If You Don’t Know Me By Now, You Will Never Never Never Know Me at Fundacja Arton

In light of Monday’s women-led strike in Poland, in which thousands of people in over sixty cities gathered to protest the government’s proposal to completely ban abortion, If You Don’t Know Me By Now, You Will Never Never Never Know Me at Fundacja Arton seems exceptionally prescient. The exhibition brings together seven works of film or video made by women between the years of 1973 and 1982, presenting a small but influential selection of startlingly direct explorations of femininity and culture.


Letítia Parente. Task 1, 1982; video, color, sound; 1:56.

Of all the works in the show, American audiences will be most familiar with Martha Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975), in which the artist dons an apron and demonstrates the uses of an abecedarium of kitchen implements: bowl, chopper, dish, eggbeater. This is a straight-faced inventory; Rosler simply announces the name of each tool and then pantomimes its use. But unlike a cheerful Julia Child–style exposition, the violence in Rosler’s gestures exposes the resentment behind the toil of household drudgery. When she announces ice pick, she stabs it dramatically into a chopping block like a modern-day Clytemnestra.

In a similarly domestic vein, Letítia Parente’s Task 1 (1982) shows a woman in light-colored clothes lying face-down on an ironing board; a woman in a black dress proceeds to iron her body. As the second woman moves the hot tool over the first’s back and legs, she uses her free hand to smooth the folds of cloth, communicating care for the woman underneath the fabric while firmly auditing her appearance. The double-edged message will not be mysterious to any contemporary user of the internet, where “fitspo” memes, slut-shaming tweets, and gender-policing Facebook posts show that women continue to be harsh judges of each other’s appearance and status, often under the guise of “just wanting to help.”

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From the Archives – Sharon Lockhart: Lunch Break at SFMOMA

Today from our archives we bring you a review of Sharon Lockhart’s most recent solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: “The beauty of Lunch Break is that its attenuated moments make it difficult to lock onto a single interpretation,” wrote author Rob Marks. This evening Lockhart is presenting a lecture at California College of the Arts in San Francisco as part of the Larry Sultan Visiting Artist Program, a collaboration with Pier 24 Photography and SFMOMA. This article was originally published on December 5, 2011.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art defies the normal boundary between landing and gallery at the entrance to the fourth-floor space that houses Sharon Lockhart’s Lunch Break, 2008. Photo: Saul Rosenfield, ©2011, with permission of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The stairway to the fourth floor of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art leads me directly toward a long, narrow, darkened space, at the end of which is the image of another, much longer passageway. In that image, a concrete floor below and light fixtures above trace a trajectory toward infinity punctuated by pipes, wires, hoses, storage boxes, tools, and lockers. The scene is not monochrome—red, blue, yellow, orange, and green are common—nor is it dark, but the fluorescent lights, the faded floor, the absent windows, and the constrained path—no more than five feet wide—suggest that this is a place to travel through, not a place in which to settle.

This sensation is amplified by the fact that the image, I slowly realize, is moving. Inch-by-inch down the corridor, the slow-motion journey of what turns out to be Sharon Lockhart’s film, Lunch Break (2008), might be confused with a series of stills. Lockhart, who says she is interested in “duration,” describes her method of filmmaking as “photographic.”[1] Despite appearances, the film is not typical slow-motion; Lockhart has digitally inserted eight repetitions of each frame, ballooning a 10-minute, 1,200-foot traverse into an 80-minute encounter. It is a film engaged in repeating moments, in suspending, not slowing, time. It asks me, in effect, to witness the moment once, and then again, and then again. It proposes that I might answer the question, “What do you see?” only by pondering yet another, “Do you see what you see?”

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New York

Sophia Al-Maria: Black Friday at the Whitney Museum of American Art

In George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), a character posits that the zombies are flocking to the mall because of “[s]ome kind of instinct. Memory. It’s what they used to do. This is an important place in their lives.” As Romero’s zombies siege the mall, the filmmaker critiques consumerism and how it has penetrated the human condition. The mall acts as a refuge, housing a bounty of merchandise that could sustain the protagonists into the apocalypse, but also becomes a site of horror. Without the gore of flesh-eating zombies, Sophia Al-Maria: Black Friday at the Whitney Museum of America Art presents an equally ominous vision of malls in the Gulf region. Qatar, where the artist was partially raised, has been negotiating its nomadic and Bedouin heritage, being a former British colony, and becoming an oil-rich independent country engaged with Western brands and consumer culture. Al-Maria provocatively probes the simulation and disorientation involved in place—electronic or physical—as it relates to conspicuous consumption and her investigation of “Gulf Futurism.”

Sophia Al-Maria. Black Friday, 2016, and The Litany, 2016, Installation view. Sophia Al-Maria: Black Friday (July 26-October 31, 2016).  Collection of the artist; courtesy Anna Lena Films, Paris and The Third Line, Dubai.  Whitney Museum of American Art; New York. Photograph by Ron Amstutz.

Sophia Al-Maria. Black Friday, 2016, and The Litany, 2016; installation view, Sophia Al-Maria: Black Friday (July 26-October 31, 2016), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Collection of the Artist. Courtesy of Anna Lena Films, Paris and the Third Line, Dubai. Photo: Ron Amstutz.

Al-Maria exhibits two works, Black Friday (2016) and The Litany (2016), that hold together as a single piece through their proximity and related content. The artist presents Black Friday as a narrow but epically tall floor-to-ceiling video projection. In contrast, The Litany occupies the adjacent ground with a jumble of flashing smartphones and flatscreen monitors strewn about a low pile of sand—a reference to the Gulf desert and landscape in general. While the physicality of the work plays with verticality and horizontality—thus portrait and landscape—Al-Maria’s video Black Friday interrupts this clarity with whirling and askew camera angles. Despite occupying only a narrow portion of the gallery’s walls and floor, the thundering soundtrack of horns, synthetic sounds, and bits of voiced narrative reverberates and activates the entire gallery, even extending into the lobby. As Al-Maria plays with spatial relationships, viewers navigate their orientation to image, object, and sound, both establishing and confusing landscape and place.

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Odd Jobs

Odd Jobs: Jibz Cameron/Dynasty Handbag

Welcome to the first issue of “Odd Jobs,” in which we explore artists’ day jobs. Many artists have held very odd jobs in order to support their art practice, and more often than not these jobs go unspoken and yet end up informing their work. Today we chat with Jibz Cameron, a Los Angeles-based performance and video artist who performs as her alter ego, Dynasty Handbag. Apart from her short video productions, she has performed at the New Museum, Performa Biennial, The Kitchen NYC, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, and the REDCAT presented by The Broad in Los Angeles, California. She performed I, an moron at The Hammer Museum on October 2, 2016.

Dynasty Handbag. Good Morning Evening Feelings, 2015; performance at The Kitchen, NYC. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Paula Court.

Dynasty Handbag. Good Morning Evening Feelings, 2015; performance at the Kitchen, NYC. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Paula Court.

Calder Yates: You grew up on a hippie commune, is that right? Did that experience inform your perspective around work?

Jibz Cameron: You mean having zero responsibility and absolutely no willingness to earn money? Yup! My mom never really held a job. Mostly she cleaned hotel rooms and babysat. Sometimes she worked for preschools. Mostly we were on welfare and food stamps with my mom.

My dad broke his back when I was young and was in a body cast for a year. He went through law school while in the cast at home and taught himself how to be a lawyer. He was really smart. He became an attorney, but we lived up in the woods and nobody had money, so he ended up trading law work for an old car, stuff like that.

CY: What odd jobs have you held?

JC: Most of my work life, before I started to have respectable job titles, I was in the service industry. I worked the day shift at the Lexington Club, a lesbian bar [in San Francisco, since closed]. It was, I don’t know, pretty bleak, I have to say. There’s nothing like a lonely, alcoholic lesbian to, you know, dampen your thoughts of the future. But I bar-backed on the weekends when all the cool people were there and I got to make out with girls in the stairwell.

The weirdest place I’ve ever worked at, by far, was this chain restaurant, Buca di Beppo, in 1999. They had five-liter magnums of wine that were really cheap. One time there was a stripper. Another time there was a fraternity reunion party, which was a total horror show … people were throwing food. The waitstaff was just like wasted and doing blow in the service station. I had a friend, who was a server, who overdosed on heroin, in the restaurant, on the job.

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Jen Bervin and Dianna Frid

From our friends at BOMB Magazine, today we bring you a conversation between artists Jen Bervin and Dianna Frid. They discuss color as a system of classification, Art Povera, and language. Diana Frid says “In classifying, I’m also alluding to the absurdity of classification, because no one is reducible to just one thing. All systems start out idiosyncratically.” This piece was originally published in BOMB 137, Fall 2016.

Dianna Frid. NYT. APRIL 24, 2014, RICHARD H. HOGGART, 2014; embroidery floss and graphite mounted on canvas, 15 × 20 inches. Photo: Tom Van Eynde.

Dianna Frid. NYT. APRIL 24, 2014, RICHARD H. HOGGART, 2014; embroidery floss and graphite mounted on canvas; 15 × 20 in. Photo: Tom Van Eynde.

Restoring, overwriting, removing, and color-coding are just some of the actions that come to mind looking at the interdisciplinary works of Jen Bervin and Dianna Frid. Each in her own way explores the intersection of text and textile, where writing is a physical, intimate gesture. Both artists employ embroidery, sewing, and weaving to craft works that test the boundary between the visible and the legible.

To immerse oneself in the projects of Bervin and Frid is to be reminded that poetry lies in wait—in dusty Latin tomes, in ornate capitulares, in New York Times obituaries—to be revealed through radical acts of transformation. Their practice is one of palimpsest, in which existing text is repurposed through a combination of buildup and erasure to uncover what is essential.

Frid creates sculptures, installations, and artist’s books, often involving found text and archival material. Her recent book, Apuntes, thread-annotates photographs of classical Greek and Roman sculpture with suggestive pattern diagrams from weaving manuals.

Bervin’s work includes performances, drawings, and conceptual projects. She has published nine books, including Emily Dickinson: The Gorgeous Nothings (Christine Burgin/New Directions, 2013), the first full-color facsimile edition of Dickinson’s manuscripts.

Read the full article here.


Shotgun Reviews

Fiamma Montezemolo: The Secret at Kadist, San Francisco

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, Leila Easa reviews Fiamma Montezemolo: The Secret at Kadist in San Francisco.

Fiamma Montezemolo. Neon Afterwords (The Secret installation view), 2016; LED lights and text. Courtesy of the Artist and Kadist, San Francisco. Photo: Jeff Warrin.

Fiamma Montezemolo. Neon Afterwords, 2016; LED lights and text; installation view, The Secret. Courtesy of the Artist and Kadist, San Francisco. Photo: Jeff Warrin.

Like many other fascinating thought exercises, artist and anthropologist Fiamma Montezemolo’s The Secret at Kadist in San Francisco begins with Jorge Luis Borges. The title refers to the climax of Borges’ 1969 story “The Anthropologist,”[1] which chronicles American academic Fred Murdock’s attempts to document a Native American tribe’s “secret.” Murdock eventually assimilates into the culture of his “other” enough to dream in a new language, both literal and symbolic, and thus receives the secret. Returning to academia, Murdoch refuses to divulge this very information; once he has lived outside of his culture, he no longer values its priorities. Knowing the secret is predicated on becoming it.

Montezemolo replicates Murdock’s displacement visually, conceptually, and spatially. Neon Afterwords (2016) represents this disrupted world with its starkly gorgeous display of three hanging copies of Borges books, casting shadows as serious and architectural as church windows. Displaying the text of the story, the books are displaced onto walls and interrupted by tape blocking key phrases: “it has one character,” “he came to dream in a language,” and “the teacher taught him the secret” have been obfuscated.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Matt Lee

There is a certain playful unknowability to Matt Lee’s work. As preoccupied with structure as its inverse, Lee’s pieces suggest an interaction with the intangible that is at once wholly serious and strangely lighthearted. Confronted by subjects like death, absence, and emptiness, a viewer might expect an oeuvre weighted down by existential dread, but in Lee’s work, these subjects become lively participants in conversation with their environs. Though they offer little in the way of consolation about oblivion, Lee’s pieces propose a wry characterization of the unknown that is rather cheeky; death may be coming, but it feels oddly familiar.

Matt Lee. Untitled, from Presence of Absence, 2011; archival inkjet print, 14.2 x 21.3 cm. Courtesy of the Artist.

Matt Lee. Untitled, from Presence of Absence, 2011; archival inkjet print; 14.2 x 21.3 cm. Courtesy of the Artist.

In the aptly named series Presence of Absence (2011), emptiness is a figurative entity intruding upon the mundane. Lee created this series in response to his move to Bangalore, as he tried to make sense of his new home. A viewer might imagine the artist being surrounded by signs full of meaning but rendered meaningless by unfamiliarity. In the series, absence is made into an insistent material presence. As this looming void becomes more tangible and undeniable, its character becomes almost approachable. In some works, there is an endearing shyness to the black masses peering over rooftops or peeking around buildings. Lee does not so much demystify oblivion as render it surprisingly friendly.

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