1. Felix Gonzalez-Torres in Deadline, exhibition at the Musee d’ Art Moderne, Paris. October 16, 2009 – January 10, 2010. Curator Odile Burluraux said of the exhibition, “Deadline has chosen to examine a group of artists who died during the last twenty years and whose concluding works are marked by an awareness of imminent death, the urgency of the task at hand and impulse to self-transcendence.”When I got to the long corridor of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ xeroxed birds and beaded curtain at the end, I just lost it. The impression left on the beads of visitors’ bodies as they passed through, then the swishing of the beads as bodies disappeared to the other side truly struck me. I was overcome by a feeling of fragility, loss, a sense of absence all in this one moment. It was the most powerful experience I had in the museum, and that I have ever had with Gonzalez-Torres’ work. Other artists in the show: Absalon, Gilles Aillaud, James Lee Byars, Chen Zhen, Willem de Kooning, Hans Hartung, Jorg Immendorff, Martin Kippenberger, Robert Mapplethorpe, Joan Mitchell, Hannah Villiger.
2. Smithsonian’s censorship of Fire in My Belly by David Wojnarowicz from the Hide/Seek Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. An inversion of my #1? Maybe. Here, the threat of the video’s absence only strengthened the attention called to it. I went to a screening of 3 versions of the video held at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where we also Skyped with curator Jonathan Katz. This show was denied so many times before it was accepted into the National Portrait Gallery that he was not entirely surprised of it wreaking havoc. What would Wojnarowicz’s work be if there wasn’t at least someone in the religious right gnashing his jowls to tell us it’s the work of Satan?
3. Elles@centrepompidou, Women Artists in the Collections of the National Modern Art Museum, Paris, May 27, 2009 – February 21, 2011. If I was struck by lightening at that moment, I would have been ok with that – sitting in a room of projections of Marina Abramovic, Ana Mendieta, and Carolee Schneeman in their early performances. But then I wasn’t and I stepped into a Pipilotti Rist floor-to-ceiling video projection on my way to Nan Goldin’s screening room. The over-stimulation mellowed a bit when I got to Agnes Martin and Hanne Darboven, but my pleasure never subsided. I couldn’t repress a chuckle at the Guerilla Girls’ poster on my way down. Hello! 2010 = IT’S TIME TO BE A WOMAN ARTIST. DO IT! And go to the Pompidou while the show is still up.
4. All things Marina. The Balkan Mother Hen of Performance Art came to roost for her retrospective at MoMA, but that wasn’t all. Her work was everywhere I turned this past year. Like a real Baba Yaga (excuse the Russian), she managed to materialize right before my eyes: as I mentioned before, at the Pompidou and then at the Gender Check show at MUMOK, Vienna. She is opening her own Institute of the Preservation of Performance Art next year. Here’s the thing, I came to House with the Ocean View at Sean Kelly Gallery a few years ago and witnessed her fasting and eye-locking viewers for days. Then I spent hours with her stretched-out “re-dos” of Gina Pane, Joseph Beuys, etc. at the Guggenheim. I’m glad that Abramovic went with this simple concept for her MoMA performance; her focused strength is what drives the work and compels us to connect with her. When it’s all said and done, I’m not sure about others re-embodying her pieces, or her mythological appeal. Ascetic vs. Aesthete? But she’ll never retire, which is why she’s a legend.
5. Gender Check: Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe, Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna, November 13, 2009 – February 14, 2010. In the midst of this massive show centered on gender and sexuality in the work of Eastern European artists before and after the fall of Communism, a few stunned me with their courageous and outrageous acts. Documentation of Russian artist Elena Kovylina’s Walse showed her drinking vodka and coke successively, pinning medals of honor to her lapels and waltzing with strangers until almost passing out. Documentation of Serbian artist Tanja Ostojic‘s project of finding a U.S. government worker on the Internet, marrying him and then divorcing him, was almost too real for this spy in the house of art. The entire top floor of video works was non-stop compelling with over-dubbed Romanian porn, Polish banana sucking and a choir of Russian women singing, “If I were a rich girl.” I know you wish you were there.
6. Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, The Laziest Girl in Town, Solo show at Rowley Kennerk Gallery, Chicago, IL, April 2 – May 14, 2010. So, what materials can’t Zuckerman-Hartung make sing? The press release for the show sported literary references Fanny Howe and Paul Morrissey, among others, with paintings whose surfaces ranged from gritty, dense caulk/enamel/junk to bright oils on canvas and linen. It’s not always glamorous work traversing the bounds of painting and poetry, but this work is dangerously palpable. Sad to say that Rowley Kennerk Gallery will be closing after 5 years of unique programming that bridged painting and conceptual art vocabularies. Farewell, RK and may you reach further stars!
7. All things Gregg Bordowitz. Of what stunning act of truth and beauty do I first speak? Is it the premier of The History of Sexuality Volume One by Michel Foucault An Opera at Tanzquartier, Vienna, or the release of his new book, General Idea: Imagevirus from Afterall Press? How about his amazing readings of Volition (from Printed Matter) at both Issue Project Room, NY and Star: Noun and Verb at Outerspace, Chicago? Here’s the thing: the man is an artist, a video artist, but he can do everything — create an opera on structuralist theory and psychoanalysis with no musical background AND star in it, write poetry in the form of questions, and, in his spare time, analyze General Idea, “using the threat of viral infection and a poetic understanding of language as their model for artistic production and ideological struggle.” Did you just see that? It’s the smoke left in the wake of his burning heels.
8. Picturing the Studio exhibition at Sullivan Galleries, Chicago, IL, December 12, 2009-February 13, 2010. This exhibition, curated by Michelle Grabner and Annika Marie, explored the studio as subject of art and as the space of the production of it. The artists featured: Bas Jan Ader, Conrad Bakker, John Baldessari, Stephanie Brooks, Ivan Brunetti, Ann Craven, Julian Dashper, Dana DeGiulio, Susanne Doremus, Dan Fischer, Julia Fish, Nicholas Frank, Alicia Frankovich, Judith Geichman, Rodney Graham, Karl Haendel, Shane Huffman, Barbara Kasten, Matt Keegan, Daniel Lavitt, Adelheid Mers, Tom Moody, Bruce Nauman, Paul Nudd, Frank Piatek, Leland Rice, David Robbins, Kay Rosen, Amanda Ross-ho, Carrie Schneider, Roman Signer, Amy Sillman, Frances Stark, Nicholas Steindorf, and James Welling. It was a wild mix of artists revealing or commenting on their processes in their respective media. I was mostly stunned seeing these artists next to one another, and I enjoyed making connections with works that I would never have otherwise. I visited this show more than a few times, and it taught me more than my classes.
9. Staying at a Botel in Bratislava, Slovak Republic. On my birthday, curator Zuzana Stepkova put me and my partner up in this swanky little tug on the Danube. We went to Bratislava to perform in the Art to Date show at Medium Gallery, and then drank and talked all night with Central European artists and curators, Richard Gregor and Tamara Moyzes among them. The performance was one thing, but the Boat-el was entirely another…
10. Showing my work at Don’t Hang-up On Me!, November 5-7, 2010 a shared weekend of performance work with Suzy Grant and Anthony Romero at Links Hall, Chicago, IL. It was my first time producing a show and video work with live performances. It was the culmination of my questioning and study of gender and sexuality over the past couple years with collaborations with fellow artists Yasamin Ghanbari, Danny Greene, and Tessa Siddle. I took all of the wonderful work I got to see in 2010 and use it to fuel my own making. I am more than satisfied with the result and am ready for more in 2011!