Bad at Sports would like to welcome Devin King as our latest guest blogger. “Devin King lives and works in Chicago. His first book of poetry, CLOPS, is out from the Green Lantern Press and the newest production of his serial opera, Dancing Young Men From High Windows, was part of the 2010 Rhino Theater Festival.”
Before Stephen Lapthisophon moved to Dallas in 2008, he worked and taught in Chicago for over 25 years. He’s represented in Dallas by The Conduit Gallery, has shown work recently in San Antonio at Unit B, will be doing an installation soon for The Henderson Art Project and currently teaches art and art history at The University of Texas at Arlington. I spoke with him over a few weeks last summer about his installation practice.
Through this, I’ve been interested in how his installations, paintings, and text/image essays effectively erased old conceptions of relationships between objects and their histories. As you’ll see, we spend a bunch of time trying to nail down exactly what he’s getting at. Lapthisophon says its an attempt to rethink our surroundings. I’m not sure we ever answered the question.
In Graham Harman’s recent book on the French sociologist of science Bruno Latour (Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics), Harman describes Latour’s philosophy as “play[ing] out amidst microbes, tape recorders, windmills, apples, and any real or unreal actors that one might imagine.” Moreover, Harman continues, “Latour has no real interest in the pathos of depth: though his actors can always surprise us, these surprises always emerge at the surface of the world, not from some veiled underworld ruled by the shades of [philosophers, theologians, or poets.]” Against Harman’s description of Latour, Lapthisophon welcomes the irrational and poetic in our own responses to his work–Lapthosophon’s work with disjunctive elements reinforces Latour’s image of actors (be they objects, ideas, pictures, or personas) and their surprising emergence at the surface of a world of shifting relations.
The first thing I wanted to talk about was arrangement. You have an intuitive installation technique: you start with a small number of found objects/photocopies and build out into more materials–finding resonances through addition.
I think this is the result of an interest in limits and boundaries between art and everyday life experiences. I enjoy testing the tolerance level of a situation to see how much or how little can be added or changed while still living in the world of art. It is very much process oriented and, I hope, an open process–embracing flux and change: an open process reliant on intuition and chance operations. However, the method of working additively is neither sequential nor additive itself. I am guided by willful irrationality, chance, accident and mistake. I want to challenge accepted ideas concerning causality and intention.
Can you talk a bit about your idea of a “tolerance level of a situation” and how it manifests in your installations? Read more
Aspen Mays has been a busy woman with both a 12×12 show at the MCA (February 6-28) and an installation at the Hyde Park Art Center (January 24-April 25). She was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions about both exhibitions, her process, and her plans for her Fulbright Grant to Chile.
Recently you spoke at threewallsSALON in a discussion called The Doctoral Artist: Research & Practice. What role does research play in your practice? How do you typically begin a series/piece?
Research is often the catalyst for my work. I studied Anthropology as an Undergraduate student- that’s what my degree is in, and I think that sort of academic training has found its way into my practice mostly because I enjoy it so much. I’ve always been a really curious person, and I try to channel that as an artist. I love spending time in the library chasing down ideas, and I also try to get out and do a lot of hands-on research. Perhaps its my background in another field, but I read a lot of books about science and astronomy, and as an artist, I love speaking to folks in different research areas. A lot of projects start by tracking down experts in different fields that I’m interested in. I enjoy that interaction and these sort of “field trips” can be a great source of inspiration and potential collaboration. The video piece Larry, for example, was made with the help of the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. I contacted them after I’d been looking into weather ballooning, and I just started visiting the planetarium speaking to several of the astronomers that launch research balloons as part of the Astro Science Workshop each summer for high school students. I started attending the Workshop – for pleasure really because I thought it was all so interesting….one thing lead to another and I struck up a friendship with Mark Hammergren (an Astronomer there) and the video piece I ended up making sort of evolved out of all of that. That process is a pretty good example of my practice- I love seeking out that interaction. It makes making art feel a lot less solitary to me.
LUMPEN TLVSN got a great interview with the Yes Men when they were in town for the release of The Yes Men Fix the World.
“Mike Bonanno and Laurel Whitney discuss the roots and future of the prolific corpo-political hoax-sters The Yes Men. On hand are Lumpen cholos Edmar, James and Christo to hammer home the tough questions. Production by Christo and Nick Bahr. Enlightening…and fun. Check out more of The Yes Men at theyesmen.org”
Last month I wrote a post about Wynne Greenwood’s latest performance Sister Taking Nap. Wynne is best known for her performance as the three member band Tracy + the Plastics. Last year she had a solo show at Susanne Vielmetter which consisted of new sculptures and videos. In 2008 Wynne was the recipient of a Genius Award from Seattle’s the Stranger . Wynne was nice enough to answer some of my questions and fill me in on some of her projects.
1) After Tracy + the Plastics were over I had heard that you were doing a new musical venture called libber. I remember hearing that it was like the plastics plus marching bands. What happened to that project? I was seriously stoked when I heard about it.
I did make a short (4 min) performance w/ video and music called LIBBER in summer 2004. I made and performed this for the LTTR Explosion at Art in General, NYC. LIBBER was literally a “breakthrough” moment for me. It was the first, and to date only, time I physically performed through the projection surface. I cut a hole in the sheet and stood behind the sheet, the video was projected from the front onto the front of the sheet that I was standing behind. I put my arm through the hole in the sheet to be the arm of the abstracted girl figure. My real arm became her arm. And it (my real arm) played a real drum.
The story was that this girl has a drum and she’s walking around the city with her drum. The drum lets her know that she can never be nostalgic because the drum is always wanting her to hit it again. And she’s wondering what to do with her life when a marching band walks by and she joins in with them.
At the time I thought I would make this into a band somehow. Not with any video, but with the idea of the abstracted figure, and the idea of an ever-changing make-up of a band, like a marching band. You graduate, and you’re not in the band anymore, but there’s a new person there who brings new and different or maybe similar things to the instrument/role. I also wanted to have the music and performance be very drum-based. But I got weary of using the word “Libber” to be a title for something that was very specific to me and my experience/created experience. And so I changed my music-making “name” to my name, wynne greenwood. And that’s where I’m at now.
2) Big Candy is probably one of my favorite pieces of yours. Was it a precursor to Sister Taking Nap? From the photos that I saw visually they seemed to be linked.
Yeah, I do think Big Candy and Sister Taking Nap are like memories or ideas from the same body. Sister Taking Nap was a smooshing together of two different projects I’d been thinking about for a couple years – one was a performance and the other was a series of sculptures. After I made the Big Candy video, I started thinking about the possibilities of interacting with a sculpture using words and dialogue. For me, the form of “music video” is like a really relaxed (to the point sometimes of negligent) babysitter. There’s no consequences, in a way, maybe because there’s no rules. And I say that while I believe that there are always consequences, though that word is more complicated than its surface.
3) Will there be an audio component released for Sister Taking Nap?
It’s really funny you ask this, because in the middle of performing Sister Taking Nap I thought “oh wow I could have made the audio into a record.” But I’m not going to do that.
4) I noticed that you often have discussed the notion of reality. What type of realities are you interested in creating with your work?
I’m interested in creating realities that are feminist and queer and self-aware. That are interdependent in their structure. Realities that have integrated surfaces and structures.
5) I read an interview for the Stranger that you are a twin. I was wondering if T+P might be a reaction to or at least influenced by having a close sibling?
All of my work has been influenced by this.
Art21′s blog has posted an interview with former BAS guest Kerry James Marshall. They sat down with Marshall while he was installing his show ” Black Romantic” at Jack Shainman Gallery. The video on their website is worth checking out.
Below is an excerpt from the interview.
ART21: What’s the relationship between your series of Vignettes (2003-07) and what’s commonly referred to as post-black art.
MARSHALL: The work of African-American artists has for a long time been seen more as a kind of social phenomena instead of aesthetic phenomena. The social implications of the work — be it identity politics and things like that — seem to be privileged in terms of the way the work is received, as opposed to any kind of aesthetic project or intervention the work might be organized around. And so if you read any of the critique that was made around the Freestyle (2001) show at The Studio Museum in Harlem, you’ll find an undertone that seems to suggest that the mainstream critical world and art aficionados were tired of this whole identity politics and multiculturalism moment.
If you examine the subjectivity that a lot of African-American artists address, it often has a kind of cultural, social, political, or historical angle to it. So for the mainstream to suggest that it was sort of tired of having to address those kinds of issues, then, what’s really left for these artists to do if that’s something that’s meaningful to them? On some level, I thought maybe the only thing that was left to do was to make paintings about love. And to take a cynical approach to the concept of love, to the concept of the Vignettes (2003-07), so that they don’t seem to directly address the social and political issues that had been relevant to me and maybe to a lot of other artists who want to make work.
I began by looking at a lot of 18th Century French painting — Rococo work — like Boucher, Fragonard, Bouguereau, and other artists who themselves are also critiqued but critiqued for a lack of political depth in their work, for the frivolity of the work and for the work being kind of saccharine and sentimental and overly puffy and flowery. I started to take those two things and see if I could put them together — to preserve a certain element of the social, political, and historical narratives that are still important to me, but also to deal with the sentimentality, frivolity, and excesses that are embedded in Rococo painting.
ART21: Why are they painted predominantly in black-and-white?
MARSHALL: One of the reasons I use the grisaille technique in those paintings was to deny a bit of the Rococo. If you take a genre of painting that’s recognized for being pretty or flowery, but you want to start to do some other things, then you have to strip away some of those characteristics. One of the first characteristics is the over-investment in color that those pictures would have. So I stripped away the color, which reduces a certain amount of sweetness in the pictures. Black and white always tends towards a level of seriousness, and you can use it to avoid sentimentality when you’re dealing with highly keyed chromatic kind of relationships. The only color note in there is the cartoony pink in the hearts. The pink is a way of refusing to deliver on all of the points of which grisaille is supposed to deliver. And I chose to paint the hearts pink specifically to emphasize the disconnection between the overtly romantic imagery in the foreground and the historical or political imagery in the background.
ART21: What advice would you give to younger artists?
MARSHALL: The drive to be relevant — not just for yourself and the people who like your work — has moved a lot of artists throughout time to do the kinds of things they do. If you look how artists became artists in the past, there were smaller numbers of people vying for positions in the royal courts and churches and atelier system. They didn’t have five thousand people coming through the system back then. But now we have these graduate programs at universities that are putting out thousands of credentialed artists every year. And so what are these artists trying to do? They are all trying to get a gallery show. They’re trying to get the grants. They’re trying to get written about in the newspaper. They’re trying to get their work collected. They’re trying to do all of those things so they can keep on making their work.
Now the only way you can do that really is to distinguish yourself from what everybody else in the field is doing. And so if you were taught while you were in school that being a part of the club — being one of many amongst other artists — that that’s somehow worthwhile, then how do you sustain your development and your productivity? What do you aim for?
Whatever it is you’re aiming for has to be judged by somebody outside yourself as having a kind of value. But if you just leave that to people who are out there, who somehow supposed to know more about what you’re doing than you do, then I think you are in a world of trouble. If you don’t have any mechanism to determine to some degree what your chances might be of achieving the kind of success as an artist you want to achieve, then you’re in deep trouble. And I think there is a lot that can be done. I think you can decide. And the way you decide is to know what it is artists are trying to do and what is meaningful to the discipline above and beyond what you think is meaningful to you as a person trying to express yourself.
This is why I say it’s not about self-expression. If it were really just about self-expression, then that would require a receiver who is so sensitively attuned to your sensibility that they are capable of recognizing an intrinsic value — not in what it is you’re doing, but who it is you are.