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!
Centerfield | Transforming Space into Place: An Interview with Leyya Tawil, co-creator of The Grand Re-Map
At what point does space become place? Questions relating to geography and identity are most often left to urban planners, ethnographers, and cultural theorists. Locality is defined as the social relationships produced by and through the built environment; in essence, a bringing together of cartography and sociology. There is disparity though between the permanence of municipal infrastructure—timeless architectural landmarks and preordained civic identity—and the evolving tangle of day-to-day lived social interactions. The context-specific experience of place is the research interest of choreographer Leyya Tawil and composer Lars J. Brouwer. Through their ongoing project, The Grand Re-Map, Tawil and Brouwer seek to observe, record, and reinterpret the perceptions, sounds, and physical interactions between body and landscape as a means to unpack locality and remap place.
Tawil and Brouwer’s journey through cities, neighborhoods, and even specific buildings captures the embodied experience of each location. They interweave sounds and gestures to create elaborately choreographed compositions that reveal the extraordinary character within mundane interactions. The two artists are urban travelers, surveying locations by foot, bike, bus, and car, to approach each site with the untarnished ears and eyes of vacation-happy tourists, even when the city has been frequented a number of times before. The Grand Re-Map proves that locality is necessarily an incomplete project, and much to the advantage of cities like Detroit, the project indicates that every place is ripe for remapping and reinvention. In effect, The Grand Re-Map transforms space into place, anchoring each location in time in order to cultivate narrative and meaning.
I spoke to Leyya Tawil in her Oakland, CA studio about The Grand Re-Map, Detroit.
We’re back with another episode of Fielding Practice, Bad at Sports’ special podcast produced exclusively for the Art21 Blog. This month, we talk to artists Pamela Fraser and John Neff about Spectral Landscape (with Viewing Stations), the group exhibition they’ve curated for Gallery 400 at the University of Chicago, Illinois, which is on view through June 9, 2012. Spectral Landscape explores color “as both a formal and a social force,” and arrays artworks around the gallery according to a loose color spectrum. We asked Fraser and Neff to tell us more about the concept behind this excursion into color, and as always, we bring you our picks for some of the most interesting events and exhibitions coming up this month in Chicago. As always, thanks so much for listening!
Click here to listen.
Panelist’s picks for the month of May:
Claudine Ise: other exhibitions about color, including:
–Sense and Sensibility, works by Jessica Labatte and David Malek at Golden Gallery, through June 9.
–Jessica Stockholder’s public installation Color Jam, Chicago Art Alliance/Art Loop, through summer.
–Did You See Heaven: Spectra, group show at Peregrine Program, through June 10.
Duncan MacKenzie: Open Engagement: Art and Social Practice conference, May 18-20.
Dan Gunn: Alison Ruttan: Natural Disaster at Adds Donna, through May 13.
Not only is Meg Onli a regular columnist for the Art21 Blog’s Bound: The Printed Object in Context, she is an artist and writer living in Chicago who founded and runs the blog Black Visual Archive, “a collection of critical writings that contextualizes the work of African American artists through cultural and visual history.” A graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she was recently selected to participate in the Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation’s Art Writer’s Workshop. I talked with Meg about the genesis of Black Visual Archive and the direction the project will take in the future.
Terri Griffith: What was your catalyst for starting Black Visual Archive? What kind of scope did you have in mind?
Meg Onli: I had been working at Bad at Sports for four or five years when I decided to start my own project. I wanted to hone my writing skills and use the new blog as a way to funnel my research. Racial politics and the performance of race had been subjects I had been exploring in my art and I wanted to run a website that had a very specific focus, so it felt like a natural transition to write about art created by African American artists since they were the artists I was always looking back to. There are a lot of amazing art blogs that cover contemporary art in every major city but there were not many that covered work created by black artists so I saw an untapped niche and decided to just jump in.
BVA’s scope was pretty broad when I started — I mainly wrote about anything that I was interested in. Right now I am participating in Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation’s Art Writers Workshop, working one-on-one with a mentor, and that has focused me more. Most of my research right now is based around the rise of black representation in American media during the 60s and 70s so I can see where my recent posts have been reflecting that. I am working on a research paper on the photographer Ernest Withers in relation to the 2010 release of information detailing his role as an FBI informant from 1968 to 1970. I am really interested in what it means that the images that defined us in the 1960s can also be considered surveillance photography for the U.S. Government. So, I can see more of my writings focusing on this.
On this month’s edition of Fielding Practice, a special podcast produced by Bad at Sports exclusively for Art21, we switch up formats a bit to focus on a single topic: The Essential New Art Examiner (Northern Illinois University Press), edited by Kathryn Born, Janet Koplos and Terri Griffith, an anthology of writings from Chicago’s only major art periodical, which ran from 1973- 2002. Duncan MacKenzie, Dan Gunn and Claudine Ise sit down with Terri Griffith to get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of this anthology and learn why the NAE still inspires impassioned discourse today, a decade after it folded. We wrap up with our monthly picks for events and exhibitions taking place in the Chicagoland area and beyond (see list below). As always, thank you for listening!
Click here to listen.
Panelist’s Picks for April:
Dan: Matthew Woodward: View from the Birth Day at the Chicago Cultural Center, through July 15.
Duncan: Apex Art Residency series and residency talks series conducted by Bad at Sports (NYC; video excerpts available online by clicking link).
Claudine: Carrie Schneider: Burning House at Monique Meloche Gallery, through May 12.
On February 23, artist Katie Paterson gave a talk at The Art Institute of Chicago. Of the many works discussed, she described Earth-Moon-Earth (Moonlight Sonata Reflected Off the Surface of the Moon), a work from 2007 in which she took Beethoven’s infamous sonata, translated it into morse code and sent it to the moon via radio transmission. She waited for the sonata to bounce back. Apparently there is a whole network of people who do this: transmit and collect messages to and from the moon’s surface. These self-identified “moon bouncers” set up small transmitters in their backyards and spend evenings snatching encoded sentences from the ether. They have to decipher meaning in what they find, for some of each message gets lost in its return: patches of code are swallowed and mislaid due to the moon’s irregular surface, combined with unpredictable weather patterns that bend or skew the sound waves on which our messages rely.
Paterson’s art piece is both a visual and audio representation of this distortion. When exhibiting this work, she hangs the original Morse code transcript beside its lunar twin. Whole passages of text are visibly missing. She re-translated that Morse code back into musical notation and sets up a self-playing piano in the corner of a gallery. Because the piano bench is not immediately visible, one would assume a pianist would be there, especially given the score’s coherent beginnings. At first the sonata occurs according to Beethoven’s intentions. After a few minutes it deteriorates. Seconds of silence endure where one expects a sequence of notes. Yet the silence has kept its own time and when the music resumes, it does so in league with its origin. In walking towards the piano, turning the corner of its slick wooden lid, you see an empty bench. The spirit of the moon is conjured in the emptiness, it feels like an active presence in that it has swallowed, or withheld, something of the original sonata. “By encoding information, absences become present,” Paterson said during her talk, “and presence become audible.”
We just realized that this is Fielding Practice Podcast #13, posted on the 13th of March–is that a bad omen? At least today’s not Friday. On this month’s podcast, produced exclusively for the Art21 Blog, our panelists review the group exhibition Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art on view at the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, and we also talk about the pleasures and perils of making art in a city that is not New York. Plus, our monthly picks of the art stuff we’re most looking forward to in the coming weeks, courtesy of our panelists Dan Gunn, Duncan MacKenzie and Art21 Blog editor Claudine Isé. Thanks for joining us!
Click here to listen (approximately 35 minutes).
Links to references made during the podcast:
Barry Schwabsky interviews Michelle Grabner in The Brooklyn Rail
Click here to follow the Smart Museum’s Twitter feed and get up-to-the-minute information on Feast-related events and the current location of @EnemyKitchen, Michael Rakowitz’s roving Iraqi food truck.
Nicole Caruth interviews artist Michael Rakowitz in Gastro-Vision on the Art21 Blog
Mess Hall in Chicago
Artist-Run Spaces: A Brief History Since 1984, by Dan Gunn
Panelist’s Picks for March and beyond:
Dan Gunn: Write Now: Artists and Letterforms at the Chicago Cultural Center through April 29; also Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection at the CCC through July 8.
Duncan MacKenzie: Summer residency programs to check out: Oxbow (see also “Summers at Oxbow” on the Art21 Blog); Harold Arts; Summer Forum in New Harmony, Indiana (topic: “Community, Utopia and the Individual”); ACRE (Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions); Poor Farm.
Claudine Isé: R&D, group exhibition at the newly-opened Manifold Gallery, curated by Britton Bertran and featuring artists Mike Andrews, T.J. Donovan, Ben Foch, Karolina Gnatowski and Heather Mullins, Geoffrey Todd Smith, and Thornberry. Through May 26.
Mary Jane Jacob has long been established in the world of contemporary art. As a pivotal figure in socially engaged practice, she pioneered new ideas about public art, and the artists’ relationship to an audience. She continues to curate, teach and write about unconventional forms of aesthetic experience, forever probing the bounds of our expectations.
Since 2004 she has been editing an on-going series of books on the subject of Buddhism and its relationship to contemporary art. Over the course of the following conversation we discuss the development of this interest and the potential insight a Buddhist framework might afford art’s function in society.
Caroline Picard: “Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art” and “Learning Mind: Experience into Art” are two collections of rich, varied essays and interviews that examine the relationship between Buddhism and contemporary art practice. How did you conceive of that project?
Mary Jane Jacob: In one way this all came about quite accidentally—a happy accident, as in John Cage’s terms—when I was asked to advise on a show about Buddhism. The invitation, I believe, was actually to help imagine how to undertake a large collaborative program. But in preparation, putting a toe into the subject of Buddhism and art, I found there was a lot there that resonated with the intention of my public projects (things I did outside the museum context and which involved collaboration) and which was consistent with my speculative processes of curating.
But then they asked to get their organizational work rolling, and I found that if I put my whole self into this subject, there were many things about Buddhism that helped explain the nature of artmaking and art-experiencing. Moreover, I felt that in seeking to do a show on this subject, those who had brought me in had both an opportunity and necessity to devise a form to match the content. Well, they weren’t ready for that; this show was just one on their season’s roster. But this experience turned me on to Buddhism.
I was thinking about structure for the subject, a structure that could hold the content, and most of all, a structure that was open and could allow for creative thinking to happen collaboratively, for personal insights, and for art to be imagined. Eventually I would find that this open space—cultivating an open mind—was not just about thinking in an unprejudiced way (important as that is), but to be open so as to have energy and clarity. This is what Buddhist meditation practice affords.
We’re back with Episode #12 of “Fielding Practice,” a podcast produced exclusively for the Art21 Blog. This week, our regular panelists Duncan MacKenzie, Dan Gunn and Claudine Isé discuss the demise of Next/Art Chicago–which up until last week had been the US’ longest-running art fair –and the subsequent rise of Expo, a new Chicago-based art fair slated to debut on Navy Pier in September 2012. We also review current exhibitions by Laura Letinsky at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, whose show Negative Joy is on view at Corbett vs. Dempsey gallery; we also offer some “best bet” picks for the coming month in Chicago. As an added bonus, this week we keep the conversation blissfully short, at a running time of approximately 38 minutes — as always, thank you for listening!
Click here to listen to the podcast.
Panelist’s picks for late February/March, 2012:
Dan Gunn: Nazafarin Lofti at Tony Wight Gallery, March 2 – April 14, 2012.
Duncan MacKenzie: Anna Kunz at Terrain Gallery, opened February 19, 2012 (artwork is visible from the street).
Claudine Ise: Mike Kelley‘s More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and The Wages of Sin, 1987, on view now at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago as part of its exhibition This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s.
We’re back once again with another special podcast produced exclusively for the Art21 Blog’s “Centerfield” column. This week, our panelists, artist Dan Gunn, artist and Bad at Sports co-founder Duncan MacKenzie, and Chicago arts writer and Art21 Blog editor Claudine Isé review the solo exhibition Cathy Wilkes: I Give You All My Money at The Renaissance Society and discuss the artist Damien Hirst as sign, signifier, and circus ringmaster of the contemporary art world and commodity culture at large–a discussion sparked by art critic Christian Viveros-Faune’s tongue-in-cheek eulogy for Hirst in the January 18, 2012 issue of the Village Voice. We also share our monthly recommendations of what to see in Chicago and the Midwestern region, with links below. As always, thank you for listening!
Click here to listen to the podcast.
Installation shots from Cathy Wilkes: I Give You All My Money (note: shots are from the installation at The Modern Institute, not The Renaissance Society):