have Chicago Skates classic rink skates.”
MIAMI BASEL RECAP CONTINUED…
Chicago’s very own Sarah & Joseph Belknap with 100% brand new stellar-inspired work at Brooklyn-based Common People’s presentation for Artist-Run fair. Shout out to S&J for camping in the mangroves and for the empanadas and tequila shots!
We were really into this fashionably haphazard installation, “Beast Boutique” by Jennifer Avery at yellow peril gallery in the Artist-Run Satellite.
Avery actually met and married James Swainbank outside of the fair. Covered here by Michael Anthony Farley for AFC.
Speaking of AFC, we loved this dart board by Chicago artist Macon Reed in their “DYKE BAR” at the Artist-Run Satellite.
Local favs, GucciVitton branching out at DesignMiami as Giovanni Beltran with furniture by Jonathan Gonzalez in the curio section of the fair.
With Emily Green, Keijaun Thomas and Efrén Arcoiris at the SAIC 150th Anniversary at the Sagamore Friday Dec 4th.
J. Rip making deals for Green Gallery. Can’t get enough of that amazing lamp in their NADA Booth.
Lowlights and letdowns included Art Basel Miami Beach’s Most Anticipated Collaboration (according to NYT) between Ryan McNamara and Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange). I don’t think the point was to be as boring as humanly possible. I felt pretty bad for Hynes, who seemed to be the most nonplussed of all. Maybe they jinxed themselves with that Coral Castle pic. The Nari Ward show was sick tho (s/o to Diana Nawi for the great work). Never enough snacks. Visiting artists’ instagrammed obsession with the hologram lady at Miami International Airport. The Braman’s massive campaign contributions to Marco Rubio (they are, btw, the family underwriting the ICA Miami) and republicans in general. Wynwood, always. Being barraged by that image of the bleeding woman in the Nova section of ABMB (can I get a trigger warning?!). That I had to choose between taking a falafel pita from Pita Plus or a Publix sub back to Chicago on the plane with me (went for the falafel FYI).
Did the mystical powers of Coral Castle and/or Edward Leedskalnin’s ghost jinx this hotly anticipated collaboration?
So I guess my Basel was ok? At least I finally figured out how to deliberately lower my expectations, and how to change a flat tire (thanks Misa & Domingo). Until next year.
A serene moment with work by Leyden Rodriguez Cassanova at the Miami Center for Architecture & Design before leaving.
My favorite floor. MIA’s public art installation by OG Miami goddess, Michele Oka Doner.
One of our favorite parts of our favorite Miami fair, the Artist-Run Satellite at the dilapidated Ocean Terrace Hotel on 74th street was how the artists and spaces delt with the bathrooms in each suite. These are two of our favorite examples.
Lee Heinemann’s bathroom install presented by Platform Gallery.
Ningún Solicitar’s chaotic bathroom, part of their “Ningún Solicitar Hotel” installation.
Clear Acrylic Art Work
What can we say? We are from Miami, after all.
Nari Ward, Naturalization Drawing Table (2004) on view at PAMM.
Acrylic column by Jason Gringler in the recently closed exhibition New Destruction with James Bouché.
The most must-have accessory of Art Basel Miami Beach 2015
On trend at the Sagamore Hotel brunch crepe line.
Outside of the Hynes/ McNamara performance at PAMM.
Aside from their seriously crucial position in ceviche mixtos, Shrimp are experiencing a revival at the end of 2015.
Delicious and desirable Shrimp Brooch by Brittany Kowalski, available at TUSK.
This super freaking adorable guy (did I just call a shrimp named Cthulhu adorable?) is the star of Jack Schneider’s exhibition at Pilsen gallery Born Nude and the subject of this Hyperallergic review by Kate Sierzputowski.
Header image features a detail image of Sunday Painters, originally conceived by Chelsea Culp and Ben Foch for The Hills Esthetic Center and re-staged on the occasion of “The Great Good Place” curated by Brandon Alvendia at Threewalls.
Hey! We’re back by somewhat popular demand (aka Duncan said so). And we learned how to make video gifs! We hope you enjoyed this super belated edition of the T. Let us know what else you want to hear about by emailing us or hit us up on the tweeter y’all!
Exhibition will be on view September 24, 2016 through January 6, 2017
MADISON, WI— In the fall of 2016, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) will present the Wisconsin Triennial, an exploration of contemporary Wisconsin art. Artists from across the state are invited to apply to this exhibition, to be held September 24, 2016 through January 8, 2017.
As in previous years, the 2016 Triennial will be a juried exhibition selected and organized by the museum’s curatorial staff. Each of the selected artists will be represented by a single work or a small group of works. The Triennial reflects current directions in visual arts, as explored by Wisconsin artists. This exhibition has provided a stage for emerging artists and an opportunity for established artists to develop in new ways; creating what has been seen as one of the most significant exhibitions in the state.
The 2016 Triennial will be installed in the museum’s main galleries, State Street Gallery, and Imprint Gallery; other spaces, such as the lobby and Rooftop Sculpture Garden, may be utilized as well. MMoCA will also produce an illustrated publication to accompany the exhibition.
Artists who are full-time residents of the state of Wisconsin are eligible to submit examples of artworks created in the last three years. The deadline for applications is January 18, 2016. Original work in all media will be considered. Artists may download entry information from the museum’s website at http://www.mmoca.org/wisconsin-triennial-2016. For additional information, contact Tabé Dankert the museum at 608.257.0158 ext. 242 or email@example.com.
Housed in a soaring, Cesar Pelli designed building, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art provides free exhibitions and education programs that engage people in modern and contemporary art. The galleries offer changing exhibitions that feature established and emerging artists. The Rooftop Sculpture Garden provides an urban oasis with an incredible view. The museum is open: Tuesday–Thursday: noon – 5pm; Friday: noon – 8pm; Saturday: 10am – 8pm;Sunday: noon – 5pm; and is closed on Mondays.
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