To respond to the art world with a fish may be a surrealist gesture. But to respond with an entire fish counter, complete with fishmongers in white boots, ice and creative displays of the seafood itself, is surely pushing the 20th century genre to breaking point.
Such is the effect of the so-called Centre for Innovative and Radical Fishmongery, spotted in public at Sluice Art Fair, London, late October. Amidst the plentiful art for sale, the wares at CIRF included a scrambling pile of langoustine and a sinister-looking hake chewing on a lemon.
The artist behind the project is Sam Curtis who came to fishmongery by chance in 2006. A part time MFA at prestigious art school Goldsmiths necessitated finding work. By strange twist of fate, he found an opening on the fish counter at luxury department store Harrods.
“I decided to kill two birds with one stone,” he tells me when we catch up via phone. “I was under a lot of pressure to make work and earn at the same time, so I turned the day job into a studio, into a springboard, a platform for creating new projects.”
Curtis took his fishmongery skills back to successful crits at Goldsmiths. “I called it working in stealth mode, an undercover residency where my employer and my colleagues weren’t aware of the things that I was doing, what I was taking from the job, until the end,” he says.
After leaving this post, the artist blew his cover. “It was hard for them to grasp, in a way,” he says of his erstwhile colleagues, and equally hard to get their heads round was the film Curtis went on to make about them, “about their creativity and how they potentially see themselves as artists”.
“There’s a performative aspect to it,” says the artist of his former trade, and, “There is a lot of theatre there,” he says of his former workplace. But he now sees his installation at Sluice as a conceptual piece, and one he hopes to be able to tour.
“Fish are different all round the country,” he explains, adding that he hopes to collaborate with more fishmongers and artists alike. Pre CIRF, in 2011 he completed a residency in a fish shop in Penzance, Cornwall. There are clearly openings for artists working with fish.
But his new project is nothing if not inclusive. For the London art fair, Curtis invited half a dozen visiting artists to make their own displays. He can now add their ideas to the ever growing repertoire: “They created displays that I would never have done,” he admits.
And with an art fair audience already primed for excitement, Curtis can claim reactions of genuine surprise towards his intervention at Sluice. With plenty of conversation about fish, there was also an interest in day jobs in general and ways in which they can be creative.
Curtis says that artists and creative types are highly prone to disappointment in the realities of working life: “Your expectations aren’t really fulfilled quite often, because you might have more glamorous ideals about what being an artist is.”
By contrast, the fish-loving artist also says: “I’m interested in treating life as an artwork. Hence the turning of day job into a residency. I think if you can inject creativity into the more banal parts of your life, you’re more likely to become fulfilled.”
“I’ve always played on the fact you can insert your practice into your day job, no matter how far detached away from art that job is.” But even Curtis has his moments of doubt, having recently taken on a new full time job, he admits to being “slightly scared” about losing time for his art.
“As to what the best day jobs are, I don’t know,” he says, having tried working in a gallery and not liking the experience. “I prefer being quite far away from the art world.”
The trick is surely to become Innovative and Radical in everything you do, be that showing fish alongside video or giving away seafood at an art fair. “In terms of fishmongery and the radicalization of fishmongery I don’t think we’ve reached that point yet,” says Curtis. CIRF is clearly going after the big, ocean-going game.
I came across the following essay about performance (and its relationship to the institution) on The Weeklings. Since the subject has come up — even obliquely — a few times on B@S in the last month or so, from Tanta’s conversation with performers last week (asking them about how protest functions, if at all),to Göransson’s discussion of ASCO, and Gutierrez’s performance at the MCA, I wanted to link to Amy Sherlock’s essay here:
Is He For Real? The Blurry Boundaries Of Contemporary Performance
AN ODD THING just happened to me. I am writing this essay at a desk in a public library, the British library, no less, the largest public building built in the UK in the 20th century. I’m sitting, in silence, in a busy reading room, surrounded by literally hundreds of people. Most of us are tap-tap-tapping away at their computers, each in our own world, near enough to hear one another’s breathing and yet entirely isolated in our silence, the contractual silence that is the condition of our being here. Not that this is anything out of the ordinary. The “funny thing” happened outside in the café, where, having eaten alone and also in silence, an unknown man at a facing table called me over as I was leaving and asked, in flagrant contravention of unspoken library protocol, what I was working on. He invited me to sit, which I did, and we proceeded to chat with the superficial, stilted brevity of such awkward encounters, until sufficient time had elapsed that I felt able to take my leave without appearing rude. Now installed at the silent haven of my desk, I’m trying to work out what to make of this unexpected, unsolicited encounter. I was uncomfortable, and wary about why this stranger called me over and the demands he might make of me. I was also slightly irritated, unfairly disinterested, from the outset, not wishing to confide or to be confided in, eager to return to myself and my own thoughts. I also had the niggling suspicion that this was some kind of set-up, a trick to make a fool of me or to get something out of me. I was waiting for the punch line to this protracted, unfunny joke; for him to ask for my money, or my number; for his friends to appear and make a scene. Perhaps cynically my first thought was “is he for real?”
And, all those feelings – they could be ascribed to contemporary performance art. There’s been a huge surge in performance’s popularity the past few years. This summer Tate Modern opened their Tanks as a dedicated space for performance and video installations, while in the museum’s Turbine Hall Tino Seghal staged These associations , the first live art piece to be performed in the towering, empty space. In 2010, his This Progress, spiralled up the central rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum, and there were seventy-seven days of Marina Abramovic’s mute, immobile presence in MoMA’s atrium (The Artist Is Present). Here on this side of the pond, the Hayward Gallery in London staged Move: Choreographing You, while,. this year a whole floor of the Whitney Biennial was given over to performance, and in LA, there’s even a new gallery set up by hip young artists dedicated to, guess, yes, performance.
The Abramovic phenomenon in particular has come to exemplify the complicated alliance between performance, the museum, and institutional and commercial gallery spaces. For all its professed immediacy and the emphasis on the ephemeral “present,” MoMA did a good job of packaging up “the moment” and circulating it. There are photographs, official catalogue and the feature-length film. And, then there were the follow up shows later that year across both of Lisson Gallery’s London spaces exhibiting documentation from earlier Abramovic performances. All of which seems to scream, precisely, that the artist is not present. However you choose to evaluate the work and despite any reservations you may have about the mythical status of the artist or the art institution as a sanctified space, what’s undeniable is The Artist Is Present celebrated the face-to-face one-on-one encounter. And, that exchange is at the heart of the performance revival. (read more)
We all saw this coming: Jeremy Strick to resign…or not?
“One member of the museum’s Board of Trustees, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Strick had resigned during a ‘tearful’ scene at a meeting of the board. A MOCA spokeswoman, however, denied that…”
It sounds as if the board might accept Eli Broads offer.
“The agreement, which the board voted on at a long meeting Thursday afternoon, is not final and is subject to numerous conditions, including Mr. Broad’s examinations of the museum’s financial accounts, according to the people, two of whom attended the meeting on Thursday.”
Los Angeles mayor Villaraigosa makes a plea to MOCA
“His letter to board co-chairmen Tom Unterman and David Johnson asks that the board take time to thoroughly review its options and set aside 30 days to allow the public an opportunity to provide input before a decision is made.”
Eli Broad asks LACMA to show him the money.
“The question, he said, is which bailout carries a stronger guarantee of secure funding for MOCA’s endowment and exhibitions: his $30-million offer or LACMA’s merger proposal, to which no price tag has been publicly attached.”
This week Duncan and Richard talk with the Director and President of the Art Institute of Chicago, James Cuno. They talk about his new book, the new wing of the Art Institute opening in May, and a bit of baseball talk thrown in to boot!
James Cuno is president and director of the Art Institute of Chicago and former director of the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Harvard University Art Museums. He has written widely on museums and cultural policy. His books include “Whose Muse?: Art Museums and the Public’s Trust” and his latest “Who Owns Antiquity?: Museums and the Battle Over Our Ancient Heritage, (Princeton).
PLEASE VOTE FOR US!!!
VOTE EARLY, VOTE OFTEN – It is the Chicago way!
If we win, Duncan will accept our award dressed in a Sarah Palin costume!
Patricia Maloney in her first solo outing talks to Connie Wolf Director and CEO of the Contemporary Jewish Museum.
Since its founding in 1984, the Contemporary Jewish Museum has engaged audiences of all ages and backgrounds through dynamic exhibitions and programs that explore contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. Throughout its history, the Museum has distinguished itself as a welcoming place where visitors can connect with one another through dialogue and shared experiences with the arts.
Richard and Duncan rattle on for an eternity during the intro, but there is the singing of some Queen as they discuss being named Chicago Magazine’s podcast of the year.
ALSO THE RETURN OF MIKE BENEDETTO!!! Read more