Week in Review : A Smattering of Utopias

June 30, 2013 · Print This Article


At the risk of trying to tie up a week too simply in one bow, I felt like each post had an underlying vision of Utopia, whether the artist residency in the woods, the dream of fashionistas, the work of uncovering and discussing gender dynamics, the performance of queer migration, or simply the project of a single book — each of this week’s articles strive toward something, something idyllic and often just out of reach.

“Ox-Bow is like Hogwarts for adults,” obviously. Or so says Duncan MacKenzie who is planning to teach a course there this summer.

“Chicago’s “art world” is in no way distinct from fashion–especially as it’s located within SAIC–but rather it’s intimately connected to it,” or so says Paul Germanos who posted an incredible assortment of images from SAIC’s annual fashion show. 


I wrote a piece about James Turrell’s darkness in Pleiades, and how I confused a jpeg of the elevator landing at The Mattress Factory for Turrell’s lighted dark space. I’m not sure that it fits into the Utopia idea, but maybe my effort to muddle through an idea of darkness serves as an adequate counter point:

I went there first as a Sophomore in college with a group of friends. One friend in particular was an upper classman and seemed to have a better handle on contemporary culture. As such we deferred to his authority; to do so was pleasant; he rattled on about various rumors (and possibly fictions) that seemed to walk a tightrope between gossip, mysticism and art history. As someone with very little contact to contemporary art at the time, I relied on the banter of my peers to overcome whatever sense of alienation I might carry into unfamiliar situations. Standing in a pitch black room for an indefinite period of seemed both provocative and confusing. If I thought about it too much I wouldn’t know what I was doing there. Still the narrative of the artist had me intrigued. Stories about Turrell’s alleged arrest for helping young men dodge the draft. His Quaker background. His life in California that yielded an interest in minimalism, light, and science.  As I prepared myself to walk down this very dark corridor in the year 2000, I was told that at the end, in the pitch black (and if I waited long enough) I would begin to see light, like stars (I thought), or a halo. My friend suggested it was the result of a primordial and biological fear of nothingness.

Andrea Washko, Video still from An Irregularly Shaped Pearl, 2011

Andrea Washko, Video still from An Irregularly Shaped Pearl, 2011

Juliana Driever posted an incredible interview with artist Andrea Washko, discussing feminism today — it’s place in American culture at large, how that compares with the art world we live in and what how discussions about feminism play out in the massively multi-player on-line role playing game, World of Warcraft:

WoW is geographically, economically, politically, socially, and racially diverse. Discussing feminism in WoW is like going to a virtual (but still very physical) city and having access to people who are also inhabiting many, many disparate places but simultaneously inhabiting the same virtual space.

2. WoW is an environment in which people talk a lot in a variety of different channels. You can access thousands of people on a server at once.  Granted, not all 1,000 will want to discuss feminism with me….but it’s still a better, bigger, and more diverse sampling than I can get on a city street corner. I want to hear from rural + urban attitudes, “conservative” + “liberal,” worldly + isolated, antisocial + popular, blue collar + white collar + the unemployed + freelancers + students, etc…WoW is great because the anonymity of the space allows for a frankness that is both frightening and also impressive, because no one is held accountable for what they say.  This could mean that people can lie, but more often it means that they can be as extreme as they like in their beliefs and not be judged for it (and are actually generally rewarded for it socially).


A favorite list of Must-Sees: Top 5 from Stephanie Burke.

John Q. Campaign for Atlanta. Photo by Cory Locatelli. Courtesy of the City of Atlanta.

John Q. Campaign for Atlanta. Photo by Cory Locatelli. Courtesy of the City of Atlanta.

A new post from sweet sweet Atlanta via Meredith Kooi who has been posting consistently around and about the subject of performance. This week she wrote about John Q:

Atlanta-based idea collective John Q premiered its work The Campaign for Atlanta: an essay on queer migration at the Atlanta Cyclorama on Friday, May 17, 2013 and Saturday, May 18, 2013. The performance, an essay as John Q calls it, insists on exploring the phenomenon of queer migration into urban spaces, Atlanta being one of them. Using the space, movement, and pictorial qualities of the Cyclorama along with archival materials of queer filmmaker Crawford Barton, native to Resaca (about an hour north of Atlanta), later based in San Francisco, John Q essays (used here as a verb) a narrative of history, creative production, queerness, and geography.

TRACY'S TIGER by William Saroyan, in the fine light of a Red Line car.

TRACY’S TIGER by William Saroyan, in the fine light of a Red Line car.

Maintenance #3 features a collection of reviews from Mairead Case that discuss the following works—

+ Triumph of the Ape: Stories by Todd Dills (THE2NDHAND, print edition 2013)
+ nods by Carrie Lorig (Magic Helicopter Press, 2013)
+ Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures by Mary Ruefle (WAVE Books, 2012)
+ Tracy’s Tiger by William Saroyan (Doubleday, 1951; out of print)
+ The Mere Future by Sarah Schulman (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2009)
+ Violence by Vanessa Veselka and Lidia Yuknavitch (Guillotine Press, 2012)


Monica Westin interviewed Julia Klein about Soberscove Press and their latest book by Robert Goodnough,  Subject Matter of the Artist, a book “comprised of interviews [Goodnough]  undertook with many artists, from Rothko to Pollock, about abstraction.” About this book, Klein says:

The mythology around Abstract Expressionism is complicated and we’ve definitely received a flattened and manageable version of what was going on then, which was of course more complicated and not as neat. I’m glad you got this from the book. There’s an art historian writing about this now and I’m really into her stuff– Valerie Hellstein. From her 2010 dissertation: “While Abstract Expressionism has come to signify heroic individuality and Cold War patriarchy, I want to suggest that it signifies the very obverse—radical community that recognized separate-togetherness.”

Goodnough’s project is appealing to me for its curiosity and humbleness- he was involved in the problem of non-representational subject matter and he wanted to talk about it with the leading artists of his time in order to understand it better himself, as well as to help art students and non-artists understand it better; it was weird and off-putting to a lot of people then (probably still). As Helen Harrison’s introduction points out, it’s odd that this document isn’t wider known and that is especially interesting to me…. I am pleased to be able to make it available through the publication of the book. I’m also very pleased and proud to be able to publish Goodnough’s writings (though this isn’t all of them…there are others that weren’t in the purview of this book, which is focused on exactly what the title describes).


Week In Review: Two of Two

June 23, 2013 · Print This Article

jessica baran

PODCAST: This week Bad at Sports talked to critic, poet, gallerist, the award winning Director of the Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts Director Jessica Baran, the self-same Baran who appeared in Kelly Shindler’s earlier this year here.

Chicago artist, Josh Reames, working on the Drain mural.

Chicago artist, Josh Reames, working on the Drain mural.

The week began with Dana Bassett’s EDITION #11, featuring emboldened news about public art projects, Threewalls’ 10 year anniversary party (Huzza!), the scoop on Logan Square’s post office, trends with face paint and the admittedly all-time favorite Who Wore It Better. Get it all here.


We also saw a highly controversial post about the status of Feminism in Romania, written by Gene Tanta from the city of Buchrest where he is presently living:

American Feminism demands that society treat women as the equals of men under the law. The difficulty with positing such a legalistic position remains that law bleeds in and out of other parts of the social architecture.  The best trick Patriarchy ever pulled off was to make women believe they are equal to men since this makes women into gender-bound objects through the performative power of the word “equal”. To categorize women and men according to gender erases the individuality of both equally. Despite the paradox of losing one’s individuality to group identity in order to become freer, the social justice need for the work done by identity politics remains.

European Feminism demands that women look beyond gender expectations to become more themselves, more individual, and less beholden to the male gaze. Mina Loy’s “Feminist Manifesto” articulates this point bombastically enough: “Leave off looking to men to find out what you are not—seek within yourselves to find out what you are.” But of course any such interiority (whether at the end of a penis or vagina or anything in between) pulses stuck in the traffic jam between individual and society. These construction sites of gender make our society function … but at what cost and who pays for it? Can an individual take her own freedom or must a group give her that freedom?

Bad at Sports received a few emails that would argue a contrary position, and if you’re interested it’s well worth checking out Tanta’s Facebook comment thread a long comment thread. One of my favorite responses came from Vanessa Place who posted the following image and caption on Tanta’s FB timeline. Does this resolve the matter? I suppose not….

Bucharest 13.6.13 bien merci

Bucharest 13.6.13
bien merci

To anyone inclined to write a formal rebuttal (or more general responses for that matter), email me: lantern.g@gmail.com.

"Rocking Chair", Ralph Rapson

“Rocking Chair”, Ralph Rapson

Thomas Friel covered the Michigan Modern:

You’re not likely to see a better display of the most important architecture and design of the 20th century anywhere else this summer, so the fact that Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America only focuses on what came out of post war MI is even more remarkable. Starting with Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen’s highly influential submissions for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings at MoMA in 1940, and ending with a recreation of a living space in Mies Van der Roe’s Lafayette Park in Detroit, there are few stones left unturned…


An interview with Lisa Radon was published b y our Portland Bureau of Radness, Sarah Margolis-Pineo, who described the artist as follows:

Lisa Radon eludes traditional definitions. Occasionally a geologist, previously a critic, and perpetually a poet, she dabbles in all manner of creative work from performance art to small-batch publishing. Driven by research and aided by collaboration, Radon’s projects are buoyed by a multitude of voices that, knowingly or otherwise, are ushered into her game. Much of her work can be conceived as a playground—or temporary autonomous zone—in which she spins circles around the structures of language and ideas, drawing liquid connections between word, image, and concept to insightful and poetic ends.

Carissa Hinz

Updates on the Carissa Hinz Hit and Run tragedy were posted by Richard Holland over the course of the week. “For those who missed the story yesterday, we reported the shocking death of artist Carissa Hinz, 21, last Friday as she was leaving Version Fest. She was killed by a hit-and-run driver who has yet to be apprehended. Please make all donations to Jackalope.” If anyone saw anything or knows anything contact the authorities.


Thea Liberty Nichols posted a great piece from Laura Shaeffer, “the entrepreneur and custodian behind a number of projects housed within a handful of unconventional— and often under utilized— spaces on the Southside of Chicago, including Home Gallery, The Op Shop and Southside Hub of Production (SHoP).” Shaeffer writes:

Maybe artists and others who are attracted to unconventional spaces to view and think about art, like the mansion, the small townhome, the porch, the back yard gallery, the storefront, the park, and various unexpected public spaces, are more likely to want to examine their role in social change, themes of modern urban life in spaces that are themselves a challenge. There are artists who have certainly been repelled. I like the story of one artist who had proposed a project for an exhibit at SHoP, was invited to participate, and showed up on a typical day for us, where kids were hammering pieces of wood together on the front steps, students were running a yard sale in the front yard, some seniors were playing bridge inside, the house was buzzing with activity preparing for the installation of the next show. I saw a looming figure outside the house and then I saw him disappear, I asked a friend if they knew why this artist left the scene without coming in to meet us (I knew him from his resume and photos) She said that he ‘didn’t want to show his work in a house run by unprofessional hippies.’ This artist never responded to us again. I could see his point, but I love general (orchestrated) chaos, so I guess that’s my fate.


Cory Arcangel, Photoshop CS: 84 by 66 inches, 300 DPI, RGB, square pixels, default gradient Blue, Red, Yellow, mousedown y=22100 x=14050, mouseup y=19700 x=1800, 2010, (detail), unique C-print (image Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg)

Over the last few days, there has been time to ruminate over Robert Burnier’s post “The Outward Spiral” during which Burnier examines the fluctuating impact contemporary context has on historical (and current) interpretations of art:

Aside from any categories we might apply to our work, I like to think in terms of how things move; what dynamics keep us in the search, trying to create something, and trying to look critically at what is happening. There are aspects to life around the artist that change, like technology, politics, social tension and geography. These kinds of things morph at very different rates, some daily while others are fixed for millennia, which can create openings to explore as currents slide past each other. The artist can also look back and find a great deal unresolved, perhaps seeing something that was abandoned that could bear a lot more exploration. Alternately, in light of present circumstances, one can seek new meaning through an old, established idea. So in view of the approach to grappling with these issues as suggested by Kalina, I submit a few observations to consider in addition to the framing devices he offers us. I will touch on a few of these notions here, mainly focused on examples in painting and photography, knowing that they are only sketches or pointers toward a deeper investigation of these dynamics in future writing.

Week in Review: One of Two

June 23, 2013 · Print This Article

Because I missed my chance to post last week’s “Week In Review,” this Sunday is going to be a double whammy. I’m post last week’s Week In Review first, here, and then, this weeks directly after…If you’re confused now, just hang on to your hat. It’ll all make sense in the end. First, I start with the week before last….


Bad at Sports’ PODCAST Land featured an interview with “Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis Director Lisa Melandri live and without a net at our opening, in front of a moderately baffled audience.” 


Curious about what Amanda Browder’s studio looks like? Now is your chance to see, because she was in the New York Times (again!). #RAD 

Three Artists, Courtesy of Beginnings Gallery, Greenpoint NY

Three Artists, Courtesy of Beginnings Gallery, Greenpoint NY

The week begins and ends with comics, actually — and in this instance we started with Faye Kahn who published a piece called “Comics and the Aesthetic Economy”:

While social evidence that the rich is dividing farther away from the poor becomes more & more unavoidable, it seems that at the same time the art world is inversely nudging the them closer together. Traditional distinctions between “high” & “low” art are fading. In his essay “Comrades of Time,” discussing the definition of the term “contemporary,” Boris Groys states that “…at the turn of the twenty-first century, art entered a new era-one of mass artistic production, & not only mass art consumption.” Art-making is no longer restricted to a higher, educated or professional class. With the encouragement of advancing technologies from the ball point pen to the smartphone & increased visibility of the individual creative practice via the internet has reified this notion of art as “mass-cultural practice” ad infinitum (probably to some ad nauseum). To track the currency of art between upper & lower economic & academic classes & attempt to elucidate the creation of connecting middle classes of art, for instance independent comics & publication as well as social media experiments, it may be helpful to recognize the presence of commercial aesthetics in all classes. By following this reciprocal currency of consumerist media to high art & back, there are many significant signs pointing to a possible future of a classless art world. 

Ala Ebtekar, Paradise, (detail), 2011. Archival pigment print on canvas.

Ala Ebtekar, Paradise, (detail), 2011. Archival pigment print on canvas.

San Francisco-based Jeffrey Songco posted an interview with Glen Helfand, a man rumored to be “the only relevant art writer in the city.” Songco and Helfand sit down discuss, Proximities, an exhibit Helfand put together at the Asian Art Museum. When asked to describe what the show is about, Helfand replies:

I like to talk about the show from the standpoint of it being a challenge to solve. The Asian Art Museum has been interested in opening up its audience and to embrace more contemporary work. I had to start with the idea of why I didn’t feel so connected to the institution. I’ve always felt a bit of intimidation, not knowing a whole lot about Asian art, not knowing how to pronounce the names of various contemporary Chinese artists. I figure that people probably feel the same about the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Kibbitz. My initial premise was to highlight how artists have some kind of connection to Asia even if it wasn’t the expected connection.

Brian Nigus, 'Woris Insait Yu / Friends Inside the Mountains',

Brian Nigus, ‘Woris Insait Yu / Friends Inside the Mountains’,

Milwaukee resident, Shane McAdams, has begun a new series of posts, and in this particular case, writes about a low-to-the-ground project run by Ashley Janke, Lara Ohland, and Tim Stoelting, called The Imagination Giants:

After a year-and-a-half of writing about more basic cultural differences between New York and Milwaukee, the results of my cultural reconnaissance will now take the form of local art coverage. This being the first piece, I’d like to mention that, unlike NYC where almost everything including what passes for ‘underground’ are usually pre-dug, locating art culture in Milwaukee has proven to be a little, well, subterranean. So far the digging has been the most gratifying part of being here. Not having the luxury of a media guide dedicated to informing masses of art goers about what is yet undiscovered, is a pleasure. Searching for art in Milwaukee makes me feel feral – it’s the art equivalent to hunting and gathering.

Estell 2

Kristina Estell. Posture is Everything (detail). Courtesy Minneapolis Institute of Arts/Amanda Hankerson.

Eric Asboe asks some important questions about building local art community in relation to a more global vision of contemporary art:

What role can local artists play in a global museum? MAEP [Minnesota Artist Exhibition Program] exhibitions are far more than an experiment in thinking locally. The exhibitions are dynamic; the artwork is excellent. More importantly, by supporting an artistic peer selection process, the MIA helps build a community of artists, specifically in and with the resources of a major art institution. Alan Brewer’s exhibition pushes the question further. When I met with him in his MAEP exhibition, he stopped to talk to a visitor, an older man who had written a description. They discussed his description and possibilities for recreations. The transformative power of that individual conversation and the way Brewer has empowered all visitors to the MIA to engage in completely new ways with its collection demonstrates to me the MIA is not just asking how local artists can shape a global museum, but, more importantly, how we can all shape the museums of the future.

Owners Bill and Rebecca with dog Ginny at "Neahkanie Mountain from Manzanita Beach" by Alfred Herman Schroff, 1919. Image taken on May 8, 2013.

Owners Bill and Rebecca with dog Ginny at “Neahkanie Mountain from Manzanita Beach” by Alfred Herman Schroff, 1919. Image taken on May 8, 2013.

I posted two interviews this week. The first is a result of the Open Engagement Conference in Portland, where I met and interviewed artist, Dillon de Give about his project, 4-6 Dogs at the Museum. I fell in love with idea of an interspecies social practice, though with good reason, DeGive is more practical in his approach (and terminology):

I love that phrase “inter-species social practice.” But I guess I would be a bit more conservative in my response. I’ve observed that dogs in public are always serving as mediators between humans. There’s a dog park across the street from my apartment and everyone seems to know each other! I live right there and I don’t know any of these people because I don’t own a dog. I am interested in other species as a conceptual complement to existing human-based social practices. I think that when we are talking about a given social practice we are implicitly making assumptions of what human-ness is, so having some idea of a non-human present in the discourse is, in a way, almost necessary. Why are cat videos so immensely popular with human viewers on youtube? On the other hand, imagining something like sociality existing between humans and other species is difficult to do in the present, because of our seemingly absolute need to monopolize the environment. In most cases it’s just not really a fair playing field where a balanced relationship that you might call “social” could pan out. But maybe in the distant future…


Then I had a great opportunity to interview former SAIC graduate, Jaye Rhee, about her work with the The Merce Cunningham Dance Company, The Flesh and the Book. Among other things, we discussed Rhee’s interest in traditions of movement, and whether or not the body can become a unit:

I was more interested in the character and history of individual dancers under the umbrella of Merce Cunningham Company. Cunningham dancer’s movements are Mercified but individually they all have different characteristics. We all have different history as individuals, but there are also larger histories which a family shares as a smallest unit of the society, then there are larger groups and larger groups…..and so on. Merce Cunningham dancers make up another kind of familial unit. Even though the dancers’ movements were different, a few audiences actually recognized that the dancers somehow evoke Merce Cunningham’s style.

Our Findings From Spaceship Earth at Roxaboxen Exhibitions

Our Findings From Spaceship Earth at Roxaboxen Exhibitions

TOP 5 courtesy of Stephanie Burke 


Sara Drake posted a shout out for “the second annual Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, fondly known to comics creators and fans alike as CAKE.” (This, incidentally, is where I happened to be last weekend as well). It took place in a massive gymnasium at the Center on Halsted, featuring a huge throng of comic makers, buyers and additional public programming.


“Lost Tribes of Renni”, Charlie Megna at The Annex, 2013.

Bailey Romain rounded out the week by interviewing Luke Daly about local (and ever magnanimous coop print shop) Spudnik Press’ latest programming addition, The Annex:

As more of a “clean” space than the printshop next door, the Annex also provides an expanded exhibition space for Spudnik. Curatorial duties rotate between Spudnik coordinators. The most recent show, Charlie Megna’s Lost Tribes of Renni, which opened last night, was organized by Luke Daly – a Spudnik member who has been a driving force in developing the Annex. Luke co-edits and runs the small press arrow as aarow. I also co-teach a class with him at the Annex, which will be running for the third time in the fall. Charlie Megna is the director of the Peanut Gallery and a founding member of the Peanut Collective. His show will be up through early August.