A. The Death Instinct and the Life Instinct:
The Death Instinct: separation, individuality, Avant-Garde par excellence; to follow one’s own path to death—do your own thing, dynamic, change.
The Life Instinct: unification, the eternal return, the perpetuation and MAINTENANCE of the species, survival systems and operations, equilibrium.
– Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Manifesto for Maintenance Art, 1969!
Publications discussed here (an asterisk means it came out less than 365 days ago):
- Let It Sink by Jim Joyce (victimsofmathematics at gmail, 2013)*
- Filmme Fatales Issue 1, ed. Brodie Lancaster (filmmefatales.com, 2013)*
- Cha-Ching! by Ali Liebegott (City Lights/Sister Spit, 2013)*
- Collisions by Brendan Monroe (brendanmonroe.com, ??)
- Life Form by Amélie Nothomb, trans. Alison Anderson (Europa Editions, 2013)*
- Rumspringa by Tom Schachtman (North Point, 2006)
Right now I’m taking a class with some painters—mostly we read, and talk—and the other day, we were talking about endings. For painters, I’m learning endings mean say, photography, and intubated paint, and Rodchenko. I’m a writer so I started thinking about Samuel Beckett, the Independent Press Association, Kathy Acker’s parrots and pirates, her red/read. But more generally, meditating to “This body will be a corpse,” and to be fair that really just used to crack me up. It is very hard for ex-Sad Teenage Girls like myself to meditate to that, because for so long we were like “Yes I know, hurry up already.” Read more
So you may have noticed that I’ve started posting a “week in review” column — as a way to tie different posts together and map what has taken place on Bad at Sports. Usually I post this column over the weekend — on Saturday or Sunday. However, this week/end I was out of town, so even though Mondays are about moving on and looking forward, I thought I’d pause to look back a moment. And, unlike my usual style, this week I’m going to go BACKWARDSzzzz.
The theme I found had to with books and book love and catalogues and the material of records.
Bailey Romaine (Happy Birthday, Bailey!) posted a really lovely interview between herself and SPARE, an artist residency and bookmaking project in Chicago’s SouthSide. It is run out of Kyle and Shannon Schlie’s apartment, where the two have reserved one room for artists to live and another for their Risograph printer — which, btw, I deeply deeply covet. As a lover of artist-run-project spaces, a bibliofile and a bookmaker, you can imagine why I would get so excited about this conversation. At one point Kyel Schlie says:
I came to books through art, so I often think of them in that context. Because I’m interested in how objects, and the ideas they carry, move and live in the world, books open up a lot of options that aren’t as likely for other art-type things. I feel like books have a potentially wider, or at least different, reach that interests me. Books circulate, books are distributed, and so on, which to me, feels like an exciting active process; one which I would like to take beyond just books.
Carrying on with the theme of books, Monica Westin interviewed Jessica Cochran, Columbia’s Curator of Exhibitions and Programs at the Center for Book and Paper Arts Gallery, about their current show “Structures for Reading: Text, (Infra)Structure, and the Reading Body in Contemporary Art,” — which opens up the conversation about artist books per se, connecting them to the body and the process of reading:
Now that the physical book’s very existence is in flux once again, the discourse around their fate and role in our lives is, one might suggest, incongruent to their reality as inanimate objects. If you read or listen to discourse around disappearing bookshops, or talk to a reader who is defiantly holding out against that “inevitable” Kindle purchase, you’ll find that these conversations are incredibly passionate—it’s like we think of these books as living things! This helps explain the currency of the book itself as a visual signifier of our contemporaneity, or what Terry Smith calls, “our passing present” particularly when it is sited within contemporary art projects.
Stephanie Burke did it again with everybody’s favorite Top 5 Weekend Picks.
Thea Liberty Nichols posted about The Stockyard Institute, using a text that will be published in an upcoming catalogue about their work, translating their very material, installation and situational interests into a book. In her closing paragraph, Nichols writes:
From the beginning, SI’s students have also been their teachers. Through a marriage of art and politics, they have acted transparently, embraced inclusivity, and stayed true to their belief that there’s plenty to go around. Above all, they appreciate a good spectacle, and this has been their trademark maneuver for reeling us in. The deal is sealed however, as soon as we realize that, through sheer force of will, they have the power to transform the ideal into the real.
I felt like there was a interesting, ambient connection between SI’s interest in material, and the presence of books this week (which I’ve started to think more generally as records, or placeholders of memory) in Julie Green’s work — a Northwest artist that Sarah Margolis-Pineo interviewed. Green has been working on an on-going series of blue and white paintings on porcelain dishes, painting the last meals inmates:
Corvallis-based painter Julie Green has opted to address the deeply flawed system of capital punishment head on. Her ongoing series, The Last Supper, has been a twelve-year pursuit to reveal the humanity on death row through intimate portraits of last meal requests painted on ceramic plates.
The plates, currently numbering 500, are a dissonant accumulation of lives lived and lost. Displayed in clusters along the perimeter of The Arts Center, (Corvallis, OR), each constellation speaks to an ad hoc arrangement of family portraits, a domestic sensibility that is amplified ten-fold by the use of readymade tableware as canvas. Despite the gravity of the subject matter, there is a touch of whimsy to Green’s project. Her meticulously rendered pizza slices, honeybuns, and hamburgers are most often completed without any visual referent. Filtered through the artist’s memory, the foods are imbued with an illustrative quality that borders on cartoony, speaking to the endearing texture of Maira Kalman rather than the inherent gloom of the memento mori. Further, each object in The Last Supper is painted in the tradition of blue-and-white china, a hue that is simultaneously absurd and significant, drawing from one of the most recognized traditions in ceramic worldwide, from Jingdezhen ware to Willowware.
The Last Supper, an exhibit with 500 of these aforementioned plates will be exhibited at The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, (Eugene, OR), in March, and travel to The Art Gym, (Portland, OR), in April, 2013.
I reposted an essay about performance by Amy Sherlock, and strangely feel like it also ties in to this overview, or memorialization or events particularly as it pertains to performance. She writes: “The Abramovic phenomenon in particular has come to exemplify the complicated alliance between performance, the museum, and institutional and commercial gallery spaces. For all its professed immediacy and the emphasis on the ephemeral ‘present,’ MoMA did a good job of packaging up ’the moment’ and circulating it. There are photographs, official catalogue and the feature-length film.” Which is exactly what books do, or (it would seem) plates.
Last, but certainly not least — there was a great hub-bub on Monday between the lush and vibrant images of Paul Germanos and Dana Bassett’s Edition #3 of T (Guess what’s Trending: COUPLES), with a new and fancy pants layout that makes it feel almost like a print publication.
As always — thanks for reading, Chicago et al. We Love You.
Stay Tuned for some writing on performance, Object Oriented Ontology, New York, London, and more coming up this week.
December 22, 2010 · Print This Article
Check out Caroline Picard’s interview with the Chicago writer (and Bad at Sports’ literary correspondent) Terri Griffith on The Lantern Daily about Griffith’s book So Much Better. Here’s a brief excerpt from their conversation; read the full interview here.
CP: Could you talk a little about what your process for writing this book was like? How long were you working on So Much Better? How did you “discover” the characters? And really, what’s up with a credit union?
TG: So Much Better is my third stab at trying to write about a story I read in the Seattle Times, or maybe it was the Post-Intelligencer. It was about a woman, a middle class, white woman, wearing nice department store clothes and high-end make-up, who was found dead in a hotel room. She had committed suicide and had been dead a few days before they found her. The thing about the article that struck me was what the detective said. He said that about once a year, woman just like her turned up dead. A woman who by all outward measure wouldn’t be considered disenfranchised, but somehow was. A woman who was never reported missing. This is the idea that plagued me. How do you live in this world and arrive at a place where no one would know you are gone? What about work or family? Oddly, I still haven’t written this particular story. But certainly my protagonist Liz knows exactly what it means to have no ties. The Credit Union? My girlfriend worked for a credit union. She was a really bad teller because her drawer never balanced at the end of the day. Just off by a penny or two, but they don’t care in banking. It didn’t matter that she blew everyone out of the water on the Federal regulation tests. At the end of the day, your drawer has to balance. Credit Unions are really popular in The Pacific Northwest. I’ve been a Credit Union member for twenty years. Actually, I still do all my banking at my college Credit Union. I am crazy obsessed with people’s job. I love to listen to people’s work stories. Work is like our second family, and for some people it’s their first. There needs to be more stories about office life. Netflix tells me my favorite shows are “witty workplace comedies.” There are a few books that I really love that I consider in the same vein as So Much Better. Something Happened, by Joseph Heller. Death of the Author, by Gilbert Adair. Also Julie Hecht’s Do the Window’s Open? They are all empty books, with isolated protagonists who are tied to their work. (Read More).
A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of interviewing Martha Wilson via email in conjunction with the Visiting Artist Program lecture she is giving at the School of the Art Institute tomorrow night. Wilson is a significant figure in the history of feminist art, but even more important has been her championing of the artist’s book and her historic work as co-founder and director of Franklin Furnace Archive, which launched in 1976 as a performance and exhibition space located in Wilson’s loft. Today, 30+ years later, the core mission of Franklin Furnace seems just as urgent as ever: “to present, preserve, interpret, proselytize and advocate on behalf of avant-garde art, especially forms that may be vulnerable due to institutional neglect, their ephemeral nature, or politically unpopular content.” I asked Ms. Wilson some questions about several different areas of her practice, and am extremely grateful to her for taking the time to answer. You’ll be able to ask Martha Wilson questions of your own tomorrow, Tuesday November 9th, at 6pm at SAIC’s Columbus Auditorium, 280 South Columbus Drive. Directions and info here.
Claudine Ise: Much of your early conceptual/performative work dealt with identity and the exploration of what you’ve described as “personality sculpting.” In the piece titled A Portfolio of Models, for example, you enacted “the models society holds out to me: Goddess, Housewife, Working Girl, Professional, Earth-Mother, Lesbian.” Being an artist was one of very few categories that encompassed all of these identities (or none of them) – a way to avoid getting stuck as either one or the other. I’m curious if now, more than thirty-five years after you did that piece, you think that that range of popular models for women has expanded?
Martha Wilson: Certainly the range of popular models for women has expanded! I guess what annoys me is that there remains a double standard for the assertive behavior necessary to get ahead: In men, it is seen as appropriate and desirable, while in women it is seen as aggressive and bitchy.
CI: You made another piece in 1973 called “Selfportrait,” where the audience was integral to the work. They were asked to write down who they thought you were on pieces of paper and give them to you. Among other things, you were exploring the notion of the self as something malleable, and which also perhaps could only be known as a reflection of other people’s projections. I find the idea of ‘personality sculpting’ to be really suggestive in terms of how people present themselves on the Internet today. I don’t know how personally engaged you are with social media, but it does seem to be the case that nowadays people are constantly in the process of shaping their personas for public consumption – it’s a form of self-portraiture that we all engage in.
MW: After the Culture Wars of the 80s and 90s, I noticed that the concern of artists in the new millennium shifted from sexuality to concern for privacy in the online environment. Now there has been yet another shift, to the polar opposite: Everyone posts private information on blogs, on YouTube, on Facebook, on Twitter. The networked environment started to level the social playing field, and this trend will only continue as the Guggenheim solicits YouTube videos from regular folks and exhibits them in the museum environment. A century later, the desire of the Italian Futurists to make art that appeals to the hoi polloi is being fulfilled by the hoi polloi itself.
CI: The collection of artist’s books that Franklin Furnace has amassed is amazing and historically unique. You were one of the first people to recognize the importance of artists’ books, and the necessity of documenting and historicizing them. I’m curious about what led you to become such a passionate advocate of the book/publication format given your own early work had been so rooted in performance?
MW: The connection between the text and performance for me was through the practice of Conceptual art in the early 1970s. The artists invited to visit the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design–such as Vito Acconci, Carl Andre, Joseph Beuys, Dan Graham, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Peter Kubelka, Sol LeWitt, Dennis Oppenheim, Ian Wilson– blurred the distinctions between thought and action, words and deeds. For example, here are Lawrence Weiner’s thoughts about the existence of a work of art:
1. The artist may construct the work/
2. The piece may be fabricated/
3. The piece need not be built/ Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership
Here is one of the pieces in Weiner’s 1968 book, Statements:
One regular rectangular object placed across an international boundary allowed to rest then turned to and turned upon to intrude the portion of one country into the other.
Because the type of this text is set in the form of a brick, word and image intersect in the idea of the artist. Are these not instructions for a performance? In fact, when I founded Franklin Furnace in 1976, I invited artists to read to the public. (The term “artists’ books” did not exist as yet to describe contemporary, and cheap, publishing by artists.) Every single artist chose to manipulate the performative elements (light, sound, relationship to the audience, props, costume, time) as part and parcel of the work. (The misnomer “performance art” had not as yet taken hold either.) The word in vogue at the time was “piece,” which encompassed the thought, the action, the documentation-drawn or photographed or filmed or published or taped-whatever.
CI: You started Franklin Furnace out of your loft, in part to showcase your growing collection of artists’ books and also as a performance venue. Franklin Furnace grew and evolved after that to become an organization dedicated to presenting all kinds of nontraditional art forms (especially performance art and printed matter). Its impact has been immense, and yet the concept of Franklin Furnace as a “space” has undergone some radical changes over the years. Franklin Furnace is now “dematerialized,” although its work has gone on as before. Can you talk a bit about why it made sense for you to move away from Franklin Furnace as a physical venue and towards an internet-based space?
MW: In the wake of the Culture Wars, the Board and I had a series of discussions about how Franklin Furnace could provide artists with the same freedom of expression they enjoyed in the loft in the 70s. We decided that the Internet- perhaps not forever, but for now–was that free zone where artists could experiment freely, so we “went virtual” during Franklin Furnace’s 20th anniversary season. At first I thought that since we were leaving physical space, we would leave the body behind; but instead we discovered that artists exploited the body of the net in addition to their own bodies.
CI: Chicago has a strong history of alternative art exhibition spaces, including artist-run spaces located in apartments or other domestic environments. Given your own decades of experience with this type of space, what advice do you have for others involved in running their own nonprofit venues? I’m particularly interested in the question of sustainability– not just in financial terms, but emotional and spiritual and creative sustainability as well. Sometimes when you’re running things on a shoestring (or no-string) it can be really hard to find the wherewithall to keep on keeping on!
MW: Knowing what I know now, it amazes me that people continue to found organizations and collectives. Don’t they understand that they will NEVER STOP WORKING? Yet what I have also noticed is that the art space movement readily adapts to current conditions. For example, during the 70s, not-for-profit organizations in Soho and TriBeCa served the New York art community, while in the 80s, small, for-profit galleries on the Lower East Side flourished. Nowadays, there are hybrid forms that mix non-profit and for-profit strategies, with collectives of artists teaching classes or making equipment available to members who pay hourly rates. I guess my advice to prospective art space founders is to understand that there will never be a “formula” that will work year after year; change is the only constant!
CI: What are you working on right now in your art practice? What are you working on now in your role as Founding Director of Franklin Furnace?
MW: In March of 2008, I had my first solo exhibition in New York at Mitchell Algus Gallery, “Martha Wilson: Photo/Text Works, 1971-74.” My friend Robin said, “Now that you have had one show, you can ask your dealer for another one.” I replied, “I showed work I did in the 1970s; I don’t have any new work.” But as soon as these words were out of my mouth, I thought, “I could revisit my Deformation piece as a 60-year-old lady.” So indeed, during the last year I have been creating new photo/text works as well as performing as Barbara Bush, mother of the ex-President; she is feeling “all washed up.” In August, 2010 Franklin Furnace was awarded full funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and matching support from the Booth Ferris Foundation for a two-year project to digitize our second decade of event records and publish them online in the Franklin Furnace Database. This effort will, we hope, embed the value of ephemeral art practice in art and cultural history.
Martha Wilson as Barbara Bush, 2008 performance at ps122.
So here is how it’s going to go. I have a brand new copy of former BAS guest Trevor Paglen’s book Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon’s Secret World. Duncan has been M.I.A. since the start of the Southern Graphics Council Convention this past week. The best comment that answers where Duncan is hiding wins. You have until Sunday April 5th.
“Blank Spots on the Map is an expose of an empire that continues to grow every year—and which, officially, it isn’t even there. It is the adventurous, insightful, and often chilling story of a young geographer’s road trip through the underworld of U.S. military and C.I.A. ‘black ops’ sites. This is a shadow nation of state secrets: clandestine military bases, ultra-secret black sites, classified factories, hidden laboratories, and top-secret agencies making up what defense and intelligence insiders themselves call the ‘black world.’ Run by an amorphous group of government agencies and private companies, this empire’s ever expanding budget dwarfs that of many good sized countries, yet it denies its own existence.”
In other Paglen related news, earlier in the week Art Fag City posted a video of him speaking at the Google Mountain View HQ to discuss Blank Spots.
Check out the video here.