How to Make a Non-Didactic Video

Today from our friends at Glasstire, we bring you Joshua Fischer’s assessment of two videos currently on view in Houston, Texas. Instead of comparing works in the same exhibition, Fischer reviews videos by the artists Hito Steyerl and Camille Henrot in two different shows and defines the likenesses between them. He notes, “Steyerl and Henrot may have different outlooks and approaches [...] but luckily they share the same boldness to explore big, grandiose topics…” This article was originally published on August 8, 2014.

Camille Henrot. Grosse Fatigue, 2013; Video: color, sound, 13 min. © ADAGP Camille Henrot. Courtesy the artist, Silex Films and kamel mennour, Paris.

Camille Henrot. Grosse Fatigue, 2013; video: color, sound; 13 min. © ADAGP Camille Henrot. Courtesy of the Artist, Silex Films, and kamel mennour, Paris.

Two videos currently on view in Houston share unexpected affinities, tackling heavy, potentially dry subjects and distilling them into engaging works full of humor, poignancy, and energy. Hito Steyerl’s How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .Mov File (2013) and Camille Henrot’s Grosse Fatigue (2013) are part of very different group exhibitions at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art and the CAMH respectively. But it is not a surprise that the videos feel like kindred spirits, as they were both included in The Encyclopedic Palace exhibition at the 55thVenice Biennale, with Henrot’s Grosse Fatigue taking home the Silver Lion prize.

Rather than resorting to lo-fi tactics to show the guts of an image or its mechanisms, both are crisp, hi-definition videos with top-of-the-line production values. Yet in their own way Steyerl and Henrot layer and expose the internal machinery of how we produce and access visual knowledge: the green screen, computer monitor, and browser window.

Read the full article here.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Matt Shallenberger

Matt Shallenberger approaches his photographic subjects—most often landscapes—as a cartographer approaches a new territory. As he discovers information by following the sight lines of mountains, rivers, boundaries, horizons, and the ever-changing position of the sun or the moon, he always takes into account the history and prior records of his subjects. While he works consistently with darkened, blissfully moody vistas, Shallenberger’s research into his subjects begins from different sources each time: books, visits, illustrations, images, stories, and maps. Fittingly, he works by compiling a series of images for each project that explore one place or subject from many perspectives, offering compositional variations that capture the nuance and intricacy of these spaces.

Matt Shallenberger. 2715 from the series Counter Brand, 2013; archival pigment print; 32 x 40 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Matt Shallenberger. 2715 from the series Counter Brand, 2013; archival pigment print; 32 x 40 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

In his Counter Brand series (2013), Shallenberger explores landscape and human presence in a Southern California area called Antelope Valley. The title of the series references the practice by ranchers of rebranding (marking on top of or next to the original brand) livestock, most often cattle, when the animals are stolen, sold, or lost. One work in the series, 2715 (2013), shows the decaying ruins of a single-story house. Four white plaster walls and the plywood covering the doors and windows remain as the roof collapses around a single narrow chimney. In the rear of the house, though, a small, high window is open, framing a singular cutout of the graying horizon beyond. Throughout his work, details like this one persist, adding a complicating layer of focal points to otherwise richly tonal yet potentially one-dimensional landscapes.

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Toronto

Getting Rid of Ourselves at OCAD University

Getting Rid of Ourselves, a group show curated by London-based Helena Reckitt at OCAD University, features work by various individual artists and four artist collectives, most of them British. Many of the included works draw on Michel Foucault’s concepts of the subject to address the theme of how subjectivity is regulated and produced.

Heath Bunting. Identity Bureau, Transferrable Synthetic British Natural Person, 2011; mixed media. Images courtesy of Onsite [at] OCAD University and OCADU Visual Resources – Melissa Jean Clark

Heath Bunting. Identity Bureau, Transferrable Synthetic British Natural Person, 2011; mixed media. Images courtesy of Onsite [at] OCAD University and OCADU Visual Resources – Melissa Jean Clark.

Reckitt, who before moving to London was senior curator at Toronto’s Power Plant, selected only one local artist, Adrian Blackwell, for Getting Rid of Ourselves. No explanation is provided for this strange continental imbalance, which cannot but call extra attention to the lone Canadian’s work, Circles Describing Spheres. Described in the exhibition’s installation guide as an interpretation of an “anarchist meeting circle,” the work consists of a series of wooden circles with adjustable legs that interlock and rise to create different formations. The utility of the sculpture is in its flexibility; it can be configured as a seating area or flattened and packed away.

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Los Angeles

Matt Sheridan Smith: Widow – Fig. 3 Ep. 1 at Hannah Hoffman Gallery

Matt Sheridan Smith’s current exhibition at Hannah Hoffman Gallery is a portrait show, but not in the conventional sense. Instead of painted likenesses of his subject (there is one representational image; more on that later), Sheridan Smith uses pattern, abstraction, and the readymade to create what he dubs “a sort of speculative portraiture.”[1] Evocative and confounding rather than illuminating, the works in the show obscure even as they reveal bits of their subject.

Matt Sheridan Smith. Widow – Fig. 3 Ep. 1, installation view. Courtesy of the artist and Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Joshua White

Matt Sheridan Smith. Widow – Fig. 3 Ep. 1; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Joshua White.

And what a subject he has chosen. The title of the exhibition, Widow Fig. 1 Ep. 3, refers to the widow Clicquot, who is perhaps better know by her French name: Veuve Clicquot. Born into a wealthy family in 1777, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin was only 27 when she inherited her husband’s wine business upon his death (either from typhoid or suicide, depending on who you ask). At the time, the British had developed a style of champagne that was cloudy with yeast residue and large, inelegant bubbles. The widow perfected a process of drawing out the sediment into the neck of the bottle so it could be removed, giving us the clear, sparkling, fine-bubbled beverage we celebrate with today. Clicquot died at the age of 88, her legacy established as “a woman who was a smashing success long before anyone conceptualized the glass ceiling.”[2]

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San Francisco

Artist Project: Jack + Leigh Ruby’s Car Wash Incident

Today from our friends at Art Practical, we bring you an essay by Simon Lee and Eve Sussman about “the intersection of and differences between entertainment and art.” This article was originally published on July 9, 2014.

Jack + Leigh Ruby. Matt's Convenience Store Robbery, evidentiary photo 21; 1975. Courtesy of the Artists. Photo: Leigh Ruby.

Jack + Leigh Ruby. Matt’s Convenience Store Robbery, Evidentiary Photo 21; 1975. Courtesy of the Artists. Photo: Leigh Ruby.

I’ve been a fan of Eve Sussman’s work from the first moment I watched her film Rape of the Sabine Women (2007) during a screening at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I loved its cinematic texture—the way in which plot was secondary to the visual elements—and how Jonathan Bepler’s original score kept insisting on being present as a diegetic element. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of viewing several of her collaborations with the Rufus Corporation and with Simon Lee. The thing that I love about her work, and the work of her collaborators, is how they use the vernacular of classic Hollywood and foreign film to propose poetic responses to the central and deceptively simple question, “What makes a movie?”

I think almost immediately of her 2011 video installation whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir, which offers a full reveal of the structure of entertainment. Shot primarily in Central Asia, the video feels like the fevered dream collaboration of Jean-Luc Godard and Franz Kafka. An algorithm generates the sequence of shots on a moment-by-moment basis, with the upcoming selections queued on a monitor at the side of the room. Each viewing presents an entirely new film. While the editing structure is an essential element of whiteonwhite, the settings, production design, camera work, and acting are all clearly in dialogue with the conventions of American film noir, which makes the piece feel only more like an endless labyrinth to get lost in.

Read the full article here.

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Hashtags

From the Archives – #Hashtags: Mimics and Minstrels

Since July 2013, Daily Serving’s #Hashtags column has been written by Anuradha Vikram, Director of the Residency Programs at the 18th Street Arts Center in Los Angeles. For the past year, Vikram has eloquently and intelligently voiced arguments about—among other topics—institutionalized racism, representations of marginalized identities, and economic inequality, all the while offering nuanced critiques of the artworks that take up these subjects. (For example, see her incisive review of LaToya Ruby Frazier’s photographs at the Brooklyn Museum, in which Vikram underscores the artist’s capacity to meld “oppression and self-investigation.”)

In September, we’ll introduce new #Hashtags contributors who will bring their priorities and perspectives to the column. But this week, we’d like to highlight Vikram’s tenure by republishing one of her many standout entries. In the article below, she astutely pairs reflections on Sturtevant’s practice of appropriation with the highly contested inclusion of Joe Scalan’s “Donelle Woolford” project in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. As she does so often, Vikram goes to the heart of the matter by observing that the works potential to critique “the interchangeability of minority faces in an exclusionary environment” is negated by the Whitney’s maintenance of just such an environment. We are deeply grateful to Vikram for her resolute voice, and for solidly laying a foundation by which Daily Serving might continue these urgent conversations.—Patricia Maloney, Publisher

Sturtevant. Warhol Black Marilyn. 2004. Synthetic polymer silkscreen and acrylic on canvas. 15 ¾ x 13 ¾ in. (40 x 35 cm). Ringier Collection, courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London.  © Sturtevant.

Sturtevant. Warhol Black Marilyn, 2004; synthetic polymer silkscreen and acrylic on canvas; 15 ¾ x 13 ¾ in. (40 x 35 cm). Ringier Collection. Courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London. © Sturtevant.

#access #discrimination #appropriation #institutions #representation #re-performance

Two important events transpired in the art world last week that have brought the complications of diversity and hierarchy into sharp focus. The first is the passing of artist Elaine Sturtevant, an artist who sublimated a critique of gendered inequity among artist peers into works that appropriated and re-created works deemed significant to the canon of contemporary art. The other is the withdrawal of the artist group Yams Collective from the Whitney Biennial following their unsuccessful resolution of objections to a racially problematic project by Joe Scanlan. These two stories illustrate the challenges that appropriation-based institutional critique continues to represent for art-world institutions that are resistant to change.

Rather than address gender inequity directly in her work, Sturtevant critiqued the negotiation between economics and art history that drives the valuation of art objects. Feminism was not her stated objective; in fact she disavowed gender’s relevance to her practice. Still, it is hardly a coincidence that the artists whose works she re-created were mostly white, heterosexual men, as these were the majority of works being shown and cited among her peers. She reenacted performances and re-created objects by Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Frank Stella, among others. By her acts of remaking, she thought through the processes and experiences of the artists who made these works before her, demystifying “genius” into a collection of styles and techniques; a catalog of contemporary practices that mirrored the distance and intellect of her own. Her work as an archivist and a re-producer prefigures important trends in contemporary art of the 1980s and 1990s by two decades.

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Shotgun Reviews

Art Is Therapy at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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, Christina Conklin reviews Art Is Therapy at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Post-it note discussing two paintings; installation view, Art Is Therapy, 2014. Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Photo: Olivier Middendorp.

Post-it note discussing two paintings; installation view, Art Is Therapy, 2014. Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Photo: Olivier Middendorp.

Viewers are supposed to marvel at Rembrandt’s Night Watch (1642), but do they really? Many of us have unsatisfying responses to the works of the Masters, yet we still troop through the museums by the millions. This disconnect has led Alain de Botton and John Armstrong to guest-curate a selection of 150 works at the Rijksmuseum from their pragmatic point of view.

De Botton and Armstrong assert that art’s purpose is to heal some of the pain and malaise felt in life. It would be easy to dismiss this as didactic and anodyne. But reclaiming this broad, utilitarian view of art and reconnecting with the public in an approachable way is not simplistic. It is an important critical challenge to the reductive and self-referential intellectualism that dominates much contemporary discourse.

Tagging each work with large, yellow Post-it-style notes, the curators chat with the audience about the psychological dynamics of viewing art in a large museum. The notes aim to demystify the thoughts and feelings of viewers. Some notes describe the purpose of museums (“cathedrals of art”), while others name the alienation we feel in a room crowded with strangers. Democratizing the viewing experience in this way touches the soft underbelly of art, where contemporary critique has rejected notions of social purpose, beauty, and meaning and thus alienated much of the public.

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