Today from our friends at Kadist, we bring you a video interview with South African artist Dineo Seshee Bopape. She speaks about artist-run spaces in Johannesburg, a new work commissioned by the Montreal Biennale, her current show Untitled (of Occult Instability) [Feelings] at Palais de Tokyo, and the relationship between sound and image in her video Why Do You Call Me When You Know I Can’t Answer the Phone (2013). She says of her show at Palais de Tokyo, “[I was] specifically referencing Frantz Fanon when he speaks about the zone of occult instability…thinking about the effect of colonialism upon the colonized, and also the colonizer…” This video was originally posted on July 28, 2016.
With election day looming, we’ve got democracy on our minds. Government by the people emerged through a set of constitutional reforms in Athens in the late sixth and early fifth centuries BCE, and monuments produced throughout the fifth century BCE co-opted styles that had once been the province of the ruling elite to forge a collective civic identity. Refashioning forms and practices of the aristocratic past to serve a newly minted democracy, however, affirmed the exclusionary practices of that democracy, which elevated all male citizens to equal status, while continuing to exclude women, slaves, foreigners, and the poor. In democracy’s origin story we find the antecedents of the racism, xenophobia, and misogyny pervading contemporary politics and culture, although these are often elided in celebration of the expanded freedoms afforded male citizens. Rape culture underlies the origins of ancient Rome as well, and Eve Sussman and Rufus Corporation’s The Rape of the Sabine Women interrogates the art-historical sanitizing of that culture and retells the myth’s ending to liberate the Sabine women from upholding the patriarchy with their own bodies. This review by Marta Spurgeon was originally published on February 17, 2011.
The abridged version of the story goes something like this: Shortly after the founding of Rome, the local men noticed a decided lack of ladies with which to start families. They attempted to negotiate a deal for some of the women of neighboring tribes, known as Sabine; however, the patriarchs of those tribes refused. Plan B was to arrange a great feast, invite all the neighbors, and then kidnap the females, which is exactly what happened. Some histories are adamant here that no sexual assault actually took place, that the “rape” was in fact an abduction. The Sabine women were then offered marriage with Romans, along with civic and property rights and the privilege of mothering free men. Later, as the Sabine tribes confronted Rome in an attempt to reclaim their daughters, the Sabine-Roman wives intervened, begging their fathers and husbands to cease combat, in fear of being orphaned or widowed. And the war was ended, thus sealing the destiny of Western civilization.
Eve Sussman, in collaboration with the improvisational players known as the Rufus Corporation, stages her revision of The Rape of the Sabine Women in an idyllic 1960s setting, filmed on location in Greece and Germany. Having been shown, since its release in 2007, at major international exhibitions in New York, London, San Francisco, and Berlin, among other venues, The Rape… is now premiering in Italy, screening at Impronte Contemporary Art in Milan through March 19. This 80-minute ensemble-musical without dialogue, in five acts, is filled to overflowing, cinematically. Its slow, sumptuous shots, voluminous and heavily pitched sound, dramatic staging, and densely packed art-historical references lend themselves to a deeply self-conscious and masterful, if overwrought, work of filmmaking. This piece never loses sight of itself.
Since I took on the role of Executive Director of Daily Serving and Art Practical, working with an administrative staff of four fierce, intersectional, women-identified cultural producers, I have been asked to think and rethink what it means to work. Whom do we work for? What is our work, and most importantly, what world does it create?
In the past month, I have witnessed the erasure of Black and Brown bodies in acceleration, actively vanishing within the walls of art institutions and in the streets of our cities—at times, because of misguided good intentions, and at others, with a terrifying disregard. Whose body matters is a painful and exhausting question. On a basic level, all human life matters, but as a society, we demonstrate over and over that some lives matter more than others. When I consider the art world of the past three weeks, I see the world in which it is made mirrored back. And I am afraid.
In Seattle, the collaborative work of Christopher Paul Jordan and Jaleesa Trapp was de-installed and ultimately removed without the artists’ consent, guidance, or warning. The administrative chaos surrounding Art Hack Day: Erasure was its inevitable undoing. In an exhibition on the theme of erasure, Jordan and Trapp were the only two Black artists out of forty, and ironically, their work—a vigil that included images of loved ones contributed from a cross-section of their community—was literally erased.
The question of work becomes complex when one asks who is doing it, and for whom. The precarious labor of domestic chores gone unfairly compensated, the frequently banal performance of activism and demonstration, sex work—these labors remain concerns in our current social and economic spheres, and reflect a problematic, historical trajectory that often fails to incorporate and value unseen, marginalized work and workers. In Pictures of Women Working, on view at the project space Skibum MacArthur in Los Angeles, the artist and writer Carmen Winant presents collages that use photographs and other documents of women during the heyday of second-wave feminism—which was also the heyday of arts activism. Pictures of Women Working questions the limits of representation through Winant’s mediated imagery and her personal vantage point as a “straight white American woman.” As intersectionality—the acknowledgment of how multiple strains of discrimination and power simultaneously overlap—becomes a term frequently touted, how does the appearance of contemporary feminism echo or differ from the images Winant strings together?
One continuous collage panel runs along the wall of the main exhibition hall at eye level, and another strip is installed in the smaller gallery entrance, their paper layers protected and secured by Plexiglas. Photographs of picketers, lesbian erotica, head shots of famous artists (Agnes Martin is spotted), and feminist celebrities (a glamorous Gloria Steinem is shown famously perching on a chair in the offices of Ms. magazine) are among the images of women taken from books, periodicals, editorial spreads from bygone weeklies, and advertisements of a certain era, as the narrative of second-wave feminism was being palatably congealed for public consumption. A girls’ football league. A woman nursing her child. A secretary at her keyboard. Dancers. Vietnam War protesters. Nuns entering a church. The women are engaged in all types of activities—the titular “work.” These archival cutouts are layered over recent newspaper clippings from the last few months, including quite a few episodes from the intensely scrutinized 2016 U.S. election cycle in which the first woman ever nominated to be president faces off against a raging misogynist.
What does it mean to transcribe a work from one medium to another? Is the result a kind of translation, a form of documentation, a new piece of art, or all three? In a fascinating range of media—painting, video, found objects, weaving, and sound—Manila-based artist Gerardo Tan investigates these questions through three different projects presented in his solo exhibition Hablon Redux and Other Transcriptions at Random Parts.
The idea of Tan’s work as transcription is elucidated by art historian Lisa Ito in her essay “Rewriting Materiality” that accompanies the exhibition. Sadly, Ito’s solemn text fails to communicate the irresistible low-tech madcap charm that pervades the artist’s objects and ideas, such as his Turntable Paintings. To make them, Tan puts an LP record (from the labels, they are clearly thrift store finds) on a modest record player, setting its needle into the disc’s groove to play. A paintbrush attached to the playing arm lightly touches the black surface, dragging through the drips and narrow pools of liquid acrylic that the artist then squeezes onto the moving record, in various vivid hues. Astonishingly, as the needle passes through these gaudy wet circles of pink or blue, the music continues—though it is, as Tan admits, the last time that the record will be playable. The wall of paint-altered records displayed in the gallery suggests both a new version of their lost sounds and a MacGyver-esque reconfiguration of the ways that so-called spin art has been made intermittently since the 1960s.
#museums #race #representation #institutional critique
The recent controversy over Kelley Walker’s exhibition Direct Drive at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, and the departure of that exhibition’s curator, Jeffrey Uslip, was another reminder that museums are not built and programmed for all audiences alike. As this column has taken up questions of race in the museum on numerous occasions (and class in the museum, and gender in the museum), a comment on the St. Louis situation seems warranted. Public protests were mounted after audiences discovered that Walker’s artwork consisted of enlarged, appropriated photos of African Americans, smeared with toothpaste. Against the backdrop of outcries precipitated by the killing of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, the decision to feature a White, New York–based artist whose work takes up race in a manner that is provocative but not analytical seems almost comically ham-fisted. Still, both Uslip and CAM’s director, Lisa Melandri, have steadfastly defended the artist and the exhibition despite what appears to be a failure on the artist’s part to articulate any coherent justification or motivation for his work. Some observers are scratching their heads, wondering how this public-relations train-wreck could have been avoided. Others contend that racially insensitive missteps such as these are inevitable when the leadership of art museums across the country remains largely a hermetically sealed echo chamber of apologetic, but unshakeable, whiteness.
Simone Leigh’s installation in the Hammer Museum’s Hammer Projects series proposes an alternative to the typically White, upper-middle-class hegemony of the contemporary art gallery or museum. The central structure within her exhibition, Cupboard IV (2016) is a round hut made of raffia and stoneware that references the forms and materials of sub-Saharan architectures built predominantly by women. The hut is an early indicator that Leigh’s exhibition is shifting our notions of the “default” contemporary art viewer. Within the structure, a video plays of independent curator and choreographer Rashida Bumbray, dressed to the nines in a floor-length gold lamé gown, dancing furiously with bells around her ankles. The elegance, power, and grace of her body contrast with a mounting sense of exhaustion and futility as the performance goes on.
From our friends at Guernica, today we bring you A Changeless Place: Jill J. Tan interviews Jave Yoshimoto. Tan speaks with Yoshimoto, a trained art therapist and practicing artist, about his intricate and brightly rendered gouache depictions of tragedy and disaster. Yoshimoto says, “The news cycle moves so quickly; even if we read about tragedy today, we may forget about it tomorrow. I hope my work is a reminder to pay attention.” This article was originally published June 15, 2016.
Man, animal, and the elements: None are spared in artist Jave Yoshimoto’s scenes of technicolor wreckage. Outsized wildlife hint at a surreal eschatology, but a second look confirms that this is indubitably the present we inhabit, and, as disasters proliferate, increasingly our future. In the piece Evanescent Encounter, a man cleans pools of oil from the shore, under a bright red sky, as Godzilla watches haplessly from the water. An oil rig aflame in the ocean emits plumes of smoke that envelop a textual call and response: “Where would you possibly go? I am seeking a changeless place.” But no such place exists in Yoshimoto’s paper tableaux.
Yoshimoto captures cities in the aftermath of natural and manmade disasters using scale and a flat graphic style, which he characterizes as easily digestible, the better to rouse viewers to action. He bridles against a flavor-of-the-moment approach to catastrophe and disaster relief, and seeks to create an awareness of the destruction that persists in locales ranging from Fukushima to New Orleans. These are works—some small, and others monumental, as in the thirty-foot painting that captures Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami—of struggle and also of survival. Yoshimoto, a trained art therapist, means to create links of empathy—between audiences and the subjects of his pieces, and between the world and himself.