The world grows colder. Nature slows, becomes static. The river connecting these cities ices over slowly, silently at night. Tires spin, stuck in ice ruts that will last until spring. Fewer bicyclists and pedestrians navigate the narrowing streets and sidewalks. We prepare to stay inside through longer nights, as the early arriving winter rudely awakens us from lingering fall. That stasis, that need to stay inside belies our need to connect, to draw close, especially in times of stress, in times of outside forces beating down our door, trying to force their way in. We need to be physically together to remember that beneath these layers are beating hearts and warm breaths.
Ryoji Ikeda’s superposition at the Walker Art Center united more than 20 projections and monitors, two live performers, multi-lingual Morse code, live video feeds, microfiche, a healthy dose of randomness. It confronts the body and mind, pushing them to the limits of comprehensibility. The audience was given earplugs to ease the high decibel audio, but the sound waves, the movement of air through the space physicalized every peak and valley of staccato clicks, blips, quantum particulates. My knowledge of quantum physics and mathematics is barely enough to bring the video and audio into focus. Scientific ideas bubble to the surface just enough to reveal there is something larger beneath the surface, but the technical mastery and deep knowledge embodied in the performance reinforce the barriers between audience members, reminding us that we are a part of systems whose logic is beyond what we think we know of Newton.
Ryoji Ikeda, superposition
The performers, Stephane Garin and Amélie Grould truly bring forward the human nature, the warmth amidst the cold numbers and distant scientific concepts. They transform this digital symphony that exists in the rarified air of Ikeda’s ongoing scientific and mathematical investigations (including his current CERN residency), mathematics at scales that are impossible to witness and challenging to conceive, and dangerous sonic levels into a moving, human, even more visceral experience. As they key in Morse code, the competing, layering sound waves and words they spell are displayed behind them. The speed with which they relay their messages feels monumental to our distance from Morse code as a means of communication. Their use of a binary language lays bare the many layers of digital mediation, the code and signal behind the projections, the digital reproduction of sound. We see the text and sound waves they create on the massive screen behind them, but we also see their hands move; we see them strike tuning forks together, we see them make quiet decisions among their microfiche and steel balls.
Their presence in front of us, their bodies moving through the space on stage, creating the sounds that we feel in our chests and throats activate those parts of our brain that correspond to our hands, our fingers, our performative bodies. We feel ourselves on stage, mirroring their action, feeling their sensations as we negotiate our way through the sonic and visual density of superposition.
The phenomenon of our brain firing neurons in the parts of our brain that perform action when we see that action being performed is often invoked in the realm of sports spectatorship or action movies. We mentally and physically feel as if we are part of the game, as if we punched through a wall. superposition invoked those same feelings for me. It overwhelmed me physically and mentally, pulling me into its auditory and visual textures while activating idle parts of my brain. Seeing Dawn of Midi recently invoked those same feelings. Watching the repetitive, sound-bending striking, hammering, and twisting of their instruments, I felt the energy build, crest, relax, expand as if I was onstage, as if I muted the piano strings, I hunched over the bass, I held the drumsticks. Walking home through the snow, the music did not leave my mind, the instruments did not leave my hands.
As I navigate frozen landscapes, I contemplate the winter ahead. I consider not just my fragile human body but the end of the human species manifest in these extreme weather swings, the knowledge that this cold too is a sign of our own undoing that cannot be undone. Despair, stasis, and winter blues are eased by knowing I am not alone. I connect with others, physically and remotely present, and I remember that I can still make changes. I can still strive for a better world by refusing to be alone, by refusing to isolate myself against the overwhelming challenges we can only confront together.
Fall lingers, with warm days and fiery trees, longer nights and frosty mornings. Daylight has changed, striking us at more oblique angles, lengthening shadows even at noon. I follow my shadow farther and farther from my center, looking back to where I stand, doubling, tripling, multiply exposing and bodily reproducing fall days and perspectives.
The sunny gallery at Highpoint Center for Printmaking is a lovely site for Aaron Spangler’s new exhibition Luddite. The massive woodcuts simultaneously invite viewing their totality from across the room and detailed examination. The broad stroke of the prints overwhelms the walls, forcing out the white space around them. The figurative pieces begin to resolve into senses of shifting meaning; the more abstract prints resist resolution, push against meaning making within their patterns and eye movement across the paper. Upon closer inspection, Spangler’s hand is very present, in the patterned marks of tools, the subtle gradations in pressure applied to the tools, the grain of the wood, the creases and folds in the paper. They are multiples, so clearly prints in their materiality, yet they resist. They are not simply mechanically reproduced objects. They manifest the human, maintain the layers of work, the hours of crafting that went into their making.
Aaron Spangler, Constellation
Instead of Benjamin’s mechanical reproduction and the digital reproduction that is happening even as you read these words, what happens when a work of art is biologically reproduced? How is our experience altered when we cannot simply consume the work in the gallery or the comfort of our own homes and screens?
Aaron Spangler, Bananas
I saw Anne Theresa de Keersmaeker’s Rosas Danst Rosas at the Walker Art Center last week. I have not been able to get it out of my head. The dance is simultaneously deathly serious, paring down movement, facial expression to the barest framework of a dance language we start to recognize. The first section is silent, slow, laconic in comparison to the later three sections. The dancers’ breath and the slap of arms and legs onto the floor resonate within the silence of the theatre. The dancers individually and collectively lay perfectly still to the point that we wonder if they are still connected to the movement. The dancers shift and cascade in patterns of coordinated movement that struggle to coalesce. They seem to unite, but they crumble, decompose, reform, find their footing, and slip amid silence and stillness. This extended, protean formation of language with which the dancers assault their own bodies gathers momentum, collapses, rolls over, accretes into the flurry and avalanche of activity of the later sections of the dance.
Rosas Danst Rosas, Photo by Herman Sorgeloos
Throughout the dance, the dancers verge on the mechanical. At first look, they seem to become machines reproducing everyday movements we know, repeating movements with inhuman regularity in patterns beyond human comprehension, but the dancers each move with their own slightly inflected accents. Each dancer’s movements comprise entire sets of linguistic encyclopedias. Each time we begin to grasp the movement language they dance, it slips between our fingers. We are travelling through a foreign land with shifting dialects and argot. The regularity, the patterning, the building, dismantling, permutational collection of individual movements lures us into believing we can gain an understanding of what is happening, that we can know and predict what comes next. We begin to understand the foreign language, feel like we know the tense, what should be the next subject, object, verb, dangling participle, but we are jarred into awareness by the strange gesture we have never seen, the new part of speech we cannot parse. Beyond simply seeing live bodies before us on the stage, the biological reproduction of and within the dance is constantly foregrounded, never absent from our perception of the dancers.
De Keersmaeker reinforces this biological reproduction in opening the Rosas Danst Rosas choreography to everyone. Whether in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary or in response to the Beyoncification of her work, the choreography is explained in great detail in step by step videos. The reproductions, covers, remakings of this second section of the dance model a new method of dancemaking that draws from the movement vocabulary from which de Keersmaeker crafted yet is clearly distinct, a new direction in movement language. They expand the conversation in dialects across dancers throughout the globe. They arise from the best of digital reproduction to magnify and unite the individuality of dancers, drawing us closer together in the potentials of common understanding while reinforcing the individuality that resists the mechanical, the faults that maintain our humanity.
As I walk through exhibitions, I find myself staring around the works on display, straining to see how paintings are hung from the walls, how sculptures rise from the floor. I look for projectors and speakers. I stare at the benches and chairs, the corners of walls, electrical outlets and lights. I am not avoiding the artwork. I am searching for the whole picture, yearning for everything the works contain. I want the story of the work, a record of its history, not simply the final object.
I was absorbed by Mitchell Syrop’s steel wall pieces in Hidden at Midway Contemporary Art, intrigued by their static flow, the impermanence of their solidity. As others visitors were absorbed in reading the text of his massive, nine panel Hidden, I stared at the nails holding up Family of Secrets, wondering about the hands and machines that had pulled them from the earth, shaped, packaged, shipped, sold, and hammered them. What narrative unites these steel objects on and in the wall? What happens to the nails when Family of Secrets is removed? Will they be united again?
I visited the Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota, and I fell in love with the artworks installed in a particular corner. I marveled at their seamless pairing with an incredible, ambient sound piece, until I remembered that the sound comes from the heating and cooling system. I could see the works without the rasping rumble from the depths of the building. Of course, the context of any artwork influences our experience of it. The temperature of the room affects the book we read. The argument we hear in the alley outside affects our experience in the gallery. The lighting, hardware, and soundscape of artworks shape our viewing. I am looking for those other aspects of the objects because I want to know the narrative held within them, the time they embody even if we do not know how to see it.
I was thrilled to see a Roman Opalka ‘detail’ in the Walker Art Center’s Art Expanded, 1958-1978. The rows and rows of numbers embody time, daily practice, a life of dedication, but that time is lost among the other “expanded” practices. I strained to read the numbers, searching for the hours of its creation, wanting to hear Opalka’s recordings and see his self portraits to begin to fill out the narrative of this singular painting.
I have been visiting artists’ studios and installing work, slowly seeing objects unfold and absorb layers of meaning. I have seen ideas and conversations transform through unknowing, testing, exploration into artworks that hold each incarnation, each thought within them. I have watched white walls fill with works that travelled across the country, bringing with them the time and miles they travelled, their stamps and handlers, the nails and screws upon which they balance.
When I see artworks in galleries and museums, I know I am witnessing only one small portion of their narrative, and I want more. I search for the out of sight parts of these artworks to begin to enrich their stories, to attempt to understand their lived experience as changing, mutable objects who contain our time with them as they move into their future.
There is a chill in the night air. Fall is here, carrying the weight of the year behind it, breathing changes into the trees and gardens that begin to show the passage of time, the slow revolution of the seasons. I return to Opalka. He writes, “Time as we live it and as we create it embodies our progressive disappearance.” Let us look to the objects we create to see our progressive disappearance. They reveal the briefest moments of that disappearance when we see them displayed, but they will hold the passage and passing of our lives long after we have disappeared.
If anyone understands the preciousness of summertime, it’s our fellow neighbors in the Midwest. All across Minneapolis WTT? discovered artists and creatives playing Minnesota “Nice.”
Tuesday Night Music Club at the Lyndale VFW.
Our week in Minneapolis started correct when on Tuesday friend and former ACRE resident, Cris Cloud, invited us to the Tuesday Night Music Club, a post-kickball dance party at the VFW by Lyndale and Lake Street (FYI- also the name of a ’93 Sheryl Crow album). Not just any TNDC, this evening was the after party for the annual kickball game between the Kennwood Kickball Club and the team from Uptown who were decked out in full clown regalia.
Fraternizing with the locals outside TNMC.
Not a party for the faint of clowns.
In addition to the annual kickball game TNMC’s MC Jacobs was celebrating his last night at the club before leaving MN for China. The night’s sets started off with The Artist Formerly Known As jams and escalated into full booty dancing on the ol’ VFW juke box kinda night. Scantily dressed clowns danced alongside the somewhat dejected Kennwood-ers, who exhibitied true Minnesotan-sportsmanship.
Possibly the best ever use of Nite Brite.
When questioned about their lack of costumes in the face of the triumphant clowns, one player retorted, “Do you know how much planning that takes and how much we don’t give a fuck?” A teammate added, “They go hiking for fun.” Either way, the party was worth it and there’s always next year.
Later that week the T? got in on the game. Having beefed up on our Basketball Bidness all summer on the Stueben courts, it was awesome to ball at the regular Thursday afternoon game played by the Artist Basketball League at Lyndale Farmstead Park. We ran into artist Jesse Draxler near the California studios on the way and he assured us that the game was collegiate. “Sometimes we play 11 year olds,” he said as we parted ways.
Draxler wasn’t kidding, at the half court game there were four artists and ballers Malachi, 11, and Xavier, 8. What he didn’t mention is that 11 year olds are sharks, just running back and forth steady scoring. Informing me that he “didn’t like art,” Malachi showed me his moves, the low dribble, the layup. Xavier followed suit, dribbling between his legs along the side of the court. Impressive.
Artist Basketball League’s Thursday game.
Serendipitously, that day our old tubing buddy, Sara Caron, got in touch right around the time of the game to invite me to the Blue Dress Cup. If you didn’t already know, Blue Dress Cup is an annual competition to determine the Best Artist in Milwaukee.
We’re pretty sure you don’t have to be from Milwaukee to be the best artist in the city, so why not apply now? We definitely think Malachi has a fighting chance despite his aesthetic apathy (maybe in part because of it). I want to see what happens when Minnesotans meet Wisconsinites meet Illinoisians (?) on the field of battle. See you on September 20th in Milwaukee for the summer and sports’ real final hurrah. Tri-state tournament anyone?
T around Town(s)
Twice as Nice in the Twin Cities
After visiting Minneapolis recently for Bad at Sports’ participation in Open Field at the Walker, WTT? was excited to return for a longer and more in depth visit to the MN art scene. After a week we don’t know the true definition of “Minnesota Nice”, but we found MN dwellers to be genuinely nice, chill people to hang out with. Oh yeah, and the art wasn’t half bad either. We found the artists we met to be a proud and supportive group with just enough buzz. It’s kind of like being in Chicago, but nicer, and cuter (super compliment) and with better bike trails. Here’s just a sampling of what we saw on our TC getaway.
First on our Nathaniel Smith sponsored tour was Soo Visual Art Center in Uptown we were caught Lovesickness with Trees: Recent Work by Sophia Heymans and Garrett Perry.
We had heard about SooVAC and Soo Local from Negative Jam on our last trip, so we checked it off our list first thing. Word on the street is that the Local space is pretty rad, but we unfortunately just missed the closing of Congruent Influence, a collaborative show between Mark Schoening and Drew Peterson. Carolyn Payne was way cool, we talked shop and it seems obvious that Soo’s got big things coming on the horizon.
Work by Sophia Heymans on view at what the locals call “SooVAC.”
Work by Garrett Perry on view at what the locals call “SooVAC.”
SooVAC ED, Carolyn Payne with Nathaniel Smith in the gallery.
We also managed to battle our way into a few studios during our trip. An old friend from our SAIC daze, printmaker Drew Peterson, invited us to lunch at the teeniest Tiny Diner and then showed us his to his studio in the Powderhorn neighborhood, east of Uptown. We were stunned by the surprisingly painterly pixel paintings of Mathew Zefeldt at his studio at the University of Minneapolis. Right before we left we were able to squeeze in a visit with Nate Young, more on that later.
We want to tell you all about the beet tagine we had with Drew at Tiny Diner, but this isn’t Instagram.
The Weatherman Report
For Twin Cities, MN
Work by Drew Peterson, from his series Waterworks 2013-14.
T around Town(s) Continued…
Our favorite work, a sweet and sold(!) fire butt by Garrett Perry.
Peterson’s Waterworks series in his studio.
Peterson has been busy since we both left SAIC. This and the other unique screen prints he showed me are destined for the artist’s solo show in the fall.
Peterson in his studio, the type of tight and well organized space you’d expect from a seasoned screen printer.
Mathew Zefeldt’s studio at the University of Minneapolis. The artist is working on his upcoming show at the Minneapolis Institute of the Art, opening October 16th. We heard there’s wallpaper involved. Excited.
Zefeldt looking svelte in his studio.
Not only were these paintings clearly a glorious mindfuck, they also include the last two video games I remember playing as a child. I fucking loved killing Nazis in Wolfenstein.
Despite the digital feel of the paintings, Zefeldt doesn’t even touch photoshop. This “mood board” is his way of testing out aspects of the painting before committing them to canvas.
We had a chance to visit some of the major cultural institutions, most notably the Walker (can’t get enough!) and the Minnesota State Fair, where you can see sculptures made of butter and “The Miracle of Life” barn (too real for this city mouse). We partook of all of the mini donuts and cookie buckets we could muster at the fair and had our minds freaking blown away by the awesomeness of the Walker. The Flux exhibit was pretty cool but the Radical Presence exhibition was well, radical (as you might expect), featuring 36 artists and over 100 works spanning the 1960’s to the present there were a ton of blockbusters, lots of Chicago favorites. It’s an exhibition that really can change the way you think about art. Oh yeah, and OMG! The Clock! Who even needs the east coast? We have everything we need right here in the middle.
No caption necessary. At the Minnesota State Fair.
There were more items and artifacts from Lorraine O’Grady than we’ve ever seen it one place. It was resplendent.
A image from O’Grady’s series Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire.
Detail of sculpture/video work Jacolby Satterwhite on view in Radical Presence at the Walker.
Installation view of work in Radical Presence.
Even More T around Town(s)…
Video by Kalup Linzy at Radical Presence.
Saturday night, David Petersen Gallery had an opening that we were tipped off too by our buddy Nathan Coutts from Midway. Probably the most chi-chi thing we did in MN, the exhibition, What Was The Question was replete with NY artists, Joshua Abelow, Sadie Laska, MacGregor Harp and Adrianne Rubenstein mingling with the Minneapolitians. We were particularly fond of Rubenstein’s beach umbrellas and I don’t think we were the only ones.
The turnout for What Was the Question at David Petersen.
Midwest meets Midwest. Andrea Hyde and Cory Schires at the Petersen opening Saturday night.
Aforementioned paintings by Adrianne Rubenstein.
B@S fan Nate Lee with Rubenstein and Joshua Abelow at What Was The Question.
Last but super not least, we were lucky to meet up with Nate Young on his way back from the Black Artist Retreat in Chicago on our way back to the city. Everyone in Minneapolis was pointing us to The Bindery Projects in St. Paul, the space that Young runs with his wife and fellow artist, Caroline Kent. Young was MN nice enough to open up the space for us so we could see Zachary Fabri’s solo show, Video is Dead (he’s also in Radical Presence at the Walker). The spacious and industrial alternative space has two large exhibition spaces, installed with images and a game board/ assemblage of dice and painted chicken bones in one room and a video called The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, which was shot outside the Apollo on the day Michael Jackson died in the other. We also got to check out Young’s studio in the background and even explore the old factory building a bit before emarking on the long ride home.
Installation view of Fabri’s show at Bindery Projects.
Detail of Morgan Freeman image from Fabri’s ongoing series, Aureola.
The formidable Young in his studio.
Work by Nate Young in his studio.
Our last minute trip to The Bindery Projects was definitely the most clutch way to close our trip to the Twin Cities. We’re happy to finally wind down in Chicago, but this summer we’ve learned there’s good T to be had all over the Midwest. Until next time, Wisconsin, Twin Cities!
Header image features a detail of Ink Babel by Andrea Carlson on view at Bockley Gallery through September near some of the 10,000 lakes.