Ian Curtis had epilepsy, and this particular disorder of his perhaps only exacerbated that self-loathsome something inevitably experienced by us all: our need and sometimes drastic dependency on others to calm us, support us, and keep us alive. Peter Hook, Joy Division’s bassist, was recently at MCA Chicago in support of his new memoir, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, and in the book he describes Curtis’ drive to keep playing shows despite knowing that doing so was, potentially, only worsening his illness. In interviews, Hook has stated that a major motivation to write the book was to better “humanize” the band, whose backstory (bookended with Curtis’ suicide in 1980, on the eve of their debut American tour) is often over fraught with doom, gloom, and eventual decay when relayed by outside biographers. Indeed, Joy Division’s dark, danceable post-punk rhythms and playful vocal intonations are, to my ears, incredibly sexy, and Curtis is as responsible for the music’s peculiar buoyancy as he is for its solemn, industrial ennui.
Joy Division, Isolation, 1980
I dwell on Curtis and Hook’s memoir because it helps make clear something sometimes difficult to admit; how darkness has sex appeal, how recognition of a mutual darkness in another can make us feel, in turn, recognized. I’ve recently become obsessed with the website SongMeanings.net, on which users can pontificate and extrapolate upon the lyrical content of practically any popular song ever recorded and released commercially. I adore this site because of the earnestness and tenderness with which users write; it is one of the only message boards I can think of where, instead of routinely attacking one another or a celebrity or whatever, people are vulnerable, and pensive, and surprisingly insightful.
My all time favorite Joy Division song is “Isolation” from their second album, 1980′s Closer, partially because of how Curtis appears to me in my imagination, spinning alone and manically happy. The song features Curtis repeating ‘isolation, isolation, isolation’ as the music builds its spanking beat and synthetic atmosphere, and I like to believe he’s relishing this temporary escape or solitude – particularly when, for Curtis, being alone wasn’t medically advisable. “For some reason,’ writes SongMeanings.net user The1AndOnlyMe, ‘I think Ian was also interested in classic literature, and having this sort of romantic-tragic affair was almost like a fulfillment.” The1AndOnlyMe is referring to Curtis’ love affair with a mistress and, indeed, how this may have allowed him some dramatic respite from the agonies and shame felt in ‘real’ relationships he had with his wife, his child, his mother, and his bandmates.
All of this is to say that isolation and promiscuity may be natural bedfellows. In his 1999 essay “Sex and Isolation,” ex-hustler and American chronicler of all things sexually subterranean, Bruce Benderson, laments the migration of cruising or chance encounter off the streets and onto the internet, saying; “The abandonment of the body is isolation, the triumph of pure fantasy.” Yet, fantasy wants to be recognized, and we depend on others for that. Dating or hooking up online is never really about getting to know someone, it’s about the desire to be known. Furthermore, it’s about the desire to be known as the person we’re writing and editing and framing and Photoshopping and staging for others; about the fantasy we believe ourselves to be and depend on others to corroborate. For Benderson, wary of how American entrepreneurialism and the Protestant ethic (myth?) of self-reliance has led to the shrinking of the public sphere and the routinization of social encounters, the internet represents some vague final stage; “Our minds spit our longings and obscenities into the atmosphere. And media have ensured that these ejaculations are everywhere. The self is now nowhere in particular, and, depending upon how you look at it, we have everywhere, or nowhere, to go.”
Akram Zaatari, Tomorrow Everything Will Be Alright, excerpt, 2010
Interspersed throughout these paragraphs, written late, are four videos by contemporary artists using internet fodder or found internet footage to translate something lonesome, and sexy, and humiliating, and hilarious, about desire and telecommunications. What struck me, in assembling these works (chronicling a decade’s worth of technology), was how each artist respectively appeals to something antiquated, something empty, something romantic, in order to build visual atmosphere and erotic tension complimentary to the sexts around which their works, ultimately, pivot. Like the ‘classic literature’ The1AndOnlyMe accuses Curtis of reading, these four artists seem likewise drawn to the pompous big feelings of carefully composed love and lust, yearning for and incriminating those that feel similarly.
Brittany Southworth-LaFlamme, Thank You For Submitting, 2012
In The Desert (2002), German artist Jenny Vogel edits footage collected from webcams and surveillance cameras into a moody, expressionistic tale of grey-skied, bored longing reminiscent of early film. Chicago artist Doug Ischar‘s exquisitely paced brb (2007) overlays the devastating, self-annihilating or aggrandizing text of two lovers atop an empty desert landscape captured by moving car, soft string music and melancholic imagery of a gay street festival interspersed throughout. Similarly, Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari‘s Tomorrow Everything Will Be Alright (2010) – recently collected and currently on view at MCA, Chicago – features the pithy come-ons and reluctant evasions of ex-lovers typed with caution on an old typewriter, exaggerating the time of careful self-interest while conducting such affairs. Lastly, Chicago artist Brittany Southworth LaFlamme‘s recent work Thank You For Submitting (2012) stages eight men in a pale blue tableaux vivant reading 100 ‘penis poems,’ often appealing to the effaced antiquity of iambic pentameter, that the artist requested and received via OkCupid from users everywhere, or nowhere.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Work by Doug Ischar.
Golden Gallery: 3319 N. Broadway. Reception Friday 6-9pm.
Work by Scott Jarrett.
Heaven Gallery: 1550 N Milwaukee. Reception Friday 7-11pm.
Friday Night: Columbus Building – 280 S. Columbus Dr, 4:30-5:30pm; MacLean Center – 112 S. Michigan Ave, 5:30-7:30pm; 116 Michigan Building – 116 S. Michigan Ave, 7:30-8:00pm; Sharp Building – 37 S. Wabash Ave, 8:00-8:45pm; Sullivan Center – 36 S. Wabash Ave, 8:45-10:00pm.
Work by Bridgette Buckley, Joe Cassan, Todd Mattei, and Danielle Paz.
Peregrineprogram: 3311 W. Carroll Ave. Reception Saturday 2-4pm.
Work by Faheem Majeed.
Iceberg: 7714 N. Sheridan Rd. Reception Saturday 6-9pm.
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: Don’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, Rustél 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 UM’, 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.
Marginal Waters at GOLDEN in Chicago exhibits 13 of the works in the series by Doug Ischar. The backdrop of Chicago’s own Belmont Rocks, since destroyed, sets the stage for the documentation of gay men in the 1980s.
The first room in the impeccable space presents three large framed photographs. The titles of the images are sterile and indexical, simply numbered. MW 19 (1985), the first piece I confronted, is a portrait of a scattered group of men, sunning on the rocks by the water. Two men are standing close, just of the verge between friendship close and intimately close, and there are men stretched out sunning on towels. Besides the incredibly dense colors, there is something about all of the photographs that is so captivating; the latent sexual desire rubbing up against the innocence of an afternoon in the sun. The subtle hand on the thigh, the peak of underwear beneath impossibly short shorts, the glint of a nipple ring, or connection between two bodies that speaks to the audacity of a normally closeted culture behaving freely in a public arena, almost like Sunday In the Park on poppers.
The dual landscape of bodies and the rocks was elegantly captured in MW 22 (1985), a portrait of two men embracing on the ground. The curve of the shoulder, knee, seem to act as an extension of the terrain. Also in this image is a lone can of Miller High Life, just one of the many cultural artifacts that look planted in the compositions. Other images include a Diane Arbus book, a Vanity Fair, walkmans (walkmen?), and many ten speed bicycles. There is a subtle illicit implication to the images, an innuendo of illegality.
This feeling of “getting away with something”, as opposed to just being or doing is represented extremely well in the one video piece in the show, Forget Him (2009). This single channel video is extremely compelling and layered. Silent footage found by the artist in a Chicago area flea market in 1990, originally shot in the 1960s, is kept in its entirety with only the playback speeds altered. Ishcar adds captions of Walter Benjamin’s One Way Street, as well as a beautiful section from Heirich Schultz’s Symphoniae Sacrae (1629) . This video serves as a present day reflection on the project from the 80s. It begins with footage of a backyard flower garden, has spaces of blank footage with dust and scratches, and then segments of two men at the rocks. The men are changing, one taking off his pants and donning a jock strap, the other removing his fishnet shirt and khakis and dressing in the tightest shorts you have ever seen, struggling to zip them up. The whole time they are looking around, and the gaze of the camera catches passersby in the distance. This seems like a getting ready ritual that would contemporarily be done in the home, to get ready for a club, but takes place in the open space of the Belmont Rocks. The word from the text, “lovesick, sick, sick”, echo on the screen, seeming to allude to the previously believed “illness” of homosexuality, as well as the consciousness of the AIDS epidemic.
The gallery itself, located in a classic Chicago graystone in Boystown, (apparently one of the first officially recognized “gay villages” in the United States) is incredibly appropriate, adding to the sense of history and urgency of preservation felt in the show. There was also a neatness to the images that worked extremely well in the historic yet well-groomed space. Jacob Meehan, director of GOLDEN, says that many of the neighborhood homos who showed up for the opening this past weekend actually thanked him for showing the work, and reminisced over the images. I think that this show is a great way to begin the year, and to make a meaningful connection with the community.
There is going to be a catalog for Marginal Waters, which will include all 26 of the images in the series as well as text by David Getsy, Steve Reinke and an interview with John Neff. The exhibition has been extended and there will be a closing and catalog release reception, the dates of which will be posted on the website.
Times are tough, but there’s a lot to look forward to with the coming Fall art season in Chicago. Here’s what Meg and I are most looking forward to seeing over the next three months — and be sure to check out Stephanie’s guide to Friday and Saturday openings below!
9/11 Philip Von Zweck at ThreeWalls (M, C) The title of this show is “The Fortieth Anniversary of the First Anniversary of May ’68 (in September).” Von Zweck is a significant and much-beloved figure in the Chicago art scene who ran a highly respected apartment gallery for a number of years. This exhibition marks his return to a more traditional solo artist exhibition framework.
9/11 Luis Gispert at Rhona Hoffman (C) New large-scale photographic portraits and videos by the Miami-born, Brooklyn-based Gispert that focus on immigrant sectors of the American workforce and the search for expressive outlets outside the realm of labor. A three-channel film focuses on Gispert’s friend Rene, a Cuban immigrant who works in a Miami restaurant supply store.
9/11 Jessica Labatte at Scott Projects (M). Labatte’s exhibition Bright Branches documents found objects collected from Chicago alleys and junk stores.
9/11 Craig Doty: Women at Roots and Culture (M,C). The women in Doty’s new photographic series have been described as appearing “physically exhausted as well as ethically or morally debased,” i.e. a wet and shivering woman looking out past viewers with few narrative clues as to why, etc. Given Choire Sicha’s description of Doty as “a sick little pervert” whose previous body of work was “very John Hughes meets John Waters meets John Lydon,” well, let’s just say we can’t wait to see his approach to the subject for ourselves.
9/12 Doug Ischar at Golden (M,C). A body of work from 1985, never before seen in its entirety, is the enticement here. Ischar’s show is titled Marginal Waters and features images taken in Chicago’s now-defunct Belmont Rocks.
9/19 Jonas Wood at Shane Campbell Gallery (C). He’s from L.A. and showed at Black Dragon Society, plus he’s collaborated with painter Mark Grotjahn…for now, that’s all I need to know to want to see Wood’s show.
9/19 Jason Lazarus, Wolfgang Plöger, Zoe Strauss at The Art Institute (M). A show of recent photographic acquisitions of these artists’ works by the Art Institute.
9/20 Allen Sekula, Polonia and Other Fables at The Renaissance Society (C). New photographs by anti-globalization hero Sekula that focus on Chicago’s rich labor history, its Polish working-class population along with The University of Chicago’s famous lineage of economic theorists. Heady yet vital stuff from this woefully under-recognized L.A.-based artist.
9/25 – 9/27 Mikhail Baryshnikov at Harris Theater (M). It’s Baryshnikov dude. ‘Nuff said.
9/30 Heartland at the Smart Museum (C). Coorganized by the Smart Museum of Art and the Van Abbemuseum, a survey of artists from the Midwest aka the American Heartland. Hopefully it’ll subvert the syrupy connotations of it’s title, or at least be the kind of show that people argue, bitch and moan about rather than simply ignore.
10/2 – 10/4 Western Exhibitions and Golden Age at the NY Art Book Fair (M). The only event to make it to our list that is not in Chicago. If your in New York at the beginning of October check out two Chicagoans holding it down at the Fair.
October, opening date TBA, Carroll Dunham at He Said/She Said (C). Carroll Dunham shows in a suburban apartment gallery: the Oak Park home of Pamela Fraser and Randall Szott. Can’t wait for this.
10/8-21 Chicago International Film Festival (M) In it’s 45th year the film festival the two week festival is the hub for all film fanatics. This festival might be the only time to catch certain films so be sure to check out their schedule in advance.
10/10 Jeremy Deller: It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq, at the MCA (M) Commissioned by The Three M Project Jeremy Deller will invite numerous participants to discuss their knowledge of the Iraq War. Some guest will include verterans, and scholars.
James Welling at Donald Young (C)
10/10 Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage at The Art Institute (C). I’m a sucker for Victoriana, and this exhibition –the first “to comprehensively examine the little-known phenomenon of Victorian photocollage, presenting work that has rarely—and in many cases never—before been displayed or reproduced” — is probably the one show I’m most looking forward to seeing this fall. A medium mostly practiced by aristocratic women, Victorian photocollage combined human, animal, and botanical forms in all sorts of wacky and whimsical ways, and I’m looking forward to reading the accompanying full-color catalogue to learn more about the ways that female artists of this era approached the form some sixty odd years before Picasso and Braque started playing around with it.
10/13 Alex Halsted and David Moré at Gallery 400 (C). Chicago-based Moré “collaborates” with an elephant nose fish, who emits an electrical pulse as a navigation tool which the artist then amplifies. I love the gallery’s blurb on this show: “This performance duo mixes issues of displacement, communications, commercial sound and inter-species contact in a singularly engaging bio-tech format.” Yep, pretty much says it all.
10/16 In Search of the Mundane at ThreeWalls (M) Organized by Randall Szott and InCUBATE According to ThreeWalls this series will , “include boozy brunches, a lecture on the art of storytelling, various leisure excursions, and a tour of personal collections.”
10/17 Liam Gillick Curates the MCA Collection (M, C). We love the way that the MCA is experimenting with the curation of its permanent collection. The MCA has invited Liam Gillick to select works for its next hanging.
11/TBA James Welling at Donald Young (C). New work by L.A. photographer Welling, whose ongoing interest in the experimental and abstract possibilities of photography set his work apart from contemporaries like Sherrie Levine and Cindy Sherman as well as today’s younger generation focusing heavily on portraiture. Welling’s last show at Donald Young featured photograms of flowers and “torsos” (the latter actually made out of screens sculpted to resemble human curves) made without the use of a camera; the results were gorgeous, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he delves into next.
12/4 Carrie Schneider at MCA 12×12 (M, C) Often using herself as her main character, Schneider melds several genres of art-making including body art, performance, self-portraiture photography and film in images that are haunting, creepy, and hallucinatory in their resonance. If someone ever gave Schneider a huge project budget she could give Matthew Barney a run for his money, but for now we’ll look forward to seeing the new short film Schneider plans to premiere in her first solo museum outing at the MCA. According to the MCA’s website, the film, made in Helsinki, Finland while the artist was there on residency, continues the artists’ ongoing exploration of doubled selves and the uncanny.