Have today’s politicians become bad method actors? In this film, artist Liz Magic Laser directs the premiere of “I Feel Your Pain” (2011), a Performa 11 Commission, at the SVA Theater in Chelsea, Manhattan. Transforming interviews between politicians and journalists into dramatic scenes performed by actors, Laser examines how emotive theatrical techniques are being used on America’s political stage to engineer public opinion. Exchanges between public figures such as Governor Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, House Speaker John Boehner and Lesley Stahl, President Barack Obama and Bill O’Reilly—as well as a press conference by Representative Anthony Weiner—are recast as intimate conversations between couples in romantic relationships, played with tragicomic effect by the actors Annie Fox and Rafael Jordan, Ryan Shams and Liz Micek, Ray Field and Kathryn Grody. Throughout the four act performance, Laser adopts agitprop theater tactics drawn from the tradition of the “living newspaper” including a mischievous clown played by Audrey Crabtree, who interacts with the performers and audience, and a commanding voice-over played by Lynn Berg, who provides live commentary and sound effects. Performed, filmed, and edited in real-time as a continuous live feed in the midst of an audience in a movie theater, both the actors and viewers are projected onto the cinema screen, heightening the emotional resonance of the performances while implicating audience members’ reactions.
Liz Magic Laser (b. 1981, New York City, NY, USA) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
CREDITS | “New York Close Up” Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Editor: Brad Kimbrough. Cinematography: Rafael Moreno Salazar, Andrew David Watson & Ava Wiland. Sound: Scott Fernjack & Ian Forster. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Production Assistant: Amanda Long. Design & Graphics: Crux Studio & Open. Artwork: Liz Magic Laser. Additional Camera & Sound: Will Chu, David Guinan, Alex Hadjiloukas, Collin Kornfeind, Liz Magic Laser, Matthew Nauser, Brandon Polanco, Polemic Media, Irwin Seow & Tristan Shepherd. Thanks: Lynn Berg, Audrey Crabtree, Ray Field, Annie Fox, Roselee Goldberg, Kathryn Grody, Tom Huhn, Rafael Jordan, Liz Micek, Esa Nickle, Performa, Ryan Shams & SVA Theater. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2012. All rights reserved.
“New York Close Up” is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; Toby Devan Lewis; Lambent Foundation of Tides Foundation; the Dedalus Foundation, Inc.; and the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc. Additional support provided by The 1896 Studios & Stages, and by individual contributors.
Concluding my guest blogging residency at Art 21, where I’ve looked at the processes of artists who both produce significant bodies of work without a team of studio assistants, and dedicate themselves completely to their artistic visions, performance artist Martha Wilson not only concerns herself with the creation of her own work, but also the preservation and support of other avant-garde artists, as the founding director of the not-for-profit alternative space and organization, Franklin Furnace.
More widely recognized through her work with Franklin Furnace, Martha Wilson’s art has steadfastly focused on women’s subjectivity and the performance of gender. From early photo-text pieces, where Wilson dressed as a man who is impersonating a woman, to her performances as First Ladies Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush, to her most recent works, in which Wilson revisited the framework of her early photo-texts to investigate the role of a woman over 60, Wilson stands as an artist whose strong and humorous voice has endured and remained current through many waves of feminism. With 2011′s I Have Become My Own Worst Fear, her first exhibition as an artist represented by a commercial gallery (PPOW Gallery), and a recently-published monograph, The Martha Wilson Sourcebook, Wilson’s art is currently receiving the critical attention it deserves.
I spoke to Martha Wilson at the Franklin Furnace office in Brooklyn about the evolution of her art, her relationship to feminism, absurdity in art, and the Culture Wars.
Emily Colucci: For these past two weeks on the Art21 Blog, I’ve been focusing on artists who I find inspiring both in their refusal to use a team of assistants to create their large bodies of work, and their unquestionable devotion to their art–as with your work, both as an artist and as the founding director of Franklin Furnace, the not-for-profit organization concerned with the support and preservation of avant-garde art. What is your artistic process?
Martha Wilson: A year ago, I was invited to join the PPOW gallery and as part of that process, Jamie Sterns, who was the director at that time, wanted a photograph of my studio, which set me back because I don’t have a studio. So instead, I took a picture of my desk. That’s where all the magic happens, where I sit and think.
Carol Becker has been Dean of Columbia University School of the Arts since 2007. Before this she was Dean of Faculty and Senior Vice-President for Academic Affairs at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Prior to that appointment she served as the Chair of the Graduate Division at SAIC and as its Associate Dean of Faculty.
Becker joined the School of the Art Institute of Chicago nearly three decades ago as an English and Philosophy professor. Up to that point she had taught at the University of California, San Diego; San Diego State University; Northeastern Illinois University; and the Ionian University in Corfu, Greece. She earned her B.A. from State University of New York at Buffalo and her Ph.D. in English and American literature from the University of California, San Diego.
She is the author of The Invisible Drama: Women and the Anxiety of Change; and Zones of Contention: Essays on Art, Institutions, Gender and Anxiety. She is also the editor of Surpassing the Spectacle: Global Transformations and the Changing Politics of Art; and Artist in Society: Rights, Roles, and Responsibilities. Her most recent collection of essays is Thinking in Place: Art, Action, and Cultural Production.
I first became acquainted with Carol Becker at the time of the publication of Surpassing the Spectacle. That was ten years ago. With that book, through words, images, emotions and impressions, she connected artists to history and to the world at a time when most of us were still unaware of what she called (in the subtitle of that book)Global Transformations and the Changing Politics of Art. Since then, many equally revelatory moments have followed when Becker communicated the world to us. She’s a mediator–connecting the creative world to the material one and vice versa–while challenging both.
Carol Becker is a sage; she is nurturing and unusually attentive to all aspects of life and the world. She has a sharp sense of humor. And, in the middle of a conversation, I always await expectantly for her to pull out her Lilliputian notebook from her handbag to record what is being said–something important to her that may appear in an essay to come.
It is an absolute privilege to present to you Carol Becker, Inside the Artist’s Studio.
Georgia Kotretsos: You’ve given many years to building schools of art–first at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and now at Columbia University in New York. What has motivated you to do this?
Marni and Hugo are both full-time Spanish teachers for the Urban Assembly High School of Media Studies here in New York City. They are also members of the Media Department, which includes all of the arts. In addition, Marni also teaches a literary course for English Language Learners and is a performance artist herself. Although Marni and Hugo have integrated art into their curricula in the past, they are both interested in helping their students to further develop their cross-cultural understandings and gain a stronger sense of self-awareness through the use of contemporary art in their classrooms.
Marni defines contemporary art as “work that is being created by artists now or in the recent past and responds to current social, political, economic, identity, sexual and other relevant issues.” She admits that up until recently, she was mostly working from a Regents-driven Spanish curriculum. Her goal now is to get to a point where contemporary art is a fluid part of her curriculum. This upcoming school year, Marni plans to expand upon a project originally inspired by the work of Frida Kahlo to develop a unit around the issue of identity. She wants to incorporate contemporary artists such as Bruce Nauman, William Wegman, Kerry James Marshall, Louis Bourgeois and Maya Lin—as well as other important Latin American artists who deal with identity, such as Coco Fusco, Pepón Osorio and the late Ana Mendieta.
Hugo’s curriculum is based on developing the four major language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking. Students work on different projects through which they learn and develop these skills, while creating visual art to demonstrate evidence of that learning and to share the processes involved. Hugo has found this method of incorporating the visual arts into the curriculum to be particularly successful in engaging his students and enhancing their learning. In one such example, Hugo developed a project inspired by “Acentos Perdidos,” artist Pablo Zulaica’s campaign to fix the incorrect use of accent marks in public signs in Mexico City. Through this project his students learned the rules and proper uses of accent marks (Palabras Agudas, graves, esdrújulas y sobreesdrújulas). Then, they took what they had learned on a field trip to Spanish Harlem to fix the incorrect use of accent marks on the public signs in that area. (View a video of this project here.) In another example, Hugo created a project for his class using the zoetrope, which was inspired by a visit to the Museum of the Moving Image, to teach about verb conjugations in Spanish. (View a video of this project here.)
We are looking forward to meeting Marni and Hugo and the rest of the Art21 Educators here in New York City in just a few short weeks!
*This post was written with Dana Helwick, Art21 Educators Intern.
Like so many celebrities, Joan Quinn’s larger-than-life presence is counterbalanced by her surprisingly diminutive stature. Though not an international household name, Quinn is known throughout the LA art world for both her continuing patronage of Southern California artists and her longtime role as West Coast Editor for Interview Magazine. Moreover she has been the subject of nearly 200 portraits over the past four decades by artists from a broad cross section of the Angelino art world—from heroes David Hockney and Ed Ruscha to emerging artists. The collection was brought into the public in the form of the exhibition and accompanying catalogue entitled Mysterious Objects.
My own exchange with Quinn has been something of a whirlwind. Within a week of completing and installing all the work for my solo show Wet and Wild at CB1 Gallery, my newly emptied studio was refilled by the dynamic energy of Quinn herself. She had invited me to join in the ongoing project of portraying her, and subsequently appear as a guest on her television program, The Joan Quinn Profiles and display the finished painting on set. Since most of my models are dead bugs and sea critters, the appearance of a human being in the studio really shook things up.
The representations of Quinn morph tremendously throughout the collection, her figure operating as a vessel for each artist to manifest his or her perspective, just as my deep sea subjects serve as starting points for my own investigations of more anthrocentric philosophical questions. Moreover, many non-figurative artists, such as Larry Bell, have ventured into the realm of portraiture only for Quinn. So despite my typical focus on non-human subjects, I jumped at the chance to paint Quinn. Immediately probing through dozens of canvases in my studio storage, Quinn adamantly encouraged me to sustain my own voice, and paint her as I would any of my typical invertebrate subjects. While I rarely invoke the human form in my paintings, I often use “lower life forms” to imply human narratives, their exoskeletons coquettishly suggesting human flesh. In addition, I immediately felt an affinity with the obsessively thorough, serial aspect of the Quinn portraits, given that my practice focuses on painting specific species hundreds of times.
I have a confession to make: I’m addicted to clichés. Also idioms, memes, and platitudes. I love all kinds of overused, trite, or essentially meaningless language. (Let me just take this moment to apologize to all of the college professors who had to read my pathetically lame paper titles, many of which used the aforementioned expressions.) The subheadings in this post are an homage to the aphorism, which I think is an appropriate device to use in a column that’s essentially life advice for ex-students like me, at sea in the real world for the first time ever or the first time in a while.
1. Practice Makes Perfect
A little more than a month ago, I wrote my last post for Open Enrollment as a grad student blogger. I had yet to print, collate, and submit my master’s thesis to my department; I had yet to move out of the apartment in which I had written the thesis; and I had yet to begin my first job as an “emerging museum professional.”
I’ve done all of those things now, but of course, it was only a month ago. Not that much has changed.
In fact, in that last post that I wrote, I mused about Paulo Freire’s advice regarding the imbalance of reflection and action in cultural practice. I didn’t use the word, but I was referring to his ideas about praxis: the process of enacting theory, or the embodied combination of reflection and action. How fitting. Practice Praxis does indeed make perfect.
2. Don’t Give Up the Ship
In the space between my life as a student and the beginning of my journey toward permanent employment, I took a brief trip to New York. After a long train ride from Chicago to D.C., the site of my summer internship, I dropped off a large suitcase and caught a bus north to the City. There, I reunited with my friend Lauren for three days of museum and gallery hopping. One stop on the tour and the real reason for our holiday was the Cindy Sherman retrospective, which we caught on its final weekend at MoMA.
This is part two of a three part series that will share the experiences of three Art21 Education staff members (Jessica Hamlin, Joe Fusaro, and Flossie Chua) after spending a year with a group of 16 incredible teachers. Each of us has a unique perspective on the past twelve months and this series will ruminate on what it means to teach with contemporary art, specifically contextualized by our experiences this year working with the Art21 Educators program.
When I think back on the past year with Art21 Educators my mind goes to three places: the summer institute itself one year ago, the one-on-one conversations I have had with a small group of teachers I worked closely with this year, and my hopes for the entire group going forward. Since Jessica packaged her post into four neat bites last week I think I’ll stick with these three and follow suit…
Thinking Back on Last Year’s Institute
Last summer’s institute was literally another hot one in NYC. The days were steamy and the group we gathered for year three had an infectious energy and calm confidence that each of us was (and continue to be) inspired by. Workshops and working sessions with artists such as Oliver Herring and Shahzia Sikander, opportunities to share student work and plans for upcoming units of study, as well as an inspiring day at the Museum of Art and Design were just a few highlights that really kicked off quite a year. I so fondly remember standing outside Alias restaurant on the eighth and final day, blissfully exhausted, and bringing teachers onto the sidewalk to film their reactions to the institute. While I’m not sure to what degree that food and drink fueled the interviews, I definitely knew we were dealing with some special educators who were going to do big things. And I was right. See below.
The One-On-One Conversations
Jessica, Flossie and I get the opportunity to work a little more often with a few separate teachers from the group that each of us, well, sort of watches over. I guess that’s the best way to put it. We coach. We facilitate. We encourage and try as often as possible to inspire, but we watch over these people in order to make the yearlong experience as productive and enjoyable as possible. My group included Jack Watson, Julia CopperSmith, Maureen Hergott and Todd Elkin, and it was my job to help them not only write a unit of study they began in the institute, but also provide feedback as they taught it. Jack and Todd teach high school art classes while Julia and Maureen teach elementary school art. The balance over the course of the year was really perfect. In Jack’s unit, which focused on “Borders and Boundaries”, he wished to explore the role that geography plays in cultural identity and conflict. Maureen and Julia investigated, over the course of an entire school year, how transformation can make its way into art making and how young artists can play a role transforming themselves, their environment and their perception of what art can be. Todd taught students to follow their interests, discover what is “grabby” to them, and find ways to work in some of the same ways artists actually work vs. being recipients of “project assignments”.
Watching artist Kenny Scharf paint a monumental, public mural entirely by himself on a very cold November night in New York City, I was astonished not only at Scharf’s free-hand skill, but also his artistic drive, painting character after character, to create a bright, smiling beacon of fun on the Bowery.
After witnessing Scharf painting tirelessly, there was no question in my mind that Scharf not only refuses to use a team of assistants to make his art but also, devotes himself completely to his art-making process, fitting perfectly with the theme of my two week residency at Art 21.
Working continuously since the early 1980s in New York, Scharf is only beginning to receive the critical recognition that he deserves for his long and varied career. Often lumped together with his friends and fellow artists Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Scharf’s work has progressed past the art of the 1980′s to become a testament to his own enduring aesthetic, marked by happy characters, Hanna-Barbera cartoons, customized appliances and futuristic outer-space scenes.
With art ranging from paintings to sculptures to murals to Cosmic Cavern installations, the largest being his basement space in Brooklyn, which he turned completely into a black-lit, day-glo world where he holds dance parties and performances, Scharf’s body of work stands as an example not only of long-term artistic creation but also, proof that art can and should be fun.
I spoke to Scharf about his artistic process, the role of spontaneity in art, the B52′s and how he feels about the legacy of art of the 1980s.
Emily Colucci: For these two weeks at Art 21, I’ve been focusing on the artistic processes of artists who do their own work and devote themselves entirely to art-making. What is your artistic process?
Kenny Scharf: I believe in doing the work myself. I don’t have anyone helping me other than stretching and gessoing the canvases. The actual art-making, I do all myself. It’s not that I don’t think anyone else could do a good job. It’s what I love to do.
I am always amazed by the effect of performance, particularly the ways in which a single, cohesive piece (often comprised of abstract, sequential movements) emerges from a group. It’s a little like watching a magic trick—seeing a woman cut in half with a saw without understanding how the illusion of her bisection is possible. Millie Kapp creates similar illusionary spaces—spaces of theater and spectacle in which words are inessential; the body is the text— a vehicle for expression—and auxiliary props become equal bodies. Recently she has been working with a collaborative group called Husband. In the following interview we talk about the process of building a performance, the way she interacts with material and the group she works with.
Caroline Picard: How did your collaborative performance group start?
Millie Kapp: In February of 2012, Annie Maurer, Matt Shalzi, and Noah Furman and I began our fourth piece together. At this time we decided to make the parameters and commitment of our group official with a name. After months of snowballing free associations, we decided on the name Husband. We named ourselves after a prop we’d used in 2011, a husband pillow, that played a particularly integral part in the performance, The palm poises as a plant does and slips into the evening of the day. Through play-based experimentation, the husband pillow shifted meaning and took on layered significances as it performed as body, face, machine, and mirror [over the course of the performance]. These kinds of shifts and layers are things we try to do with most of our movement, text, and objects.
The first work that we did together was in 2010 entitled, Waiting for tonight: Waiting for tonight. This piece was performed at Sullivan Galleries. We subsequently made The palm poises as a plant does and slips into the evening of the day and performed this work at the Archer Ballroom, Links Hall, Roxaboxen Exhibitions, and the 9×22 Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis, MN. In fall 2011 we made A Face in the Doorway, and showed this work at the Chicago Cultural Center and the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center in New York. Recently, we showed The hidden woods in the conversation at Alderman Exhibitions. It was not until recently however, that Husband became an official collective. We needed to work together for a few years before such a commitment!
In this week’s roundup, simultaneous exhibitions by Alfredo Jaar and Jeff Koons, a Martha Colburn talk, Josiah McElheny explores the cosmos, Elizabeth Murray in an iPad app for kids and more.
- Alfredo Jaar‘s art is at the Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (Berlin) and subdivided into six groups of works, simultaneously at three institutions. Alfredo Jaar: The way it is. An Aesthetics of Resistance offers a retrospective survey of Jaar’s production spanning nearly four decades. It gives insights into the political themes of the works by the artist and elucidates critical methods of archiving, research and intervention employed by him. The exhibition runs through August 19.
- Martha Colburn will participate in two events at Electronic Arts Intermix (NYC) on Tuesday, June 26. Colburn will screen and speak about a selection of recent films that explore war, conquest, faith, and history as well as early and rarely seen found-film and animation experiments, music video projects, performance documents, and a 2011 animated PSA on fracture mining (fracking) in New York State.
- Bruce Nauman‘s Days had its UK premiere at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. This is a sound installation consisting of a continuous stream of seven voices reciting the days of the week in random order. Fourteen flat panel speakers are set up with one voice emanating from each pair as the visitor passes between them. The work invokes both the banality and the profundity of the passing of each day and invites reflection on how we measure, differentiate and commemorate time. The show closes September 16.