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#Hashtags: Conceptualizing Difference

#institutions #race #conceptualism #access #appropriation

A recent performance at Brown University by conceptual poet Kenneth Goldsmith has resurrected what had seemed to be a long-ago-settled debate. Goldsmith, whose poetic practice is based on appropriation, presented an adaptation of the autopsy report of Ferguson, Missouri, police shooting victim Michael Brown as a poetic reading during the Interrupt 3 arts festival in mid-March. The subsequent commentary has largely taken Goldsmith to task for what many perceive to have been a tasteless and implicitly racist work of art. As collateral damage, many of Goldsmith’s critics have been quick to dismiss the validity of conceptual or appropriation strategies as legitimate art practice, despite such forms having firmly established precedents throughout the past century. Furthermore, some have suggested that conceptualism is a mode of artistic practice that serves to reinforce white supremacy.

Michael Brown graduation photo.

Michael Brown. Graduation photo.

To what degree are these claims valid, and does Goldsmith’s effort have any legitimacy? From an emotional perspective, as a person of color in the United States, it is difficult not to take umbrage at the image of a white man, a published poet and Ivy League academic, appropriating the murdered body of a Black man for the benefit of a largely white audience that may be sympathetic but cannot empathize with the deceased. However, emotion is hardly the most productive filter through which to perceive conceptual art. Deliberately affectless, many conceptual strategies hinge on re-presentation rather than representation, and “treatment” rather than interpretation. Artistically, Goldsmith’s biggest failure is that he violates the tenets of conceptualism that dictate a text be either appropriated whole or subjected to a chance-based rather than choice-based editing process. Goldsmith does neither; instead he cherry-picks sections and replaces clinical terms with more digestible ones. Many of Goldsmith’s critics have called out his decision to end his reading at a description of the murdered Brown’s genitals, truncating the original report in order to close on a salacious detail that evokes memories of lynchings and castrations in the collective racial consciousness.

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Shotgun Reviews

Ann Hirsch: Playground at JOAN

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Anastasia Tuazon reviews Ann Hirsch’s Playground at JOAN in Los Angeles.

Ann Hirsch. Playground, 2015 (performance still); 65 minutes. Courtesy of JOAN, Los Angeles, . Featuring AnneMarie Wolf and Gene Gallerano. Runtime . Photo: Ruben Diaz.

Ann Hirsch. Playground, 2015 (performance still); live performance; 65:00. Courtesy of JOAN, Los Angeles. Photo: Ruben Diaz.

Ann Hirsch’s Playground, a 65-minute play originally commissioned by Rhizome and performed at the New Museum in 2013, had its second showing at JOAN in Los Angeles on March 28, 2015. Hirsch’s performative and object-based works often explore female subjectivity and sexual power, and Playground draws directly on her experience as a preteen using AOL chat forums in the late ’90s , an online space that enabled her to explore her sexuality at an age when parental monitoring limited her agency.

The play centers on the communication between two characters: “Anni,” a 12-year-old girl (played by AnneMarie Wolf), and “Jobe,” a 27-year-old man (played by Gene Gallerano). With both seated at desks facing the audience, they communicate at first by typing silently onto keyboards, their messages projected onto the wall behind them. They then transition into verbally narrating these messages, and ultimately into interacting with each other physically; this is purely to express what is being communicated online—the two never meet face to face. Hirsch does an admirable job at tackling the problem of how to stage a play about instant messaging that doesn’t feel boring, and she does this by drawing viewers into Anni’s imagination.

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San Francisco

Miriam Böhm: At On at Ratio 3

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you a review of Miriam Böhm’s current solo show at Ratio 3 in San Francisco. Author Danica Willard Sachs notes that the work has “a surreal dimensionality, with lines and planes that intersect in unusual ways, suggesting a simultaneous depth and flatness that refuses to resolve neatly into one or the other.” This article was originally published on April 14, 2015.

Miriam Böhm. Equally III, 2015; chromogenic print; 23 x 29 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Ratio 3, San Francisco.

Miriam Böhm. Equally III, 2015; chromogenic print; 23 x 29 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Ratio 3, San Francisco.

The conceptual artist Jan Dibbets made his first Perspective Corrections in 1967, around the same time that he was experimenting with optical illusions in sculpture and painting. When photographing some of his artworks, the artist realized that the viewpoint of the camera could transform the shape of the object, removing the simultaneity of perspectives inherent in viewing a sculpture and fixing it in time and space.1 Dibbets came to make this metamorphosis a focal point of his practice, producing images such as Perspective Correction, My Studio I, 2: Square with 2 Diagonals on Wall (1969) that underscore the ambiguity of depth in the flat plane of the photograph. For At On, her third show at Ratio 3, Miriam Böhm has pushed the limits of her studio-based photography practice in the vein of Dibbets, creating confounding, abstract, minimalist images of intersecting geometric forms and planes. She has also translated her photographs into her first sculptural works, which likewise perplex.

The artist’s first foray into sculpture—the series Mutual (2015)—occupies the rear portion of the main gallery. With pedestals painted white to match the gallery walls, the sculptures appear to hover in midair when viewed from the entrance in the slanting afternoon light. Atop each pedestal perches an object composed of intersecting glass planes framed in dark walnut; photographs of wood grain printed on vinyl are adhered to the surface of the glass. Unlike Dibbets, who looked to photography as a means to eschew the multiple viewing angles demanded by sculpture, Böhm embraces the changing perspectival experience created when one moves around her objects. In Mutual I (2015), the printed vinyl strips form a pair of rhombuses positioned at perpendicular angles across the glass panels. Because the glass panes are clear and we can see through one form to the other—and also because the walnut frame holding the panels matches that of the printed vinyl—the result is a layering of lines that, when viewed head-on, appears flat and two-dimensional, like a drawing. As one moves around the work, however, the rhombuses shape-shift as the angles of intersection change.

Read the full article here.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Paul Taylor

At the risk of having his artwork go unrecognized, Paul Taylor creates subtle interventions in land- and cityscapes. His works simultaneously embody and critique the influence of the quotidian. To achieve such interventions, Taylor works with an array of media: film, video, concrete, ink, graphite, plants, and found industrial and construction material.

Paul Taylor. CAUTION, 2011-2012; plywood, steel, paint, hardware, water; 24 x 40 x 29 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Paul Taylor. CAUTION, 2011-2012; plywood, steel, paint, hardware, water; 24 x 40 x 29 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Much of Taylor’s work appears as though he simply found a perfect organization of elements that create a humorous, striking, and preordained moment. Gate (2011) is part of a larger body of work titled Anonymous Infrastructure, and it portrays (perhaps most succinctly) Taylor’s ability to intervene almost without being noticed. In the midst of a blank, brown empty lot that awaits a commercial or residential development, the artist built a faux security gate, pouring the concrete platform and assembling the structure under the cover of darkness. Gate stayed in the vacant field, relatively untouched, for a week, until an unknown party dismantled it.

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Vancouver

Patryk Stasieczek: Asking For It at FIELD Contemporary

Patryk Stasieczek is a painterly photographer. He is part of a loosely united cadre of artists whose work has been identified as “immaterial”—they’ve abandoned the apparatus of the camera almost entirely, but still use alternative darkroom processes and light-sensitive paper. Stasieczek’s abstract, kaleidoscopic works draw on the experimental legacies of analog photography, but are no less rooted in the digital realm. Accordingly, these are the key elements that emerge in Asking For It, the artist’s latest solo exhibition at FIELD Contemporary.

Patryk Stasieczek. Gestured Interference (13), 2015; UV laminated digital light-jet print on metallic chromogenic paper, mounted on foam; 16 x 20 in.

Patryk Stasieczek. Gestured Interference (13), 2015; UV laminated digital light-jet print on metallic chromogenic paper, mounted on foam; 16 x 20 in.

Psychedelic and transcendent, Asking For It transgresses the traditional boundaries of the photographic medium by rejecting the representational in favor of total abstraction. As a record of their own production, these works emphasize the materiality of analog processes while denying the figurative intentions typical of photography. Conceived by the artist as interventions within stages of image production, they are innovative in a way that resists the banal simplicity of the digital.

In the Gestured Interference (2015) series, which includes multiple iterations, Stasieczek has taken a cellphone camera and smashed it with varying amounts of force against a number of telematic devices (technologies that transmit computerized information across long distances). This physical collision of technologies causes interference in the transmission and reception of a light frequency via the camera’s sensor. Gestured Interference (11), for instance, was achieved by striking a camera phone against a tube monitor while simultaneously taking images of the resulting effects.[1] Like the other works in the exhibition, the colorful lines of Gestured Interference (11) document the moment of the image’s making. The essence behind the image is the physical action, and it points to nothing outside of the technologies that were used for its production.

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New York

Margret: Chronicle of an Affair at White Columns

Sometimes the most unassuming artworks can question the relevance of art history’s categories. Margret: Chronicle of an Affair—May 1969 to December 1970, currently on view at White Columns, exhibits a personal archive of obsession, one presumably never intended for public view. Over a seven-month period between 1969 and 1970, a Cologne businessman named Gunther K. meticulously recorded his affair with his secretary, Margret S. During that time, he took hundreds of photos of Margret; he collected her fingernails, hair, and empty birth-control-pill packets; he organized receipts logging where they traveled and what they ate; and he wrote detailed notes of their sex life, recording the frequency, duration, and specifics of each act. Nearly three decades later, when this entire cache was unwittingly discovered in a briefcase in an abandoned German apartment, it set off a series of events that led to the collection being represented by the Cologne gallery Delmes & Zander, an institution focused on outsider art and art brut.

3.Margret: Chronicle of an Affair—May 1969 to December 1970, 2015; detail. Courtesy of White Columns / Delmes & Zander.

Margret: Chronicle of an Affair—May 1969 to December 1970, 2015 (detail). Courtesy of White Columns/Delmes & Zander.

Gunther K. could certainly be considered an amateur photographer, and his identity has remained protected, allowing this work to fit easily within outsider art’s mandate for the self-taught and its penchant for the anonymous. However, the precision and depth of Gunther’s project contains intriguing formal and conceptual ties to many practices within mainstream contemporary art, including the memory-laden installations of photographs and ephemera by Sophie Calle and the found-photographic interventions of Hans Peter-Feldman and Erik Kessels. Moreover, found photography is a subgenre that has straddled the insider/outsider divide for some time, albeit with very different interpretations. Found photographs of freak-show participants, medical anomalies, and incarcerated individuals were featured in the 2015 Outsider Art Fair, for example, their inclusion based less on the unique virtues of each work and more on their uneasy documentation of cultural outsiders.

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San Francisco

Derek Jarman: Super 8

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you Anton Stuebner’s consideration of Derek Jarman: Super 8, a recent monograph from Thames & Hudson. Steubner notes, “[The book] shows an artist fully coming into his own at a social and historical moment when his distinct creative voice would become more needed than ever.” This article was originally published on April 9, 2015.

Derek Jarman. My Very Beautiful Movie, 1972 (contact sheet of film stills); Super 8mm; 17:13. Courtesy of Thames & Hudson and LUMA Foundation.

Derek Jarman. My Very Beautiful Movie, 1972 (contact sheet of film stills); Super 8mm; 17:13. Courtesy of Thames & Hudson and LUMA Foundation.

In his lifetime, Derek Jarman (1942–1994) was arguably Great Britain’s most prolific queer artist, a punk poet rallying against the homophobia and AIDS paranoia of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party government. Although originally trained as a painter at London’s Slade School of Fine Art, he created work that gleefully transgressed conventional boundaries of discipline and medium. In Jarman’s oeuvre, paintings function doubly as text pieces (incitements for political action with slogans like “FUCK ME BLIND” and “SPREAD THE PLAGUE”), while his journals, conversely, incorporate pictorial images: film stills, mixed-media collages, oil studies in miniature. By the time of his death, Jarman had amassed a staggering body of work that included countless canvases both large and small; multiple set designs for the Royal Opera House; over ten books of autobiography, poetry, and scripts; and even a house, a cottage near the Dungeness nuclear power station in Kent that Jarman designed and built from the ground up.

Jarman’s eleven feature-length films—from the highly sensual Sebastiane (1976), a homoerotic account of St. Sebastian’s martyrdom, to the autobiographical masterpiece Blue (1993), a monochromatic tone poem about Jarman’s physical and psychological experiences of living with HIV/AIDS—are undoubtedly his most lasting and powerful works. Twenty years after his death from AIDS-related complications, it’s still painful to imagine the films that Derek Jarman could have made had he survived. At once both painterly and highly cinematic, profoundly political while also deeply meditative, his features represent the fullest expression of his creative energies even if they aren’t the entirety of his cinematic output. Jarman’s initial forays in filmmaking were on Super 8, a medium he continued to experiment with and incorporate in his feature films throughout the early part of his career. Many of Jarman’s feature films were funded (in part) by the British Film Institute, the largest government-supported nonprofit for film production and preservation in Great Britain. This funding enabled these films to circulate through larger distribution networks, reaching a wider audience that the Super 8 films, as considerably smaller and more fragile works, could never reach. As a result, Jarman’s feature-length films continue to dominate critical assessments of his work.

Read the full article here.

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