From the Archives

From the Archives – #Hashtags: Georgia Sagri is otherwise occupied

Three years ago this week, Occupy protests had spread to over 851 cities in 82 countries. Today from our archives we bring you a look back at Carol Cheh’s consideration of Georgia Sagri’s practice in relation to the Occupy movement. Cheh reminds us: “The real point of Occupy, after all, was to occupy oneself and one’s own actions, to keep seeking ways out of the status quo, and to find solidarity in community, in momentary interactions, and in history.” This article was originally published on May 6, 2013.

GEORGIA SAGRI, "Working the no work/Travaillez je ne travaille pas/Δουλεύοντας τη μη δουλειά," Whitney Biennial 2012, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Courtesy of the artist and Melas Papadopoulos, Athens. Copyright Georgia Sagri. Photo: Paula Court

Georgia Sagri. Working the no work/Travaillez je ne travaille pas/Δουλεύοντας τη μη δουλειά, 2012; performance at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Courtesy of the Artist and Melas Papadopoulos, Athens. Copyright Georgia Sagri. Photo: Paula Court.

In the prelude to his book The Triumph of Anti-Art, Thomas McEvilley held up the Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope, founder of the School of Cynics, as a prototypical conceptual and performance artist who strove to break down the barriers separating philosophy and life. Through numerous absurdist gestures and lifestyle choices, passed down to us as fragmentary anecdotes (such as the one that has him giving an entire public speech in the form of laughter), Diogenes performed his philosophy daily in an effort to “[reverse] all familiar values” and “[lay] bare a dimension of hidden possibilities which he thought might constitute personal freedom.” According to legend, Diogenes even lived inside of a large jar in the Athenian marketplace and ate onions and figs that he picked himself.

The Greek-born artist Georgia Sagri—an early participant in the Occupy Wall Street movement who was cited by Time magazine as playing an influential role in shaping its philosophy—often mentions Diogenes when discussing her own work. “He represented a rupture of the academy, of the official language of thought,” she reflected in a recent phone interview I conducted with her. “To him, there was no inside or outside—he simply lived everywhere. And the Cynics didn’t just talk, they activated their philosophy. This territory of thought was abandoned in favor of the dominant rational discourse of Plato and Aristotle, whose dialectic we still live with today.”

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Shotgun Reviews

Mungo Thomson: Wall, Window, or Bar Signs at Kadist Art Foundation

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, Melissa Miller reviews Mungo Thomson’s Wall, Window, or Bar Signs at Kadist Art Foundation in San Francisco.

Mungo Thomson. My Name as Written by Bruce Nauman, 2014; neon, 60 x 120 in. Courtesy of the Artist and the Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Warrin.

Mungo Thomson. My Name as Written by Bruce Nauman, 2014; neon, 60 x 120 in. Courtesy of the Artist and the Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Warrin.

In Mungo Thomson’s solo exhibition at Kadist Art Foundation, Wall, Window, or Bar Signs, the gallery is filled with neon works that appropriate the form of Bruce Nauman’s spiraling neon text piece, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign) from 1967. Aided by the hypnotic spiral and glowing neon form, Thomson utilizes phrases from twelve-step programs and self-help literature to re-create the spiritual undertones present in Nauman’s work. Though at first glance the works seem to stem exclusively from an obsession with Nauman, a neon piecetucked away in the back room of the gallery ruptures the three-room homage.

Completed in handwritten script, the neon work My Name as Written by Bruce Nauman (2014) is challenging to read, and only after referring to the title sheet do the words become clear: “Thank you Mungo Bruce Nauman.” The inclusion of Nauman’s autograph—received by Thomson at a book-signing event in New York and later transferred into neon—adds to the ongoing conversation about authorship and consent already present in the exhibition. But the work’s scrawl-like effect is similar to Tracey Emin’s neon works and further complicates the circle of appropriation. Emin’s neons are created from love letters or sketches, infusing the cool, conceptual medium with sentimental content. The handwritten letters in Thomson’s neon piece not only highlight the artist’s affection for Nauman, continuing with this idea of the sentimental in Emin’s work, but also instigate a larger narrative around art-historical lineage made evident through appropriation.

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San Francisco

Pablo Guardiola: Maintenance Yard at Romer Young Gallery

Today from our sister publication Art Practical, we bring you a review of Pablo Guardiola’s Maintenance Yard at Romer Young Gallery in San Francisco. Author Genevieve Quick notes, “Guardiola positions history as an active investigatory process rather than a passive reiteration of fact.” This article was originally published on September 25, 2014.

Pablo Guardiola. Sharks 1, 2014; digital C-print, 10 x 15 in. Courtesy of Romer Young Gallery, San Francisco.

Pablo Guardiola. Sharks 1, 2014; digital C-print; 10 x 15 in. Courtesy of Romer Young Gallery, San Francisco.

Having lived in San Francisco and currently residing in San Juan, in his native Puerto Rico, Pablo Guardiola fuses the histories of the two locations in his exhibition Maintenance Yard. Both coastal areas have a legacy of European and American seafaring expansion, and Guardiola uses markers of this history to explore cultural and nautical imperialism. While many of Guardiola’s references may not be readily apparent, patient and curious viewers will find in his juxtapositions of imagery provocative questions about how we understand and organize meaning.

Guardiola’s photo collage Drake (2013) references Sir Francis Drake (1540–1596), a global explorer and exploiter who circumnavigated the globe for the British empire. The British honor Drake with a monument in Plymouth, U.K., and his legacy as the first European explorer in Northern California is memorialized in Marin County’s Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Drakes Bay. (Contrastingly, some Puerto Ricans denounce Drake for his leading role in the British attack on San Juan in 1595.) In Guardiola’s photograph of Drake’s U.K. monument, the figure stands heroically with one hand resting on the globe while a sword hangs from his hip. Behind this image, Guardiola has placed a photograph of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that depicts several gentlemen observing the city against a smoke-filled sky. With Drake’s monument perched on a pillar and the earthquake photographed from above, Guardiola creates a perspectival relationship between the discovery of the Bay Area and San Francisco’s momentary destruction.

Read the full article here.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Laura Stevens

Laura Stevens is a photographer whose work blends the elegance of the cinematic with the erudition of the documentary. She shoots her subjects—most often a number of single female figures—in series that detail an engaging range of emotional and psychological states. The action in these images takes place in similarly evocative and highly staged domestic settings: an antique and ornately wallpapered hotel room, a subject’s bedroom, kitchen, or living room.

Laura Stevens. Sofia from the series Another November, 2014; archival giclée pigment print; 60 x 90 cm. Courtesy of the Artist.

Laura Stevens. Sofia, from the series Another November, 2014; archival giclée pigment print; 60 x 90 cm. Courtesy of the Artist.

In her series Another November (2014), Stevens poses lone female figures in intimate, vulnerable, yet commanding positions in domestic spaces. This emotionally powerful series is meant to evoke the stages that the artist—and many others—go through after the end of a significant relationship. Stevens describes the impetus behind Another November: “Whilst adjusting to being a single woman, I started to create a photographic narrative based on the experience of losing love; directing other women to portray the gradual emotional and circumstantial stages, along the well-trodden track of the broken-hearted.” For this body of work, Stevens essentially created a vicarious and fundamentally empathic photographic depiction of grieving for lost relationships, a universal—yet impossibly individual—experience.

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New York

Randal Barnett: JEF+KEV//SIM at United Solo Theatre Festival

On September 21, Randal Barnett’s JEF+KEV//SIM infiltrated the ranks of this year’s United Solo Theatre Festival and inoculated its lineup of “straight” theater with the virus of queer performance art. Solo performance and performance art share a symbiotic genesis, solo performance being fundamentally based in storytelling that often features the absence of a “fourth wall” and performance art seeking to eradicate this distinction entirely, its vital action grafted to an everyday ontology. Thrust forth from this lineage, JEF+KEV//SIM is inescapably live. It is a performative testament to such everyday experience, specifically the gritty, hopeless mundanity of bearing the load of queer cultural trauma.

Randal Barnett. JEF+KEV//SIM, 2014 (still); performance; TRT 40:00, Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Joelle Ballam-Schwan.

Randal Barnett. JEF+KEV//SIM, 2014 (still); performance; 40:00. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Joelle Ballam-Schwan.

In JEF+KEV//SIM, Barnett conjures three personas: Jeff, a saltwater aquarium enthusiast (who may also be Jeffrey Dahmer); Simon, a meth-addict soothsayer wired into the cybernetic subconscious; and Kevin, an overgrown child of privilege leeching a living in the empty mansion of his dead family. Kevin is also the only victim that serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer let go free. Barnett’s Kevin is actually based on the true story of one of Dahmer’s first abductions, and it evokes the oft-hushed queer aspects of the Dahmer narrative. The horror of Kevin’s near miss plays on cultural fears about the dangers of cruising, and Barnett’s Kevin lives under the thumb of this trauma, laughing it off even as it seeps into the texture of his other sexual encounters, festering like the described rotting fruit on the kitchen counter of his dead parents’ mansion.

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London

(detail) at Transition Gallery

The premise seems simple: A painter’s painter curates an exhibition comprising one work each from 118 painters. The breadth of the offering covers the full gamut of the medium and, as a result, creates a beautiful crisis for the genre of painting—and that’s because there isn’t a lick of paint in the most painterly concerned of painting shows.

(detail), 2014; installation view, Transiton Gallery, London. Courtesy of Andrew Bracey and Transiton Gallery. Photo: Andrew Bracey

(detail), 2014; installation view, Transition Gallery, London. Courtesy of Andrew Bracey and Transiton Gallery. Photo: Andrew Bracey

For (detail), artist–curator Andrew Bracey asked each of the artists to contribute a detail of one of their works, to be enlarged and exhibited in a montage of photographic detail. The show could be seen as a virtual offering that feels familiar, in which images occur one after the other with a curatorial rhythm. Visually, it’s perfectly realized—the images play off of each other without any one image dominating, because to emphasize individual moments that pop or come together would work against what’s actually being presented. The irony of this situation is that it’s exactly the kind of show that has been painfully needed for a long time, but now that it’s arrived, it’s hard to know what to do with it.

For Transition Gallery, the show presents a modernist exhibition with each of the works offered as a 68.5-centimeter (27-inch) square, scaled to neatly fit the white-cube gallery.[1] Usually, a detail will offer insight or a clearer understanding of its subject. This show offers no such aid. By design, the individual pieces cannot provide any real insight into their respective source work, as they are detached from the very subject they purport to examine. This is strictly detail about detail. Conceptually, it pushes well beyond Peter Halley’s argument of a thing being so hyper-modern that it becomes postmodern. One is left to wonder: Is this a meta-painting show—a show so much about painting that it no longer can be about painting?

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New Orleans

AnnieLaurie Erickson: Data Shadows at Carroll Gallery

Photographer AnnieLaurie Erickson has spent a lot of time lately being watched by law enforcement. In her recent trip this year to Oklahoma, she stood on public property, taking photographs while security guards, local officers, and state police looked on. One might ask, what has she been photographing that requires so much surveillance? The answer is: big data centers throughout the Southern United States, the subject of her smart exhibition Data Shadows at Tulane University’s Carroll Gallery. Erickson’s fourteen photos and one interactive installation explore what happens to the everyday internet data we create.

Google Data Center, Surveillance Cameras, Mayes County, OK, 2014; Archival pigment print;  40 in. x 56 in. Courtesy of AnnieLaurie Erickson and Tulane University. Photo: AnnieLaurie Erickson.

AnnieLaurie Erickson. Google Data Center, Surveillance Cameras, Mayes County, OK, 2014; archival pigment print; 40 x 56 in. Courtesy of AnnieLaurie Erickson and Tulane University. Photo: AnnieLaurie Erickson.

Only last year, Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA has been monitoring communications including email, videos, photos, voice-over-IP chats (such as Skype), file transfers, and social-networking information. While the Arab Spring exemplified how social media could diffuse power, Snowden demonstrated that collecting huge swaths of data permits the government to monitor—and potentially control—social movements. Erickson’s photographs reveal the sites where that information is stored. Pigment print Google Data Center, Surveillance Cameras, Mayes County, OK (2014) depicts a massive white complex behind a chain-link fence. One lone light shines high above the industrial buildings. Throughout Erickson’s Data Center series, fences interrupt the onlooker’s view, a reminder that the majority of us are outside the periphery of control over our information.

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