Welcome to a new monthly series, titledÂ What You Should Have Noticed, in which I, Steve Ruiz, attempt to sum up the big and salient stories, articles, and arguments from the last four weeks.
The College Art Association held its annual conference this month in Chicago. In addition to the expected crowds of star-eyed interviewees, hoping for that holy grail of decent employment in line with their education, qualification, and experience (but ready accept whatever is available), the conference saw several important speeches, such as Jessica Stockholder’s keynote address, a bewildering array of simultaneous workshops, presentations, and poster-board sessions. Highlights include The Myth of Participation and the Growing Realities of Critical Exchange, which you can read about in Tara Plath’s review at The Seen; andÂ Exhibiting Socially Engaged Art: A Chicago Case Study, mentioned in aÂ write up by Jason Foumberg for Artforum. You can also review the conference’s awards here.
2. New Art Building at the Lab SchoolÂ
The children of Chicago’s elites will have a new place to learn about theater, music, and the visual arts, as cultural power-couple George Lucas and Mellody Hobson plan to donate $25 million to the University of Chicago’s Laboratory School. This last bump completes the funding process for the Gordon Parks Arts Hall, named for photographer and director Gordon Parks. (The couple also plans to donate an equal amount to Chicago’s After School Matters, easing this author’s class concerns.) You can read the tribune article here, or the school’s press releaseÂ for more. For buzz, check outÂ the artist’s renderings for the new building, which (tragically? neatly?) blend steel and glass with the Lab school’s existing neo-gothic limestone.
The art dealer Hudson, director of Feature, Inc., suddenly passed away this month at the age of 63. The gallery has held many ties with Chicago’s art community since its founding in 1984; it currentlyÂ represents Richard Rezac, Todd Chilton, and Nathaniel Robinson. Hudson is remembered in an article writtenÂ here, in GalleristNY, as well as in the New York Times,Â Artspace, and Art in America.
4. Artist Royalties
In 1971, Seth Siegelaub drafted a contract for artists with provisions to protect their financial interests and intellectual rights. The contract was as much a conceptual gesture as a piece of legal writing, and the Artist’s Contract went on to join the canon of art-documents from the 20th century’s most heated decades. Ever since, any conversation about art and law has included the subject of theÂ droit de suite, or an artist’s rights to the profits from the resale of their works – particularly at auction, where prices can soar far beyond what an artist made from an initial private or gallery sale. This month, US Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ed Markey (D-MA) joined with representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to draft and introduce The American Royalties, Too (ART) Act of 2014, a bill designed to guarantee artist’s a 7% royalty on works sold at auction for more than $10,000. You can read Hyperallergic’s coverage here.
5. Whitney Rumblings
Of course, the main activity this month has been related to the Whitney Biennial. While we still have a few days before the Whitney opens for private and public view on March 7th, the rumble of rumor and whisper has already been rising for weeks here in Chicago. Most recently, the New York Times has published its 2014Â Guide to the Whitney Biennial, as well as featuring Anthony Elms in the article,Â Choose the Artists, Ignore the Critics. Meanwhile, Artnet discusses the Biennial with Elms and Michelle Grabner, in their article,Â Curating the Whitney Biennial is Not a Fair and Equitable Process. The local conversation is all about Chicago’sÂ seventeen artistsÂ represented in the sprawling exhibition – Elijah Burgher! Carol Jackson! Marc Fischer! Dawood Bay! Catherine Sullivan! Pedro VÃ©lez! – and the effect such an exhibition may have on our fair city’s art scene. We’ll check back next month to see how much of a coup this all actually turned out to be.
And that’s all from me, and for February. I’ll keep a closer ear to the ground next month, and you can be sure if there’s something worth noticing, I’ll take care to share it here.
Steve Ruiz is an artist and writer living in Chicago. He received his MFA from The University of Chicago in 2013, currently writes for Daily Serving, and administratesÂ the Chicago visual arts calendar, The Visualist.
Work by Chris Bradley, Sarah & Joseph Belknap, Max Henry Boudman, Veronica Bruce, Holly Cahill, C. C. Ann Chen, Laura Davis, Jovencio de la Paz, Alexandria Eregbu, Karolina Gnatowski, Jacob C. Hammes, Michelle Ann Harris, Cameron Harvey, Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, Victoria Martinez, Bobbi Meier, Andrew Nordyke, Dan Paz and Michael Alan Kloss.
The Franklin is located at 3522 W. Franklin Blvd. Reception Saturday, 6-9pm.
Work by Ade Hogue, Alex Fuller, Andy Detskas, Anne Benjamin, Brad VEtter, Brian Pelsoh, Brian Steckel, Chris Fritton, Craig Malmrose, Dan Elliott, Derek Crowe, Drew Tyndell, Edwin Jager, Franklyn, Gautam Rao, Jack Muldowney, Jen Farrell, Jeremy DeBor, Jim Moran, Jinhwan Kim, John Pobojewski, Kim Knoll, Kyle Letendre, Lisa Beth Robinson, Magdelena Wistuba, Mary Bruno, Matt Wizinsky, Megan Deal, Megan Pryce, Mike McQuade, Richard Zeid, Rick Valicenti, Shawna X, Stephanie Carpenter, Timothy Alamillo, Todd King, Veronica Corzo-Duchardt, Whit Nelson and William Boor.
Co-Prosperity Sphere is located at 3219 S. Morgan St. Reception Friday, 6:30-11pm.
Work by Mia Capodilupo, Tulika Ladsariya, Matt Martin, Marissa Neuman, Kasia Ozga, Katherine Perryman, Daniel Schmid and Ruby Thorkelson.
Roman Susan is located at 1224 W. Loyola Ave. Reception Saturday, 7-10pm.
Work by Dru Hardy, Mary Lou Novak and Kristina Smith.
Firecat Projects is located at 2124 N. Damen Ave. Reception Friday, 7-10pm.
Descending Into the Cave
On January 11, 2014, I rode an elevator down into a cave, one that contains the underground spectacle Ruby Falls – a waterfall lit by color changing lights and epic Muzak you might find accompanying the timed water spurts of a fountain in Disney World. I was invited to participate in this cave excursion of the hyperreal by the Atlanta-based collective that started the project Speleogen – a project that calls itself The New Cave Art. This trip was meant to engage members of the Atlanta community in an exercise of perception and attention.
The collective, and thus Speleogen, was founded by a group of musicians, and this rootedness in the music community is an important aspect of the collective’s projects and ways of working. They have recently started multiple projects, however, for the space of this piece, I’m going to only address specifically the one involving caves, Speleogen. Though Speleogen centers itself on caves, the impetus to start the project came out of a greater desire to work collaboratively and engage in artistic practices that Atlanta doesn’t always offer. In a conversation with Speleogen’s founders Devin Brown, Mason Brown (no relation), and David Matysiak, they noted that what initially led them to explore various structures of collaboration was due to their frustrations with the way musicians are generally pigeonholed into certain roles, times, and spaces. They realized that often this assigning is done by the musician him/herself; there is a certain complicity with the system as it stands. Apart from this structure, they also voiced concerns about the disconnect between Atlanta’s art and music communities. They are interested in the ways in which projects that are considered “music” are accepted (or not) or presented (or not) within an art context and vice versa. Thus, part of the goal Speleogen hopes to achieve is providing an environment that doesn’t fix people into specific and static roles. Speleogen says that they are seeking for artists/makers/scientists/musicians/etc/etc to imagine new possibilities and collaborate with each other in order to actualize those possibilities.
For its founders and many of its members, collaborating is like second nature. Many of them have played in bands with each other over the years and this informs the ways they work together, play off of each other, and establish certain tentative working “roles” within the group. Devin stresses the fact that “there isn’t a singular artist in this kind of configuration.” The concept surrounding the working environment that Speleogen proposes is a kind of autopoietic sort of “collaboratory” work that attempts to create its own world that inherently collaborates with itself. Part of the reason why the project takes on a sort of autopoietic, self-sustaining structure is because of the concerns mentioned above (i.e., fixed musician roles, disconnect between various Atlanta making communities), but part of the reason may also be due to the exploratory stage the collective is still in. Apart from Speleogen proper, the group works on and produces many other projects including ROAM, a monthly podcast that solicits found sounds from musicians, chitchats, a performance project that uses crowd-sourced material pulled from online chats, text messages, and etc., Synaesthesia, a music performance that explores the relationship between sound and light, and Boating, their band along with Jordan Noel, who runs the label Coco Art. These other projects, though “headed” by various members of the collective (ROAM is David Matysiak, chitchats is Devin Brown with Michael Hessel-Mial (not a member of Speleogen, editor of the tumblr Internet Poetry), and Synaesthesia is Mason Brown with Ian Cone (also not a member of Speleogen), are still collective endeavors. Another reason that this group is relatively secluded also has to do with the nature of how art and music venues function in Atlanta. The city doesn’t open to outsiders easily and exploring new mediums if you’re not necessarily already known doesn’t necessarily seem like a possibility.
Speleogen Proper: Inside the Cave
Even though members of the project claim that essentially Speleogen’s methodology could be applied to any object/concept/topic, the place of the cave, the chosen focus of the group, with its particular materiality is an appropriate place to locate and situate Speleogen, and arguably the collective as a whole. Devin recounts that in the cave “you can only see as far as your headlamp shines” and that “all the terrain is treacherous” – an apt description of artistic practice in general; failure is always a possibility. This project is all about searching and experimenting. It’s not about creating a discrete object, the “monolithic product” that is the record or album. Rather, the group tends toward an ecology of production and “not scorched earth which [doesn’t] leave anything to come back to” which the production of a static album can do to its creators.
For Devin, his interest in Speleogen concerns social relations and collaboration themselves as the artwork. At this point in their process, it is uncertain where Speleogen falls in the spectrum of relational art and socially-engaged practices. Since their methodology implicitly illuminates the social structures of musical and artistic production and their dissemination, Speleogen might want to take a page out of Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics and the (maybe already dead horse) conversation surrounding this kind of artistic practice and see where that leads them. The crux of all of these projects is the structure the collective has created for itself, which enables them to hone their energies. As Mason Brown puts it, “once there’s a structure, you can do anything.”
It is striking that Speleogen chose to center itself on caves. Not only does the cave figure as a rich metaphorical space for imagination and incubation, but it also serves as a point of departure for conceptualizing collectivity and making. If we take Gregory Sholette’s work on the “dark matter” of the culture of artistic practice seriously in terms of cosmic relations, what happens to the underground caverns Speleogen inhabits? According to Sholette’s use of the astronomical and cosmological phenomenon of dark matter, most of the art world’s activities are “invisible” and essentially unaccounted for; resting outside mainstream institutions, these activities create the possibilities for other activities to come into visibility. If invisibility is taken simply in the case of Speleogen’s practices and goals, the dark underground space of the cave serves as an apt metaphor and location. David Matysiak stated during a conversation that part of the project is to (re)build a world, which coming from the subterranean space of the cave means that they are “starting from underground, not even ground level.” For this particular part, and for the collective more generally, this is important; the intent to build a world for artistic practices that does not rely on any already established foundation; the task is to create the very foundation that will serve as the ground. Speleogen chooses to inhabit the margins; whether this is due to lacking a particular knowledge of or interest in the Atlanta art scene is a question that may need to be asked.
Part of Speleogen involves the ritualistic and meditative. Because of the physical challenge involved in traversing caves, the caver’s particular embodiment becomes a site of reflection. What is interesting about the corporeal for Speleogen is how this experience translates into multimedia works that are, for the moment, only presented in a digital form. However, as I mentioned in my last article, even digital work is experienced by some body in some place at some time, an embodied being. What Speleogen has the opportunity to do is push these relationships of the embodied and the digital to new possibilities. One way they can do this is through sound, which for musicians, this is a primary material. Sound, being invisible and immaterial, pours through speakers into the listener’s ears, vibrating the membrane of the eardrum, causing the bones to move, translating waves into concretely experienced sounds that carry with them a particular sense. In a sense, Speleogen could provide the portal into a different sensible space by literally delving underground into a radically different landscape. Mason describes that experience “as going into an alternate world” which “once you’re in that world you think differently.” One obvious way to talk about entering the cave is through the metaphorics of the womb and the female body, and this is indeed something on the table, but putting too much weight into this structure could be too simplistic. Devin, David, and Mason all are aware of the problem of the figure of the male plunging into the depths of the earth. For them, the cave, serves as an incubator space where images (sound-images, moving-images, still-images, etc.) are produced, but as to whether this means created in the womb may be another discussion, which Luce Irigaray addresses in the section “Plato’s Hystera” in her book Speculum of the Other Woman. Unlike Plato’s Allegory of the Cave which quickly dismisses these images as mere artifice, Speleogen describes the images they produce in and from these caves as emanating from the caves themselves and become a way of connecting with others and “communing with old cave spirits.”
Re-Mixing and (Re)Building
If placed within the context of Nicolas Bourriaud’s observations in his book Postproduction concerning contemporary art practices that involve the figure of the re-mixing DJ, maybe the question of Speleogen’s relevance to contemporary art (and conversely, contemporary art’s relevance to Speleogen) becomes more clear. Though these conversations about re-mix and file sharing are not new to the Creative Commons community, Speleogen adds another topography to the existing focus of many projects. However, unlike, say GLI.TC/H, Speleogen is not necessarily interested in delving into these technologies as telecommunicative tools that inherently carry with them disruptions and breakages.
Because their focus is on sharing materials with each other and re-mixing “completed” works into new ones that then become material for further re-mix, the group is constantly moving as David states: “you give the idea a chance to grow the way it wants to grow … you’re just working on things, you’re always just playing with materials and it’s not about showing off at the end “Here we did it!” You’re always moving … encouraging people to walk with you.” This calls to mind Bourriaud’s claim in Postproduction that “the contemporary work of art does not position itself as the termination point of the “creative process” (a “finished product” to be contemplated) but as a site of navigation, a portal, a generator of activities”(19). Speleogen is concerned with carving out a space that enables them to keep on making; part of this space is left open to others – they encourage others to hop on board with them.
As I mentioned above, this ethos is not new to contemporary art. Chicago, for example, has the collective Temporary Services among others, a multitude of artist-run spaces, and strong Creative Commons and GLI.TC/H cultures. Atlanta is still picking up on these issues. Eyedrum, one of the venues/collectives that has been around for the longest, serves as a space for experimentation. MINT Gallery also attempts to open its doors to emerging artists and curators. There are also a few other artist run projects and spaces including Beep Beep and the Atlanta Zine Library. However, this Atlanta-based group is not interested in the institutionalization of their practice and is still figuring out the Atlanta landscape, which can feel at times quite closed.
To quote Bourriaud’s Postproduction again: “precariousness is at the center of a formal universe in which nothing is durable, everything is movement: the trajectory between two places is favored in relation to the place itself, and encounters are more important than the individuals who compose them”(49). Speleogen is still precarious. It is looking for its audience. It is looking for its space/place/location/situation. Considering that core members of Speleogen also work with each other on many other projects including projects mentioned above (Boating, ROAM, chitchats, and Synaesthesia), the method of working that fuels Speleogen also fuels these other projects, making these discrete projects porous to each other. These projects are all about play; as Devin states: “this is all play … everything is an opportunity to expand and riff.”
Guest Post by Lise McKean
The six works in White LightÂ by Fatima Haider and Nazafarin Lofti at Andrew Rafacz in Chicago’s West Loop embody an elegant sufficiency of form and resonate across time and space. From Lotfiâ€™s digital photographs to Haiderâ€™s found object, a weathered wooden frame of a multicolored window from Lahore, Pakistan, White Light embraces all sorts of ways of looking and seeing, thinking and making.
Hanging tÃªte-Ã -tÃªte, pigmented inkjet prints by Haider and Lotfi are straight ahead when the visitor enters the gallery. Up close the undulating shapes set in ivory-colored marble look like outside-the-lines drawing in Haider’s Squared. In fact, the shapes are made of oxidized lime filling in for the lapis lazuli, carnelian, jade, and other semiprecious stones that bygone looters gouged out of the marble of the Naulakha Pavilion at the monumental Lahore Fort.
With their homely generic shapes, the five bottles in Lotfiâ€™s Untitled Family Portrait play double bass to the aria of floral ornamentation in Haiderâ€™s Squared. Yet as the viewer moves closer, it becomes apparent that meticulous coils of cotton kitchen twine cover each bottle. Standing near or far, these bottles recall Morandiâ€™s explorations with light, color, surface, and composition.
Lotfiâ€™s Limits builds up its surface with rhythmic brushwork in black and white to create patterns of tessellated arcs. In Gray Field, she uses acrylic paint and ink on canvasâ€”again in black and whiteâ€”combining horizontal lines with brushwork to produce a relaxed patchwork of Gutai-like tire tracks. Or maybe a group portrait of shredded wheat. Her other work, Encounter(inplace) is a triptych made from photographs she shot through a pin-pricked sheet of paper looking out to Lake Michigan from the limestone rocks of Chicago’s plebeian monument, The Point. The paper acts like the marble lattice work of Mughal architecture, blocking light and view while giving way to the emergence of larger contours such as the horizon of water and sky.
Haider’s Roshandan-3548E is an example of the brightly colored windows that were once commonplace across the Indian subcontinent. Her found object is also a salvage operation. The Lahore Fort is barely off the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger and the city’s old buildings are steadily overhauled or replaced by new ones. The workâ€™sÂ straightforward title belies its valence. The number 3548E refers to the house number for the building near the Lahore Fort that was home to the window, a number which may or may not help in finding the place. Roshandan is the word in Urdu and Hindi for this type of window (literally â€œthat which has lightâ€). Itâ€™s typically mounted high on the wall to let in light and to send away the summerâ€™s ferociously hot air.
With works that are deeper than their surfaces let on, Haider and Lotfi open the roshandan and release some of the hot air that circulates in contemporary art circles beset with the lingua franca of research and theory. More than simply a tÃªte-Ã -tÃªte, White Light is abundant evidence of Haider and Lotfi’s deepening rapport with each otherâ€”and with each oneâ€™s own drive to see and to make art.
White LightÂ atÂ Andrew Rafacz runs throughÂ March 29, 2014
Lise McKeanÂ is a social anthropologist and writer based in Chicago. In 2013 she curatedÂ StreamLines, an exhibition of contemporary art in Vaishali, India.
Bad at Sports at VOLTA NY
82 Mercer Street, NYC
March 6-9, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, NY (February 17, 2014) â€“ Bad at Sports Art Podcast will be featured at VOLTA Art Fair 2014 in SoHo, NYC â€¦ in bed.
This year Bad at Sports will be snuggling up with an exciting list of interviewees In Bed for coverage of VOLTA NY. Located in the heart of SoHo, the Bad at Sports â€œbedroom boothâ€ is a nod to the original 1969 Bed-In performance by Yoko Ono and John Lennon. Can peace and harmony be made in the art criticism world? Will the art fairs cause extensive napping and dream-like chatter?
While trying to steer clear of pillow fights, podcasters Amanda Browder, Duncan McKenzie, and Richard Holland will be conducting live interviews with a collection of local and international artists, critics, and curators. Stop by to catch the interviews in person, or tune in online at badatsports.com to listen to chatter with participants like Adam Parker Smith, Kristen Schiele, W.A.G.E, and Hajoe Maoderegger and Franziska Lamprecht (eteam). Get the dirt later on with guest critic Katy Hamer from the art blog Eyes Towards the Dove. We will be making peace, love, and naughty jokes around the art world and fairs â€¦ in bed.
Featuring bedside chats with:
Franklin Sirmans â€“ Terri and Michael Smooke Department Head and Curator of Contemporary Art, LACMA and Artistic Director, Prospect.3 New Orleans
Hajoe Moderegger and Franziska Lamprecht (eteam) â€“ artists, NYC
Judith Reddy Blum â€“ artist, NYC
Kristen Schiele â€“ artist, NYC
Rebecca Goyette â€“ artist, NYC
Jeff Stark â€“ Editor, Nonsense NYC and artist
Critical Practices Inc. â€“ artists, NYC
Adam Parker Smith â€“ artist, NYC
Carolyn Salas â€“ artist, NYC
Katy Hamer â€“ art writer and artist, NYC
Lise Soskolne â€“ artist and core organizer, W.A.G.E.
Vincent Dermody â€“ artist, NYC/Chicago
Casey Ruble â€“ artist, NYC
Willie Cole â€“ artist, New Jersey
Martin Bromirski â€“ artist, New York
Read more about Bad at Sports at VOLTA NY here.
About Bad at Sports
Founded in 2005 by Duncan MacKenzie, Richard Holland, and AmandaÂ Browder, Bad at Sports (B@S) now features over 20 principleÂ collaborators and is a weekly podcast, a series of objects, events,Â and a daily blog produced in Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit and NewÂ York City that features artists and â€œart worldersâ€ talking about artÂ and the community that makes, reviews and participates in it.
B@S canÂ be tricky to describe: it acts as a curious investigator, anÂ archivist, oral historian, and occasionally as a provocateur. WeÂ produce content that lies somewhere on the venn diagram of art,Â journalism, media, intellectualism, and â€œthe naughty bits.â€ Â WeÂ represent artists and their art world through an archive that is text,Â audio, physical, ephemeral, historical, and constantly evolvingÂ through ongoing and unique projects.
Bad at Sports has â€œdone stuffâ€Â with apexart, The St Louis Contemporary Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary ArtÂ Chicago, Baer Ridgeway, NADA Art Fair, Open Engagement, Cannonball and manyÂ others. We share collaborators with Art Forum, Art Practical, TheÂ Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, Art21, BUST magazine, ProximityÂ Magazine, Modern Painters, Beautiful Decay Magazine, Art in AmericaÂ and numerous other publications.
Our podcast has includedÂ approximately 450 interviewees/co-conspirators including Kerry JamesÂ Marshall, Jeff Wall, Larry Rinder, Peter Saul, Liam Gillick, Mary JaneÂ Jacob, Chris Ware, Tania Bruguera, Jeffrey Deitch, James Elkins, MegÂ Cranston, Carol Becker, and Polly Apfelbaum.
Bad At Sports has been a lot of different people but is currentlyÂ Brian Andrews, Amanda Browder, Stephanie Burke,Â Terri Griffith, Richard Holland, Christopher Hudgens, Jamilee Polson Lacy, Duncan MacKenzie, Patricia Maloney, Sarah Margolis-Pineo, NicholasÂ Oâ€™Brien, Caroline Picard, Abraham Ritchie, and AbigailÂ Satinsky.