The Part in the Story Where a Part Becomes a Part of Something Else at Witte de With

The Part in the Story Where a Part Becomes a Part of Something Else is an exhibition that covers a lot of ground. The Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art brings together over fifty artists with multifaceted disciplines, but despite the large scale, the show can be distilled to a few threads that highlight the potential for art to create constructed moments. This underlying premise can be found in one word in the title: “Becomes.” This word reveals the potential of the transitional object of projection, just prior to the actuality of transforming into “Something Else.”

On Kawara. Lat. 31º25'N, Long. 8º41'E, 1965.

On Kawara. Lat. 31º25′N, Long. 8º41′E, 1965; acrylic on canvas; 83.5 x 96.3 x 5.3 cm (32.9 x 37.9 x 2 in). Courtesy of Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven. Photo: Peter Cox.

On Kawara’s Lat. 31º25′N, Long. 8º41′E (1965), one of his rare coordinate works, tells of an exact location. Its addition serves to anchor the show’s general thread of location as a symbolic or constructed place. Without looking up the coordinates, it’s an idea of somewhere else, a projection left to the viewer. Having seen this work the day before the artist’s death, I notice new weight in the piece’s reference to place. Why would Kawara want to make a point of this location? One potential answer might be that it records the location where the work was made, but the coordinates point to the middle of the Grand Erg Oriental, an unlikely part of the Sahara Desert in which to engage in a bit of painting. This is not at all a desirable destination but a place to not be at. However, in 1965, the incredible isolation of Lat. 31º25′N, Long. 8º41′E may have appeared to be the only safe haven from postcolonial global turmoil. Perhaps it’s the only site on Earth that still cannot be imposed upon except conceptually, by coordinate.

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Help Desk

Help Desk: Race & Voice

Help Desk is where I answer your queries about making, exhibiting, finding, marketing, buying, selling–or any other activity related to contemporary art. Submit your questions anonymously here. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving.

I am a writer and curator. I’m also a woman of color. While people think this may not be important, it is! We don’t live in a postracial society. What I find particularly infuriating is when I bring up race, gender, and identity—and then I’m questioned about my stance and my research; sometimes my words are edited to the point where it is no longer my writing. In a few instances, MY VOICE is almost eradicated. I’m upset, and the more I write about art, the more I realize how art institutions (universities, galleries, museums, and publications) have a LONG way to go before they actually showcase writers, art critics, curators, and creative professionals that are underrepresented and obscured. Yes, I understand there are shows dedicated to women and people of color to show diversity, etc., but I don’t care, I’m still going to bring up the question. How do I tell an editor that I’m entitled to my opinion—even if it brings up issues of race, gender, and identity—without being pegged as the “angry brown woman”?

Shinique Smith. Of A Particular Perfume, 2011; Hand-dyed clothing, fabric, binding, and wood 72 x 2 x 52 in.

Shinique Smith. Of a Particular Perfume, 2011; hand-dyed clothing, fabric, binding, and wood; 72 x 2 x 52 in.

In answering this question—which is really a few questions in one—I could write volumes about gender, editorial relations, and the misguided belief that tokenism can correct the problem of institutionalized race-based bias. However, this is a humble advice column and not the Help Desk Unabridged Advice Encyclopedia, so in the interest of brevity I’ve asked some women who have experience with these matters, and I’ve sprinkled this reply liberally with links to further reading for people of all colors. In the interest of getting straight to the point, let me say: First, you need a mentor. You have to have someone you can rely on for guidance, preferably a woman of color who is in your field. A mentor can help you review various issues around writing and editing, critique your performance, help you define your goals, and bolster your professional community. Here are some tips for finding this person.

Next, I want you to focus on building conflict-resolution skills. This will be helpful for you and everyone else reading this column—there is no doubt that every one of us will encounter myriad clashes in the workplace and beyond, and these skills take a while to master. Remember that conflict resolution is not just about mediating disagreements, it’s also about managing stressful situations. Start practicing now, before the world makes you crazy and bitter.

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Shotgun Reviews

My Generation: Young Chinese Artists at Tampa Museum of Art and Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

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 My Generation: Young Chinese Artists, a joint exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, and the Tampa Museum of Art.

Xu Zhen. Fearless, 2012; mixed media on canvas; 254 x 124 ½ in. Produced by MadeIn. Courtesy of the Artist and Long March Space, Beijing.

Xu Zhen. Fearless, 2012; mixed media on canvas; 254 x 124 ½ in. Produced by MadeIn. Courtesy of the Artist and Long March Space, Beijing.

My Generation: Young Chinese Artists is a joint exhibition between two Florida museums: the Tampa Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. Focusing specifically on mainland Chinese artists born after the death of Mao Zedong, it is the first comprehensive U.S. museum survey of the sort. It may be in light of this that the exhibition seems compelled to cover a lot of conceptual ground. Between the two venues, My Generation is segmented into a number of themes running the gamut of contemporary concerns, such as “Family Ties” and “Gestures of Rebellion.” However, because the work is sufficiently varied and complex, the exhibition moves beyond being a primer on Chinese contemporary art.

At the Tampa Museum of Art, under the theme “Gender Roles and Intimate Relationships,” Yan Xing’s black-and-white, single-channel video Arty, Super Arty (2013) cycles through various scenes populated only by men and sparse sets, while visually referencing the work of Edward Hopper and film noir. Little happens throughout the video beyond quiet glances and subtle gestures—characters nearly touch, but never quite make a connection. The film noir atmospherics and melodramatic cinematography give way to a certain lonely sexual potentiality that swells without release or resolution in the looped video. Yet, while the way in which the piece comments on sexuality is poignant, Arty, Super Arty is also an adept handling of American art, or really the nebulous idea that swaddles art. The video swims in a self-aware coolness, displaying rather than denying the aura that surrounds it.

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From the Archives

From the Archives – Whose Map Is It? New Mapping by Artists

Today from our archives we bring you Kelly Nosari’s assessment of Whose Map Is It? at the Institute of International Visual Arts in London. Considering the wars currently being waged over land in Palestine, the Ukraine, Syria, and South Sudan (to name just a few), it is interesting to note how artists approach the representation of territory. This article was originally published on July 8, 2010.

Bouchra Khalili. Mapping Journey #1, 2008; film still. Courtesy of galerieofmarseille. Produced with the support of Artschool Palestine.

While the act of mapping conveys authority—giving credence to that which it records—mapping cannot remain entirely static and must be revised to represent changes in power structures. In efforts to better understand or better represent the world, many contemporary artists eschew two-dimensional map making in favor of addressing the ways in which traditional maps are transgressed by global complexities.

Whose Map Is It? New Mapping by Artists, currently on view at the Institute of International Visual Arts in London (Iniva), offers creative alternatives to a stale representation of global organization. Capitalizing on the potentially transformative nature of mapping, nine contemporary artists deconstruct conventions in favor of introducing previously “off the map” concepts. Whose Map Is It? is inextricably engaged with the larger theme of globalization for the way that this present condition problematizes the traditional two-dimensional nation-state map structure. Presenting new and recent work in diverse media, the exhibition offers freshly layered, content-wise approaches that creatively reposition map making to more fully represent today’s mobile world.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Kristine Schomaker

Digital and analog technologies are seemingly at odds, with the digital on the verge of subsuming and overtaking the analog. The work of artist Kristine Schomaker, however, attempts in strikingly direct fashion to bridge the increasingly complex space between these two poles while acknowledging a deep-seated fascination with both. Schomaker uses digital graphics and animations to make objects, images, and avatars. These works stand as individual artworks, but also coalesce to form a network.

Kristine Schomaker. History of composition and red, 2014; acrylic on board; 48 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Kristine Schomaker. History of Composition and Red, 2014; acrylic on board; 48 x 24 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

One part of this network is her abstract paintings. Each incorporates colors and shapes mixed with what appear to be bubbles or ripples. At first glance the paintings read as impossibly clean and flat. With a more detailed look, small sculptural elements appear on and emerge from the surfaces—ripples, bubbles, drips, layers, and transparencies—lending these initially flat paintings an engaging visual texture and complexity. These small details highlight a deep sense of perspective in her paintings, as the abstract imagery and patterns recede into a deeply layered background and simultaneously pop toward the eye in the foreground. The paintings also serve as compositional palettes for mannequin-like sculptures when the designs take on three dimensions in Schomaker’s sculptural work.

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New York

Wojciech Kosma and Sjoerd Dijk at INTERSTATE

As Wojciech Kosma burst into a spontaneous fit of tears on the concrete floor of INTERSTATE, his performance partner, Sjoerd Dijk, stroked the artist’s hair and waited for their performance to end. Where did these tears come from? And why didn’t I believe them?

The–family, of which Kosma and Dijk are a part, is a performance collective that stages highly physical, improvised conversations that attempt to approach states of heightened emotional vulnerability. In Liberty Is Everything When It Necessitates Love for a Human, staged last Saturday at INTERSTATE, Kosma and Dijk performed a series of homoerotic and precarious acro-yoga positions while they goaded one another into revealing anecdotes about memory, their significant others, ass play, and the tendernesses and insecurities of their three-year-long friendship.

Wojciech Kosma and Sjoerd Dijk. Liberty is everything when it necessitates love for a human; promotional image. Courtesy of the artists and INTERSTATE projects. Image: Hayley Silverman.

Wojciech Kosma and Sjoerd Dijk. Liberty Is Everything When It Necessitates Love for a Human; promotional image. Courtesy of the Artists and INTERSTATE projects. Image: Hayley Silverman.

An obvious imbalance of power marked Kosma and Dijk’s dynamic from the beginning. In The–family, it seems, Kosma is patriarch. As Kosma called the shots, Dijk let loose spurts of nervous laughter, glancing tentatively toward his aggressive partner in anticipation of the next step in their duet. Unfortunately, such a starkly unbalanced power dynamic between two performers does not necessarily encourage emotional honesty, which would seem requisite for the vulnerability that the collective proposes to pursue. While there was much laughter—the pair tested one another’s trust by seeing how close they could get to one another’s genitals, laughing nervously as a way to diffuse this invasive touching—the audience was never afforded the chance to laugh first. Nervous laughter became a hallmark of the piece and a barricade against openness; a fail-safe that was never demolished.

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Black Drop: Astral Observations In Spring, TX

From our friends at Glasstire, today we bring you a review of Simon Starling’s film Black Drop. Author Peter Lucas notes, “The collaboration of art and science interests that led to the creation of the piece are fitting for its subject matter, as are the intersections of Texas arts institutions that led to the work’s first local exhibition at [a] suburban museum.” This article was originally published on July 25, 2014.

Simon Starling. Black Drop, 2012; two stills from single channel projection (35 mm film transferred to HD), duration 27:42, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, joint acquisition of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, funded by the Anchorage Foundation; and the Dallas Museum of Art, funded by the DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund. Image courtesy of the artist and Casey Kaplan, NY. © Simon Starling and Casey Kaplan, NY.

Simon Starling. Black Drop, 2012; two stills from single-channel projection (35 mm film transferred to HD); 27:42. Image courtesy of the Artist and Casey Kaplan, NY. © Simon Starling and Casey Kaplan, NY.

The transit of Venus between the Sun and Earth is the rarest of predictable, observable astronomical phenomena, occurring in pairs eight years apart with more than a century gap between them. Beginning in 1639, observations of that planet’s tiny silhouette passing in front of the Sun have been key in our understanding of bigger-picture spatial relationships, allowing us to estimate the size of the Solar System and the distance between the Sun and the Earth.

On the occasion of the most recent Venus transit in 2012, British artist Simon Starling documented it and created Black Drop—a film that explores the history and significance of Venus transit observations, as well as the nature of perception, observation, and recorded image technology. After premiering at Oxford’s Radcliffe Observatory last year, Black Drop has made its Texas debut at the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts in Spring, Texas, alongside Starling’s related sculptural work, Transit Stone. The show opened in mid-June and is now in its final week. Starling’s 28-minute film—an interesting, almost deceptive mixture of straight documentary and poetic meditation on its subject and itself—takes its name from the biggest puzzler of transit observations over the centuries: the distorted elongation of the planet’s silhouette as it intersects the very edge of the sun. This stretched “black drop effect” has presented challenges in drawing accurate conclusions from Venus transits. The importance of this little visual distortion makes this history as much about our vantage point and modes of perception as it is about the movements and scale of the Solar System.

Read the full article here.