Made in L.A., the Hammer Museum’s innaugural biennial of Los Angeles art, features work from 60 artists working in the city. Artist Vishal Jugdeo’s installation, Goods Carrier, pairs mechanical, TV set-like sculptures with an emotionally fraught 20-minute video set and shot in Mumbai, India. We spoke about transplanting his Los Angeles-centric art practice to a new, charged place, and the themes–new and old–that emerged as a result.
Lily Simonson: As with much of your work, the five characters in Goods Carrier enact a sort of nonlinear dialogue that evokes the domestic tension of familial or romantic relationships. Often, your dialogue seems to represent complex interpersonal dynamics while operating as a metaphor for global and political issues. Were you thinking about this consciously when writing Goods Carrier?
Vishal Jugdeo: When I’m writing the scripts for my videos, I think what I’m doing is experimenting with dialogic language rather than properly writing dialogue. I try to have the actors act things out in a realistic way, so that they’re transmitting real emotional states and putting themselves into tense exchanges with one another. At the same time, the words that they are saying is often, as you say, operating in a metaphorical or symbolic way. I’m interested in how the language itself breaks away from what is being acted out, and the words then take on a meaning of their own, unhinged from the drama that’s unfolding, but juxtaposed against it.
LS: I am specifically riveted by the way your work addresses arguing, and its surrounding awkwardness. At the same time, sweetness pervades. Do you see the conflict in your videos as being about increasing distance, or about resolving dissonance and becoming closer?
VJ: That’s a really interesting question. In my work I always see conflicts as intense acts of love. The characters never hate each other, they’re simply frustrated. And the words they are saying to one another often come from a place of deep fear, but also from a place of deep familiarity and intimacy. I’ve always thought of the works as “power plays” in a sense, and I think both words – power and play are key to understanding what I’m doing. It’s almost like practicing S&M through language alone or something, testing out what it is to say violent things, and to have violent things said to you. I hope that the charge that is transmitted to the viewer does have a kind of sweetness or warmth, which is why I use a lot of humor. I don’t want for someone to walk away feeling alienated, I want for them to feel an intense connection and even closeness to the work, even if that connection is uncomfortable or disconcerting.
Had you walked by the Sony Plaza in midtown New York City this past Friday, you might have seen me through the second floor glass walls trying frantically to fix a wired-up laptop sleeve with a pair of rusty pliers. I was invited, along with four other ITP students, to present our projects at Sony Wonder Technology Lab (SWTL), a museum that displays creative applications of new technologies to young explorers. It was my first exhibit after graduate school and I was presenting my Gamelan Sampul, a laptop sleeve that also acts as a musical instrument. But right before the event, it stopped working.
I was really crunched for time and sweating bullets, but minutes before the exhibit opened I figured out what was wrong — a single loose connection. I was very lucky, but of course our fortunes reversed; My fellow exhibitors’ projects stopped working and I was surrounded by throngs of six to twelve year olds playing with my project like it was a whack-a-mole machine (ironically, there was indeed one of those machines upstairs from me).
But in the end, I was really thrilled. Not only did my laptop sleeve survive the beating, it also brought to fruition some of the most unbridled responses I have ever seen. There was no holding back for these young critics. They either loved it or they walked away. There was not a care for my artist’s statement and no one was impressed by the circuitry–this is the smartphone generation after all. A touch-sensitive laptop sleeve that makes gong noises only comes naturally. Why I made it was just as important to them as how I made it. And I loved every minute of it.
July marks the one year anniversary of “Gimme Shelter: Performance Now.” When I started writing it, I was preparing to move from Chicago to New York, thinking about performance as a genre at the intersection of studio art and “the performing arts.” I arrived at my particular perspective as an artist working somewhere between dance, theater, fine art, video, and literature, whatever a post-studio discipline might look like. I sought to discuss and critique current work that goes beyond easy categorization, but where the central experience of the work is live, real time, and relies on the presence of the performer and audience.
Once in New York, I hit the ground running with both Prelude 11, CUNY’s performance festival, and Performa 11, that beast of a performance biennial. As if these marathon events weren’t consuming enough, I then attended P.S. 122′s COIL Festival, the American Realness Festival, The Whitney Biennial, and proceeded to co-curate the Movement Research Festival Spring 2012. Throw in performances at P.S.1, The Kitchen, BAM, Danspace Project, and The Chocolate Factory, and I can safely say that it has been an eye-opening year of performance, especially here on “Gimme Shelter.”
Bad at Sports is back with another “Fielding Practice” podcast produced especially for the Art21 Blog! We’ve been away for a couple of months working on a series of projects, most notably our summer residency/exhibition at Columbia College’s A+D Gallery (click here for details). If you’re in Chicago, come by the A+D Gallery tonight for our CLOSING FESTIVITIES and RECORD RELEASE PARTY! July 19, 5-8pm, 619 South Wabash Avenue.
On this month’s podcast, Duncan MacKenzie and Claudine Isé are joined by Bad at Sports co-founder Richard Holland. We discuss three exhibitions on view in Chicago this summer: Peripheral Views: States of America, at the Museum of Contemporary Photography; ”Color Jam,” a summer-long, outdoor public installation by Jessica Stockholder (who is featured in the Season 3 episode “Play” of the Art in the Twenty-First Century series); and we also take a look at “Zachary Cahill: USSA 2012, The People’s Palace’s Gift Shop,” an exhibition-cum-intervention in what was once the giftshop at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Click here to listen to the podcast.
And as always, our panelists’ picks for the events we’re most looking forward to seeing in the coming months:
Richard Holland: Sic Transit Gloria Mundi: Industry of the Ordinary, a mid-career survey of the Chicago artists’ collective held in the main exhibition hall at the Chicago Cultural Center, August 17, 2012 – February 17, 2013.
Duncan MacKenzie: Skyscraper: Art and Architecture Against Gravity, at the MCA Chicago, June 30-September 23, 2012.
Thanks so much for listening!
Buried at the bottom of Danielle Adair’s online selection of performances and works is a video titled Oh—Say Can You See (2003), which was done as a response to President Bush’s controversial “Mission Accomplished” banner and speech during the Iraq War. In it, the artist walks into a nondescript industrial setting with a stack of handwritten placards, each one containing a prepositional phrase from our country’s national anthem, such as “by the” and “what so.” In imitation of Bob Dylan’s well-known video for the song “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” Adair proceeds to peel away the placards one by one. There is no music in the video, just the whistle of wind as Adair throws the cards to the ground while puffing on a cigarette. Two random passersby exit the door behind her before the video is over.
Adair laughs at the video now and says it’s on her website for comic effect. It is one of the works that got her into the graduate fine arts program at Cal Arts in 2005, and as such, it serves as a significant marker on what some would see as an unconventional career path. As an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, Adair was majoring in Comparative Human Development, a unique interdisciplinary concentration that looks at multiple facets of human social life, before she stumbled upon a class in early video art, taught by artist Helen Mirra. The possibilities opened up by that class inspired her to complete a second major in Visual Arts, and to this day, Adair thinks of video as “the forum through which I think.”
Our latest New York Close Up is now live! Click to watch “David Brooks Tears the Roof Off” on Art21.org’s NYCU website!
What happens when a suburban roof is transplanted to an urban block? In this film, artist David Brooks and a team of fabricators construct Desert Rooftops (2011–12), an Art Production Fund commission for the last undeveloped lot in Manhattan’s Times Square neighborhood. Built on-site by SFDS Fabrication & Design Shop, the “real scale” roofs are modeled after residential homes and manufactured with the same materials and techniques—only without the supporting walls underneath. Brooks explains how the rambling rooftops are inspired by the housing boom and bust in South Florida, heedlessly encroaching on the protected Everglades like a virus. Seen as a whole, the undulating profile of shingled roofs takes on the appearance of a desert landscape of rolling dunes. Brooks’s humorous critique of McMansion architecture metaphorically links suburban sprawl, a monoculture in which the landscape is dominated and degraded by human development, to the contemporary environmental problem of desertification. Breaking with the resource-devouring logic of home construction, at the project’s completion Brooks and the Art Production Fund recycled all the materials through the non-profit housing organizations Build It Green and Habitat for Humanity.
David Brooks (b. 1975, Brazil, Indiana, USA) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
CREDITS | New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Editor: Joaquin Perez. Cinematography: Ian Forster, Nicholas Lindner, Amanda Long, Rafael Moreno Salazar, Andrew David Watson & Ava Wiland. Sound: Scott Fernjack, Ian Forster & Wesley Miller. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Production Assistant: Amanda Long & Tida Tippapart. Design & Graphics: Crux Studio & Open. Artwork: David Brooks. Additional Photography: NASA Earth Observatory Collection, SFDS Fabrication & Design Shop, & U.S. Geological Survey. Thanks: Art Production Fund, Yvonne Force Villareal, Jason McCullough, Doreen Remen, SFDS Fabrication & Design Shop, Sotheby’s, The Shubert Organization & Times Square Alliance. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2012. All rights reserved.
Because of Prohibition, Margaret Barr had never had much more than a glass of sherry, and only on rare occasions. But she learned how to make Old-Fashioneds when her husband, Alfred Barr, was fired, or “forced to resign,” from his job as director of the Museum of Modern Art. It was 1943, World War II was on and Barr, who was the first director of MoMA and famous for championing Picasso, got the letter on a Saturday morning. When Margaret wanted to go to a movie with their six-year-old daughter, Barr went along but was in a “ghastly mood.” He showed her the letter when they returned.
It was from millionaire Stephen Clark, the chair of MoMA’s board of directors, and it said that he and Mrs. Rockefeller had decided that, really, all Barr was good at was writing, not curating or directing. And so he was being asked to relinquish the directoral job and stay on to write things if he so chose, but, of course, at a greatly reduced salary. Barr stayed inside the house for days, in despair, writing responses to Clark that he never sent. Said Margaret:
I still remember seeing him lying on the couch in the living room — still everything is exactly in the same place in our house to this day — lying on the couch. . . always in his pajamas and bathrobe. I remember kneeling beside him and offering him an Old-Fashioned in order to make him drink something so that he would eat something. It was unbelievable.
As the story goes, MoMA had hung a show by new primitivist Morris Hirshfield, with awkward, “offensive” nudes. Stephen Clark had not liked this, nor had critics. Or perhaps Clark hadn’t liked it because critics hadn’t liked it. I’m not sure. Regardless, the board forced Barr out, even though he’d made the museum what it was.
It’s probably not unfair to say Paul Schimmel made MOCA what it is – or what it has been the last decade and a half. After all, the museum’s still more or less an adolescent; it only opened in 1983. Schimmel curated at MOCA for more time (22 years) than Barr directed MoMA (14 years). The MOCA board forced Schimmel out on June 28 (they say he resigned, which is what Clark said when Barr was on the couch being force-fed Old-Fashioneds).
Time just feels like it moves a hell of a lot faster than it used to. This past Art21 Educators summer institute, which was recently held from July 2-10 here in NYC, just FLEW.
Sixteen art, science, Spanish, English, special education, language arts and social studies teachers came together with us for eight days of workshops, conversations, artist visits, studio visits and museum visits (not to mention front row seats to the July 4th fireworks at 601 Artspace and a wonderful dinner together to top it off) in order to explore ways of utilizing contemporary art to foster student learning. This is a term we all want to hear nowadays but is often tied to some horrific standardized test, assessment or evaluation. The fact remains that students learn when they have meaningful experiences, not tidy tests. Unfortunately, data is a lot easier to report than the qualities of people, things and moments in time.
But I digress!
Our summer institute, which started with Oliver Herring and a stripped down TASK party at Luhring Augustine Gallery, moved between experiences where teachers had the opportunity to learn from each other, five of our Art21 artists (Oliver, Charles Atlas, Allan McCollum, Mary Reid Kelley and New York Close Up’s Diana Al-Hadid), the superheroes at Dieu Donne Papermill and MoMA, as well as our team here at Art21.
It’s hard to explain how excited I am to work with our current group. The fact that big, important questions drove not only the units of study teachers began to develop, but also much of our time together, really is inspiring. And here are just a few of them:
- What is beauty?
- What is cool?
- What is the role of the media in an election year?
- How do we construct and express identity singularly and collectively?
- What stories can art tell?
- What is the nature of creativity and why is it important to use our creativity responsibly?
- How does the media define gender?
- Can we find beauty in the ordinary?
- What makes a global citizen?
As you can probably tell, this was no ordinary summer workshop series, and the possibilities for teaching across disciplines in the coming year as we work with these sixteen energetic and passionate educators are, to say the least, exciting.
Very much looking forward to our first monthly online meeting next month. Love to all!
Below are a few more snapshots taken during the institute… Continue reading »
[This blog series is about artists and curators who chose to work in Miami, and those who've been based here that decided to leave. For more info, read the introduction here.]
Wet Heat, our filmmaking project, produced a feature documentary on the formerly Miami-based painter Hernan Bas,“miamiHeights,” completed in 2009 after two years of following the young artist’s ascending career. This post and accompanying new short video marks the first time our producer Grela Orihuela and I revisited the artist, who has relocated to Detroit.
It was the day Hernan Bas–at age 31 the most successful Miami-based artist–knew he had to leave his home city. At the height of Miami’s most important art season, “people starting knocking at the door of the studio asking to come in and view my work, and I didn’t know who they were.” His studio assistant, who’d answered the door and queried the strangers, sent them away. That was three Basels* ago.
*(A ‘Basel’ is how the Miami art community measures time, a unit equal to 361 days; this unit is also known as “between Basels,” a period which runs from the day after Art Basel Miami Beach closes to the day before it opens.)
“That kind of access, being in the middle of a whole scene, it just became a little too much for me.” A street address listing Hernan Bas Studio had been published on an unofficial Art Basel map of Wynwood, the ever-transitioning Miami neighborhood highest in gallery density. Spunky art tourists assumed they could drop in anytime to view the celebrated artist making work in his natural habitat. Hernan laughs, “I’m very friendly and willing to talk to people, but, make an appointment!”
I was certain dusk had arrived too soon. It was the last week in May, and I had woken from my nap at five in the afternoon to find nightfall when the evening before the light had lingered until seven. I texted a friend: “It got dark so early today.” He did not write me back. I was beset by a cold and staying at my mother’s house in the Sierra Nevada, at an elevation of six thousand feet. I felt feverish.
I went outside, hoping to solve the mystery my waking had initiated. I walked behind the house, down a hillside covered with Manzanita and sagebrush. Lodge pole and sugar pines stood overhead. All was dim, as though the sun had paused in its setting. I walked along a trail barely carved through the brush. With eyes failing and light waning, I squinted. I looked closely: tree trunks embroidered with insect carvings; gobs of pine tar, campfire-scented, stuck to their sides. Mule’s ears flopped by my feet.
Then a tree of light, each branch shaped like a crescent moon, flickered on the dirt before me. The ratio of dark to light seemed reversed, as though shadow were being projected rather than sun. I turned to see what new piece of the forest had created this shape, but I saw only the drooping branches of a Sierra juniper. A reconfiguration had been made in the sky, it seemed, and the results danced on the ground by my feet.