EDITION #22

January 21, 2014 · Print This Article

Amelia Peláez

Amelia Peláez’s Havana Hilton Hotel mural, ca. 1957. Cuban Heritage Collection, University of Miami Libraries.

Travelogue: Three Cities, Three Retrospectives

It’s been a wild winter break, but What’s the T? is back in Chicago in time for dibs season and motivated by the artists brave enough to exhibit in the tundra. For those of you holed up in your apartment licking the radiator for warmth (like I am), here’s a recap of some shows outside of the snow globe.


Closing next Sunday, February 2nd (with a performance by Kim Gordon), is the exhibition that’s been blowing up my feed since it opened at PS1 in October of 2013. Mike Kelley’s retrospective is a 40,000 square foot sprawling colossus of an exhibition. Although I could have lived without the seemingly endless rooms of Kandors (a reference to the miniaturized capital city of Superman’s rival Brianiac) on the first floor, the exhibition impressively filled the sprawling school house and gave me a new appreciation for the artist.

Birdhouses by Mike Kelley

Birdhouses by Mike Kelley at PS1.

Never before in my life have I seen so many swastikas and phallus and felt pretty ok about the whole thing. Arguably the greatest mindfuck in the entire exhibition (taking up an entire floor, the cacophonous a/v installation Day is Done was a close second), Pay for Your Pleasure, a corridor of large portrait paintings and quotations from famous intellectuals effectively complicated the relationship between violence and creativity. By the time I reached the end of the corridor I had completely lost the ability to tell right from wrong.

Mike Kelley banners

Kelley’s banners in the hallway at PS1.

The oft-posted Deodorized Central Mass With Satellites was among the least interesting rooms (also the one with the longest line). Watching people pose in front of the hulking mass of leftover toys, I wondered how Kelley himself might have felt about powerful installation’s transmutation into a selfie photo-op. I did pop a huge boner for the dysfunctional birdhouses and the artist’s drawings of his own name. Most disappointing though was PS1′s lack of snacks. The M. Wells Dinette conceptual Mike Kelley menu was admirable, but would it kill PS1 to sell a girl a croissant or fruit cup? I traveled all the way to Queens for this.

Mike Kelley signatures

Mike Kelley at PS1.

Thankfully, we missed the Turrell retrospective at the Gug (heard the lines were unbearable even if the hole was amazing) in favor of seeing the exhibition in full splendor at LACMA. Apparently the artist, an LA native, made moves to stem the line issue by limiting the amount of guests allowed through the exhibition each day (and no photos allowed!). By the time my party of 5 arrived at LACMA , the $25 exhibition was completely sold out for the day. It was only through the loophole of student membership and my lovely friend, Conor Fields, that I was even able to see the exhibition. The antidote to the packed Kelley exhibition, my first glimpse of Afrum (White), the exemplary white cube that is the first of many light installations, was as religious an art experience as I’ve ever felt.

#today in (art) history

Carrie Mae Weems

Carrie Mae Weems, The Assassination of Medger, Malcom, and Martin, 2008. Archival pigment print, 61 x 51 inches. Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

The Weatherman Report

Benjamin Bulter, Leafless Trees, 2008, Oil on canvas, 16 1/10 × 19 9/10 in. Tomio Koyana Gallery.

Other works, such as “Bullwinkle,” a modest projection in the shape of an antique television screen, featured plaques helpfully suggesting minimal viewing times to aid visitors in experiencing the desired effects of Turrell’s complex combinations of light and color. Guests moved leisurely through the exhibition. The immersive installations were smartly punctuated with wall-based work, such as the artist’s delicate aqua-tint etchings and hologram series. Despite the 20 minute wait, the paramount moment of the exhibition was Breathing Light (2013), a absorptive environment that mindfucks you in an entirely angle than Kelley’s Pay for Your Pleasure. Heats of eight are invited to take their shoes off, don booties, and spend five minutes in the space which features rounded walls and a deeply saturated bath of LED light that slowly gradients between red and blue. Shout out to the world’s best docent, Rikki Williams, for doing an impeccable job at keeping the antsy visitors to Breathing Light in check (and for letting me stay an extra minute).

LA’s other most famous dude, Frank Ghery, also deserves a shoutout for the unbelievably well designed Calder exhibition in the same building as Breathing Light and the other (reservation only) large-scale immersive Turrell spaces. Having seen a couple of attempts of shoving a bunch of mobiles and stabiles into a large room (including the MCA’s most recent attempt), I can truthfully say I’ve never seen a better presentation of the artists work. Ghery’s specially built pedestals wind around the gallery and create niches that isolate and accommodate each piece. His specially designed walls and plinths allow the viewer to see the delicate balance present in individual works instead of a mess of primary colored circles and wires hanging everywhere.

Ai Wei Wei

You’re okay too, Wei Wei.

Not to be outdone by other major metropolitan areas massive surveys of mostly male work, the Perez Museum of Art Miami (still known to me as the Miami Art Museum) opened it doors in December with an inaugural retrospective by Ai Wei Wei. While the exhibition has a few highlights, I found the smaller retrospective of works by little known Cuban modernist, Amelia Peláez, to be a far more compelling and apt exhibition for the brand new bayside contemporary art museum.

Amelia Peláez

Painting by Peláez at PAMM.

I thought the inclusion of the furniture was a little much, but I loved the objects made by Peláez herself. Her ceramic work epitomizes the bright colors and modern, bold markings of her still-life paintings on shapely vases and cups. I would take the espresso set. The show was thoughtfully put together and I was delighted to learn of the artist’s life and work. Now I just wish I could go back in time to Cuba and see her Havana Hilton Hotel mural.

Amelia Peláez

Adorable.

Amelia Peláez

These too.

Back in Chicago, I’m waiting on my invite for what will be either the awesomest or worstest retrospective in Chicago history: David Bowie Is. Stay tuned.

Reading is Fundamental

  • The Return of Steve. Local critic, Steve Ruiz, has finally returned from his extended jaunt across the pond! Not only has his Chicago Art Review site been ressurected, he’s also jumped right back into the scene with this meditation on Sofia’s Leiby’s recent exhibition The Drama of Leisure for Daily Serving.
  • Sofia Leiby at Devening

    Leiby in coversation with Anthony Opal at the closing of her exhibition last Sunday.
  • Alicias take on Faith. Threewalls just opened the ambitious Faith Wilding: Fearful Symmetries Retrospective. If you’re looking for a historial feminist context take on the exhibition, check out Alicia Chester’s review on ArtSlant. Bonus points to Chester for managing to fit #Beyoncé into the review. More interested in the techno future of feminism? Try Alicia Eler’s piece for Hyperallergic surveying the re-performance of Wilding’s “Waiting.
  • Faith Wilding Performance

    Still from Faith Wilding’s “Waiting” performance as seen in the 1974 film “Womanhouse” by Johanna Demetrakas, (1974, USA, 47 min.) (courtesy of Johanna Demetrakas and Three Walls Gallery).
  • The Weekly debuts with hilarious email chain. Sunday was a big day for Chicago poet, Anthony Opal. Not only did he trudge through the snow to talk drama with Sofia Leiby at Devening Projects, he also launched The Weekly with some “Revolutionary Interactive Storytelling” by the very entertaining and all around solid dude, Fred Sasaki. Enjoy.




Chicago Art in Pictures: February 2013

March 18, 2013 · Print This Article

A graphic, editorial overview of art, artists, and visual art events, found in and around Chicago over the course of the preceding month. All artwork copyright original artists; all photography copyright Paul Germanos.

Mothergirl @ Happy Collaborationists / ACRE Residency

Mothergirl @ Happy Collaborationists

Above: Mothergirl, a performance art duo featuring Sophia Hamilton, foreground, and Katy Albert, background, working within wooden boxes.

Anna Trier and Meredith Weber @ Happy Collaborationists

Above: The Happy Collaborationists, Meredith Weber, left, and Anna Trier, right, hosting Mothergirl’s “Two Women Do Three Things,” on February 9, 2013.

Mothergirl
“Two Women Do Three Things”
February 9, 2013
Happy Collaborationists, in partnership with ACRE Residency
1254 N. Noble
Chicago, IL 60642
http://happycollaborationists.com/

Martin Creed @ MCA Chicago

Martin Creed Work No. 1092, Work No. 1357 (MOTHERS) @ MCA Chicago

Above: A 10 second exposure, hand-held, indicating the kinetic potential of Martin Creed’s popular piece “MOTHERS.”

Martin Creed Work No. 1092, Work No. 1357 (MOTHERS) @ MCA Chicago

Above: Visible in the museum lobby, background, are the geometric architectural paintings Work No. 798 (2007) and Work No. 1349 (2012).

Martin Creed
Work No. 1092, Work No. 1357 (MOTHERS)
Museum of Contemporary Art
MVDR Plaza – till May
220 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
http://www.mcachicago.org/

Chris Smith @ The Franklin

Visitation Rites @ The Franklin

Above: Chris Smith’s “Visitation Rites” art burn in progress on Februrary 9, 2013.

Christopher Smith @ The Franklin

Above: Chelsea Culp and Ben Foch view Chris Smith’s “The Visitor’s Hours” within The Franklin, opening night.

IMG_8249A

Above: A gallery patron embraced by a neighborhood resident during the opening reception.

Christopher Smith
“The Visitor’s Hours” and “Visitation Rites”
February 9 – 24, 2013
The Franklin
3522 W. Franklin Blvd
Chicago, IL
http://thefranklinoutdoor.tumblr.com/

Drawer’s Drawing @ PEREGRINEPROGRAM

Leslie Baum in Drawer’s Drawing @ PEREGRINEPROGRAM

Leslie Baum in Drawer’s Drawing @ PEREGRINEPROGRAM

Above: Leslie Baum’s “In the Forest,” 2012, full work and detail.

“Drawer’s Drawing”
February 3 – March 3, 2013
Julius Caesar and Peregrine Program
3311 W. Carroll Ave.
Chicago, IL 60624
Curated by Carrie Gundersdorf and Eric Lebofsky
Artwork by Leslie Baum, Avantika Bawa, Elijah Burgher, Lilli Carré, Chris Edwards, Anthony Elms, Richard Rezac, and Paul Schuette
http://lesliebaum.net/

Peculiar Poetics @ Design Cloud

Kayl Parker in Peculiar Poetics @ Design Cloud

Above: Kayl Parker’s 60″ x 75″ photographic print on vinyl

Alysia Alex in Peculiar Poetics @ Design Cloud

Above: “Peculiar Poetics” curator Alysia Alex, opening night.

Kayl Parker
“Peculiar Poetics”
February 1 – 23, 2013
Design Cloud
118 N. Peoria, Suite 2N
Chicago, IL 60607
Curated by Alysia Alex
Artwork by Kayl Parker, Brea Souders, Stephanie Gonot, Bridget Collins, Mate Moro, Aron Filkey, Marthe Elise Stramrud, Sasha Kurmaz, and Sol Hashemi
http://kaylparker.com/

Plant Life @ Western Exhibitions

Plant Life @ Western Exhibitions

Above: Front to back, artwork by Heidi Norton, Scott Wolniak, and Tyson Reeder.

Geoffrey Todd Smith in Plant Life @ Western Exhibitions

Above: “Plant Life” curator Geoffrey Todd Smith, opening night.

“Plant Life”
February 1 – March 9, 2013
Western Exhibitions
845 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607
Curated by Geoffrey Todd Smith
Artwork by Chinatsu Ikeda, Eric Wert, Heidi Norton, Jonathan Gardener, Mindy Rose Schwartz, Scott Wolniak, and Tyson Reeder
http://www.westernexhibitions.com/

Shit is Real @ devening projects + editions

Cody Hudson @ devening projects + editions

Above: “You Can’t Win Them All” by Cody Hudson.

Aron Gent @ devening projects + editions

Above: Artwork by Aron Gent, as photographed during the opening reception at devening projects + editions, on February 3, 2013.

Aron Gent @ Document

Above: Aron Gent at his own gallery, Document, photographed on February 1, 2013.

“Shit is Real”
February 3 – March 9, 2013
devening projects + editions
3039 W. Carroll,
Chicago, IL 60612
Artwork by Aron Gent, Carrie Gundersdorf, Cody Hudson, Sofia Leiby, Josh Reames and Cody Tumblin
http://deveningprojects.com/

Judith Geichman @ Carrie Secrist

Judith Geichman @ Carrie Secrist

Above: Gallery patrons view Judith Geichman’s installation during the opening reception.

Erik Wenzel

Above: Chicago writer and artist Erik Wenzel, bon vivant in the shadow of existential doubt, at Judith Geichman’s opening reception on February 9, 2013.

Judith Geichman
“New Paintings and Works on Paper”
February 9 – March 30, 2013
Carrie Secrist Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607
http://www.secristgallery.com/

Color Bind @ MCA

Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White

Above: Rudolf Stingel’s oil painting “Untitled (after Sam),” 2006.

Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White

Above: Joel Shapiro, Untitled, 1971, foreground; Glenn Lingon “White #11,” 1994, and Imi Knoebel, “Untitled (Black Painting),” 1990, background.

“Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White,”
Organized by MCA Curator Naomi Beckwith
November 10, 2012 – April 28, 2013
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago
220 E. Chicago Avenue (MVDR Drive)
Chicago, IL 60611
http://www.mcachicago.org/

Mary Patten @ threewalls

Mary Patten's "Schizo-Culture" performance live in "PANEL" @ threewalls

Above: Mary Patten’s “Schizo-Culture” performance live, February 9, 2013

Dr. Darrell Moore as Michel Foucault live in Mary Patten's "PANEL" @ threewalls

Above: Dr. Darrell Moore as Michel Foucault in “Schizo-Culture” at threewalls.

Mary Patten: “PANEL”
January 11 – February 23, 2013
threewalls
119 N. Peoria #2c
Chicago, IL 60607
http://www.three-walls.org/

Sarah Hicks @ Thomas Robertello

Sarah Hicks @ Thomas Robertello

Above: Ceramic artist Sarah Hicks greeting a guest at her opening reception on Friday, February 22, 2013.

Sarah Hicks @ Thomas Robertello

Sarah Hicks
“Pop Garden!”
February 22 – April 6, 2013
Thomas Robertello Gallery
27 N. Morgan St.
Chicago, IL 60607
http://www.thomasrobertello.com/

Goshka Macuga @ MCA Chicago

Goshka Macuga @ MCA Chicago

Above: Goshka Macuga’s “The Nature of the Beast” booked for a meeting, social dimension evident, on February 12, 2013.

Goshka Macuga @ MCA Chicago

Above: “Of what is, that it is; of what is not, that it is not,” (panel 1).

“Goshka Macuga: Exhibit, A”
December 15, 2012 – April 7, 2013
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
http://www.mcachicago.org/

Luc Dratwa @ Kasia Kay

Luc Dratwa @ Kasia Kay

Luc Dratwa @ Kasia Kay

Above: Exterior window, looking in gallery from sidewalk, at night.

Luc Dratwa
“NY Tales”
February 22 – March 30
Kasia Kay Projects
215 N. Aberdeen St.
Chicago, IL 60607
http://www.kasiakaygallery.com/

Tom Costa and Christina McClelland @ Roxaboxen / ACRE Projects

Tom Costa and Christina McClelland @ Roxaboxen

Above: Christina McClelland, foreground, and Tom Costa, background.

Christina McClelland @ Roxaboxen Exhibitions

Above: Christina McClelland at the opening reception on February, 10, 2013.

Tom Costa & Christina McClelland
“After the After Party”
February 10, 2013
Roxaboxen Exhibitions in partnership with ACRE Projects
2130 W. 21st St.
Chicago, IL
http://christinamcclelland.com/

Gabriel Vormstein @ moniquemeloche

Gabriel Vormstein @ moniquemeloche

Gabriel Vormstein
“Tempus fungit – amor mannet”
February 1 – March 30, 2013
moniquemeloche gallery
2154 W Division St.
Chicago, IL 60622
http://moniquemeloche.com/

Johanna Billing @ Kavi Gupta

Johanna Billing @ Kavi Gupta

Johanna Billing
“I’m gonna live anyhow until I die”
February 9 – March 30, 2013
Kavi Gupta Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago IL 60607
http://www.kavigupta.com/

Robert Burnier @ Andrew Rafacz

Robert Burnier @ Andrew Rafacz

Above: Robert Burnier at his opening reception on February 9, 2013.

Robert Burnier
“The Horseless Carriage”
February 9 – March 30, 2013
Andrew Rafacz Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago IL 60607
http://www.andrewrafacz.com/

Matt Nichols & Kristina Paabus @ ACRE Projects

Matt Nichols & Kristina Paabus @ ACRE Projects

Matt Nichols & Kristina Paabus
“The Jerks”
February 10 – 25, 2013
ACRE Projects
1913 W. 17th St.
Chicago, IL 60608
http://www.acreresidency.org/

Xavier Cha @ Aspect Ratio

Xavier Cha @ Aspect Ratio

Xavier Cha
“Hourglass”
February 9 – March 8, 2013
Aspect Ratio
119 N. Peoria St., Unit 3D
Chicago IL 60607
http://www.aspectratioprojects.com/


Paul Germanos: Born November 30, 1967, Cook County, Illinois. Immigrant grandparents, NYC. High school cross country numerals and track letter. Certified by the State of Illinois as a peace officer. Licensed by the City of Chicago as a taxi driver. Attended the School of the Art Institute 1987-1989. Studied the history of political philosophy with the students of Leo Strauss from 2000-2005. Phi Theta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi. Motorcyclist.




Field Static : A Catalogue Essay

June 6, 2012 · Print This Article

Devin and I curated a show at the Co-Prosperity Sphere in Bridgeport; it opened a week ago and tonight we’re having a mini-symposium called “Location/Location: The Mistranslation of Objects.” It’s an exciting show for us with some great work by Rebecca Mir, Carrie Gundersdorf, Heather Mekkelson, Ellen Rothenberg, Stephen Lapthisophon, Christian Kuras and Bad at Sports’ own Duncan MacKenzie, as well as Mark Booth and Justin Cabrillos. We were trying to curate a show that might explore an object oriented ontology. This exhibit closes on Wednesday, the 13th of June. It is open on Sundays from 1-4 and by appointment.

You have entered the Co-Prosperity Sphere: a large corner-space on a neighborhood block in Bridgeport, five miles from the Loop’s chain shops. The inside of this space feels old. It is massive — 2,500 square feet. A tin ceiling stands fourteen feet above you, not for stylistic preference — though it suits current vintage tastes — but due to an oversight; the previous owner of 40 years did nothing to maintain the building, using it instead as a hoarder’s storeroom. Before his time, when Bridgeport was prosperous and you could see cattle moseying to their death outside of the window, this space was a department store. The owner was the wealthiest man in town, and is said to have had the first car in the neighborhood, driving it across the street to the church on Sundays, throwing pennies out of his windows at children in the street. Since then the space — and the neighborhood — have been through a decline normal to working class neighborhoods in American cities. Hoarders bought the space in the 80s. Ed Marszewski moved in a few years ago and cleaned it up.
The wooden floor of the Co-Prosperity Sphere creaks when you walk on it. Light shines through a host of upper windows, reflecting off the wood like an old gymnasium. The new white walls and spartan emptiness assign the space to contemporary art exhibitions. This particular landscape is comprised of material — pillars, windows, floors, and doorways turn into wood, screws, pipes, bricks, plaster, glass and tin. The composition of this space exists on multiple levels. As concrete, discrete materials they fuse into one structure. More abstractly, these materials exist as indicators of past and present; each object tells a story through its own unique, associative system of influence. Sometimes the story is responsive — the sound of your footsteps or the water that runs through overhead pipes. Other times the story is inaccessible but conjured — the imagined sound of mooing cows or copper pennies against cement, indicating a different American economy. Or, the story is simply material — the unfinished areas of this space, the space beneath the stairs on the far white wall: if you peer around its edge, you can see the building’s insides.

What begins to emerge is an ecology that blurs the lines between life forms and inanimate material bodies. In Field Static we first wanted to create an opportunity in which relations between objects might be highlighted such that the field created via the installation of artwork would accent one’s material engagement. Each object within the Co-Prosperity Sphere would become focal point and periphery alike, suggesting both solitary histories and the peculiar synthesis of matter common to all things. Field Static rejects or, at least, torques art’s historically anthropocentric position — the poem is written by a human, the portrait is painted of a human — in favor of a more egalitarian engagement with objects.
Through this, we don’t mean to treat other species or categories of objects as citizens of another nation. Instead, we are trying to expand an established hierarchy where humans patronize other objects. How might a gallery show include the presence of bubble gum splotches, twigs, fan blades, icebergs — easily marginalized masses — in order to engender new political spheres? We hope to discover new ways of integrating experience and materiality so that less priority is placed on the human’s role amongst objects. This project is far-seeing: sentience in technology, impasses in distinguishing between “non-living” computer viruses and “living” biological viruses, and our current ecological condition all suggest the possibility that, to borrow the theorist Timothy Morton’s word, the mesh (1) we inhabit is much larger and stranger than we may have thought. This mesh is also able to exist, quite comfortably, without us. So how do we look at the relations between objects?
We became interested in curating a show around objects through familiarity with the work of Graham Harman, a philosopher and theorist based in Cairo, Egypt. Harman, along with Timothy Morton, Ian Bogost, Levi Bryant, and a few other thinkers, is one of the proponents of object-oriented ontology — a metaphysics that, loosely defined, rejects a human centered worldview in philosophy in favor of something more democratic. Instead of privileging the human subject’s relation to the world, object-oriented ontology hopes to democratize the field of metaphysics though a general inquiry about objects, specifically the ways in which objects interact with each other and the world. Object-oriented ontology is a metaphysics that asks not only how humans engage with the world, but also how forks, bee pollen, James Cameron’s depth diving submarine, and Sancho Panza’s donkey relate to each other and the world. Harman’s work is less about deprivileging the human than opening up the nature of the field — examining the infinitely complex assortment of materials operating within a given frame of reference. As Harman writes, his “point is not that all objects are equally real, but that they are equally objects.”1 In order to think the world, we must think about the world and the many objects that make it up, not only our relation to it. It is exciting and truly weird work.

Harman’s theories work out in many different directions. One of the most interesting, for our purposes, is the idea that though an object exists as a bundle of relations amongst itself and with other objects, these relations never eliminate the full spectrum of possibility residing within an object. The Co-Prosperity Sphere is a node within Bridgeport, within Chicago, both rife with their own complex network of encounters. You are distinctly aware of these very real relations, and together they build up the space’s identity. At the same time, the Co-Prosperity Sphere could also, possibly, enter into a number of different relations that we might not have any understanding of: it could be used by a sect to summon demons, it could be eaten slowly by Larry Coryell to improve his jazz guitar, it could slowly erode a statue of itself in slate. These are humorous examples, but they reveal how objects can exist more fully outside of whatever relations they may exist in currently — whether they enter into those relations or not. Even if we were able to list every theoretical relation this space could enter into, it would still have other relations beyond our list. The number and variations of its relations is infinite but in every instance, whether micro or macro, the objects within that field can never be reduced to their relations. They are not simply indicators of signification, but exist within a network. Consequently, objects — as metaphysical bundles of all the possibilities of their relations with themselves and other objects — are ultimately withdrawn from each other and themselves. Objects are always at a remove from their relations.

Harman more fully explains this idea through the image of a sleeping zebra in CircusPhilosophicus, a series of alternately humorous and petrifying myths he wrote to explain the basic tenets of his ideas:

For first, [the zebra] rises beyond its own pieces, generated by them but not reducible to them. And second, it is indifferent to the various negotiations into which it might enter with other objects, though some of those might affect it: as when the zebra interacts with grasses for its meals, and predator cats for its doom. While the zebra is cut off from its pieces in the sense of being partly immune to changes among them, it cannot survive their total disappearance. But by contrast, it might survive the disappearance of all its outward relations. And this is what I mean by sleep, if we can imagine a truly deep and dreamless sleep…Sleep should not be compared with death and its genuine destruction of the zebra-entity: sleep entails that the thing still exists, but simply without relation to anything else…Sleep perhaps has a metaphysical function no less than a physical one: as a kind of suspended animation in which entities are withdrawn from the world. And perhaps this happens more than we think.(2)

Like the zebra, the Co-Prosperity Sphere could be ripped in half by a giant and sacrificed to Goran, Lord of the Impetus, or it could play a game of Go with the bar down the street, and yet, through all of these changes, it still exists, partly, as a space for the community to gather in. As Harman writes, objects are “partly immune to changes among [its pieces].”2 Were we to remove all of the space’s outward relations — you, inside the space, reading this book about it, me writing this essay a month prior, thinking about the space, the printer printing these words about the space, the ink coming out of long tubes, the humidity wrinkling the pages, the recycling bin holding the book about the space, the recycler pulping the book — the space might still exist, withdrawn from these outward relations, in something like sleep. While it is impossible to gain access to the withdrawn aspects of an object, it is our belief that the best art, at least, allows us a place to exist in a type of still-sleep with an object. We’ve curated the artists in this show in the belief that their work engages with objects as bundles of relations in the field of the world, and yet, through their work, the artists show these objects as still, withdrawn, sleeping entities.
Still, the artists in Field Static engage the world of objects in different ways. The show should not be seen as as a grouping of artworks that fulfill any one approach to objects. While our curatorial impulse was inspired by Harman’s philosophy, we nevertheless present works that address objects in a variety of ways.
Of course, all exhibits exercise this interest; historically, art is the making and honoring of objects. However, the peculiar and various approaches these artists take to field and object-making seem particularly compelling, especially when their work could be assembled under the umbrella created by the Co-Prosperity Sphere. We are not looking to project human metaphor onto the state of these artworks — although those poetic nuances are probably an inevitable facet of an aesthetic experience — but rather to invite your imagination to consider the sleeping potential of these things in their thingness, their associative and personal autonomy in the world, each with its own discrete and, by now, non-contingent identity. A strangeness emerges — similar to the eyes of a fox, the unripe stem of a green banana, or Achilles’ shield — all familiar and unknown, a potency common to all things that nevertheless remains out of reach.

Rebecca Mir’s work is simple and understated. She often works with paper, small collections of objects, and her own body arranged quietly. This humility in equipment is connected to Mir’s infatuation with punk culture that shifts into an engagement with the landscape. She has also written love letters to the ocean. Perhaps the best way to think about her work is as an amalgamation of bygone Romanticisms — nature, the lover, the explorer, the punk rocker — that add up to rediscover the sincerity currently lacking in all of these labels. For this show, we were most interested in Mir’s engagement with nature. We gave her the storefront windows to fill up and she gave us hanging sheets of paper with flat black prints of icebergs on them. These are the most frightening objects in the world, slowly leading us towards underwater cities. Mir’s prints garble our response; we instead encroach upon the ice.

When we met Ellen Rothenberg to talk about this show, she shared pictures of older pieces she had made and used during performances: clocks on a pair of shoes, or a wooden shovel with words engraved on its mouth. They were tempting to curate into Field Static for their embodiment of an inaccessible past-use, an original context no less significant then their present status as formal, sculptural works.  But then Rothenberg showed us a more recent piece she had exhibited in Berlin. In her installation, Constellations, Rothenberg establishes a literal field via small blue signs printed with arrows and red vintage price tag cards. She assembles these on a wall or in a room; the proportions of the work vary depending on the site. In every version, these small indicators create an enigmatic field or map. The price cards elicit a time when two cents might have been a useful sum — think of those children in dirty boots on Morgan Street. Relative to our current economy, the sums are so small as to be powerless and dismissable. The oblique arrows, meanwhile, propel the eye to wander among these many numerical islands. The precision of placement combined with the interplay of materials and time: the slick, contemporary instructional arrows, against the foxed, nostalgic price tags are fixed to the clean white wall by antique metal clips. A tension emerges flike a magnetic field as the viewer is absorbed in the act of looking.

In Diagram (2010), Christian Kuras and Duncan MacKenzie installed a multi-leveled series of roofless recangular rooms; the entire system looked like a complex model of a building site. Balsa wood rooms connected by ramps on cinder blocks, coffee cans, and side tables. Cords lay around the floor of the installation, a bare flourescent light tube, a lamp, a plant. In one instance an antique sign, “Girls Toilet” was legible. This assemblage conspired to portray some kind of institution — a university or a corporation — the ‘rooms’ clearly exist in a network, even if their function within that network is unclear. In an effort to grasp the purpose of this material system, you might lean in to read the pencil marks, left behind by the artists in the process of making. These do not unlock the piece. It remains at bay, undissmissable because of its sprawl and, even, the care toward detail. In Field Static, Kuras and MacKenzie work with letters, transforming a textual message in a game of anagrams. They began with one phrase originally mailed as an off-the-cuff collage from UK-based Kuras to Chicago-based MacKenzie. MacKenzie and Kuras reorganized the letters of the phrase into stacks, paintings, and phrases that may or may not be legible to the viewer. While connected to their original context, each new combination creates a new meaning contained in the original. The text is distant, distinct, and equitable to its physical counterpart.

Last winter, Mark Booth composed a durational performance at Devening Projects during his solo exhibition God Is Represented By The Sea. For one performance during that exhibition, the improvisational bellows and electronics duet, Coppice (Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer) played music with Booth for roughly four hours. During that time, twelve individuals were asked to read Booth’s score: a stream of ever shifting phrases in a loop. The last word of one phrase became the first word of the following. “God is represented by the sea” became “The Sea is represented by an irregular shape” and so on until we arrived at last to “An owl is represented by God,” at which time the readers would begin again. The words became blocks, algebraic variables that could be swapped in and out of one another. Booth’s piece evokes an intuited, physical structure in language; he seeks to find an equivocation, a way to codify experience through metaphor. Here, he has installed a sound installation with flags entitled: I IMAGINE YOU SLEEPING SIDE BY SIDE AND WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING YOUR SOULS RISE TOGETHER LIKE A FLAG ON A POLE FLUTTERING SOUNDLESSLY IN A WINDLESS WIND AND THE FLAG OF YOUR LOVE IS SHAPED LIKE [...]

Objects are often manufactured by human beings; it is sometimes difficult to imagine their autonomy. We know rocks come from mountains and meteors, so they observe an obvious independence from the human sphere. But what about old tires or tennis balls? In what way can those objects boast a non-contingent being when their original purpose is tied to human activities? How can such an object fulfill its potential if its potential is reliant upon human use? Heather Mekkelson articulates one possible answer. Over the past several years, she has made a practice of fabricating distress. Mekkelson begins with new objects — phonebooks, traffic cones, caution tape, fans, or blinds — everyday, banal objects. Through a variety of processes she imposes the visible signs of deterioration and stress on each object and, placed in an exhibit, these objects evoke a traumatic narrative, as ready-mades discovered by accident in the wake of disaster. The distress of the objects suggests their secret lives or past, an encounter made more interesting given that Mekkelson’s objects never endured such trials at all. Their life was spent in her studio. In more recent work, Mekkelson has created a telling-point on the object that allows the viewer to see the artifice of distress. At one critical point of perspective the viewer can see both the artifice of distress and the object’s unadulterated newness — like on a stage set when you see at once the façade of a town and the plywood backing on which the town is painted. That point reveals a moment of interior instability; it is as though the object is telling you it is lying. The object is laughing at you, or winking, confessing its own ruse.

Alhough we first knew Justin Cabrillos as a sound poet, we’ve been lucky to see him as he’s developed into a somatic phenom. We’ve included his video Dance for a Narrow Passageway — a work that shows Cabrillos improvising a dance in a passageway. Before composing the piece, Cabrillos spent time observing movements in passageways, both his own and others: buses, subways, airports, even passageways in dramatic movies. He is embodying the influence that space and non-human bodies have on human choreography. The one rule of the improvisation: move like somebody would move in a passageway. When talking to us about the piece, Cabrillos emphasized his interest in the absence of other objects as he came into movement — the passageway encourages nothing but the supposed emptiness of transition. It also has a history: many bodies, winds, and drips have left their associative trace: that past is something Cabrillos is responding to as well, embodying it. Like a corporeal version of John Cage’s famous anechoic chamber experience — where the composer learned that the world was never truly silent — Cabrillos’ video indicates that one is always connected to other bodies.
Is it possible to imagine the inner life of objects? It seems we are not quite permitted to apprehend the idea. We cannot imagine what such a sleeping interiority would be like, especially when discounting the tools humans dream with — thought and words and pictures. Instead we must describe the possibility of an object’s interior space by activating a sense of its absurdity. In a kind of negative proof on his website, Stephen Lapthisophon shows a looped video of a potato, alone on a shelf. In the background we hear jazz music. Because of an automatic desire to anthropomorphize the potato, we imagine the potato — otherwise absolutely still and solitary in the frame — listening. The scene becomes comical. And yet it describes something about the constant, albeit invisible, movement of a potato: it is constantly deteriorating, or growing, or leaking, or emitting vibrations. Conceiving of its ability to hear and listen is a way to access, through metaphor, the potato’s experience of itself. For Field Static, Lapthisophon shows The Taxonomy of Root Vegetables, a long, crude shelf stacked with many different still growing, still rotting, root vegetables. The piece, to us, builds off Lapthisophon’s humorous depiction of a morose tuber. Instead of an attempt and appraisal of projected experience, Taxonomy suggests unfamiliar, mutating ecologies and locates the fruitlessness of our contrived negotiations as we seek to categorize and map our world.

The inaccessibility of individual objects can be compared to the inaccessibility of our environment — as our awareness of very small objects builds up, we bump against the infinite array of inner lives, and the very large mesh that consists of animals, insects, bacteria, rocks, ashes, oxygen. Slowly, we bump up against the sky, the world of planetary bodies: the sun, the planets, the stars, light. Carrie Gundersdorf observes, paints, collages and draws solar phenomenon on two-dimensional picture planes that reference modernist painting. In one collage, Gundersdorf collects a variety of different images of Jupiter. She assembles these images in a grid on one sheet of dark paper. One sees the many sides of Jupiter at once but we are no closer to apprehending this planet. This is not simply the result of scale or medium; Gundersdorf is very literally transcribing astral photographs. And yet Gundersdorf’s work shows how astral photographs are manipulated by space and technology. The picture of Jupiter has traveled through eons of space, been reflected on a variety of mirrors and then digitally enhanced with various colors and contrast in an effort to indicate data. Those manipulated images represent the source material that comprises our collective experience of Outer Space. In this show, we have included Spectral Trails with Absorption Lines, a drawing that depicts the spectrum of light. Here too one is called to consider not only the camera’s apparatus, but also the receptive reed of the body: the stereoscopic vision of two eyes — what is then intuitively and unconsciously synthesized into one cohesive whole. Add to this the limited capacity of our oracular perception: We can only see a very narrow portion of the spectrum. Given our minimal sensitivity to light, how could we possibly see all objects? What objects are we missing?

Hopefully these works, along with this book, will lure you into an experience of Field Static in which you begin to account, through perception, for the discrete fields asserted within discrete works; and then the field described by the works together; and then the field described by the entire show in the context of the space, a space in which we are immersed. It is an uncanny and perhaps anxious position, as we grow ever more aware of the inexhaustible relations between non-human things.

This essay was written by Field Static curators, Caroline Picard & Devin King. To schedule an appointment for viewing, please email caroline@lanternprojects.com

END NOTES:

1. Timothy Morton. The Ecological Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010).
2. Graham Harman. The Quadruple Object (Washington: Zer0 Books, 2011), p. 5
3. Graham Harman. Circus Philisophicus (Washington: Zer0 Books, 2010) p. 72-3
4. Harman writes, objects are “partly immune to changes among [its pieces].” Circus Philisophicus (Washington: Zer0 Books, 2010) p. 72.