Summer Reading

Happy Labor Day!

In honor of Labor Day, we’re taking the day off! See you tomorrow, when we kick off an impressive lineup of exhibition reviews, essays, and interviews from around the world.

Wish you were here! Love, DS

Wish you were here! Love, DS

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Summer Reading

Summer Reading: Bajagic vs Novitskova

As the editors of Art Practical and Daily Serving get ready to take their end-of-summer vacations, we find ourselves swapping reading lists—the articles we’ll dive into once have some uninterrupted time to catch up on what our colleagues have been writing. We’ve gotten so excited about what’s on our lists that we want to share them with our readers. Between now and Labor Day, Daily Serving will feature the efforts of our fellow chroniclers of art and culture as part of our Summer Reading series. Today we are pleased to bring you an excerpt of Sean Joseph Patrick Carney’s in-depth case study on “the ethics of lateral appropriation.” This article was originally published in January 2013 on the Portland art site Justice League PDX, and we thank the editor and the author for making this series possible. Enjoy!

Screen grab by Darja Bajagic, posted September 2011 to Tumblr.

Screen grab by Darja Bajagic, posted September 2011 to Tumblr.

Every artist who is under the age of forty that I know of, or know personally, appropriates quite regularly in their practice. It’s a result of myriad factors, perhaps the most obvious of which is the ubiquity of the internet as a matter-of-fact aspect of our everyday lives. I, too, regularly appropriate images, video, and sound elements from popular culture into my own work and rarely think twice about the larger implications of these actions. When an idea or image reaches a certain level of public visibility or cultural presence, it is, in my opinion, open for fair use. Perhaps what gives me peace in regards to this is that I feel that the action of appropriation is evident in my second-usage; nobody is likely to assume that I’m claiming that I shot footage of dozens of infants learning to swim, or that I am the composer who created the ludicrous “duhn, duhn” sound from Law & Order.

Appropriation is generally deemed ethical when the original work is transformed in some capacity. There’s much debate about what constitutes transformation, exactly, but I’ve always considered that recontextualization itself is tantamount to transformation. At the heart of recontextualization is an understanding of the original context from which an image or idea comes, and an intentional change of context by the artist. It’s fair to say that even the smallest change can give something an entirely different meaning, and much of the history of contemporary art is hinged on artists doing just that. The digital realm is a seemingly limitless expanse of fodder for future appropriations, and many of us comb it regularly in the pursuit of things to sample, remix, rework, and ultimately recontextualize. The assumption though, that whatever is online is fair game, does, in some instances, create problematic situations.

One such situation arose recently when Estonian-born, Netherlands- and Berlin-based visual artist Katja Novitskova appropriated an image from Montenegrin-born, United States-based visual artist Darja Bajagic and exhibited the work in an exhibition, MACRO EXPANSION, at Kraupa-Tuskany in Berlin in November of 2012. The image used was not originally credited to Bajagic in the context of Novitskova’s exhibition, causing a tension between the two artists and raising some germane questions about the way that we as visual artists reemploy imagery and ideas. For context, it is relevant to note that Novitskova encountered the image in the feed of her Tumblr dashboard–the interface of the social networking micro-blogging site on which the aggregated content of a user’s followed blogs appears.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Reading

Summer Reading: My 1980s and Other Essays

As the editors of Art Practical and Daily Serving get ready to take their end-of-summer vacations, we find ourselves swapping reading lists—the articles we’ll dive into once have some uninterrupted time to catch up on what our colleagues have been writing. We’ve gotten so excited about what’s on our lists that we want to share them with our readers. Between now and Labor Day, Daily Serving will feature the efforts of our fellow chroniclers of art and culture as part of our Summer Reading series. Today we are pleased to bring you an excerpt of Lesley Moon’s review of Wayne Koestenbaums book My 1980s and Other Essays. This article was originally published in The Art Book Review on June 17,  2014, and we thank the editors for making this series possible. Enjoy!

Image from The Art Book Review.

Image from The Art Book Review.

I can look at a clock and only see the time; maybe I do not even see that, but only notice the shapes on the dial; or I see nothing. On the other hand, I may be seeing clocks potentially, and then I allow myself to hallucinate a clock, doing so because I have evidence that an actual clock is there to be seen, so when I perceive the actual clock I have already been through a complex process that originated in me. So when I see the clock I create it, and when I see the time I create time too…
—Donald Winnicott, Home Is Where We Start From

My 1980s contains 39 essays in its 315 pages. I found the book on my dining-room table sometime last autumn. It wasn’t intended for me, but Warhol’s Polaroid of Debbie Harry’s over-the-shoulder blue eyes called from the cover. I took it and have been reading it since then, having finished two weeks ago. After jamming through the varied and brilliant table of contents, I cracked its pages somewhere in the middle to read “Warhol’s Interviews.” Concerning Warhol and others, Wayne Koestenbaum praises many modes of diectic disfigurement—masks, hirsute disguises (and men, elaborated in his essay on Cary Grant), underdoing it, grids, thick paint, abstraction and other dynamics of resistance that can morph depending on their context. At the same time, he writes from a deliberate first-person position (positioned-to first person).

Koestenbaum recounts his inner experience with tenacious specificity, recording far more than most can hope to have the attention to realize. Miraculously there is a pleasant drift to his reflective ambulation: no pressure. Everyone is granted volition. His analysis comprehends the language of the body—registering gestures and gaits with absorptive rhythm. It is easy to see his connection to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, to whom he dedicates the essay “A Manual Approach to Mourning.” As readers we are constantly buoyed by self-deprecation, opera, porn and poetry, much pleasure. Tedium is oblated by an advocacy for affinity, and his chatty sensibility. Somehow Koestenbaum’s convincing declarativeness still has me relaxed.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Reading

Summer Reading: The Influentially Lewd Allure of Robert Heinecken

As the editors of Art Practical and Daily Serving get ready to take their end-of-summer vacations, we find ourselves swapping reading lists—the articles we’ll dive into once have some uninterrupted time to catch up on what our colleagues have been writing. We’ve gotten so excited about what’s on our lists that we want to share them with our readers. Between now and Labor Day, Daily Serving will feature the efforts of our fellow chroniclers of art and culture as part of our Summer Reading series. Today we are pleased to bring you Andrew Berardini’s essay on the work of artist Robert Heinecken. This article was originally published in Issue #44 of Mousse Magazine, and we thank their editors for making this series possible. Enjoy!

Robert Heinecken. Recto/Verso #2, 1988;  Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Mr. and Mrs. Clark Winter Fund.

Robert Heinecken. Recto/Verso #2, 1988. Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Mr. and Mrs. Clark Winter Fund.

In a dentist’s office, underneath a shadow cast from a fluorescent light on a sickly pot of browning philodendrons atop a chipped coffee table, sit stacks of old magazines. Dog-eared and well-thumbed, rustling with their cheap paper, clad with gaudy covers begging questions and enticements for a passerby to peek into their pages. Time and GlamourGood Housekeeping and MademoiselleGolf Digest and Sports Illustrated, a smattering of titles beginning with “Popular.” Flipping through, the nervy bruxists and trenchmouthers fidget until summoned for their scrapings and cleanings, analgesics and block injections, skimming headlines about the White House and the Kennedys, 100 Great Recipes and 100 Gifts from $1.00 to $10.00, Trimmings to Make Parties Fun for Hostesses Too and When He Caught Me in Another Man’s Bedroom. Amidst all of these tidbits and news items, tawdry page-turners and housewifely time-savers, the publishers tuck in a healthy swath of advertisements, the difference between ad and article often fluid. But within these sundry, expected, and quotidian distractions from impending root canals, there appear other unsanctioned pictures.

Across from a duo of models tautly clothed in the latest Parisian fashions, a couple of quite naked ladies, tan lines ablaze, lean in for a carnal smooch. Overlaying the bottle blonde in the brown, boat-like sedan of the Pontiac ad beckons a big-chested lass in negative exposure, naked except for a pair of knee-high go-go boots. Does one imagine an aged dowager keeling over in disgusted shock, a pizza-faced teenage boy with maximalist orthodontia vibrantly sweating as he runs through various plans to casually pocket the magazine for closer, handier examinations? Does it startle, quicken pulses, titillate pink parts, provoke outrage? Does it do anything, or is it just passively accepted, not even seen, a picture received only subliminally by that patient idly flicking through? Sneaking doctored magazines into doctor’s offices and newsstands was only one of artist Robert Heinecken’s punkish tactics from the 1960s till his illness and death in 2007. This ex-marine fighter pilot and full-time prof enjoyed sticking his sticky fingers into the content and form of received culture, all those bombarding images selling us this and that, and usually sex (lust rarely being free for anyone in the Christian, patriarchal, and bourgeois circumstances of postwar America). He did this without using a camera but using the images themselves, beginning with a series of twenty-five photograms from 1964–68 titled Are You Rea after a chopped headline that numerous critics suggest could be “real” or “ready” and to the artist might have been a Duchampian pun on Man Ray. (Both Marcel and Man alongside László Moholy-Nagy were early inspirations.) In this attractive portfolio, reprinted from photographic paper into lithographs, the facing pages in a magazine superimpose their negative images, conflating the two in weird, often suggestive ways. Though his works could be occasionally ham-fisted or literal (one image he slipped into popular magazines was a particularly violent shot from 1971 of a grinning Cambodian soldier hoisting two decapitated heads), the artist mostly avoided letting his work fall into didactic investigations into media power by locating his inquiries in desire, his own desire. Even his breakdowns of news anchors and politicians sometimes have smeary Vaseline on the lens, diffusing and mixing in ways that feel lurid, though sometimes spooky. You can almost tell that the best works are the ones that got him off the most.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Reading

Summer Reading – Your Everyday Art World: Glasgow to Los Angeles

As the editors of Art Practical and Daily Serving get ready to take their end-of-summer vacations, we find ourselves swapping reading lists—the articles we’ll dive into once have some uninterrupted time to catch up on what our colleagues have been writing. We’ve gotten so excited about what’s on our lists that we want to share them with our readers. Between now and Labor Day, Daily Serving will feature the efforts of our fellow chroniclers of art and culture as part of our Summer Reading series. Today we are pleased to bring you an excerpt of Lane Relyea’s essay on “networked culture” and nascent art scenes. This article was originally published on August 13, 2014, in East of Borneo, and we thank their editors for making this series possible. Enjoy!

Installation view of “Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s.“ Photo by Paula Goldman. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Installation view of Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Paula Goldman.

In the catalogue for the 1996 show Life/Live, a survey of ’90s art in the U.K., curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist wrote that “artists’ initiatives” were one of the main “reasons for the extraordinary dynamism of the British art scene.” Two years later, Obrist found himself similarly weak in the knees when confronted by the scene in Los Angeles. While interviewing recent CalArts alumnus Dave Muller about his ongoing project Three Day Weekend, Obrist confided, “When I made studio visits in L.A. earlier this year I found that the dialogue between artists is stronger than in New York. It actually reminded me of the Glaswegian situation where spaces like Transmission go hand in hand with lots of other artist-run initiatives.”

Muller generally agreed. “The issues that Three Day Weekend might bring up through its sheer existence—the nomadic, DIY, temporality, situational/context, non-monumentality—I see as being topics pertinent to my immediate generation.” In many respects, Los Angeles and Glasgow couldn’t have been more diametrically opposed. Rusting Glasgow on the one hand, trying desperately to deflect tourist money its way by selling nostalgia for its ye-olde maritime industry, versus L.A. on the other, global behemoth of such virtual industries as media and finance, with its aerospace futurism and showbiz culture and seeming lack of any past. In terms of their art scenes, though, both cities had long experienced marginalization. Los Angeles suffered under New York’s shadow, much as Glasgow felt eclipsed by London’s, both deemed provinces, quirky at best, otherwise just sparse and irrelevant.

Also like Glasgow, in the mid-’80s L.A. began to invest heavily in the arts as a way to shore up its global reputation. In 1986 the Museum of Contemporary Art opened (its name changed from the originally planned Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art, thus “signifying that it would present art from an international rather than regional perspective”), and a year later the city hosted a sprawling, big-ticket international arts festival. As with the “Capital of Culture” campaign in Glasgow, in L.A. the response was admiration from afar and disillusionment locally. “Potemkin Village,” scoffed Linda Frye Burnham in the L.A. Weekly. The city, she lamented, “touts itself as the next capital of art, but treats its artists like illegal aliens… We adulate state-supported geniuses like Pina Bausch and Maguy Marin, whose spectacles are the product of healthy arts environments elsewhere… [while] L.A. artists are in a desperate state, fighting over scraps, without career opportunities, funds, or housing.” But of course local artists weren’t the ones the festival’s sales pitch was aimed at.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Reading

Summer Reading: Picturing the Self in the Age of Data

As the editors of Art Practical and Daily Serving get ready to take their end-of-summer vacations, we find ourselves swapping reading lists—the articles we’ll dive into once have some uninterrupted time to catch up on what our colleagues have been writing. We’ve gotten so excited about what’s on our lists that we want to share them with our readers. Between now and Labor Day, Daily Serving will feature the efforts of our fellow chroniclers of art and culture as part of our Summer Reading series. Today we are pleased to bring you an excerpt of Dan Weiskopf’s essay on data and representation: “In the digital age, the truest portraits are drawn in data.” This article was originally published in the July/August 2014 issue of Art Papers, and we thank their editors for making this series possible. Enjoy!

Zach Blas. Facial Weaponization Suite: Militancy, Vulnerability, Obfuscation, tableau vivant, June 7, 2013, San Diego, CA. Image courtesy of the artist; photo: Tanner Cook.

Zach Blas. Facial Weaponization Suite: Militancy, Vulnerability, Obfuscation, tableau vivant, June 7, 2013, San Diego, CA. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Tanner Cook.

Traditionally, portraits were guided by the ideal of likeness to their subject—by the notion that “the human body,” in Wittgenstein’s words, “is the best picture of the human soul.” An apt portrait would capture the appearance of a person in a way that produces recognition; having seen the picture, you would know its subject, and vice versa. Portraiture’s representational tool kit is an expansive one. Good likenesses include more than bodily appearances, and good portraits differ from mere pictures of persons: They attempt to visibly capture an individual’s distinctive and essential character. Invisible mental and moral qualities shine forth in natural signs manifest in the person’s bodily traits. Posture, intensity of gaze, and other expressive details convey aspects of character, just as occupation, marital status, and economic class can identify a person’s place in a matrix of relations through visual codes, icons, and symbols.

The stereotype of the portrait may be grounded in the figure, but throughout the last century, the genre has drifted deeper into abstraction. Francis Picabia’s series of machine portraits dispensed with human forms entirely in favor of symbolic, mechanical proxies. In Here, This is Stieglitz Here (1915), the photographer’s apparatus—that is, Alfred Stieglitz’s camera—stands in as the best representative for the subject himself. Later, bioscientific works such as Gary Schneider’s Genetic Self-Portraits (1997–1998) or Marc Quinn’s A Genomic Portrait: Sir John Sulston (2001)—in which a sample of the sitter’s DNA in agar jelly is mounted in stainless steel—took the bearers of identity to be images of chromosomes, enlargements of microscopic hair samples, retinal images, and even mounted DNA itself.

The notion of a “portrait” is thus sufficiently labile to admit potentially any abstract substitute that can convey identity—including those grounded in scientific theorizing about the nature of identity. Changes in our self-conceptions are driven not just by social, political, physical, or economic factors, but also by technology. As Picabia’s portrait of Stieglitz suggests, the machines we operate shape our conception of who we are. Contemporary selfhood has inevitably been shaped by the emergence of that most ubiquitous technology: the networked computer.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Reading

Summer Reading: The Artist’s Tag Sale

As the editors of Art Practical and Daily Serving get ready to take their end-of-summer vacations, we find ourselves swapping reading lists—the articles we’ll dive into once have some uninterrupted time to catch up on what our colleagues have been writing. We’ve gotten so excited about what’s on our lists that we want to share them with our readers. Between now and Labor Day, Daily Serving will feature the efforts of our fellow chroniclers of art and culture as part of our Summer Reading series. Today we are pleased to bring you an excerpt of Julia Sherman’s writing on her project Artist Tag Sale. This article was originally published in the Summer 2014 issue of X-TRA, and we thank their editors for making this series possible. Enjoy!

Julia Sherman. Artist Tag Sale Los Angeles, Center For The Arts, Eagle Rock.

Julia Sherman. Artist Tag Sale Los Angeles, Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock.

The first Artist’s Tag Sale took place in January of 2014 in the cafeteria of a senior center in the heart of Chelsea. The Tag Sale was inspired by a shipment that had recently arrived at my door, quite unexpectedly: My parents returned every single work of art of mine that had accrued at their house and in their storage over the last thirty years. Every test print, every failed idea, every school project, and of course, those seminal pieces that were so crucial to my development as an artist.

As I went through unmarked parcels of bubble wrap and packing tape, I asked myself, “What was I saving this for?” I rarely hang my work in my home, and I certainly wouldn’t want to show the outdated and slightly embarrassing pieces in any upcoming exhibition. My mother (also an artist) was simultaneously clearing out her studio of twenty-five years, and asking herself the same questions; a sobering glimpse of my future self.

In an ideal world, the practice of making art is an evolutionary one. We want to believe that progress is made, that our work is better today than it was yesterday. Whether you remain partial to an older piece or not, an artwork is a physical record of the care that went into its making (and material costs). The decision to throw away one’s own work is not made lightly. But storing that work ad infinitum firmly positions the artist in a lifelong practice of accumulation. Most artists I know skirt the issue in an unproductive way—they keep their old work, but allow it to slowly deteriorate, incur damage, and collect dust, until they are finally forced to throw it out.

The Artist’s Tag Sale offers another way to grapple with this common dilemma. The contributing artists dig deep through their archives and participate in a collective purge of the permanent storage. In the spirit of a traditional Tag Sale (“Yard Sale” in West Coast dialect), works are priced to sell: $50 or less. Some works are framed, mounted, stretched, others are scrawled on scraps of paper, marked with the artist’s notes or torn from the pages of a sketchbook. Artists act as dealers, haggling with customers in an effort to sell every last piece. The list of participating artists is published in advance, but at the Tag Sale, each artist takes a pseudonym. The “collectors” are forced to buy according to taste, not according to speculative value.

Read the full article here.

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