“There is something dreamlike about the points that provide a view of the other side, but they belong not so much to the dreamtime as to dream work. The nomads enter the dreamtime not by setting off on some extraordinary, dangerous voyage, but through their everyday, ambulatory movement.” -Cesar Aira, “Ghosts”
I have been thinking about Maren Miller’s exhibition, Long Gone, for the last few weeks. When I begin to write about it, I pause, get lost in thought and forget about writing. Until this week, I had not yet found the framework with which to formalize my intuitive reactions.
What I saw: Across the street from The Hills Esthetic Center, stands a Juvenile Detention Center; Hills does not have a doorbell. A friendly face let me in after I called the prescribed telephone number. On my way up the stairs, several young men passed on their way out. For an old werehouse it was surprisingly warm inside. The steel stairs had been recently painted red. On the second floor, I walked through a wide hallway, went into one of many doors on the right and entered a welcoming living space. In the subsequent kitchen, a content-looking cat greeted me. It was polite—not overly friendly; it seemed to enjoy its hostly duties. The ceilings were at least 16 feet overhead and comparable windows bathed the room in light. There was a second room inside of this kitchen. Inside that second room hung Maren Miller’s exhibit, Long Gone.
Miller builds architectural spaces with simple lines. I wanted to see if I might do the same with words.
Above one wall, the wall that the gallery shares with the kitchen, a mirror hung parallel to the floor. That way people in the kitchen could look into the exhibition space and people in the space could look into the kitchen. When I looked up, I was comforted by the domestic action of pots and pans on the other side of our common wall. They gave me more confidence in the clean, white room and periodically my eyes returned to the mirror, for a small, grounding break.
The show: Primarily red and blue and black and white. There is a sense of humor in the work and motifs refract through different pieces in an almost narrative arc: a labyrinth on a wood panel is akin to a snake-like canvas line, which is similar to a stream of paint that spills on a table that stands on a floor which, again, is reminiscent of the labyrinth. A chair covered in a tarp seat cover is the only three-dimensional presence other than myself. The chair beneath the tarp is intuited rather than seen and such considerations lean a little on the experience of my own physical presence. Behind the chair, a picture of a window is covered by a pictorial curtain. In another hanging canvas piece, a picture of what looks like text (blocky, reminiscent again of the labyrinth language) is cut off by what could be a curtain, or another very fat snake, or another stream of dripping paint. At the end of the room stands one real window. That window is also curtained by a patterned, unstretched canvas.
Each work in the show withholds something. It is covered by another piece of itself, asking to be uncovered or—in the most plain case of the labyrinth—solved. The motifs themselves are both banal and archetypal—the labyrinth, the snake, the window. Used in the everyday as they are in myth. Nevertheless, unlike their fabled counterparts, Miller’s representations are insolvable; they cannot be uncovered and thus deny the traditional hero his or her epic fulfillment.
The painter is also in the index of archetypes, but Miller’s paintings are not about a heroic painter.
The paintings are not stretched. Instead they hang on limp canvases, abstract, like cartoons of paintings. Other works on panels—the table with the floorboards, and the blue and white labyrinth—are not paintings at all, save for a gessoed background. These boast the illusion of paintings, for on closer inspection, the picture plane is defined by meticulously cut out (possibly electrical) tape. The surface of that tape lays flat, like a second layer of ink in a screen print. Here again, the surface is plastic and impenetrable.
Ghosts: A few days ago a friend quotes a section in Cesar Aira’s book, Ghosts. The book takes place in South America, in the middle of a growing industrial city; it centers on a family living in a high-rise construction site. Everything smells like cement. Halfway through the middle of the book the main character, a 13 year old girl, takes a nap. At this point the whole family is asleep–enjoying a siesta before the evening, when the family will have a party on the roof. Up until this point, the action of the book takes place on a vertical plane as characters laboriously climb up and down half-built stairs. With this collective nap, the author introduces a horizontal axis, describing other human communities and the way their various architectural habitats reflect respective social priorities. In light of that digression, the book’s monolithic skyscraper becomes one of many possible futures. In order to draw that conclusion, however—in order to shift from a vertical axis to a horizontal one, Aira uses dreams as vehicle of shift.
“There are societies in which the unbuilt dominates almost entirely: for example, among the Australian Aborigines. Instead of building, the Australians concentrate on thinking and dreaming the landscape in which they live, until by multiplying their stories they transform it into a complete and significant ‘construction.’ The process is not as exotic as it seems. It happens every day in the western world: it’s the same as the ‘mental city,’ Joyce’s Dublin, for instance….The visible landscape is an effect of causes that are to be found in the dreamtime. For example, the snake that dragged itself over this plain creating these undulations, etc. etc. These curious Aborigines make sure their eyes are closed while events take place, which allows them to see places as records of events. But what they see is a kind of dream, and they wake into a reverie, since the real story (the snake, not the hills) happened while they were asleep.”
In waking, we see the affect of that gesture. In looking at Miller’s work, I see a congress of decisions that took place before me. I cannot penetrate the surface she creates, because I was not present in the process of its creation. Further, the dimension I interpret is a product of my literacy—acquired over years and generations. Obviously this painted space is illusionistic, but its representation has repercussions in the way one regards other schemes of order. It is useful to recognize the myopic trajectory of history and progress—whether that history is about cities and human habitat, or painting or anything in between. Nevetheless Miller’s work is not relativistic. These objects are sure of themselves and concrete. It is my relationship to them that shifts.
I looked at the mirror and saw the pots and pans and the cat was standing on a counter; its tail flicked.
Maren Miller’s work points to the dream state, during which objects are made. Her work creates the affect of space and depth, but in fact remain a surface. We see the affect and intuited depth of her gestures, yet the desire look “beneath,” to capture an intimate relationship (or “truth”) of the work, will remain unsated. She entertains Painting, as a genre, and in my analogy the Painting Genre is like the skyscraper. Massive, towering, lofty. Miller takes a dream in that building, while dreaming a snake with paint on its back undulates over a white wall. Something else stamps architectural lines onto a flat surface, creating dimension in a previously dimensionless space. As I stood there I looked again at the panel with the table and the red paint. The floorboards depicted in the “painting” mirrored those on the floor under my feet. I turned towards the literal curtain behind me, thinking about the repetitions of mark-making, how that repetition reinforces a world-view. The premises of architecture and art are inherited and built upon.
It was nevertheless with some relief that I pulled back the curtain and saw a street outside. A car drove slowly past the window.
If you want to read another something about Maren Miller and her show at Hills, check out this interview with The Post Family.
Off-Topic invites artists, curators, writers, and cultural workers to discuss a subject not directly related to the practice of making art. We would like to welcome The Post Family as our latest participants. They will be shedding some light on their favorite childhood games.
SMEAR THE QUEER by Chad Kouri
Smear the queer is a variation of another school yard game widely known as Tag or It. Also known as Kill The Carrier or Muckle, the rules are actually the exact opposite of Tag; all of the other players chase ‘it’ also referred to as all-on-one. There are no out of bounds, no teams and no winners.This player who carries the “it’ object (most commonly a football) does there best to avoid being tackled or smeared by the other players who are attempting to take the ball away. Once the ball leaves the hands of the carrier, the “it” position is filled by whomever has the guts to pick up the ball. More often than not the name of the game is repeatedly yelled out while playing. Seeing how there are no real winners, technically the game is endless but most games only last one recess period. Kids have also been known to sabotage a friendly game of catch by tossing the ball and yelling “smear the queer” immediately making the receiver of the catch a target. There is some debate over whether or not the name is offensive because the idea is everyone wants to be the queer and the point is to be the queer longer than anyone else but we can probably assume that it was not named with good intentions.
Smear the queer is not the only offensive term that is found in the school yard. Other derogatory sayings have snuck into child vernacular after decades of use by adults without us noticing like Indian Giver (one who gives something only to take it back with obvious negative implications against Native Americans) and “Yellow”(a coward or traitor with suspect origins in the early American hatred of Oriental immigrants). Of course one day the children grow up and more than likely understand the meaning of the words and stop using them but I can’t help but think how twisted all of it is. Oh well, it was a fun game and I have not had a sudden urge to tackle any gay people so I assume I’m no worse for wear.
FOOT TAG by Sam Rosen
A school wide phenomenon at Lincoln Hall Junior High School (circa 1997). While other schools were focusing on more conventional sports such as Football or Basketball, even conventional one-hand tag, Lincoln Hall students were pioneering a new sport, a sport with the speed of tag and the strategy of hide and seek. Read more
Get out your scissors and glue: Chad Kouri of the Post Family and Ed Marszewski of Co-Prosperity Sphere are unveiling a new incarnation of last summer’s “Get It Together” exhibition – it opens this Friday, March 19 from 5-7 and it sounds like so much fun! Full details below; make sure to scroll down to the bottom for a really beautiful video of last summer’s “Get It Together” event. I love all the Chicago art hipsters sitting around, totally engrossed in their cutting and pasting, just like scrapbookin’ mamas!! Super sweet.
After the success of “Get It Together” in July 2009 at Co-Prosperity Sphere we are running the show again at Chicago Tourism Center Gallery with an extended lineup as well as new work from our old friends.
“Get it Together Again,” is an exhibition of assemblage, collage, and collaborative work by local, national, and international artists. Organized by Chad Kouri of the Post Family and Ed Marszewski of Co-Prosperity Sphere, the exhibition includes over 25 works on paper, mixed media, and installations including a grocery store with hand drawn products made out of paper. Gallery visitors of all ages can sit down at a collage table and create their own work. Materials such as magazines, scissors and glue will be provided or bring your own.
The Show includes works by: Adrianne Goodrich, Alex Valentine, Anthony Zinonos, Ben Speckmann, Chris Roberson, Chris Schreck, Doug Shaeffer, Emily Clayton, Greg Lamarche, Hisham Akira Bharoocha, James Harry Ewert Jr, Joe Tallarico, Jordan Martins, Mario Wagner, Matt Nichols, Matthew Rich, Michael Pajon, Netherland, Peter Skvara, Richard Smith, Rod Hunting, Ron Ewert, Ryan Duggan, Sarah Jeziorski, Scott Massey, Stephen Eichhorn, and Tom Torluemke.
Chicago Tourism Center Gallery
72 E. Randolph Street
Opening reception March 19th, 5 – 7pm
Show runs March 19 – April 6, 2010
Thursday, March 25 at 12:15pm, artist talk
Thursday, April 1 at 12:15pm, hands on collage workshop
HOURS: Monday to Thursday, 8am – 7pm; Friday, 8am to 6pm; Saturday, 9am -6pm;
and Sunday, 10am – 6pm. Admission to the gallery and exhibition events is free.
Looks like former BAS guest Chad Kouri of The Post Family will be speaking on a panel at the Cultural Center. This looks like it is worth checking out.
via the Cultural Center
“There’s a wide world of opportunity outside of galleries and many artists are making a full time living by diversifying their practices. Three Chicago artists and an on line gallerist explain how they do it. Lynn Basa (moderator) creates works that adapt in setting and scale from intimate studio paintings to site specific public art commissions in terrazzo and mosaic.
She is the author of The Artist’s Guide to Public Art: How to Find and Win Commissions. Nikko Moy is the curator of Ashes & Milk, an online gallery founded on the premise that a lot can be made from very little. Lee Tracy is an artist who explores many mediums and formats of expression to make varied points that resonate from one voice. Local insomniac Chad Kouri of The Post Family is a freelance illustrator and Art Director of Proximity Magazine.”
Thursday, August 20, 6 – 7:30 pm
Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington St., 1st Floor Garland Room
Chicago, IL 60602
For more info check out the Cultural Center’s site
Former BAS guests The Post Family will be hosting what looks to be an interesting panel discussion. I wish I could go but we are having a moving party for a BAS member. If your free definitely stop by and check it out. Then let me know how it was,
via The Post Family:
Quit Your Job and Become an Artist
The Post Family and Sonnenzimmer Panel Discussion
As part of Amos Paul Kennedy Jr‘s lovely letterpress show entitled Quit Your Job and Become an Artist, hear members from Sonnenzimmer and The Post Family discuss their own transitions from working in a “typical job” to working as artists in independent and collaborative spheres within the traditional economy. Refreshments provided by Peroni. Brought to you buy Around the Coyote.
Wednesday, June 17 @6:30pm
Flat Splats Gallery
1817 W. Division St
$3 suggested donation