The first time I encountered Claire Pentecost was at the 2nd annual Creative Time Summit in 2010, where she was a keynote speaker for a panel on “food politics.” What was immediately striking to me about the artist was her grace and intelligence. In her presentation, she examined what was at stake among a movement of artists who have chosen to investigate the relationship between food production/distribution, ecology, and geopolitics. Unlike the majority of the presenters at the Summit, many of whom ran out of time, at the end of her presentation Pentecost had time to spare. This to me speaks to her “way,” which patiently and deliberately uses art as a framework to map what Brian Holmes calls (after Deleuze) our “control society,” a society ruled by the cruel partnership of corporations and governments.
Since the late ’90s, Pentecost, along with a number of artists such as those associated with the Critical Art Ensemble, have sought to use art to politicize and create public knowledge around the production, distribution, and consumption of food. This long-term research project engages what Pentecost calls the “Public Amateur,” whereby artists inhabit the position of amateurs and hobbyists in order to make visible our everyday relationships with techno-scientific processes. The advantage of the amateur, for Pentecost and others, is that one can enter specialized discourses in order both to reveal how those discourses function (that is, to demystify them) and to empower others to think about how science and technology function in their daily lives and in the public sphere at large. What’s more, since the amateur is not inside the discourses of techno-science, but rather an intruder into those forms of knowledge production, they may possibly see more clearly a series of relationships between corporations, public and private institutions, governmental agencies, and the everyday practices of consumers, producers, and citizens. (Scroll down the following article to see Pentecost’s diagrams outlining the uses for public amateurism: http://transform.eipcp.net/transversal/0507/pentecost/en.)
Tom Learner is senior scientist at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) and the person responsible for the Pacific Standard Time exhibition From Start to Finish: De Wain Valentine’s Gray Column, which has received a lot of positive press reaction, including a recent article in the New York Times.
Richard McCoy: How did you arrive at your position of conservation scientist?
Tom Learner: I was trained as a chemist at University of Oxford and always loved chemistry and science; I also always loved art. But when I was finishing my degree I realized that I had stopped enjoying chemistry.
Eventually I went to see a career advisor and sat in his office for hours and hours. He asked me if I was interested in all sorts of things from research in forensics or pharmaceuticals, to teaching, even to the financial sector. I said no to them all. Eventually he pulled this scrap of paper from the bottom of his pile, dusted it off, and said “apparently art conservation is looking for students with science backgrounds.”
And for me it was one of these moments when something really clicks. From there I went on to an internship at the Ashmolean Museum, and then into the paintings conservation program at the Courtauld Institute of Art. I was offered an internship at the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, D.C. working six months with Sarah Fisher in paintings conservation and six months with René de la Rie in the Scientific Research Department. After that, a research fellowship became available at the Tate in their Science Department—to figure out the best ways to analyze modern and synthetic paints.
I got my PhD at Birkbeck College at the same time, and once the fellowship finished the Tate kept me on in a permanent position.
In this week’s roundup Kiki Smith explores interdependence, Paul McCarthy delves into expressionism, Laurie Anderson sees the future, Cindy Sherman deals with fiction/depiction, and more.
- Visionary Sugar: Works by Kiki Smith will be on view at the Neuberger Museum of Art of Purchase College (NY). The exhibition includes new large-scale drawings, collages, tapestries, multi-colored gilded reliefs, and metal sculpture. In this work, Kiki Smith explores the interdependence of all living things, “representing and embracing the vitality of an animistic, spiritually-charged universe”. The show will run February 4 – May 6.
- L.A. RAW: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles, 1945-1980, From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy is part of the Getty Foundation’s initiative Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980 that traces the distinctive aesthetic of figurative expressionism from the end of World War II to the present. The Pasadena Museum of California Art show includes Paul McCarthy‘s work and demonstrates the ongoing relevance of expressionism as a primary approach to art making. This exhibition closes May 20.
- Tommy Hartung & Uri Aran reflects the two artists’ years of exchange and collaboration, revealing their parallel interests in storytelling and varied notions of desire, sentimentality, and sadness. The exhibition is accompanied by a published conversation between Hartung and Aran. This show takes place at White Flag Projects (St. Louis) and closes February 18.
- Kerry James Marshall‘s Black Night Falling: Black holes and constellations will soon be on view at the Monique Meloche Gallery (Chicago). This work is part of the gallery’s on the wall series, a rotation of projects viewed from the street through floor to ceiling windows. This series is intended to engage the community and challenge the white cube notion of viewing. Marshall’s work will be on view February 4 – May 12.
- Laurie Anderson was interviewed in the January 2012 issue of Believer magazine about her vision of art in the future. Anderson sees a future in which “[w]e’ll be able to be in the present more effectively” and no longer need to make art or have museums, say five thousand years from now. Anderson raises interesting questions for artists: Will art still be made in the future? If so, what will it look like?
- John Baldessari: Class Assignments, (Optional) features student works that are responses to a series of notes/instructions provided by John Baldessari, who first used them in 1970, when he was a professor at California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts). The project and exhibition reflect Baldessari’s ongoing interest in pedagogical and conceptual approaches to art making. This show is at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts and closes March 31.
- Cindy Sherman‘s work is on view in Blind Cut at the Marlborough Chelsea (NYC). This group exhibition spans several generations and addresses questions regarding identity, authorship, originality and reality. The work includes diverse notions of fiction and depiction and will close on February 18.
- Yinka Shonibare MBE will be exhibiting at the James Cohan Gallery (NYC) with a multi-part exhibition of new sculptures, photographs and the premiere of a new film. Shonibare’s Addio del Passato explores the concept of destiny as it relates to themes of desire, yearning, love, power and sexual repression. This exhibition will run February 16 – March 24.
- Vija Celmins, upcoming Season 6 artist Ai Weiwei, and 53 other artists have work in Lifelike, an international group exhibition at the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis) that features artists “variously using scale, unusual materials, and sly contextual devices to reveal the manner in which their subjects’ “authenticity” is manufactured.” The show will run from February 25 – May 27.
- Mark your calendars for the Barry McGee retrospective exhibition at the University of California’s Berkley Art Museum. This show will celebrate over 20 years of work from McGee. Sponsor the Andy Warhol Foundation donated $100,000 to the event, which is a testament to McGee’s work. This exhibition will run August 23 – December 9.
I first met the artist, writer, and activist Ted Kerr during the summer of 2008 when we were both interns at Visual AIDS. He was standing outside the West 26th Street building with the executive director, Amy Sadao. My memory of the day is a sweltering bleached blue; Ted was wearing bright red pants and a striped shirt. I think he was smiling and waving, or the grin on his face registered as a giddy wave. I bring up my very first impression of Ted because he is perhaps the most hopeful person I know and, for me, that sunny image somehow encapsulates his hopefulness.
His writing and collages strongly reflect this hopefulness not only in their optimism, but also in the way he poses questions about everyday things and events in light of queerness, AIDS, and collectivity. They’re not easy questions to consider, but in posing them, Ted is inviting others to ask more questions, to bring seemingly disparate ideas together, out of which some new space for thinking, art-making, and collective action might arise. Ted’s always looking to have a conversation. His collages are like snippets of dialog between images and text he has gleaned from television, museum exhibitions, and song lyrics. Rihanna’s We Found Love, a portrait of a snowy Walt Whitman, and Occupy Wall Street all make their way into his pictures and reveal their connectedness.
Our hearty thanks go out to Mathias Jansson for his excellent series of guest blog posts exploring the history of videogame art and the genre’s current practices. You can keep up with Mathias’s latest writings on his personal website.
Next up is Aldrin Valdez, is artist and writer based in New York City. His writing has been published in the Brooklyn Rail, ArtSlant, and Degree Critical. He studies art criticism and writing at the School of Visual Arts. Aldrin’s personal website can be found here.
Valdez is currently a fellow at Queer/Art/Mentorship (Q/A/M), an experience he describes as “intimate, supportive, and open.” A year-long program founded by Lily Binns and Ira Sachs, Q/A/M brings together emerging and established queer-identified artists—a diverse group of performers, poets, filmmakers, painters, photographers, and writers—to foster growth and collectivity.
Why does art matter?
It’s a broad, reductive question – but one that has resounded with an almost vicious persistence since I moved back to Cairo, Egypt, last September.
Since the first days of the massive uprisings that began in this country exactly a year ago, there was an immediate turn to the visual to explain, celebrate, uphold, lead, or confound these sweeping social and political changes. Journalists, scholars, and curators set their sights on the arts as a key focal point in their efforts to turn this enormous, impossible to understand tide of events into a tidy, easy-to-circulate narrative. To that end, revolution-themed graffiti has been discussed ad nauseum; documentary films celebrating the allegedly newfound creative freedoms of post-Mubarak Egypt have been released at a rapid rate; and last spring saw an apotheosis of revolution-themed gallery shows in Egypt and abroad. Artists (and arts institutions) have alternately been panegyrized or criticized for their relative success or failure in transmitting the fervor of the uprisings.
So much has already been written about art and the Arab Spring, I am ambivalent (at best) about adding to the noise. Just like much of the art devoted to the revolution, the majority of the writing on this subject has ranged from the barely passable to the exasperating. In several instances, there is an uncritical, latently imperialist assumption that it is the arrival of Western-style democracy (which, it must be noted, has not in fact been implemented here) that has allowed for a sudden cultural renaissance. These narratives have clearly been crafted by those who haven’t done their research – critically robust cultural activity has been taking place in Egypt (and the broader region) since long before the fall of the Mubarak regime, and even long before the West first became interested in the region after 9/11.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I grew up during the 1980s, the era of videogames and heavy metal. I started to listen to German Thrash and Speed metal and eventually ended up a fan of Death and Black Metal. If the combination of videogames and art is a small yet growing part of the contemporary art scene, Black Metal represents an even smaller part of it. But things are changing. It has been a while since Black Metal was a subversive Norwegian subculture. Today, Black Metal has become both mainstream and commercial. During 2011, Sweden saw an increasing interest for darkness and Black Metal within its contemporay art scene. Two Swedish exhibitions–Nordic Darkness and Om ljuset tar oss–focused on Black metal (it may not sound like much, but remember Sweden is a small country, and compared to previous years, that’s a lot of exhibitions). During the summer of 2011, I wrote a series of articles about Black Metal in contemporay art and realized that the subject was much broader than I had thought. For example, I came across the artist and theorist Amelia Ishmael (a previous Art21 guest blogger) and realized that Black Metal theory is now even taught in the programs of several different Universities.
After I had finished writing this series of articles, I came across an interesting performance held at Skånes Konstförening in Malmö, Sweden. I’d like to share an interview I did with the artists, in order to illustrate one of the ways that artists are using Black Metal in contemporary art today.*
Abdellah Karroum is a Moroccan independent art researcher and curator based in Paris, France and Rabat, Morocco. Karroum founded L’appartement 22 in 2002, the first independent experimental space in Rabat, which inspired the formation of a number of artist-run spaces in Morocco. Nationally as well as internationally acclaimed artists, writers, and filmmakers, including Adel Bdessemed, Doa Aly, Hamdi Attia, Fouad Bellamine, Faouzi Laatiris, Cécile Bourne-Farrell and others have left their mark on L’appartment 22. In addition, Radioapartment22, an experimental online radio, provided the space with a platform for hosting equally significant projects over the past decade.
Between 1993 and 1996, Karroum served as the assistant curator at the CAPC Musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux in France. In 2006 he was appointed associate curator of the DAK’ART Biennial for African Contemporary Art in Senegal; later in 2008 he became co-curator of the Position Papers program for the Gwangju Biennale, and in 2009, the curator of the 3rd AiM International Biennale in Marrakesh, followed by the curatorial project “Sentences on the Banks and other activities” in Darat Al-Funun in Amman, in 2010.
This past summer, Karroum curated the Working for Change project for the Moroccan Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale. This research and action-based project focused on producing artworks and sharing documents. After a research period in the Rif (Morocco), the project continues in Venice with the aim of proposing and studying connections between artistic production and social contexts. Morocco’s example proved significant here at the artistic and political levels, as seen in each of the proposed artworks. This curatorial project’s “practive” approach–which involves the joining of the practice of art as research to its appearance as active production (practice + active)–seeks to activate projects, including several collaborations in Morocco with feminists and other activists.
We’re very pleased to announce the Art21 Blog’s newest column, Cairo in Context: Art and Change in the Middle East. Written by Ania Szremski, a researcher/writer and curator based in Cairo, the column launches at the end of the week marking the one-year anniversary of the Tahrir Square uprisings in Egypt. While many writers have been quick to celebrate the new creative freedoms and “revolutionary potential” of the art made during this period, Cairo in Context will reveal a more complicated reality. As Szremski points out in her first post, “critically robust cultural activity has been taking place in Egypt (and the broader region) since long before the fall of the Mubarak regime, and even long before the West first became interested in the region after 9/11.”
In the coming months, Szremski’s column will attempt to chart a course between, as she puts it, “uncritical celebrations of the utopian idea of ‘free expression’ in a post-Mubarak era…and sober admonitions that the visual arts don’t, or can’t, have a responsibility towards the current political context.” Throughout, she’ll ask readers to think about the importance and potential of art-making in Cairo and beyond at this moment in time.
Ania Szremski is an associate curator at the Townhouse, a non-profit contemporary art space in downtown Cairo, Egypt. She is also currently researching Egyptian art during the transition from socialism to free market capitalism on a Fulbright grant. Cairo in Context’s first post goes live later today, and the column will thereafter be published on the third Thursday of each month.
We at Art21 invite you to participate in Access ’12 by hosting a free screening of Art in the Twenty-First Century during the months of April and May, 2012 (later dates are also possible).
Access ’12 is a global campaign providing access to contemporary art and artists through hundreds of free public screenings and events celebrating the premiere of Season Six of Art in the Twenty-First Century. Access ‘12 events are hosted at museums, libraries, universities, community-based organizations, art spaces, and even coffee shops worldwide. Previous Access partners have even hosted an event at a a research center in Antarctica! Whether you plan a conversation with local artists, a panel discussion, a community-based art project, or just a screening party, join Art21′s Access ’12 to broaden and inspire a diverse exchange of ideas and perspectives.
Season Six profiles fourteen artists from five continents in four, one-hour thematic episodes: Change; Balance; History; and Boundaries. The artists include Marina Abramović, Ai Weiwei, David Altmejd, assume vivid astro focus, Lynda Benglis, Rackstraw Downes, El Anatsui, Mary Reid Kelley, Glenn Ligon, Robert Mangold, Catherine Opie, Sarah Sze, and Tabaimo. You can view a trailer for Season Six here.
Hosting an event is easy. Access partners receive a free screening tool kit, which includes a DVD screener, a screening guide, a customizable press release to publicize the event, announcement postcards, and more. Every venue is welcome!
Season Five’s Access ’09 was a great success, with 447 screening events taking place in all 50 states and 25 countries. As one of our partners commented, “This event couldn’t have gone better if we’d tried. We were all a bit nervous about what to expect, since it was a first-time event and much of our community was not familiar with Art21. However, the turnout beat our wildest expectations… the place was packed!”
To learn more about Access ’12 or to host a free event at your space or venue, please visit www.art21.org/access or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.