Several months ago, I was invited to share a blog with a stranger. On that blog, I was asked to write about art & reciprocity. I met Erik Hagoort that way. I read his posts and he read mine. Sometimes we responded to one another. The blog itself came from a larger project artists Kirsten Leenaars andÂ Lise Haller Baggesen were curating. That show, Mutualisms, (opens this Friday September 9th at the CoProsperity Sphere) features work made by artists paired together–half of the pair comes from the Netherlands, the other half is local to Chicago. Over the last six+ months, these pairs have been working together, building a dialogue more or less from scratch, in order to install work here. It’s a show about networks and relationships. It’s a show about community, and how that can arise with an ocean between us. In addition to the exhibit, CoPro is also hosting a symposium on Sunday (September 11th, from 1-5) to address the issue of art and reciprocity: an interesting question, given that so much of what we think about in terms of community building and art relies on expectations of return, or taking turns, or sharing. How do those themes also manifest themselves in a discrete work of art born from collaboration? In the following interview, Erik and I asked Lise and Kirsten some questions about the origin of the show, how to think about it critically, and even how its global perspective addresses arts funding strategies.
Caroline Picard: So often an exhibition is the culmination of work; while of course, MutualismsÂ is a culmination,there has been an on-going dialogue taking place on-line via blogs (both the one that you all keep as the Mutualisms site, and of course the blog you invited me to participate on with Erik). How did you think to frame the project via blogs and exhibitions? And what was it like pairing artists in different parts of the world?
Kirsten Leenaars &Â Lise Haller Baggesen: We had just met in Chicago last year, right before the Propeller Fund application was due. One of the things we had been talking about is that we at times had missed an international influx of artists in Chicago. The other thing that struck us is that while having both lived in Amsterdam and now in Chicago we had been part of quite different artistic and friend networks that only partially overlapped. Adding these elements up thought we could combine our networks to create an extended grid from which to organize a show. So, you could say that the show also came about as a mutual exchange between us [Kirsten and Lise], due to a need of expanding our own artistic and social horizons, the main idea being that the art world functions more or less through connections and relationships. We wanted to create a platform through which we could facilitate these relationships and form new connections amongst our combined networks.
Because we both are primarily artists, makers, and curators and thinkers secondarily, we curated the show very much from the point of view of the individual artistâ€™s practice, rather than as an illustration of an intellectual or theoretical idea (not that we are anti-intellectuals, far from it!). So, we tried to combine artists that we felt had a similar approach or a similar sensibility, hoping that the connections we observed were something they could see too, or that they might discover their own links through a dialogue with each other about their own practices. When we invited the artists to participate in the show we made very clear that the dialogue between each pair was an essential part of the concept and that they needed to be willing to engage in this what undoubtedly was at times-especially at first â€“ potentially an awkward exchange. Kind of like any first date can be. Some of the pairs readily jumped to the occasion and hit it off immediately, others definitively needed a little bit more time and coercing. Both and even the potential for a mismatch are part of concept of the show and we guess in some ways a risk we as the curators or organizers took. Our main objective really was to plant some seeds for potential mutual relationships that would grow and develop and extend beyond the scope of the Mutualisms project.
The blogs seemed to just be a very logic consequence of the fact that the artists were residing on different continents and the blog became a space where they could meet. Not just as a pair but also as the group on a whole. The blog allowed them to also see how the other pairs were connecting and what ideas were being exchanged. In addition we thought it would be make this process visible and public â€” often this kind of exchange often remains quite private â€“ because the dialogue can get quite personal â€“ but it gives great insight to the artistâ€™s practice and creates almost organically a context for the work and the show on the whole.
CP: Â There are some really incredible (and devastating, I think) movements in Europe (I guess I’m thinking largely about the UK) to cut funding for philosophy departments, art departments and even departments of literature. I understand from talking to you all the first day we met that a similar situation is taking place in Holland–and then too, I feel like some of the fears have twinged American consciousness as well (for instance, I’m thinking of what compelled Martha Nassbaum to write Not-for-Profit, which struck me as a defense of the arts). How do you feel this show might speak to that? In some ways, I’m asking because you’re relating two vastly different arts-funding strategies (the mostly private American version vs. the largely government subsidized (is that even the right way to think about it?)) and suddenly the work of those systems is materializing here in Chicago which is so interesting, I think. Maybe especially because you both have had such extensive experience in both worlds…
KL & LHB: To begin with, the show was curated â€˜organicallyâ€™, from a practice kind of view; it’s not really meant to illustrate a point about the proâ€™s and conâ€™s of arts funding, or anything like that. That kind of got thrown in the mix, because of the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Netherlands, which came about simultaneously to us curating the show and, ironically, receiving a considerate amount of financial support from the Netherlands, for the show. So it kind of both reinforced the cliche about the â€˜spoiledâ€™ European artists, while at the same time highlighting the possibilities and the fragility that kind of position affords. Through that government support, Dutch artists were able to all come to Chicago, allowing for the artist pairs to actually meet. We have noticed that these physical encounters fortified the connections and dialogue and are raising the show to the next level. Bearing in mind too that the show in Chicago is only part one. Next summer we hope to host a show in the Netherlands, and we are asking the current participating artists to continue their dialogue with each other. How we will fund this show will be our next challengeâ€¦
Funnily enough, both sides of the arts funding argument like to pull the â€˜qualityâ€™ card, as an argument for their stance. I.e. a private art market leads to â€˜better artâ€™ because the artists have to fend for themselves vs. art funding leads to â€˜better qualityâ€™ art because you have a â€™peer support systemâ€™ that is free of commercial interests. But, when you look around in the show, itâ€™s not lack of quality that characterizes either group, to the contrary! There are different sensibilities of course, that are typical of American vs. European works, that has to do with a sense of place and belonging to a certain cultural heritage, but just as often itâ€™s hard to tell off hand which is which, and quality wise they are certainly level pecking!
Erik Hogaart:Â Â Since the mid nineties of the last century the so-called relational tendency in the art world seems to prevail. This is not only referring to Nicolas Bourriaud’s famous statement of art being a state of encounter. The ‘relational’ has had a much wider impact, even extending into a feeling that networks of artists, curators, and audience not only surround the art work but become even artworks in themselves. This doesn’t exclude the appreciation of artworks of course, artists and curators involve other artists and curators on the basis of what they make and do. Yet, relations, even friendship seems to take a bigger part of the “art’s cake”. Russian curator Viktor Misiano has called it the tendency of confidentiality. And a project such as Mutualisms could, thinking along, also be called a confidential project. What do you, Lise and Kirsten, think of this? What is the balance for you between creating an opportunity for artists to make works, and creating an opportunity for artists to relate to one another. These two aspects of Mutualisms are of course connected, but in what way?
KL & LHB:Â Two things were very clear from the beginning. One, we wanted to be transparent about
the way we had curated the show and where these artists were coming from. Yes, these artists were selected from our pool of friends and acquaintances. This is perhaps often an unspoken given â€” something acknowledged behind closed doors â€” but being transparent about that is really at the base of our concept for the show. And in that sense never confidential. In addition these relationships are documented and visible for the public on our blogs. Secondly, yes, the primary reason for choosing each of the artists was based on their own strong practices, not on how much we liked the individual. One does not exclude the other, and what could be potentially more productive than fostering a relationship between a pair of driven practitioners? The dialogue ultimately has the objective to allow new ways of looking at each otherâ€™s practice, to inspire a dialogue about ways of thinking and making that ultimately find their ways back to an artistâ€™s practice. Of course if the match truly was a productive one, perhaps this can lead to other opportunities, further productions and collaborations etc. We do hope for these relationships â€“ as mentioned before â€“ to extend beyond Mutualisms. And if friendships are formed through this dialogue as well, than that is an added bonus.
EH: A question, which is philosophically triggered by Jacques Derrida’s statement: “the artwork is vertical, and slightly leaning.” This idea of the verticality of the artwork stresses confrontation, awe, being struck. Quite opposite is the idea of relationships and networks, which stresses horizontality, encounter between entities in the same/ equal position. Especially when artists connect to each other, and form mutual networks, how does these two models fit in? Mutualism, or reciprocity: how does it relate to these two concepts. Is there still space for the vertical within the horizontal?
KL & LHB:Â What you are implying here, is that inherent to an open â€˜democraticâ€™ curatorial process is the risk that the resulting product will also be â€˜democratic: i.e. not â€˜sublimeâ€™, a risk you are also touching on with your questions for the symposium when you state: â€˜in the arts a strong tradition has opposed reciprocity. Artâ€™s autonomy should prevail above exchange.â€™
Yes, that is a risk, and a risk we embraced as we were preparing for the show, because the encounter or the exchange that this structure entails, also invites the possibility of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Just like the idea of democracy: â€˜together we are strongâ€™ this show was an open invitation to the artists to participate in a dialogue, in which they could make new art works that lay outside the boundaries of their own practice, or by pairing individual (existing) works that would allow the work to be contextualized in a new way. Some of the artists involved really stepped up to this challenge and engaged in a creative process, with an outcome that was surprising both to us, and to themselves. Others, you could say, â€˜played it safeâ€™ and are showing more in parallel.
Every art work implies an encounter, social relationship. Namely between the artÂ work and the viewer. Approaching art in this way implies an investigation of the social situation in which art takes place and encounters society. It focuses on the encounter in the moment of perception and communication, it underlines the role of projection in the exchange with a spectator, a public which is constantly being reconstituted. What does that ephemeral, individual or collective imagination bring forth? In what way does imagination not only produce the artwork, but also a social relationship? This question is the primary one. Each of the artists that participate, create work. They have different ways of engaging in this process. But for none of the artists is the encounter in itself the artwork. Neither do we as the curators of the show, see the encounter, or the relationship as the work. The show is a model for exchange, this exchange happens between the artists, the curators and ultimately between the viewer and the work that is on display â€“ a result of prior conversations. So with this show we also ask who participates in this process, and what does participation mean in this context? So the horizontal and vertical in our Mutualisms project are two axes in a grid where each of the artists individually and as pairs can be located on different positions within this grid.
This week I do have a full Top 5 for you, and this isn’t all there is out there worth seeing this weekend. Golden Gallery is opening a new show, as well as their annex. HungryMan is hosting a solo exhibit curated by Jason Lazaus. NoCoast and Perigrineprogram are both rocking out with new shows over in Pilsen. Revolution Tattoo looks like it’s hosting some fucked-up version of the Muppet show, and the grand ole’ ‘Tute is beginning a fantastic tribute show to Louis Sullivan. And to top it off, you can go see punk-folk at CvsD. And this isn’t even the Top 5 picks yet! It’s squaring up to be a good weekend. No sitting at home drinking beer, get off your ass and go see some art!
The second iteration of a joint show featuring the works of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Daniel Albrigo. Also opening that night at WesEx: The Power of Selection, part 2, curated by Ryan Travis Christian and featuring the work of Evan Gruzis, Denise Kupferschmidt, Keegan McHargue, and Dana Dart-McLean.
Western Exhibitions is located at 119 N. Peoria St., suite 2A. Reception is Friday from 5-8pm.
Oh ICP, you will never cease to inspire amazing things. My Funhouse, a series from Johanna Wawro and Andy Resekis, is a photo and video installation about the Juggalo Family.
Eastern Expansion is located at 244 W 31st St. Reception is Saturday from 7-11pm.
And I quote, “A conglomeration of new photographs, drawings, sculpture, moving image and sound by the founding members of ACRE, Chicago’s newest Artist Residency (that takes place in the great state of Wisconsin!).” Including the work of Caitlin Arnold, Olivia Ciummo, Scott Cowan, Kyle Cronan, Melissa Damasauskas, Rachel Ettling, Aron Gent, Henry James Glover, John Paul Glover, Emily Green, Brieanne Hauger, Katy Keefe, Jason Lazarus, Greg Stimac and Nicholas Wylie.
The Hills Esthetic Center is located at 128 N Campbell Ave, G. Reception is Friday from 8-11pm.
And I quote, “The images depict influential, yet highly overlooked and occasionally controversial Christian figures who, had they lived in the present, might have been a source of inspiration to gays and lesbians.” Work by Robert Lentz, Lewis Williams, William Hart McNichols, and David Lee Csicsko.
La Llorona is located at 1474 W. Webster Ave. Reception is Friday from 6pm-1am.
And I quote, “Contemporary collage inspired work by Juan Angel Chavez, Lydia Diemer, Stephen Eichhorn, Clark Ellithorpe, Chad Kouri, Alexis Mackenzie, Leslie Mutchler, and Neva Sills.”
NEIU Fine Arts Center Gallery is located at 5500 N St Louis Ave. Reception is Friday from 6-9pm.
Hey ya’ll. There are quite a few shows I’m interested in the weekend, not all of which are getting dropped into the Top 5, but which still bear a mention: Bob Jones at 65 Grand, Ann and Maria Ponce at Packer Schopf, Joe Hardesty at Western Exhibitions, Creator/Curator at HungryMAN Gallery, and New Blood 3 at the Chicago Cultural Center. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it to everything, but you’ll be happy with any of the above mentioned selections along side any or all the shows listed in the Top 5 (which, by the way, are listed in no particular order). That’s it for now, get your ass out there and see some art!
Top 5 for 11/20-11/22:
1. Technically, It’s Art at Abryant Gallery
Abryant Gallery, run by Angela Bryant, is one of those spaces that Chicago is so good at producing, a space run by people just out of school, showing people just out of school, but actually doing it relatively well. For this round, Bryant is featuring the work of Eric Ashcraft, Madeleine Bailey, Mark Beasley, Rebecca Berman, GROUP CABIN, Andy Cahill, Lauren Gregory, Maxon Higbee, Aaron Hoffman, Nadia Hotait, Mik Kastner, Lisa MAjer, Gary Pennock, Sarah Perez, Micah Schippa, Briana Schweizer, Alan Strathmann and Synica Whitney in Technically, It’s Art.
Opening Reception: Friday 7-10pm. Abryant Gallery is located at 1842 N. Damen Ave., 4th Fl.
2. IN(DI)VISIBLE at Noble & Superior Projects
For their second exhibition, Noble & Superior Projects, a new apartment gallery space, is putting up the work of TW Li’ and Whitney Faile called IN(DI)VISIBLE. I am really impressed by N&S P, the couple who run it are damn professional, and though the work isn’t the best thing I’ve ever seen in Chicago (a bit of a tall order), they show some goos stuff for an apartment gallery. I am particularly interested int TW Li’s work (have a look at his website), but I’m a fan of their paring strategy, so I bet the dialog between Li and Faile’s work will be worth seeing.
Opening Reception: Friday 6-10pm. Noble & Superior Projects is located at 1418 W Superior St. #2R
OK, so here’s the deal for right now. Every week (well almost every week) I do a pick of shows that I think are most likely worth seeing (I am often wrong). The problem is that I sometimes don’t get to go to all the shows on my list (I generally see art on the weekend and usually just go to openings, I don’t have the “it’s so crowded in here, I can’t see the art” issue, I just shove my way through and look, but I digress). So this week I am giving ya’ll a list of where exactly I am going. I chose this route because I noticed something odd this weekend, there are seven apartment gallery show openings and closings in the next three days. I figured, what the hell, I’m going to be out, some of these places I like, some of them I don’t really like, some of them I’ve never visited, why not make a circuit of them all, a selection of this Chicago art institution known as the “Apartment Gallery” and see the “State of the Apartment” so to speak. And (this was added after the list was mostly done), I like openings that go till 10 or 11 at night, you can cram a lot more in that way.
APARTMENT GALLERY OPENINGS (AND CLOSINGS) THIS WEEKEND:
1. Australia at Concertina Gallery
And I quote, “Acting as a springboard for works by both Anthea Behm and Aron Gent, Baz Luhrmann’s 2008 movie Australia provides loaded content for each artist to pick apart and reconstruct. Though the artists work off the same source material, they diverge in form and intention. Triggering questions of cultural ownership and responsibility, Behm and Gent address the cultural transmission between those represented and those representing.” This is how the gallery describes the show. I’m most interested in going to see Anthea’s work, she’s a friend of mine and I’m curious to see what she’s been doing.
Concertina Gallery is located at 2351 N. Milwaukee Avenue, 2nd Floor. Opening Reception: Friday 7-10pm
2. Double Fantasy at Noble & Superior Projects
So this place is brand-spankin’-new. I don’t even know if it is actually an apartment gallery, though all indicators point to that (especially the directions that once you get to the address, “Rear House, Through The Gate!!!”). As you can see by the ever-so-informative card-announcement-thingie, the show features the work of Ivan Lozano and Kate Brock. I can’t find a website for Kate Brock, guess you’ll just have to go to the show.
Noble & Superior Projects is located at 1418 W. Superior St. #2R. Opening Reception: Friday 6-10pm
A two for one in Bridgeport. For those of you who haven’t been there, these two “galleries” are both part of the same apartment, secondBEDROOM located in, you guessed it…and Medicine Cabinet is the name for the installation space/bathroom.
In the secondBEDROOM: “Thad Kellstadt’s After Effects attempts to explore the possible afterlife of objects, once dependent on human touch, now neglected but possessing a new presence. Some believe that the breaking of a mirror brings a lengthy stint of bad luck due to the soul confiscating power of the mirrors reflective surface.” Yep.
and in the Medicine Cabinet: “Pharmaceutical marketing strategies and scenic nature photography combine to serve up a warning: Donâ€™t get too comfortable on that plateau. While the view is spectacular there are other forces at work, just out of earshot and bubbling their way toward the placid peaks.” Uh huh.
secondBEDROOM and Medicine Cabinet are located at 3216 S. Morgan Street Apt. 4R. Opening Reception: Saturday 7-11pm.
4. The Trunk Show at Barbara and Barbara
Barbara and Barbara do love you, as their web address so astutely says. For this round the Barbara-ganza is putting on a show dealing with the idea of travel.The show includes the work of a crap-load of people, incuding: Sierra Berquist, Ben Bontempo, Peter McLean-Browne, Evan Burrows, Pete Cuba, Fred Frederick, Julia V. Hendrickson, Landon Manucci, Colin Nusbaum, Emma Powell, Scott Reinhard, David Schalliol, Elizabeth Stoutamire, Christopher Sykora, Sean Sykora, Jessie Vogel, Kelly Wallis, RustÃ©l Weiss, Hannah Zurko
Barbara and Barbara is located at 1021 N. Western Ave. Opening Reception: Saturday 7-10pm.
Ok, so I’m a bit confused as to who exactly MVSEVM are and whether or not there are two of them. So, instead of linking to the blog that seems like it might be theirs but says they are on vacation, I’m linking ya’ll to the On The Make (another wonderful site) page about the show and gallery. And I quote, “For its second exhibition MVSEVM invites eight diverse artists to contribute site specific works and installations that address the ambiguity of the space as both domestic and professional, private and public, as well as external concerns. In Exhibition 2.10242009 these inquiries manifest in an interrogation of social paradigms, raising questions pertaining to human relationships filtered through biological and technological themes.” Artists in the show: David Brooks, Joe Cruz, Chris Cuellar, Szu-Han Ho, Jesse Vogler, Gabriel Martinez, T UMâ€™, Andrew Yang and Harley Young.
MVSEVM is located at 1626 N California Ave. #2. Opening Reception: Saturday 6-10pm.
6. Deedee Davis and Casey Roberts at Home Gallery
Less of an apartment gallery and more of, well, a home (go figure), Home Gallery is located down in Hyde Park and run by Laura Shaeffer. For this round of exhibitions, Home will be featuring the work of Deedee Davis and Casey Roberts.
Home Gallery is located at 1407 E. 54th Pl. Opening Reception: Saturday 6-9pm.
7. Marginal Waters at Golden Gallery
So, this isn’t and opening, it’s a closing. Golden is also, like Home, on the edge of the “apartment gallery” definition, but what the hell. For this round of Golden-tastic-atude, they are closing out Marginal Waters, work from the 80s by Doug Ischar. And I quote, yet again, “Ischar will exhibit a body of photographs from 1985, never before seen in its entirety, taken on the now defunct Belmont Rocks in the city of Chicago, and a new single-channel video work.” The closing is also rolled together with the catalog release, and there’ll be an interview with John Neff.
Home Gallery is located at 816 W. Newport. Reception/Catalog Release: Sunday 3-6pm.