Los Angeles

Radio Imagination: Artists in the Archive of Octavia E. Butler

Radio Imagination: Artists in the Archive of Octavia E. Butler is an exhibition curated by the Los Angeles–based arts organization Clockshop, and is part of Clockshop’s yearlong program to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the celebrated science-fiction writer’s death. In addition to this exhibition, the program has also included collaborations with local platforms such as ALOUD at the Los Angeles Public Library and REDCAT. On view at Pasadena’s Armory Center for the Arts, Radio Imagination comprises newly commissioned artworks by several artists who explored and responded to contents of the author’s archives, which are housed at the Huntington Library in nearby San Marino.

Installation view of slideshow of materials from the Octavia E. Butler Papers. Courtesy of Clockshop. Photo: Gina Clyne.

Installation view of slideshow of materials from the Octavia E. Butler Papers. Courtesy of Clockshop. Photo: Gina Clyne.

A room near the exhibition’s entrance features a slideshow of images of notebooks, photographs, and ephemera from Butler’s papers at the Huntington. It is not hard to imagine how artists—who must persist through impossible cycles of success and failure—must understand the motivation and frustration ever-present in Butler’s notes. “Focus on Action!” is written again and again on a particular scrap, undoubtedly reminding the author to continue pushing forward, no matter how grueling the project. While the slideshow provides an evocative glimpse of the archive’s source material, it would be even stronger if objects from the collection were actually on display at the Armory, and were allowed to intermingle with the new work generated by the invited artists.

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Montreal

La Biennale de Montréal: Le Grand Balcon at the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal

There is admittedly a little bit of confusion when one arrives at La Biennale de Montréal’s main venue, the Musée d’Art Contemporain (MAC), for a great part of the biennale does not in fact take place at the MAC. With eighteen satellite venues beyond walking distance and inaccurate information from its front-line stewards, trekking through extreme winter conditions in the land of the tragic 19th-century poet Émile Nelligan becomes a daunting mission. What emerges are the growing pains and logistical issues of propelling this baby biennale into one that is world-class.

David Gheron Tretiakoff. A God Passing, 2008; video with sound; 20 minutes. Courtesy of the Artist.

David Gheron Tretiakoff. A God Passing, 2008; video with sound; 20:00. Courtesy of the Artist.

The challenge continues with curator Philippe Pirotte’s verbose yet perspicacious statement. Titled Le Grand Balcon [The Grand Balcony], the biennale is drawn loosely from Jean Genet’s play Le Balcon [The Balcony]. Part of a luxury brothel, the balcony of Genet’s play is “a space of contestation between revolution and counter-revolution, reality and illusion,”[1] where the power elite and other seemly characters engage in role-playing. Pirotte remarks, “Le Grand Balcon invites us to rethink both the (im)possibility of an emancipation through pleasure—and its urgency. Asserting a hedonist politics far from the easy rewards of consumption, in an environment of potentially economic or political instrumentalization, the exhibition opposes a via negativa of alienation, skepticism, discomfort, and loss.”[2]

A tiny, dark room, which feels like an abandoned space in a near sci-fi future with the last surviving single-channel video, houses David Gheron Tretiakoff’s A God Passing (2008). The video opens with various shots of men waiting and staring. An intense suspense gradually builds up, with the weight of gazes matched by careful shots of worn city scaffoldings and slow, seeping water. The crowds of men are awestruck—many on each other’s shoulders, dancing and chanting “Long live Egypt.” With particular cinematic cutting style, the video finally reveals that they are witnessing the historical 2007 move of the 11-meter statue of pharaoh Ramses II from a Cairo train station to the Grand Egyptian Museum on the Giza Plateau. Meanwhile, a man screams that Egyptians are not deserving of this regal inheritance—that they need to clean their nation first. A God Passing shows Pirotte’s interest in spaces of “revolution and counterrevolution, reality and illusion” and is framed by our present foreboding knowledge of the imminent and similarly fanatic cheering of the unfulfilled Arab Spring. Spectral, ominous, and morbid, A God Passing exposes a phantom limb and offers a cool balcony from which to ruminate on this surly hedonism and its malformed smile guided by the eternal cycle of political instrumentalization.

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Odd Jobs

Odd Jobs: Danielle Dean

Welcome back to Odd Jobs, where artists talk about their varied and nontraditional career arcs. For this installment, I spoke to Danielle Dean—born to a Nigerian father and an English mother in Alabama—whose interdisciplinary practice draws from this multinational background. Her work explores the interpellation of thoughts, feelings, and social relations by power structures working through news, advertising, political speech, and digital media. She has shown her work in solo exhibitions at Commonwealth and Council in Los Angeles and Bindery Projects in Minnesota, and in group shows at the Hammer Museum and the Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University. She has received grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Rema Hort Foundation, and Creative Capital. This month, Dean has a solo show opening at Commonwealth & Council, and will also have work in a group show at the Sculpture Center in New York. 

Danielle Dean. Hexafluorosilicic, 2015; installation view at Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles. Courtesy of the artist.

Danielle Dean. Trainers, 2014; installation view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Courtesy of the Artist.

Calder Yates: You were born in the U.S. but you grew up in England, is that right?

Danielle Dean: Yeah, so I have American and English citizenship, but in a lot of ways I’m more English than American.

CY: Did you work while getting your BFA?

DD: Yeah, I’ve always worked. I lived in a suburb of London and I worked in bars, a couple of pubs in Hemel Hempstead, one in particular called The Patch.

CY: Were you a barback or a bartender?

DD: Yeah, um, a bar person? I was like a bar lady. It was a proper old man’s British pub. It smelled really bad. I did a fundraiser there. I got the owner to do a sponsored bar dance where we had to dance the whole night behind the bar. It was really successful, I got loads of money because he was a real good sport but he wasn’t very fit, you know? We had to move and dance the whole time. I also worked in a pub in London, it wasn’t a very nice pub. It was in Holborn. It had a lot of businessmen who would drink a lot of shots made out of sweets. And the men were really sleazy. I hated it.

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Happy New Year!

Anonymous. Untitled (Clenched Fist), circa 1965; wood; 3 x 5.5 inches. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, Museum Purchase.

Anonymous. Untitled (Clenched Fist), circa 1965; wood; 3 x 5.5 inches. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, Museum Purchase.

2016 was an exceptional year for Daily Serving! We celebrated our tenth anniversary and Michele Carlson became our new executive director. We inaugurated “Odd Jobs,” a new interviews column regarding art and labor, and covered major art-world stories like Pedro Reyes’ Doomocracy and Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947–2016, at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. Of course, we also turned an assessing eye to exhibitions in cities such as Birmingham, Dhaka, Nashville, Mexico City, St. Louis, Taipei, and Warsaw. Your support made it happen!

We’re looking forward to another year of the best in arts criticism from around the world, and we hope that your 2017 will be filled with tenacity, courage, and love! 

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Tenth Anniversary

Best of 2016 – Kapwani Kiwanga: Ujamaa

As we look back over a decade of the best in arts writing, our final selection comes from our communication manager, Jackie Clay: “This year I would estimate that I’ve read nearly 90% of Daily Serving‘s articles from beginning to end. This one stuck with me. As deftly described by Marisol Rodriguez, artist Kapwani Kiwanga’s solo exhibition, Ujamaa was an open-ended, but not opaque love letter to imagining different presents, futures, and the arguable productivity of failed resistance. As many of us gird ourselves for war–real, imagined or metaphorical–Kiwanga’s work and by extension Rodriguez’s review remind us that the path to now wasn’t linear, direct or uncomplicated.” This article was originally published on September 22, 2016.

Kapwani Kiwanga. White Gold: Morogoro, 2016; installation; 236 x 196 x 157 in. Courtesy of La Ferme du Buisson. Photo: Emile Ouroumov.

Kapwani Kiwanga. White Gold: Morogoro, 2016; installation; 236 x 196 x 157 in. Courtesy of La Ferme du Buisson. Photo: Emile Ouroumov.

In a major solo exhibition, Ujamaa, at La Ferme du Buisson in the Parisian suburb of Noisiel, Kapwani Kiwanga addresses Tanzania’s uprisings. Known for using methodologies from the social sciences without being didactic, the artist draws on two significant moments in the history of the eastern African country to remember and question the ideals of pan-Africanism. The first is the 1905 revolt of Kinjeketile Ngwale, who—believing in the magic powers of a herbal potion of his creation called maji-maji, meaning “water of life and immortality”—led the first revolt against colonial rule, known as the Maji Maji Rebellion. The second is Julius Nyerere’s post-independence introduction of a socialist program of collective farming, called ujamaa (a Swahili term for familyhood, extended family, brotherhood).

A monumental installation, White Gold: Morogoro (2016), welcomes the viewer and acts as the show’s contextual and museological heart. The evocative work is composed of a generous amount of sisal suspended from steel strings. Originating from southeast Mexico, the resistant fiber has been successfully cultivated since the late 19th century in the region of present-day Tanzania, once part of the colony of German East Africa.[1] Its production has played a major role in the country’s economy, from the colonial era through independence.

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Tenth Anniversary

Best of 2015 – Jennifer Moon, Jemima Wyman, and Robby Herbst at Commonwealth & Council

As part of our ten-year anniversary celebrations, were considering the best of a decade of arts criticism. Todays selection comes from the editor in chief of our sister publication, Art Practical: Kara Q. Smith opines, “It’s not easy to write about three shows in 1,000 words, but what I love about this review by Matt Stromberg is his ability to nod to the [California] art history that informs these artists while synthesizing the contemporary acuteness of the projects at hand. Spend some time revisiting each one, theyll feel as prescient as ever.” This article was originally published on December 1, 2015.

Jennifer Moon. JLS (Jennifer laub Smasher), 2015; K’NEX, Habitrail tubes, popsicle sticks, foam sheets, ceramic 3D print figurines, electrical wire, electrical tape, dental floss, hemp, duck tape, wood, inkjet prints, cardboard, construction paper, foamcore, fabric, folding table; 2 parts: Approx. 68 ½ x 156 x 152 in.; 77 x 48 x 24 in. Courtesy the artist and Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles.

Jennifer Moon. JLS (Jennifer Laub Smasher), 2015; K’NEX, Habitrail tubes, Popsicle sticks, foam sheets, ceramic 3D print figurines, electrical wire, electrical tape, dental floss, hemp, duct tape, wood, inkjet prints, cardboard, construction paper, foamcore, fabric, folding table; 2 parts: approx. 68 ½ x 156 x 152 in.; 77 x 48 x 24 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles.

As contemporary art seems to be increasingly the province of the 1%, with continual record-breaking auctions, it may be difficult to appreciate the revolutionary origins of modernism. Early 20th-century art movements like Constructivism, Futurism, and Dada sought an aesthetic, social, and political break with the past, often with utopian goals for the future. A trio of solo shows at Commonwealth & Council aim to reinvigorate contemporary art with this revolutionary zeal.

With her Phoenix Rising series, Jennifer Moon explores the revolutionary potential of love, with ample doses of candor and humor. One particularly memorable image from Phoenix Rising, Part 2 features Moon seated in a “Black Panther”-style wicker chair, with her Pomeranian at her feet, both of them wearing matching red berets. For Moon, the personal is indeed political. A far cry from Kazimir Malevich’s severe, stark black square, Moon’s work is idiosyncratic and playful, though her aims are no less radical. Phoenix Rising, Part 3: Laub, Me, and The Revolution (The Theory of Everything) resembles a junior-high-school science fair exhibit that provides a blueprint for revolution on both a macro and micro scale. The centerpiece is JLS (Jennifer Laub Smasher) (2015), a model made of Popsicle sticks and construction toys that snakes through the gallery. It resembles a DIY version of the Large Hadron Collider, only instead of smashing protons together, it will send Moon and her partner Laub hurtling toward one another at the speed of light. Instead of the Higgs boson particle, they are searching for a new form of love free from “hierarchies, binaries, and capital,” as an explanatory panel states. 3D-printed figures of the pair stand at the entry point, ready to embark on their experiment. It is a charming and whimsical riff on quantum theory.

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Tenth Anniversary

Best of 2014 – #Hashtags: Culture, Class, and the New Economy

As part of our ten-year anniversary celebrations, were considering the best of a decade of arts criticism. Todays selection comes from our executive director Michele Carlson, who writes, “I reread this essay the same day that San Francisco’s first fleet of self-driving Uber cars rolled out and one sailed straight through a red light in front of SFMOMA. This comes on the heels of the tragic Ghost Ship fire in Oakland that cannot be disconnected from the unmanageable housing and gentrification crisis facing the Bay Area. Anuradha Vikram’s essay is still poignant, reminding us of how quickly a city changes, how fiercely that impacts its citizens, and how immovable the proverbial peg remains.” This article was originally published on January 27, 2014.

Stephanie Syjuco. Bedazzle a Tech Bus (I Mock Up Your Ideas): John Gourley "Gringo" Bus, 2014. Digital image. Submission to Mission Local's "Bedazzle a Tech Bus" Call for Entries.

Stephanie Syjuco. Bedazzle a Tech Bus (I Mock Up Your Ideas): John Gourley “Gringo” Bus, 2014. Digital image. Submission to Mission Local’s “Bedazzle a Tech Bus” Call for Entries.

#access #technology #gentrification #class #labor #place

The recent election of Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York was hailed by many as a sign that the trend of economic displacement in major American urban centers was coming to an end. De Blasio ran on a progressive platform of government that serves the neediest, rather than campaign donors, and won handily on that message despite the city’s twelve prior years of wealth consolidation under billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg. Even de Blasio’s art credentials are more populist than those of his philanthropist predecessor, whose namesake corporation appears on the donor boards of several major institutions in the city. While many have greeted his inauguration with a level of optimism not seen since President Obama’s first term, far fewer have raised the necessary question of what exactly defines the problems and the solutions we hope he will seek. Using current discussions of gentrification, shifting labor conditions, and the role of the arts in creativity and culture, I will attempt to do this here.

Artist Martha Rosler’s recent book, Culture Class (2013), is a herculean attempt to frame the scope and the terms of the gentrification debate as it concerns artists and other laborers in the new “creative economy.” Her critique centers on the influential theories of Richard Florida, whose Rise of the Creative Class (2002) is credited with establishing that term. Rosler gained prominence in the 1970s as a conceptual photographer and video artist deconstructing the implicit social conditioning conveyed by popular images in works such as The Bowery in Two Descriptive Systems (1974-75) and House Beautiful: Bringing the War Back Home (1967-72). Her extensively researched book identifies other theorists of urban renewal, addressing their perspectives from race, gender, and class angles. Her discussion of Florida’s legacy outlines how his acolytes in business, education, and urban planning have promoted an idea of contemporary white-collar labor as a creative pursuit while promoting investment in the arts as a benefit to property values. As such, wage laborers are encouraged to consider themselves engaged in fulfilling acts of creativity rather than trading their labor for compensation. Artists are supported and valued for their ability to revitalize buildings and neighborhoods rather than for their contributions to the breadth of human experience.

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