Help Desk

Help Desk: The Ethics of Application Fees, part 2

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.

What are your thoughts on application fees for residencies, fellowships, and exhibitions? Typically the odds of being selected are very long, and the vast majority of artists who apply for opportunities aren’t swimming in cash they earn (for making and selling work). I understand that institutions, organizations, and other entities offering opportunities are on tight budgets, and the massive inflows of applications are insane to deal with, but shouldn’t they have to incorporate the expense into their costs of doing business? I know using services like Slide Room costs money, but sticking a fee on an artist with a less than 10 percent chance doesn’t seem quite right.

Jean-Luc Moulene. Tronche / Avatar (Paris, April 2014), 2014; Polished concrete, blue blanket 15 x 10 5/8 x 11 in.

Jean-Luc Moulene. Tronche/Avatar (Paris, April 2014), 2014; polished concrete, blue blanket;
15 x 10 5/8 x 11 in.

Like many artists, my thoughts on application fees are mixed. I’ll happily pay about $25—my personal threshold—for what is essentially an art lottery ticket, but much more than that and I get queasy. Like you, I’m aware that no matter how good my targeting skills are, it’s still a crapshoot. As artist Christine Wong Yap’s blog shows us, the odds are often quite low: a 10 percent chance of securing a 2015 residency at Djerassi; a 3.7 percent acceptance rate for a visual-arts residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts; and a one-in-fifty-six probability—that’s 0.3 percent, so maybe better to call it an improbability—of becoming one of three Emerging Artist Fellows at the Queens Museum in New York City. But the odds are long on almost everything in life, and as a pal of mine used to remind me, “You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.”

I’m familiar with artists’ gripes about entry fees, but I wanted to hear the institutional side of the story. Jason Franz, executive director of the ten-year-old Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, was eager to engage in a lively email conversation on the subject. He started off by putting the idea of financial risk into context: “The odds of making a masterful work of art that will sell for thousands of dollars with the materials purchased to do so are probably even slimmer than success in submitting to competitive juried exhibitions. Does this mean the art-supply store should give away the materials or in some other way negotiate your risk? For one to say, ‘Shouldn’t [institutions] have to incorporate the expense into their costs of doing business’ shows a severe naiveté. Shouldn’t artists have to incorporate the expense into their costs of doing business? I know I do as a working artist.”

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From the Archives

From the Archives: The Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History at Worth Ryder Art Gallery

Today from our archives we look back to exactly one year ago, to M. Rebekah Otto’s review of The Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History at the Worth Ryder Art Gallery in Berkeley, California. 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.

Adam Harms. Performing the Torture Playlist, 2012; found digital video; 59-minute loop. Courtesy of the Artist.

Adam Harms. Performing the Torture Playlist, 2012; found digital video; 59-minute loop. Courtesy of the Artist.

The Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History posits that the eponymous detention facility on the U.S. military base in Cuba closed permanently in 2012, and a museum subsequently opened on its premises. The fictive museum, conceived and created by Ian Alan Paul, intends to “remember the human-rights abuses that occurred while the prison was in operation.”[1] The Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History Satellite Exhibition, curated by Paul and recently on view at the Worth Ryder Art Gallery of the University of California, Berkeley, included works that evoked the awe, indignity, and sorrow of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility (Gitmo). For example, in Adam Harms’ Performing the Torture Playlist (2012), amateur performers sing karaoke-style renditions of the American pop songs used to torture Guantanamo prisoners.[2] While such constituent works of the Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History are compelling, they are not predicated on and don’t directly address the supposed closure. Instead, they feel more relevant to a prison that’s still active than to its remembrance.

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San Francisco

Matt Borruso: Wax House of Wax at Steven Wolf Fine Arts

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you a review of Matt Borruso’s recent solo show Wax House of Wax, which closes today at Steven Wolf Fine Arts in San Francisco. Author Danica Willard Sachs notes, “Like a Surrealist, Borruso manipulates the banal, challenging viewers to see the horror underlying the everyday.” This review was originally published on October 23, 2014.

Matt Borruso. Forming, 2012–14; installation view, Wax House of Wax, 2014; plastic, Plexiglas, glass, mirrors, cut paper, ceramic, unfired clay, silicone, wax, talc, lenticular photographs, holograms, wood, tape, rubber bands, linen, concrete, steel, elastic, books, magazines, airbrush paint, inkjet prints, transparencies, posters, wallpaper; 120 x 42 x 61 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Steven Wolf Fine Arts, San Francisco.

Matt Borruso. Forming, 2012–14; installation view, Wax House of Wax, 2014; plastic, Plexiglas, glass, mirrors, cut paper, ceramic, unfired clay, silicone, wax, talc, lenticular photographs, holograms, wood, tape, rubber bands, linen, concrete, steel, elastic, books, magazines, airbrush paint, inkjet prints, transparencies, posters, wallpaper; 120 x 42 x 61 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Steven Wolf Fine Arts, San Francisco.

In Wax House of Wax, on view at Steven Wolf Fine Arts until October 25, Matt Borruso invites viewers into his carefully constructed house of horrors. Borruso transforms everyday objects into sinister forms in his sculptures and collages. He has equated his painting practice with the making of Frankenstein’s monster, cobbling together disparate parts to create an ambiguous portrait, and he extends this approach to his new body of work, making banal objects uncanny.

Two surreal collages greet viewers upon entry to the exhibition. On the left, Macramé Pot Hangers (2012) is composed of four copies of the same magazine page overlaid with a duplicate image of a brick-and-tile fireplace and mantel. As a whole, the arrangement of the pages in the collage works kaleidoscopically, moving the viewer’s focus toward the center of the frame. A mess of intersecting and repeating geometric patterns makes it hard to distinguish the borders between the pages. Hanging to the right is Borruso’s Dark Energy (2014), which depicts a B-horror-movie character, Maniac Cop, wallpapered over magazine clippings showing opulent interior spaces with transparent furniture and mirrors. Seen individually, the two collages do not immediately have any relationship to each other. Borruso’s clever pairing, however, lays the foundation for the rest of the show. By creating equivalence between the two works through their placement next to each other, Borruso suggests a kind of terror underlying the simplicity of a macramé plant holder.

Read the full article here.

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New York

Zero: Countdown to Tomorrow at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

In Düsseldorf, West Germany, amid the tumultuous aftermath of the Second World War, two German artists—Heinz Mack and Otto Piene—founded Group Zero in 1957. Later joined by fellow German artist Günther Uecker in 1961, the three sought to reinvent art in the postwar era and create a vision toward a transformed future through myriad artistic forms: performance, painting, sculpture, exhibition, publication, film, and installation. In the years following 1961, Group Zero rapidly spiraled outward to encompass a remarkable network of international collaborators including the likes of Lucio Fontana, Yayoi Kusama, Yves Klein, Piero Manzoni, Jesús Rafael Soto, Jean Tinguely, and Herman de Vries.

Illustration from ZERO 3, July 1961, design by Heinz Mack. Courtesy Heinz Mack.

Illustration from ZERO 3, July 1961, design by Heinz Mack. Courtesy of Heinz Mack.

Zero: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s, currently on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (and two others, opening in 2015 at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam), is the conclusion of a three-year research project undertaken by the Guggenheim, Stedelijk, and the Zero Foundation in Düsseldorf. Due in part to the exhaustive research efforts of the Guggenheim, Stedelijk, and Zero Foundation, Group Zero’s extensive network, and the ambitious material, social, and conceptual scope of their vision, the Guggenheim iteration of the exhibition is vast and informative.

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New York

Do Ho Suh: Rubbing/Loving at Lehmann Maupin

Do Ho Suh’s Rubbing/Loving Project: 348 West 22nd Street, Apt. A, New York NY 10011, is a personal project of love and memory, but in the end it denies the viewer the access to the artist’s interiority that it seems to promise. Currently on display at the Chelsea outpost of Lehmann Maupin, the work records the artist’s former New York apartment through a series of painstakingly executed rubbings. By covering every surface of his apartment with sheets of tracing paper and rubbing it with blue colored pencil, Suh and his team meticulously documented the various textures and patterns of the floors, walls, and built-in appliances. The entire process is chronicled in a short film on the series, also on display in the gallery.

Do Ho Suh. Rubbing/Loving Project, 348 West 22nd Street, Apt. A, New York, NY 10011, 2013-14; installation view, Drawings, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein.

Do Ho Suh. Rubbing/Loving Project, 348 West 22nd Street, Apt. A, New York, NY 10011, 2013-14; installation view, Drawings, 2014. Courtesy of the Artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein.

The installation within the gallery space represents the original layout of the apartment; the floor rubbing is set on a plinth in the middle of the room, and the deconstructed rubbings of walls and appliances are tacked up on their corresponding walls by hundreds of red-tipped pins. The only element that conjures its true three-dimensionality is the rubbing of an exterior-facing wall. Recording two windows and an air conditioner, these drawings are mounted on the back of a plaster cast of the building’s exterior. Blocking the gallery’s entrance, this white monolith provides a point of transition from the colorful three-dimensional world outside the gallery to the flat, monochrome installation inside.

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Cleveland

In ___ We Trust: Art and Money at the Columbus Museum of Art

Curator Tyler Cann’s In ___We Trust: Art and Money is a fresh and imaginative approach to exhibition making. The title definitively removes higher moral or spiritual motives—so often claimed in art making—from the framework of the exhibit, and it seems especially fitting that Andy Warhol, a lover of all things material and monetized, opens the show. Hanging on the first wall are three works: the print One Dollar Bills (1962), the drawing Five Dollar Bill (1962), and a project by Komar and Melamid called Souls Project: Andy Warhol (1979), in which Warhol sells his soul to the duo for zero dollars. Though these objects feel a bit thin as historical context, they operate alongside the title wall to underscore the interdependence between contemporary art and money.

Claire Fontaine. This Neon Sign Was Made By..., 2009; Back-painted neon, 6400k glass, cables, fixtures and transformers; 19 11/16 x 118 1/8 in. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York. Photo: Erin Fletcher

Claire Fontaine. This Neon Sign Was Made By…, 2009; back-painted neon, 6400k glass, cables, fixtures and transformers; 19 11/16 x 118 1/8 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures, New York. Photo: Erin Fletcher.

As a whole, the exhibition doesn’t seek to be subversive in its mode of delivery or to propose solutions to the underlying tensions that are activated. However, several of the works use activist tactics, or use their cultural position as art to create commentary on ethics. A tone of doubt and mistrust toward the international banking system is set by Superflex’s Bankrupt Banks (2008–present). Seventeen oversize panels list the names of all the banks, as on a mass grave, that collapsed due to the financial crisis. Between each panel is a banner (thirteen in total) of an iconic image that was part of a bank’s branding, meant to build trust but now stripped of a name and institutional affiliation to back up the promise. These line the halls outside of the galleries like tapestries, and visitors pass them as they enter and exit. In Insertions Into Ideological Circuits 2: Banknote Project (1970/2014), Cildo Miereles uses currency for its ability to circulate stamped messages and questions that would be censored in everyday speech by a dictatorship.

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Los Angeles

Hammer Projects: N. Dash at The Hammer Museum

N. Dash’s solo exhibit at the Hammer Museum begins with a series of Duratrans transparencies displaying magnified wreaths of frayed fabric in architectural light boxes. Her work, which faces the open and airy courtyard of the Los Angeles museum, was presented in conjunction with the Mandala of Compassion for two weeks, a live exhibit in which Tibetan Buddhist monks constructed a sacred mandala using colored sands and methods passed down over two millennia. It’s a lovely coincidence that Mandala of Compassion and N. Dash’s work were featured around the same time: They converged harmoniously in their emphasis on creative process, organic materials, and the ultimate impermanence of matter.

N. Dash. Untitled, 2014 (detail); gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: The Hammer Museum.

N. Dash. Hammer Projects: N. Dash, 2014; installation view, Los Angeles. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: N. Dash.

Dash’s floor-to-ceiling light boxes illuminate the pale wreaths of fibers floating in a cool, aqueous light that ripples almost undetectably. These suspended fibers were deconstructed by her hands over many hours in her daily routine, and she began photographing the twists of fabric in 2002 to make a physical record of her creative energy.

The documentation of her process through physical objects continues upstairs in the vault gallery with silver gelatin prints of various worked fabrics, each a testament and witness to the invisible but powerful reality of creative energy. These prints are featured beside her larger works made of adobe, indigo, jute, oil, graphite, wood, linen, and string, some of which are stapled directly into the museum wall in order to show each individual work’s journey through different spaces. Dash is particularly interested in “wear,” the accumulation of texture of an object as it passes through different spaces.

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