Artslant Interviews | ArtSlant https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/show en-us 40 Imperial Bedrooms: Liz Markus’ High Satire <p>There was a time before trigger warnings and safe spaces when it seemed the best way of addressing hypocrisy, lies, and, most of all power, was to find a way to undermine the authority of whatever it was you were pissed off at by getting into it, subverting it, and most of all, participating in the dialogue of culture. It might be called irony, satire, or parody, or, for lack of anyone ever defining it, &ldquo;The Poetry of Hating Shit.&rdquo; Some of our cultural institutions, like <em>Saturday Night Live</em>, Punk Rock, and the writings of Hunter S. Thompson, Bret Easton Ellis, and David Foster Wallace are examples that have become canonical. Painting, as well, can show us something we think we know in a new way, taking known visual forms and re-presenting them, using the vocabulary of something oppressive and liberating new ideas. The current work of Liz Markus shows this tradition has not abated.</p> <p>I have known Markus for nearly two decades, and am always amazed with the ways she draws from a disparate variety of sources then weaves them together with such clarity that her paintings seem to have always been there. The past couple years have been some of her best in the studio, and it seemed to be the right time to reconsider what she has done and where she will be taking us in the future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170628145246-LM10_Improved.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Liz Markus, <em>Improved (Plaid)</em>, 2010, Acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 60 x 72 inches</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Bradley Rubenstein:</strong> <strong>I want to talk about some of the recent paintings, the Trump ones. But let&rsquo;s frame that discussion, in the context of your work, with two groups of work that I think are important. First was your show at ZieherSmith, <em>Are You Punk or New Wave?</em>, and at the other end of the spectrum was your <em>Girlfriends of the Rolling Stones</em> paintings.</strong></p> <p><strong>Liz Markus:</strong> Yeah, they both express the rebellious side of me. The Punk/New Wave show specifically reflected my experience of the 80s, both in high school and art school. &ldquo;Are you Punk or New Wave?&rdquo; was an often-heard question in high school as we tried to best understand and categorize ourselves. I think of New Wave as more conceptual and Punk as more angry. Both served as a counterweight to our preppy lives at a private, all-girls school. In the show I think of <em>Plaid</em>, the <em>Johnny Rotten</em> paintings, and <em>Kate </em>as punk and maybe especially <em>Relax</em> and <em>War</em> as New Wave, though I wasn&rsquo;t specifically painting them to fit into those categories. My portrait of Basquiat makes a good visual bridge to the <em>Girlfriends of the Rolling Stones</em> portraits. As my Punk/New Wave paintings were a reaction to my more staid daily life in prep school, the <em>Girlfriends</em> served as a release from the stringent women in my portrait series of iconic socialites. The latter were very buttoned up and sought to appear perfect. The <em>Girlfriends</em> are sexy, powerful, and though I named the series for whom they dated, they are women who are really interested in pleasing themselves rather than a man.</p> <p><strong>BR:</strong> <strong>You folded a lot of ideas into simple images. I remember being really struck by the pieces, your use of color was spot right, and it was both color and subject matter coming together perfectly. In a similar way the <em>Girlfriends</em> pictures use period colors, like something remembered, but you weren&rsquo;t there then, so there is this weird immediacy combined with a sense of distance.</strong></p> <p><strong>LM:</strong> Yeah, I liked how punks took plaid away from conservatives and made it their own flag. <em>War</em> in pink colors is really a nod to ACT UP&rsquo;s pink triangle in their Silence = Death posters. Using the words &ldquo;relax&rdquo; and &ldquo;war&rdquo; (both Frankie Goes To Hollywood songs) at a grand scale was actually inspired by Ellsworth Kelly&rsquo;s <em>New York, NY</em> painting that hung in the Albright-Knox when I was growing up in Buffalo. I love how that painting flickers between abstraction and representation. Mine failed on that score. They don&rsquo;t flicker. I still love them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170628145221-Markus_Relax.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Liz Markus, <em>Relax</em>, 2010, Acrylic on unprimed canvas, 51 x 84.25 inches</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BR:</strong> <strong>There is also something in your work that reminds me of Schnabel&mdash;combining portraits and genre work, with strange personal references.</strong></p> <p><strong>LM:</strong> Ah, Schnabel. I hated his work when I saw it in the 1980s. Then, in grad school in 1995 I fell head over heels for it. I love the epic scale, both of his work and his ego. He is like a wizard who can summon great forces to come together on the canvas. I think you&rsquo;re right about our work relating both in our variety of genre and also in our attention to beautiful and poetic mark making. I think one of the benefits of Post Modernism is our ability to sort of pick through the history of painting, cafeteria style. I insist on my right to paint whatever I want, whether it&rsquo;s &ldquo;confusing to collectors&rdquo; or not. My &ldquo;side paintings&rdquo; are some of my favorites. That said, incorporating portraiture with genre work with strange personal references is straight out of Picasso.</p> <p><strong>BR: There is something in your work that keeps it from being straight satire, but there is a sense of exploring celebrity, or taking the piss out of &ldquo;high art&rdquo; there.</strong></p> <p><strong>LM: </strong>Yes. There was a pervasive gallows humor in my house growing up. It came from my dad. He was a holocaust survivor with a wicked sense of humor. I&rsquo;m not sure he used it to get through the holocaust. I doubt it. I&rsquo;m guessing he had it before and that it came back, and maybe that&rsquo;s what kept him buoyant and happy in the face of having witnessed a total loss of humanity.</p> <p>At any rate, it&rsquo;s this dark humor through which I view life. I think that comes across in the work not because I&rsquo;m trying to imbue the work with it but because all of my work is somewhat biographical, in that I place a high value on painting from within. In 1999 I made a wall painting with the words &ldquo;It&rsquo;s all about how Liz Markus responds to work.&rdquo; I had taken the gray grid of modernist graphic designer&mdash;I think it was Josef M&uuml;ller-Brockmann&mdash;and created my own modernist poster about myself. There were two identical grids on each side of a door. The only difference was that one was matte and one was glossy. I had used the vocabulary of graphic design because I was thoroughly researching it to teach myself about design for my day job. But I also fell in love with it. So it came out in my artwork. I wanted to explain, within an artwork, what it was that my work was all about. That it is my response to something, to other art, to what&rsquo;s around me, to being a woman, to fashion, to politics. My take on all of those things is cynical but hopeful. There is a great t-shirt I have from Buffalo that I think succinctly explains my work. There is an emblem with a buffalo in the middle, and around the circle it says &ldquo;BUFFALO, CITY OF NO ILLUSIONS.&rdquo;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170628145152-LM14_Anita_Pallenberg_hi_crop.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Liz Markus, <em>Anita Pallenberg</em>, 2014, Acrylic and pencil on unprimed canvas, 60 x 48 inches</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BR:</strong> <strong>Oh yeah, you can see this in your paintings of &ldquo;ladies who lunch&rdquo; [<em>Town &amp; Country</em>], as well as the <em>Girlfriends of the Rolling Stones</em>&hellip; We have talked about your interest in Sargent as a reference point, but there is also some Warhol, although in the case of Sargent&rsquo;s portraits that isn&rsquo;t as large a gap as it might seem&hellip;</strong></p> <p><strong>LM:</strong> For about two weeks every year or so I become re-obsessed with John Singer Sargent. I read up on his technique, study his portraits, find lectures on him, make a pilgrimage to the Met to see the work in person. Usually I become so absorbed in his genius that I lose my connection to my own work, think it&rsquo;s terrible, wonder how anyone bothers to paint after Sargent, lament that I wasn&rsquo;t born in the 19th century when I would have gotten the grand academic education that he had. It gets intense. [laughing] Then I remember Warhol and who I am, and I can go back to my own work, probably having learned yet some more from the master.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170628145127-LM15_Bianca_in_Yellow_hi_crop.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Liz Markus, <em>Bianca in Yellow</em>, 2015, Acrylic and pencil on unprimed canvas, 48 x 35 inches</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BR: I think there is something here that art can do, let&rsquo;s call it &ldquo;High Art&rdquo; or whatever, and it is what I see at the heart of what you are doing at the moment that puts your work into a category of &ldquo;significance.&rdquo; I think there is some art that&mdash;at the moment or maybe it has finally become institutionalized &ldquo;protest art&rdquo;&mdash;that somehow takes away the idea that art is just&hellip;powerful. Art can be complex. Painting, that oldest of media, can be incredibly powerful, and complex. One of the things I was immediately struck by with the <em>Girlfriends</em> was, yeah, there was this ironic twist the work was taking on the idea of &ldquo;girlfriends of&hellip;&rdquo; but when the album <em>Some Girls</em> came out, there was this quote by Keith Richards after he was asked &ldquo;Why did you name the album <em>Some Girls</em>?&rdquo; And the pithy answer was, &ldquo;Because we couldn&rsquo;t remember their fucking names.&rdquo; So the idea of going back in time to retrieve these women from being a punchline has a political or social point that is really concise. The idea of pairing the two series of work in [your] show was political in a way that seemed complex. You were making a type of painting, like an updated form of History Painting, that evoked David, or Ingres, or Gericault and combining that with an Annie Leibowitz style of fashion documentary photography is conceptually really, really sound&hellip;</strong></p> <p><strong>LM: </strong>I love the way you put that. That art can just be&hellip;powerful. While in grad school I was wandering through the Philadelphia Museum of Art and came across an amazing Polke resin painting. And I had the singular thought that &ldquo;This is a <em>Great Painting.&rdquo;</em> I understood in that moment that some paintings, of whatever kind, are just <em>Great</em>. They didn&rsquo;t have to be a particular type of painting, they just had to be really good. And I took it upon myself to try to create one of these.</p> <p>I put up an eight-by-ten-foot canvas tarp on my studio wall at Tyler and started to paint. Dona Nelson was my professor and she knew what I was up to. She&rsquo;d come in now and then, look at the painting, and then say, &ldquo;Needs some more work. Keep going.&rdquo; And she&rsquo;d laugh in this particular Dona Nelson way. I felt encouraged, the way a prizefighter feels when they&rsquo;re back in the corner after a brutal round and their coach is giving them a pep talk. It was a struggle. Finally one day she came in and pronounced that it was done, I could rest. I made two of those paintings and still like them a lot.</p> <p>And then Stanley Whitney taught me to never let them see the struggle. The painting shouldn&rsquo;t look like it was a struggle. In a way I extended that into my subject matter with the <em>Girlfriends</em>. I felt there was something strong and interesting about these women and that if I painted them, they would show me and others what that was. My job wasn&rsquo;t to construe meaning, but to paint in such a way that the women themselves could offer us some interesting questions and maybe answers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170628144919-LM16_November_hi_crop.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Liz Markus, <em>November 9, 2016</em>, 2016, Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 inches</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BR:</strong> <strong>Getting back to Trump, this one painting [<i>November 9, 2016</i>]&nbsp;caught me by surprise when I saw it on my Facebook feed. There was surprisingly little art that really captured my interest with regard to the election and its results. Deb Kass did a <a href="https://news.artnet.com/art-world/deborah-kass-hillary-clinton-warhol-trump-550346" target="_blank">Warholian take on the election</a> that I thought was brilliant, but then there were a lot of things that looked like satirical political art but were, well, something else. Eric Fischl <a href="http://www.danspapers.com/2017/03/art-therapy-eric-fischl-paints-trump-and-his-cabinet/" target="_blank">drawing clown noses</a> on Kellyanne Conway. Stuff like that&hellip;</strong></p> <p><strong>LM:</strong> I had been in the middle of a series inspired by fashion when Trump won. Specifically I had just painted a model in jeans and a flannel shirt with her arms out to the side. After the election I was furious and hurt, in mourning for what felt like a death, of Hillary. I needed a place to channel the rage. So I just started to write on my canvas. Later I saw that the model is in a classic crucifixion pose. Though I would have never intentionally painted a woman as martyr so directly, I thought it was terribly <em>apropos</em>. I think it works because I wasn&rsquo;t trying to make a political painting. Those ideas tend to be lame. This one came from the same place all the rest of my work comes from.</p> <p><strong>BR: I don&rsquo;t know how much you can force that intention. We were talking at your studio about Joan Dideon. She has become this new, fascinating, oblique problem I keep turning around. I just read a bio on her and started her new book [<em>South and West</em>]. I had always thought her work to be the closest thing to High Satire I would ever see&hellip;I love her prose, and <em>Slouching Toward Bethleham</em> has informed a lot of my writing on art. But I had always seen her &ldquo;narrator&rdquo; as this fiction. In fact, she <em>was</em> that character, Republican, didn&rsquo;t know shit about music&hellip;hated pop culture&hellip; There is a sense in your painting that you are <em>sincere</em>, or at least that is how I see it.&nbsp;</strong><strong>You paint the <em>surface</em> of things, but in doing so you seem to be trying to find a deeper truth to these images&hellip;</strong></p> <p><strong>LM: </strong>Yes. Someone once said my paintings are deeply shallow, or something to that effect. I&rsquo;ve always been fascinated by painters who seem to offer the viewer relatively little surface-wise but whose work resonates deeply. Specifically I think of Warhol and Christopher Wool. There are two ways in which I&rsquo;m engaged in &ldquo;shallow&rdquo; painting. My paint surfaces are physically thin whether I&rsquo;m staining or working on primed canvas. I&rsquo;m very interested in getting my intention across in a painting but I don&rsquo;t seem to require much paint in order to do that. It also keeps the image, rather than the medium, of paramount importance&mdash;and my pop sensibility likes that. I think it&rsquo;s important to stress that these aren&rsquo;t conscious moves on my part. It&rsquo;s just the way I naturally paint.</p> <p>Also, my subject matter can come across as shallow at first, even to me. But I&rsquo;m truly fascinated by portrait painting. And you could say that a portrait is just that: a likeness of someone. It&rsquo;s not inherently political and certainly not cool. But I believe that, while painting, the unconscious gets involved, even when you&rsquo;re primarily focused on creating a likeness. And that can lead to something that feels deeper than the surface. And I don&rsquo;t feel the need to find words to describe it. It&rsquo;s indivisible with the paint. This process is one of the reasons I always thought you had to live a little before you could be a really great painter. You must have some experience of the brutal nature of existence in order to create a painting that has depth. That may come from the fact that my earliest painting heroes were the Abstract Expressionists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170628144813-Markus_IN3293_Nancy_11.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Liz Markus, <em>Nancy 11</em>, 2009, Acrylic on unprimed canvas, 60 x 48 inches</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BR:</strong> <strong>There is a key element to high satire that seems rarer and rarer: the idea of being inside of, or part of, something that you are willing to simultaneously love and critique at the same time. That is the brilliance of Restoration theater, as well as <a href="https://www.artslant.com/la/articles/show/46842-in-a-political-nemesis-philip-guston-found-his-greatest-muse" target="_blank">Philip Guston&rsquo;s Nixon drawings</a>. This is something you seem to understand, and it kind of ties all of your work together.</strong></p> <p><strong>LM:</strong> I know what you mean. Maybe that began in my Nancy Reagan portraits. Although I was using a photo of Nancy as reference, I never meant for people to recognize her as Nancy Reagan. When they did, I stopped painting her for a while. Later she fit in with my exploration of WASP culture, and I picked her up again, this time intending her to be Nancy. As I saw her face distort under my bleeding stains, I began to have some empathy for her. Often in my portraits of her she looks like she&rsquo;s really brittle and just barely (or maybe not even) keeping it together. Nancy was a woman who figured out how to attain power at a time when woman were not allowed access to that arena. I respect her for that. I also disagree with her politics. I don&rsquo;t think the paintings would have worked had I intended to make fun of her. They would have been so one-dimensional. High satire must start with some sympathy for the devil.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/216789-bradley-rubenstein?tab=REVIEWS" target="_blank">Bradley Rubenstein</a></p> <p><em>Bradley Rubenstein is a New York-based artist and writer.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">(Image at top: Liz Markus, <em>Jane Birkin in Red Boots</em>, 2015, Acrylic and pencil on unprimed canvas, 60 x 42 inches. All images courtesy of the artist)</span></p> Thu, 29 Jun 2017 03:27:58 -0700 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list James Bridle’s Self-Driving Car Steers Into Slippery Questions About Automation <p>According to artist, writer, and theorist James Bridle, the autonomous car and the issues it raises stand in for many of the questions facing humanity today: what will ultimately result from our relationship with technology and artificial intelligence? How will we collectively adapt to world where jobs&mdash;like truck driving&mdash;have been automated out of existence? How will we deal with increasingly opaque, complex systems of governance and exchange?</p> <p>Bridle, whose work spans a variety of topics tied to network infrastructure, government transparency, and technological surveillance, looks to the technology behind self-driving cars in his new exhibition, <em><a href="https://www.artslant.com/global/events/show/444019-failing-to-distinguish-between-a-tractor-trailer-and-the-bright-white-sky" target="_blank">Failing to Distinguish Between a Tractor Trailer and the Bright White Sky</a></em>. Its headliner photograph, <em>UNTITLED (AUTONOMOUS TRAP 001)</em>, depicts a self-driving car that has been &ldquo;trapped&rdquo; in a ring of salt resembling road lines. A snow-topped, Mount Parnassus looms above the car&rsquo;s Greek environs. We recently discussed some of the political ramifications of automation, the role of mythology and mysticism, and the artist&rsquo;s strategy of learning-by-doing as a way to understand and deal with complex systems.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170426124044-Gradient_Ascent.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">James Bridle,&nbsp;<em>Gradient Ascent</em>, 2016, Still from single channel digital video, 12:00. Courtesy of the artist and Nome, Berlin</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Benjamin Busch: Your work deals with increasing complexity brought on by planetary-scale computation. It makes typically unseen information visible. How do you choose what to make visible?</strong></p> <p><strong>James Bridle: </strong>I think the key term there is &ldquo;typically unseen,&rdquo; because none of this stuff is really invisible. It&rsquo;s essentially about a curiosity to go out and look for it. I sort of realized doing this project, well really when I started finally putting the works together for the show, that it was essentially a project about my own curiosity and my own interest and desire to unpick things, to be able to look at complex systems and think that, <em>yeah, I could understand that, I could get into that</em>. So it&rsquo;s really a project of self-education.</p> <p>The things that I pick are the things that I find to be fascinating at the time, and I often don&rsquo;t realize why I&rsquo;m fascinated by them until I&rsquo;ve spent quite a lot of time looking at them. And in fact, it&rsquo;s only just in the last week maybe, after working on this project for months and months, that I really see the connection to previous work. The autonomous vehicle, which is an intensely networked vehicle, being something actually incredibly closely related to all the drone work that I did before on unmanned military aircraft. And every time I try to get away from that subject, I find myself kind of looping back to it, because it seems to be so compelling&mdash;even if I don&rsquo;t realize I&rsquo;m doing it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170426124247-BRIDLE_FAILING-5673.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">James Bridle, Installation view of&nbsp;<em>Failing to Distinguish Between a Tractor Trailer and the Bright White Sky&nbsp;</em>at Nome Gallery, Berlin, 2017.&nbsp;Courtesy of the artist and Nome Gallery, Berlin. Photo: Gianmarco Bresao</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BB: So maybe in contrast to the drone material, what about autonomous vehicles makes them an especially good example of automation?</strong></p> <p><strong>JB:</strong> The first thing that got me interested, I realized, exactly like the drones, is that I don&rsquo;t see people really talking about them, or really thinking about their implications&mdash;except within maybe very specialized communities of people actually building them. But they&rsquo;re also a thing that&rsquo;s already here; there are autonomous vehicles driving on the highways in the U.S., on highways in Europe, at different levels of autonomy. Most of what&rsquo;s required is already within vehicles that are on the road here. Some of that software hasn&rsquo;t quite been enabled yet, but it&rsquo;s sort of ready to go.</p> <p>So it&rsquo;s a technology that&rsquo;s already here, and yet we&rsquo;ve had no discussion of its consequences. Some of those consequences may be fantastic. In the case of self-driving cars, lower road death seems like a really good thing. We do appear to be essentially trying to rebuild public transport, when maybe we could just do that instead. But one of the biggest effects is how it&rsquo;s going to change both people&rsquo;s working practices and people&rsquo;s social practices. So we&rsquo;re about to lose all of the jobs in driving&mdash;whether that&rsquo;s taxi cabs, whether that&rsquo;s bus drivers, whether that&rsquo;s truckers. That&rsquo;s a huge sector of the workforce that is going to be incredibly deskilled, and has already been deskilled&mdash;through GPS technologies, through taxi apps, all of these things. They&rsquo;re all a process of deskilling and alienating workers until they&rsquo;re just slightly more expensive than the robots, and then they&rsquo;ll get replaced by those as well.</p> <p>And that is a really clear, obvious example of what&rsquo;s happening across labor and working practices in general, so it&rsquo;s a really interesting way to approach automation in labor. But it&rsquo;s also for me a way of asking what it is that we want to automate. I&rsquo;m not a fan of cars, I don&rsquo;t have a car, I think they&rsquo;ve been really bad for cities, for society, for the environment. But I do like driving, and driving is fun, and lots of people like driving. It seems to me that we&rsquo;re rushing towards automating something that people enjoy a lot as well. No one is going to stop people driving, but it seems slightly unreflective, this kind of desire to do away, and to automate, and to replace human pleasures with machinery, essentially.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170426124208-BRIDLE_FAILING-5682.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">James Bridle, Installation view of&nbsp;<em>Failing to Distinguish Between a Tractor Trailer and the Bright White Sky&nbsp;</em>at Nome Gallery, Berlin, 2017.&nbsp;Courtesy of the artist and Nome Gallery, Berlin. Photo: Gianmarco Bresao</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BB: Questions of automation have been addressed by the Accelerationist Manifesto and by the Xenofeminist Manifesto as well, particularly dealing with alienation in automation. Do you think that your work has a dialogue with accelerationist politics or aesthetics?</strong></p> <p><strong>JB: </strong>Yeah, absolutely. I&rsquo;m a great fan of Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams&rsquo; work. I really approve of using technology to better everything, but I just don&rsquo;t see that happening right now in any way. The acceleration is happening on the right, the acceleration is happening in corporatized and opaque technologies. It&rsquo;s not happening on a social level, which will be needed to balance that.</p> <p>So I fully support that and, in part, my work is absolutely connected to that, in that within this exhibition there&rsquo;s essentially two responses to this question of automation, using self-driving cars as a figure.</p> <p>On the one hand, to do it myself, to learn how to do it, to make that technology accessible to everyone, which I think is a really essentially democratizing move. The only way we&rsquo;ll get some of those social goals that are hoped for from an accelerationist view of technology is also to make these technologies accessible to everybody, so that they&rsquo;re not just the preserve of various elites&mdash;whether that&rsquo;s programming elites, or corporate or financial elites&mdash;everyone needs to be able to do this stuff. And everybody can! And so by doing this, I&rsquo;m hoping to demonstrate that this is possible. You can read the stuff that&rsquo;s on the internet, there&rsquo;s open-source software. I make open-source software myself as part of the project.</p> <p>And the other strand of it is also, actually, straight-up resistance. The traps for autonomous cars, which are somewhat playful, but nevertheless are actual ways of interacting with this technology directly from a non-specialized point of view.</p> <p>Both of those approaches are present, I hope, within the work. Both trying to understand and master it oneself and therefore democratize it and also to resist it where necessary.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170426123533-trap.jpeg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">James Bridle,&nbsp;<em>UNTITLED (AUTONOMOUS TRAP 001)</em>, 2017, Ditone archival pigment print, 150 x 200 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Nome, Berlin</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BB:</strong> <strong>What&rsquo;s interesting about <em>UNTITLED (AUTONOMOUS TRAP 001)</em> is that it actually makes this technology appear very human again by revealing its flaws. I&rsquo;m interested in the presence of the Greek landscape in the work, which is prominently featured here. Why particularly this connection to the Greek landscape and also the connection to Greek mythology?</strong></p> <p><strong>JB: </strong>The connection to the Greek landscape is simply because that&rsquo;s where I&rsquo;ve been living for the last couple years. I didn&rsquo;t go there to seek that specific inspiration, but it&rsquo;s quite hard not to&mdash;it&rsquo;s a pretty great landscape. And as soon as you find yourself in that landscape, you immediately find yourself in the mythology of that landscape as well, because it&rsquo;s radically present there, and you start to understand and see why. If you&rsquo;re driving around these mountains, you can&rsquo;t help but bump into temples and also ancient caves, and groves of mushrooms, and all these kind of things. So that was really not an intention to go out and seek that, but it felt kind of inevitable.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s a massive clich&eacute; for an English boy to go to Greece and get inspired by Greek mythology, but it&rsquo;s always been present in my work in various forms, and it&rsquo;s rarely been as explicit as it is now. Actually, the effect of doing this there has allowed me to make that more explicit in my work. I&rsquo;ve made a lot of allusions to mythology in the past when I talk about the need for new metaphors for technology, and particularly complex technologies, or new metaphors for the cloud, on which I&rsquo;ve previously drawn from plenty of mystical texts in talking about that.</p> <p>And I&rsquo;ve always had a connection to mythology as a form of storytelling that precedes technological storytelling. So I&rsquo;m really interested in the fact that a de-humanized view of technology denies the power of different mythologies for enacting or talking about those technologies. There&rsquo;s a long, long history of narratives that are capable of dealing with uncertainty, and doubt, and complexity. Humans have been making those narratives for a very, very long time. So for me it feels entirely natural to connect that back with the work that I&rsquo;m doing now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170426123852-Gradient_Ascent_1.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">James Bridle,&nbsp;<em>Gradient Ascent</em>, 2016, Still from single channel digital video, 12:00. Courtesy of the artist and Nome, Berlin</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BB: When we think about technology and the people making technology that&rsquo;s part of our everyday life, we also think about an implicit idea of the human that&rsquo;s perhaps brought on by humanism. To what extent does the human as we know it play a role in your work, or are you trying to redefine what&rsquo;s human, actually?</strong></p> <p><strong>JB: </strong>The human plays an absolutely central role in my work, because it&rsquo;s just me trying to figure this stuff out. I don&rsquo;t see these technologies as anti-human, or de-humanizing, or any of those things. But I think they&rsquo;re often used and deployed in that way&mdash;not always consciously by the people who make them, but that is often the effect&mdash;because people don&rsquo;t think through the moral consequences of the work they make. The first people to make taxi apps weren&rsquo;t planning on destroying labor unions and lowering wages and all these kind of things. But to think it through, those are some of the consequences it has. Like with self-driving cars&mdash;the people designing them aren&rsquo;t trying to put people out of work, that&rsquo;s not their intention, but unless you think of the social consequences surrounding the work, then those are often going to be the results.</p> <p>The human impact of these things is important for me, but also on an individual human level. For me, the interest in doing this work is also, as I&rsquo;ve said, what I learn from it. This is not really about building this technology; it&rsquo;s about building an understanding of the world through learning about how these systems work.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170426124928-BRIDLE_FAILING-5702.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">James Bridle, Installation view of&nbsp;<em>Failing to Distinguish Between a Tractor Trailer and the Bright White Sky&nbsp;</em>at Nome Gallery, Berlin, 2017.&nbsp;Courtesy of the artist and Nome Gallery, Berlin. Photo: Gianmarco Bresao</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BB: Do you think that art, in your process, can be used as a device to overcome alienation, as you&rsquo;ve described it?</strong></p> <p><strong>JB: </strong>It certainly overcomes my alienation. I&rsquo;m always loath to prescribe it as some kind of panacea for everything. But, it is the place in which you can do things with things other than what they were intended for. By which I mean the pressure of, for example, the only reason to go and investigate a self-driving car is so that you can go out and sell cars. Well, not if you choose to do it in other ways. If you choose to see what else that technology is capable of&mdash;or see what you learn by learning that&mdash;that is applicable in other ways. So for me, the art practice is a machine for generating further curiosities and literacies. By doing this work, you spill out a bunch of new ways of thinking through the world, and also new ways for myself to think about other things.</p> <p><em>James Bridle&rsquo;s exhibition </em><a href="http://www.artslant.com/global/events/show/444019-failing-to-distinguish-between-a-tractor-trailer-and-the-bright-white-sky" target="_blank">Failing to Distinguish Between a Tractor Trailer and the Bright White Sky</a><em> marks the reopening of NOME at their new location, Glogauer Str. 17, 10999 Berlin. It will be on view April 22&ndash;July 29.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&mdash;<a href="https://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/477171-benjamin-busch?tab=REVIEWS" target="_blank">Benjamin Busch</a></p> <p><em><a href="http://www.benbusch.info/" target="_blank">Benjamin Busch</a></em>&nbsp;<em>is currently researching critical modes of architectural production within the field of spatial practice. Treating architecture as a symptom of abstract processes, his artwork and writing investigate complex fields of relations within the built environment.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">(Image at top:&nbsp;James Bridle, Installation view of&nbsp;<em>Failing to Distinguish Between a Tractor Trailer and the Bright White Sky&nbsp;</em>at Nome Gallery, Berlin, 2017.&nbsp;Courtesy of the artist and Nome Gallery, Berlin. Photo: Gianmarco Bresao)</span></p> Mon, 01 May 2017 01:47:25 -0700 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list Anicka Yi: Life is Cheap <p>Anicka Yi, the recipient of the 2016 Hugo Boss Prize, opened&nbsp;<em>Life is Cheap,&nbsp;</em>consisting of three works,&nbsp;<em>Lifestyle Wars</em>,<em> Immigrant Caucus,</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>Force Majeure,</em>&nbsp;at the Guggenheim on April 21, 2017. The exhibition title is one part indictment, one part plea.</p> <p>&ldquo;Life is cheap&rdquo; is usually said with a quiet lilt; eyes down, a slight shake of the head. The disgust is projected both outward and inward. It&rsquo;s a gesture of shame. But Yi hints at perhaps another invocation of the saying&mdash;that life is in fact <em>cheap&nbsp;</em>and easy to come by. It is all around you, waiting for you to recognize its glorious complexity. And sure, this interpretation is navel-gazey, but in times like these, where minutiae are almost always irksome, it&rsquo;s nice to lose oneself in marvel for a few minutes and remember that we are a complex part of a complex part of a complex part... of something called a &ldquo;whole.&rdquo;</p> <p><em>H. sapiens, Homo, Hominidae, Haplorhini, Primates, Mammalia, Chordata, Animalia.</em> Our distinction is a denial of our dependence and a dismissal of our similarity. With her latest exhibition, Yi breaks down the notion of humanity&rsquo;s individualities and ethnic preoccupations by applying a scientific approach to sculptures consisting of carpenter ants, bacterial colonies taken from Chinatown and Koreatown in New York, manufactured scents, and a lot of agar-agar.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/84518/3mfh/20170421161128-Anicka_Yi_Portrait.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family: Verlag;">Anicka Yi. Photo: David Heald&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Joel Kuennen:&nbsp;<em>Life is Cheap</em>&nbsp;has two large dioramas,&nbsp;<em>Lifestyle Wars</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>Force Majeure...</em></strong></p> <p><strong>Anicka Yi:&nbsp;</strong><em>Force Majeure</em>&nbsp;is a staging of violence, proliferation, unregulated life. It&rsquo;s a staging of the genesis of life and also throws back at us a physical manifestation of our anxieties around life, disease, bacteria, around that which we consider as harmful when it&rsquo;s actually not. Not in every case at least, but that there is harm and maybe that&rsquo;s something that we can coexist with and be tolerant of and maybe do a dance with.</p> <p>The ants in&nbsp;<em>Lifestyle Wars</em>&nbsp;are in this ceaseless motion and this transition of information, this data network. The power of ants is in their numbers; they don&rsquo;t really have individuality and they need, like our human society, social structures. They are the only other species, other than our own, that practices slavery. They are also highly guided by their sense of smell so they have a very refined, sophisticated olfaction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/84518/3mfh/20170421161255-Hugo_Boss_Prize_2016-exh_ph-8.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family: Verlag;">Anicka Yi,&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verlag; font-style: italic;">Lifestyle Wars</span><span style="font-family: Verlag;">, 2017 (detail), Ants, mirrored Plexiglas, Plexiglas, two-way mirrored glass, LED lights, epoxy resin, glitter, aluminum racks with rackmount server cases and Ethernet cables, metal wire, foam, acrylic, aquarium gravel, and imitation pearls. Courtesy the artist and 47 Canal, New York. Photo: David Heald &copy; Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>JK: You are presenting a new scent in <em>Lifestyle Wars..</em>.</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong><span>We have a scent, it&rsquo;s kind of a hybrid of species and forms. It&rsquo;s a scent that is based on an Asian-American female and a carpenter ant&mdash;it&rsquo;s a hybrid scent.</span></p> <p><strong>JK: What constitutes the gesture towards the Asian-American female?</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong><span>I wanted to talk about ethnicity through smell. I wanted to talk about smell as being a conditioned form of perception culturally, socially, politically. Ethnicity is a very gray area, scientifically speaking, in terms of how we can designate certain ethnic groups by smell. There&rsquo;s no definitive real answer scientifically. You can&rsquo;t say all Asian people smell like this and all Black people smell like that or all Caucasian people smell like this or all Latino people smell like that.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <table align="center"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <p><span><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/kQ4ky7CgdGI" width="560"></iframe></span></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>JK: What is the marker in this case?</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong><span>It&rsquo;s contingent on a number of factors, primarily your diet followed by genetic make up. A lot of what you smell like is being produced through the bacteria in your gut. There is also the tertiary: the type of deodorant that you wear, the soap that you use, your shampoo... those are the main sort of components for how an individual human being smells. An Asian-American with a certain diet that is very similar to an African-American diet could end up smelling more similar than two Asian-Americans with vastly different diets. I was interested in that aspect of how it is very complex and inconclusive in terms of how you can designate a certain ethnicity smelling a certain way, and yet those types of prejudices still linger. </span></p> <p><span>Everybody has these types of misinformed ideas about how Indian people smell like curry; well, guess what, if anyone ate a lot of curry, the turmeric would sweat through your pores and you would smell like curry! There&rsquo;s certain foods that have that ability to become part of you but also announce itself to the rest of the world through our pores. For me it&rsquo;s a rich area to think about in terms of these kinds of stereotypes and prejudices and how even historically different classes were associated with how they smelled. A lot of &ldquo;improvements&rdquo; and radical social changes have been made based on how these different classes smelled, especially the working classes. </span></p> <p><span>How do you improve on something where it&rsquo;s a matter of just prejudice or intolerance about certain ethnicities? Because it&rsquo;s not a question of hygiene and it&rsquo;s not a question about health risks&mdash;it&rsquo;s a question of certain preferences for diet, a certain predilection for body ointments in the tertiary route, and genetics. It&rsquo;s very complicated and it&rsquo;s not something that has been resolved through science. That&rsquo;s what I&rsquo;m interested in: that science can&rsquo;t help us get past this. We also can&rsquo;t seem to come to terms with it intellectually or psychologically.</span></p> <p><strong>JK: &ldquo;Tertiary,&rdquo; for example, refers to a lotion you put on and external variance to the personal biome, correct?</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong>Yes, it is part of the constellation of my material choices.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em style="color: rgb(31, 31, 31); font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-large;">&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a consciousness there that&rsquo;s been assembled.&rdquo;</em></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>JK: In that sense, are you then constructing objects out of tertiary and secondary realities where the primary becomes the participant?</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong>If we follow that to the logical conclusion, then does that mean that my work needs a viewer?</p> <p><strong>JK: Then it&rsquo;s just biology?</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong>No, there&rsquo;s a consciousness there that&rsquo;s been assembled. With ants, there&rsquo;s a consciousness that&rsquo;s been assembled, so is that art as well?&nbsp;Ants are matriarchal; they only have males as drones and they die immediately after. They inseminate the eggs, which as far as I&rsquo;m concerned, is pretty good for me. Especially recently, I&rsquo;ve been telling my straight male friends,&nbsp;<em>just sit out a few</em>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/84518/3mfh/20170421161410-Hugo_Boss_Prize_2016-exh_ph-13.jpg" /></span></p> <div class="page" title="Page 1"> <div class="layoutArea"> <div class="column"> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family: Verlag;">Anicka Yi,&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verlag; font-style: italic;">Force Majeure</span><span style="font-family: Verlag;">, 2017, Plexiglas, aluminum, agar, bacteria, refrigeration system, LED lights, glass, epoxy resin, powder coated stainless steel, light bulbs, digital clocks, silicone, and silk flowers. Courtesy the artist and 47 Canal, New York. Photo: David Heald &copy; Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>JK: Your material vocabulary can be kind of cacophonous, a grab bag of consumer items and organisms. Can you speak to the importance of combining these different technical materials?</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong><span>It&rsquo;s through the filter, the lens of the lived life. In that sense, it&rsquo;s probably somewhat autobiographical. That&rsquo;s something I&rsquo;ve never really articulated to anyone. What is the binding agent of all of these materials? What is the reach of a length of a human arm or what is in this cosmology of the person who is trying to assemble the combinations? In that regard, there&rsquo;s something, probably a shattered narrative by a person who is living through these materials through a desiring body or a slightly repulsed body, a body that&rsquo;s not entirely pleased but not displeased. I don&rsquo;t know how to unravel that narrative logic until the very end and that&rsquo;s probably when I&rsquo;m dead. I can&rsquo;t really say and I don&rsquo;t even know if I&rsquo;m capable of doing that for you. I think that every person, especially creative people, they have a kind of wiring, a sensibility that overlaps with a certain zeitgeist and personal history much in the way we&rsquo;re describing how an individual smells in their own unique sense. There are these contributing factors: diet, genetic, and tertiary influences. Tertiary is separate from the zeitgeist. It&rsquo;s not necessarily something someone else picks up on that is in the air.</span></p> <p><strong>JK: One other thing about materiality in your work: when you use organisms you leave the names general, like &ldquo;bacteria,&rdquo; &ldquo;dough,&rdquo; &ldquo;fungi.&rdquo; Is there a particular reason for this?</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong>It does tend to be a catch-all because it would be very difficult for me to clarify what kind of bacteria will be grown in the Guggenheim diorama. There are specific certain kinds that we are introducing but we cannot be exclusive to that. For me to be able to categorize, I would have to go back throughout the course of the exhibition and start to analyze what type of bacteria is actually growing there. Once I put up an installation, it&rsquo;s difficult to do the reading after the fact because things are changing so rapidly. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>JK: Colonies can emerge and collapse in a number of hours&hellip;</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong>There&rsquo;s a fair amount of what can we call a &ldquo;microbial eugenics&rdquo; that does take place in my installations. I do have aesthetic considerations: certain bacterial growth yields better colors; certain bacterial growth yields better shapes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/84518/3mfh/20170421170540-AY_2666.jpg" /></span></p> <div class="page" title="Page 1"> <div class="layoutArea"> <div class="column"> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family: Verlag;">Anicka Yi,&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verlag; font-style: italic;">2666, 2015,&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verlag;">Bacteria, nutrient agar, Plexiglas, 24 x 20 x 4 inches (60.96 x 50.80 x 10.16 cm). Courtesy of 47 Canal, New York and Kunsthalle Basel.&nbsp;Photo: Philipp Hänger&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>JK: Your work often begins with an essence and then the work is allowed to live from there and go where it may. How do you consider this relationship between refinement and growth?</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong><span>Refinement is an area that I think, as far as my participation and intervention, requires a tremendous amount of research and backstory. I have to learn a lot about a certain subject matter in order to set the conditions for the type of refinement that I would qualify as my version of refinement. Then there is an entire cosmology of chaos around that. It&rsquo;s always in flux, paradoxically different speeds, gears, logic. I think that&rsquo;s something that is maybe a leitmotif that doesn&rsquo;t get spoken about very often in relation to my work. </span></p> <p><span>There&rsquo;s a lot of counter-intuitive logic going on with the material choices, arrangement, juxtaposition, and the timing. We&rsquo;re talking about metabolic timing, physical time, geological time and there&rsquo;s a lot of counter-intuitive time and rationale that&rsquo;s embedded into the work and that&rsquo;s what I&rsquo;m working against. That&rsquo;s what happens when these collisions take place where they&rsquo;re not supposed to. Where a flower rejects the resin that is supposed to encase it and then you have this leaking&hellip;a lot of that&hellip;and so there are a lot of alchemical kinds of contradictions. We&rsquo;re in a universe that&rsquo;s populated with very sinister elements that don&rsquo;t really intend for anything to survive.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em style="color: rgb(31, 31, 31); font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-large;">&ldquo;I want my work to perish.&rdquo;</em></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>JK: When I was a kid I would make ant castles, blocks of wood that I would fashion into a castle structure and then I would entice ants with sugar water. The whole structure became this moving breathing thing but after a while, I realized they would all just go to the sugar water and drown. Then I realized, this isn&rsquo;t that cool and I&rsquo;m basically just killing a bunch of ants.</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong>It&rsquo;s a very fine line and death is all around us. Life is death. With ants I have to stress that they are not really that great at individualistic thinking&hellip;and if they are, they are bullied and sequestered and extinguished. When we do these experiments with ants we&rsquo;ve found that an ant that smells a little different will be sequestered in a corner. They are put under a kind of trial. Other ants are there for hours questioning this ant that&rsquo;s different, this&nbsp;<em>rogue</em>&nbsp;ant. They don&#39;t go immediately into action. They just put it under this Kafka-esque trial. There are levels of security and authority at play.</p> <p><strong>JK: You&rsquo;ve said before that perishability is essential to your sculptural vocabulary. How do you think about your works as they move through time?</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong><span>Time is probably the dominant material. It&rsquo;s the unspoken, un-cited. A lot of my work is time-based and I&rsquo;m intentionally foregrounding that time. The motivation for that was trying to get at a present-ness, to be here. Don&rsquo;t worry about a hundred years from now&mdash;that also seemed like a very masculine type of aspiration: that the art should outlive us all and that signifies my proximity to the gods, immortality, legacy, all that nonsense. I personally don&rsquo;t care if you don&rsquo;t talk about me after I&rsquo;m dead. That&rsquo;s not a motivation for me. My motivation is the living, the suffering. That&rsquo;s what I care about.</span></p> <p><strong>JK: Is it more about creating a situation where that suffering comes into focus?</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong><span>Absolutely. I want to diminish and eliminate the suffering. In order to do that, you have to reveal the suffering and foreground the suffering to give that a voice. It&rsquo;s not about ignoring it or eliminating it but asking <em>what can we influence?</em> If we are even here to influence at all. Time is greater than I am and yet time is also non-linear when you think about it in a quantum way. I want my work to perish.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/84518/3mfh/20170421171511-HBP16AnickaYi_Sister.jpg" style="width: 400px;" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family: Verlag;">Anicka Yi,&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verlag; font-style: italic;">Sister</span><span style="font-family: Verlag;">, 2011, Tempura fried flowers, cotton turtleneck, approximately 41 x 19 x 7 in Courtesy of 47 Canal, New York. Photo: Joerg Lohse&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>JK: At the<a href="http://arts.mit.edu/artists/anicka-yi/#about-the-residency" target="_blank"> MIT Residency </a>you did, you worked on stabilizing things. How has stabilization entered your practice, specifically in regards to the reactive and active nature of your work?</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong><span>It&rsquo;s a framework. Without agar it&rsquo;s really hard for us to grow bacteria. Agar is a relatively known substrate, so in terms of that kind of &ldquo;stabilization&rdquo; that&rsquo;s how I point to it. In order to render tangible or visible.</span></p> <p><strong>JK: Is it more about producing a predictability?</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong><span>Let&rsquo;s just say it something that&rsquo;s more of a neutral value in order to support some principles, ideas, characters, voices. All equally important and necessary in the balance. I respect that kind of stability because I wouldn&rsquo;t be able to do what we&rsquo;re doing here without a giant cooling refrigerator system to get the bacteria to grow at the right temperature. Without the right temperature you have lots of problems: no growth or conversely over growth, where the bacteria just takes over. The bacteria I work with loves 72-75 degrees. That&rsquo;s the sweet spot when you&rsquo;ll have really nice, steady, consistent growth but you won&rsquo;t have an insane proliferation or, conversely, a completely empty, visual space.&nbsp;</span></p> <table align="right" width="400"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="padding: 10px;"> <p style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: large; color: #1f1f1f;"><span style="font-size: x-large;"><em>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re going to work with bacteria you have to work with the laws of bacteria.&rdquo;</em></span></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><strong>JK: So it&rsquo;s not necessarily about preservation but rather facilitation.</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong><span>Yes, it&rsquo;s about these kinds of dichotomies, these shifts in the balance and learning temperatures. Understanding basics around physics. When you have humidity that the bacteria really thrives on, you&rsquo;re going to get condensation. I don&rsquo;t want a drippy piece of glass, for example, so how do we deal with that? The more I&rsquo;ve been using a conventional science laboratory as a tool for my work, the more I&rsquo;m having to understand all matters of stability because in order to create these experiments you have to offset it, to run it through something that is under your control. If you&rsquo;re going to work with bacteria you have to work with the laws of bacteria. It teaches me a great deal of physics and chemistry. &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>JK: Art is, almost by definition, historically stable. Performance art may have done the most to change this assumption, as far as art history goes. Do you consider your sculptural work as performative objects? How do you think about that relationship to performance?</strong></p> <p><strong>AY:&nbsp;</strong><span>It&rsquo;s a good connection. Performance implies there&rsquo;s a certain kind of transience, ephemerality, and so it makes sense that some of my less permanent works would be in that performative state. I don&rsquo;t have the kind of art education or conditioning for that kind of language to act as the fencing around my actions and my thoughts, but I often think in terms of farming and agriculture with certain forms of organisms. You can consider that performative. I think that my use of &ldquo;science&rdquo; is performative: I am performing a science. Is it science? Yeah, but it&rsquo;s more of performing <em>as science</em>. Performing an act of control and chaos. So yes, I think performativity is running rampant throughout my work. One could even say I&rsquo;m performing as an artist. I didn&rsquo;t study art at all, I studied film theory.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div>&mdash; <a href="https://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/153044-joel-kuennen?tab=REVIEWS" target="_blank">Joel Kuennen</a></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="font-size:10px;">(Image at top:&nbsp;<span style="font-family: Verlag;">Anicka Yi,&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verlag; font-style: italic;">Force Majeure</span><span style="font-family: Verlag;">, 2017 (detail),&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verlag;">Plexiglas, aluminum, agar, bacteria, refrigeration system, LED lights, glass, epoxy resin, powder coated stainless steel, light bulbs, digital clocks, silicone, and silk flowers.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verlag;">Courtesy the artist and 47 Canal, New York.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verlag;">Photo: David Heald &copy; Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation)</span></span></div> Mon, 01 May 2017 01:48:06 -0700 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list Bearing Witness, Peter Williams Advances an Art History of Accountability <p>Although I have known Peter Williams for decades, and have <a href="https://www.artslant.com/ny/articles/show/42515-kicking-against-the-pricks">written about his work</a> in the past, we had never sat down and done a proper interview&mdash;it&rsquo;s been more of a 30-year-long conversation. Recently, however, I wanted to get down his thoughts on several of his latest bodies of work: urgent paintings that are at once timely and have art historical resonance. His inclusion in the November group exhibition&nbsp;<em>As Carriers of Flesh</em>, at David &amp; Schweitzer, saw the artist confronting Whiteness and police brutality against black men and women in colorful canvases that unite history, biography, and allegory. There seems hardly a better moment to unpack Williams&rsquo; unflinching confrontations with his subjects, his deep sense of political satire, and his optimism that paint can somehow make a difference and hold us all accountable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170331131805-Williams_0216.jpg" /></p> <p align="center"><span style="font-size:12px;">Peter Williams, <em>Sandra Bland</em>, 2016</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Bradley Rubenstein:</strong> <strong>When we talked last fall I thought we would discuss your work somewhat chronologically, but things have changed a lot since then, which seems to have impacted your work a great deal. Let&rsquo;s start with your new work.</strong></p> <p><strong>Peter Williams:</strong> The new work has come as I&rsquo;ve done my &ldquo;research&rdquo;: from short blurbs on Facebook, knowledge of some of these events from the press, and books that I&rsquo;ve read throughout the years. I am humbled by my lack of firsthand experience recently in the lives of black folks, except through the press. Life in Delaware is also humbling since I live in a Republican-lite environment. My Blackness affects how I live, but not how I survive. During the past three years the rise of anti-Obama hatred and the Alt-Right movement has begun to unfold in ways no one could have conceived, except for those we conceived as a radical Left&mdash;Dick Gregory, Farrakhan, Angela Davis, etc., to name but a few.</p> <table align="left" width="400"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="padding: 10px;"> <p style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: large; color: #1f1f1f;"><span style="font-size: x-large;"><em>&ldquo;The exposed hatred of people of color by the white community is stressing me out. The only forum I have is through my art.&rdquo;</em></span></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>The incarceration of millions of young black men and women in market-rate prisons as virtual slave labor; the killing by police of this same group of young people; the exposed hatred of people of color by the white community is stressing me out. The only forum I have is through my art and my voice, and neither seems to be reaching very many people. The recent work at David &amp; Schweitzer has allowed me to put some of the more controversial images into play.</p> <p>I had received, by accident, some large canvases because of a mistake in the order I got from the art supplier. I saw this as an opportunity to explore the deaths of several young people whose lives were soiled by press reports: Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin. Several of these paintings were shown. The exploitation by the police of the lives of these individuals, except Trayvon Martin, gave weight to my belief that we are in another period: a race war, pure and simply put.</p> <p>I feel that people need to come to grips with what is really happening. The Left has been very passive in this regard. We need a resurgence of the Black Panthers to awaken the community. I also feel the need to try to evolve the work and confront my audience with my feelings. One painting is called <em>Honey</em>, and it&#39;s about the consumption and cannibalism of black folks by Whiteness. The more I research the more horrified I am of the realities we are going to face as Whiteness defines the future for us.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170331132046-Williams-3263-980x977.jpg" /></p> <p align="center"><span style="font-size:12px;">Peter Williams, <em>Untitled</em>, 2015</span></p> <p align="center">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BR:</strong> <strong>The recent <a href="https://www.artslant.com/ny/articles/show/46842-in-a-political-nemesis-philip-guston-found-his-greatest-muse">Guston show at Hauser &amp; Wirth</a> struck me as relevant too&mdash;important for&nbsp;</strong><strong>Guston&rsquo;s handling of the subject matter, but, also, I think he created a form of painterly political satire. Guston found in Nixon a subject really worthy of the amount of work he did. I see something of that happening in your paintings, definitely with your show at Novella: <em><a href="https://www.artslant.com/ny/articles/show/42515-kicking-against-the-pricks">Common &amp; Proper Nouns: The N-Word</a></em> (2015).</strong></p> <p><strong>PW:</strong> In the Novella show I&#39;m responding to the realities of having to inform and negotiate with my audience a platform that allows for the development of a character (or characters). It was the first time that my passion spilled out into a manifest character, the &ldquo;N-Word.&rdquo; His creation has been years in the making and may reflect such influences as Richard Pryor and his comedy routine about this: &ldquo;Up in the sky, it&rsquo;s a bird, a plane, a piece of coal, a crow, no it&#39;s SuperNigga.&rdquo;</p> <p>Often, times like this are influenced by many things including comics. But this work is superseded by the recording of the deaths, which have become a common occurrence since the advent of camera phones. One has only to reflect upon Rodney King and the image of such brutal strength of the &ldquo;state.&rdquo; Or the horror of a man being choked to death by the police as he pleads for his life. These are the vile tactics of the powerful overlooking the raw lack of humanity. I am moved, baby.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170331132204-DIA_portrait.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Peter Williams,<em> Portrait of Christopher D. Fisher, Fourth Reich Skinhead </em>&nbsp;1995, Oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches. Founders Society Purchase with funds from the Friends of Modern Art, Andronike A. Tsagaris, and John D. Hilberry. Courtesy of Peter Williams and the Detroit Institute of Arts</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BR:</strong> <strong>I&rsquo;ve known you now going on 30 years, so for me it&rsquo;s hard to pick from various periods in your painting to talk about in depth. You did some very great paintings while in Detroit, and I&rsquo;ve written about the one at the DIA before...</strong></p> <p><strong>PW:</strong> The painting at the Detroit Institute of Arts, <em>Portrait of Christopher D. Fisher, Fourth Reich Skinhead</em>, is from a body of works on perpetrators of hate crimes in the early 90s. Young black men had gone to the wrong side of the tracks and were beaten to death by marauding white youths, primarily in New York. The piece in the DIA is the largest of these works and an attempt to open up a discussion. It was originally hung in the Dutch galleries as part of an &ldquo;interventions&rdquo; show. It was meant to ask questions concerning the wealthy Dutch portraits and their relationship to the slave trade. In the middle of his forehead I wrote &ldquo;race war,&rdquo; which was considered a bit controversial at the time. Now it just seems prescient.</p> <p>About this time I started to also make paintings about black stereotypes&mdash;Mammy, Sambo, etc. It was not well received in Detroit. I was considered to be trespassing over a part of history most black folks preferred not to be reminded of. I kept exploring this idea and tried to take more responsibility for the ideas inherent in such subject matter by exploring the subtle racist imagery using animals such as ducks&mdash;they manifest as a stand-in for race with thick lips and bulging eyes&mdash;and cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle, which were overtly manifested with racist stereotypes.</p> <p>That lead me to the point where I really reformed my thoughts as a result of traveling abroad and seeing work manifested from its own history, in Europe&mdash;Paris, Berlin, and Madrid. Goya had a great impact on me. His horrors gave me permission to go where I needed to go.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: large; color: rgb(31, 31, 31); text-align: center;"><span style="font-size: x-large;"><em>&ldquo;Goya&rsquo;s horrors gave me permission to go where I needed to go.&rdquo;</em></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170331132922-Williams_0213.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Peter Williams</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BR:</strong> <strong>One thing that has held my continued attention with your work has been this need&nbsp;</strong><strong>you have of connecting &ldquo;art&rdquo; and &ldquo;reality,&rdquo; engaging with the world through your work. I just finished this new biography of Joan Didion. I have considered her work influential with regard to my own writing, but the strangest thing happened while reading about her: after 30 years of only paying attention to her work, I was finding out how anti-Semetic, racist, and self-obsessed she was. I had previously thought her style of writing, in her journalism, came from a place of political satire. Then I find out that, for example, when she wrote about the SLA and Patricia Hearst, she identified with Randolph Hearst.</strong></p> <p><strong>I mention this because I do want to talk about your biography a bit, but I also want to ask you if you feel that it is important to know about the artist&rsquo;s life when looking at their work. I am pretty sure that my question falls somewhere in the artspeak category of &ldquo;identity politics,&rdquo; but I am thinking that there is something else there too.</strong></p> <p><strong>PW:</strong> I imagine that biography is an important asset for any critic, writer, or intellectual. The &ldquo;unexamined life&rdquo; is a constant thing that I am aware of. I have always felt my art was a cathartic relationship to myself. I could not as a child make sense of my family, nor the outside world. It seemed to defy any kind of logic that I could come up with. Because of the toxic relationship I had with them, I felt compelled to understand all the repercussions. In effect, I saw my relationship to the outer world as one of constant confrontation.</p> <p>I seemed not to understand the simplest of mechanisms, whether it was how a clock or time worked or even why my family wanted me to be aware of certain things. That education excluded how to deal or engage Whiteness. They would leave off the idea of Whiteness and white power and would expect me to understand. I was never given answers to the questions I had and often felt their rebuke. As I engaged the larger world, it seemed that all of these rebukes were personal rather than polemical. But now I see them as related to race and class, neither of which anyone ever explained to me.</p> <p>It was in the abstractions of my earliest work that two things seemed to manifest: one was a kind of interest in the originality of what I made, and the other, that people/family seemed to have ideas about what the work was about. That frightened me because I had not established in my own mind a sense of what those images meant. It seemed that people held judgments about me, good or bad. In my family if there was a judgment, it was bad because I was operating outside of a norm, and it was politically incorrect. But outside my family, whites (namely, Jewish people) seemed to be enthusiastic about what they saw.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170331133054-Williams_0221.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Peter Williams</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BR:</strong> <strong>In talking with other painters, I have often found that the strongest work comes from a place of pain&mdash;psychological, spiritual, or whatever.</strong></p> <table align="right" width="400"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="padding: 10px;"> <p style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: large; color: #1f1f1f;"><span style="font-size: x-large;"><em>&ldquo;I drifted to representation out of fear and desire to control what people saw&mdash;as if I could make them see me as I saw myself.&rdquo;</em></span></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><strong>PW:</strong> I often felt alienated from my community as I grew and identified with the Western tradition of image making, methods, and ideals. I was quite gifted as a young artist, and I was included in exhibitions beyond my family&#39;s understanding. I suspect they were proud but did not understand what it meant in relationship to me. I was hounded by the homosexual fear and idea that to be creative you were a &ldquo;fag,&rdquo; which I didn&rsquo;t know about but scared me. My father thought I had communist leanings. (I suspect he was a marketplace capitalist.) I didn&rsquo;t play sports, and my brothers had a violent regard toward me. So there I was, out, and I didn&rsquo;t even know what that meant.</p> <p>I certainly felt a kind of empathy for all these attributes, even though I had no idea what they meant. I noticed in the images I made that people would remark as if they knew me, yet I was still discovering what those things meant. Abstraction was a language I could not conceive of, yet at times operated in. So I drifted to representation out of fear and desire to control what people saw&mdash;as if I could make them see me as I saw myself, a simple yet complex human being. I didn&rsquo;t understand all these feelings; nevertheless I was becoming the outsider. I was lucky to go into therapy at the age of 15. I found out that the darkness in my mind and work came from my family and their friends, who responded to their own understanding of who I was. I rejected them all, of course, because I was a survivor at heart.</p> <p>As my work evolved, so did my sense of self and empathy for the underdog. I have always taken them in my heart and believe that I must bear witness to the events and poverty of their lives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170331132625-Williams-3269-821x1024.jpg" /></p> <p align="center"><span style="font-size:12px;">Peter Williams,&nbsp;<em>Untitled</em>, 2015</span></p> <p align="center">&nbsp;</p> <p style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: large; color: rgb(31, 31, 31); text-align: center; margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: x-large;"><em>&ldquo;My vision is of the history of art being able to tell the appalling story of humankind and the evils it perpetuates.&rdquo;</em></span></p> <p style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: large; color: rgb(31, 31, 31); text-align: center; margin-left: 40px;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>BR:</strong> <strong>I like that&mdash;the painter as witness to their time. It is a fact that your work will outlast you, yet your voice will still be heard.</strong></p> <p><strong>PW:</strong> It is not my voice I feel the need to exercise but the voice of many, who remain nameless. Day in and day out they deal with, encounter, engage the horror of our current crisis. We seem to forget that the history of this country is of violating the civil rights of the &ldquo;Other,&rdquo; be they African-Americans, Mexicans, or indigenous people. There is no heaven, only the concept that Whiteness promotes controlling the natives, as they perceive us. The ideal of an afterlife is one of the great jokes played out through religion and Christian supremacy. We look for redemption for an act we never seem to escape, our &ldquo;negritude&rdquo; and/or &ldquo;otherness.&rdquo; My vision is of the history of art being able to tell the appalling story of humankind and the evils it perpetuates. Every now and then we seem to need a war or cleansing to sort things out. Why? Because we are all fallible, and the weak unfortunately are on the front lines of that battle.</p> <p>It&#39;s my hope that people of color wake up and take up the battle from a safer awareness of this struggle and not go into the night unarmed or unprepared. I know I&rsquo;m suggesting a horror&mdash;and I imagine it will be&mdash;however, I don&rsquo;t know if it can be prevented. Maybe the West, Christians, white people, and the powerful will realize what a myth they live in. However, it would be a mistake to believe in such a possibility. We just elected a jackal, capable of unknown horrors. His demeanor is that of a sinner, the way he sits inward, self-aware of his demons. I can only imagine the kind of sickness he and his comrades are preparing for all of us.</p> <p>Whiteness allows this horror to be played and must take responsibility&mdash;if only through my painting. Even worse, the planet is at stake, not just the survival of humankind, and that may take millions of years to repair, if at all. I can begin to see the links and the connections as one looks at the heart of evil deeds by evil men and women.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170331132830-Williams_0212.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Peter Williams</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/216789-bradley-rubenstein?tab=REVIEWS">Bradley Rubenstein</a></p> <p><em>Bradley Rubenstein is a New York-based artist and writer.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">(Image at top: Peter Williams,&nbsp;<em>The Return of Trayvon</em>, 2016. All images: Courtesy of the artist)</span></p> Fri, 31 Mar 2017 10:04:02 -0700 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list Digital Pioneer Lynn Hershman Leeson Walks Us Through Her Groundbreaking “Firsts” <p>I recently met with septuagenarian artist Lynn Hershman Leeson just after the opening of her latest solo show, <a href="http://www.artslant.com/ny/events/show/439071-remote-controls" target="_blank"><em>Remote Controls</em></a>, at Bridget Donahue Gallery. Her first solo with the gallery in 2015 sparked something of a rediscovery of her groundbreaking work, even though she has spent her decades-long career pioneering in the realm of technology in visual art. In 2016, a comprehensive retrospective entitled <em>Civic Radar&nbsp;</em>at <a href="http://zkm.de/en" target="_blank">ZKM</a> in Karlsruhe, Germany, charted her career from its early performative days in the 70s to her latest work addressing complex genetics research and technology.</p> <p>With a portion of the ZKM retrospective coming to the U.S. this month,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.artslant.com/global/events/show/436824-lynn-hershman-leeson-civic-radar" target="_blank">at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts</a> in San Francisco, Donahue and Hershman Leeson got the idea to put together a show of firsts&mdash;works that had mostly not been shown in New York, yet were the first of their kind to utilize different emerging technologies like the interactive laser disc, the touchscreen, and even video that reacts in real time to stock market data. The work in <em>Remote Controls</em> ranges from pencil drawings on paper to complex facial recognition technology, a testament to how vast and curiosity-driven Hershman Leeson&rsquo;s career has been.</p> <p>During a gallery walk-through, Hershman Leeson carefully explains how she came upon the diverse technological modes she has worked with. More often than not she was ahead of the curve, and yet her name is not synonymous with the innovations she helped to forge. This never stopped her from continuing to try new things, however, and she always embedded an unapologetically feminist agenda within them: from using male pseudonyms to write about her work when no one else would to her investigation of the abuse of women&rsquo;s images through new media.</p> <div>As we come to the newest work in the show,&nbsp;<em>Venus of the Anthropocene&nbsp;</em>(2017)<em>,&nbsp;</em>we pause and examine a doll-like creature with exposed, golden organs, sitting at a vanity with a small teched-out mirror:</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170203163144-bd-8.jpeg" style="text-align: center;" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Lynn Hershman Leeson, <em>Venus of the Anthropocene</em>, 2017, Vanity dresser with drawers, stool, mirror with facial recognition system, plastic body parts, plastic labeled DNA composite jars, mannequin, custom electronics programmed to read viewer&#39;s DNA. Copyright Lynn Hershman Leeson. Courtesy Bridget Donahue, NYC. Photo: Jason Mandella</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Lynn Hershman Leeson: </strong>See, she has all these disposable body parts. On the vanity, instead of make-up there are body parts and the chemicals you use for DNA modification. If you stand in front of it, it takes your picture and analyzes you. Try it!</p> <p><strong>Olivia Murphy: Sure.</strong></p> <p>[I carefully step onto the plush carpet below the vanity, and look up to find that the mirror has already begun capturing different stills of my face, holding them for a moment on the screen just above it.]</p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> How old does it say you are? 34.</p> <p><strong>OM: Overshot by a few years, but that&rsquo;s okay. Let&rsquo;s see what else it says. Gender: Female; Mood: Surprised; Lips: Parted; Eyes: Open&mdash;the rest is true, I guess.</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> What I like about it is that it&rsquo;s kind of flawed in its accuracy, but it&rsquo;s the program they use to analyze the overall mood of crowds. It&rsquo;s based on a facial recognition system&mdash;databases that interpret where your eyes are, or where your mouth is, what makes you female or male.</p> <p><strong>OM: It&rsquo;s strange too, because you&rsquo;re seeing your &ldquo;real self&rdquo; in the mirror, along with the avatar you on screen, with all of this information that doesn&rsquo;t necessarily line up. Is it generally pretty accurate?</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> No! It&rsquo;s moderately accurate, but not quite.</p> <p><strong>OM: Well, that&rsquo;s unnerving. Shall we sit in <em>Lorna</em>?</strong></p> <p>[We walk to the smaller exhibition space at the other end of the gallery, which is full of more plush carpeting, two large armchairs, a discarded pair of high heels, and a TV monitor with remote controls.]</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Lynn_Hershman_Leeson_Lorna" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170203155324-lorna.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Lynn Hershman Leeson, Installation view of&nbsp;<em>Lorna </em>at Bridget Donahue, 1979&ndash;1984, Earliest interactive laser disc, created with original software. Copyright Lynn Hershman Leeson. Courtesy Bridget Donahue, NYC. Photo: Jason Mandella</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>OM: The technology used here is similar to a DVD, correct?</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong>&nbsp;Now it is, yes, but at the time, nobody knew what it was, or how to use it. It&rsquo;s the first interactive laser disc that anyone ever did. I started in &rsquo;78 and finished in &rsquo;84. In it, you are able to skip around, view multiple narratives, hear multiple soundtracks. Lorna was a woman that was stuck inside, and you make choices for her; you can make her move to Los Angeles, commit suicide, listen to her therapist.</p> <p><strong>OM: Going back to the beginning of your career: the project that turned out to be your master&rsquo;s thesis in San Francisco was a series of reviews done by invented art critics. What was the impetus for you to start writing under these invented personas?</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong>&nbsp;I think I started writing about art just to learn and begin to develop a voice. Then I couldn&rsquo;t get an exhibition, or I couldn&rsquo;t get anyone to write about me, so that caused the invention of these other critics. I was originally writing under my own name, but then I invented these other names so that I could have more freedom, and so people wouldn&rsquo;t get mad at me.</p> <p><strong>OM: That&rsquo;s a very invested project, to be keeping up with three different careers on top of your own! How did you end up capping that off as a project&mdash;did you present the writings all together?</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong>&nbsp;No. One [critic] wrote for&nbsp;<em>Studio International,&nbsp;</em>one wrote for&nbsp;<em>Flash Art</em>, and one wrote for a throwaway newspaper that you got on your doorstep. I used the reviews about myself (because they would fight about me&mdash;somebody liked my work, somebody didn&rsquo;t) and that&rsquo;s how I got my first shows.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170203162605-bd-2.jpeg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Lynn Hershman Leeson, Installation view of&nbsp;<em>Remote Controls&nbsp;</em>at Bridget Donahue, NYC, January 27&ndash;March 12, 2017.&nbsp;Copyright Lynn Hershman Leeson. Courtesy Bridget Donahue, NYC. Photo: Jason Mandella</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>OM: At a time when there wasn&rsquo;t a lot of opportunity for women artists, you created the dialogue you wanted to exist around your work.</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> Yes. In those days women didn&rsquo;t show their work, much less get reviewed, so by taking the reviews to galleries, they became interested in me.</p> <p><strong>OM: Was there any backlash after it came out that you had been behind these three different invented critics?</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> Nobody knew! It was a thesis that went into the library, and that was it! It&rsquo;s all collected, and I think it will go into the [Yerba Buena] retrospective, but no one knew at the time.</p> <p><strong>OM: From there, you began working with technology, using sound and mixed media in sculptural, body-like forms. Tell me about the show that was taken down at the Berkley Art Museum.</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> That show went up in 1970, but they took it down because they didn&rsquo;t expect it. When I was in high school I did a drawing that I Xeroxed, and it got caught in the machine, and I really liked the effect! That&rsquo;s what interested me in what technology could do: I could mash it up and rip it, and I thought that was better than just drawing. So at Berkeley, they were threatening to close the museums because they wouldn&rsquo;t show women&mdash;</p> <table align="right" width="400"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="padding: 10px;"> <p style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: large; color: #1f1f1f;"><span style="font-size: x-large;"><em>&ldquo;Women really had a natural inclination to do these non-linear things that had technology.&rdquo;</em></span></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><strong>OM: They actually&nbsp;<em>wouldn&rsquo;t</em>? That was a rule, not just a tradition?</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> Yes! So they had to do some shows with women, and I got invited to do a drawing show. And to me, sound was like a drawing because it extended into space. I had this piece that used sensors and sound; you would walk up to it and it would talk to you. They had not seen anything like that. Ever. And they said it was &ldquo;media&rdquo; and the curator closed it down in one day. She didn&rsquo;t tell me she was closing it down, she just did it!</p> <p><strong>OM: And that is what spawned the <em>Dante Hotel</em> series?</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> Yes. We did some Xeroxed flyers and put them around. I also did hotel rooms in New York and Las Vegas, and for those I did these 30-second commercial spots. I bought time on television. And then it was just word of mouth.</p> <p><strong>OM: It&rsquo;s interesting to use the television spots to promote the hotel series, because much like your own work, it was still a &ldquo;new media&rdquo; that was far from being considered high art. </strong></p> <p><strong>But before you really dug into new media you were focused more on performance&mdash;like the critic personas, but also <em>Roberta Breitmore</em> [1973&ndash;79], where you were spending time acting in a performance while also in your &ldquo;real life.&rdquo; What was the leap from using yourself as the virtual or performed reality, towards moving into video as virtual reality, like we see here with <em>Lorna</em>?</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> Roberta would go out into the world and have &ldquo;real&rdquo; interactions and adventures, but then somebody gave me access to the local TV station, and I loved working with [video], because it used time and space and color manipulation and narrative. That was at the end of the &rsquo;70s, and then I read about the National Gallery of Art putting their collection on a disc, where you could walk through and view the gallery on the disc. I thought that was really interesting, so I contacted the company that did it, and got the idea for <em>Lorna</em> [1983], who instead of going out into the world, was agoraphobic and was stuck in the room. I went into cable access TV all night to finish it.</p> <p>When you&rsquo;re doing something that&rsquo;s new, nobody knows the language, so you can&rsquo;t explain what you&rsquo;re doing because they don&rsquo;t understand it. I just had to not let it go. I felt like, <em>this is a really important and interesting thing I want to do, so why not? How can we get it done?</em> Then it&rsquo;s just hotwiring and hijacking things to get them finished&mdash;mainly because I wanted to see what it would look like!</p> <p><em>Deep Contact </em>[1984] was the first touchscreen. You have to actually touch the screen on the woman&rsquo;s body. Depending where on her body you touch, it goes into different options of where you can go with her&mdash;you can have her follow a Buddhist Zen master, or a demon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170203151844-1984__FIRST_TOUCH_SCREEN_SCUPTURE_DEEP_CONTACT_Deep_1.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Lynn Hershman Leeson, <em>Deep Contact</em>, 1984, Interactive videodisk installation, including first touch screen created on hypercard and ported, video, color, sound, with coding in collaboration with Sarah Roberts, Infinite duration. Courtesy of the artist and Bridget Donahue</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>OM: The way you&rsquo;ve scripted the character, there&rsquo;s a sort of sexualized element to it.</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> Exactly. A lot of these works are really about abuse of women&rsquo;s images, so you physically have to touch her body, and where you touch her body creates a different kind of response.</p> <p><strong>OM: And you were crafting all of the different narratives?</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> Yes, I wrote the narratives, but we also invented the technology of the touchscreen!</p> <p><strong>OM: And for that you were actually developing the coding? Or the physical technology?</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> Me along with a few people, yes. There&rsquo;s a piece in <em><a href="https://www.artslant.com/ny/events/show/427389-dreamlands-immersive-cinema-and-art-19052016?tab=EVENT">Dreamlands</a></em> [at the Whitney] called <em>Dina</em>, and we did Dina twelve years before [Apple&rsquo;s] Siri. Dina, I think is better&mdash;she&rsquo;s smarter [chuckles]. And we had people talking to us about her technology who went on to develop Siri. Eventually my programmer stopped talking to them because we were giving away too much information! And we never patented these things.</p> <table align="right" width="400"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="padding: 10px;"> <p style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: large; color: #1f1f1f;"><span style="font-size: x-large;"><em>&ldquo;I needed the millennials to be born because they really get this work&mdash;it&rsquo;s their language.&rdquo;</em></span></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><strong>OM: Both&nbsp;<em>Lorna</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>Deep Contact&nbsp;</em>deal with women&rsquo;s lack of agency in culture and society, as well as in their virtual forms&mdash;the &ldquo;abuse of women&rsquo;s images,&rdquo; as you said. How did you insert this feminist platform into the technological space, which wasn&rsquo;t exactly free and open to women to begin with?</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> It wasn&rsquo;t free and open, but I wasn&rsquo;t used to anything being free and open! You know, you just do it. And women really were the basis of all our technology: Ada Lovelace invented the computer language; Mary Shelley invented artificial intelligence; Hedy Lamarr invented the spectrum technology used in cell phones. Women really had a natural inclination to do these non-linear things that had technology.</p> <p><em>Lorna</em> became mildly successful because the people who <em>could</em> understand it were really into it. So I wanted to do something else, not with a remote where you were distanced from the work, but with a touchscreen itself. It&rsquo;s trial and error. I&rsquo;ve worked with the same team since then. And I live in the Bay Area, where technology is in the air, so you can always find people who can lead you to new ways of figuring something out.</p> <p><strong>OM: We have become so immersed in our virtual identities&mdash;how do you feel about looking back on the work now, knowing that it&rsquo;s become so pertinent to the way we live our everyday lives? Did you have any inclination that we&rsquo;d all be living via smartphone versions of ourselves?</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> No, no&hellip; I keep saying that I needed the millennials to be born because they really get this work&mdash;it&rsquo;s their language.</p> <p>I can&rsquo;t anticipate the future, but as an artist, you sort of have to do the things that come to you, and culture will slowly catch up. Culture has now caught up in a way that, to me, seems obvious. Because the ideas were present in the days that I created the works, but they weren&rsquo;t disseminated as widely as they are now. It&rsquo;s like an amoeba: it puts a foot out and the rest has to follow. Although it&rsquo;s never as fast as you think.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170206125630-HOME_FRONT.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Lynn Hershman Leeson, <em>Home Front</em>, 1993-2011, Video installation, dollhouse, paint, custom electronics. Copyright Lynn Hershman Leeson. Courtesy Bridget Donahue, NYC. Photo: Jason Mandella</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>OM: In <em>Civic Radar</em>, the monograph that coincides with your 2016 retrospective at ZKM, you say that interactive technology &ldquo;is the antithesis of communication as we have known it.&rdquo; What exactly do you mean by that?</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> Communication had historically been one omnipresent voice&mdash;television or some other authoritarian voice&mdash;whereas now anyone can publish and get their message out. I think social media has a great ability to change reality. Look at the Arab Spring. We just have to learn as a global culture how to mobilize it in order to overcome oppression and freely communicate. I saw interactive media as a vital force for politics, in particular for third world countries. Using it to avert oppression is a really potent form.</p> <table align="left" width="400"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="padding: 10px;"> <p style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: large; color: #1f1f1f;"><span style="font-size: x-large;"><em>&ldquo;I think social media has a great ability to change reality&mdash;we have to learn as a global culture how to mobilize it in order to overcome oppression and freely communicate.&rdquo;</em></span></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><strong>OM: I&rsquo;m also curious about how you&rsquo;ve moved from this idea of technological surveillance and voyeurism, into more recent work that deals with DNA, facial recognition, and the ethics around that technology.</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> I had finished the films <em><a href="http://womenartrevolution.com/">!Women Art Revolution</a> </em>[2010] and<em> <a href="http://www.strangeculture.net/">Strange Culture</a> </em>[2007], and I thought those were really important films that had set clear a history that had not been noticed, and corrected the censorship and eradication of ideas and artists. I thought <em>what can I do now that could be as important?</em>, and that&rsquo;s when I started to learn about what&rsquo;s happening with genetics. It seemed amazing to me that this never came up in the presidential election. Between genetic manipulation, loss of species identity, and climate pollution&mdash;these are the key issues for the globe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20170203151141-Lynn_Hershman_Leeson-Photo.jpg" style="text-align: center;" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Lynn Hershman Leeson. Photo: Lisa K. Blatt</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>OM: What I find interesting is your optimism for technology. It seems that it&rsquo;s a very scary line to walk, between the good and the harm that can come from things like AI, social media, and genetics. How do you envision that technology being used for good?</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL:</strong> Technology is always neutral. It&rsquo;s what we as human beings bring to it that determines whether it&rsquo;s going to be a weapon or whether it&rsquo;s going to mobilize unity and sustainability, so I really have hope for the future. I believe that young people are interested in sustainability and existence, and will find ways to use the technology that&rsquo;s been invented to create a planet that we can live in. I can only hope.</p> <p><strong>OM: Any weapon is a tool until it&rsquo;s weaponized, and we are definitely coming upon that moment where we have so much access that it&rsquo;s going to come down to not just how the powers that be use technology, but how we as individuals utilize it.</strong></p> <p><strong>LHL: </strong>The most vital technology is being invented by young people all over the world&mdash;not old white men. They should have the force to use it in a way to defeat the old racist attitudes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em><a href="https://www.artslant.com/ny/events/show/439071-remote-controls" target="_blank">Remote Controls</a> is on view at Bridget Donahue Gallery through March 12th, 2017.</em><br /> <em><a href="https://www.artslant.com/global/events/show/436824-lynn-hershman-leeson-civic-radar" target="_blank">Civic Radar</a></em><em>&mdash;originally </em><em>curated</em> <em>by ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany&mdash;will open at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on February 10, 2017.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/452624-olivia-b-murphy?tab=REVIEWS" target="_blank">Olivia B. Murphy</a></p> <p><em>Olivia Murphy is a writer and editor based in New York, covering arts and culture. Her work has appeared in various publications both in print and online, including&nbsp;</em>L&#39;Officiel Magazine<em>,&nbsp;</em>Freunde Von Freunden<em>,&nbsp;</em>Whitehot<em>,&nbsp;</em>Riot of Perfume<em>,&nbsp;</em>doingbird<em>, and&nbsp;</em>Whitewall Magazine<em>.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">(Image at top:&nbsp;Lynn Hershman Leeson, Still from&nbsp;<em>Lorna</em>, 1979&ndash;1984, Earliest interactive laser disc, created with original software. Copyright Lynn Hershman Leeson. Courtesy Bridget Donahue, NYC.)</span></p> Mon, 06 Feb 2017 04:56:52 -0800 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list Marijn van Kreij: Slowing Down through Repetition <p style="margin-left: 80px;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><em>If I can free a humble material from itself, perhaps I can free myself from myself.</em></span></p> <p>This text is written on a scrap of paper, torn from a sketchbook and almost carelessly tacked to the wall of <a href="https://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/36106-marijn-van-kreij" target="_blank">Marijn van Kreij</a>&rsquo;s studio, just outside of Amsterdam. It&rsquo;s a daily reminder resonating in the space where the artist spends most of his waking hours drawing and painting, but also reading, looking at pictures from his ever-growing art book library, immersing himself in this repository of text and image.</p> <p>Van Kreij&rsquo;s work is the antithesis of what art is according to many: the work of an individual genius. At first sight some of his older drawings don&rsquo;t exceed the level of doodles, but since he consciously started to reproduce them, a different outlook emerged somewhere beyond the original image. Van Kreij&rsquo;s work is not about the drawing; it&rsquo;s about the <em>act</em> of drawing.</p> <p>This Zen-like approach has not gone unnoticed. Van Kreij has been invited to quite a number of international shows and over the years has gained substantial recognition. But even after winning several awards he is still slightly ill at ease in the public spotlight. According to him, the artist is merely an intermediary, standing between art and audience. But at present it seems van Kreij also intentionally plays around with the notion of artistic genius. His <a href="https://www.artslant.com/global/events/show/435495-abn-amro-art-award-2016" target="_blank">current show at the Hermitage Amsterdam</a>, part of the prestigious ABN AMRO Art Award 2016, has a telltale title: <em>Reclining Nude with a Man Playing the Guitar</em>. The subject is, you guessed it, the work of Pablo Picasso.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20161215161207-04_MvK_Studio.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">The artist&rsquo;s studio, Amsterdam, December, 2016</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Edo Dijksterhuis: So why did you choose to grapple with the work of this absolute giant of 20th century art?</strong></p> <p><strong>Marijn van Kreij:</strong> To be honest, for a long time I was never really that interested in Picasso&rsquo;s work since his vast production seemed to come about so effortless, without any room for doubt. It always put me off a little. But when I got my hands on the book <em>Late Picasso</em>, covering his work from 1953 to 1972, I was struck by how free and straightforward these late paintings are. You can actually follow the separate steps within each painting. The full process is still traceable, almost like a drawing. For me they represent a carefree and unimposing style.</p> <p>After some initial experiments with repeated imagery on a single sheet of paper, things fell into place in 2012 when I did a joint exhibition with Bas van den Hurk and Koen Delaere at Autocenter, Berlin which we called <em>Picasso grid</em>. This is how the series started. By using a pre-drawn grid, using gouache, I was suddenly able to paint more freely, at a relatively rapid pace. When I am working, I rarely correct anything, I simply move on to the next frame and try again. I&rsquo;ve applied this method to paintings by Paul Klee, Gunta St&ouml;lzl, and a few other artists, but I kept returning to Picasso. It felt natural. He too kept revisiting certain themes, constantly looking for different painterly solutions for the same subject. Leafing through the book you can see how he painted his studio again and again, repeating the same elements in different ways.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20161215161248-07_20160609_50.JPG" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Marijn van Kreij, <em>Untitled (Picasso, The Studio, 1956)</em>, 2013&ndash;2016 Gouache and pencil on paper, 195 x 152 cm</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>ED: In your paintings you have repeated fragments of those paintings twenty, sixty, sometimes more than one hundred times. How do you select those fragments and how do you set up a painting?</strong></p> <p><strong>MvK:</strong> I would cut out a rectangle from a piece of paper and move the window across the images. Depending on what I am interested in at that moment I would settle for a more abstract composition or something more figurative. There are days I cannot find anything to my liking. But when it does happen, I make several small sketches and shortly after that start working on the bigger grid. Each work demands its own amount of time. I don&rsquo;t work from top left to bottom right but all over. That way the work doesn&rsquo;t function as a documentation of linear time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20161215161430-08_20160609_54.JPG" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Marijn van Kreij, <em>Untitled (Picasso, The Studio, 1956)</em> (detail), 2013&ndash;2016 Gouache and pencil on paper, 195 x 152 cm</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>ED: So how would you qualify your working method: as copying or a repetition exercise or something else altogether?</strong></p> <p><strong>MvK:</strong> I&rsquo;m interested in the manual aspect of painting: how a brushstroke can never exactly be the same. I often consciously toy with different ways of painting the same image and try to vary as much as possible. So in a sense I focus on the differences within sameness. Sometimes my work is interpreted as a commentary on contemporary visual culture, the endlessly reproduced stream of images reaching us through the internet and other media. But for me it&rsquo;s mostly about a love for and fascination with the flat image.</p> <p><strong>ED: That sounds extremely personal, yet your work has a certain detached air about it. How do these two come together?</strong></p> <p><strong>MvK:</strong> I was originally trained as a graphic designer. When I went to art school the problem was always: what to draw? What is important enough to be the subject of a drawing? At some point I started to make line drawings based on found footage that I projected onto big sheets of paper. It created a distance between me and the image. By layering different images I left ample room for chance but still the outcome would feel really personal. In retrospect this was a pivotal moment in my artistic development.</p> <p>Later, when I started doing &ldquo;double drawings,&rdquo; something similar was happening. By focusing on the repetition of free, careless marks and brushstrokes, the attention moved away from very idiosyncratic, almost private content to a more formal approach: the act of painting and drawing itself. I was intrigued by how endlessly different these two seemingly similar drawings could be.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20161215161505-09_20160609_57.JPG" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20161215161551-10_20160609_58.JPG" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Marijn van Kreij, <em>Untitled (Picasso, Nude in front of a Garden, 1956)</em>, 2013, Gouache and pencil on paper, 206 x 152.5 cm</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>ED: How does this relate to your recent work, the series of <em>Picasso grids</em> for instance? Does it matter what is represented in the image?</strong></p> <p><strong>MvK:</strong> I would say it&rsquo;s still similar to the diary-like content of the doodle drawings. The choice for a certain detail very much depends on my mood and thoughts at that very moment. On another level you could say I often try to strike a balance between figurative and abstract. Some details, for instance, have a somewhat removed reference to nature; for example, the feather from a woman&rsquo;s hat in <em>Untitled</em> <em>(Picasso, Man and Woman, 1969)</em>. And it&rsquo;s like a visual diary: it documents the passage of time.</p> <p><strong>ED: So your art is a plea for slowing down?</strong></p> <p><strong>MvK:</strong> Yes, exactly. In exhibitions I often combine my work with a counterpoint, something to change the perception of the work altogether. For <a href="https://www.artslant.com/global/events/show/435496-nude-in-front-of-a-garden" target="_blank">a recent show at KLEMM&rsquo;S in Berlin</a> I presented my paintings alongside a sound piece by Andrea B&uuml;ttner called <em>Roth Reading</em>, in which she recites all passages on shame and embarrassment from Dieter Roth&rsquo;s diary from 1982. Everyday incidents of saying the inappropriate thing are mentioned, but he also writes about what it means to put an artwork into the world. I wanted to involve the viewer in my questions and doubts on progress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20161215161629-03_MvK_KLEMMS.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Installation view of <em>Nude in Front of a Garden</em>, KLEMM&rsquo;S, Berlin, 2016</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>ED: For the Hermitage show you combined your paintings with music by singer songwriter Bonnie &ldquo;Prince&rdquo; Billy, the &ldquo;man playing the guitar&rdquo; in the exhibition title. The catalogue even comes with a flexi disc so people can repeat at home the experience of looking at your work combined with the song &ldquo;Go Folks, Go.&rdquo; Why did you choose this combination?</strong></p> <p><strong>MvK:</strong> I first heard this song during a live performance and it felt like an encouragement. Especially the last couple of lines are heartening: &ldquo;Go Folks! Go forth! Trust your brain! Trust your body!&rdquo; While my works on paper seem to bring the painted fragments almost to a standstill, the music is all about movement and change. I like the slight discrepancy between the two, without placing one above the other. For me it&rsquo;s about creating this gap. I am still asking myself: <em>what does progress mean? What do we qualify as progress?</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20161215161704-14_20161108_19.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Marijn van Kreij, <em>Untitled (Picasso, Reclining Nude with a Man Playing the Guitar, 1970)</em>, 2016, Gouache and pencil on paper, 192 x 151</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>ED: You don&rsquo;t believe in progress?</strong></p> <p><strong>MvK:</strong> Well, I only recently realized how omnipresent the linear idea of progress is in Western culture. This was one of the reasons I wanted to revisit Japan, where the historic notion of time is cyclical. The Japanese put less emphasis on individual identity and social context is more important.</p> <p>In the documentary <em>Cave of Forgotten Dreams</em> by Werner Herzog, the story is told of an anthropologist following an indigenous Australian into a cave, where he&mdash;out of the blue&mdash;starts to touch up a prehistoric cave painting. When he is asked about what just happened, he is not quite able to reflect on what he just did: &ldquo;this is just how it should be.&rdquo; It shows how personality and time do not matter to him. I wonder to what extent we can take such ideas into the present time. I think this is a beautiful example of a possible different approach to art.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20161215161754-15_20161108_21.jpg" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Marijn van Kreij,&nbsp;<em>Untitled (Picasso, Reclining Nude with a Man Playing the Guitar, 1970)</em>, 2016, Gouache and pencil on paper, 192 x 151</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&mdash;<a href="https://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/356010-edo-dijksterhuis?tab=REVIEWS" target="_blank">Edo Dijksterhuis</a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">(Image at top: Installation view <em>Reclining Nude with a Man Playing the Guitar</em>, Hermitage, Amsterdam, 2016. All images: Courtesy of the artist)</span></p> Mon, 19 Dec 2016 10:32:31 -0800 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list Heather Dewey-Hagborg Questions DNA as Big Data <p>DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) is often imagined as the key to identity, as the progenitor of who we are. It is nature within us and the scaffolding onto which we are nurtured into who we are. However, through epigenetics, viral transfer, and genetic drift, we are becoming more aware of the superposition of DNA and its ability to change, inherit, mute, and express with degrees of certainty, not certitude.</p> <p>At the same time, DNA extraction and sequencing has never been cheaper or easier. In light of this and the continued reliance on DNA as forensic proof, artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg approaches the cultural conception of DNA through a hacker mindset, exploiting vulnerabilities in our legal code to expose society&rsquo;s unwarranted reliance on DNA as an object of truth.</p> <p>Dewey-Hagborg is currently in residence at&nbsp;<a href="https://thoughtworksarts.io/" target="_blank">ThoughtWorks Art Residency</a>&nbsp;(among others), a new residency program in Manhattan dedicated to the idea that, as co-director Ellen Pearlman said, &ldquo;artists can often operate with fewer constraints than those in industry, in terms of research, direction and public engagement.&rdquo; Dewey-Hagborg seems perfectly suited to this approach, engaging with technology to question the cultural assumptions at play in its application.&nbsp;Inhabiting the activist/artist role, her works have drawn scrutiny and attention to a fundamental aspect of identity-building in society. In a recent project,&nbsp;<a href="http://deweyhagborg.com/projects/radical-love" target="_blank"><em>Radical Love</em></a>, she received DNA from Chelsea Manning through cheek swaps and hair samples. Using the DNA to shape portraits of Manning, she reveals the limitations of &ldquo;forensic DNA phenotyping&rdquo; in the face of gender and identity. Her next project aims to go even farther, working with human cell cultures to sculpt a critique of the murky world of human biological experimentation.</p> <hr /> <p>Radical Love<em> will be exhibited in </em>Conjunctions<em>, curated by Rachel Valinsky, Friday, November 4th, 2016,&nbsp;at <a href="http://www.peninsulaartspace.com/" target="_blank">Peninsula Art Space</a>.&nbsp;</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 700;">Joel Kuennen: In <em>Stranger Visions</em>, you went around collecting stranger&rsquo;s DNA off the street and then 3D printed portraits of these individuals. Were you already familiar with DNA profiling when you began this project?</span></p> <p><strong>Heather Dewey-Hagborg:</strong> The project really just started as an idea. The background I had was in machine learning and thinking about electronic surveillance. I had been working in that area for about ten years. There was a project I worked on called <a href="http://deweyhagborg.com/projects/listening-post" target="_blank"><em>Listening Post</em></a> which was planted on the street in Buffalo, NY, and would overhear passersby and attempt to learn language by analyzing and fragmenting what it heard and then speak back onto the street with an amalgam of people&rsquo;s voices. This was a speech recognition piece that was inspired by thinking about the Patriot Act and warrantless wiretapping and what it means for all of our conversations to be potentially overheard and analyzed by an automated system. It got me interested in thinking about the mistakes and biases in these systems, especially systems that had the authority to generate &ldquo;actionable information&rdquo; that would point fingers at people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="line-height: 32px; letter-spacing: .5px; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/84518/3mfh/20161031211252-listeningpost.jpg" style="width: 100%;" /></p> <p style="line-height: 32px; letter-spacing: .5px; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:14px;">Heather Dewey-Hagborg,&nbsp;<em>Listening Post</em>, 2009. Courtesy of the Artist.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: What prompted your interest in DNA and privacy and how did you go about learning how to do this work?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH:</strong> I had this experience, sitting in therapy, looking at a framed print on the wall and I noticed the glass was cracked and there was a hair stuck in the crack of the glass and that just captivated me. I sat there and wondered whose hair this was, what I could find out about them. I kept thinking about it after I left and couldn&rsquo;t get the idea out of my mind. I started noticing all these things around me in New York that we were leaving&mdash;saliva, cigarette butts, chewing gum, and hairs&mdash;and then thought if I started collecting those things, what could I find out? I wrote it up in a proposal and just started applying to things and that led me to a residency at <a href="https://eyebeam.org/" target="_blank">Eyebeam</a> and then also just asking around which led me to <a href="http://genspace.org/" target="_blank">GenSpace</a>, a community biology lab in downtown Brooklyn where anyone can take a biotech crash course and learn the basics of how to extract DNA and how to analyze it. When I started the project I didn&rsquo;t know what would be possible. I wasn&rsquo;t sure where it would lead or how to visualize it. These were all open questions that became resolved working on the piece itself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="line-height: 32px; letter-spacing: .5px; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" mozallowfullscreen="" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/121401212" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640"></iframe></p> <p style="line-height: 32px; letter-spacing: .5px; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: What information can be read from an individual&rsquo;s DNA off the street?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>Any genetic or genomic information can be read from trace DNA. So as long as you can get a decent enough quality sample, a clump of hair for example&mdash;as long as you have a few hairs there, some follicles at the end of the hairs, you can find out everything you would from a standard DNA sample. The question really is: &ldquo;what does DNA profiling tell us?&rdquo; This is a more complicated question because it&rsquo;s not a certainty. With DNA we&rsquo;re never talking about deterministic things, we&rsquo;re talking about probabilities. This aligns with this predictive turn we see everywhere: from our newsfeeds, the ads we see online, the traits that are read into our DNA. Things we can read into our DNA include eye color, hair color, complexion, ancestry&mdash;which is very contentious because the line between ancestry and ethnicity and race is so blurry&mdash;sex, a few hints about facial shape, tendency to be overweight. Lately, I have been looking into behavioral traits like depression, sexuality, and religious preferences. I read a study the other day about the genomic correlations of &ldquo;age of first sexual experience&rdquo;&mdash;crazy shit.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: How do you see the predictive turn being applied to genetics, criminologically, or even in a casual way?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>This is the turn from genetics to genomics which some people call the &ldquo;post-genomic era.&rdquo; After the sequencing of the human genome, we have all this data. How do we handle it? How do we make sense of it? What new kinds of methods have emerged? Almost all of biology has become computational. The same kind of algorithms being used to make sense of the big data sets out there are also being applied to biological data. For example, a lot of studies begin by looking at a large set of data, an entire genome panel for example, then looking at a phenotype, a characteristic that a population has, and then looking for correlations. Those correlations might point to locations on the genome that directly code for something genetic or they might not code for anything at all. There might be no clear role for causation: this is the predictive turn.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <table width="100%"> <tbody> <tr> <td width="50%"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/84518/3mfh/20161031212535-sample7-closeup.jpg" style="float: left; width: 100%;" /></td> <td width="50%"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/84518/3mfh/20161031212544-NYC7-web.jpg" style="float: right; width: 100%;" /></td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2" width="100%"> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:14px;">Heather Dewey-Hagborg,&nbsp;<em>Stranger Visions</em>, 2012-2013. Courtesy of the Artist.</span></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: What DNA databases currently exist that necessitate this type of activist work?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>There are two major forms of DNA databases today. The biggest one in the U.S. is CODIS (<span style="white-space: pre-wrap;">Combined DNA Index System) which contains mostly the records of so-called criminals, or people who have entered into the criminal justice system. These people may have been arrested, may not have been convicted, may be related to a missing person, as well as people who have been convicted of crimes. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: Are people aware they are in CODIS or are there instances when you could not be aware that you are in the CODIS system?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>Increasingly we are seeing a radical expansion of that database. It started as a database for sexual assault cases and violent crimes and then over the years it has expanded to consume every type of felony, and then misdemeanors, and now arrests. Most recently in a <a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/dna-dragnet-in-some-cities-police-go-from-stop-and-frisk-to-stop-and-spit" target="_blank"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">really shocking story</span></a> that ProPublica broke a couple weeks ago, they profiled a program called &ldquo;Stop and Spit&rdquo; which is essentially the Stop and Frisk, that we are familiar with in New York, but instead of just frisking people they are asking people to donate DNA. That DNA most likely could end up in CODIS and could be there forever.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: What systemic biases are created through DNA profiling and databasing?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>Already, CODIS is so racially biased. It&rsquo;s totally closed in so we don&rsquo;t know who is in it or what the demographics of it are, but we can only assume it reflects the racial inequalities of our prisons and criminal justice systems at large. Then if we push this even further to sampling DNA from people police deem &ldquo;suspicious&rdquo; it really is disturbing. It pushes the racial profiling elements of DNA databasing to a whole new level.</p> <p style="line-height: 32px; letter-spacing: .5px; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/84518/3mfh/20161031212105-INVISIBLE_ONE.jpg" style="width: 100%;" /></p> <p style="line-height: 32px; letter-spacing: .5px; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:14px;">Heather Dewey-Hagborg, <em>Invisible</em>, 2014. Image by Thomas Dexter.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 32px; letter-spacing: .5px; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>JK:&nbsp;</strong><span style="font-weight: 700; font-style: italic;">Stranger Visions</span><span style="font-weight: 700;"> led to your project, </span><span style="font-weight: 700; font-style: italic;">Invisible</span><span style="font-weight: 700;">, which ostensibly is a company that offers two solutions: one that cleans DNA, and another that obfuscates remaining DNA. Can you tell us about </span><span style="font-weight: 700; font-style: italic;">Invisible</span><span style="font-weight: 700;"> and the conceptual leap from interrogation and provocation to presenting a possible solution?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>After <span style="font-style: italic;">Stranger Visions</span>, the obvious question was: &ldquo;what can we do about this emerging era of biological surveillance?&rdquo; On one level, <span style="font-style: italic;">Invisible</span> presents itself as a kind of solution to the problem of genetic surveillance but it becomes immediately clear that this product is not going to solve our problems. Further, <span style="font-style: italic;">Invisible</span> is a kind of exploit in the hacker sense of the term in that it points to a security vulnerability. It makes clear that DNA is not as authoritative as we would like to believe it is. It sneaks the critique in in the form of this product and suggests that the DNA gold standard demands reevaluation. That&rsquo;s really where it came from for me. After <span style="font-style: italic;">Stranger Visions</span>, I was starting to research into the history of DNA evidence and the construction of the truth of DNA. I was trying to understand how genomic knowledge is constructed and that lead me to questioning the faith we put into DNA.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: This <em>provocateur</em> role of your work reminds me of the role of viruses in defining stable systems. Is this </span><span style="font-weight: 700; font-style: italic;">Invisible</span><span style="font-weight: 700;">&rsquo;s goal&mdash;to force a reevaluation of DNA testing in general, both in forensic applications as well as others?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>That&rsquo;s really the goal for me. <span style="font-style: italic;">Invisible</span> takes the form of this counter-surveillance product, but for me the interesting part is where that fails: the futility of attempting to mask one&rsquo;s genetic traces. I would point out here that a DNA sample taken when someone is arrested&mdash;cheek swab, for example&mdash;is a highly reliable source of DNA, but the bulk majority of DNA forensic evidence is coming from some sort of mixture. In the wild we never have perfect DNA samples; we&rsquo;re always all shedding our DNA on top of each other all over the place.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: Which is the anonymity we want back&hellip;</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>Exactly. The point here is that DNA mixtures are an area of great concern. It is something that&rsquo;s beginning to be addressed in a legal context primarily because companies have begun selling black-box software packages that claim to interpret DNA mixtures better than humans. The police want to introduce this software into court as an expert. So now we have these questions about the validity of this software making conclusions about DNA mixtures which are notoriously hard to interpret. It&rsquo;s beginning to bring the difficulty of DNA mixture analysis into public discourse.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: Do you see DNA losing its position as one of the main identifiers within these forensic contexts?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>While, yes, DNA is seen as less and less deterministic because we have epigenetics, the microbiome, etc., DNA sequencing has never been faster or cheaper. More people have had their DNA sequenced than ever before through direct-to-consumer companies, research projects, and the emergence of new health and wellness companies that are sequencing everyone&rsquo;s DNA that participates. We have simultaneously a loss in the authority of DNA while at the same time we are gathering more of that information than ever. And come to draw conclusions from it about people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="line-height: 32px; letter-spacing: .5px; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://biononymous.me/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Tabloid-BiononymousGuide.jpg" style="width: 100%;" /></p> <p style="line-height: 32px; letter-spacing: .5px; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="white-space: pre-wrap;">Heather Dewey-Hagborg, </span>illustrated by&nbsp;<a href="http://cargocollective.com/jaradsolomon" target="_blank">Jarad Solomon</a>,<font color="#444444"> </font><em>The Biononymous Guide</em><font color="#444444"><em>,&nbsp;</em></font>2016. Image by Jarad Solomon.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: How have sales been for </span><span style="font-weight: 700; font-style: italic;">Invisible</span><span style="font-weight: 700;">?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>I made 25 and sold them all. I&rsquo;ve open-sourced the <span style="text-decoration: underline; color: rgb(17, 85, 204);"><a href="http://biononymous.me/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/ERASE.pdf" style="text-decoration:none;" target="_blank">protocol</a></span> now. I&rsquo;m not an entrepreneur; I want to move on to other projects. The DIY guides are on the <a href="http://biononymous.me/" target="_blank">biononymous.me</a> site. I just posted an even more-DIY-than-ever version of it&nbsp;(above) that you can make in your kitchen with your friends at your next party. Bleach is good for wiping away DNA traces. Alcohol over 70 percent works. If you want to cover them up, just get all your friends together and have them spit in a cup and spray that over the surface.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: What are the legal challenges you&rsquo;ve come up against with your own projects? Is the existing legal structure around DNA privacy too meager to present a challenge?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>It&rsquo;s too meager. Most of what I do falls into a gray zone. There haven&rsquo;t really been any cases that have gone to court about one person violating another person&rsquo;s genetic privacy. The only real DNA law we have is the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_Information_Nondiscrimination_Act" target="_blank"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act</span></a> (GINA) that does protect citizens against discrimination on the basis of their genetics in employment and health insurance contexts. Beyond that, there isn&rsquo;t really any federal regulation on this. There are a patchwork of state laws, and every state is different in terms of what is and isn&rsquo;t allowed, what penalties there are...but it&rsquo;s incredibly hard to enforce. How can you stop me from picking up your coffee cup and profiling it in my kitchen? It&rsquo;s just impossible to enforce.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">We need to think about regulation but we also really need to think about education and social norms. On the one hand, we have this question of what DNA really means and how much authority we should give it and how much DNA actually &ldquo;says.&rdquo; On the other hand we have this real question of norms. Do we as a culture decide it&rsquo;s ok to throw genetic privacy out the window? Or do we shape our norms differently and work to protect people&rsquo;s privacy and allow people to not know these things about themselves? I think the only way we can make these decisions is to have more cultural production around these topics. Fiction, art, music, and film will allow us to think through these scenarios.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: So there is a cultural role to be played here. Are there legislative proposals you are aware of that could address the expanding role of DNA databases in criminology and society in general to protect the individual from unauthorized sequencing?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>Sort of. There&rsquo;s nothing I&rsquo;ve heard of proposed to deal with the <span style="font-style: italic;">Stranger Visions</span> problem, or sequencing other&rsquo;s DNA without their permission. There has been talk around increasing regulation in a medical context. So when you give blood at the doctor, is it OK for the extra blood that wasn&rsquo;t used for testing to be sold to someone else without your consent, for research, pharmaceutical development, etc.? That&rsquo;s the area I&rsquo;ve been researching in my most recent project. There have been hints that there might be increased regulation in that area but it feels far off.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: You are the current artist in residence at </span><a href="https://thoughtworksarts.io/" style="text-decoration:none;" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 700; text-decoration: underline;">ThoughtWorks</span></a><span style="font-weight: 700;"> as well as </span><a href="http://datasociety.net/" style="text-decoration:none;" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 700; text-decoration: underline;">Data &amp; Society</span></a><span style="font-weight: 700;"> and </span><span style="text-decoration: underline; font-weight: 700;"><a href="https://www.buffalo.edu/genomeenvironmentmicrobiome/coalesce.html" style="text-decoration:none;" target="_blank">SUNY Buffalo Coalesce</a></span><span style="font-weight: 700;">. What are your goals for these </span><span style="font-weight: 700; font-style: italic;">many</span><span style="font-weight: 700;"> residencies?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>In my new project <em>Sell Bio</em>, funded by a Creative Capital grant, I&rsquo;m attempting to push what I did in <span style="font-style: italic;">Stranger Visions</span> a step further by giving a face and a name to the supposedly anonymous subjects of biological exploitation. I&rsquo;m working with investigative journalist Scott Christianson and writer/researcher Dorothy Santos and thinking about it as investigative art, so the production of art as evidence.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">The starting place is excavating histories, infrastructures, protocols, and business models that position the most personal of information, a person&rsquo;s DNA, as a commodity to be bought and sold on the open market. This started for me by mapping out how cells, DNA, and profits circulate through this system. The project involves traditional forms of investigation as well as lab research. Working from cells that I purchased online from dubious biological suppliers, I&rsquo;ll analyze their DNA, profile the individuals, and attempt to reidentify them. Additionally, I&rsquo;ll spend time imaging, writing to, and performing a kind of intimacy with these anonymous DNA donors. I&rsquo;ll culture their cells into biological sculptures and chronicle the investigatory, laboratory, and fictional processes as a form of hybrid documentary. In its most recent incarnation, that hybrid documentary<span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">&nbsp;</span>will involve me going to sites and becoming a donor.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: What are these &ldquo;dubious sources&rdquo; for human cells?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>There are many. It&rsquo;s not even a darknet because it&rsquo;s not hidden. There are many websites where you can go and buy single source human DNA, saliva, blood, tissue samples, and immortalized cell lines. Cell lines are actually the most regulated, not because of privacy issues but because of intellectual property issues. The story of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrietta_Lacks" style="text-decoration:none;" target="_blank"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Henrietta Lacks</span></a> was a big inspiration for this new research. How are we all Henrietta Lacks? That&rsquo;s how I&rsquo;ve been thinking about it.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: 700;">JK: Regarding the biological sculpture: are you thinking about growing cells on a scaffold?</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>HDH: </strong>I would like to grow these people&rsquo;s cells in a way that they become visible to the naked eye. Scientists do this all the time; I would just be buying them, culturing them, and using them to create some visual form that relates back to the research I&rsquo;ve done. Probably not a direct portrait but I&rsquo;m not sure yet. I haven&rsquo;t started that part of the project yet. I&rsquo;ll be focusing on that at SUNY Buffalo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;">&mdash;<a href="http://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/153044-joel-kuennen?tab=REVIEWS" target="_blank">Joel Kuennen</a></p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:14px;">Image at top: Heather Dewey-Hagborg, <i>Radical Love: Chelsea Manning</i>, 2015. Image by @Luthy.</span></p> Tue, 17 Jan 2017 20:14:22 -0800 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list Genevieve Gaignard: “You’re Not That, But You’re Not <em>Not</em> That.” <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong><em>Los Angeles, September 2016:</em></strong> Genevieve Gaignard is a magician. She sees you and she sees you seeing her. Revealing our experience and understanding of race, gender, sexuality, and their complex perceptions under the western heteropatriarchal gaze, the Los Angeles-based artist uses self-portraiture and sculpture to find truth in the abstract aporia of identity. The characters she creates and portrays engage with the aesthetic language of Afropunk, substance chic Hollywood glamor, and the suburban working class of generations past to create layered caricatures of the myriad ways people see <em>her</em> many selves. Through these characters and the worlds she builds around them, her work distills stereotypes of people across American social and racial strata with a macabre humor that allows for relatability and introspection in the viewer.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;">Upon entering her West-Adams studio, appropriately located above a consignment store, the first thing I noticed was how charged with symbolism her space is. Readymade objects from thrift stores and the closets of family members sit next to her photographs, creating narrative crystals of meaning that carry the viewer through her psychology and story as a biracial woman of color with fair skin that allows her to pass for white in America. I spoke with Gaignard leading up to her solo exhibition, <em><a href="http://www.artslant.com/la/events/show/427438-smell-the-roses" target="_blank">Smell the Roses</a></em>, opening October 19 at the California African American Museum.</span></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160928150518-Contrapposto_worksv3_copy.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino;">Genevieve Gaignard,&nbsp;<em>Compton Contrapposto</em>, 2016, Chromogenic Print, 32 x 48 inches. Courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;">&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>Alex Anderson: When I look at your photographs, I see myself, I see people I know, I see people I&rsquo;ve seen, and then I see you. Is your work about yourself, or is it about us, the viewer?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>Genevieve Gaignard:</strong> It&rsquo;s about both. First it&rsquo;s me and then it&rsquo;s you and then it&rsquo;s me again and then it&rsquo;s us. I&rsquo;m a person who&rsquo;s really in their head a lot, but I&rsquo;m also a quiet observer. It <em>is</em> about me, but then I&rsquo;m watching individuals and what they surround themselves with and how they carry themselves; those two things come together and allow the viewer to have that moment of seeing &ldquo;oh this is about her, but I&rsquo;m having this moment about me&rdquo; and now they&rsquo;re part of the work. I&rsquo;m open to that. I&rsquo;m happy when the viewer allows himself or herself to get lost in it so it becomes their world too.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: Who is your work for?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG:</strong> It functions as a way for me to process what I was saying about channeling fears and pretending through something you can&rsquo;t achieve in reality. I was thinking about the show I put together with my LA gallery Shulamit Nazarian for the Spring/Break Art Show in NYC where I was allowing people to enter my put-together world. I had anxiety about how it was going to read and began hearing comments like &ldquo;This is the blackest thing I&rsquo;ve seen all week,&rdquo; and I was like &ldquo;Oh my god, thank you! Finally!&rdquo;</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;">I think my work and how I function in the world considers whether I&rsquo;m this or that enough. It was a gratifying comment I received, and it was also a little sad. In that space, it didn&rsquo;t really matter the color of the person&#39;s skin. They had this kind of relatable moment where they would say, &ldquo;This reminds me of my grandma&rsquo;s house in Virginia or the Midwest,&rdquo; and I was like, &ldquo;Okay, well, are we that different?&rdquo; They would connect with one item that felt like home to them so they could look around and make connections with things they otherwise wouldn&rsquo;t see deeper meanings in&mdash;the juxtapositions of items I put in the spaces and how the characters might be perceived at first glance and then reconsidered in context.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160928153135-Genevieve_Gaignard_Shulamit_Nazarian_Apt__3104_Installation_view.jpg" style="height: 467px; width: 700px;" /></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif;">Genevieve Gaignard,&nbsp;</span><em>Apt. #3104</em><span style="font-family: georgia, serif;">, Installation view at SPRING/BREAK Art Show, New York, March 1&ndash;7, 2016.<br /> Courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: There is a clear element of humor in your work despite the complex content exploring the white, western, often heteropatriarchal gaze that serves to marginalize those of our demographic. Do you employ humor as a mechanism for navigating this reality as a woman of color, as a commentary on the absurdity of this social circumstance, or something else?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG:</strong> Humor is integral. It&rsquo;s not something I have to look for. It just happens. I think it&rsquo;s a way of both addressing and embracing the issues at hand. I&rsquo;m less funny and more sarcastic.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: Many people compare you to Cindy Sherman for your use of self-portraiture as a method of accessing meaning. But I read that Diane Arbus is your primary source of inspiration. Why is that?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG:</strong> Diane Arbus is definitely at the root of my inspiration. Early in my journey through photography, I was shown images by many photographers&mdash;mostly white males&mdash;and something about her images instantly connected with me. It was almost like I could see myself as someone she would want to photograph. It&rsquo;s less about the visuals and more about how I see myself and how others might talk about the fact that I&rsquo;m biracial or not the norm.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif;">Also, something I don&rsquo;t know if I&rsquo;ve ever really said is I feel like I&rsquo;m an old soul. I feel like I&rsquo;m in the wrong time. I&rsquo;m in the wrong time but I&rsquo;m in the right time to talk about the things I am connected or drawn to. When I look at her images, I just want to be there. And I also feel like I put myself there. I&rsquo;m like that freak she would have been drawn to and that word is presented as a negative, but when you embrace it, it opens up to new potential. It&rsquo;s more than &ldquo;that guy is covered in tattoos.&rdquo; They&rsquo;re the clich&eacute;s of what a freak is, but there&rsquo;s so much more going on and she&rsquo;s able to meet them on a level where they can kind of give themselves to her in the photograph.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;">The Cindy Sherman comparison is a fairly simple one because I&rsquo;m dressing up as characters. But I can relate to what&rsquo;s been written about Arbus&rsquo; issues with herself and how she approaches her subjects. You don&rsquo;t hear about all that with Cindy. There&rsquo;s a mystery about her, which is interesting. I&rsquo;m a heart-on-your-sleeve kind of person&mdash;you kind of get it all. You may not want it all, but you get it all. I&rsquo;m very close to the surface. That&rsquo;s me, but that&rsquo;s a character.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160928153320-Drive-By_Side-Eye_worksv2_copy.jpg" style="height: 467px; width: 700px;" /></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;">Genevieve Gaignard, <em>Drive-by, Side-eye</em>, 2016, Chromogenic Print 28 x 42 inches. Courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: Many describe Arbus&rsquo; work as being representative of the abject. Do you see yourself in that identity construct?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG:</strong> Yes. Growing up, I felt like that. I can relate to that. At some point, I was just like <em>this is who you are</em>. How can you embrace, work through, and bring out these qualities? My art is a vehicle for that.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: Where do your characters come from and who are they?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG:</strong> They come from thrift stores, they come from wig shops, they come from people I&rsquo;ve grown up around, people in movies I&rsquo;ve seen, what&rsquo;s in my closet, how I&rsquo;m feeling&hellip;what would I look like with that hairstyle? They&rsquo;re dynamic. They&rsquo;re not as firm as people want them to be. They don&rsquo;t have a biography unique to each character&hellip;or would that be an autobiography?</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: How do you become them?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG: </strong>It&rsquo;s a combination of stuff I already own and searching for things. Putting the costume on. Putting the makeup on. Feeling insecure going into the world with my camera and knowing I&rsquo;m going to be seen, but not knowing how I&rsquo;m going to be seen, or judged, or talked to. I think of how Arbus lived for that danger and the unexpected. And then she found herself being comfortable in those settings. It&rsquo;s a back and forth of <em>I can&rsquo;t believe I did that</em> or <em>I don&rsquo;t like how I look in that</em> or <em>that was really scary</em>. But I need to, over time, see that this is powerful if I allow myself to be put out there in that way. Hopefully someone can connect with that and feel more comfortable in their skin with their &ldquo;flaws&rdquo; and &ldquo;freak-like qualities.&rdquo;</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160928153517-Genevieve_Gaignard_Shulamit_Nazarian_Selfie.jpg" style="height: 467px; width: 700px;" /></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;">Genevieve Gaignard, <em>Selfie</em>, 2016, Digital C-print, 20 &times; 30 inches.&nbsp;Courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: Can you tell me about a time that was scary?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG:</strong> The other night I was out shooting off La Brea at a bus stop. I wasn&rsquo;t dressed sexy or anything, but I was posing, and as this guy was driving by he yelled out &ldquo;whore.&rdquo; And I was like, <em>wow, this is what it&rsquo;s like to be female in America&hellip;and the world</em>. It was troubling. I felt bad for the guy actually. I was like, &ldquo;that dude is challenged.&rdquo; I was thinking, <em>is that really what you got from this?</em> And people deal with this all the time without having their picture taken just walking down the street.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: Your characters evoke power, sexuality, decadence, defiance, vulnerability, and an earnest engagement with the viewer, but none of them seem to be particularly happy&mdash;either to be seen, or to see us&mdash;like a contemporary <em>sprezzatura</em>, but more charged with gloom. Where does this come from?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG:</strong> Where <em>does</em> it come from? You don&rsquo;t have to tell me, but that&rsquo;s clearly what you see and I&rsquo;m a little dark. I&rsquo;m. Dark. That look I&rsquo;m giving is me being aware that I am going to be looked at. I&rsquo;m holding onto just a little bit. You don&rsquo;t get to have it all because there&rsquo;s a lot that you&rsquo;re getting. I have to have a fraction that&rsquo;s left.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: I recently read an article about this notion of <em>sprezzatura</em> from a humanist perspective that contained the following quote, which made me think of your work:</strong></span></span></p> <blockquote> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left; padding-left: 30px;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino;"><strong>Nonchalance then is a means of self-challenge and of challenging others; in the process it exposes an oscillation between sincerity and gamesmanship in order to sharpen, not define meaning. Thus sincerity may not be more than successful illusion.</strong></span></span></p> </blockquote> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>Is this idea something you consider in your work? Are you creating illusions?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG: </strong>This quote is pretty revealing. I think illusion is a good description of what&rsquo;s happening here. I also think of it as time standing still&mdash;especially as I look at that cat clock with the tail standing still when it should be moving. I&rsquo;m a magician, goddammit!</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: It is some kind of magic. I feel like you&rsquo;re making these spells or offering ingredients for revelation.</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG:</strong> Yes. Like with these wall pieces I&rsquo;m saying: &ldquo;These are the ingredients. See what you can make with it.&rdquo; And I&rsquo;m not exactly telling you what you have to make.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160928154110-Genevieve_Gaignard_Shulamit_Nazarian_In_the_Red.jpg" style="height: 467px; width: 700px;" /></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;">Genevieve Gaignard,<em> In the Red</em>, 2016, Digital C-print, 20 &times; 30 inches.&nbsp;Courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: One of your characters is named the &ldquo;hair hopper.&rdquo; What is a hair hopper?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG:</strong> The hair hopper term came from John Waters&rsquo; film <em>Hairspray</em>. There was a girl with teased up, crazy, big-ass hair. And she got labeled as her hair. That movie addresses race and body, and those are two major focuses of my work. So I labeled that character as a nod to John Waters. What up John!</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: I notice three categories among your characters: a simple, yet unsatisfied lower-middle class cat lady, a seductive Hollywood vixen draped in luxury, and the &ldquo;hoodrat.&rdquo; When in your life did these characters emerge and what necessitated their creation?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG:</strong> I definitely have these themes as starting points. I&rsquo;m interested in seeing the overlap of these characters and questioning the stereotypes that surround them. The essence of each character is in me. The hair hopper is the time I feel like I&rsquo;m in.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino;">I wish I were more of the Afropunk girl, but then, when I&rsquo;m in that character, I&rsquo;m like <em>wait, I </em>am&nbsp;<em>that</em>,&nbsp;and sometimes I feel like I&rsquo;m overdoing something, but then I think,&nbsp;<em>that could be me</em><em>.</em></span></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><img alt="" height="430" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160929161420-Grace.jpg" /><img alt="" height="430" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160929161439-Basic_Cable_worksv5_copy.jpg" /><span style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;">&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino;">(left) Genevieve Gaignard,&nbsp;<em>Grace</em>, 2015 (right)&nbsp;<em>Basic Cable &amp; Chill</em>, 2016, Chromogenic Print, 30 x 20 inches.</span><br /> <span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; line-height: 30px;">Courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles</span></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; line-height: 30px;">&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: With the natural hair and more Afropunk character, is that about accessing something you know you are, but people don&rsquo;t necessarily see you as because of your capacity to pass?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG: </strong>It is that, but also knowing that I am that. I didn&rsquo;t grow up in a richly diverse neighborhood. It was all white. All white every day. Dressing up is my way of trying these things on. Otherwise I would feel like I&rsquo;m trying to pass as something I&rsquo;m not. I&rsquo;m being vague because it&rsquo;s a slippery slope to say I want to be seen as more black or more white or I&rsquo;m always seen as white. When am I going to be seen as black? Those are just me in my head and not feeling adequate or accepted as either. It&rsquo;s this constant in-between mode. It&rsquo;s like &ldquo;you&rsquo;re not that, but you&rsquo;re not <em>not</em> that.&rdquo;</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: Are they you, or are they assumed identities for the sake of the work and as representations of the people we have to become?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG:</strong> They&rsquo;re me behind a fa&ccedil;ade. I grapple with this myself. When I look at the characters, they&rsquo;re extremes. But it&rsquo;s a comment on who I have to be to fit into certain situations.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: I noticed that you shoot all over LA and the country to create these images. To what extent does location inform meaning in your work and how do you choose your environments?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG:</strong> Making pictures in LA shows us diversity and severe extremes of class. The location does inform my work, and I usually think, <em>I don&rsquo;t know how the character fits here, but I&rsquo;m going to make a picture</em>. You look at the image and wonder if that&rsquo;s where the person is supposed to be and then you&rsquo;re like &ldquo;obviously that&rsquo;s where that person is supposed to be, but are all the other things matching up?&rdquo;</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: Your process seems like a metaphor for the human experience in a way. <em>I don&rsquo;t know if this is supposed to be here, but I&rsquo;m going to make a picture</em> as <em>I don&rsquo;t know if this is where I&rsquo;m supposed to be, but I&rsquo;m going to live my life</em>.</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG:</strong> Exactly. And that&rsquo;s been my experience being in LA. The strange thing about being in LA is <em>it&rsquo;s TV</em>. And I&rsquo;m not what TV is. But I&rsquo;m in TV and my backdrop is where television is. It&rsquo;s exciting and scary. I think I&rsquo;m in character sometimes, but there are actual characters out there&hellip;they&rsquo;re magicians too.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.artslant.com/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160928154412-Genevieve_Gaignard_Shulamit_Nazarian_Cat_Lady_Installation_view.jpg" style="height: 467px; width: 700px;" /></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;">Genevieve Gaignard, <em>Us Only</em>, Installation view at Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles, CA, November 12, 2015&ndash;January 7, 2016.&nbsp;<br /> Courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: You effectively use decoration and decorative motifs in your work in a way that is far removed from anything one could dismiss as being simply &ldquo;decorative.&rdquo; How does the decorative inform your work and your practice?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG: </strong>It&rsquo;s about juxtaposing these elements. It&rsquo;s a lot&mdash;it&rsquo;s almost vibrating. But they&rsquo;re not threatening. You can see in your mind or in real life where they live. When I watch a TV show, and a character walks in, I&rsquo;m scanning the background to see which objects they use to inform who they are. I do this when I go to people&rsquo;s homes too. I make these observations, gather that information and play with how things are juxtaposed. Yes, I&rsquo;m drawn to it because it&rsquo;s pretty or familiar, but why is it next to that?</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: This October, your first museum exhibition will open at the California African American Museum. What will the focus of this show be and what should we know before we see it?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG: </strong>In <em>Smell the Roses</em> I&rsquo;m pushing myself to talk a little louder. I feel like I&rsquo;ve been whispering for a long time. The underlying theme for me is loss. A lot of people are experiencing loss on a large scale. I&rsquo;m also interested in the comparison of personal versus public, black versus white, and fat versus thin. These things are all happening at once, but you live in this bubble, or that bubble. I&rsquo;ll also have a new video piece. I&rsquo;m really excited and it&rsquo;s beyond huge to have this opportunity.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><img alt="" height="420" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160929153940-Genevieve_Gaignard_Shulamit_Nazarian_Supreme.jpg" /><img alt="" height="420" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160929154020-Genevieve_Gaignard_Shulamit_Nazarian_The_99cent_Store.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;">(left)&nbsp;Genevieve Gaignard, <em>Supreme,</em> 2015, Digital C-print, 29 x 23 inches&nbsp;(right) <em>The 99cent Store</em>,</span><span style="font-family: georgia, serif;">&nbsp;2015, Digital C-print, 36 x 24 inches</span><br /> <span style="font-family: georgia, serif;">Courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif;">&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>AA: Do you consider your work to be African American art?</strong></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>GG: </strong>Yes, but only through the work that I create have I been able to accept myself as being a woman of color while seeing how others accept and relate. To bring it back to the show and where the show will be, it&rsquo;s part of being included in the conversation. The black experience is a wide range of experiences and in order to break stereotypes, you have to get all aspects of it. I think CAAM is giving me&nbsp;and the public&nbsp;that opportunity to see an unexpected perspective of the black experience. Of <em>my</em> black experience. A black experience of a person who has white privilege. It&rsquo;s a very charged body to be in.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;">Making the work is my challenge and my responsibility. When I look at the TV and see all these awful things happening, I think this is what I can do to create conversation around these issues, so hopefully that&rsquo;s what this show does.</span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;">&mdash;<a href="http://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/428290-alex-anderson?tab=REVIEWS" style="color: #7e5ac6; text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">Alex Anderson</a></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><em><a href="http://www.alexanderson.us" style="color: #7e5ac6; text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">Alex Anderson</a>&nbsp;is a Los Angeles-based artist, an MFA candidate at University of California, Los Angeles, and a former resident artist at the China Academy of Art as a Fulbright Scholar. He completed his undergraduate studies at Swarthmore College.</em></span></span></p> <p style="line-height: 30px; text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:18px;">&nbsp;</span></p> Mon, 05 Jun 2017 09:09:19 -0700 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list In Blockchain Tribute, Simon Denny Imagines Future Crypto-Economies <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><em><strong>New York, September 2016:&nbsp;</strong></em>This past Thursday, I arrived at Petzel Gallery amidst a flurry of installation activity, scissor lifts backing furtively out of the installed exhibition spaces, and the last of the vinyl lettering still going up on the walls and windows. Simon Denny, the New Zealand-born, Berlin-based artist was speaking fervently to Friedrich Petzel and a few others about his work, visibly excited and engaged about his latest exhibition, </span><em style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><a href="http://www.artslant.com/ny/events/show/425854-blockchain-future-states" target="_blank">Blockchain Future States</a></em><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">, due to open that evening.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">In a walkthrough, Denny eagerly explained each piece in the show, giving the historical and cultural context for everything from a Pok&eacute; Ball sculpture, to the blockchain-themed Risk recreations. Each of the individual works builds upon the narrative he is constructing: one of imagined future states based on the <a href="http://www.artslant.com/ny/events/show/425854-blockchain-future-states" target="_blank">utilization of cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin</a>, and the <a href="https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Block_chain" target="_blank">blockchain</a> transaction database used to authenticate them. This may sound like another language to some, but as in his work on management strategies, tradeshows, and even the NSA, Denny has found a way of using the medium of the &ldquo;art exhibition&rdquo; to enlighten viewers about developing networks and technologies. Looking at Ethereum,&nbsp;21 Inc., and&nbsp;Digital Asset, three financial companies advancing Bitcoin and blockchain applications in different ways, Denny playfully speculates how this digital currency and technology might evolve within our given and future societies and economic systems.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><img alt="" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160920133330-fpg-106.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">Simon Denny, <em>Bitcoin/Blockchain Founder Myth Oversized Nintendo DS Pokemon Game Cartridge Case Bitcoin/Blockchain Founder Myth<br /> Oversized Pokeball Globe</em>, 2016, UV print on Plexiglas, stage platforms, stage feet; powdercoated steel component on styrofoam-core ball, book, plushtoy,<br /> Installation view at Petzel Gallery. Courtesy of the artist and Petzel Gallery, New York</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>Olivia Murphy: You&#39;ve broken up this exhibition into two parts: one room containing the mythology of the &ldquo;founding fathers&rdquo; of Bitcoin, and the other containing different iterations of how the blockchain protocol is being utilized by three different companies. How do you take these ideas from the cybersphere and turn them into physical sculpture or print media?</strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>Simon Denny:</strong> It&rsquo;s a bit of a give and take; I look at the aesthetics and the cultural space that the blockchain companies and products draw on or reference, like gaming or corporate life. For instance, its been speculated that <a href="https://www.ethereum.org/" target="_blank">Ethereum</a> took their logo from a Magic the Gathering card, so I took my aesthetic cue from there and looked into fantasy imagery, which lead me down one side of the cultural inspirations for people that work with blockchain. Then with Blythe Masters [CEO of blockchain company <a href="https://digitalasset.com/about.html" target="_blank">Digital Asset</a>], she works in a very traditional banking space, which has a very classic aesthetic. So I decided her portrait should be something that reinforces this idea of a safe traditional system&mdash;things that a bank might use. Banks are very classical, they have simple design, evoking trusted, old things&mdash;like bank notes having founding fathers on them, etc. So a sort of woodcut aesthetic could be used for depicting Blythe. Every company has their own kind of aesthetic context if you look into it, so that helps me form the objects, and choose the &ldquo;look&rdquo; for each part of the presentation.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>OM: In terms of the objects, there is a back and forth between the information you are trying to relay and the aesthetic appeal. How much do you see this information, that is sort of coded into the works, as necessary to get across to the viewer?</strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>SD: </strong>I think everybody comes to an exhibition with a different set of expectations in mind. One of the great things about art is that it is different for different people. Generally people who want to come and look at art have the time and headspace and the expectation to have a kind of contemplative moment to think about things in an exhibition. So I try and give those people a rich, dense experience with things to read and complex ideas to think and talk about, if that is what they seek.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">But I also try and give a very emotional, or visceral experience to those who have no interest in the supposed subject matter of the show. As much as [the exhibition is] a carrier for information, it&rsquo;s also its own language of form and color and texture&mdash;all the things I fell in love with as a young art student. It&rsquo;s not an essay, and it doesn&#39;t try to be an essay. Rather, it&rsquo;s supposed to be a way of entering this content and seeing all the aesthetic locaters of blockchain together in the same room and asking, <em>what does this feel like to be around all these derivatives of a liberal tech future?</em>&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>OM: And what does it look like? For instance, within the progression of the exhibition, you can <em>see</em> the break down of ideology&mdash;from corporate to radical&mdash;in the physical exhibition space, as you go from a very clean, commercial marketed space to a sort of deconstructed cyber punk realm.</strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>SD: </strong>Yes, and that&#39;s as much a valuable starting point for thinking about and experiencing these potential futures. There are many possible futures for this technology. It might be that the traditional banking sector completely absorbs the disruptive changes proposed by blockchain, or it might be that it develops in a kind of anarchic space and creates the infrastructure for a new supra-national future governance system. And this is what the contrast in the exhibition is exploring. Not everyone wants to read about blockchain, it can seem a bit dry and complicated. So these forms that you can recognize and relate to in a different way, on the one hand makes the intellectual content of it a little more approachable, and on the other hand, it can just be a great way to experience new things.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><img alt="" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160920133604-SD_16_020L1.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">Simon Denny, <em>Blockchain Risk Board Game Prototype: Crypto/Anarchist Ethereum Edition</em>, 2016, Folde Board: plywood, canvas, foil;<br /> Boardgame box: plywood, foil; Figures, cards and dice: Spraypaint on 3D printed figures, coins, plexiglas, digital print on cardboard along;<br /> Game rules: UV print on dibond. Courtesy of the artist and Petzel Gallery, New York</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>OM: Your decision to represent these three companies using blockchain as games is especially readable in that sense. Even if one is not familiar with the game, the connotation is clear between a traditional geographic Risk board as a metaphor for global domination in Digital Assest&rsquo;s case, versus something that alludes to a more abstract gaming space, like a Chinese Checkers board where Risk becomes a more geometric, amorphous exercise for Etherium. Utilizing that type of visual language, rather than didactic wall texts is extremely powerful in embedding this information. </strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>SD: </strong>Absolutely, I am glad that comes across to you.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>OM: This is sort of new territory in terms of cyber theory and how we&rsquo;re enacting it in the physical world. Do you see the objects as apolitical?</strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>SD: </strong>What I do definitely has a political component to it in that I try to foreground political issues that are relevant to these ideas. I also try and work with an audience&rsquo;s expectations of what an artist&rsquo;s position might be on this material and purposefully diverge from that a bit. I think that makes it both more fun and more potent. But the objects should also be a great physical experience. I like to do both.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>OM: In that sense, you also leave a lot open to interpretation. Although the radical ideas and aesthetics of the Etherium section of the exhibition seem more in line with &ldquo;art&rdquo; or an artist&rsquo;s standpoint, in terms of how this blockchain function is going to be enacted on the global economies they are talking to, a ripped up wall is a somewhat disturbing signifier. Additionally, all three proposed futures are radically different, yet treated with the same care and attention. Are you trying to play a bit with the expectations of what we want versus what we need from the ideologies, and our future global economies?</strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>SD: </strong>That is a nice way to see it. I&#39;m also trying to activate a space in terms of an art readership. In an ideal world, I think art viewers want challenging exhibitions&mdash;at least that&rsquo;s what I want from my exhibition experiences anyway. And I&rsquo;m a big fan of the modern tradition that values this kind of challenge, so I want to continue to challenge what people think that they want out of a show. Politically my upbringing, and a lot of my sympathies, are situated in the traditional left, which is a space where art is very comfortable, and that art has traditionally occupied. Some of what I try to do in my exhibitions is ask if there is a contemporary answer to the contemporary problems that challenge the world right now. Some of that is looking towards contemporary politics that is not really in that tradition. The fact that we&#39;ve gone this far down a classical-liberal economic path in terms of finance and governance&mdash;maybe even in the art world as well&mdash;means to me that we should be asking ourselves if our familiar tools developed under the framework of other moments are the critical tools we want to keep using to unpack a contemporary set of problems that are built on other kinds of assumptions.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><img alt="" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160920133704-fpg-100.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">Simon Denny, <em>Blockchain Future States</em>, 2016, Installation view at Petzel Gallery, New York. Courtesy of the artist and Petzel Gallery, New York</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>OM: In terms of the aesthetics of exhibition making, your </strong><a href="http://momaps1.org/exhibitions/view/396" target="_blank"><strong>PS 1 exhibition in 2015</strong></a><strong> played off of the tradeshow, which talks to the &ldquo;art-fair industry&rdquo; that&rsquo;s arisen outside of the exhibition space. There&rsquo;s a blurring of lines between these worlds. You employ a similar aesthetic here of referencing the trade show or even Comic-Con-like display of the objects. Why have you chosen that reference for this show?</strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>SD: </strong>I&rsquo;m interested in the language of the physical world. I was trained as a sculptor; that was my first moment as an artist&mdash;I was sort of a faux arte povera, found objects, scattered installation maker. But then I started to look at the way other value systems and traditions create impact with objects and space. So obviously if you&rsquo;re looking at the commercial world, then trade fairs and display aesthetics are where their physical manifestations and celebrations are.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">I started to think that if I&rsquo;m interested in culture around tech and how tech touches commerce, and if I&rsquo;m working in the medium of the exhibition, then I should pay very close attention to how the language developed for trade fairs, because there is already a set of conventions that are used by people making exhibitions about tech. That&rsquo;s maybe not happening in art, but it is happening in the commercial space. I try to learn those aesthetics and play with the conventions within that language because it&rsquo;s the native language to exhibition-making within the tech sector.&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>OM: Do you see yourself moving back and forth between those spheres at all? Have you thought at all about bringing your vocabulary about these issues into an actual tech space?</strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>SD: </strong>I have actually, and that&rsquo;s something quite exciting I&rsquo;m about to do in a really serious way. I made an exhibition recently in London at the <a href="http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/exhibitions-events/simon-denny-products-organising" target="_blank">Serpentine</a>, which was looking at management strategies, and connecting that to self-organized hacker groups. Management in tech often positions the hacker as a kind of hero figure, and tries to incorporate hacker-like practices and environments into management strategies. As a part of that I looked at the company Zappos, which is owned by Amazon. It&rsquo;s a shoe sales company, but it&rsquo;s also a kind of poster company for this distributed management system (in some ways not so far in principal from blockchain) called <a href="http://www.holacracy.org/" target="_blank">Holacracy</a>. Holacracy basically tries to create a system where every person in the organization is somehow part of the governance process. They have complex sets of rules, meetings, and structures that put everyone from the cleaner to the CEO into some kind of decision-making position.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">Zappos heard about my exhibition, where I&rsquo;d included a sculpture about their management system, about their building and the way they use space and office space, and they want to tour some version of the show to Las Vegas, where they are based. It will be open at the same time as the Consumer Electronics Show, which is the most important trade fair in the consumer electronics space, so hopefully that will be a pretty major step in bringing a tech audience to my work.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">I have to see how that all feels, and I am going outside of my comfort zone, outside of my traditional community space&mdash;and all of that comes with learning&mdash;but I want to be open to these things at the same time.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s a new thing for me to be working so close to a company like this and it&rsquo;s very exciting.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong><img alt="" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160920133942-fpg-102.jpg" /></strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">Simon Denny, <em>Blockchain Future States</em>, 2016, Installation view at Petzel Gallery, New York. Courtesy of the artist and Petzel Gallery, New York</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>OM: When you have something like that in a white box gallery space, you leave a bit more room for a playful approach. Do you lose that if you are participating within the system you&rsquo;re exploring and questioning?</strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>SD: </strong>Well, that&#39;s something I have to address, and I think I can only address it by going through this process. Proximity to subject matter has always been something I&rsquo;ve had to negotiate, for instance I did a Venice [Biennale] pavilion recently for New Zealand about the NSA and the culture within intelligence organizations. I focused on one designer that used to be at the NSA, who may have been responsible for a number of the slides [Edward] Snowden leaked. This designer left the NSA in 2012 and became a freelancer, so I hired him to make some new work for the show, and based the whole pavilion around his illustration output, contrasted with some of the Snowden-leaked drawings and the playful iconography that was in some of the slides he gave to media. This illustrator didn&rsquo;t know about my plans for the exhibition; the preparation was done independently.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">The <em><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/may/05/edward-snowden-nsa-art-venice-biennale-reverse-espionage">Guardian</a></em> came to see the show before it opened, and they called him up, talked to him about the exhibition and he had these amazing things to say about his work. This completed the project in a really cute way for me, as one of the main newspapers who &ldquo;leaked&rdquo; the NSA material with Snowden was now kind of &ldquo;leaking&rdquo; my project about that material.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">This idea of what is research, and how close are you to the subject matter that you work with, also comes with the question of how independent can you be. Sometimes I will collaborate directly with a company. The <a href="http://www.petzel.com/exhibitions/2013-06-20_simon-denny/">last show</a> I did here at Petzel was about this conference called DLD, which is a prominent tech conference in Europe. I worked closely with them, they gave me permission to use all their material. So that was a collaboration in a way, and that meant a different sort of relationship than, say, to these companies in this show, where I didn&rsquo;t ask permission. I didn&rsquo;t approach them for any kind of rights, or anything like that.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><img alt="" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160920133845-SD_13_xxx9L1.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">Simon Denny, <em>All You Need is Data: The DLD 2012 Conference Redux</em>, 2013, Installation view at Petzel Gallery. Courtesy of the artist and Petzel Gallery, New York</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>OM: That show was an analogue reproduction of the tech conference?</strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>SD: </strong>Exactly. I built a maze through this entire space where every talk or panel from this conference became a graphic panel. A viewer walked through 90 canvases, mounted on these stanchion devices, which took you through the whole experience of the conference, in a different format. Again, this idea that proximity plays a role in your level of independence and your level of knowledge also. That&rsquo;s a game that I haven&rsquo;t totally cooked yet; I think that&rsquo;s still unresolved. I think I get a lot from close collaboration with companies, with their permission&mdash;that&#39;s something you can learn different things from than independent research at a distance&mdash;but then you become a part of their thinking as well. If you share you kind of join...</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>OM: Have you heard from any of the companies mentioned in this show yet: Etherium, <a href="https://21.co/" target="_blank">21</a>, or Digital Asset? </strong></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><strong>SD: </strong>It&rsquo;s interesting&mdash;a collector came through yesterday who knows Blythe Masters and gave her a call, saying &ldquo;oh you&#39;ve got this amazing sculpture in here.&rdquo; It was so cool. My position on this is that it&rsquo;s kind of like fan art: I&rsquo;m a fan of these people&rsquo;s work. I think they&rsquo;re emblematic for a cultural shift, and I&rsquo;m trying to celebrate what they&rsquo;re doing, almost like tech advocacy. I didn&rsquo;t contact the companies featured in the exhibition before making the exhibition because I wanted to sort of fictionalize their positions to a certain extent&mdash;so it&rsquo;s based on these companies&rsquo; actual positions in the blockchain spectrum and what they are producing, but also simplified and caricatured a bit.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">I think in a world that&rsquo;s increasingly privatized and branded, artists should be able to make independent work about some of the most powerful forces in the world without having to ask explicit permission. But it&rsquo;s great when this all joins up and there is contact afterward with people like Blythe Masters or the former NSA designer like there was in my Venice project.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><img alt="" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160920134335-SD_16_010L1__1_.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">Simon Denny,<em> Blockchain Future State Founder Whiteboard Globe Drawing: Blythe Masters Digital Asset</em>,&nbsp;2016,&nbsp;PE globe with plexiglas<br /> Components and metal holder on Bullstage platform, stage feet; UV print on alucore, plexiglas. Courtesy of the artist and Petzel Gallery, New York</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px; text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: x-small;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">Blockchain Future States<em> is open through October 22, 2016 at Petzel Gallery in New York. </em></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&mdash;<a href="http://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/452624-olivia-b-murphy?tab=REVIEWS">Olivia B. Murphy</a></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;"><em>Olivia Murphy is a writer and editor based in New York, covering arts and culture. Her work has appeared in various publications both in print and online, including&nbsp;</em>L&#39;Officiel Magazine<em>,&nbsp;</em>Freunde Von Freunden<em>,&nbsp;</em>Whitehot<em>,&nbsp;</em>Riot of Perfume<em>,&nbsp;</em>doingbird<em>, and&nbsp;</em>Whitewall Magazine<em>.</em></span></p> <p style="line-height: 26px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: medium;">&nbsp;</span></p> Tue, 13 Dec 2016 08:58:53 -0800 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list Meleko Mokgosi: On Love in Democratic Intuition <p><em><strong>New York, September 2016:&nbsp;</strong> Democratic Intuition</em><span>&mdash;for those preoccupied by a tumultuous election season, the title has a timely ring. But Meleko Mokgosi&rsquo;s expansive project, now halfway through its eight planned chapters, has little to do with the drama that is U.S. presidential politics. The artist, who painstakingly researches and storyboards his enormous paintings, had mapped out his newest works long before anyone had ever imagined a Trump/Hillary showdown in the cards.</span></p> <p><span><a href="http://www.artslant.com/ny/events/show/425831-democratic-intuition-lerato" target="_blank"><em>Lerato</em></a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.artslant.com/ny/events/show/425833-democratic-intuition-comrades-ii" target="_blank"><em>Comrades II</em></a>,&nbsp;the latest instalments in&nbsp;<em>Democratic Intuition&nbsp;</em>(2014&ndash;present), are currently shown across Jack Shainman Gallery&rsquo;s two Chelsea spaces.&nbsp;The project&rsquo;s overarching&nbsp;title is inspired by a Gayatri Spivak lecture on equal access to education:&nbsp;&ldquo;You can, in fact, describe the democratic impulse&nbsp;</span><span>as other people</span><span>&rsquo;s children, not just yours.</span><span>&rdquo; In this vein, Mokgosi&rsquo;s &ldquo;intuition&rdquo; abstractly refers to a drive to participate, and to make judgments not only for oneself. But the project also considers those who have historically been denied opportunities to engage in democracy. </span><span>The source materials for his figurative paintings derive from southern African history and the artist&rsquo;s native Botswana, with works opening onto labor, politics, and liberation movements.&nbsp;</span><span>The latest chapters take on the subjects of allegory, Lerato (&ldquo;love&rdquo;), and language, like the solidarity and tensions captured in a word like &ldquo;comrade.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span>Despite the narrative specificity, the scope of&nbsp;</span><span>Mokgosi&rsquo;s paintings is tremendous. They at once enlist and undermine the tropes of the art historical cannon: from his canvas shapes and compositions to his precise mark-making, which slips in and out of figurative and abstract vernaculars. These are not simply history paintings bringing visibility to little commemorated events; they are paintings <em>about</em> history painting, and about the inscription of history more broadly. How do we register memory and the past? How are communities and identities imagined, nations shaped? Who makes those decisions, and how are they passed on?</span></p> <p><span>On the eve of his New York openings, Mokgosi took the time to answer some questions about these latest bodies of work.</span></p> <p><em><img alt="" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160908151252-2016_MEM_JSG20_Lerato__install_view_5__HR.jpg" /></em></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span>Meleko Mokgosi, Installation view of<em> Democratic Intuition: Lerato</em> at Jack Shainman Gallery, West 20th Street, September 8&ndash;October 22, 2016.<br /> &copy; Meleko Mokgosi. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span><strong>Andrea Alessi: Let&rsquo;s start with love&mdash;or, more specifically, <em>Lerato</em>. How do you see these concepts relate to the idea of democracy or the democratic impulse?</strong></span></p> <p><span><strong>Meleko Mokgosi:</strong> I chose the title <em>Lerato</em> (translated as &ldquo;love&rdquo;) because something in the texture and life of this word cannot be translated; namely, the fact that it is in my mother tongue, and also because culturally, the word &ldquo;love&rdquo; cannot and does not occupy a similar position in the world. The fact that Lerato names a strong affection for something or someone, and it functions as a proper noun mostly designated to females, is all-important.</span></p> <p><span>As with previous projects, psychoanalysis as a theoretical tool played a part in this chapter. Like many, I bought the argument that if there is one way to investigate how we as subjects invest emotions into things, then psychoanalysis would be able to provide some ways of looking at this question. In <em><a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9781509500499" target="_blank">Lacan on Love</a></em>, Bruce Fink charts the various ways in which psychoanalysis can be used to examine the force that binds subjects together. Fink charts out some of the normative manifestation of love, including: natural love, attachment, friendship, agape, hatred, attraction, fixation on the human form, physical love, courtly love, romantic love, and falling in love. Friendship, for example, requires a specific kind of love, one in which you both want nothing more than good to come towards one another: that is, to wish each other well. In old European tongue, the term <em>philia</em> [the subtitle of two works in <em>Lerato</em>] is used to describe being committed to your friend&rsquo;s well-being without reservation, wanting the best for him or her.</span></p> <p><span>In many ways, this is what the democratic requires from any citizen; namely, to take other people&rsquo;s children in friendship&mdash;to wish them well and want the best for them while at the same time ensuring that your freedoms as an individual are recognized. Love, then, is the infinite source that compels us to always project ourselves as the subject of all narratives that we communicate about ourselves, and ensures recognition. In a sense, I am saying that for citizens to recognize each other, there needs to be a general kind of love that binds them. No doubt, this is not the whole story about democracy because one needs to have access to the nation-state in order to practice it.</span></p> <p><span><img alt="" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160908151335-2016_MEM_JSG20_Lerato__install_view_8__HR.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span>Meleko Mokgosi, Installation view of<em> Democratic Intuition: Lerato</em> at Jack Shainman Gallery, West 20th Street, September 8&ndash;October 22, 2016.<br /> &copy; Meleko Mokgosi. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York</span></p> <p><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span><strong>AA: In <a href="http://mg.co.za/article/2016-01-29-meleko-mkgosi-the-quiet-violence-of-fading-to-white" target="_blank">an interview</a> this January you spoke about the &ldquo;violence of representation&rdquo; existing on both optical and political levels. Can you elaborate on this idea and how your work addresses it?</strong></span></p> <p><strong>MM:</strong><span> Through my work, I try to pose questions that are related to issues of power, oppression, colonialism, as well as the limitations and violence of grand narratives. This project follows </span><em><a href="http://www.melekomokgosi.com/pax-kaffraria-pax-afrikaner/" target="_blank">Pax Kaffaria</a></em><span> (2010&ndash;2014), which specifically dealt with national identification and xenophobia. As someone who tries to negotiate the world conscientiously and with a certain level of criticality, the way in which particular publics are systematically denied access to state apparatuses that grant a movement towards self-actualization and participation in governance (codenamed democracy)&mdash;this has been bothersome to me for some time. Hence the current project, which tries to find ways of using representation to pose questions such as: if democracy is founded on the often impossible choice between exercising my nation-state-granted freedoms as an individual and having to recognize the individual freedoms of another, then how can one reciprocate democracy?</span></p> <p><span>To try to address your question more, I would say that the work tries to address questions of representation because as someone from southern Africa, there is an already established and taken-for-granted grand narrative about our history, culture, and its population, obviously written from outside of our control, so my work seems to always fight against these narratives that in many ways have the privilege of not having to fight back because they have been so normalized. In other words, it becomes a question of having to figure out how I can contribute to an unlearning of how the general public, mostly in the West, have been conditioned to read and imagine where I come from, which has been called many things like the Third World and so forth. And no doubt, this essentializing is violent.</span></p> <p><img alt="" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160908152021-meleko_mokgosi_comrades.jpg" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span>Meleko Mokgosi, Installation view of<em> Democratic Intuition: Comrades II</em>&nbsp;at Jack Shainman Gallery, West 24th Street, September 8&ndash;October 22, 2016.<br /> &copy; Meleko Mokgosi. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span><strong>AA: Stories, painted in untranslated Setswana text, feature prominently in <em>Comrades</em>.&nbsp;Are Setswana speakers your ideal audience, or do words have another function here? Is there something to be gained through not understanding?</strong></span></p> <p><span><strong>MM:<em>&nbsp;</em></strong>No, I would be lying if I said there is something to be gained from not understanding. <em>Comrades</em> is my attempt at examining the ways in which language was used to articulate the fight for freedom and outlining the kind of political goals and democratic state that was sought for during the fight for liberation in the 1960s. Here, I ask how the idea of democracy, articulated during the struggle, has and continues to shape the current state of citizens&rsquo; experience and reciprocation of democracy. No doubt, issues of language and education are central. Following the French revolution, the term &ldquo;comrade&rdquo; has always had political resonance and was developed as a form of address between socialists and workers. Comrade then, was meant to refer to egalitarianism, thus becoming a demonstrative form of address that was supposed to cut across gender, racial, ethnic, and class lines. In southern African liberation movements and politics, comrade was specifically used to refer to members of particular parties. In Zimbabwe and South Africa, the term has and is still used to refer to those affiliated with ZANU (PF) and the ANC respectively.</span></p> <p><span><em>Comrades</em> is comprised of figurative paintings and text-based work, the first time I have paired the two. The paintings are oil on canvas, while the text-based paintings are made by painting with bleach on portrait linen. Both the figurative and the text-based paintings aim to examine the relationship between these historically worn yet significant terms, and the consequences they have had in southern Africa. The texts themselves are referred to as <em>Dinaane</em> in Setswana. As you rightly point out, there have been questions about levels of legibility, but I hope that the viewer will appreciate that these specific and rather odd stories come from an oral tradition, which I want to honor, hence there are no translations of them in the exhibition (however gallery staff will be on-hand to narrate whatever story the viewer may wish to hear).</span></p> <p><span>Secondly, I wanted to use these Setswana texts as a way of providing already existing tools&mdash;that some might say are not Eurocentric&mdash;that can allow us to think about various things from capitalism to power to greed and an engagement with the ethical. So instead of referring to Marx or Lacan or Foucault, these texts provide analytical tools in narrative form that are obviously not the same as texts produced by historical figures such as Marx, but are a starting point to understand one or two things.</span></p> <p><span>I have always been uneasy about translation because, as a process that tries to close the gap between two languages, it is based on Western conventions (here anthropological, there ethnographic) of reality, representation, and knowledge. In this way translation is always a representation of something that already exists with the aim of making that thing transparent or known&mdash;i.e., part of the episteme on the side of the translator. Translation, then, is an interlingual and intertextual process that is in many ways overdetermined, and hence produces an overdetermined subject from the colonial site/orient: overdetermined in the sense that it is produced by multiple discourses on multiple sites, and gives rise to a multiplicity of practices.</span></p> <p><strong><img alt="" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160908152715-MEM15.008_Comrades_HR.jpg" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span>Meleko Mokgosi, <em>Comrades</em>, 2015, Oil on canvas, left: 96 1/16 x 108 inches, center: 96 1/16 x 132 inches, right: 84 x 72 1/16 inches.<br /> &copy; Meleko Mokgosi. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span><strong>AA: Formal decisions, like scale and composition, have clear conceptual weight in your work&mdash;but what about the application of paint? You typically paint figures with clear, economical precision. But there are also passages that incorporate more gestural or perhaps symbolic applications: the seemingly redacted figures in <em>Full Belly II</em>, for example, or the way space might dissolve into contours and sketch marks.&nbsp;Can you speak a bit about your technique and this coupling of representational mark-making with more abstract or unfinished passages?</strong></span></p> <p><span><strong>MM:</strong><em>&nbsp;</em>Absolutely, this is a fantastic question, which I think I cannot do justice to no matter how well I try to answer. The answer though, perhaps is in the question: my aim as a painter is to try to find a balance between experimentation and economy of expression and materials, and between entertainment and conceptual rigor. The abstract and minimal brush mark has a history of connoting a particular performativity of painterly-ness, and revealing something visceral about the construction of that mark. For all these reasons, and more, it has become a source of entertainment because it looks and acts like &ldquo;painting&rdquo; and &ldquo;art.&rdquo; I use abstraction as a kind of fake painterly-ness, and as a way of mapping things out with more economy.</span></p> <p><span>The quality of the unfinished surface however functions differently&mdash;to open up the pictorial space so that the paintings are not too cumbersome for the viewer. This has become more important when I deal with installations that are made up of eight to ten canvases that are nine feet by twelve feet each. So putting this many paintings in a single room, and as one work, has to allow for some breathing room.</span></p> <p><span>I think the &ldquo;modernist&rdquo; abstract marks are also meant to contradict the genre in which the paintings fall into, namely, history painting. As the championed genre, history painting in Europe went beyond being about a particular style; it was, to quote a colleague, a summation of western moral and aesthetic principles, and the medium via which early modern society saw its ideals in images. Those ideals included knowledge, reason, and honor, but also bellicosity, the sovereignty of elites, white supremacy, and the dominance of men. In addition to this, it was a genre that was strategically used in relation to the European imperial mission, so in many ways, it was complicit with European imperialism.</span></p> <p><span><img alt="" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160908152925-MEM15.010_Democratic_Intuition_Exordium_HR.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span>Meleko Mokgosi,&nbsp;<em>Democratic Intuition, Exordium</em>, 2013&ndash;present, Oil and charcoal on canvas, installed dimensions variable.&nbsp;<br /> &copy; Meleko Mokgosi. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span><strong>AA: Also on the subject of technique&mdash;a remarkable aspect of your work is that you don&rsquo;t treat your canvasses with gesso, which eliminates room for simply painting over errors. Do mistakes ever figure into your finished paintings?</strong></span></p> <p><strong>MM:</strong><span>&nbsp;</span><span>For archival reasons, the canvases are treated with a clear ground, but as you say, even then there is no room for error. I storyboard all the paintings for about six to eight months. I spend many hours doing line drawings of all the paintings, and after I am certain about the composition, I begin painting. This way, there is little room for error or improvising. So mistakes do not really figure in the work, and if they do, they tend to be minor and unnoticeable.</span></p> <p><span><strong>AA: Your work is often described as cinematic. Are there specific films or directors who influence you?</strong></span></p> <p><span><strong>MM:&nbsp;</strong>I have mainly looked at the cinematic in terms of theory and how the image is constructed. Hence my interest was in learning about the conventions of cinema. Yet I have always admired the work of Harun Farocki, Isaac Julien, and Fernando Ezequiel Solanas. The ways they create narratives and use tropes of cinema has been very informative for my process.</span></p> <p><span><img alt="" src="http://dbprng00ikc2j.cloudfront.net/userimages/32120/1dkh/20160908152844-2016_MEM_JSG20_Lerato__install_view_1__HR.jpg" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span>Meleko Mokgosi, Installation view of<em>&nbsp;Democratic Intuition: Lerato</em>&nbsp;at Jack Shainman Gallery, West 20th Street, September 8&ndash;October 22, 2016.<br /> &copy; Meleko Mokgosi. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>AA: Representing and interrogating southern African and postcolonial histories is central to your practice. But exhibiting&nbsp;<em>Democratic Intuition</em>&nbsp;in New York at the height of this election season, I imagine local viewers will bring contemporary baggage to their reading of the work. Many of the themes you explore certainly resonant today: xenophobia, nationalism, race, even abstract judgment and civic responsibility. What are your thoughts on gaps between the ostensive narrative and that imposed by the viewer?</strong></p> <p><span><strong>MM:</strong>&nbsp;I think these are the most important and informative gaps because they give me a chance to learn from viewers. I have always believed that the very nature of the specificity of my case study (southern African histories and politics) makes the work more abstract and therefore open for the viewer. So the more specific the work is, the more it becomes possible for the viewer to conscientiously project their reading. But sometimes I do fear that the specificity could lead to a kind of generalization and essentialization regarding the work, but this too I cannot control.</span></p> <p><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>&mdash;<a href="http://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/95201-andrea-alessi?tab=REVIEWS" target="_blank">Andrea Alessi</a></span></p> <p><span><em>&nbsp;</em></span></p> <p><span><em>ArtSlant would like to thank Meleko Mokgosi for his assistance in making this interview possible.</em></span></p> <p><span><em>&nbsp;</em></span></p> Tue, 01 Nov 2016 10:14:06 -0700 https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list https://www.artslant.com/ny/Articles/list