There are about nine people in the world who can pull off a Clark Kent outfit – you know, the button-down business shirt that is unbuttoned to reveal a giant S. Christopher Kardambikis is one of those people. The Superman reference can point to a number of things: Christopher’s dashing good looks, his nerd-level interest in comics, and/or his weakness to Kryptonite.
While his solo artistic practice is an ever-evolving exploration into the higher realms of mythology and absurdity, his collaborations with other creative folk are consistently grounded in the community zeitgeist. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve RSVP’d “no” (because I was busy!) to the various happenings and events put on by Christopher and Co. From book binding parties to book fair receptions, his collaborative projects reveal a passionate interest in generously sharing and showcasing the wonderful work of various artists.
Jeff: I just drove down from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and boy are my arms tired!
Chris: Wouldn’t it be your feet because you drive a Flintstones car?
J: Well the car that I rented was terrible. I’m not going to mention the brand, but I will never rent it again. Anyway, it’s funny that I’m in Los Angeles interviewing you when I am supposed to be covering the Bay Area for Bad at Sports. Why did I drive all the way here for you?
C: Because it’s warmer here and you like fire. The whole city is on fire right now.
J: Wait, are you serious?
C: It’s hot and dry. The city is full of fire. There’s a danger at every turn.
J: Yikes. There’s been a heat wave in San Francisco for the past week. You know why?
J: Because we’re preparing for your arrival! There it is – that’s how I segue you as a Los Angeles-based artist into my Bay Area-centric column (segue #1).
C: I’m pan-Californian. Southern California cannot contain me.
J: Before I ask you about what you will be doing in SF, what are you up to in LA these days?
C: Outside of working my day job, I’ve been collaborating with various artists on different publications. I’m so new to the city! It’s so big and I’m so small. It’s so expansive and I’m just trying to find my place here. LA is a very strange animal.
J: You moved up from San Diego. Any differences in the art scenes?
C: San Diego doesn’t have a huge art scene. A lot of what I was doing was centered around UC San Diego where I went to grad school and the various awesome spaces setup by alum of the program.
J: What brought you out to LA?
C: It seemed like the next logical step for me. While I was in grad school I was able to drive up to LA frequently and I got to know the city a bit and I liked what I saw of the art scene here. Many people I knew moved to Los Angeles – from San Diego and Pittsburgh, where I did my undergrad – so it seemed like a good support network. I’m not ready to leave California yet.
J: I have the same feelings about San Francisco. I should have moved back to New York after grad school, but I fell in love with California! Have the clichés of surfer life and pot smoking affected your work?
C: Ha, no. I mean, it’s Silver Lake – we’re so far from the beach. I can’t surf the LA River.
J: There’s a river here?
C: It’s really tiny.
J: Speaking of tiny (segue #2), your artwork is super detailed, super tiny pen strokes, super tiny lines – tiny tiny tiny.
C: The whole endeavor is diminutive.
Chris is distracted by a DVD of the film Fantastic Voyage on a table.
C: Fantastic Voyage!
J: What? What is that?
C: Five people in a ship are shrunk down and injected into the body of a patient who needs brain surgery.
J: Tiny! Tell everyone how this movie is super linked to what you do, because from the cover of the DVD case, I can clearly see the connection, at least aesthetically.
C: I’ve been looking at the history of science fiction – early Jules Verne as well as ideas that people have overturned, like debunked science. An interesting thing about Fantastic Voyage is how they’re constructing the sets as these incredibly abstracted versions of what the body looks like – what the respiratory system looks like, what the inner ear looks like, what the brain looks like. I wish movies looked like this now, where you can’t rely on computer graphics to make things look “realistic”. Here, there’s a trick to use material that is at hand to craft a mood or a real three-dimensional environment that has to be interacted with and is utterly transformative, like hanging cotton candy from the ceiling. It looks so lush! They’re crafting a visual language to deal with these environments – these shapes and colors that we can’t readily create.
J: Hearing you speak about their techniques makes me really curious to know what your techniques are when you’re figuring out how to create the environments and backgrounds in some of your work.
C: Think about Mundus Subterraneus. I’m trying to figure out a way to describe something with printed images and drawings that is pointing to a larger system that I can’t actually describe or show all at once in two dimensions. I’m trying to break apart an image-making process with the tools or the material that I have at hand.
J: What do you have at hand?
C: Well right now I don’t have much of anything, but in San Diego where I made that book, I was working with a large format printer and trying to make it function and operate more like a physical printing process like silkscreen.
J: What were you printing?
C: I was smashing together several reference images. I was looking at celestial maps. I was looking at the visual systems with which thinkers like Kepler and Kircher used to describe the interior of the Earth. I was using a lot of my own photography of the desert area around San Diego. I was using Photoshop to abstract all of this information, and then I would break apart the digital images in order to print the actual colors separately. Then I was trying to trick the machine to do something it’s not supposed to do.
We continue to have a lengthy discussion of the process.
J: Oh my God, that’s amazing!
C: Anyway, I didn’t break the printer, but there were a few instances where it looked a little hairy.
J: I want to focus on the “book” part. Why a book?
C: There are a few answers for this. Specifically, this is an accordion fold book. The amount of space it can take up varies. When the book is closed, it’s almost 2 feet by 3 feet with a spine that’s 1 inch.
J: That’s a big book!
C: And it gets bigger! Now we’re going in the opposite direction of Fantastic Voyage. When my book is open all the way, it’s 28 feet long and there’s print and drawn information on both sides, so you can’t ever see the full-thing all at once.
J: Chris, what’s your problem? Just make a normal book!
C: It functions as a normal book! Any viewer can pick up the book and move the pages around – you have to go through the experience with each turn of the page. You don’t see everything all at once – it’s not like an event horizon. And that’s one of the things I really like about artists’ books – it demands a more active engagement from the viewer. No matter what, everyone knows how to interact with a book. It makes the whole thing relatable as opposed to walking into a gallery where someone might be unfamiliar with the space or how the space functions. I’m an artist and sometimes when I walk into a gallery I don’t know what to do with myself. Artists’ books are immediately engaging even if the information is complex or dense.
J: Speaking of dense (segue #3), you are coming to San Francisco with a book that has like, ten thousand artists in it, right?
C: 70! Artists! Writers! Video and Film Makers! From all over the country!!
J: Tell me about the project. Wait, don’t. Let me copy and paste from the website right now.
According to recent scientific reports, there may be between 8 billion and 13 billion life bearing planets in our galaxy alone. With numbers like that we will certainly encounter living beings from outer space someday. When we do, what will they look like? What special parts will they have, and how will they “do it?” Will we find what they do sexy, incomprehensible or just plain gross? You can find the answers to these questions and more in Strange Attractors: Investigations in Non-Humanoid Extraterrestrial Sexualities, an extraordinary 288 page, full color, book and 120 minute DVD encompassing art, writing and film.
Can you tell me about the collaborative process behind Strange Attractors: Investigations in Non-Humanoid Extraterrestrial Sexualities?
C: The book is a collaborative effort between three of us: me, my former professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Suzie Silver, and Jasdeep Khaira. This project started almost four years ago. I was getting ready to go to grad school and Jasdeep and I were running an artist book publication project in Pittsburgh called Encyclopedia Destructica. Suzie pitched the idea of Strange Attractors to us. She had founded a blog called The Institute of Extraterrestrial Sexuality and wanted to work with us on a book project where we would prompt people to use the lens of science fiction to think about sexuality.
J: How did you find so many contributors to the book?
C: We started inviting people whose work we were familiar with through our combined and extended networks of creative friends. We encouraged people to pass it along to anyone they thought would be interested in it, as well as use it as an opportunity to contact people we didn’t know but whose work we enjoyed. It’s really humbling to see so many people get excited about a project like this – contributing to it as artists or supporting it through the Kickstarter campaign that funded a large portion of it, or learning about it through events like what’s happening in San Francisco.
J: An art event about alien sex in San Francisco? Sounds really normal.
C: There’s going to be a screening of eleven of the works from the DVD that comes with the book, and a reading by Suzie Silver. It’s at the Center for Sex and Culture.
J: I don’t remember planning anything at my house! Just kidding. Anything in particular you like about the San Francisco art scene?
C: I think the art scene is really vibrant and unique. It’s interesting to me because San Francisco is much more dense than Los Angeles. I frequently come to San Francisco for zines or book projects and I feel like these things are ubiquitous to the city – you can’t get away from them. I recently participated in the first LA Book Fair with Encyclopedia Destructica and my current publication project called Gravity and Trajectory, which I collaborate on with Louis Schmidt. It was shocking to see how many people were actually from LA. I thought more people would be coming from San Francisco or New York – places with a strong reputation for publications.
J: And with the screening of works at the event – any particular ones stand out? Give me two. I know – it’s hard.
C: The videos are so wonderful. I love them all. Video Science 7: Space Love part 3 – Unregistered Planet 311OPEL by Luke Meeken and Andrew Negrey. Luke and Andrew both have separate mixed-media contributions to the book, and their collaborative video work pulls from their individual practices to create a richly textured environment. The other is Masturbation in Space by Mike Harringer and Joshua Thorson. How do I even describe this? It’s a story about an alien abduction seemingly told over the telephone. I don’t want to say too much about it because I want it to be a surprise.
J: You’re so dramatic. Just like Fantastic Voyage! (segue #4)
C: Way to bring it full circle.
J: I’m the king of segues.
C: We’ve gone on such a journey during this talk.
J: Just like Fantastic Voyage! (segue #5)
Strange Attractors: Investigations in Non-Humanoid Extraterrestrial will be presented at the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco this Friday, May 10 from 7 to 10 PM. To view more of Christopher’s individual artwork, visit www.kardambikis.com.
October 1, 2010 · Print This Article
Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books
Currently on display at Lillian Goldman Law Library’s rare book exhibition gallery at Yale the series showcases examples of images of superheroes in the dock, comic books about lawyers and examples of legal disputes and Congressional inquiries involving caped crusaders. My artist sense tells me somewhere a lawyer who loves comics is currently on kayak.com reserving a seat on the next flight to New Haven, CT. Read more here & here
Merchandise Mart adds LA to the portfolio of Art Fairs
Planed to open in fall of 2011 (want to lay odds it is close if not the same time as Scope: London & Zoo?) the Chicago based Merchandise Mart has hired MOCA’s Adam Gross as director of the event. Read more here
The Art on the Walls of Wall Street 2
Even though the original Wall Street film was a better story and all around film it did lack in a few areas most of all it’s representation of art. Work, design and taste that is so garish and laughably over the top that it is highly distracting from the story being told. In the sequal the art is more established and used as pantomime of the duplicitous emotions, mood or subtext of the film. The NY Times wrote and interesting article on the process. Read more here
Egyptian Van Gogh Heist now thought to be an inside job
A while back there was the report of a Van Gogh theft from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum which had the art security equivalent of a ADT window decal and nothing more (seven out of 43 security cameras functioning and none of the alarms attached to the museum’s paintings) now the talk is that it was an inside job. This very well may be true but llet me ask how hard was the planning session for that theft? How complex could it have been since the only thing to slow one down from a theft was remembering if it was a push or pull door at the exit? Habib el-Adly, Egypt’s interior minister, said the loss was a “difficult lesson”…. Read more here
Google brings a rough version of a actual usable universal translator
called “conversation mode” which in the art world we could all use more then we would like to admit.
As of June 1st if you are stuck in LA traffic you have one more option added to your short list of ways to pass the 72 hours a year you spend on the road: music, cell phone, yelling at the drivers around you & now existentialist puppet theater. Yes a theater in the back of a pickup that talks about chaos, control & the role of mankind in this short time we have on earth.
Artist Joel Kyack & Peter Fuller perform from the back of their white nondescript pickup truck and via short range radio broadcasts the spoken/soundtrack performance material is available to nearby drivers to have a relaxed intimate theater of the mind at 5mph.
Every performance of Superclogger except for two special showings will be during evening rush hours on different freeways across LA (The list is below) until September 24th. After that it will appear at the Hammer Museum, September 25th, 1-4pm. The Hammer Museum is located at 10899 Wilshire BoulevardLos Angeles, CA 90024.
Performance Dates & Locations
110 N & 110 S Fwys (Between Downtown and Hollywood)
10 E Fwy (Between PCH and Downtown)
5 S Fwy (Between China Town and Bell Gardens)
134 W Fwy (Between Glendale and Sherman Oaks)
60 E Fwy (Between East Los Angeles and South San Gabriel)
10 E Fwy (Between Monterey Park and El Monte)
10 E Fwy (Between PCH and Downtown)
210 E Fwy (Between Pasadena and Duarte)
Christopher Knight, the Los Angeles Times Art Critic has written up an interesting article on Jeffrey Deitch’s start as Director (the fourth in 30 years) and gives his point of view on where the reality of life in LA can begin to match the goals of the Museum. Numbers mater in the Art world even if we don’t want to talk about it and MOCA’s attendance has been dropping steadily for years. Couple that with the fiscal mismanagement gamble back in 2008 where they created a budget that relied on donor money to cover around 80% of the cost (money that evaporated with the crash) and things were pretty bleak.
The consensus & expectation is that Jeffrey Deitch will bring the kind of shows and energy that will rally the general population of LA and raise attendance above it’s current 600 people a day. Think about that, 600 people, more people visit this site then MOCA in a given day and MOCA is spending $20 Million a year. MOCA has a wonderful collection and this isn’t a referendum by the people of LA on Art but on the growing disconnect between Art Tastemakers and the general population. A rift that has been growing for years with little to no abatement.
It’s not just LA, we have had the same debates on hours of operation & marketing of events in Chicago for over 5 years. Christopher Knight goes on to offer his advice on what Mr. Deitch might want to examine as Director and the second I can agree with aspects of, the first not so much:
1. General admission: take it from $10 to free
I have always questioned why everything needs to be free. In my experience people have a habit of discounting what they don’t pay for and it effects the overall opinion. Work at a bar (or the music industry these days) and you can see that in action, lines and a small cover even if they are annoying increase the overall pleasure of the experience as long as guests expectations are met once they enter. Also even if the door charge is less then 10% of the budget that is still a valuable/usefull daily cash flow even for an institution of that size. Art like any other business lives and breathes on cash flow.
I would suggest price pointing it at $5 a person and make it free to seniors, students & active military (for many solid reasons not worth rehashing here). At that price it has a real value, is proportioned correctly to films, concerts & other nightlife activities and doesn’t nullify the whole selling point of yearly membership.
2. Hours of Operation: take it from closing at 5-6pm & 8pm on Thursday to more befitting late nights.
No argument but very tricky and might not be as useful as even I thought years ago. This just might be a tourist/weekday local/weekend world we live in.
The one thing that Mr. Knight doesn’t tackle is the one thing that everyone is so afraid of about Jeffrey Dietch as Director, the “curatorial” focus of the exhibits and I think more so “how they are marketed to the world”. Everyone is waiting on baited breath since it seems no one has faith that an intelligent discussion on Art can be molded into a form of interest to the general public. That is the great experiment going on in LA and if it is successful could echo throughout the American Art World as a whole and faster then you might think.
This coming week the awesome people at ForYourArt and five other blogs are putting together Postopolis! LA. If you’re in LA it looks like something you should check out.
via Postopolis! LA
On the occasion of Los Angeles Art Weekend, Storefront for Art and Architecture and ForYourArt are pleased to announce Postopolis! LA, a live five-day event of near-continuous conversation about architecture, art, urbanism, landscape, and design to be held in Los Angeles from 31 March to 4 April 2009. Six bloggers, from five different cities around the world, will host a series of discussions,
interviews, slideshows, panels, talks, and presentations, fusing the informal energy and interdisciplinary approach of the architectural blogosphere with the immediacy of face-to-face interaction.
Hosted By: ArchDaily/Plataforma Arquitectura, BLDGBLOG , City of
Sound, Subtopia , Mudd Up!, We Make Money Not Art
For More info please visit Postopolis.