Perhaps the future of UK art looks like this: budget music videos, cutting edge t-shirt labels, and an online platform that fosters discovery of said product as the country’s most creative young people endeavour to make their voices heard and to make ends meet.
Safe House Co is the work of twenty somethings Jack Bartrop and Joe Bidmead. It’s a shop window for a network of friends and associates. And in a marketplace flooded with creative talent, it’s an opportunity seized, rather than given for free.
Bartrop agreed to an interview over coffee in a new cafe. “What you’re studying isn’t necessarily what you end up doing,” he says. Like most who study the arts, the film-graduate has to work two jobs: one to pay the bills and one to sustain his passion.
“A lot of our friends were doing creative things,” says Bartrop. “Then we just thought filming what they’re doing would be a nice way to keep ourselves going, and to keep ourselves occupied with film”.
The result can be seen at safe-house.co, a professional-looking site with a select mix of fashion and music brands. Bartrop rejects the term ‘online magazine’, but one suspects he’d be even less happy with the word ‘brochure’. Perhaps he’s discovered the future of journalism, as well as art.
“This is the thing: it is an experiment to a certain extent as everyone involved is doing something creative and also pushing products. They have to sustain their interests in that, and I think it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have tangible products,” says the 25-year old anti-preneur.
But he doesn’t expect to make a living from the site at any time soon. “That’s the dream,” he says, “But that isn’t our priority in any way.” He tells me they sell branded t-shirts, but defends this with the information that all money goes into staging Safe House Co events.
Given that Safe House Co is largely virtual, Bartrop is committed to “tangible things like events where people interact with each other”. And he paints a picture of grassroots activity, where his creative peers are hustling to get by.
“Everyone has to sustain themselves, to get a lift to a gig by selling a T-shirt or a CD that they’ve made,” he says. But you can’t help feel that this generation deserves better than the austere realities which characterise Britain in 2015.
What might yet pique your interest in Safe House Co is a mission statement which quotes Pierre Bourdieu and Michel de Certeau. Critical thinkers aren’t usually your go-to guys for skateboard laces, one of the more niche product lines on Bartrop and Bidmead’s site.
“We don’t want to pigeon hole [the site] in any way and find a demographic from day one,” he says, despite the sophisticated design and language around the project. “We’re not trying to market anything. The whole purpose of it is for people to come to the website and discover something new through it.”
Bartrop doesn’t need to be told that attention is the commodity of the age: “If someone does well through Safe House and people recognise them as a Safe House contributor, then to a certain extent everyone else involved will benefit.” That’s the theory, at least, but it’s a positive one.
So, uh, it’s the weekend of Fourth of July. Which means there aren’t even five shows. So here, this is the one thing you should go to, if you’re not to busy getting trashed and shooting roman candles and bottle rockets at eachother:
Work by Anna Kunz, Luis Romero, Mika Horibuchi, Thaddeus Kellstadt, Josue Pellot, Jose Lerma, Michelle Anne Harris and Summer Air.
The Franklin is located at 3522 W. Franklin Blvd. Reception Saturday, 6-10pm.
In blockbuster movies over the past five or ten years, corporations have replaced foreigners as the enemy. In Jurassic World, it is the careless desire for profit that drives a bunch of winkingly stereotypical characters to create a giant hybrid dinosaur that they can’t control and that proceeds to kill and eat everybody. Vincent D’Onofrio might as well have cartoon money signs in his eyes as he stumps around, slapping people on the back and making speeches about pride and glory. This suggests that it must be widely accepted amongst worldwide moviegoers that it is just as likely that capitalism will kill all of us as it is that foreigners will kill all of us. Rather, it has produced a sort of resigned quality, the kind of thing that people are talk about when they say things like “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism,” despite the fact that the very thing that often ends the world in such imaginings is capitalism.
Two recent shows in Mexico City, presented in very similar circumstances, share remarkably similar feelings of resignation, at once cheerful and lurid, depressed and bright. At lodos, in the working-class, hip neighborhood of San Rafael, twenty meters from arguably the best tacos in the city, a group show curated by Noah Barker, “International Currency,” with Scott Reeder, Cameron Rowland, and Liam Gillick. Six kilometers away, in upper middle-class, hip Roma Sur, Lulu presents a solo show by Ian Kiaer, “Limp Oak.” Both galleries are very small white boxes installed into non-commercial spaces, rooms that can handle four, maybe ten people at a time.
In lodos, against the wall, facing each other, two pairs of stones, rubble apparently, from Detroit even, one an electric shade of blue, one an equally electric shade of orange. I thought immediately of that line from Queer as Folk, the American version, where Justin—you know, the twinky one—says that orange is the new blue. Somebody else at the gallery, a charming and inquisitive artist from Denver, mentioned that famous Situationist poster of a woman throwing a piece of rubble picked up or culled from the street: “beauty in the street.” I kicked myself for not immediately recalling that reference, in the same way that I sometimes kick myself for not recognizing certain pop stars or famous actors. But then again, these rocks were certainly not for throwing at the gleaming storefronts of capital. They perfectly placed, beautifully painted, resting gently against the wall, framing the viewer or the viewer’s feet. I should have worn white shoes, the reflection might have been gorgeous.
Nearby, leering out of the walls, are a pair of pieces by a local electrician, directed by Cameron Rowland to disconnect an outlet, remove the faceplace, and expose the wires benath. A light in a corner remains off, incapacitated by the lack of power. Copper spills out of the wall, gross and hairy. Filling the room with a vaguely anxious murmur is a video by Liam Gillick, juxtaposing a pair of audio recordings, one of people heckling a particularly cheesy free jazz performance, one of people heckling Occupy Wall Street, with a Greek beach scene—devoid of tourists, beautiful, the site of the perhaps imminant dissolution of the neoliberal European dream, calming. The pairing of the hilariously bad, gratingly macho free jazz performance and the OWS encampment suggests the current political irrelevance of both forms, both of which at different times seemed so promising. The only thing that seems appealing is the beach.
Meanwhile, a few kilometers straight south, in a calm and breezy block of Roma Sur, in a similarly small white box installed in a residential, or partially-residential, space, a disconcertingly similar show is up at Lulu. Ian Kiaer has painted the floor a highlighter yellow, a yellow that makes almost too-perfect sense with the orange and blue rubble sitting pretty at lodos. The lurid glow the yellow floor casts up onto the Kiaer’s works on the wall and the floor: a rather unremarkable cardboard-tube piece, a painting that feels out of place, and a show-saving tarpaulin leached through with a whitish emulsion, riddled with lines and shadows brought out by the weird light. The tarpaulin is borrowed from the informal vendors that line nearby intersections, hawking tacos, tortas, cigarrettes, gum—whatever, really. At the end of the night, the vendors roll up the refuse—lettuce, cigarette butts, dirt—in the tarpaulin and dump it. The way the tarpaulin lightly sags is reminiscent of the waves lazily lapping at the shore in Liam Gillick’s video at lodos. I can imagine listening to the soundtrack to Gillick’s video and standing in Lulu, as if it’s coming from another room, and it making sense. Turn it on now, then make this color fill up your computer screen. Maybe put your computer in your bedroom if the bed is unmade. That’s kind of the vibe.
That is, it’s not just the sickly bright palette the two shows have in common. There is a distinct feeling, a kind of resigned, sagging quality, that they share. In wrecked cities and towns around the world, copper wire, like the wires that lean out of the walls in Rowland’s piece at lodos, is stripped from abandoned properties and sold for scrap. It is the classic journey of the stereotypical heroin addict, enshrined in characters like Bubbles in the Wire, pushing the shopping cart piled high with scrap to make enough money to get the day’s fix, to nod off in some other wrecked corner of the bled-out city. The chunks of pavement gleaming in lodos rest easy; the video lulls you to a troubled, but only vaguely troubled, sleep; that light won’t even turn on. In Lulu, the only piece that appears to have involve concentrated effort, an acrylic on cotton with tight geometries, beautiful lines, etc, feels excessive, out of place, completely unnecessary—a waste of effort. The yellow glow from the floor makes the pale pink in the top third feel foul.
Taken together, the two shows point to an economy of resignation, a careful balance of vitality against a near-total lack of hope. They point to the end of the of the long-dying attitude that art is or can be a tool of revolt. In Infinitely Demanding, a resolutely hopeful book written shortly before the Occupy Wall Street movement began and subsequently ended, Simon Critchley points out the outmodedness of the desire to escape the state: “we cannot hope, at this point in history,” he writes unequivocally, “to attain a complete withering away of the state.” Indeed, in states that do appear to be dissolving, such as Syria or the DRC or Mexico, this dissolution can be in no way termed a “withering away”—it is a much more violent, brutal affair. What Critchley suggests instead is to establish “an interstitial distance within the state,” the creation of a sort of gap space wherein politics, agency, etc are possible, within, but at the same time separate from, the state. While Critchley terms this in relentlessly positive, breathless, hopeful terms, I read this space as something lurid: a cyst, a gaping hole. It reminds me a bit of Lee Edelman’s conception of queerness as that which gleefully unravels the future, or the present even, from the inside. If art has lost its political relevance, which it perhaps never had, perhaps it can instead form the neon, shitty lining of the hole in the future.
Work by Doug Ischar.
Night Club is located at 3325 N. Pulaski Rd. Reception Saturday, 6-9pm.
Work by Edie Fake.
Western Exhibitions is located at 845 W. Washington Blvd. Reception Friday, 5-8pm.
Work by Ivan Lozano.
Andrew Rafacz is located at 835 W. Washington Blvd. Reception Saturday, 4-7pm.
Work by Jason Brammer, Doug Fogelson, Carson Fox, Conrad Freiburg, Nicole Gordon, Michiko Itatani, Emmett Kerrigan, William Eckhardt Kohler, Brenda Moore, Judith Mullen, Joseph Noderer, Jennifer Presant, Nina Rizzo, Zach Taylor, Tom Torluemke, Chris Uphues, Tom Van Eynde and Matthew Woodward.
Linda Warren Gallery is located at 327 N. Aberdeen St. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Work by Charles Fogarty.
PeregrineProgram is located at 3311 W. Carroll Ave. Reception Sunday, 1-4pm.
Ed. note: This is the third in a four part series hosted in collaboration with The Ladies Almanack, a feature-length experimental narrative film written & directed by Daviel Shy, based on the novel of the same title by Djuna Barnes. This installment has been written by actor, Caitlin Baucom.
The death thing, the tortured thing. As a child I lay awake nights, unable to sleep through my pounding heart, convinced each night I’d die before morning. I’d get to sleep only by reciting the Hail Mary, or later poetry, over and over again. These things work because they don’t throw false harsh light, poetry and prayer being comfortable enough with death.
I am 30, two years younger than the poet Renée Vivien when she died in 1909, of complications from anorexia, drinking, and drugs. It’s a death I still find romantic. Our similar acts took opposite tracks, in our first 30 odd years, I heading away from pathological instability and she toward. The child I was lived completely in her head, kept rotting organic matter of various kinds in her closet, performed elaborate rituals and while fully fucking throttled by emotions took some exquisite pleasure in the torture. Ricocheted between silent and withdrawn and loudly performing, devoted herself slavishly to other gorgeous little girls. In my two thick poetry journals from ages 9 to 10, death and Weltschmerz are everywhere. I dramatically starved myself nearly to death before I was alone in the world and so survived. Identifying these tendencies of mine as primarily artistic and performative allowed me to focus them more and more into productivity in adulthood until now, at the brink of another decade, I have cheerfully integrated many manias.
The shapeshifting thing, the purposeful willing of a specific personhood. How does one present? Performing is different than acting, carries different responsibilities. One of Daviel’s film’s many geniuses is that its casting structure uses this. Her characters are amalgamations of the historical woman and whomever Daviel has chosen for her contemporary counterpart. I am not acting the part of Renée Vivien; I am performing my self as Renée. And since my self is a performance maker, and since Daviel somehow so expertly sensed these strange confluences of character between the historical woman and her counterpart, she has handed six minutes of her film over to us for a devised performance ritual.
Performance is both my primary medium and daily responsibility, as I work as a performer for The Museum of Modern Art. Ten of us have been the physical embodiments of now three different artists work, giving me a lot of time to think about passivity’s responsibility and control, and rethinking control to include passivity and trust. Being viewed and photographed as an object in MoMA, rather than flattening my sense of self, has made me hyper-aware of my presence in the work, and in my ability at any time to walk away from complicity, change the work, translate it wrong. What happens to your work when it’s breathing, shifting, never the same, at the mercy of human frailty, emotional?
To be thus entrusted by Daviel is startling, reckless generosity. She has taken on a degree of passivity at which most directors would balk, leaving a full six minute blank in her masterwork for me to fill with an absolute and unapologetic celebration of extremes. To romance death with Renée, to flirt with edges, of sanity, of pleasure, of pain. Sexual and narcotic. Daviel knows I consider passivity to sometimes be a gift, and that I work with that idea in my performances, giving other performers actions which they find pleasurable but wouldn’t feel able to indulge on their own. I am always performing as myself. By having me perform as myself as Renée, Daviel has given me permission to revel fully in things I try to not always indulge, to use with restraint. This time, for six minutes, Renée and I are going to raise hell.