Shotgun Reviews

Mean Time to Upgrade at InterAccess

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, Shauna Jean Doherty reviews Mean Time to Upgrade at InterAccess in Toronto.

Hannah Epstein. Cock Fight, 2010; mixed media. Courtesy of the Artist and InterAccess. Photo: Robin Hamill Photography 2014.

Hannah Epstein. Cock Fight, 2010; VHS game. Courtesy of the Artist and InterAccess. Photo: Robin Hamill Photography 2014.

The exhibition Mean Time to Upgrade at Toronto’s premiere new-media art gallery, InterAccess, responds to the evolving climate of museum collections and exhibition approaches in the wake of new-media art. In a collection of highly technical artworks spanning a period of 30 years, each is uniquely at risk of becoming obsolete due to its reliance on antiquated components. Save for one of the works in the show, each was selected from a call for works in “existential crisis”—that is, works that are on the verge of losing their function by virtue of their technical composition. By delaying upgrade momentarily, this exhibition gives room to consider the impact of changing the technologies that are fundamental to these artworks.  Read More »

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San Francisco

Reading Basquiat: Exploring Ambivalence in American Art

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you an assessment of Jordana Moore Saggese’s new monograph, Reading Basquiat: Exploring Ambivalence in American Art. Of Basquiat’s work, reviewer Anton Stuebner notes: “[the] canvases require viewers to […] recognize that the boundaries of pictorial representation, like language, can be redefined and reformed.” This article was originally published on October 7, 2014.

Jean-Michel Basquiat. Charles the First, 1982; acrylic and oil paintstick on canvas; three panels, 78 x 65 in. Courtesy of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, New York © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Jean-Michel Basquiat. Charles the First, 1982; acrylic and oil paintstick on canvas; three panels, 78 x 65 in. Courtesy of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, New York © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The mythology around Jean-Michel Basquiat continues to proliferate in the twenty-six years since his death. The standard-issue biography of his life reads like a cautionary tale on the perils of success: the early years in the graffiti movement; the street art produced with classmate Al Diaz under the tag SAMO; the sudden media attention on the East Village art scene; the transition into formal painting and the overnight success of shows with Annina Nosei and Mary Boone; the highly publicized friendship with Andy Warhol; the meteoric rise of auction and gallery sales; the heroin addiction; the self-destruction at a preternaturally young age. It’s a story that owes much to clichés of the artist as tragic hero, reduced in equal parts through simplification and fabrication. It is also a story that sells art, and at record prices.

Basquiat’s work is invariably tied to the market booms of the 1980s, and like his contemporaries Keith Haring and Julian Schnabel, he redefined the perception of the artist as celebrity, making frequent appearances in print periodicals like The New York Times Magazine and Vanity Fair. This celebrity status is still growing. His art appears on high-fashion street wear and luxury knits. Documentary and narrative films have been made about his life. And market prices for his paintings continue to soar. His canvasDustheads (1982) sold for $48.8 million during Christie’s record-breaking contemporary art auction in 2013. In January 2014, former Interview magazine editor Paige Powell organized a show at Suzanne Geiss Company that featured black-and-white nude photographs of Basquiat, snapshots taken while Powell was dating the artist. Shortly thereafter, a second sale at Christie’s was postponed after an injunction from Basquiat’s family over the authenticity of the pieces at auction.

Read the full article here.

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Interviews

Laida Lertxundi

Today from our friends at BOMB Magazine, we bring you an excerpt from Katie Bradshaw‘s interview with filmmaker Laida Lertxundi. The artist describes her process: “I rearrange and take apart these formal conventions and then you have to enter a new space, and maybe there’s something freeing in that. […] I think it’s productive, when there’s something happening in the form that’s uncomfortable.” This interview was originally published on October 20, 2014.

Laida Lertxundi. Still from Cry When it Happens / Llora Cuando Te Pase, 2010; directed by Laida Lertxundi.

Laida Lertxundi. Still from Cry When it Happens/Llora Cuando Te Pase, 2010; 16mm film, color, sound; 14:00.

Laida Lertxundi makes films using landscape and sounds. The first of Laida’s films I saw was Footnotes to a House of Love (2007), a thirteen-minute 16mm film in which a few people spend time in and around a dilapidated house in a southern California desert listening to Shangri-Las cassettes along with other, less immediately recognizable sounds. Footnotes struck me visually and sonically, though at the time I don’t think I was able to fully grasp the complexity in method or the way in which she, as Genevieve Yue has phrased it, “treats feeling as material.” As I moved through her filmography, Laida’s films felt threaded together. They could locate minutes that I felt I had already seen, previously collected but unnoticed until now, almost memories in progress—the sun at a particular time of day, the quiet feeling of being at home with another person, simply co-existing.

I am interested in her choice of careful frames, her relation to the body and its representation, and how uniquely and interestingly she succeeds in emphasizing the aural environment so that it directly influences and cannot be pulled apart from the image. There is a mysterious quality to her films that is both natural and unpretentious. I watch her films over and over again, the same way I’ve rewound a mixtape over and over again to a specific track that pulls me out of myself.

Katie Bradshaw: You’ve talked about bringing your soundtracks to the foreground. I think the sounds in your films take precedence over the images. It’s as though they move the image and carry the film.

Laida Lertxundi: Yes, sound is not an accompaniment. I never disassociate the process of editing sound from that of images. There is this Michel Chion phrase I love about the predominance of sound: “a ‘heard space’ in which the ‘seen’ bathes.”

KB: Do you ever start making a film with a song in mind? Or do the songs usually come after?

LL: The song becomes this piece that responds in rhythm, emotion, or content to the environment it’s in, to the landscapes, people, props, and rooms but also to its location in the film. I try out different versions first.

KB: And how do you “cast” your films? Did you know you wanted Josette Chiang to be the woman on the bed in A Lax Riddle Unit?

LL: I’m interested in the comfort and intimacy you can feel with someone, while so much of them is unknown to you. I asked Josette if she’d be around to help with the Lax shoot and if she’d be in the movie, and she said, “Be in the movie? No way!” That’s the common denominator, if someone doesn’t want to be in the film or has resistance. If they don’t want to be on camera and if we can make it work, it’s like working through something and it’s an interesting challenge. If they’re going to act, you can see it in their face, and that’s going to ruin everything.

Read the full article here.

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New York

Anton Perich: Electric Paintings 1978-2014 at Postmasters Gallery

“No, Wade Guyton did not invent a new paintbrush; Anton Perich did in 1978, when Guyton was six.” Thus combatively begins the press release for Anton Perich: Electric Paintings 1978–2014 at Postmasters Gallery. The un-cited author of the claim that “Wade Guyton invented a new paintbrush” is Jerry Saltz, writing on Guyton’s 2012 survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Of course, Saltz was aware that Guyton’s “invention” amounted to the novel appropriation of an existing technology: the commercial inkjet printer, through which the artist would pull his canvases. Perich can indeed better claim to have invented something. His “electric painting machine,” developed in the late 1970s, transfers projected images onto canvas using a motorized contraption that deposits lines of acrylic paint in rows according to the presence or absence of light. It was the painterly analog of the digital inkjet—a technology that had yet to become known, let alone available to, the masses at the time.

Anton Perich. American Altarpiece, 2004. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Postmasters Gallery, New York

Anton Perich. American Altarpiece, 2004; acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Postmasters Gallery, New York.

The similarities to Guyton mostly end there. Perich’s work registered a cultural–technological matrix in which the mechanics of paint/ink transfer were not nearly as important as the emergent aesthetics of video—a technology whose novelty had all but vanished by the time Guyton entered the scene. The Sony Portapak, introduced to the American market in 1967, first freed video recording from the studio. By the mid 1970s, Perich had swapped camera for camcorder as the ideal means to capture the bohemia of lower Manhattan with which he was enthralled. A 16-video lineup—one of the highlights of the Postmasters exhibition—offers an entrancing distillation of what are now comfortably referred to as New York City’s “bad old good old days.” In my intermittent viewing, I caught an impassioned discussion of the newly built World Trade Center, already monumental if only 45 percent rented (sound familiar?), a neon-bathed fashion show set to the music of Kraftwerk, and a hedonistic disco in which a lone female dancer, locking the gaze of Perich’s camcorder, is compelled to put on an exhibitionist display—one that ends abruptly when a nearby man decides to join in by dropping his trousers, effectively puncturing the recording device’s hypnotic bubble. Read More »

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Interviews

How Small It Actually Is

Today from our friends at Guernica, we bring you an excerpt from Alex Zafiris’ recent interview with Ben Davis. Zafiris notes: “As with all empires, the art world is driven by money. What differentiates it, at least in some cases, is its very particular set of values.” This interview was originally published on October 1, 2014.

Artwork by William Powhida, from the cover of  "9.5 Theses on Art and Class" by Ben Davis.

Artwork by William Powhida, from the cover of 9.5 Theses on Art and Class by Ben Davis.

In 2010, Ben Davis, a young art critic and regular contributor to Art Papers, ArtReviewAdbusters, The Brooklyn Rail, Slate, and the Village Voice, produced a pamphlet, “9.5 Theses on Art and Class,” that pointed out that the discussion of artist economics had stagnated. In it, he boldly outlines the paradoxes and struggles inherent in the art world through the lens of class. Last year, he published his first book, 9.5 Theses on Art and Class, named for and containing the original pamphlet, alongside a collection of essays on politics, inequality, commerce, and hipster aesthetics in art. He posits that artists are middle-class creative laborers, only mildly distinct from their non-artist peers in that their autonomy stems from a singular, individual talent.

Guernica: The ongoing, central tension of the art empire is that between creativity and money. The parameters of this conflict vary wildly, depending on whom you speak to. Can you define it from your personal point of view?

Ben Davis: I guess I’d challenge the premise of the question. I don’t think that the ongoing tension of the “art empire”—if by this we mean the top tier of the international “art world,” museums, galleries, and auction houses—is actually between money and creativity, in the sense that there is a hard choice between what sells and artists getting to express themselves in some authentic creative way.

That certainly happens, and the very rich control the art market, which means a minority taste—often a pretty stupid and crass taste—has a disproportionate amount of influence over what succeeds. But throughout history, the very rich have also patronized, funded, and wanted to associate themselves with creative things. If things were as simple as the equation “success = corruption” then you wouldn’t need criticism.

[…]

Guernica: Artistic practice is most often defined as a privileged activity, whereas “creative expression” is something that transcends social, political, and economic barriers. What kind of traction does exceptional individual power—charisma, talent, skill, unusual perspective—really have? Who/what is the authority?

Ben Davis: I mean, this only becomes an issue because some people actually make their living off of their creativity, and what’s more, some people who make their living off their creativity, contemporary artists, seem to get a particularly good deal. Otherwise, it would be enough to say that, well, we all are creative in our own ways, what’s wrong with that?

But that having been said, there’s a whole interesting debate right now about whether creative labor actually is a “privileged” activity. There’s very much this sense that the “privilege” of art is being used to seduce people into doing work for free, to get away with not paying people who are creating something of value, and who have to survive.

Read the full article here.

 

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London

Glenn Ligon: Call and Response at Camden Art Centre

The designation Call and Response describes the antiphony effect, a device in speech in which a speaker elicits cadenced responses from the audience at systematic intervals. It’s a method that actively engages an audience, and although this universal device is as old as human speech in every corner of the world, in the American psyche it is particularly tied to black churches and the gospel tradition. Glenn Ligon, who has dedicated his career to deconstructing racial and sexual politics, applies the framework of call-and-response to specific events around the outward interpretation and resulting experience of being black in America.

Glenn Ligon. Live (detail), 2014; video installation; size variable. Courtesy of the Artist and Camden Art Centre, London. Photo: Valerie Bennett

Glenn Ligon. Live (detail), 2014; video installation; size variable. Courtesy of the Artist and Camden Art Centre, London. Photo: Valerie Bennett.

Ligon’s Camden Art Centre show is a stellar example of his recent mid-career work. This is an artist who has refined his conceptual craft and knows how to illustrate ideas in large museum-sized pieces. Three bodies of work make up this show, each presented in a dedicated gallery. Come Out (2014) and Untitled (Bruise/Blues) (2014) both take their origin in the testimony of Daniel Hamm, one of six black youths arrested for murder during the 1964 Harlem race riot. For both of these works, Ligon extracts a poignant phrase that offers an unsettling critique of America’s omnipresent race issue, and then pushes the emotionally charged text to the point of abstraction. This abstracting offers a message that has been distilled, as if Ligon were attempting to represent fifty years of multifaceted responses to the call by consuming the same set of words over and over.

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San Francisco

#Hashtags – Locating Techonology: Therapeutic Bodies

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you Genevieve Quick’s consideration of performances by Mika Rottenberg and Shana Moulton. The author notes: “As early media artists and feminists have done, Rottenberg and Moulton construct imaginative narratives that probe the unsettling relationship between the body, screens, technology, and contemporary life.” This article was originally published on October 15, 2014.

Shana Moulton and Nick Hallett, featuring Daisy Press. Whispering Pines 10, 2012; performance at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Courtesy of the Artist and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco.

Shana Moulton and Nick Hallett, featuring Daisy Press. Whispering Pines 10, 2012; performance at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Courtesy of the Artist and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco.

Mika Rottenberg’s and Shana Moulton’s absurdist and surreal bubble worlds grapple with embodiment through mechanization and mediated imagery. For SEVEN (2011), Rottenberg collaborated with Jon Kessler to create a chakra “milking” laboratory in New York that coordinated with a sub-Saharan African cohort. In Whispering Pines 10 (2011), a collaboration between Moulton and Nick Hallett, the ill and homebound character Cynthia uses technology as a platform for imagination and healing. In these two projects, both teams of artists mix performance, video, and technology to probe the body as therapeutic or ailed. Moreover, both works lightheartedly approach collective and individual healing through narratives and multimedia representations.

Commissioned for Performa 11 (2011), Rottenberg and Kessler produced SEVEN at Nicole Klagsbrun Project Space. The artists mix references to spas, factories, and laboratories as places that attend to, are dependent upon, and investigate the body. The performance begins with seven actors dressed in white terrycloth robes waiting in a room, as if at the spa. With the regimented timing of a factory or laboratory, the actors punch a time clock and have a specific chakra extracted from them eight times a day, four days a week, for three weeks. In another portion of the gallery, the charismatic scientist “Empress Asia” attends to an elaborate laboratory with beakers, test tubes, and mysterious machines and fluids. At the heart of the performance is a bicycle-like contraption that, when pedaled, powers the “chakra juicer,” a glass-enclosed sauna where a sweating actor sits in lotus position. The subjects are panned across by a scientific-looking unit housing a camera with a vertical series of lights in the seven chakra colors (violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red). The device somehow culls the chakra from the actors while the video camera records the process. As some actors’ bodies exert energy to power the mechanism, others sweat to create a circular process of physical labor and production. This physicality adds to the project’s intensity and duration, which pushes the actors’ physical and, possibly, psychic endurance.

Read the full article here.

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