Off-Topic invites artists, curators, writers, and cultural workers to discuss a subject not directly related to the practice of making art. We would like to welcome Elijah Burgher as our latest guest. Earlier this week Elijah participated in the magic-themed Cabinet of Curiosities at the MCA, hosted by Bad at Sports’ Duncan MacKenzie.Â His Off-Topic post takes the form of a narrated YouTube tour of his favorite group Coil.
COIL ARE MY FAVORITE
On November 13, 2004, Jhonn Balance died after falling from a second floor landing in his home. His death effectively ended the mighty Coil, which he had founded in 1982 with Peter â€œSleazyâ€ Chistopherson. Along with Psychic TV and Chris & Cosey, Coil rose from the ashes of Throbbing Gristleâ€”Sleazy is a member of TG, who recently resurrectedâ€”and, with Current 93, Nurse with Wound,
Death in June, plotted a new course for the various strains of experimental music that issued from the first wave of industrial music in the mid-to-late 70s. For more information about the bandâ€™s history and recordings, look at the Threshold House site, Brainwashedâ€™s Coil page, or the brief entry on them on the Disinformation site.
Coil are also my favorite. I love a lot of things, and have named possibly hundreds of artists, bands, filmmakers, books, etc. as my â€œfavoriteâ€ at one time or another. When Claudine asked me to write an Off-Topic post for the BaS blog, I knew I wanted to write about something that I loved, and considered Swansâ€™ Children of God, Dennis Cooperâ€™s George Myles cycle, and Pasoliniâ€™s Salo, the latter of which Iâ€™ve seen too many times to justifiably claim anything resembling mental health. But Coil really are my favorite. They are what I listen to when I work in my studio. And I have a Coil t-shirt that I consider a good luck talisman and wear when I feel particularly stressed out or sad. They inspire exactly this type of ecstatic, pathologically intense fandom in their followers. For this blog post, Iâ€™ll be leading you through some of my favorite songs by the band.
Balance had long suffered from alcoholism and drug abuse, which contributed to his untimely death. Since we started with news of his death, here is â€œHeartworms,â€ where he reflects self-deprecatingly on his addictions, intoning â€œthereâ€™s too much blood in my alcohol.â€ (Also I stole the name of my drawing blog from a lyric in this song: â€œGhosts vomit over me.â€) An enterprising YouTuber has added a super 8 short by Derek Jarman for visuals:
I first heard Coil when I was a teenager and a big fan of industrial music. I loved Ministry, Revolting Cocks, Pigface, and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. Originally, I had picked up their cd, Loveâ€™s Secret Domain, because Iâ€™d buy anything Wax Trax put out. It came out in 1991, so I must have been 13 or 14 since I didnâ€™t buy it too long after it had been released. That record soundtracked much of my high school years, from toothy teenage blowjobs to acid comedowns watching the dancing patterns of my bedsheets, and numerous late night sessions hunkered over my journal writing bad poems and drawing cute boys. I remember playing their track â€œThe Snowâ€ on repeat. It is now a veritable classic of early 90s house music, albeit still somewhat anomalous for the genre. Here is the â€œAnswers Come in Dreams IIâ€ remix from â€œThe Snow Epâ€: [Read more]
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Alberto Aguilar announced his Instagram takeover of the @artinstitutechi feed in a bathroom mirror selfie. He positioned the cellphone to obscure his face and captioned the post with the deadpan statement “This is a takeover. I am Alberto Aguilar. This will last one week.” With that single post already several people vowed to unfollow until “the art returned”, while others were convinced that the feed had been “hacked”, while still others lamented that selfies “degraded” the museum.
The Chicago-based artist Aguilar is the Art Institute of Chicago’s 2015-2016 Artist in Residence for Museum Education. He was chosen because education features prominently in his artistic practice through his professorship at Harold Washington College. The residency includes an on-site studio housed embedded in the Ryan Education Center, various opportunities to lecture and conduct public events and the Instagram takeover at hand. From January 11th to the 18th Aguilar regularly posted his activities within the museum and selectively interacted with the Institute’s followers. That his actions could provoke such an extraordinary response, both positive and negative points to the power of social media and the effectiveness of Aguilar’s approach.
A photo posted by The Art Institute of Chicago (@artinstitutechi) on
The takeover phenomenon itself comes from a marketing strategy wherein corporate brands partner with “influencers” in order to heighten their credibility and deepen their “brand engagement” with consumers. Influencers are considered influential because they are authentic and credible examples of the brand image to the brand’s target audience. In this case Aguilar is a living example of an artist in a museum that celebrates art. The Art Institute of Chicago, which declined to comment for this article saying instead in an email that they wanted to “keep the focus on Alberto’s practice and his ownership of the creative process on the Instagram project” presumably wanted the artist to perform contemporary art for the audience.
The two previous AIC social media takeovers from LA-based artists Frances Stark and Charles Ray delivered tepid posts. Charles Ray seemed largely disinterested and Frances Stark’s output was subsumed by her already voluminous social media presence. Aguilar approximated a living specimen of an artist inside the hallowed repository of mostly dead-artist’s art, like a genetically engineered T-Rex on view next to Sue at the Field Museum. Why then would people prefer to view the plaster casts when the real thing was available? The takeover and its response charts a competing trio of interests between the venerable museum, an irascible artist and the expectant Instagram audience.
rosiefomalley @artinstitutechi what kind of horseshit
For Aguilar’s part he was given the account for Instagram for a week without restrictions. The canon for Instagram artworks is still being written but his approach was unique in several ways. The most comprehensive work to date is probably by the artist Amalia Ulman who over the course of months believably transformed her feed into a record of her life as a vapid LA impresario. Photos of brunch and breast enlargement scars were all faked for a scripted 175 post drama presented as if it were her real life. The piece called, “Excellences & Perfections” functions as both feminist and social media critique unveiling the double desire to share and to craft one’s image at the same time; a.k.a. to not really share.
Alberto Aguilar instead reinforced the believability of the Instagram image by performing simple actions in the recognizable space of the museum and by responding selectively to the instructions of certain followers. He roamed the galleries opening telephone panels, propping open doors, overturning chairs, placing a half styrofoam cup in front of a Magritte, arranging a floor full of doilies in the room with the paperweights and other forms of aesthetic littering. Aguilar’s approach to objects is inflected by Minimalism, frequently using simple geometries like grids, lines and zig zags that make the actions seem deceptively matter-of-fact more akin to crossing items off a to-do list than making a drawing. This functional relationship between his activity and the resultant situation bolstered the trustworthiness of the feed at the expense of artifice.
A photo posted by The Art Institute of Chicago (@artinstitutechi) on
Aguilar describes this approach as “using a regulated form in a very regulated building in order to have a moment of intimacy myself in this space.” Aguilar’s language in the posts also plays to this calculated blankness. “I don’t like being overly poetic. I like when I state facts and those things act as poetry also.”
rs_gould Sweet litter. Good thing you got that MFA
Not that Aguilar’s practice doesn’t also rely on metaphor. In one of the earliest posts he and fellow artist Alex Bradley Cohen held up homemade cardboard signs that read “Trouble Maker” or “Problem Solver” as an introduction to the takeover. Other works refer to issues of accessibility by opening “doors” or creating “bridges” within the museum experience. Here the artist functioned as a surrogate museum goer, a tester of the institution by filling voids, mimicking gallery architecture and associating objects of the present with the past, culture outside the museum with culture inside and personal history with art history.
The inclusion of his personal life was another source of audience annoyance and yet another way Aguilar aimed to disarm them. When Alberto wasn’t in the museum, he was frequently at home.
“People were annoyed about the home photos and would try to tell me what they wanted to see and what they didn’t want to see. So I thought that it would be funny to put a picture of my kids all playing [the board game] Trouble while my wife was sleeping just because I wanted my family to be recorded forever on the Art Institute’s Instagram feed. Because anybody would want to make their presence known! Right? Isn’t that what Instagram is all about? That’s also why I kept saying “This is a takeover”. Someone who was angry called it something else, they said this is a hijack!” So the next post I used that. “This is a hijack.”
The pedestrian nature of Alberto’s life, indeed that of most working artists when viewed up close, was off-putting to people who tuned into the museum’s feed for Culture with a capital “C”. The personal moments presented within his factual, monotone voice were disarming to the point of becoming intimate. The high point of this being a touching snippet of song performed on ukulele by Aguilar’s two kids on the final day. What becomes clear through reading comments is that the dissenters find Aguilar’s lowering of the Art Institute’s high cultural voice disrespectful. But why is this act disrespectful when the institution has invited him to do it?
A video posted by The Art Institute of Chicago (@artinstitutechi) on
andiamojoe @mimi_marg @eggwithoutyolk @artinstitutechi all that wonderful art around should be inspiring to this feed, the content is lackluster and not representative of the great works and artists within one of the greatest art museums in the world… Step it up or face a mass unfollow!
The answer, at least partially, seems to be that the Art Institute was operating outside of its understood brand identity, or were purposefully trying to expand it to encompass more contemporary art. There was a general tone in the comments of dissatisfaction, not with the idea of a takeover per se, but with the particular type of plain dealing, found-object arranging, conceptual social practice that Aguilar uses. The only charge directed at Aguilar as a person was that of self-indulgence. Presumably this was for the posts that actually contained his image, not for posting his artwork because that was at least part of the point.
robby47 Blame Andy Warhol. But compared to this, Warhol looks like freakin Rembrandt.
Aguliar’s “lazy Dadaism” as one follower put it, in turn led to charges of “pretentiousness”, where pretension is understood as thinking oneself important when in fact you aren’t. These commenters saw no value in his use of simple arrangements of recognizable material through easy to replicate gestures. As a counterfactual, it’s hard to imagine any controversy over a representational artist painting museumgoers as they tour the galleries, a kind of museum-cum-landscape.
A photo posted by The Art Institute of Chicago (@artinstitutechi) on
Other moments pitted the artist’s interests more directly against that of the institution. The museum has always catered to the civic pride of Chicago through various means, including the decoration of the famed entry lions with whichever sports team is prospering at the time. Recently that has been the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. An ill-advised attempt to find common cause with fans in anticipation of a Stanley Cup playoff game resulted in an image of a Medieval knight’s helmet adorned with the Blackhawk’s logo being posted to the account. Considered alone, the Blackhawk’s logo is controversial enough, but to layer onto a stereotype of indigenous peoples an item symbolizing the systematic religious violence of the Crusades defies common sense.
A photo posted by The Art Institute of Chicago (@artinstitutechi) on
Aguilar at this point had been “building bridges” between separate time periods of the museum collection by holding up gift-shop postcard images in front of related artworks. Now he responded by holding up a phone with the Instagram of the knight’s helmet in front of a display of a Native American ceremonial headdress and pressed the send button. The image pits the legacy of American oppression of indigenous peoples through caricature and confiscation of property against the museum’s desire for greater mass media relevance beyond expected elite cultural circles. The reaction from the audience was swift and intense and for the first time Aguilar himself felt conflicted about his usage of the takeover.
“People were confused as to what I was trying to say. I didn’t want to offend Native American people, but that’s what started happening right away. There was this young Native American commenter who took it out of context and didn’t realize it was a takeover. He was angry at the museum for putting up this image and began swearing in his comments. So the museum’s social media manger deleted them which I was told is regular practice whenever people swear in comments. And he would come back and wonder why he was being censored on top of being offended by the image. I went to sleep and had a terrible dream that night. I woke up and decided that I was going to delete the image all together. I just didn’t feel right about it anymore, mainly because I was offending Native Americans but also because I didn’t think that it was fair to the institution that had given me this freedom.”
The ingenuity of this takeover is the way that it placed the artist at the ethical intersection of several public discourses.
Who is the artist responsible to represent? For Aguilar, what began as an attempt to confront an ethnic stereotype instead ended up propagating it. The museum, for it’s part, has the difficult task of picking artists as influencers because of the legacy of avant-gardism still ingrained in contemporary art. They will be critical of their museological handlers, which both present dangers for their brand identity and simultaneously reinforces the credibility and authenticity of the influencer. Meanwhile the audience has to decode the layered experience of these images and deal with their frustrated expectations. Social media seems to give viewers a sense of propriety over the institution that is illusory. What ability does the Instagram public have to shape museum policy or image? Not much. The tradition and cultural prestige of their brand expectations had been substituted with contemporaneity and uncertainty.
“People were telling me what they wanted to see and what they didn’t want to see, they were angry. I said something like “This is a takeover. I will decide what is shown.” Then I said “I will use whatever is around me as a tool. I was referring to the physical objects around me I used as a tool for revealing and concealing but also to the camera which can serve the same function. I’m wasn’t trying to be arrogant, but the truth is that it was a takeover, I did have control but I also personally have control of what I show and don’t show of myself.”
The ironic thing is that the space of institutional (or branded) social media requires an audience, no matter how inflexible. The commenters certainly weren’t worried about the authority or appropriateness of their comments in their ill-conceived defense of the museum. The social media space requires a back and forth in which Aguilar fully engaged. He would take suggestions from the comments about what to do next actually giving the audience some ability to interact with the museum that they love. Instead of getting into a comment tit-for-tat he would perform actions just to show them that he was open to their input. And for all of the dissenters there were also people who appreciated the unique perspective on the museum that Aguilar came to offer. The masterful nature of the takeover was the way that it revealed the contours and fissures of the public’s relationship to 21st century institutions. It showed the historical problems and contemporary possibilities while insistently, even stubbornly, keeping the approach intimate and personal.
Dan Gunn is an artist, writer and educator living and working in Chicago. Dan writes about Chicago art, including a history of alternative and apartment spaces in conjunction with the Hyde Park Art Center’s “Artists Run Chicago” exhibition and the Artist Run Digest published by Threewalls and Green Lantern Press. Dan has written for for Bad at Sports, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Depaul Art Museum, Loyola University Museum of Art, Newcity Magazine, Proximity Magazine and ArtSlant.com. He was a contributor to Fielding Practice podcast, a collaboration between Bad at Sports and Art21.
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!
The Internet is as anarchist zone where virtual creolization and dissolution of cultural boarders can occur ad infinitum facilitating intellectual freedom by masses access to global commodity culture. Yet a typical and altogether problematic West/ East and first world/ third world dichotomy emerges when considering Cuba’s use of the Internet, highly moderated by the government, to the proper “West’s” open and constant access. Two exhibitions, In the Absence of a Body (February 2015) and Cuban Virtualities (December-February 2014), explore the complex semantics of freedom through virtual mobility and emigration asserting but also blurring this traditional dualism. Cuba as a country has a unique relationship with digital technology as connectivity and access are largely withheld from general populations and heavily moderated by the state. Historically, Cubans also faced impingements upon travel, mobility to the U.S. through the embargo, and immigration. For these reasons, America could be characterized as a designated promised-zone that, if ever reached, would help to facilitate liberation. The Internet and digital media can be seen as another gateway to mobility and freedom. The artists Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera (In the Absence of a Body) and Susana Pilar Delahante Matienzo (Cuban Virtualities) reverse this traditional dichotomy by drawing the audience attention to the artificial promises of these thresholds and desired states. While not present directly, the post-Snowden discourse that ensued after the wikileaks scandal offers another enforcing layer that freedom and endless free-speech in the West might in fact have much more in common with Cuba’s overt censorship.
During In the Absence of a Body the artist, Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera, explores his current status as a Cuban émigré in the United States. With a childhood marked by the Cuban embargo and the collapse of structures in 1991, Diaz-Perera has in many ways broken through the invisible iron wall and reached the ultimate post-modern utopia through travel as an artist: acceleration and mobility. Yet, it seems that he commiserates this freedom because he is cut off from his family and political moments. It is for these reasons that his installation takes on the appearance and the motif of the prison cell where he has taken up occupation for the twenty-day duration of the show.
In Diaz-Perera’s installation and performance, he is invisible from the audience’s gaze yet present behind the false wall of the Chicago Artists’ Coalition gallery space, where he pulls a make shift levy system attached to a microphone. The undulating pulling motion causes the microphone to thud loudly against the wall— a rhythm reminiscent of a beating heart or an internal pounding of the head when the body’s equilibrium has been overturned. Diaz-Perera’s performance is reminiscent of Vito Acconci’s Seed Bed and other early performance artists such as Valley Export’s early occupation of architectural spaces. It is the austerity of The Silence (…) is overrated, part of the larger installation of In the Absence of a Body, that links it immediately to 1960’s and 70’s performance artists and also connects Diaz-Perera’s work to earlier generations of action-based performance artists such as Tania Bruguera (Cuba) and Regina José Galindo (Guatemala).
The Silence (…) is overrated, a performative gesture, is founded between two auditory documents from activist figures that have also suffered a loss of voice and silencing by the government. The audience is asked to kneel in order to hear the audio from the two activists figures inviting them to make a choice between hearing what officials call dissident speech and what others call proclamations of freedom. When the viewer makes the choice to kneel down, he or she is confronted with a strange dialectic between being in a position of crouching that can be used as a tool of political torcher or the spiritual position of prayer. This dialectic is mirrored by the artistic choice to only include two voices and accounts: that of Tania Bruguera, a performance artist living in New York but from Cuba, and Assata Shakur, an American and member of the former Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army who resides in Cuba as a political refugee. Both attest to their homeland as a place of surveillance and political assailant on free speech and property. Particularly, Bruguera testimony demands that the government release performers and the artist’s property, which were seized in the unrealized performance #YoTambienExijo (I also Demand) in December 2014.
There are no images attributed to the sound that the viewer hears through headphones. Instead a black monitor screen with white text that translates the speech either English or Spanish depending on the language of the speaker. This suggests that experience and testimony can always be mirrored into another lens by language and through this simple refraction can turn into incriminating testimony. In this case, it is Shakur attesting to the hegemony of the American police mirrored against Bruguera’s assertion of Cuba as a police-state. The black TV-monitor is oddly reminiscent of a narrow window, the type of geometric form that one would find in a gothic cathedral, and yet in reality is a threshold for a virtual world that has been foreclosed.
Yet to view Diaz-Perera’s work as a closed circuit triangulated work would be to miss the political context or the absent link. This missing link is Bruguera and her uncompleted and censored work #YoTambienExijo (I also Demand). Writing on the failed work’s reception, Coco Fusco discusses #YoTambienExijo, a performance that was planned to take place in Revolutionary Square in Cuba but was censored by the government, as a work that neither the Cuban world nor the Western world understood because of the restricted means of communication and organization imposed by the Internet. The plan for the performance, Fusco explains, was to place a large microphone within the public square for citizens to step up and call the government out for its crooked and what Fusco calls “draconian” censorship. Instead, Cuban citizens criticized Bruguera for creating a grand gesture that was completely out of touch with the possible realms for real subversive actions. Exhibition planners of Cuban Virtualities, J. Gibran Villalobos and Wil Ruggiero, explain that Cuban artists toe the line between political action and submission so that this vacillation between two oppositions could somehow function as a safety net against incrimination. Diaz-Perera hints to this paranoid conflicted zone and space by borrowing key motifs in his In the Absence of a Body. His overturned microphone becomes a direct referent to Bruguera’s unrealized performance that in many ways was supposed to fill in what she presumably deemed as a public space vacant of expressed concerns. Yet, since Bruguera lives most of her time outside of Cuba, she is seen as a cultural elite and her extreme plans for the performance in December of 2014 only exacerbated an already heated situation. Therefore, Diaz-Perera’s work can be seen as a complex meditation but also response to Bruguera’s failed gesture. In his iteration, the microphone itself has lost all of its utility and can only create a deafening music.
Cuban Virtualities, a traveling exhibition that was on view at Sullivan Galleries from December-February, explores the individual’s relationship to the Internet. Unlike Diaz-Perera’s work, which questions the role of the émigré caught between two opposing yet similarly violent worlds, Cuban Virtualities focuses on individual’s access to the Internet and how this can be a tool for political expression. Cuban Virtualities suggests a similar US/Cuban dualism as the viewer experiences the works from a point of estrangement.
Geert Lovink authored a 2014 article in Journal #54 of e-flux where he claims that the digital world had returned to a point pre-1984, which he then explains as the year before the apple computer had been introduced and marketed to the individual. Before, he states, computers were large expensive machines for corporations and were not associated with file sharing programs, chat rooms, and borderless connections between individuals. Geert Lovink writes “Now, thirty years later, the computer is once again the perfect technical instrument of a cold, military security apparatus that is out to allocate, identify, select—and ultimately destroy—the Other.” Lovink is writing for a journal based in the U.S.—the proper West— that unlike the Cuban artists at hand, enjoys a very specific so-called freedom.
On the island where the artists of Cuban Virtualities live, their experience of the Internet is radically different than that of the United States. The Internet is overtly monitored, withheld, and often times not available to the individual. In Cuba, the Internet never reached a post-1984 position, yet that is not to say that individual expression ever suffered, rather that individual expression on the Internet was always elevated to political action. For instance, in Mirror of Patience, Susana Pilar Delahante Matienzo is present in the gallery through a live feed. Exhibition organizers J. Gibran Villalobos and Wil Ruggiero explain the huge monetary negotiation that had to take place in order to allow Matienzo to be present in the live feed. They explain that ultimately a company called ONCuba Magazine provided sponsorship for a network connection to broadcast with SAIC.
In the live feed, which was ultimately only possible at certain points in the exhibitions duration because of cost, the artist calls out to the viewer and asks him or her to place his or her hands on the backlit projection screen in order to mimic her actions. While playing the game, the viewer wonders if he or she has been dubiously tricked into staring into an unknown or othered reflection of the self. During the opening night, Matienzo waited for participants to come interact with her. Many looked on her with caution and often would utter anemic laughs while shooting glances to the virtually present artist. Often times Matienzo would laugh herself and ask— “who is there”— unable to see beyond the shallow range of the web cam.
Mirror of Patience, conceived by the artist in 2013, at first seemingly places the viewer and artist on a level playing field. Upon closer inspection, while the gallery has unlimited Internet access, the artist is only able to use the Internet through a special sponsorship she was able to receive because of her status as an artist, someone who in Cuban society has much more mobility and capital power, Villalobos and Ruggiero explain. In a post-Snowden cultural climate, Matienzo use of the Internet is a testament to the remaining possibility of dissident action. Yet, one is all too aware that the gesture is not utopian, she is not celebrating the world without borders but pointing to the artifice of the image of a timeless and borderless space.
Glenda Leon’s Inversion also muses on structures of meaning. In the single channel video, the artist scrapes the ink off a 100 dollar bill and then snorts the particles that remain after her intervention. This could be interpreted as a metaphor of the Internet, for accessing the Internet in 2014 or 15 is to reach a promised utopia but when one scrapes the surface, this essential freedom seems to fall apart. Cuban citizens can create a simple act of protest out of a simple action of hacking, and yet these actions and words are always being archived, cross-listed, and can and will be used against them.
In the CAC take-away pamphlet, Diaz-Perera describes how he was born in Havana, Cuba in 1991 “at the beginning of the Special Period, an economic crisis resulting from a combination of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. Embargo, and the internal systemic controls.” Most of the artist in Cuban Virtualities also lived through this Special Period where power structures crumbled and the nation was isolated by the embargo. In many ways, Cuban life has been defined by the cross-pollination of U.S. and Cuban relationships and the continual reconfiguration of identity through absorption of other cultures in colonial periods. Yet in a sense, these other cultures, specifically American in this incident, have been an imposition. Villalobos’ comments on Mirror of Patience as a “laying bare” of the reality of this co-dependency or in other words, the hell that connectivity can usher in as one side waits to begin to continue to communicate. It is in fact this waiting (awaiting) for information, for a sentence, or for connectivity, the same game that Diaz-Perera also plays in jest, that turns the would be freedom of emigrating or live-stream into the first of many entrapments.
 Cuban Virtualities: curated by Rewell Altunaga and Liz Munsell, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; organized at SAIC by Gibran Villalobos (Dual MA 2013) and Wil Ruggiero
 Zygmunt Bauman explains one of the attributes of power in post-modern or liquid modern times is the access to mobility and the rate of this acquisition: “Velocity of movement and access to faster means of mobility steadily rose in modern times to the position of the principal tool of power and domination” (9).
 Fusco, Coco. “The State of Detention: Performance, Politics, and the Cuban Public.” e-flux.com. N.p., 6 Jan. 2015. Web. 8 Mar. 2015.
 Lovink, Geert. “Hermes on the Hudson: Notes on Media Theory after Snowden.” e-flux.com. N.p., Apr. 2014. Web. 8 Mar. 2015.
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In the popular imagination, bookshops in Notting Hill may be where bumbling Englishmen meet Hollywood filmstars. Last night it was where a bumbling art writer, played by myself, got to meet some of the UK’s most successful bloggers.
The venue was Book and Kitchen, who deserve props for the bohemian setting, mean jazzsoundtrack and fantastic three course meal. Since there’s no such thing as a free meal, we bloggers were encouraged, between mouthfuls, to discuss our medium of choice.
You can check out the results on @blog10, an enterprising venture by a PR agency called Marmalade. There was a lot of talent and success in the room: from a book blogger who’s landed a UK and US publishing deal (Ann Morgan) to a young vlogger who has the brands queueing up to feature on her profit-making lifestyle blog (Abisole Amole).
Thankfully, eclectic London blogger Katie Antoniou had plenty to say, recalling the time when blogs first emerged as the honest antidote to “bullshit” editorial. (Integrity, it seems, is still a blogger’s best friend, even in the current climate of bribery and gifting.) “I don’t have the ego for journalism,” she explained, which seemed to resonate around the table.
Rona Wheeldon has a niche even more obscure than contemporary art. She is a flower blogger, who waxed lyrical about the potential for filming posts and hosting a YouTube channel. “Vlogs can show emotion!” she insisted, even though last time I checked, the written word can sometimes do the same.
Things turned comic when book bloggers Morgan and Kim Forrester revealed statistical spikes from wayward web users who stumble upon their sites in search of resources forsex tourism. We laughed about it, but it was a reminder that despite its academic origins, the web is still not the best place for serious discussions. Nevertheless, with their literate audiences, both bloggers have built readership and communities within their crowded field.
Indeed it was widely reported that finding an audience and a network of peers could still be the number one reason for starting a blog. Even if in recent years comments are very hard to come by (“Who’s got time to comment?” we asked). Time is an increasing issue, as one faces the introduction of a two speed internet where large web corporations choke smaller players. Morgan raised fears of losing the level playing field bloggers now enjoy.
Several of us bemoaned the encroachment of social media ads and promoted posts. The latest platform to introduce ads appears to be Instagram. Starbucks and UK supermarket Waitrose had reached out to a couple of the photobloggers among us. Although to be fair, their presence wasn’t totally unwelcome. Amole revealed a thriving existence of the coffee giants’ #redcups hashtag. She is relaxed about it.
As the meal drew to a close we took questions about blogging from twitter. One eager user requested three tips from each of us in turn. Find a niche. Use social media. Build a brand. The wisdom was flowing by this point. But perhaps interiors blogger Kate Baxter had the last word. Don’t get into blogging to get free stuff or money. It probably won’t happen. You may however one day be invited to a West London blogging salon. Things could be worse.