Truth Within the Selfie

December 18, 2013 · Print This Article

Miley Cyrus is growing up in a fishbowl, where every awkward moment and undeveloped thought is on display for the world to see, react to and comment on, endlessly. As a country, we construct the cult of Miley sometimes even more than she, her publicist or record label does. Miley Cyrus has become an avatar, just as Hannah Montana was, as customizable as a Scion and as real as an American Girl doll. As we have a hand in creating her personae, her personae is a reflection of us, or our fantasies. Therefore, no matter how much she rebels against the mainstream, she can only help define it. The more she destroys her past image as teenage Miley, the more she canonizes it. The more she rebels, the more rebellion we want, even as it looks a lot like Low Sodium Rebellion in a can. We act shocked though we really aren’t, because we too are playing a role, just as she.

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We love celebrities who represent the idyllic American: Beautiful, powerful, strong, intelligent, talented, with the same moral standards as us. We shower them in wealth in order to see how they use it, and so we can have it vicariously. We want these celebrities to act out roles in their real lives, not just in films. They appear on late night interviews promoting their films, on the Red Carpet and charity events as they pose for us. This isn’t enough, so thankfully, we also see them walking their dogs, eating out, drunk at clubs, entering and exiting Hollywood parties. We see them grocery shopping without makeup, with their kids, with other celebrity lovers, in court, hungover, and having sex in grainy cell phone videos. We have so much footage of their lives “off the screen” that they don’t need to exist otherwise.

When we actually come face to face with a celebrity, it is a collision of our lived world and our media world. It is a revelation of mutual existence: that they exist in our space, they can see us as we can them, and so we exist as well. Needing proof for ourself and our friends, that they exist, and that we exist too, a cell phone photo of them is imperative. This must get uploaded to the internet immediately, and now we have returned them to their natural habitat: the media world. Just as they primarily exist in the media world, we only exist in their world as long as we tweet, post, like, share and comment. By uploading a selfie to our facebook feed, we are attempting to insert our lived reality into the media world, used as a mirror to prove our existence, to define our character and how it fits within the pantheon of American myth. It is pedestrian cosplay and hipster role playing.

Its human nature to internalize our faults and dwell on them until they manifest into something larger and looming overhead. The past decade has seen serious changes to our country’s image: warmongering, weakened, bankrupt, obese, fragile, homeless; as well as a growing rift between the working class and the capitalist class, almost completely obliterating the middle class, which is far smaller than any politician will ever admit. While these perceptions have been there since the 80’s and 90’s, it took until 9/11 for us to see them. Global media, 24/7 coverage of war and a need to understand why anyone would want to “attack our freedom”, has led to a breathtaking reflection and reassessment of who we are as a culture, through the Biggest Loser, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Extreme Couponing, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Lost, Breaking Bad, Weeds, etc., etc. We don’t even consciously understand it, but we have seen ourselves as the underdogs, the unabashed scum, those who can break free of their past, those who can overcome and those who will crumble. Ordinary people who set out with good intentions but became greedy and selfish monsters. Yet as we assess ourselves through the entertainment we consume, we lose a true basis for assessment. It is calculated recycling of American myths, regurgitation of roles and tropes, filtering of current events that are replayed as fiction in order for us to learn how we feel about them. As we gravitate towards the fiction to teach us, and blur the lines of what is real and entertainment, it all starts to become real, in some way.




Endless Opportunities: Work, play, write

October 19, 2013 · Print This Article

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1. Mills College is looking for an Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing. Review of applications will begin October 30, 2013, and will continue until the position is filled.

The Department of Art and Art History at Mills College seeks a full-time, tenure-track Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing to teach graduate and undergraduate level courses. An MFA degree or equivalent is required. Candidates must be practicing artists with strong exhibition records, capable of conceptual criticism in all mediums including painting, sculpture, photography, video, intermedia, and new genres. They must be dedicated teachers and mentors at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Teaching will include undergraduate studio courses; therefore candidates must demonstrate proficiency in the technical as well as theoretical and historical aspects of their fields. Full-time faculty must also advise students, participate in curriculum development, and serve on department and college committees. To apply, please go to mills.interviewexchange.com. About Mills College
Mills College is located in the San Francisco Bay Area on 135 beautiful acres in the foothills of Oakland, California. Additional information about Mills College can be obtained on our website at www.mills.edu.

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2. RU & GALAPAGOS: NATURAL SELECTION – 6 MONTH RESIDENCY FOR NYC ARTISTS IN SWITZERLAND (DEADLINE: OCT 21ST, 2013). 

RU and Galapagos has partnered with IAAB, the International Exchange and Studio Program of the Canton of Basel, Switzerland, to each year offer an artist from New York City the opportunity to spend six months near Basel, in the Swiss countryside town of Riehen. In turn, RU supports a Swiss artist in NYC for 6 months. The studio is situated in one of the old estate buildings on the “Berowergut”, just next door to the Beyeler Foundation. When the barns located on the “Berowergut” have been renovated and the Kunst Raum Riehen has been installed, the old coach house at the back was converted into a two-storey live-in studio. The residency program is generously financed by private and public sponsors. The iaab offers a 700 square foot working and living space from January 1st to June 30th 2014, an allowance of $1,200 per month while in Switzerland to cover day to day living costs and a plane ticket to Switzerland with return to New York. In Switzerland the artist will also receive a ‘half tarif’ public transport card for all public transportation in Switzerland…and lots of chocolate! More info about iaab: www.iaab.ch

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3.Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) 2014 is now accepting exhibitor applications; the application process will close on 11: 59 P.M. CST on December 15, 2013

Starting Tuesday, October 15th, CAKE will be accepting artist’s exhibitor applications for the 3rd Annual Chicago Alternative Comics Expo.  The event is a unique opportunity for artist exhibitor’s to showcase and sell their art and last year’s event hosted over 200 exhibiting artists, attracted over 2,000 attendees and featured award-winning comics guests such as Chris Ware and Phoebe Gloeckner. CAKE’s 2014 event will take place on Saturday, May 31st and Sunday, June 1st at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted Avenue. Confirmed special guests include Mexican cartoonist Inés Estrada and Chicago native Anya Davidson, with more announcements to come. All applications will be reviewed by a jury and applicants will be notified of the jury’s results by January 20th via email. A guide to the 2014 Exhibitor Application process can be found here: http://www.cakechicago.com/2809/a-guide-to-our-2014-exhibitor-application/

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4. High Concept Laboratories announces THE LIVING LOOP PERFORMING ARTS FESTIVAL APPLICATION:

We are accepting applications for performers and performances wishing to be considered for participation in a new festival to take place in the Loop, in the Summer of 2014. A $500 stipend and extensive visibility will be provided each of the 12 participating performances. The mission of the festival, presented by Chicago Loop Alliance and High Concept Laboratories,  is to showcase Chicago’s diverse performing arts community in the heart of the city. The event will showcase a dynamic series of weekly performances in site-specific locations throughout the Loop. We’re looking for exemplary performers and performances to participate in this one-of-a-kind inaugural festival, featuring one performance each week for a total of twelve weeks June-August 2014. Visit the website for more information. The deadline for submissions is January 1st, 2014.

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5. Call for writing via Gaga Stigmata:

After nearly four years of intensive critical-creative output and interaction with popular culture, Gaga Stigmata, in its current journal incarnation, will be coming to an end at the strike of midnight on January 1, 2014.

In these final months, we are requesting submissions in the following three veins:

(1) Any new essays on Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP era

(2) New essays on any pop cultural phenomenon that manifests what we call a “stigmata effect” – that is, the blurring of lines between superstar and fan, between high and low art, between art and interpretation, between the “original” and the “copy.” In particular, we are interested in essays about about Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Ke$ha, Lana Del Rey, and Katy Perry, but you are not in any way limited by this list.

Additionally, we are also seeking essays that explore new pop cultural phenomena such as the aesthetics of new media forms (e.g. Twitter, Tumblr, YouTubers, .gifs, Vines, Instagrams, etc.)

We are also interested in essays that explore manifestations of the stigmata-esque intersection of the “art world” and the “pop world” in contemporary culture.
(3) Any essays about Lady Gaga that have previously been published elsewhere. (We would like to create a one-stop on-live archive of the best Lady Gaga scholarship and creative criticism ever published; we will of course give credit to the original source of publication).

You are welcome to write traditional essays, and/or to use a creative-critical format for your work. Youtube videos, photoshopped images, memes, and .gifs can all feature in your work. You are also welcome to submit more than one piece during this final incarnation of the journal, after which the journal aspect of the project will move into an archival stage. More info here.

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6. If you’re curious about how futures trade, check out Pocket-Guide-to-Hell’s latest reenactment at The Chicago Board of Trade on Sunday, October 20th at 3pm:

THE PIT is a free and fun site-specific performance that uses costumes, props, music-and you-to tell the story of commodities trading and the futures markets in Chicago. THE PIT combines a scene from Frank Norris’s 1903 novel The Pit, about an attempt to corner the wheat market, with the form of a sports event, an idea from Bertolt Brecht. Play-by-play announcer Alex Keefe (WBEZ) and color commentators Tim Samuelson (City of Chicago cultural historian) and Mike Gorham (economist at IIT) narrate the frenzied trading in the PIT. Reporter Niala Boodhoo (WBEZ) interviews traders and members of the public alike as the corner in wheat collapses. With marching band music by Justin Amolsch and concession-based commodities by Maggie Hennessy. And the national anthem sung by L. Wyatt. And 1890s commodities traders played by volunteers from SlowFood Chicago, Northwestern University Press, Paddy Long’s, Public Media Institute, Civic Lab, Archeworks, MAKE magazine, the Hideout, and Architecture for Humanity. The PIT is part of the Chicago Architecture Foundation Open House event and has been co-planned by Ingrid Gladys Haftel. More on that here.

7. Speaking of reenactments — consider Town Bloody Hall: 

 

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EDITION #18

October 7, 2013 · Print This Article

Upcoming & Outgoing

  • Rooting Symposium
    I’m only posting the press release because they say it better than I ever could. If I wasn’t going to be out of town my choice would definitely be the Rooting Symposium Trio Dinner Party on Sunday, October 13th featuring chefs Eric May and Mike Bancroft, Artist Edra Soto (what’s the difference between chef and artist anymore?!).

    Rooting: Regional Networks, Global Concerns highlights food through emerging programs and projects by artists, cultural workers, radical chefs, rural and urban farmers, and small businesses. The program spotlights creative responses to the extreme environmental, social and economic changes facing local and global communities with a focus on the Chicago region and New Delhi, India. The event pulls together local, regional, and international presenters to share projects and best practices addressing soil health, water conservation, advocacy, food production and distribution, and building sustainable communities. Organized by the Rhizome Alliance.

    Events will take place October 5th through October 13th and include the Rooting Exhibition closing reception, a film screening, bus and walking tours to local farms and art centers, a foraging workshop, dinners with Chicago area chefs and artists, and a symposium with keynote addresses, panel discussions, and a farmer’s market. Tickets and information available at rootingchicago.org.

  • Finally! A painting show to be super excited about! Jonas Wood’s exhibition at Shane Campbell Gallery opens October 12th from 6-8pm. 673 North Milwaukee Avenue.
  • Gotta get to the Renaissance Society for the conversation between new Executive Director and Chief Curator Solveig Øvstebø and Associate Curator and Director of Education Hamza Walker. This talk is going to be like that movie Waking Life but without the rotoscoping and more interesting.

    Saturday, October 26, at 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

  • And Øvstebø is cuter than Miley.
  • Last but certainly not least, Osvaldo Romberg’s Translocations: Mies and Melnikov at the Farnsworth House in Plano Illinois will close on October 18th. This exhibition involves three things I love: a road trip out to Plano, a gorgeous house museum in the fall and, of course, a model of Melnikov’s eccentric home in Moscow. But really, the project is great, the weather is perfect and I know you’re looking for an excuse to get out of the city. Bonus points: The catalogue for the exhibition features writing by everyone’s favorite long-lost Chicago critic and educator with a specialization in Argentinean artists, Dan Quiles.

Battle of the Sexes Edition: Artist Jennifer Chan VS. Alan and Michael Fleming.

The Weatherman Report

Gladys Nilsson, Abode, 2013 (Gouache and watercolor on paper, 10 × 14 in) on view at The Nationals Exemplar.

Aiken’s Station to Station dubbed “Epic Fail”

Man, we thought that Pedro’s tweets on the events were harsh, but it appears they were more than well founded. Christian L. Frock reamed Doug Aiken’s Station to Station a new one in the NPR blog last weekend. We also heard form some seriously in the know ladies that the “open air sweatshop” that Frock refers to was actually that offensive.

“Station to Station promised great artists and great art — a train tricked out with video screens dashing across the country — and instead we got some third rate Burning Man rip-off abbreviated rock show with smoke and mirrors, no art, no train, and everything but our DNA stripped at the door.”

Better luck next time, Levis? What do you, dear reader, think of this obvious ploy for marketing material. LMK!

Feminism in the Age of Digital Art, or something.

Funny thing: Even though the first third of this interview based post on the digital art world and feminism by Corinna Kirsch for ArtFCity laments Facebook as [surprisingly] not the best venue for critical dialogue, I came across it where I find most of my fundamental reading, the book. And while I agree with Sofia Leiby’s comment on PJ’s FB that this piece was begging to be written, it felt like just the tip of a humungous iceberg still lurking sinisterly below. Like all good criticism on Facebook, I left with more questions than answers and a desire to revisit things like the Weird Dude Energy exhibition at Heaven by the duo Girl Don’t be Dumb (btw, wtf were they not questioned for this piece!?) and the slippery pink gaze of their eponymous tumblr.

Not sure how this fowards the womens agenda. Still from Sybil Prentice’s Website Nightcoregirl.net, via AFC.

Speaking of weird dude energy, peep this Artlurker post. Rob Goyanes details the fascinating life and art art of Michael Scott Addis. His step-brother is Mickey Rourke and that’s not even the craziest part.




The Reappearance of Humans: An Interview with Steve Seeley

February 8, 2012 · Print This Article

"untitled (faker bear)," acrylic on panel, 8" x 10", 2009

This Friday, Steve Seeley’s painting show opens at Rotofugi (who not too long ago moved to Lincoln Park, so check the website for their new address if you’re unsure). Seeley’s figurative work often features the juxtaposition of human bodies and animal limbs, or heads. Sometimes alien parts make an appearance as well. He integrates old and new surfaces, incorporating the nostalgia of his childhood into a present assemblage. I grew more and more interested in something we didn’t talk about, namely the idea of the hero and how it charts through these visual, narrative landscapes. Seeley’s icons adopt the iconography of saints and superheros with all of the mystical proportions childhood bears with them. To re-erect and reexamine the Gods of childhood in effort, perhaps, to examine those ancient power structures. In Seeley’s case, they often become hybrid.

Caroline Picard: I’m really interested in the way you combine natural elements with mythical ones: for instance, the way your work often offers a kind of misty (and almost traditional-painterly) background with a vibrant superhero, or animal, alien or hybrid in the foreground. It kind of reminds me of old cartoons; in the Smurfs, for instance, you could tell the background was fixed to one surface, and moving figure(s) interacted on a clear gel over top. How did you come upon this strategy in your own work? 

"untitled (zone fighter w/ bear and bird)," acrylic on archival print, 14" x 19", 2009

Steve Seeley: The backgrounds for me are definitely an homage to animation cels. I’m a child of the 80s and I grew up on cartoons; He-man, Thundercats, Thundarr, and the like, so that sort of nostalgic animation occupies a huge section of my creative mind.  I started the “delicate matter” body of work in 2004 with the backgrounds being multi-layered and muted, almost ghost like, paintings, and at some point maybe three years ago, I transitioned to printed matter. I have always integrated things I collect into my work, I guess in a way bowing to my inner nerd. Thus the action figure-y, comic book-y and taxidermy look and feel. I also happen to collect antique chromolithographs. Mainly landscapes. So it was only natural for me to eventually  incorporate/appropriate these into the work. The process involves buying a lithograph, scanning it in, messing around with it, and printing it out to paint on. By printing them out (opposed to painting directly on the print) I can control overall scale, color, direction and halftone size. And after all the other elements are painted, I get that stark dichotomy with the digital print and the paint, given that animated feel I grew up on.

CP: Your use of the bear, the deer, and the wolf feels very iconic, somehow, especially in those places where give your figures gold-plate halos. Can you talk about how your engage the animal world? Is the ram-figure any different from superman’s figure? 

SS: Again, a great deal of my work ideas come from a nostalgia. The animals are a nod to growing up in the sticks of Wisconsin. I use animals that I used to see everyday (the deer and specific birds) as well as the animals my brothers and I feared when we played in the woods (the bear and wolves). I grew up in the super small town of Ringle which happened to be home to one of the largest wild dog packs in the state of Wisconsin. So I incorporate any number of dogs that I saw or that may have survived to be part of the wild pack (sorry chihuahua and pugs, I love ya but I you wouldn’t have made it).

As for the difference between man and animal, there isn’t a huge difference for me. In the “delicate matter” series, the story so far is that man has left earth for outer space because he becomes enamored with something he can’t comprehend, something that is entirely different from what he knows. He leaves earth on bad terms with the animals and while he is gone animals become what they were destined to be, a transformation per se, into heavy metal loving, super power using, pop culture loving creatures. When man gets to space he finds it to be less than he had hoped, and he tries to come back but the animals refuse. So man is stuck in space while animals take he’s place back on earth, essentially filling his old shoes, and becoming the new “man.”

There were a few years when I only painted animals (except in the “segue” paintings) but currently man has started to reappear. But only under the guise of a superhero since generally that means your true identity is hidden. Oh yeah and celebrities have always remained on earth, which is why the animals often chill with Miley Cyrus and let Sasha Grey ride around on their backs.

"untitled (saint bear with birds)," acrylic on and gold leaf on paper, 14" x 18", 2010


CP: At the same time, your figures are basically anatomically correct, and feature studied detail. Then of course there are places and points where you interrupt our expectations, creating a hole inside a bear’s chest for instance. Or giving a human torso a wolf head: how do these interruptions come about?

SS: The holes (along with the halos) are meant to lightly symbolize a religion, rather literally. The holes become an extreme stigmata of sorts. I am not necessarily a religious person but I am fascinated by what religion does to societies. It causes rifts and causes people to take sides, which can result in conflict… which is something for years I didn’t have in my paintings. Everything and everyone peacefully coexisted. It was thru adding the religious aspect that I was able to split the world I had created.

The head swapping was a way for me to even more-so humanize the animals. Initially all the human body, animal headed figures in my paintings were referred to as “saints”, figures that were idolized by the other animals and which usually also adorned halos. But once Saint Sasha Grey and Saint Cringer (from He-man) got introduced, I began to play with the animal headed figures as not only religious icons but also celebrity icons. For my upcoming show at Rotofugi there are 25 animal/alien/monster headed human figures all imagined as boxers or wrestlers.  My intention is to make them a whole new breed of celebrity within the world they exist, at the same time causing additional rifts. Sport is such an easy way for people (or animals in this case) to turn on one another and choose sides.

see more of Seeley’s work by going here.

"untitled (batman with dog)" acrylic and pencil on paper, 7" x 9", 2010