Slaying Monsters: The 2016 Kuandu Biennale, Taipei

It sounds like the start of a fairy tale. Ten curators from nine different countries are given a task to perform: Each must choose one artist with whom to create a major show. The resulting Kuandu Biennale in Taipei, Slaying Monsters, is made up of separate “solo exhibitions” from Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Taiwan, an interesting spin on the usual biennale format and a challenge to its conventional predictability. The Kuandu Biennale puts curatorial practice front and center, a potentially risky strategy, but in so doing, close collaborations between the curators and their chosen artists result in a theatrically engaging, conceptually rigorous, and provocative exhibition, with moments of real excitement. Taking its title from the world of video games, the biennale challenges the “gamification” of the artworld—the contemporary emphasis on spectacle, gossip, art stars, and international uber-curators—with its interesting and unexpected inclusions.

Tsubaki Noburu. Daisy Bell, 2014; polyester cloth, 700 x 600 x 800 cm. Courtesy of the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts.

Tsubaki Noburu. Daisy Bell, 2014; polyester cloth; 700 x 600 x 800 cm. Courtesy of the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts.

Tsubaki Noboru’s 2014 Daisy Bell (curator Kenichiro Mogi) dominates the entrance to the gallery. An artist who has continually reinvented himself since his involvement in the Japanese “mono-ha” painting movement, Noboru’s work references popular culture, myth, and Japanese tradition. Daisy Bell is a giant inflatable creature that looms over the spectator, at once cute and monstrous. This ambiguous, almost entirely featureless hybrid love-child of Jeff Koons’ Puppy and a creature from the imaginary world of a medieval bestiary insists, as soon as the visitor enters the exhibition, that monsters are already among us.

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Black Panther Party: 50th Anniversary Exhibitions

Seven exhibitions in Oakland and Berkeley commemorate the Black Panther Party’s (BPP) founding in October 1966. The celebration of one of the most successful and provocative social and political movements in American history reflects upon the Party’s profound influence. As Party member and long-time activist and educator Ericka Huggins notes, the breadth of engagement helped spread the Party’s resistance message: “The Black Panther Party always had art, music, dance, even fashion, as a way of thinking about how we shift cultural awareness.”

Fashion show, 50 Years Later: The Art Show, October 7, 2016; SoleSpace, Oakland. Photo: Senay Alkebu-Lan

Fashion show, 50 Years Later: The Art Show, October 7, 2016, SoleSpace, Oakland. Photo: Senay Alkebu-Lan

Over the previous five decades, institutional recognition of BPP accomplishments has proceeded, with slowly increasing attention to the iconic work of artist and former BPP Minister of Culture Emory Douglas in book and exhibition form. Rather than waiting for the Panthers to be celebrated in spaces where Whiteness and the benefactors of its privilege hold sway, Party members and allies have, for years, staged exhibitions and performances in both traditional and unconventional spaces. The Party’s fiftieth anniversary carries forward the legacy that protest, or celebration, can take place anywhere, while demonstrating art’s potential to galvanize and venerating those who have fallen.

One of the two largest exhibitions, All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50 at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA), comprehensively elucidates the Party’s origin, activities, accomplishments, and the direct influence they have in today’s fight against institutional racism and its agents. While the other regional exhibitions (The Point Is…2.0: Black Panther Party 50th Exhibit at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 50 Years Later: The Art Show at SoleSpace, and ICONIC: Black Panther at American Steel Studios) pay homage to the Party’s rich visual legacy through specific aspects of the Party’s history—including women’s participation and influence throughout the Party or the Ten-Point Plan—All Power to the People provides both a thorough historical overview and contemporary meditations by artists Carrie Mae Weems, David Huffman, Hank Willis Thomas, Sadie Barnette, Trevor Paglen, and William Cordova.

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Odd Jobs

Odd Jobs: Kalup Linzy

Welcome to the second issue of “Odd Jobs,” in which we explore the many jobs artists hold in order to support their art practice. I spoke with Kalup Linzy, a New York–based performance and video artist famous for his soap opera–style video works, such as a piece produced for the Studio Museum in Harlem titled All My Churen. Linzy uses low-tech productions methods and often plays multiple characters in each of his videos. He has received numerous awards, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the Creative Capital Foundation Grant, an Art Matters Grant, the Jerome Foundation Grant, the Harpo Foundation Grant, and the Headlands Alumni Award Residency.

Kalup Linzy. Romantic Loner. 2013 (still); video; 73:00. Courtesy of the artist.

Kalup Linzy. Romantic Loner, 2013 (still); video; 73:00. Courtesy of the Artist.

Calder Yates: You went to college at University of South Florida, and then you got your graduate degree there. Did you take any time between undergrad and grad school?

Kalup Linzy: Nope. From age 5 to 26, I was in the system as a student. In college I worked in the Winn Dixie photo-lab department. When I finished grad school, somebody suggested I go back to the photo lab and I was like “no way.” I didn’t want to be standing in the Winn Dixie photo lab department with a graduate degree. So then, when I got to New York, there was a brief period for like a year where I had to get public assistance and I had to get food stamps and I was so embarrassed because I had a master’s degree. And the social worker was like, “Why are you embarrassed?” It’s not that I was freeloading, it just got to the point where I needed the extra help.

CY: Did you find a job?

KL: I found a temp agency and started working for The Mark [Hotel]. It was 2005. The Mark actually wanted to hire me full time because I guess I was the only one willing to get up at 3:30 or 4 a.m. to oversee the kitchen. I would get off around 2 o’clock. But I didn’t have the energy to go to art stuff because I literally had to be in bed by 7 or 8 p.m. to wake up the next morning to do it all over again. And then I got the Marie Walsh Sharpe residency and I was able to quit the job. Since then, I haven’t done anything completely outside of art.

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Tenth Anniversary

10 Questions for Julie Henson

Happy birthday, Daily Serving! This month marks our tenth year of bringing you some of the smartest art writing, and since this is such a momentous anniversary, we’re going to be celebrating for the next few months. Today we bring you an excerpt from our interview with Daily Serving’s first Managing Editor, Julie Henson, who has been involved with the site since its inception.

Julie Henson in her studio in Los Angeles.

Julie Henson in her studio in Los Angeles.

The importance of having an artist-run publication:

I guess I never really saw it as an artist-run publication, even though it surely has been since the very beginning. Honestly, I think both Seth and I wanted to push ourselves outside of our studio practices, and this was one of the ways we did it. I do however think that when artists take on challenges outside of producing artwork, it leads to exciting and unexpected results. I also think that artists are often good at allowing themselves to do things that other people say don’t make sense. I can’t tell you how many times people said, “Oh, the content is too long, no one is going to read it, maybe only write a sentence and let the rest be photos,” or, “You aren’t going to get advertisers unless you invest in one specific local market or focus on the bigger institutions.” But Seth and I both relied on our community to push Daily Serving into the world and make it sustain itself with a unique vision. And I think more realistic, less stubbornly ideological people wouldn’t have stuck it out for so many years. These are traits that aren’t solely found in artists, but definitely run deep in many of the artists I know. Stubbornness, conviction, and creativity to make things work despite the odds are only a few of the reasons why I think it’s important for artists to run publications, nonprofits, and otherwise.

In 2017, online arts publications should be focusing on:

Representing those who are underrepresented. Maybe it’s just because I’m answering this question after watching the U.S. follow in the footsteps of so many other countries pulling back their progressive policies to be more nationalistic, more xenophobic, and overall less compassionate. But I do think that diversity of content in an online arts publication is still one of the major issues in the contemporary art world. Like many other markets, the art world provides its affection to those at the top and occasionally an up-and-comer with “momentum.” In my mind, this is an incredibly limited view of art and its possibilities. Leveling the playing field by covering the New York blockbusters alongside the tiny little art space in a place where the art world doesn’t often turn its attention is a perfect way to show the range of truly significant artists and artwork in the world. So I think arts publications in 2017 should give thoughtful consideration to those people, places, and things that are expanding the ways in which art and culture are defined, everywhere.

Read the full interview here.


From the Archives

From the Archives — Memoria (Memory): Bibiana Suárez at Hyde Park Art Center

Looking back to another election year, in 2012 author Randall Miller noted, “The language surrounding immigration, espoused by the [GOP] candidates as well as other jingoist hardliners, has become so vitriolic and so reduced that hyperbole strategically crowds out any sober dialogue that addresses the complexity of the issue.” In the face of those who advocate overtly prejudiced perspectives, today from our archives we bring you a refreshing reminder of artistic intervention against such monolithic rhetoric. This article was originally published on January 21, 2012.

L-R: Bibiana Suárez. Aves raras (mexicanos) no. 1/Strange Birds (Mexicans) no. 1, 2005-2011; archival inkjet print on aluminum panel (map courtesy of the University of Chicago’s Special Collections); 24 x 24 in. Bibiana Suárez. Aves raras (mexicanos) no. 2/Strange Birds (Mexicans) no. 2, 2005-2011; archival inkjet print (map courtesy of the University of Chicago’s Special Collections); 24 x 24 in.

The year 2012 has arrived and it can mean only one thing: the apocalypse. Will the End Times be ushered in by the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar reaching its end date? We can’t be sure until late December! What has become painfully certain, however, is that we are in an election year. And, while the economy looms large in the minds of most Americans, immigration is not far behind.

Will America eventually choose a candidate who would grant “amnesty” (read: anything resembling legal status or citizenship) to the millions of undocumented people living and working in this country, ushering in the likely demise of the U.S.? Or will we the people elect a man patriotic enough to send all the illegal Cuban, Chinese, Honduran, and Southeast Asian immigrants back to where they came from; namely, Mexico? The fate of the country and the soul of freedom hang in the balance! At least that would seem to be the choice as presented by the Republican candidates during the never-ending cycle of GOP primary debates. The language surrounding immigration, espoused by the candidates as well as other jingoist hardliners, has become so vitriolic and so reduced that hyperbole strategically crowds out any sober dialogue that addresses the complexity of the issue or pathos for the individuals most affected by immigration enforcement.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Ewa Doroszenko

It can be difficult to tell which parts of Ewa Doroszenko’s works are digital and which are physical, though perhaps this lack of distinction is what makes her series The Promise of Sublime Words most potent. By combining digital and analog processes so seamlessly, Doroszenko’s practice blurs their boundaries to the point of meaninglessness. The result is a body of work that demands a reevaluation of its aesthetic significance: What would it mean to equate digital renderings with IRL arrangements, to smooth out their differences and claim that a Photoshop manipulation is no different from a physical fold or tear?

Ewa Doroszenko. Image from the series The Promise of Sublime Words, 2016; digital print; size variable. Courtesy of the Artist.

Ewa Doroszenko. Image from the series The Promise of Sublime Words, 2016; digital print; size variable. Courtesy of the Artist.

By proposing such questions, The Promise of Sublime Words asks a viewer to consider whether the production process of an image matters. Doroszenko created the series through a variety of methods, including collage and both digital and physical manipulation. She has employed many methods of image making: taking photographs of textbook illustrations, printing the photographs, physically manipulating the prints, placing them in a tableau, taking photographs of the scene, and then digitally manipulating those photos. This multilayered approach frustrates a viewer’s ability to discern which part of the image was created by the artist’s physical hand and which via digital proxy. The final images exist digitally and can be printed at varying sizes. The fluidity with which Doroszenko works across these modes insists that a viewer reckon with the existential: What is real and what is simulation, and what does it mean if you can’t tell?

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From the Archives

From the Archives – Black Chronicles II at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art

“New struggles for civil and race rights continue to challenge and mine the unequal fields of representation within American political life.” So writes author Jordan Amirkhani, who explored this exhibition earlier in 2016, and connected these studio portraits from the late 1800s to current images from the Black Lives Matter movement. Today from our archives we consider Black visibility in culture and history. This article was originally published on May 2, 2016.

Peter Jackson aka ‘The Black Prince’. London Stereoscopic Company, 2 December 1889. 42.5 x 31.5”. Framed & Unglazed. Courtesy of © Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

London Stereoscopic Company. Peter Jackson Aka the ‘Black Prince'; December 2, 1889; 42.5 x 31.5 in. Courtesy of Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Born on the Danish island colony of Saint Croix with two generations of slaves behind him, the champion heavyweight boxer Peter Jackson cuts a lean and noble figure in his 1889 photographic portrait, his top hat perched level upon his head, his elegant Victorian garments pressed, his stylish accoutrements placed as evidence of his social persona as a gentleman–dandy. The portrait was taken just a year after his defeat of George “Old Chocolate” Godfrey, which gained him the “World Colored Heavyweight Championship” title, and the commanding confidence of his gaze and body language tells us that this is not a man easily bested. However, Jackson’s popularity in Great Britain (his nickname in the British press was “The Prince”) and powerful self-presentation in the photograph do not wipe away the historical context of the image, namely an era of tremendous institutional racism and oppression of Black subjects in 19th-century Britain, and the nation’s merciless colonial expansions on the continent of Africa and in the Middle East. As empowering as it is ambiguous, Jackson’s portrait belies the complicated admixture of cultural codes and fantasies imposed upon the Black subject in visual representation, and points to the unsettled struggle between the subject’s own agency, their mediation through the eye of the camera, and the conditions of Black cultural politics.

Jackson’s image is just one of the many striking photographic portraits included in Black Chronicles II at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta, Georgia, that activate an important dialogue about the history and record of Black faces and bodies within Western culture. Organized in its original formation by the British photographic institute Autograph ABP in 2014, and curated by two of its most prominent staff members, Renée Massai and Mark Sealy, Black Chronicles II embodies Autograph’s commitment to mining public and private archives of images for the absent Black subject—a mission that “renders visible” the gaps, omissions, and absences within historical annals. In its move to Atlanta, the exhibition opens up a new strand of conversation around the history of the Black subject in the United States and asks viewers to make connections between the British and American formations of empire, racism, and colonialism.

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