From the Archives

From the Archives – Fan Mail: Darren Jones

In this week’s Fan Mail, we take another look at the work of Darren Jones, a multidisciplinary artist in New York City. Jones’ work takes shape across numerous forms and topics, but it is frequently critical in ways that the contemporary media is often unable to be. In assessments of the hyper-sexual and excessive culture of Fire Island Pines—a historic mecca for gay men—and the overt and aggressive presence of advertising and brand marketing, Jones’ work reminds us of the importance of art as a tool for pointed yet humorous critique. This article was originally published on October 24, 2013.

Darren Jones. Deeper Understanding, 2008; Broken computer, additional and rearranged keyboard keys; 11 x 17 x 11 in. Courtesy the artist.

Darren Jones. Deeper Understanding, 2008; broken computer, additional and rearranged keyboard keys; 11 x 17 x 11 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Darren Jones works across a wide range of forms and subjects, often displaying an adroit sense of humor in his installations, sculptures, digital images, and text-based artworks. However, Jones’ work is not only a series of well-pitched interventions and rearrangements; there is a poetic and delicate seriousness that complicates much of what he makes.

Deeper Understanding (2008) turns his old broken laptop, stuck in the process of starting up, into a readymade sculpture. The keyboard of the haggard PC computer has been altered to read, “I know that you are feeling tired,” as though Jones is trying to communicate his appreciation for the now-broken computer’s lost memory and functionality. This ode to a personal computer, lost and gone, gives levity to an experience that can be quite trying and that many people have gone through at least once.

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London

Nikita Kadan: Limits of Responsibility at Waterside Contemporary

Hope is a powerful catalyst for change, fueling courage and idealism in equal parts. It projects a vision of a future that is better than the present. Once people are moved with hope, extraordinary things can happen. But what happens to hope when a people are continuously subjugated for over six centuries? If Kiev-based artist Nikita Kadan’s quietly intense installation at Waterside Contemporary is an answer, what remains is a stark and isolated arrangement in which the possibility of joy has been bled out generations ago—and this is a good thing. Limits of Responsibility is a blueprint for a future that is very aware of the limits to what is idealistically possible.

Nikita Kadan. Protection of Plants, 2014; collage; 39.5 x 54.5 cm (15.5 x 21.46 in). Courtesy of the Artist and Waterside Contemporary, London. NFC.

Nikita Kadan. Protection of Plants, 2014; collage; 15 1/2 x 21 1/2 in. (39.5 x 54.5 cm). Courtesy the Artist and Waterside Contemporary, London.

The show is divided into three bodies of work that thematically intersect. Pulling from centuries of peasant farming traditions, Kadan ties the show together with the vegetable, using it as a symbolic motif of healing. This is most evident in a series of framed collages, Protection of Plants (2014), that are the strongest pieces in the show. Each piece consists of a photograph of a building visibly damaged from a military assault, with illustrations of vegetables layered over the image. The photographic style has the feel of a snapshot; it’s very much about the present condition. The illustrations’ origins are not offered, but from their washed-out, ethereal style, it’s obvious that they all come from the same pre-digital book. The vegetables, carefully extracted from their constructed context, float evenly over the image and randomly obscure parts of the picture. There is no attempt to blend or make it appear that the two layers go together visually or conceptually. The idealized plant and brutalized present exist separately but together. It’s as though Kadan is constructing a situation in which each of the original context’s failures are exposed through the failure of the new construction—each plane gains strength from the honesty of their union.

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Houston

Double Life at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

In Double Life, now on view at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, it is clear that the city is in the midst of becoming one of the most interesting and significant locations for performance art in the southeast—a statement confirmed by the national attention given recently to the performance art collective DiverseWorks, the emergence of the Lone Star Explosion International Performance Art Biennale in 2012, and the construction of the interdisciplinary Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts in collaboration with the University of Houston in 2014.[1] The curatorial impulse for Double Life—to explore and expand representational and conceptual notions of performance within the museum—is presented through the work of three very different artists: the French conceptual choreographer Jérôme Bel, Los Angelesbased performance artist and filmmaker Wu Tsang, and the South Korean multimedia artist Haegue Yang. Given the recent increase by major American museums to expand their commitment to artists making live work, Double Life offers a strong argument of what movement means or might be able to mean in the art gallery in the twenty-first century. However, while Double Life does indeed enrich the current international conversation about movement and performance in the museum, the exhibition does more to identify the conditions inherent in the viewing of performance (specifically, the ways in which performances call and constitute audiences to their subject positions) and the problems manifested by the museum’s incorporation and domestication of “liveness” than it does to simply present movement.[2]

Jérôme Bel. Performance Still from Veronique Doisneau. 2004. Image courtesy of the artist.

Jérôme Bel. Performance Still from Veronique Doisneau, 2004. Image courtesy the artist.

Double Life features two videos of live performances conceived by Jérôme Bel, whose work has re-charged the conservative dance scene through its blatant critique of the repressive codes of representation that structure concertized dance. By emphasizing the disciplinary constructs that enclose notions of “the subject” within his dances, Bel bypasses the conventions of anti-bourgeois vulgarity and Dada-inspired shock tactics that often feature in contemporary performance art to focus more on the emancipatory origins of twentieth-century modern dance, wherein questions of freedom were entwined with questions of individual expression and the inner self.[3] In Veronique Doisneau (2004) and Cédric Andrieux (2009)—named after the individual dancers featured in the films—Bel de-familiarizes the strict codes of behavior that surround a performance by giving the two dancers opportunities to speak directly to the audience and reveal the feelings of alienation and boredom that accompany a dancer’s experience. Comprising short monologues, movements that quote from Doisneau and Andrieux’s performance repertoire, and long durations of silence and stillness, the performances pierce the space between performer and viewer and interrupt the flow of continuous movement that identify traditional dance performances. By staging an encounter in which the audience is forced to listen to the dancer as opposed to watching them, Bel’s works point to the complicated nature of the dancer’s dual role as both the dance’s author and its subject—a subject that must silently submit to a network of other authors (the musical coordinates of the composer and the musicians, the representational vision of the choreographer, the technical and aesthetic demands of the art form, and the physical requirements mandated by the history of dance). Bel’s close attention to the ways in which both artist and viewer are simultaneously recruited into and rendered complicit in restrictive performances of aesthetic labor and voyeurism effectively shores up the idea of “double life.”

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New York

Outsider Art Fair 2015

The 2015 Outsider Art Fair, held at Center 548 in the Chelsea gallery district of New York City, marked the twenty-third iteration of the event. It also occurred within a season of mainstream museums prominently featuring the work of so-called outsider artists in very high-profile, insider art spaces. Judith Scott: Bound and Unbound, the artist’s first retrospective, was held at the Brooklyn Museum in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, in a gallery next to the museum’s permanent installation of Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party. When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South at the Studio Museum in Harlem incorporated noted contemporary artists alongside artists often categorized under the labels folk, outsider, vernacular, or self-taught, all who shared an interest in the American South as a real or imagined location. The Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibited its new collection of James Castle’s work. The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced it will be purchasing more than fifty works from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, a nonprofit committed to preserving the work of self-taught African American artists, and is organizing an exhibition around these planned acquisitions in 2016.

Galerie Bourbon-Lally, Outsider Art Fair 2015. Photo: Lia Wilson.

Galerie Bourbon-Lally, Outsider Art Fair 2015. Photo: Lia Wilson.

All of this is to say that the distinctions between the insider and outsider categories have become more blurred and seemingly arbitrary than ever. The growing fluidity between these two worlds is a welcome development to many, as policing the boundaries of outsider art has often contributed to a ghettoization of many artists’ practices, saddling them with assumptions of romanticized mental pathology and/or compulsive, naive, and unexamined modes of creating. Outsider art has always contained highly disparate formal and conceptual styles, as it is the artists’ biographies that determine their inclusion in the field. However, madness, marginalization, and compulsion are not the common denominators of outsider artists; the only commonality is self-education. Relabeling the whole field self-taught art, a much more accurate and expansive designation, is a tough sell particularly when the appetite for outsider art only continues to grow. Regardless of the semantic debate that has long complicated popular understanding of the category’s definition, the annual Outsider Art Fair provides an opportunity to see how its major galleries respond to the changes in the field, all while promoting both emerging and well-known artists to an eager marketplace.

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From the Archives

From the Archives – Help Desk: Your Dynamic & Productive Residency

It’s nearly residency season, so today we’re sharing this helpful gem from our archives. Help Desk is an arts-advice column that demystifies practices for artists, writers, curators, collectors, patrons, and the general public. Submit your questions anonymously here. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving.

I spent last year applying to residency programs in the U.S. and finally got one. How do I maximize my time there? Obviously I’ll be working hard, but is there anything else I should know or do before I go?

Anne Neukamp. Curl, 2013; oil, tempera, and acrylic on canvas, 240 x 190 cm

Anne Neukamp. Curl, 2013; oil, tempera, and acrylic on canvas; 240 x 190 cm.

Congratulations! A residency can be a great place to get a lot of work done, experiment in a new setting, meet like-minded people, or even have a creative breakthrough. However, it’s not easy to take time off work and travel to a place where everything is new (and sometimes overwhelming) and still get a lot of artwork made. To answer your question, I turned to artist Christine Wong Yap, who has worked in residence at Montalvo Arts Center and the Tides Institute and Museum of Art, among others. Here’s what she had to say:

“Be prepared. I’m a planner. I like to find out as much as I can in advance about the residency before I go. I like to know what kinds of tools and equipment they have, and what I’ll need to ship. If the residency is in a remote area, or your residency is only a short duration, ship your tools and materials in advance (if the staff don’t mind receiving your packages for you). This can be expensive and stressful, so having particular projects in mind before arriving helps. Remember, the more remote the residency, the longer it’ll take to receive your packages. You might also consider non-art creature comforts. For example, for me, physical activity makes me less grouchy and more energetic, so a yoga mat and sneakers are must-haves.”

“Be flexible. Residencies are great for experimentation. Explore. Recharge. Be open. Anticipate that other residents may have different agendas, working hours, habits, etc. You will probably be pushed out of your comfort zone, for better and for worse. Contribute positively to the residency community with a good attitude, gratitude, and forbearance. Remember that lots of other applicants wish they had the opportunity you do.”

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Shotgun Reviews

Oscar Muñoz: Sedimentaciones at the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum

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, Danny Olda reviews Oscar Muñoz: Sedimentaciones at the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum in Tampa. 

Oscar Muñoz. Sedimentaciones, 2015; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist, the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, and the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection, Miami.

Oscar Muñoz. Sedimentaciones, 2015; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist, the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, and the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection, Miami.

The gallery is dark save for the surface of three tables illuminated by projectors from above and faint rays of light let in from the nearby lobby. Slips of neatly arranged photographic paper flanked by two sinks are projected onto each table. Some of the papers bear portraits printed with what appears to be charcoal, while others are blank. The artist’s hand enters the projection’s frame, selects a portrait, and dips it in water. The portrait “slips” off the paper and into the sink. The residue of the portrait circles around the drain and finally the face disappears. Soon the process is reversed in the opposite sink as it fills with water and the dark residue of an image. The same hand dips a blank leaf of paper into the water to catch a portrait and returns the new image to the table. The endless gurgles from the six sinks filling and draining murmur throughout the museum. The process resembles table magic. While it is unclear what is happening and how, one thing is for certain: this is an enigmatic alchemical photographic process.

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Boston

By Women, For Women: An Interview with Filmmaker Lili White

Today from our friends at Big Red & Shiny in Boston, we bring you author William J. Simmons‘ article showcasing the work and thoughts of filmmaker Lili White.  Of her work with the Another Experiment by Women Film Festival, White’s says, “[W]hen I see something that really turns me on, it feeds me; I want to show it to somebody else, and make sure others see it. […] We are making an archive of women’s work—of women’s thoughts, their expression.” This article was originally published on January 22, 2015. 

Lili White. Still from FOOL’S GOLD: CALIFORNIA ROADTRIP IN AN ELECTION YEAR. Color; sound; TRT: 78 minutes (2014). Courtesy the artist.

Lili White. Still from FOOL’S GOLD: CALIFORNIA ROADTRIP IN AN ELECTION YEAR, 2014; Color; sound; TRT: 78 min. Courtesy of the Artist.

I founded the Another Experiment by Women (AXW) Film Festival in 2010 after showing my work on a Manhattan Neighborhood Network community TV show—EYE:AM—curated by Victoria Kereszi, who was curating women’s films at the time. She would also present a live show in a theatre once a year at 2 Boots/Pioneer Theater, and later with New Filmmakers at Anthology Film Archives. Victoria was very committed to this and I realized seeing work by women had a different buzz. Growing up as a female with a body that is capable of giving birth to another, you’re going to have a different outlook on life. You have different issues and concerns.

I came out of painting, as did other experimental filmmakers, and I spent some time in the 1990s at Millennium Film Workshop, a nonprofit arts center and cinema where I met other filmmakers. Unfortunately, MFW has fallen on hard times due to rising rents and the depletion of grant funds. MFW gives people a place to come together at open screenings that serve as a show-and-tell of short work. Meeting other people who were interested in personal, experimental films resulted in us formulating experimental theory. These theories then migrated to universities’ curriculums. There is a community of filmmakers out there and MFW reminds us of this; there is no other place like it in the world.

Read the full article here.

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