Rogers Park was the place to be Saturday night with killer back to back openings taking place within blocks of one another. The weather couldn’t have been better and both shows had robust turn outs. Unioned Labors at the aptly named Bike Room featured not one but three different collaborative projects from duos. Small and whimsical, this show packed a big punch. Alberto Aguilar & Alex Bradley Cohen filled the space’s hallway with a mural pieced together with delightfully bold and colorful paintings on cardboard and complimented by a playful soundtrack. Inside the gallery itself a video of Aguliar’s & Cohen workin’ it out in the Bike Room’s backyard that shared a similar soundtrack. Amanda Ross-Ho and her father, Ruyell, used one of his playful abstractions that reads “Less is Not More” to adorn one of Ross-Ho’s signature oversized t-shirts. The most somber offering, Frank Piyatec & Judith Geitchman‘s rhythmic black and white text and abstractions were arranged into a giant checkerboard.
Caribbean American Bakery located at 1539 W Howard Street.
The Weatherman Report
For Chicago IL
Max Ernst, Humboldt Current, 1951-52. Oil on canvas, 36 x 61 cm. Photo: Foundation Beyeler.
The scene at Iceberg Projects Saturday.
Better Luck Next Time leads to Hilarity, Danger
Game show pilot debuts in Steuben, WI
Fed up with the lack of cable television at the Steuben Lodge, ACRE residents and staff took matters into their own hands last weekend recording live the first ever episode of “Better Luck Next Time,” a newlyweds-style game show for artistic duos. Hosted by Carlos Danger and Vanna Ruffino, collaborators were pitted against each other to see who’s vibin’ the hardest.
Hosts Carlos Danger and Vanna Ruffino.
Carlos Danger valiantly and hilariously lead the unwilling contestants to reveal some of their deepest gripes with one another. Points were awarded on a somewhat unconventional basis after the audience mutinied against the show and its producers, demanding sympathetic half-points for weary contestants. Danger and Ruffino were ultimately able to win over the unruly mob and the pilot was a huge live success.
Live from the Chalet Studio.
Lucky to see this early preview, WWT? has heard that there are plans to put the show into syndication in Chicago.
Watching Melika Bass‘ semi-narrative films often feels like living in someone else’s dreams: utterly inaccessible at many levels, but fueled by recognizable if nebulous desires, and structured by logics that make actions seem uncannily self-evident, no matter how strange.
Bass has been quietly making rigorous and rigorously strange films for a decade, and in 2011 she created an installation for MCAâ€™s 12X12 based on her film Shoals, comprised of relics from the shoot that extended Shoals’s imaginary pastoral-gothic world in the ambiguous space of a contemporary white cube gallery. She recently was commissioned to make a film for Sigur RÃ³s, VarÃ°eldur, conceived as a character study of â€œan unstable entity in a haunted vessel,â€ a gloss that can describe many of her half-created characters, both absolutely unknowable and archetypically suggestive of the heroes of fables and the antiheroes of fairy tales.
Bass filming “Waking Things” (2011). Photo Credit: Jared Larson
MW: Are your characters living in a real world– are they real, or are they dreaming?
MB: They are real to themselves, but many of them are also indoctrinated in some way — into some kind of belief system, self-perception, and power dynamic. The quasi-hypnosis of these characters is a bit of Stockhausen Syndrome, but also something that mirrors the movie watching experience, or any kind of assembly-based experience (religious or otherwise). There is something fascinating about the adaptability of humans to any kind of situation, and our ability to find a logic in the most half-baked schemes, and perform all kinds of ritualistic behavior everyday because of those values.
MW: There’s lots of dream logic at play, almost a psychoanalytic feel.
MB: Interestingâ€¦what do you mean by psychoanalytic?
MW: I think by “psychoanalytic” in an earlier question I meant that a both films I’ve seen have a sort non-rational logic that I’d associate with surrealism, the unconscious, those weird Freudian parables about his clients and their symbolic recurring dreams… I guess the idea of psychoanalytic aesthetics in my head is that involves abstracted, illogical, but psychologically understandable narratives. David Lynch or Tarkovsky both do this in different ways in feature-length films. There’s this feeling I get in your films that I am inside the head of a character who is working something out in a deeply symbolic way that I can’t interpret. I don’t know if that makes any sense, though… do you think about this kind of thing when you’re making films?
MB: I like this question. I am fascinated by how we cognitively create our own logic, justification, explanation, rationalization for the phenomena we experience. Perhaps these characters you are describing are an extreme example of this, in that these normal, and at their root survivalist behaviors, they have turned into an overt system of value or belief or labor, and are living their lives ritualistically because of it, ensnaring others alongside them. The surrealistic flavor is not something that I plan, but juxtaposition and absurdity are for me, a kind of normal.
Always an observer in my own family, I’ve always had the experience of not understanding causal relationships between observed events or behaviors in others, and wanting to. Even though there is an impenetrableness to understanding and knowing why people behave as they do, there is also the freeing, openness of multiple possible meanings. I hope these characters are both absurd and unnerving in their sincerity, and their authority. Perhaps ideally, just by experiencing the films and being lulled by them, viewers can sit in an surprising place of empathy for these characters, and the embrace the questions and ambiguity of their situations.
Film still from “Nanty” (2013) by Melika Bass. Super 16mm film.
MW: How do you think about the relationship between characters in your different films? Are they part of a kind of extended strange family?
MB: I don’t think of the characters in my separate films as sharing territories, or that they know each other. But they do all occupy a kind of archetypal fantasy realm where I feel they might live in bubbles adjacent to each other, perhaps one lives up the river from another, but in another country, or 100 years after. There is the fact that I cherish the fact that the objects in my films cross over to the worlds of the other films. For me this is a practical production decision (I keep all my props and costumes, have a small, Chicago apartment basement storage and so recycle), but it’s also an extension of all this speculative fictionâ€¦the idea that many of thecharacters in my films (especially Songs from the Shed, Shoals, and Waking Things), are all scavengers of sorts, creating their own meaning (which asks to be deciphered or observed) from rituals based on the materials they have, and also via their bodies, and in moments, language or song. The objects are worn and carry as much history and potential narrative as these gestural bodies; materials and characters may have equal ‘value’ in that way, though I’d have to think more about that…
MW: But then when I write that I wonder, are these characters in your films even full character studies? In both Nanty and Shoals, the characters are left undeveloped and mysterious, almost archetypal on purpose. What kinds of figures are they to you? What is revealed and hidden about them in your films?
MB: Even though I come out of a literature and theatre background, in my filmmaking I’m pretty committed to utilizing what to me are uniquely cinematic aesthetic tools that are centered around observation. So for me that’s movement, light, sound, texture, scale, duration, etc. I am very interested framing a character in terms of behavior that suggests but does not explain inner life of motivation, desire, etc. Perhaps on a way it is something like portraiture, or creating a kind of attention in the viewer to physical details, energies, and action in figures. . .language of course interests me too, but primarily in the way that its performative and coded also. I want to play with narrative expectations and actual cognitive narrativizing that we do all the time, in movies, and in life, as a way of ordering or making sense of things. This is one of the reasons I also rarely move the camera, and embrace the fragmentation of montage, a static frame, and a detailed soundtrack; I am hoping to slow folks down a bit, and in a way introduce a way of seeing, hearing, experiencing, and gathering of information that is a kind of adding up of parts, that also includes sitting with ambiguity and becoming an ‘active viewer’ while also being absorbed into the world/window of the film. This tension is a kind of experiential realism for me.
Film still from “Shoals” (2011) by Melika Bass. 16mm film.
MW: One quote I loved from Shoals was when Chris [Sullivan]/the cult leader/doctor/teacher asks one of the girls to place a group of random objects into intuitive groupings. He asks her to find the “binder”– “an associative connection that brings them form and work, maybe.” It strikes me that this could be a way of thinking about your films. What do you see as the binders that connect the scenes and movements of individual films together?
MB: That’s interesting. Yes, for the films I think binders could be the these surrogate families or self-made communities and their culture-making which borders on religion, and then the situations in the films themselves, which play on our cognitive need for causal order and meaning-making. In some ways this is something that Chris’s cult leader character is providing, although obliquely and absurdly. In this scene, for this lesson or indoctrination to occur, he’s asking Kelly’s (Emily’s character) to create her own meaning, a kind of teaching on the one hand and a sort of illusion of her using her own choice freely. This intersection of Catholicism, grammar school, psychological testing, and Eastern philosophies were all the elements I wanted his character to be combining. An attempt at utopia buoyed up by language that suggests knowledge or expertise, but has a lot of holes in it.
MW: I want to ask about atmosphere and place. In other interviews, you’ve talked about growing up in a sort of gothic southern atmosphere– are you recreating particular geographical or temporal atmospheres?
MB: I grew up in Richmond, Virginia (a place obsessed with its history) and Asheville, North Carolina, where the mountains and rain are lush in the Summer and chilling and blue-grey in the Winter. That part of Appalachia is shadowy and flinty and earthy and grubby and full of life and perseverance. I love it but it can be quite scary.
This gets back to your earlier question. In the realm of fully-developed characters or archetypes, I may lean toward the latter because I am pretty fascinated with stories of self-identity based on history. Many times in America, in a family, that’s a history of immigration, or someone being defined by their job, where they lived, or a particular personality trait. People get mythologized so quickly and easily and stories about family are stories we tell ourselves about who we are, who we want to be, should be, or don’t want to be. It seems particularly complicated in the US because while we are so fixated on making our own way, and re-making ourselves all the time, we still define our selves in relation to these stories of our own history in one way or another. There are stories in my own family that I have always loved hearing or finding out about that I entertain as defining me in one way or another. You can call it cultural heritage, or think of it psychologically, or based on gender roles, class, but there’s an anthropology to a family and the culture that gets created in it by ritual behavior and the stories it authors about itself. I think all the films I’ve been making lately are exploring these ideas.
Film still from “Songs from the Shed” (2008), by Melika Bass. 16mm film. Pictured: David Cook as Thistle (a figure who re-emerges in later timeline and another place in Bass’ installation “Slider.”
MW: Regarding the relationships between these films, you said something really intriguing to me at the Hairpin center about Nanty that I wanted to ask more about in starting. If I remember correctly, you were saying that you pictured it being part of an epic modular project pieced together with grants you get here and there. I was impressed by this for a few reasons: first, that you are so scrappy about using the ad hoc way that artists are funded (and, though I don’t know as much as I should about it, probably video artists in particular) to your advantage, and, second, that you can work this way and think this far out in terms of discrete but interlocking projects. How far off am I on this idea of yours? Can you talk more about your plans for future work and the kind of different pieces you would imagine making/how they might relate?
MB: I am currently working on a project called Summerstock, which I imagine as a long-form, film work that will evolve and branch out with each iteration over the next few years. Initially, I had conceived of the project simply as a feature film (typically 70-90minutes), but my experiences in making installations in the last several years, and the current transitional state of independent feature filmmaking, have lead me to embrace what ultimately is a more exciting structure — a constellation, a web of interconnected nodal sections. My hope is that the overall long form will change as I continue each stand-alone piece, which is also connected to the others in terms of character, place, materials, or any other points of relationship I’ll be exploring. The dream here is that I can find funding or shoe-string methods to work as I keep making each piece, and that the venues and environments for exhibition or screening will also add an ephemeral and experiential quality to those pieces as well. The first part I made and exhibited in May as part of the Presence of Absence show, and think of like an Introit. It’s a 10minute film installation Nanty, which introduces a key figure in the project, and hints at her situation. The next part of this project will premiere in Chicago in a solo exhibition at Iceberg Projects on Nov. 3, and run through December.
Thematically, the next part of SUMMERSTOCK will be both a film and an installationâ€¦ It will offer a tension of inner and outer landscapes, the use of the voice to reveal and conceal, and it’ll be set in a familiar but unknown place — a hybrid of specificities of place and people. Regionalism is a fantasy, and I think travels well. I am excited to stage this piece site-specifically at Iceberg, it’s such an elegant and intimate space.
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.
Daniel Shea @ Gallery 400
Above: Daniel Shea with his photography in Gallery 400, as seen on April 13, 2013, at the closing of UIC’s third MFA exhibition.
Above: Christopher Ottinger, background, at the opening reception, his uncovered, kinetic light art seen rotating in the foreground.
April 12 – May 2, 2013
Chicago Artistsâ€™ Coalition
217 N. Carpenter St.
Chicago, IL 60607 http://chicagoartistscoalition.org/
Lossless @ Chicago Artistsâ€™ Coalition
Above: Matthew Schlagbaum’s kinetic light installation visible within its smoked vitrine housing.
April 12 – May 2, 2013
HATCH Projects Residency
Chicago Artistsâ€™ Coalition
217 N. Carpenter St.
Chicago, IL 60607
Curated by MK Meador
Artwork by Jordan Martins, Matthew Schlagbaum and Theodore Darst http://chicagoartistscoalition.org/
The Wail of Silence @ ROOMS Gallery
Above: Alex de Leon lifts her veil in “Ritual No. 4 – Toll of Eyes,” a three-hour performance, 7:00-10:00 PM, March 8, 2013.
Above: “Psychosexual” curator Scott Hunter in the foreground, with artwork, left-to-right, by Nazafarin Lotfi, John Neff, and Peter Otto, visible in the background.
Above: Artwork by Peter Otto, Rachel Niffenegger, and Brenna Youngblood, seen left-to-right in Andrew Rafacz Gallery.
April 6 – May 25, 2013
Andrew Rafacz Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago IL 60607
Curated by Scott J. Hunter
Artwork by Lutz Bacher, Tom Burr, Edmund Chia, Matthias Dornfeld, Jayson Keeling, Jutta Koether, Nazafarin Lotfi, Jeffry Mitchell, John Neff, Rachel Niffenegger, Peter Otto, Kirsten Stoltmann, and Brenna Youngblood http://www.andrewrafacz.com/
Lauren Edwards & Kera MacKenzie @ ACRE Projects
Above: Lauren Edwards and Kera MacKenzie, participants in UIC’s first MFA exhibition of 2013, seen within their subsequent show at ACRE Projects’ home site in Pilsen.
Lauren Edwards & Kera MacKenzie
“Burden of Proof”
April 14 – 28, 2013
1913 W. 17th St.
Chicago, IL 60608 http://www.acreresidency.org/
Michael Ian Larsen @ PEREGRINEPROGRAM
Michael Ian Larsen
“The Tree, the Gift, and the Amphibian”
March 10 – April 7, 2013
3311 W. Carroll Avenue, #119
Chicago, IL 60624 http://www.peregrineprogram.com/
Tina Tahir @ Gallery 400
Above: Tina Tahir at her closing reception with the installation “41.876503,-87.649666,” an ornamental ‘rug’ made of ash and magnetite mineral, whose title provides its GPS co-ordinates. Intentionally made available to foot traffic throughout the course of the exhibition, said piece is shown disturbed from its original state.
“A strange house in my voice.”
2013 UIC Art MFA Thesis Exhibition 2
April 2 â€“ April 6, 2013
College of Architecture and the Arts
University of Illinois at Chicago
400 S. Peoria St.
Chicago, IL 60607
Artwork by Cameron Gibson, Ben Murray, and Tina Tahir http://www.tinatahir.com/
Laura Wennstrom @ The Peanut Gallery
Above: Gallery patron interacts with Wennstrom’s “Block City” during the opening reception; cameras hang ready to document the action.
Jesse Butcher & Anthony Romero
“Cyclical, Circular. Like Vultures.”
April 6 – 27, 2013
Happy Collaborationists, in partnership with ACRE Residency
1254 N Noble
Chicago IL, 60642 http://happycollaborationists.com/
Michael Robinson @ Carrie Secrist
“Circle Spectre Paper Flame”
April 6 – May 11, 2013
Carrie Secrist Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607 http://www.secristgallery.com/
Above: A Co-Prosperity School student’s presentation on March 18, 2013.
Above: “The Index for an Encylopedia” by Daniel Rosen
Above: “Smell.RB.MFA 2013″ by Maymay Jumsai
University of Chicago MFA Show 1
April 5 – 14, 2013
Logan Center Gallery
915 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637 http://arts.uchicago.edu/
Christopher Meerdo @ Document
March 15 â€“ April 20, 2013
845 W. Washington Blvd. Suite 3f
Chicago IL 60607 http://christophermeerdo.com/
Juneer Kibria @ The Sub-Mission
Above: Juneer Kibria in his installation, opening night.
March 8 â€“ April 20, 2013
The Mission (The Sub-Mission)
1431 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60642 http://themissionprojects.com/
Rebecca Beachy @ Iceberg Projects
Above: An audience member views “Warm (bed)” through a rectangular aperture just above the floor; 109 dozen factory-farmed eggs, ground, lit by heat lamps, lie within the piece.
Above: Iceberg Projects proprietor Dan Berger within the gallery space on June 23, 2012
March 10 -April 1, 2013
7714 N. Sheridan Road
Chicago, IL 60626
Artwork by Rebecca Beachy and Walker Blackwell http://icebergchicago.com/home.html
Lisa Walcott @ threewalls
“Pretty Good Shape”
Artists in Research – Residency
(Closed on March 21, 2013)
119 N. Peoria #2c
Chicago, IL http://www.three-walls.org/
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.