EDITION #17

September 9, 2013 · Print This Article

Fall already freaking jam packed with openings

It’s official, Chicago artists are back from their residencies and vision quests and it is time for the fall gallery season. Inaugurated this weekend with about a million openings from River North to the ‘burbs and back again, we’re still reeling. Here are some photos while we iron out our thoughts:

Oh, this brave new art world! We didn’t know QR codes could actually do something but this interactive curiosity greets you at the entrance to Technoromanticism, a strictly new media show curated by Alfredo Salazar-Caro at Jean Albano Gallery on Friday night.

Performance finally showed some skin at the second iteration of THIS IS NOW A MAGAZINE: Dwyer/Fraccaro/Wylie in Logan Square last week. Things were anything but comfortable at the Comfort Station during a performance using CAM4 and something having to do with Buffalo Bill that we wish we could erase.

This pink combo stole our heart at LVL’s opening for Quandry on Saturday night.

Volume Gallery debuted their completely amazing and beautiful renovated space on Friday night with a show by Jonathan Muecke. Despite all the new space (or maybe because of it) the gallery was totally packed. This photo is from SightUnseen


Tyson Reeder’s opening at Peregrine Program celebrated some of Club Nutz greatest hits, and reminded us that we need to hit the beach one last time before fall!

Sterling Lawrence was super conceptual and all, but we thought these Alain Biltereyst pieces at Devening Projects + Editions were cute in a good way and would fit way better in my studio apartment.

Also, this?!

Reading is Fundamental

  • Cave of Lascaux blows everyones mind:
    Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux at the Field Museum closed this weekend and if you didn’t make it we are truly sorry. This show had more new media than the SAIC BFA exhibition and we swear those cave paintings could be hanging in Shane Campbell and no one would bat an eye. We would go into greater detail, but fortunately for you, dear reader, Daniel Baird’s already wrote a piece on the exhibition and it is awesome. Who knew that ancient cave paintings were so totally superficial? Totes recommend you read it, we’ve been using Dan’s ideas to sound smart at openings all weekend.
  • Woman makes strong case for ladies:
    In case you couldn’t tell, WTT? loves the ladies, and we couldn’t be more excited to see the rest of the art world catching on. One lady show opened up this weekend with two to follow next week at Heaven and at the Frogman Gallery. “Lady Painters” curator, Gwendolyn Zabicki, sent us a hot tip on some required reading by participating artist, Sarah Weber. “Had I written a critical essay for Lady Painters, I would have liked to have written the very excellent one by Sarah Weber for Being a Woman in an All Woman Show.” WTT? couldn’t agree more. You can prep for both of these openings next weekend by reading Weber’s statement now.
  • Art Newspaper on artists in newspapers:
    Writer, Martin Bailey, covers the seriously late breaking news of Van Gogh’s ear incident after re-discovering an article from the Parisian paper Le Petite Journal published shortly after the incident on December 26, 1888. While doing research for his book on the artist, Bailey discovered the clipping, shedding new light on possibly the best artist gossip of all time. Making news in Paris all the way from Arles? Van Gogh is just lucky that the Impressionists didn’t have Facebook.
  • Extra, Extra: Art group travels to space, reports in NewCity?
    Speaking of newspapers, we almost forgot that people print those things anymore (oh wait, did we mention the newspaper we’re printing during EXPO?). Thankfully, we were reminded this week by the totally out of this world spread by Sarah Belknap, Marissa Lee Benedict and Joseph Belknap in NewCity. The photos are completely gorgeous and worth seeing in IRL.
  • Stop by LVL3’s MRKT and pick up a FREE copy of San Fransisco Arts Quarterly featuring an interview with the gallery’s director, Vincent Uribe, and artist, Josh Reames.

Reed’s drumkit.

Artists confused, think they are musicians

Last Thursday night WTT? made our first outing to Constellation. The venue’s unassuming brick facade under the overpass on Belmont and Western betrays the clean yet cozy interior of the bar. Intent on seeing live music on a Thursday night, Constellation was a great option. That is to say, the show was free. This art reporter was intrigued by the line-up: two reasonably well known visual artists (1/2 of Sonnenzimmer, Nick Bucher, and recent Hatch resident, Jordan Martins) performing with Constellation’s purveyor, Mike Reed, on drums.

Not to be mistaken for real musicians, the artists turnt virtuosos played an assortment of objects that would have made any dadaist proud.

Martins started the set playing guitar, but soon switched over to two broken guitar necks on a table which he “played” by jamming screwdrivers between the strings while strumming with chopsticks. Butcher wasn’t any more conventional “playing” a record player and what looked like a jumble of assorted cables that we’re not even sure were plugged in.

Even real musician, Mike Reed, got into the readymade spirit. It was weird enough that he played the drums with a tiny rake, but what was next to the drums was a regular Duchamp. Was it a rice cooker on a styrofoam cooler? Some instrument we’ve never seen before? We’re still not sure.

Despite using what appeared to be broken instrument pieces and household bric-a-brac, the trio was other wordly, playing a set that meandered through melodic ups and downs, punctuated by Butcher’s off beat electronics. Super chill for a Thursday night, I just wish they had better cocktails. (The Pimm’s cup was alright.)

Constellation is located at 3111 N Western Ave.

Header image is a photograph from inside Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux at the Field Museum.

Got any T? email me!
(or get @ me on twitter)





Thoughts from Across the Cultural Divide: #12 (Unnecessary Smugness)

July 23, 2012 · Print This Article

 

New York Public Radio

If you’ve been reading my “Cultural Divide” contributions over the past several months, you’ve gathered that I go to great lengths to try to deliver evenhanded criticism. So much so that a few have accused me of being an apologist for everything from hunting to performance art. My on-the-one-hand-on-the-otherness isn’t a righteous stance of journalistic integrity but rather a reflection of a sincere belief that the terms of cultural difference in America stem from very basic misunderstandings about the structural composition of various cultures, which if inventoried, might bridge the widening divide.

An example: Many of my culturally agnostic New York friends adamantly oppose organized religion, yet they remain open to the most phantasmatic, shamanistic, quasi-religious conceptualism in the high cultural milieu. A Lutheran service severely disturbs their enlightened senses of rational propriety, but they’re more than happy to attempt the leap of faith needed to appreciate Richard Tuttle, Robert Wilson or Trisha Brown. Likewise, most of the parishioners at a Lutheran church in Wisconsin gladly throw their worldly faith behind a 2000 year-old fairy tale about a prophet conceived without intercourse, yet they walk into a contemporary art museum and feel a Duchampian readymade or a Specific Object by Donald Judd is part of a conspiracy dreamed up by cabals of elitist charlatans from Vassar trying to control their minds.

The two scenarios sound pretty similar to me.

The Lutheran church isn’t as religious as many would have it.

The High Art world isn’t as secular as many would have it.

Religion is culture. Culture is religion.

But none of that is my point. My point is that even though most of a particular culture’s eccentricities or attitudes can be written off to relativity, some can’t.

My wife told me last week that I came down a little hard on the tapas bar in northern Wisconsin that served jalapeno poppers and truffled popcorn. She said it was a little snotty of me and that in the process I tipped my hand a little. Sometimes a guy has to pass some judgment.

On the flip side, for the past week New York Public Radio has been running a series of commercials whose appalling arrogance makes me embarrassed to have participated in their pledge drive. It’s the kind of navel-gazing, self-satisfied righteousness that turns people off to New Yorkers and their near monopoly on advanced culture. New Yorkers have taken the blind patronage by the rest of America for granted. Sold out Broadway theaters and stuffed contemporary art centers aren’t a right, though. If New York dismisses everyone whose dinner conversations aren’t about Philip Glass, people may stop making the trip. Instead of traveling to New York for its wealth of culture, they’ll stay home and invent their own, spreading praise amongst themselves. Ever wonder why NASCAR is the most popular sport in America?

NASCAR, the most popular sport in America

As a cultural producer I’m not ready to completely alienate the 20 percent of the country who hasn’t defected to NASCAR and Captain America. We, at least I, need the 60 million Americans who might rather go to a Dodgers game, but still begrudgingly visit LACMA like a good boy eating his Brussels sprouts.

So here it goes: 15-yard penalty on New York Public Radio for Unnecessary Smugness.

(The spots are read by Stanley Tucci)

Stanley Tucci

“There are people who need you to explain things to them. They don’t understand about things like food co-ops and sleep deprivation in children.”

“There are people who count on you to be witty, at least smart. They don’t know what to think about Goldman Sachs or fracking in the Catskills. They expect you to tell them. And if you let them down, who knows what will happen to the world…or at least New York, which for some people is the world. You owe it to them to listen to WNYC all the time, so please don’t do a half-assed job, that’s not like you. WNYC. Never turn it off.”

Stanley Tucci




When The Object Presents Itself: An Interview with João Florêncio

February 22, 2012 · Print This Article

I met João Florêncio over the summer by accident. I was a tourist at a SEPFEP, a philosophy conference in York. My boyfriend was presenting a paper and I happened to tag along — using up some free miles that must have accumulated with my parents’ help. While there, I wasn’t planning to visit any panels but nevertheless, I did. It was great. I had one of those brain infusions that sits with you for months and years, as your consciousness tries to digest what it has consumed. In particular, I got a crash course on feminism and learned more about Object Oriented Ontology — the subject of João’s presentation.  He gave a paper about performance and how it might be considered as an object, a thing possessing its own autonomous being, a being not contingent on humanity. I wanted to ask him more questions on the subject and this seemed like a good opportunity. João is a Portuguese scholar currently based in London and researching on Contemporary European Philosophy and Performance Art. He is also an associated researcher of ‘Performance Matters.’

Caroline Picard: How do you think about performance? 

João Florêncio: What first drove me to think about performance was my interest in what is generally known as ‘Performance Art’ (or its more British term ‘Live Art’). Despite having been both trained as a classical musician from an young age in a junior conservatoire and received my first degree in musicology, it was not until I discovered performance art that I started thinking about what it means to perform.

Anyhow, after a change of academic focus during my MA, I found myself enrolling on the PhD programme in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London, in order to carry out what would turn out to be a research project on a new ontology of performance. The reasons for that are varied but they can be summed up by an increased awareness on my part that ‘performance’ is a term that is increasingly used to describe the behaviour of various beings, from humans to computer networks, from national economies and stock markets to higher education institutions. Nevertheless, and despite some exceptions (here I’m thinking of theorist Jon McKenzie), Performance Studies, the academic field within which I’m working, hasn’t spent enough time trying to theorise those occasions of nonhuman performance; it suffers, in my view, from a certain humanist or anthropocentric malaise for reasons that I can point out, if you want.

The question I faced then was how to think of nonhuman performance, how to try to write a new general theory of performance that is able to account for occasions of both human and nonhuman performativity, when Performance Studies doesn’t seem to be offering me any kind of useful theoretical tools to do so? After a couple of years of research, I think I have finally found the medicine I was looking for, and I found it in a cocktail of Information Theory, Cybernetics, Actor-Network-Theory and the fairly recent branch of Continental Philosophy known as Object-Oriented Ontology. These bodies of work, along with a few dashes of Quantum Theory and Philosophy of Mind (for good measure), have helped me take Performance Studies to a place where it had hitherto dared not to go and find a new vibrancy in the world of objects.

Thus, and to finally kind of answer your question, I currently see performance in a very simple (yet useful) way: performance is nothing other than the process through which an object is translated into a version of itself able to be experienced by another object. By translatable object I don’t only mean a musical score, a theatre play, an idea, or even a person; rather, an object (like Graham Harman demonstrates) is anything that has an autonomous existence: from a person to a rock, from a shot of electricity fired by a neuron to a bankrupt financial institution, from a debt-ridden national economy to a melting iceberg. Performance is, in my view, that which allows for an object to manifest itself in the experience of another object by performing a double of itself. So yes, a performance is always performance and object at once. Because all objects that are given to us (or to any other objects) in experience are performances of other objects. Think about it as the whole world being a stage (isn’t that what ‘they’ say?). If the whole world is a stage, then everything in it is playing some role at some point and the only thing we (and everything else) have access to are the characters, the roles played and not the real actors playing them. Suddenly the whole world is full of life, packed with mysteries and hidden places I’d like to visit. What about you?

CP: Of course! That sounds amazing — in so far as suddenly the objects one encounters (including oneself, I assume) possess something autonomous and dynamic. One thing that makes me curious, though, is the kind of priviledge that we have traditionally built into art objects. We want to distinguish them from everyday objects, like rocks for instance. But the way you talk about performance makes me imagine little to no distinction between a Marina Abramović piece and an everyday encounter with a light post. Does art need to maintain its hierarchical plinth to be art?

JF: I’d say there are at least two different kinds of performance: the performance that brings forth an object’s double onto another object’s experience (the kind of performance I mentioned earlier) and then there is a particular second kind of performance, a performance that starts by being like the first one but that then becomes something else. It begins by translating an object into the phenomenological realm of experience but then, for reasons that, in my view, have to do with a change on the way objects engage with each other as audiences, it goes beyond the experience of the given sensual object to suddenly denounce the presence of the real object hidden behind it (even if it never really makes it known). I see it like the Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt, the defamiliarisation effect through which audiences realise the play they’re watching isn’t reality itself: they become aware of the fiction of theatre; the presence of the actor behind the character is denounced. If the first kind of performance gives us the experience of what graham Harman has called ‘time’ (by allowing us to perceive sensual objects and changes in their sensual qualities), then this second kind of performance gives us ‘space’, the sudden realisation that the real is much deeper than we had hitherto known. It is also this second kind of performance that is usually associated with the art object. However, in my view, it has nothing to do with the nature of the object being experienced but with the nature of the experience itself. If we are to truly support a flat and democratic object-oriented ontology, then we cannot divide the world into ‘normal objects ‘and ‘art objects.’ Art objects don’t exist ontologically. What exists is a particular kind of relation between objects, the aesthetic relation. The aesthetic relation can in principle exist between any two objects. If we think about it, that has already been the case since the first avant-garde. just think of Duchamp’s ready-mades: they are objects like all others; the only thing that changed was that they were placed in a context that triggered an aesthetic engagement on the part of the audience, that context being the so-called ‘art exhibition’. However we do not need art galleries to tell us when to engage with other objects aesthetically: I can be enchanted by anything around me as long as I allow it to myself. It’s almost like my teenage LSD tree-hugging trips. Didn’t ‘they’ say something about opening the doors of perception? Perhaps we are the new hippies but without their terrible sense of fashion. Anyway, I digress here. Let’s just say that in a world made of equal objects and ridden of anthropocentrism, there is no privileged ontological space for ‘art objects.’ Because if we allow the art object to be in any way privileged, then we are a step closer to getting back to anthropocentrism because if art is special, then so must be its creator (the human genius). There is no art; there is only aesthetic experience. And, yes, sometimes the light post is also present; presence is not a quality that only Marina Abramovic has. ;)

CP: That’s what I was going to ask, actually…are there certain objects that are not vehicles of aesthetic experience?

JF: I’m not sure if I understood your question but I think all objects are capable of some kind of aesthetic experience even if perhaps we won’t ever be able to fully know how that operates. We can only speculate that, if an object can never really access another object but only relate to its sensual double, then we can call that a basic form of aesthesis, understood in its original Greek meaning of ‘perception.’ Hence, I believe that Graham Harman called aesthetics the first philosophy because the nature of all relationality between all objects is aesthetic. In what regards Abramovic’s reenactments of her own works, I’m not sure if each reenactment of the work counts as a new real object or, rather — and this is what I’m inclined to believe — as a new sensual version of a same object. We can understand reenactment very simply as a new performance (or a new translation) of the same real object, very much like every time the Chicago Symphony Orchestra plays Shubert’s Symphony No. 9, we are not listening to a new symphony but to a new ‘reading’ of it, a new interpretation, in this case Ricardo Muti’s translation of the original object. What different translations give us is a different point of view of an object without ever giving us the totality of that object (as the object will always withdraw or be protected from our full access via some sort of firewall). So, yes, Abramovic’s reenactments can give us different aspects of the original, to use your words. And those can be aspects that not even Abramovic herself is aware of as the original work as real object that it is, withdraws even from Abramovic’s full access.


CP: How you describe objects’ exchange with one another as audiences…what does that mean? Or, maybe more to the point: how does that work? Do objects have congnisance of one another?

JF: The answer to your second question comes from this previous answer: When I say objects operate as audiences when relating to sensual versions of another object, I mean that objects witness performance or translation, the reenactment of each other. This is not the same as saying that all objects are sentient and conscious of each other (humans and animals might be but I’m not sure about rocks and tree trunks). They are, however, changed by entering into relation with sensual objects just as audiences are changed when witnessing a performance. (I must note here that the relationship between performance and transformation of audiences and performers has been one of the core ideas surrounding Performance Studies since its inception as a field of academic enquiry). We can easily see that being the case: a tree enters into relation with an axe and, like an audience, it is transformed by it – gets cut, gets the shape of the axe’s blade imprinted in its own trunk – without ever having full access to the axe – it doesn’t know anything about the texture of the axe’s handle, its temperature, or its colour, for instance. Or a rock is shaped by the ocean’s waves, gets transformed, but still is not able to access the size of the ocean, the flora and fauna living in it, its saltiness, its reflection of the sunlight, or even the size of the oil spill covering it a few miles away in the Golf of Mexico. In that same way some of us sat in front of Marina Abramovic at MoMA and were transformed by it – some cried, some smiled, some felt reassurance – but nobody was able to fully access Abramovic’s ‘substance’ or, if you want, the totality of her being – her feelings, the sensations on her skin, her own sense of space, our image formed in her retina and being fired at the speed of light all the way up to her visual cortex, etc. As I see it, all relations in the world involve something or someone performing and something or something witnessing the performance, an audience.

CP: In closing, I am almost inclined to ask a sort of sentimental question; how has your day-to-day perception of the world shifted with the incorporation of this philosophy? I can’t help feeling like it might change the undercurrent of your most banal experiences…

JF: I like your last question. There’s nothing wrong with being sentimental. I’m Mediterranean, after all.  I think the way I look at things has changed after having read all this object-oriented philosophers and after having been working for a while on the intersection of performance studies and object-oriented philosophy. I think I started looking at things in a different way… I think perhaps to try to ‘catch them’, to try to have a glimpse of what they’ve been hiding. It’s actually hilarious when I find myself sneakingly looking at things like if they came from another planet. It can be a sign of madness but I like to think it is a sign of a rediscovered fascination with everything around me, with the enchanting side of everyday objects. It makes the world suddenly full of stuff waiting to be rediscovered and experienced in different manners. Like every stone hides a treasure or something like that. Call me a romantic, it’s OK.