This post is part of an ongoing series about art and beer.
Over the weekend, I met artist and brewer Christopher Tourre at his house as he and Lance Curran, his partner in Arcade Brewery, brewed a five and a half gallon batch of beer they call Oatmilk Stout. Tourre brews on his kitchen stove in big gleaming steel pots. At the same time that he showed me a page of obscure calculations made in composition notebook, the mash assembled by those same calculations steeped in a rough plastic cooler of the kind you normally bring iced and bottled beer to the beach in. A hardware store spigot juts out its front for easy drainage. Chris tells me that some home brewers get extremely scientific in their process, invoking hyper accurate measurements and fine-tuned equipment to get as close as possible to target flavor components like International Bitterness Units (IBUs). But even a highly trained human tongue can only pick out a range of a few IBUs. Add in layers of complexity like sweet flavors from the beer’s malt or extracts added to it and the exact measurement becomes even harder to guess at without equipment.
For Tourre and Curran, this kind of ambiguity is an asset to be celebrated both in their beer and in the engagements they’re looking to build around it. The imperfect process and intuitive understanding a brewer have are just two things that make brewing an artful craft. While Arcade is certainly intended to function as a business, lessons that come from participatory art and event-making are also primary concerns. Last year, in a month-long residency at Spoke, Tourre invited the public to both sample his own beer and to share in the creation of original brews. He connected with foragers and garderners around Chicago to make small batches of beer and soda using ingredients they found or grew. He also gave free home-brewing workshops. At the end of the month, he hosted a tasting of all the different beverages crafted with his co-creators present to share the stories behind each drink.
Although the Public Brewery at Spoke was firmly planted in the realm of art, it also helped Tourre and Curran’s business prospects. The residency got them in touch with New Chicago Beer Company, opening soon at The Plant—an indoor vertical farm in the Back of the Yards. Arcade will be renting New Chicago’s equipment between cycles to brew their first commercial batches. But public events are not intended to shrewdly forward a brand and network. Tourre and Curran think of interfacing with the public as more than market research. As they shift from an art project to a business, they’re aware of certain values they want to hold onto. “Sometimes it’s easier as an artist to create a convivial spirit and atmosphere.” Tourre says, “How do you stay sincere when it becomes a business? How do you take something that I would do as an art project and convert that over to a money making endeavor? How do you keep the same spirit, legitimacy, and authenticity? That’s part of the challenge for us.”
Because the beer isn’t in the bottle yet, sincerity and collaboration with the public are mostly guiding principles at the moment. But Arcade does have a few plans for keeping audiences substantially involved in what they do. Public Brew sessions will work much like the residency at Spoke did: people can attend causal brewing sessions where Tourre answers questions and explains every step of the process. While Arcade will have certain beers available year-round, their seasonals will be decided by a process of public consensus. People will be able to submit, discuss, and vote on recipes to create seasonal brews they’ll share credit on.
Arcade is also developing some novel ideas for the design of the bottles too. They’re working with the writer Jason Aaron and the comic artist Tony Moore to create a six-pack design where each bottle will have on it a frame of an original comic that relates to the beer it holds. The central theme for Arcade seems to be that everything around the beer is as important as the beer itself. As Curran said during our brewing session: you don’t just taste the beer, you experience it. That experience manifests in the crafting of beverage and builds out to include the vessel it comes in, the type of things people do when they’re drinking it, and the understanding people have of what it is they’re consuming.
It is easy to conceptualize of something incorrectly and not even realize it until faced with the reality. This is what happened to me last week when I was lucky enough to see the Maurizio Cattelan exhibition All at the The Guggenheim just days before it closed. I’d read a bit about this show, which is all of Cattelan’s tangible work hung (or perhaps strung-up) in the atrium of the museum. Considering what I’d read, I was thinking of this as a swan song of a retrospective, but the reality is that All functions as an exciting, unified single piece.
A few individual sculptures stood out, not just to me, but the hundreds of other viewers who were there with me. Possibly it was the adrenaline rush of staring death in the face, or even the perverse thrill of eluding the reaper, because by far the works that drew the most attention were the taxidermies. Squirrel, horse, cow, donkey, rabbit, pigeons (lots and lots of pigeons), and quite a few dogs. The first dog I came across startled me. So lifelike, yet obviously dead. Hanging from the ceiling, there is no way to mistake it for a living dog as might happen in previous gallery installations. As I stood looking down on it, trying to overcome the ick-factor, people passed by, stopped, and then talked fondly about their own dogs both past and present. Instead of reminding people of the lurking nature of death, Cattelan’s dogs reminded people of something they loved, perhaps even evoking life. (Pictured: Stone Dead, 1997)
Lingering in the middle of the mobile is a large, black granite tombstone, that references a wartime memorial. The catalog likens Untitled (1999) to Maya Lin’s memorial for those killed in The Vietnam War, but to me it echoes the memorial for The Great War that stands in front of City Hall in the town where I grew up. I expected to see names of soldiers engraved, but instead there is a list of all of the matches in which the English national football team was defeated. I have no idea what Cattelan is attempting to provoke from his viewer with this, but I immediately thought, These are men’s things. War. Football. Sometimes they are even treated as equals, but their losses, they are not equal. Both war and football delineate a place free of women, though sometimes we are allowed to trespass. Men’s conflicts. Men’s defeats.
Near to the bottom of the massive installation hangs a casket. Although I could see the casket from nearly every vantage point, what I couldn’t see was its resident. When I finally made my way down, there was a crowd gathered ‘round. The security guard stepped aside and took me by the elbow to get me a better spot, which I’ve never had happen before. There in the casket lay Kennedy, looking as perfect as if he had never been shot. Put simply, it was strange to see Kennedy there. I had to ask, whose loss was this? Kennedy’s? The nation’s? Now was made in 2004, but I wondered if Cattelan could see into our future eight years later. Here we are as a nation fetishizing this moment in history, arguably, one of our nation’s most devastating moments. But unlike today, it was a moment that was simple. Grief is simple.
For those who couldn’t make it to the show, The Guggenheim website has much to offer. There is a great time-lapse video of the installation, which is as laborious as any I can imagine. There is a reprint of the article from the brochure, by Nancy Spector. If you’re inclined, an “interactive, multi-platform app” for 4.99. Still, after shelling out for admission and fifty bucks on the catalog, somehow another five seemed steep. It looks great, though, with John Waters hucking it. Call me old fashioned, but when I want to re-experience an exhibition, I turn to the catalog for that.
The catalog for All requires special mention. This is written by Nancy Spector, Chief Curator. It is effectively a catalogue raisonné, but I wouldn’t count my chickens before they’re hatched in that regard. The book itself is lovely, and looks like an old encyclopedia volume. It is worth purchasing, or at least borrowing from the library. However, presenting the works individually does undo the singularness of All, transforming a unified whole back into discrete works. Still, All was a rousing salute to a life’s work and the catalog reflects this.
Finally, for a good time, do check out Amanda Browder’s previous Haiku Review of All.
Work by Eric Fleischauer, Jesse McLean, Steve Ruiz, Doug Smithenry, Theo Darst, Todd Mattei, Morgan Sims, Aaron Orsini, and Adam Rux. Curated by Jake Myers & The Octagon Gallery.
Co-prosperity Sphere is located at 3221 S Morgan. Reception Friday, 7pm-12am.
Work by Justin Amrhein.
Firecat Projects is located at 2124 N. Damen Ave. Reception Friday, 7-9pm.
Work by Jason Robert Bell.
Thomas Robertello Gallery is located at 27 N. Morgan St. Reception Friday, 6-8pm.
Works from The Richard Harris Collection.
Chicago Cultural Center is located at 78 E. Washington St. Reception Friday, 5:30-7:30pm.
Work by Chuck Jones and ACRE resident Matthew Schlagbaum.
Slow is located at 2153 W 21st St. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
January 23, 2012 · Print This Article
Sunday through Wednesday I maintain an art studio and flop with my in-laws in a pastoral town in Central Wisconsin, and teach art at a small Catholic school nearby. I fly back to Brooklyn, NY each Wednesday night on AirTran flight 511. I’ve become one of those guys who knows flight attendants and bartenders by name, and that Milwaukee has a “recombobulation” area to help make what is already a relatively breezy brush with the TSA that much more accommodating.
“You in Milwaukee on business?” the guy in the window seat always asks. It’s a fair question to pose to someone in a pair of semi-professional slacks heading to New York on a weekday evening with a bag full of paperwork. He doesn’t know that the papers are 20 ungraded art history quizzes that he would set the curve on if I gave him five minutes and the textbook. He doesn’t know that my 401(k) is twenty paintings sitting in a storage unit down by the Midtown Tunnel. I think Window-seat inevitably feels misled by these circumstances, expecting we’ll be connected by different nouns, but similar enough verbs to fill up a conversation that will last until the refreshment cart dispenses the Dewar’s. Like, maybe we both have to manage and coordinate, but thrillingly, I might apply those actions to retail distribution and he to digital networks. No such luck. Telling them I’m an artist, part-time professor and freelance art writer catches them off-guard and the conversation grinds down. The nouns and the verbs between us are different; that’s just too much inertia to overcome for the sake of pre-beverage chitchat.
I’m not a martyr for anything as petty as the drape of a pair of jeans, so I conform to the point that the locals in Wisconsin let me around their kids…and maybe just enough to take preemptive action against the Rob Reiner/Carroll O’Connor thing that seems to be brewing between my father-in-law and I. Those travel pants were purchased from the Marc Anthony collection at Kohl’s department store after someone outside a Home Depot took my slightly stained studio jeans for house painting clothes, and the same day my father-in-law (in whose attic I freeload and in whose fridge I store my beer) suggested I borrow some of his clothes before going to a casual restaurant. What I considered fairly unremarkable attire in Bushwick turned out to be downright avant-garde in Wisconsin. Incidentally, an orange hunter’s cap and an unkempt beard meets fashion requirements in both locales for a period of about three weeks during the fall.
On the morning of a recent return to Brooklyn, I slipped into the pile of clothes I left next to the bed, grabbed a coat from the rack by the door and departed for my studio. By the time evening rolled around I made the lazy decision to go straight to art openings without returning home to change. The show was at Allegra LaViola Gallery on the Lower East Side, and featured work riffing on (wouldn’t you know it) the fashion industry, by artist Andrea Mary Marshall. The gallery was packed to suffocating with young, beautiful fashionista-types that emphasized my Steve Carrell-meets-key grip couture. To see the work you had to slither in between the wall and rapt conversationalists…one of those scenes that mature spectators and those who don’t use cocaine tend to feel uncomfortable in. Halfway through a PBR I sought refuge in an old colleague from the Brooklyn Rail. Holding on to the conversation like a piece of driftwood in an angry ocean, we mused about being older and less effervescent than the surrounding bystanders. Maturity, like misery, loves company. When I convinced her I wasn’t lying about commuting between MKE and LGA, we traded art gossip and teaching stories until most of our beer had been jostled from our cans and onto the floor.
“Have a happy New Year,” she yelled breaking for the exit. “And, hey, don’t freeze your ass off in Minnesota either.”
“Minnesota?!” I thought, shocked. “Badgers, Packers, Brewers, Miss America, Muskies and Leinies!!!” Hometown pride??
Alone again, I tried to circulate. An epaulette on my jacket came undone when I pivoted into the crowd and brushed against a sexy transvestite who was pushing past. She spilled a few drops of beer that landed on my sleeve. I threw a frustrated glance at her, and she shrugged coquettishly before knifing into the crowd.
Off in one direction sprawled Minnesota, Wisconsin and all those dark fields of the Republic. In the other America’s incandescent cultural production center sizzled like a lit fuse. I stood flatfooted in a high-heeled crowd with an epaulette flapping like a Brooklyn flag above trousers the color of sand from Lake Winnebago, caught in-between the two.
Guest Post by Monica Westin
The first time I saw Karsten Lund’s project, currently exhibiting at Peregrine Program, while still evolving in the workspace in his apartment, I immediately thought of Difference and Repetition, Gilles Deleuze’s exploration of what difference and repetition would look like simply as functions, as opposed to functions premised on recreations of an original object. In other words, giving the act of repeating primacy rather than the original thing being repeated.
For one of the bodies of work in “Strange Weather, Vague Suspicions,” Karsten (full disclosure: he is a friend of mine, and I cannot call him by his last name) uses a strikingly similar logic, with black geometric shapes, painters tape, and luminescent green watercolor forming fractals and patterns in endless formations of postcard/snapshot-sized drawings. The other grouping uses found pages from old Life magazines (right before it shut down as a weekly publication, hence the title A Few Scraps from the Void, or The Last Days of Life), affixed to another surface and then torn away on a woven sheet of masking tape, leaving behind soft white textures of paper and accidental images.
Seeing the show is a bit like talking with Karsten: ideas spin off constantly, with tangents and trajectories that seem to be pointing off into the stratosphere but which are carefully looping back into a holistic weave. It’s also like talking with Karsten in that the project is sometimes almost maddeningly open-ended; the curator, artist, writer, and general surveyor and careful comber of ideas purposely keeps the potential of the show quivering with signification without spelling anything out too easily– though “generating ideas in its wake,” as the press release accurately describes.
Karsten will be giving a talk of “afterthoughts” talk this Sunday at 1:30, which combines his thoughts with texts lifted from various sources, in a kind of verbal analogue to the show. I emailed with Karsten between when I saw the show and this talk to compare my impressions with his.
Let the conversation begin! It was exciting and sometimes discombobulating to see the show in its finished form after watching the projects progress along various forking logical and associative paths over the last year, with these ever-shifting images and texts on the walls of your second bedroom every time I would come over (there were those zip-reminiscent pieces using the blue tape that dominates the show, the larger and much-larger versions of the smaller pieces). By the end, you had a really quite large body of work, from the small rectangular “aeriel view” drawings as I call them (Edmund Chia of Peregrine says they remind him of car windows looking out onto landscapes), to medium-sized and very large versions using the same logic. The edited body of work at Peregrine does gesture toward the evolution of the process, but it’s somehow extremely restrained, resulting in a more ephemeral experience. The work has room to breathe.
Also, maybe it’s because I have this perspective of the sheer amount of work that was a part of this project, but the grouping at Peregrine was most striking for the way it was almost more about framing as an act than anything else… and not only framing your project, but also physically and literally playing with notions of the frame: the giant paper remainders from your smaller cutout shapes on one wall, the pieces involving cut-outs from life magazine, the sense that you were severely limiting your own activity (which played out in the proportions of tape and paintbrush, palette and form in the smaller pieces) even as you left a lot up to chance with the torn tape pieces.
As your note about forking paths suggests, the larger process behind all these works (collectively) has a very different logic: it’s much more expansive, almost opposite to the narrowing effect that framing implies. Over time a web begins spreading outward as little accidents in the process open up new directions or the strange results of working with these precarious materials (whether masking tape or magazine pages) spin off new ideas.
But at the same time I think your observations about framing are interesting and sound. The small drawings here, for example, all begin from much, much larger sheets that are just a chaos of marks in watercolor. I start looking for potential compositions, latent within that field, and cut them out, so there’s an almost “photographic” process in there. Then drawing takes over again and I augment each of the excised compositions with other elements.
And on a larger level, to present a modestly scaled exhibition like this one you have to make selections; this particular configuration accentuates certain aspects in the work (while others momentarily shift into the background). Maybe the notion of framing is one way to think about that…. The next time the picture might change and certain other works you mentioned might be presented instead, or in addition, whether it’s the more sculptural iterations or scaled up versions of drawings made using similar processes and wider blue tape.
A lot of the exciting tension I feel in the show is regarding control… first you have a strong formal emphasis on control, with the explorations of the frame you’re making, but on the other hand, much of the “content” of the Life series are discovered or accidental rather than made. This seems exciting but also potentially sort of frightening. How do you see your relationship to these texts that poke their heads out of the work– and the accidental as part of the process? Is it a system for invention, or as you’ve said for generating ideas, perhaps a way of breaking free of a certain way of thinking? These kind of images make me think about a kind of resisting of their own representation (along with your decontextualized quotations,which I want to bring up later), but which find their own logic and of course their own way of representing themselves… and which involves giving up an enormous sense of authorial control.
Well, one thing that shapes these works are various processes that involve some kind of pseudo-system — but one that tends to have these pockets where productive accidents can happen, or which allow for discovery within the bounds of set procedures. If it’s a system for invention, it’s one that works just as well when the system is going slightly haywire. It does become a different way of thinking that can be pleasantly unfamiliar at times.
There is something open ended about it in that way. And maybe not only in the sense of not knowing exactly what’s going to happen in any given case but also in that these works could almost seem to keep on replicating in endless permutations — all the while bearing traces of how they’re extracts from a more expansive world (let’s say) of related visual material. I like the idea of discovered content though, and I think that element makes things pleasantly more complicated. When that’s paired with these kinds of processes, meaning also appears and sometimes congeals in unexpected ways.
The work has evolved over time, as you noted before, but I’m not sure in the linear sense the word evolution implies. To go back to the metaphor of the web I mentioned before, David Shields offers an analogy in his book Reality Hunger. He’s talking about forms of writing specifically, but it might easily apply elsewhere, too, in relation to art or artists’ practices:
“When plot shapes a narrative, it’s like knitting a scarf. You have this long piece of string and many choices about how to knit, but we understand a sequence is involved, a beginning and an end, with one part connected to the next. You can figure out where the beginning is and where the last stitch is cast off. Webs look orderly, too, but unless you watch the spider weaving, you’ll never know where it started. It could be attached to branches or table legs or eaves in six or eight places. You won’t know the sequence in which the different cells were spun and attached to another. You have to decide for yourself how to read its patterning, but if you pluck it at any point, the entire web will vibrate.”
This quotation reminds me that I want to ask about your use of found text in the process of this project as well as the forthcoming talk. I was always struck by the typewritten notecards in your studio with what I thought of as “foundling” quotations, often very provocative or funny or sad. They formally matched some of the work through their rigid lack of context. I remember also you showing me a selection of them that you had written up into a longer document, and reading it felt like a tornado– a maelstrom– of ideas. That feeling is borne out in the show, at least for me. How will you be incorporating the found text (which is also in the press release) into your “afterthoughts” talk? What prompted you to use this format? What can we expect from this talk?
So as you describe, for a while I’ve had a wall full of post-it notes, which I’ve added to one by one. (Since then this material has taken other forms, too, whether a deluge-like flow on a sheet of paper or a stack of uniform notecards like Mel Bochner might do.) At first this was a way to let my own thoughts trail after the work. Gradually I became fascinated with things I read elsewhere — either encountered randomly or while doing focused research for other essays I was writing at the time — and how they seemed to say something about the work at hand. So I began to collect and compile them; people like John Ashbery, Anne Carson, Susan Sontag, Italo Calvino, Robert Smithson, Perec, Adorno, Borges, and a hundred others start to mingle side by side.
I like your phrase “foundling quotes”; it suggests these little lost things trying to find a good home for themselves. But the works, and not just the words, could be a band of foundlings, too, in a way, pushed out into the world of ideas to find their own way. This manner of bringing language in contact with the work isn’t about applying critical methods or opening up your theoretical toolbox and digging for the right wrench; it’s more like letting outside thoughts, other people’s writings, poetic fragments, even errant ideas, gravitate to the work (though at some point who can say how they in turn effect the work as they glom on).
So the talk I’m titling “Afterthoughts” brings my show at Peregrine Program to a close, this coming Sunday. I won’t tip my hand too much, but I’m not really interested in doing a standard artist talk. Instead it takes this growing accumulation of written material, these foundlings as you call them, as its starting point. Rather than making a case for the work or telling you what you need to know, it’s more like looking back at it from a speculative distance, and then opening it up even further, letting it spin outwards even more.
Monica Westin is a writer, editor, and PhD student in rhetoric. She teaches arts writing and media theory classes at DePaul.