New York

The Art of Citizenship: Mierle Laderman Ukeles at the Queens Museum

Today from our sister publication Art Practical we bring you Aruna D’Souza’s reflections on Mierle Laderman Ukeles at the Queens Museum. This article was published as part of Art Practical’s issue 8.1: Art + Citizenship. D’Souza states  “[Ukeles] work, and the role of the artist that her work inscribed, makes a powerful argument for the artistic possibilities of citizenship—and the responsibilities, obligations, and collective pleasures that go along with it.” This article was originally published on November 10, 2016.

Mierle Laderman Ukeles. Sanitation Celebrations: Grand Finale of the First NYC Art Parade, Part I: The Social Mirror, 1983; garbage collection truck, tempered glass mirror, and acrylic mirror; 28 x 8 x 10 1⁄2 ft. Created in collaboration with DSNY. Courtesy of the Artist. Mierle Laderman Ukeles. Sanitation Celebrations: Grand Finale of the First NYC Art Parade, Part I: The Social Mirror, 1983; garbage collection truck, tempered glass mirror, and acrylic mirror; 28 x 8 x 10 1⁄2 ft. Created in collaboration with DSNY. Courtesy of the Artist.

Mierle Laderman Ukeles. Sanitation Celebrations: Grand Finale of the First NYC Art Parade, Part I: The Social Mirror, 1983; garbage collection truck, tempered glass mirror, and acrylic mirror; 28 x 8 x 10 1⁄2 ft. Created in collaboration with DSNY. Courtesy of the Artist.

Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art, at the Queens Museum (on view through February 2017), is the first museum survey devoted to the artist. Over the course of her five-decade-long career, most of which was spent as artist-in-residence with the City of New York Department of Sanitation, Ukeles mapped out a practice that seems to place her somewhere between the late-20th-century strategy of institutional critique and the current vogue for social-practice art. The former is one in which the artist carves out, no matter how provisionally, an outsider position from which to shine light on the biases and inequities institutions enact and reproduce. The latter involves a participatory, collaborative, socially engaged immersion into a field, usually undertaken with an activist intent. If neither of these labels seems quite the right fit for Ukeles, it is because she neither considered herself an outsider to the systems she was operating in nor an activist. Instead, her work, and the role of the artist that her work inscribed, makes a powerful argument for the artistic possibilities of citizenship—and the responsibilities, obligations, and collective pleasures that go along with it.

Read the full article here.

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From the Archives

From the Archives – La Polis Imagi-nada at El Quinto Piso

While nation-states elect or appoint internationally recognized power brokers, real politics emerge on the ground in the lived experiences of our communities, in the polis. In the face of shifting national and international politics, local communities must commit to uphold human rights. In that spirit, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors recently dismissed threats of funding cuts by the President-elect and affirmed the city’s commitment to human rights. Beyond this important resolution, artists will continue to shape civic resistance to inhumane policies. In one such example, La Polis Imagi-nada, a group show at El Quinto Piso in Mexico City, interrogated power structures shaping the city and showcased artistic resistances to those structures. This article was originally published on December 9, 2015.

Cecilia Barreto. http//www.möbius.10, 2015 (detail); mixed media on canvas; 140 x 200 cm. Courtesy of the artist and El Quinto Piso, Mexico D.F. Photo: Jorge Gomez del Campo.

Cecilia Barreto. http//www.möbius.10, 2015 (detail); mixed media on canvas; 140 x 200 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and El Quinto Piso, Mexico D.F. Photo: Jorge Gomez del Campo.

What is a city? How can it be conceptualized? How does one create oneself within that geographic and symbolic space? These questions frame the most recent show at El Quinto Piso, La Polis Imagi-nada. The curatorial statement talks about the polis and civic participation in theoretical terms, but the exhibit situates these concepts firmly within the symbolic and geographic realities of Mexico City. El Quinto Piso is a vast gallery space located on the top floor of a parking structure in the historic downtown. It is raw and unfinished, with exposed wires and very little light. It feels impermanent, as if it could be closed down at any moment, and many of the works in this show feel improvisational, perhaps even unfinished. But this is an appropriate response to the social and political concerns of contemporary life in Mexico City.

Several of the works address the current climate of political and structural violence. Cecilia Barreto’s painting, http//www.möbius.10 (2015), shows the city as a mediated battleground. The painting is composed of dozens of black silhouettes of activists, riot police, and police dogs against a mostly red background. Texts and icons, like a prominent Facebook thumbs-up, situate these scenes on social media. All of this is rendered with painterly marks on a medium-size canvas.

Simulacro (2015) by David Camargo also situates political violence as a mediated spectacle. However, in this case the artist creates a video-game caricature. Onto a geometrically simple 3D model of a soldier’s head, the artist video-maps scenes of fire, computer glitches, and a skull. The work suggests a relationship between the commonplace political violence in Mexico City and virtual realities. If Barreto’s work emphasizes political struggle as Facebook activism, Camargo places it firmly in the world of the video game.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Rachel Wolfson Smith

Rachel Wolfson Smith’s pencil drawings of motorcycle and car crashes seem to memorialize modern epics. At once glorious and kitschy, these homages to what the artist calls “Renaissance battle paintings” capture moments of intense struggle, dialed up to eleven: they border on the farcical but maintain an undeniable gravitas. The monochromatic graphite tones and occasional gilt highlights situate the drawings in a context of glorified opulence while the aggressive pencil strokes emphasize the dynamism of the depicted collisions. The total effect is a self-reflexive body of work that acknowledges the seductive, even mythic, quality of large-scale contemporary violence.

Rachel Wolfson Smith. Carnival, 2016; graphite and gold leaf on paper; 15 x 15 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Rachel Wolfson Smith. Carnival, 2016; graphite and gold leaf on paper; 15 x 15 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Smith’s murals are cinematically obsessive and scopophilic in their visceral rendering. The sheer size of a work like Uccello II (2016) actively pulls a viewer into the scene of the drawing, asking that one bears witness to a fantasy of extremity. There is something revelatory about the multiplication of crashing bodies, mechanical parts, numbers, and symbols. By depicting such excess in tactile, monochromatic graphite—each stroke, smudge, and shadow visible—Smith produces a sense of solemnity that appears earnest, yet the straight-faced presentation is jarring in relation to the subject matter. An approach once employed for grandiose representations of legendary battles is here used for crashing motorbikes and cars, well recognized symbols of phallic power. While a viewer perceives the tropes of this style, the works seem to take an almost silly pleasure in such over-the-top imagery.

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Paris

Spectres at Mor Charpentier

Phantoms of Latin American conflicts loom in Spectres, an exhibition by Fredi Casco, Teresa Margolles, and Rosângela Rennó at Mor Charpentier gallery in Paris. Inspired by Roland Barthes’ seminal text Camera Lucida, the exhibition organizes itself around the concept of the spectrum, as understood by Barthes—who wrote the book while trying to symbolically conjure the presence of his recently deceased mother—as the object pictured in a photograph and a word that brings to mind one of photography’s strongest effects on a viewer: “the return(ing) of the dead.”[1]

Rosângela Rennó. Exhibition view with (left to right) Los Angeles (Lori Shepler, Los Angeles Times); Senador Camará (Wania Corredo, O Globo News Agency); Assunción (Ruben Alfonso, Reuters), 2009; Digital print, inkjet, on Hahnemülle Photo Rag 308 paper; 
66 x 44 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Rosângela Rennó. Exhibition view with (left to right) Los Angeles (Lori Shepler, Los Angeles Times); Senador Camará (Wania Corredo, O Globo News Agency); Assunción (Ruben Alfonso, Reuters), 2009; Digital print, inkjet, on Hahnemülle Photo Rag 308 paper; 
66 x 44 in. Courtesy of the artist.

In Body of Soul (the state of the world) (2003-2016), Rosângela Rennó amplifies and digitally modifies newspaper pictures that document a diverse range of public demonstrations. From a distance, Rennó’s three large-format photographs show crowds, but are zoomed in to focus on one person who stands holding a small portrait of, presumably, a lost loved one. From afar, the images are crisply legible, but sharpness dissolves as viewers approach the images and the halftone dots that were hard to distinguish from a distance appear outsized when up close. It becomes evident that the dots are not uniformly distributed; there are different densities deliberately arranged throughout the image, with tighter and smaller dots composing the image of the loved one, thus rendering it visible from all distances.

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Buenos Aires

Interview with Gabriela Golder

A series of neon signs appears over the urban landscape of Benito Pérez Galdós Avenue in La Boca, a working-class neighborhood located in the south of Buenos Aires. The poetic messages address territory, identity, and change: “Volvernos invisibles” [To become invisible], “El terreno se vuelve a mover” [The ground is moving again], and “El silencio es imposible” [Silence is impossible]. Despite the anonymity that public art installations impose, Escrituras: un proyecto de contraseñalética urbana [Scripts: a project of urban counter-signage] was developed between 2014 and 2016 by Argentine artists Gabriela Golder and Mariela Yeregui with local residents. Escrituras establishes a renewed open-source cartography based on the community’s experience of the neighborhood. I spoke to Gabriela Golder about her creative experience working on a public art project, her approach with the community, and the implications of countersignaling a well-known urban landscape.

Gabriela Golder and Mariela Yeregui. Escrituras, 2014-2016; neon installation; variable dimensions. Photo: Alejandro Lipszyc

Gabriela Golder and Mariela Yeregui. Escrituras, 2014-2016; neon installation; variable dimensions. Photo: Alejandro Lipszyc

Tania Puente: How did you become interested in developing Escrituras?

Gabriela Golder: This project was selected from an open call for site-specific artistic projects that the city government organized. Part of the rules were to think of a neighborhood we’d like to intervene, and one of the given options was La Boca. We chose it because there’s a rising tension right now in this area, between the real estate development and the longstanding inhabitants of the neighborhood. Apart from economic issues, there’s also an identity struggle between its residents. Every group in the neighborhood tries to constantly reaffirm its own identity, instead of recognizing themselves as part of a wider community. In historical terms, La Boca is a neighborhood born from Italian immigration. Nowadays, there is a different kind of immigration, mostly from the bordering countries—a more marginalized population.

In looking at this overall picture, we thought La Boca would be a very interesting place to find interstices to get into and to start working with those who inhabit this place. A public space installation necessarily has to consider and be developed with others. If it is not done this way, it becomes an imposition.

TP: What was your approach towards this context?

GG: To begin with, we had to start understanding this particular urban tissue. One of our main questions was how to look at La Boca. This neighborhood carries a big cliché regarding its touristic activity while, at the same time, being considered one of Buenos Aires’ most dangerous neighborhoods. How could we escape those preconceived ideas? In order to understand it, we discovered we needed a new map—one that could be traced through a series of workshops.

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Hashtags

Hashtags: House of Horrors

#privatization #gentrification #immigration #violence #history #freedom

At the time of this writing, Pedro Reyes’ Doomocracy installation at the Brooklyn Army Terminal feels like a relic of a bygone era. Just one week after the project’s close, it is difficult for this writer to remember what it felt like to laugh at a funhouse of political horrors, featuring privatized national parks, designer oxygen boutiques, anti-abortion pep rallies, and severe global warming conditions. In the interim, the worst-case scenario has become our grim reality.

Pedro Reyes. Doomocracy (Voting Room), 2016.

Pedro Reyes. Doomocracy (Voting Room), 2016.

Doomocracy, billed as “a maze of near apocalyptic torments, from climate change to pandemic gun violence to GMOs,” ran for five weekends in October and November in the lead-up to the twin horrors of Halloween and the national election. Reyes took over a multi-story building at the Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT) to create his haunted house. Like other Brooklyn sites that project producer Creative Time has utilized for temporary public artworks in the past, BAT is a post-industrial conversion site presently being developed for residential and commercial uses. Around 200 people per night were permitted to enter the event, which ran for fifteen nights, and quickly sold out. Visitors were admitted in groups of twelve, approximately every ten minutes.

Each group of visitors was seated inside a van and driven a short distance from the queuing area to the installation. As we drove, we listened to conservative talk-radio hosts discuss immigration restrictions on Muslims and Mexicans. Our approach was stopped by riot police, multi-ethnic but uniformly aggressive. After frisking us, they led us into another room where we were invited to cast a ballot—promptly shredded—then another where we met a ladies’ club of gun aficionados promoting color-coordinated armaments.

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10 Questions for Michele Carlson

Happy birthday, Daily Serving! This month marks our tenth year of bringing you some of the smartest art writing around. To celebrate this momentous anniversary, we’re looking at our past, our present, and our future. Today we bring you an excerpt from an interview with Daily Serving’s current executive director, Michele Carlson. Michele joined the team in May 2016, and brings her work as an artist, critic, board member, and professor of visual and critical studies at the California College of the Arts to her new role at DS. 

Michele Carlson in the classroom.

Michele Carlson in the classroom.

The difference between DS and some of the other publications you have worked with:

I love working for a team and org with heart and guts—those who aren’t afraid, don’t just hop on trends to follow the money, and are willing to take on the long hard road that is “making the world better.” This describes Daily Serving. The organization is run by a group of administrators who also happen to be artists and writers, thus the stakes are significant for us here at DS. It’s not just about putting out stellar content or hitting analytics and budgets, but the work we do at DS is also the work we do outside of it. It is the work we will do after. It means that our approach to facilitating art, artists, and arts writing is driven by something greater than the needs of the organization itself or “the field.” We have the rare opportunity to intervene into the system, even if a small one, and quite literally produce the changes we want to see. You don’t often get this chance.

In Daily Serving‘s future:

We’ve spent a lot of time considering the internal operations of DS and we’re excited to be turning our attention to the future and external-facing projects. That DS has been holding space for art and writing for ten years is an unbelievable accomplishment and we don’t plan on going anywhere! So much has changed in the arts but also in digital and internet culture since 2006. We want DS to continue to grow and change with the dynamic worlds it draws from, and think more expansively in how it operates as a platform for arts discourse. As an online media source, how do we create reciprocity with our audiences and how do we stay a resource without drowning in trends or clichéd ideas about innovation? How do we reconcile that while our work manifests online, our readers and the art we love are IRL and have IRL concerns? How do we do the best work we can with little resources and capacity? How do we be brave? These are the sorts of questions we are asking ourselves as we move into the future, while continuing to confront larger systemic inequities around who has access to creating the narratives of art and culture and disrupting which art, artists, writers, editors, and leaders are valued in the art world.

Read the full interview here.

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