Guest post by Lise Haller Baggesen
IN THE YEAR OF THE SCAVENGER, THE SEASON OF THE BITCHâ€¦
â€¦ in the fossil fueled states of American gloom and doom, we are headed south on LSD, a donnerwetter looming on the horizon as a tic in the corner of our left eye. Shot-size raindrops splatter against the wind-shield from the sky turning from gunmetal grey to violaceous to petroleum green behind the silhouetted skyscrapers, swaying gently in the balmy November breeze as the wind picks up and a tornado warning ticks in on the mobile device, interrupting Kanye West suggesting that this would be a beautiful day forÂ Â jumping out the window/letting everything go/letting everything goâ€¦
Indeed it is a beautiful day!
This apocalyptic weather, reminding us that the doomsday prophets were probably Â right, that this is not the 11th hour, that we are already fashionably late, makes it the perfect day for checking out a couple of shows in Chicagoland contemplating our speciesâ€™ self-destructive impulse.
Hamza Walkerâ€™s modern day vanity Suicide Narcissus at the Renaissance society reads like a visit to the menâ€™s department at Barneyâ€™s: tight and tasteful grey-tones with a splash of lush jungle green thrown in. Not unlike, in fact, its 17th centuryâ€™s Dutch counterparts careful rendition of bridles and soap-bubbles, tulips and skulls, reminding us that the world is forever coming to an end.
The super symmetrical show is arranged on both sides of a corridor leading up to Katie Patersonâ€™s All the Dead Stars, a map of said stars corresponding to the place on earth from where they were discovered laser etched into a matte black anodized aluminum sheet, creating an eerie map resembling a burnt out earth as observed from space. Observation posts glow-in-the-dark with the half-life luminescence of radioactive material, our radio signals still on their way to infinity and beyond long after weâ€™re gone. From here we can turn left or right (or right and three quarters or maybe not quite) but either route will coil back on itself into a cul-de-sac, a dead end from where we can only retreat the way we came.
Each of the works in the show display the mechanics and dialectics of their creation in plain view, if not front and center to our reading of the works, like the endlessly similar variations of rope, pulley and mirror of Thomas Baumannâ€™s perpetuum mobile Tau Sling or the dead pan unedited single channel registration of Nicole Six and Paul Petritschâ€™ Spatial Intervention, showing a lone figure hacking his way through the ice, in a circle surrounding himself. Not really sure if this unromantic reference to Kaspar Davids Friedrichâ€™s Eismeer (the Sea of Ice from 1824), is going anywhere outside of its own hermetic picture plane, but whether we are witnessing a painfully slow suicide attempt here, or just some Sisyphus slow-motion slapstick, as a viewer you feel as frozen in time as the lonely man on the ice.
The row of vitrines that make up Harris Epaminonda and Daniel Gustav Cramerâ€™s Infinite Library display a collection of reappropriated books -by the looks of it European post war encyclopedias and reference books with faded color reproductions of artworks and plants, painted over with geometrical figures that seem to suggest some obsolete world order, while Lucy Skaerâ€™s Leviathanâ€™s Edge, a whale skeleton boxed in a drywall space, opened up in three narrow slits, through which we can only partially admire the brittle grandeur of the beastly remains would not be out of place in a gentlemenâ€™s explorers club, that other society, where adventurers who come back to tell the tale can compare their booty- Jolly good!
In a darkened cinema space, similar to a home entertainment den, Daniel Steegmann Mangraneâ€™s 16mm, 2009-2011 the exhibitions only truly juicy work, is contained -as if its lush Amazonian green would otherwise spill out and contaminate the rest of the show in a toxic spill of unbridled fertility. Like decorative kale in a millionaireâ€™s front yard its nutritious value is rendered void, and we are left with eye candy. This is our reward. The five minute 16mm film loop leaves us ample time to contemplate the cable running near the top of the picture frame along which the camera pulls itself still further in to the heart of darkness, the whirring of the projector behind us competing with the dense cacophony of jungle sounds on the soundtrack of the projection before us, until the movie without further ado comes to a dead stop and the screen goes black. The End.
On the surface, Suicide Narcissus mainly examines and admires its own elegant rhetoric. Initially I considered this the exhibitionâ€™s demise, but on reexamining it I have come to think that perhaps this is exactly its point: Like Nero playing the fiddle as Rome burns, you find yourself confronted with your own disengagement, as you consider the aesthetic possibilities and fashion choices of the world going to hell in an evening clutch. It is an uneasy notion, like deleting yet another petition appeal from you e-mail inbox.
As an antidote to this tasteful ennui may I suggest a visit to Dana DeGiulio @ The Suburban, which will tear you out of your inwardly spiraling anxiety attack and throw you right back into the real with the welcome catharsis of your friendly neighborhood suicide bomber.Â The battered backed-up Buick sedan is ramrodded into the cinderblock structure that makes up the central exhibition space at The Suburban with a precision that sits in the sweet spot between demolition and embellishment.
The curious fact that the car is damaged front and rear gives the impression not so much of a drunk driver swerving out on control, tearing through the front yard in the early hours of a sleepy suburban Sunday morning, but more of the feel-something- anything of a soccer momâ€™s revenge, later same morning, her anniversary.
And the shattered head answers back And I believe I was Loved I Believe I loved Who did this to us?
Because we can only contemplate art from our personal vantage point, just like we can only imagine Armageddon in our own time, I will approach this from the angle of Burn Out with their totaled car park in the center of Copenhagen and their smashed up ticketing booth for DeÂ Appel’s Crap Shoot (-a memorable show that culminated for my own part in a visit to the ER after a visit to the exhibitionâ€™s socially (un-)engaged Absolut-free-for-all-vodka-bar and a subsequent act of cycling under the influence ending abruptly when my front wheel got stuck in an Amsterdam tram rail and sent me to a dead stop against the wet asphalt). Curiously, these works originated round about the time when the 1996 LeSabre was still a classy car, but seem almost quaintly didactic now, in their 90s engagement with institutional critique, compared to this work which points only to its own calibration of annihilation through acceleration, suggesting that we are all flying solely by our instruments by now, no line on the horizon: In a godless universe you need to rely on your own moral compass, or perhaps some secular religion. Art for arts sake can be just that. It can be itâ€™s own means and end.
It is an appropriation and an approach, but how do you approach appropriately, being in a banged out car and your aim the feel of not to feel it?
This is subtle and has to be premeditated. Premeditation is available in the form of a brochure which contemplate the estimated market value of the Buick before and after impact as compared to a circular silverpoint painting by Michelle Grabner, as consigned by Dana DeGuilio to James Cohan gallery and sold before the Buick hit the brick wall, perhaps to offset the costs of a second hand car and a cinderblock shed? The end is a zero sum game.
On the 10th anniversary of the suburban, this will be that last one for this building where it all began. Now structurally unsound, It will be torn down at the end of the show, or when the Oak Park police and zoning inspectors step in and say that it is time to clean up the mess, whichever comes first.
In Michelleâ€™s own words: â€œThis is the end of the suburban as we know it!â€
Credits: Dana DeGiulio would like to thank her pit crew. I would like to thank you for reading.
Lise Haller Baggesen (1969) left her native Denmark for the Netherlands in 1992 to study painting at the AKI and the Rijksakademie. In 2008 she relocated to Chicago with her family, where she completed her MA in Visual and Critical Studies at the SAIC in 2013.
In the meantime, her work evolved from a traditional painting practice toward a hybrid practice including curating, writing and immersive multimedia installation work.
Â Her book â€œMothernismâ€ will be published on Green Lantern Press and The Poor Farm Press in 2014.
125 N. Harvey Ave.
Sunday 2-4 PM.
Book of works by Tom Burtonwood
1104 S. Wabash, 2nd Fl.
Friday 5-8 PM
Work by Chris Silva, Chuck Przybyl, Teppei Katori, Lisa Chiodini, Frederic Moffet, Todd Frugia, Clifford Novey, Jason Frohlichstein, Timothy Olson, Edyta Stepien, Agnieszka Kulon, Mark Salach, Dandee Petr, Benjamin Thorp, Martin Rille, and Nat Soti.
1932 S. Halsted St. #100
Friday 6-10 PM.
Work by Amy Babinec, Jessica Taylor Caponigro, and Neal Vandenbergh.
1906 S Throop St #2F
Saturday 6-9 PM.
Group exhibition of gallery artists.
310 N. Peoria St.
Friday 6-10 p.m.
Work by Matt Austin, Justyna Badach, Jeremy Bolen, Dan Bradica, Troy Flinn, Lenny Gilmore, Wm. Bradley Johnson, Nate Mathews, Bill O’Donnell, TJ Proechel, Charlie Simokaitis and Shane Welch.
Catherine Edelman Gallery is located at 300 W. Superior St. Reception is Friday from 5-8pm.
Work by Marius Aleksa, Theresa Ganz, Sara Garth, David Giordano, Jacqueline Hendrickson, Samantha Jones, Stacee Kalmanovsky, Melanie Kassel, Jessie Mott, Jasmine Neal, Elle Opitz, Hannah Pae, Valentina Solano, Cassandra Troyan, Jan Verwoert, Erik Wenzel and May Yeung.
DOVA Temporary Gallery is located at 5228 S. Harper Ave. Reception is Friday from 5-7:30pm.
Work by Petra Cortright, Thomson Dryjanski, Derek Frech and Bob Myaing, Aaron Graham, and Mac Katter.
HungryMan Gallery is located at 2135 N Rockwell St. Reception is Friday from 7-10pm.
Work by Roe Ethridge, Margarete Jakschik and Jonas Wood.
Shane Campbell Gallery (Chicago) is located at 673 N Milwaukee Ave. Reception is Saturday 6-8pm.
Work by Simon Ingram and Doug Melini.
The Suburban is located at 125 N. Harvey Ave. Reception is Sunday from 2-4pm.
Curated by Lisa Majer.
Swimming Pool Project Space is located at 120 N Green St #5E. Reception is Friday from 7-10pm.
2. Duncan Anderson at Firecat Projects
Firecat Projects is located at 2124 N. Damen Ave. Reception is Friday from 7-9pm.
Work by Stephen Collier, Brian Guidry, and Rachel Jones.
Western Exhibitions is located at 119 N. Peoria St., suite 2A. Reception is Friday from 5-8pm.
Work by Alexander Stewart.
Happy Collaborationists Exhibition Space is located at 1254 N. Noble St. Reception is Saturday from 6-10pm.
New works out in Oak Park.
The Suburban is located at 125 N Harvey Ave. Reception is Sunday from 2-4pm.
Because I have a four and three quarters year old daughter, I was intrigued by the email I received from The Suburban announcing a one-day only “Holiday Experience” for kids and grownups alike. We were invited to come and Sit On A Polar Bear’s Lap. The event was billed as “a project by Diego Leclery,” a well-known Chicago artist who also co-runs the alternative space Julius Caesar.
Since The Polar Bear looms large in our house (my husband runs the endangered species program of a national environmental group) I thought, what the hell, I’ll bring my daughter and check it out. It couldn’t be any creepier than Santa Claus, could it? (Since we’re Jewish, my child has never had the terrifying privilege of being forced to sit on Santa’s lap whilst bored teens in elf costumes took her picture). But since I wasn’t sure what to expect, I kept it vague and told my daughter we were going to do “this polar bear thing” during the afternoon and left it at that. A part of me was worried that the project–whatever form it took–would feel cynical in some way, and though I’m all for overturning fake holiday cheer in appropriate contexts, I didn’t want my kid to be the butt of the joke. But this Polar Bear was nothing like that at all.
In fact this Polar Bear…I’m not (too) embarrassed to admit that this Polar Bear was truly magical. At least he was for my daughter. She couldn’t get enough of the huge, cuddly fellow and I literally had to drag her out of the room so that other kids (and adults) could have their turn sitting on his lap. She got in line to visit the Polar Bear three separate times.
“Is the Polar Bear a machine?” she kept asking me. “No,” I said – “he is a living creature. Can’t you tell by the way he was hugging you?”
“So it was alive?” she asked. “Yes,” I responded, “he was alive. I’m pretty sure it was a he anyway.”
“But how did a Polar Bear come all the way from the North Pole?”
“Well,” I said, thinking fast — because she already knows Santa isn’t real and I kinda wanted to give her something — “well, this is a special kind of Polar Bear. That’s why he’s here. He is different from other Polar Bears.”
“Yes, mama…he is sooo kind! If he was a different Polar Bear he would probably try to kill me.”
“Pretty much, yeah.”
For me, the Polar Bear brought a number of things to mind–from Temple Grandin’s “squeeze machine” to the culture of fear that the media has built around children and adults and physical expressions of affection, to the fact that environmental groups crafting media campaigns are forced to rely on a few highly photogenic “charismatic critters”–like the Polar Bear–in order to get the general public to care about environmental issues like species decimation and global warming.
But for my daughter, the Polar Bear wasn’t conceptual or referential. It was real, and it made her so happy. So thank you Polar Bear. That was a really sweet thing you did.