Guest post by Mark Sheerin
It is more than 1,000 miles from Luton, England, to Reykjavik, Iceland. But Dominic from the UK town appears to love a good caper. Why else would he put together a group show on very little money in one of the most far flung and expensive cities in Europe?
â€œIt was done on a wing and a prayer,â€ he tells me on the phone from his Luton studio. â€œThe art was just really, really ambitious considering we didnâ€™t have much money to play with. Itâ€™s amazing what you can do with a cardboard tube and a delivery van.â€
Five artists took part. And the show has just run for a month at gallery Kling & Bang. Along with Dominic, the full bill included Gavin Turk, Mark Titchner, Laura White and Peter Lamb. The show went by the name London Utd. â€œIt’s kind of doing what it says on the tin,â€ says Dominic, whose eponymous town is just a twenty minute train ride from the UK capital.
Not that he is the first to cross the Atlantic to the artist led space. He tells me that Paul McCarthy and Jason Rhoades have also shown at the dynamic and co-operative venue. And Dominic takes the opportunity to recount the tale of Kling & Bangâ€™s legendary appearance at Frieze Art Fair.
â€œThey did a Frieze Project in London in 2008 called Sirkus. Itâ€™s an incredible story,â€ says the artist, telling me that Sirkus was the name of a Reykyavik bar: â€œThis place was the hub, the heartbeat of the arts communityâ€. But after nine years of business, Sirkus closed down, leaving Kling & Bang free to turn the faÃ§ade and fixtures into a temporary installation for the art fair.
Dominic warms to his tale: â€œThey arrived at Heathrow in October 2008 and basically all their credit cards had been stopped because the [Icelandic] crash had suddenly happened overnight and so this bar, which was a mirror of good times and place to meet, became that again in London.â€ Word soon went round about the penniless Icelanders with the reconstructed bar.
Things are a bit better in Reykjavik now and in its way London Utd has become another bridge between the art scenes in both cities. Mark Titchnerâ€™s piece was a piece of text in Icelandic, which read The World Isnâ€™t Working. (Perhaps the UK crash is yet to come.)
Gavin Turk meanwhile offered a twelve and a half metre diptych inspired by Andy Warholâ€™s Death and Disaster series and featuring the four wheeled emblem of working class Britain the Ford Transit. Laura White produced no less than 54 drawings of photos of sculptures which she herself had made. And Peter Lamb translated the shifting detritus on his studio floor into two large abstract canvases.
Asked about one of his own works in the show, Dominic is ready with another yarn. â€œThat photo was done as a tribute to Paul Young,â€ he tells me. Like the artist, the singer came from Luton. â€œHe used to work at Vauxhall [car plant] in the early 80s and he told someone I know in the canteen once that he was going to be a global pop star and then literally 18 months later he was, with Everytime You Go Away.â€
The track resonates with many a Lutonian and inspired a Dominic from Luton performance at an event called CafÃ© Almanac organised by Bedford Creative Arts. This involved sourcing an 80s wig from Luton Indoor Market, posing for a portrait artist in the shopping centre and getting 5,000 badges made to cover a cheap suit. â€œI just stood up in front of about 50 people in this Working Menâ€™s Club on a Saturday afternoon and sung my heart out,â€ recalls the artist.
This took place under a net filled with 200 balloons in the colours of the local soccer team, intended for release in the final verse. However â€œThe net got caught in all of my badges so I had 200 balloons attached to me and I panicked and – it wasn’t scripted at all – I basically ended up having a fight with these balloons and stamping on them and stuff and it brought the house down actually.â€
But despite the hazardous stagecraft, Dominicâ€™s â€œbiggest challengeâ€ is a self-proclaimed inability to sing. So it comes as no surprise that the artist thinks most performance art is too earnest. â€œPeople would argue with this, but I think there’s a duty to entertain,â€ he says, â€œThat’s just my take on it. That’s my little mantra.â€ Even the anecdotes which relate to each of his gigs are compelling experiences.
As a final aside, itâ€™s worth pointing out that the artist formerly known as Dominic Allan comes from one of the most derided towns in the UK. His â€œfrom Lutonâ€ tag is a sticky piece of cultural baggage. Dominic tells me that the name just came about through being easy to remember when he ordered materials.
Now, he claims, â€œItâ€™s just a very glorious vehicle for the idea of the underdog and also to shove it back in peopleâ€™s faces now because Lutonâ€™s one of those towns which people laugh about . . . The more I go on, the more I realise that it is serious, and it is seriousâ€.
So thatâ€™s Dominic, from Luton, easy to laugh with, hard to laugh at. Prepare to be entertained if he ever comes to your town.
Mark Sheerin is an art writer from Brighton, UK. He can also be found on Culture24, Hyperallergic, Frame & Reference and his own blog criticismism.com
I want to use the example of Jay-Zâ€™s performance at Pace Chelsea last week as a case study for something more encompassing, without getting into all the details since it was meant as a location for a music video shoot and not as an art work. (At least, Iâ€™m hoping) So just as a recap: Jay-Z performed â€œPicasso Babyâ€ from his new album â€œMagna Carta…Holy Grailâ€ for six hours to a packed and rotating crowd of art world insiders, celebrities and fans last Wednesday.
A celebrityâ€™s presence in our space, instead of the media version we tend to see them as confirms our own existence. At the same time, it complicates that existence. We are seen by those we have saw but here unto unseen by. I see (consume oneâ€™s image) therefore I am, but when I am seen, what am I? It is mindfuck of Turrell like proportions, as we lose our sense of up and down, left and right. We choke on our own vomit, we are paralyzed. In exchange, or maybe as a symbiotic response, we return them to a mediated image from our cellphone capture. Shrinking them to a 2.5â€ x 3.5â€ format, moving at a mere 16fps, they are more manageable as a digital apparition.Â With Jay-Z rapping in our face – a desire of many to be that close to a living legend, to be acknowledged by He who hath created the current state of Hip Hop – we are quickly overwhelmed, and thus respond with our cell phoneâ€™s sad idea of video to return to a sense of normality. It helps us relate to his intangible nature. It is in this way that we treat the celebrity both as a solar eclipse and a stripper at a gentlemenâ€™s club. At at least one point during â€œPicasso Babyâ€, a tight circle forms around Jay-Z. We see his professional camera crew which is typically meant to be invisible. They are anything but in the many cell shots taken, reminding us that this is a planned operation, to be dissected and re-edited later.Â However, their visibility being an anomaly, suggests a future that is somewhat less imminent than the rapidity of the cell phone.
The shifting of time is the next big thing here, as the immediacy of cell video to internet upload has a tendency to further define the Present. This is congruent with the very sense of the 21st century that the Future is a finite entity, that one day, and one day soon, we will run out of Future. The speed of life itself is steadily increasing thanks to the plethora of communication technologies available, more immediate global awareness and the loss of physical frontiers and the tightening of borders. Every summer blockbuster movie (EVERY) of the last ten years has dealt with some sort of social horror of apocalyptic proportions or post human mutants, all of which signal a cataclysmic shift in life as we know it. THE END IS NEAR has returned to our minds (though it has rarely left us) with a vengeance and we are responding by trying to do as much as we can as fast as we can. And that means celebrities having completely proven themselves in one field must try other, usually related fields. (We will exclude Terminator Xâ€™s Ostrich Farm for this reason of â€œrelatedâ€) For Jay-Z Â to stage a music video shoot as a performance in an art gallery is not a huge stretch, yet it is breaking new ground from the stand pint of those who were quick to critique it as art. Increasingly, there comes the Nike spirit of â€œJust Do Itâ€, though oftentimes of DIY immediacy. (thats the cell phones, not a fully planned Jay -Z event). Complicating matters is the six hour duration of the performance. Somewhere in the preface of the “Performance Artist Handbook”, Jay must have read that 6 hours is the minimum duration of a performance work. At the same time, a music video shoot is an all day affair or more, and most galleries are open for about 6 hours in a day. BUT, looking at it through my single minded viewpoint, a 4 minute song performed repeatedly for 6 hours, starts to mess with our perception of time, by looping it, putting us in a casual Groundhogâ€™s Day Lite scenario (if only Bill Murray was in the audience!) where we can start to see the future and we lose our sense of the past, ever so slightly, for as long as an audience member may choose to stay. We can clock time in 4 min. increments instead of seconds. And every moment sounds the same (looks different, but in a bare white walled gallery, not too much different). Stuck within a seemingly never ending 4 minute sequence, we have found a loophole in time, thus gaining an extra 5 hours and 56 minutes of life. What to do with this extra time? Upload crappy video from our cells to the internet and listen to the dumbest song of the summer seems to be the only option. Sounds like weâ€™ve just entered purgatory.
Iâ€™d like to thank â€œA Private View: American Paintings from the Manoogian Collectionâ€ by Yale University Art Gallery and the Detroit Institute of the Arts for providing me with a surface to write on while preparing this text, as well as the ACTUAL audience members of Jay – Zâ€™s performance for showing me in their YouTube video uploads that despite his admirably true giving to his audience, I didnâ€™t miss anything.
This week: Live from the Arts Club of Chicago (with great thanks to Janine Mileaf and Allie Foradas!!) Duncan and Richard talk to William Pope.L, about the forthcoming performance “Pull”, his show at the Renaissance Society “Forlesen” http://www.renaissancesociety.org/site/Exhibitions/Intro.William-PopeL-Forlesen.634.html, and more!
William Pope.L (born 1955 in Newark, New Jersey) is an American visual artist best known for his work in performance art, and interventionist public art. However, he has also produced art in painting, photography and theater. He was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial and is a Guggenheim Fellow.
Learn more and donate to support stipends for PULL! participants:Â http://www.usaprojects.org/project/pull_a_participatory_performance_art_project_for_a_small_city
Follow the project on Facebook Twitter @WilliamPopeLÂ #pullcleveland & InstagramÂ @WilliamPopeL1
Other ways to help would be to Like Pope.Lâ€™s Facebook page here:https://www.facebook.com/pages/William-PopeL/531921730192043?fref=ts
and it would be HUGELY awesome if you could invite as many people as you are able (and encourage them do the same) to the event page:Â https://www.facebook.com/events/315591868543467/?fref=ts
Also! Join Pope.L for a post PULL! conversation at High Concept Laboratories on June 30:Â http://highconceptlaboratories.org/william-pope-l-before-and-after-pull/
This week: Brian and Patricia meet with artist Tony Labat who tries to teach PM how to roll her R’s.
Tony Labat was born in Cuba and came to the United States at the age of 15 in 1966. He has exhibited internationally over the last 30 years. Labat has received numerous awards and grants and his work is in many private and public collections. Labat has developed a body of work in Performance, Video, Sculpture and Installation. His work has dealt with and continues his investigations with the body, popular culture, identity, urban relations, politics, and the media.
This week has musical nods to the untimely passings of Kriss Kross’s Chris Kelly and Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman.
This week: After a dodgy intro we talk to Catherine Sullivan.
Catherine Sullivan was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1968. She earned a BFA from the California Institute of Arts, Valencia (1992), and an MFA from the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena (1997). Sullivanâ€™s anxiety-inducing films and live performances reveal the degree to which everyday gestures and emotional states are scripted and performed, probing the border between innate and learned behavior.
Under Sullivanâ€™s direction, actors perform seemingly erratic, seizure-like jumps between gestures and emotional statesâ€”all of which follow a rehearsed, numerically derived script. Unsettling and disorienting, Sullivanâ€™s work oscillates between the uncanny and camp, eliciting a profound critique of â€œacceptableâ€ behavior in todayâ€™s media-saturated society.
A maelstrom of references and influences from vaudeville to film noir to modern dance, Sullivanâ€™s appropriation of classic filming styles, period costumes, and contemporary spaces (such as corporate offices) draws the viewerâ€™s attention away from traditional narratives and towards an examination of performance itself. Sullivan received a CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts (2004) and a Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) Fellowship (2004â€“05). She has had major exhibitions at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2007); Tate Modern, London (2005); Vienna Secession, Austria (2005); Kunsthalle Zurich (2005); Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford (2003); UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2002); and the Renaissance Society, University of Chicago (2002).
She has participated in the Prague Biennial (2005), the Whitney Biennial (2004), and the Biennale dâ€™Art Contemporain de Lyon (2003). Sullivan lives and works in Chicago.