For this week’s look back into the Bad at Sports archives, we’ve pulled a 2008 interview with Meg Cranston, conducted by Duncan MacKenzie and painter Pamela Fraser on the occasion of Cranston’s exhibition at He Said/She Said, Fraser and partner Randall Szott’s now-closed exhibition space in Oak Park, Illinois.
“There’s a work in the show that’s an ass drawn to look like it’s encased in a block of ice. The title is I froze my ass and then I moved to California. It’s a true story – when I was a kid growing up in New York, I froze my ass everyday in the winter. My parents were very thrifty people and they just wouldn’t turn up the heat. My brother and I developed what I called heat lust. And I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that for me as a child heat was like love, and maybe better.” – Meg Cranston interviewed by Bad at Sports.
When I was about 14, I had a figure-drawing teacher in a local after-school program, a brilliant and hyperactive man who compared the honing of our representational practice to the training of a chef. To hear him tell it, a really good chef can taste a dish and say, “ah, yes, I taste this ingredient prepared in this way harmonizing with that ingredient prepared in that way, NICE MOVE.” As artists who – whether arriving in the form of training or proximity – have at least been exposed to enough art to deconstruct according to a similar model, the recognition of moves and their subsequent naming (and occasional pocketing) should sound familiar. It was with this in mind that I embarked two weeks ago on this admittedly incomplete cataloguing of moves, not as a How To or a Why, but as a What Is and a Where.
In my last column, I used a chess analogy to explain my premise. One expression of this analogy was of the finished and total game as both catalogue of and as principally manifested from the moves that constituted its play. When considering the particular totality of a finished game, both representing and represented by its contained moves, we are able to read its progression with a focused linearity, each move in dialogue with the move preceding it and the move following it.
Within the relative totality of a work of art, while we may be able to perceive the moves constituting its actualization, the linear narrative of their implementation is often lost. This is by no means a value judgment. With all of the moves now existing on the same plane, their dialogue expands beyond their teleological neighbors-in-time and into interaction with every single other move now sharing the plane of totality.
While the moves residing upon this plane of distribution certainly contribute to the manifestation of a totality, it is the relationships occurring between and thus around the moves that necessarily form the edges of this totality and therefore our perception of it as a totality. The relationships generated between and around these points form a container or theatre for these interactions and it is at the edges of this between-and-aroundness that we find our image of the total work and the point of our most immediate interaction with it.
Proximity is crucial to these generative internal relationships. By the model of totality established above, wherein the relationships contained manifest the Thing Itself, the Proximities defining those relationships become an essential factor of that manifestation. Differing Proximities establish different relationships and produce fundamentally different totalities. Proximity as move.
More context: That which exists in a vacuum may not, in fact, exist at all. If it does, we are afforded two possibilities. In the first, we are all (in the non-anthropocentric sense) That-Thing-Taking-Up-The-Vacuum and as such, the intricacies of our collective existence as that thing puts said vacuum beyond the limits of our perception. In the second possibility, the existence of this thing inside the vacuum precludes our exclusion by the very nature of vacuum-ness. So, given that this is not a metaphysical proposition, This Thing exists outside of our ability to interface with it and outside of any sort of possible sharing of reality-space. As Far As We’re Concerned, the thing does not exist. Therefore, whether we like it or not, Proximity is not an option. It is a fact.
Furthermore, if we are to reject the vacuum of pure autonomy, logic follows that the edges of these proximal relationships do not necessarily manifest totality, as I stated earlier, but merely reinforce an idea of perceived totality. This perceived (yet no less real) totality works within a pragmatic model of delineation, one which enables embodiment and day-to-day materiality. In short, these relationships of Proximity have no law enforcing their internment, their edges are not a given; they could go on forever. It is only by an inherently creative practice of “picking and choosing,” that totality is even a possibility in an endless sea of relationships and proximities. Without a doubt, so much of artistic practice revolves around “Knowing When It’s Done,” a process that can be at once intuitive and prefigured, and a process certainly engaged with creative acts of choice and delineation. Creative acts of agency. The selection and cultivation of proximities. Once again, Proximity as move.
Let’s look at a proximate relationship existing between two things. Take, for example, Martin Puryear’s 1977 sculpture, Box & Pole, represented in the photograph above, a four-and-a-half-foot-square wooden box and a 100-foot-tall wooden pole installed directly next to each other at the Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park in Lewiston, NY. The title of the piece describes its contents and the closeness of the two forms enables our viewing of box and pole simultaneously, thus enabling our ability to both verify and interpret the relationship made plain by the ampersand in the title. While the formal discrepancy between the two shapes is made evident and made novel by the nature of their Proximity, what is it about this Proximity and its relationship to the “total work” that enables these effects?
What is it about the piece’s interior proximities that manifest its totality? What if the box was out of sight, implied in the title but located elsewhere in the park? The pole, surely visible from a distance, might indicate that at least half of the title was true and either manifest the box as an imaginary-implied or rather as a prize to be sought out during a walking tour of the grounds. What if there were two boxes and two poles? The Box & Pole of the title might then become the Platonic box or the Platonic pole, with each set of twins rallying to represent its singular ideal. What if the piece was untitled or the box was on top of the pole or the pole was on top of the box or the pole was horizontal rather than vertical? All of these relationships of Proximity manifest a necessarily different totality, a necessarily different narrative not merely describing the thing before us but actualizing the work itself.
In Jean Baudrillard’s doctoral dissertation, Le Système des Objets (The System of Objects) (1960), he introduces a useful structure of autonomous and relational value. With regard to (bourgeois) interior decoration, Baudrillard posits that where some one-of-a-kind painting may possess a high autonomous value, a mass-produced commercial print of the same painting, while possessing a lower autonomous value, possesses a much higher relational value as it pertains to interaction with the objects around it. Surely this model persists when the plane of totality consists of more than merely mass reproductions or further iterations of a single object.
As Box & Pole becomes Boxes & Poles and then Boxes & Poles & A Photograph & A Marzipan Pear & A Calculator Tied To A String, Martin Puryear becomes Rachel Harrison or Isa Genzken. The work itself becomes a theatre for the performance of a cornucopia of relationships, all subsuming their relational values into the autonomous value of the whole, the total object both generated by these relationships and functioning as container for these relationships. As more and more parts are accreted to this whole, we must reconsider it with each new addition and as the makeup of its totality is changed. White added to blue makes a lighter blue but it does not stay light blue when we add yellow.
Proximity as a tangible substance functions both as a move itself and in between moves. At the heart of any notion of Proximity is the relationship it enacts. Implicating some spatial or otherwise positional affiliation, Proximity cannot exist in a vacuum or as a property belonging to singularity. Proximity relies upon proximal points. For the artist, as these contingencies gain intention and subsequently some form of materiality, we must not ask how these proximal points change ‘conceptually,’ that is, poetically, metaphorically, or symbolically by virtue of their Proximity. We must ask how they change ACTUALLY: How, by the Proximity contributing to their relationship, the points themselves actually change and take on not merely new meaning but new BEING. A new totality as a work of art.
Participatory installation by Dominic Sansone.
FM*Gallery is located at 310 N. Peoria St. Reception begins at 7pm on Friday.
Work by Karen Reimer.
Monique Meloche Gallery is located 2154 W. Division St. Reception Saturday from 4-7pm.
Work by Stephanie Brooks.
Terrain is located at 704 Highland Ave. in Oak Park. Reception Saturday from 3-6pm.
An International Print Exchange between Chicago and Sydney, Australia.
Roxaboxen Exhibitions is located at 2130 W. 21st. Reception Friday from 7-10pm.
Work by Alejandro Jimenez, Marilyn Volkman, and Scott Campana.
Eel Space is located at 1906 S Throop St #2F. Reception Saturday from 6-9pm.
1. We are going to be in Miami.
2. We are going to make 48 hours of Bad at Sports in one weekend.
3. We are going to do that by broadcasting “pirate style” from a cabin at the middle of NADA.
5. Our Ox-Bow cabin is in fact an entirely separate piece of art by Jonas Sebura and Alex Gartelmann.
6. We have a limited amount of kick ass t-shirts which will be available for purchase.
7. YES – THIS MEANS FOR FOUR DAYS YOU CAN LISTEN TO US ALL THE FUCKING TIME. This could change your life.
8. Richard has promised to dress like a pirate.
That is all.
November 16, 2011 · Print This Article
Often art spaces emerge in response to rumbling (and specific) undercurrents in a given community. In the Artists Run Chicago Digest — a book I put together with threewalls that examines artist-run art spaces in Chicag0 between 1999 and 2009— almost every interview conducted with gallery founders talk about how they opened a space because of some recognized lack. Miguel Cortez, for instance, when asked about why he started Antenna Gallery said, “Chicago has long had a history of ‘do-it-yourself’ art spaces and I felt that the Pilsen neighborhood was lacking in contemporary art spaces. I have seen alt. spaces come and go in the Pilsen neighborhood over the years. So I reopened a space on my own after Polvo closed.” In almost every case, founders feels something noticeably underrepresented — nine times out of ten it’s “good art” — and suddenly they takes it upon themselves to fill the niche. In this way, artist-run spaces create corner stones in an ongoing (and usually undocumented) conversation. Very often, whether as an unintended biproduct or a focused agenda, they reflect back on aesthetic, political and economic issues of a geographical local. Providence of course is no different. In the following interview I talk with co-founder and organizer of RK Projects, Tabitha Piseno. RK Projects is a nomadic, contemporary, non-commercial gallery. Each curated exhibit creates a dynamic and reciprocal interrogation between contemporary art work by local artists and the (often unused) architectural site it inhabits. At the moment, RK Projects has a show, “ATLAS” with work by X.V. installed at the Granoff Center in Brown University. You can download the digital album the artist made to be released in conjunction with the exhibition here.
Caroline Picard: What is your background and how did RK Projects start?
Tabitha Piseno: My partner, Sam Keller, and I started RK Projects in October 2010, a few months after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design. While living in Providence, we had always been intrigued by the architecture of the city, the sense of its history, and how the urban layout of the city represented, or informed rather, the presiding social dynamics and economic development.
After making the decision to remain in Providence after graduation, we were immediately interested in engaging Providence outside of its academic environment; we wanted to create a socially engaged project that could speak to our interests in the city, be instrumental in responding to the lack of venues where young local artists could exhibit, while also retaining the ability to think and act critically. This was a very exciting venture for us, not only because of how stimulating we knew it would for own intellectual interests, but more so because of how it would fill a void of exhibition venues. There is a vibrant, and incredibly active, community of artists and musicians that truly thrives in Providence.(1)
We began with the intention of opening a gallery in a fixed location, but it was quickly brought to out attention that the cost of running a full-time space that would be solely dependent on sales, was not a financially viable for us. It was, in fact, discouraged by many people. From brokers of store-front commercial properties that had previously rented to galleries, to local curators who had previously run full-time galleries, to staff members of the Rhode Island State Council of the Arts and the Department of Art, Culture, and Tourism — many people made it clear how difficult it is to keep a gallery in Providence afloat due to the lack of collectors and connections to out-of-town buyers. It was clearly expressed that Providence had a track record of failed galleries, despite the profusion of local artists making work. With that in mind, the formulation of RK Projects really began; we were persistent in our interest in creating a new exhibition platform.
The first thing that came to form was our name for the project: “R.K.” which stands for Richard Keller who was my partner’s uncle. He was an outsider artist who expatriated to France in the 60s. He was a sort-of Francophile and was obsessed with the language; he taught Linguistics at the Sorbonne. While he was teaching, he continued making art prolifically. The work he made ranged from collages, drawings, and prints to bizarre Dadaist assemblage sculptures that he compiled entirely from trash he would find by dumpster-diving in the streets of Paris. After 30 years of moving to France, he became very ill and passed away from HIV in the mid-90s. He never exhibited his work. We felt naming the project in his memory was very important to us, and exemplified the purity of pursuing something you love doing no matter the means.
During our search for a fixed space we realized the extent of the economic deprivation that Providence has suffered from for many years. The abundance of vacant commercial and industrial spaces throughout the entire city sparked our strategy.
Ultimately, it was a solution and a proposal. It was our solution for creating a new exhibition platform that could invest itself in showing experimental work by local artists without having a tremendous overhead that a fixed location would have (most properties have been donated to us, or rented out to us at an extremely reduced rate). It became a curatorial proposal embedded around the idea of site-specificity – How could we utilize each property in a way that could inform the work within the exhibition? How does the geographical location of each property speak to the work and to what we do as RK Projects? How does the presence of each exhibition affect its surrounding social and public space? In what way does the project speak to the economy of Providence, real estate or otherwise? These are questions that we take into account as we organize each exhibition, and exploring/experimenting with those answers is one of the most rewarding and satisfying aspects of what we do.
CP: As a nomadic exhibition project, how do you feel the unique architecture of Providence complements the specificity of individual projects?
TP: It’s different for each project, because the existing architecture (in a physical/historical/economic sense) in each location we’ve conducted our project \ is so very different and unique to the particular section of town where it resides. We organized our very first exhibition, Nostalgia for Simpler Times, in the Upper South district of Providence in a double-wide trailer located on the historic ‘Providence Piers’ waterfront. The Upper South side of Providence is a section of Providence that was the last to undergo development with the rise of industrialization in the 19th century, and currently has the highest unemployment rate in the city. The trailer on the Piers was formerly a ticket office for a, now defunct, ferry route. It is currently managed by the adjacent “Conley’s Wharf” building which houses studios and offices for creative businesses. The exhibition was a solo-show of my partner’s work; at the time, he was using courageously silly methodologies for making sculptures, paintings, and installation work that bordered on being iconoclastic. The double-wide trailer, in the desolate context it was in, informed the work in an interesting way. Throughout the exhibition he had a 3-tiered chocolate fondue fountain on a white pedestal that was constantly pumping nacho cheese. Every morning while the exhibition was up, we had to boil over 6 pounds of cheese and transport it to the site. It was absurd – carrying these massive containers into a double-wide trailer in a parking lot while fisherman were going about their daily business along the pier. It definitely brought in an interesting crowd that we didn’t expect – people were coming in that had little or no experience with that kind of art and really appreciated. It seemed like the broadness (in a metaphorical sense) of the site kept the interpretation of the work very open. At one point we had a homeland security officer come to the exhibition because the particular area the trailer was in also housed a massive salt pile for winterizing all of Providence’s roads; there were also shipping crates directly adjacent to the trailer with storage for some equipment that belonged to the police department. He loved it; he took a good amount of time exploring the work in the show. The exhibition really exemplified the general feeling of that particular district.
The subsequent projects went from the Industrial Valley district, where we conducted a 3-day music festival and a huge exhibition that spanned 20,000 sq. ft. of a historical industrial building that was being renovated, to Downtown Providence, to the West End, to Olneyville, and then we eventually made our way to the East Side of Providence in the Mount Hope district and College Hill where our current exhibition is on display in the new Granoff Center at Brown University. We tried to allow our exhibitions to speak to each district’s existing physical architecture and social space; we traversed a lot of territory and made a lot of noise in the broader area of Providence before making our way back to the academic bubble that is College Hill. I think that itinerary speaks well to how the unique architecture of Providence complimented individual projects.
TP: Absolutely, every property we’ve chosen to work in has presented itself as a space that could be activated by the presence of an exhibition — or vice versa – the space would activate the artwork that inhabited it. What has been really interesting, and surprising, for us is how each exhibition has sort of exhumed the past history of the property it resides in. For example, the third exhibition we hosted with “Art Is Shit Editions” – Frolic, Frolic, Irresistible – was organized around the premise of consumerism and art as commodity. The property we chose for it was a downtown property on Westminster St – known as the “Heart of Providence” – it’s primarily a restaurant and shopping district. As we were working on preparations for the show, we discovered that the property was formerly an illegal brothel. It ran in an Asian massage parlor where women were kept sequestered in the basement and attic. During the installation process, we came across remnants of this history and ended up utilizing leftover equipment and rooms, such as shower stalls, a sauna, and a massage table for installations as a way of engaging that history. For the audience that experienced the exhibition, it brought up the issue of Providence’s history of sex-trafficking and how long indoor prostitution remained decriminalized in Rhode Island (it was made illegal in 2009). It turned out to be a fitting context for the exhibition, not as the mainstay, but as a representation of how the exhibition had the ability to activate a particular history and bring a localized issue to light.
In terms of borrowing real estate, we choose properties that we notice have remained vacant for several years and are under-recognized. We always try to reach out to a very broad audience with the hopes that someone will see the space and be interested in purchasing or renting it. In priming the space for our exhibitions, we also make it a point to leave the space in better condition than we found it. This allows us to also maintain wonderful relationships with property brokers and real estate companies that we work with. It also helps them see the worth in what we’re trying to do with the project.
CP: How have your curatorial strategies developed over time?
TP: The curatorial strategy for the project has always been the same: to address site-specificity via a nomadic, DIY exhibition platform, and offer an alternative way for contextualizing the work of local artists. Throughout the project I’ve been particularly fond of two books, one written by Rosalyn Deutsche called Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics, and the other by Miwon Kwon titled One Place After Another: Site-specific Art and Locational Identity. The ways in which site-specificity is framed and iterated in each of those books have resounded with me greatly, and deeply affected me as I’ve conducted the curatorial strategies for the project. Kwon puts it perfectly when she identifies the purpose of her book as “to reframe site specificity as the cultural mediation of broader social, economic, and political processes that organize urban life and urban space.”
That approach to site-specificity is something I find incredibly important.
What is different for each project, and continues to develop, is how the premise for each exhibition, and the work within it, is successfully supported by the context of the project. That’s an overriding programmatic strategy as opposed to curatorial, but I would like to think that creating boundaries for the two is something for conceptual fodder that fuels the project and makes it better with each exhibition.
(1) In a city that was literally branded as the “Creative Capital,” it was surprising to see that there were no exhibition venues that could support young, contemporary, experimental work. There were a few galleries, but they were geared towards “tourist commodities:” New England kitsch-art that proliferates because of its accessibility. We were concerned about what work was actually defining our “Creative Capital.” The goal of re-branding this city was what ex-Mayor David Ciccilline called: “[In order to build] on one of [Providence's] finest assets — its large number of artists, designers, student and faculty innovators at such schools like Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design — the city recently re-branded itself as Providence: The Creative Capital.” Yet there was no bearing as to how this new identity was intended to build the city’s economy. At the same time the campaign disregarded the nature of arts activities initiated by RI residents who actually existed in the public community.