* This interview has been translated and co-edited by Brian Whitener.
I first heard about Colectivo Situaciones about a year ago, when I received a publication in the mail titled Genocide in the Neighborhood, edited by the scholar and poet Brian Whitener and translated by Whitener, Daniel Borzutsky, and Fernando Fuentes . This book, published by Chain Links and available through Small Press Distribution in Oakland, focuses on three organizations that emerged during the mid-90s and early 2000s in Argentina: Colectivo Situaciones, HIJOS [Children for Identity and Justice against Forgetting and Silence], and Mesa de Escrache. Though a series of conversation and interview transcriptions as well as collaboratively written documents, Genocide in the Neighborhood tells a story of how these groups came to work with various neighborhood communities throughout Argentina in the interest of bringing the crimes of both the Argentine dictatorship (1973-1983) and subsequent governments that granted immunity to many who had committed crimes against humanity during this period to light. As the children of the “disappeared,” those who were executed for their political sympathies during the dictatorship, Colectivo Situaciones and their colleagues have sought a kind of justice through a social practice that emerges through their efforts: the escrache. As Whitener writes extensively of the escrache, a ritual performance situated within specific communities that attempts to exact alternative forms of justice in the interest of community building and healing:
Like all truly innovative practices, what the escrache is is rather difficult to define; it’s something between a march, an action or happening, and a public shaming. The escraches are a transformation of traditional forms of protest and were developed as a means to address two problems. The first was the problem of “impunity” [the granting of legal immunity to criminals of the dictatorship]; the second was the loss or suppression of historical memory that this legal reality created.
The escrache, then, as a practice looks like this: HIJOS selects someone who, during the dictatorship was responsible for or complicit with the torture and murder of people, to be escrached. When they first started, HIJOS targeted high-ranking members of the dictatorship, who primarily lived in the center of Buenos Aires. Later, a decision was made to escrache lower ranking members in part to begin to work in other parts of the city, but also to demonstrate that members of the dictatorship were living as if nothing had happened. Once a genocidist is decided upon, a date for the escrache is fixed and members of HIJOS and other related organizations spend months working in the neighborhood where this person lives. They work with neighborhood organizations and go door-to-door to discuss with individual residents and families what that person did and the need for denouncing it. They also discuss the theory and practice of the escraches. Next come months of flyering in order to invite and secure participation of the residents of the neighborhood in the march, which is part of the culminating action of the escrache. The march leads the neighbors to the criminal’s home, where there are theater performances and a symbolic ‘painting’ of the house. This ‘painting’ usually involves throwing paint ‘bombs’ or balloons at the building in order to mark it as the genocidist’s place of residence. The idea is to once again transform the space of the neighborhood, to make visible that genocidists still walk free.
As Whitener goes on to say in his introduction to Genocide in the Neighborhood, the organization of such public and communally immanent rituals, while it takes on aspects of the “happening” or “situation,” is in the service of exploring inter-actions and relations within specific communities that may help to transform those communities positively, towards productive expressions of political and juridical power. Where the state judiciary has failed the people of Argentina (much as our own public officials now fail us in the US), Colectivo Situaciones and their affiliates seek forms of justice and politics that are not a priori but rather are conceived through a rigorous and extensive social process. The result is a practice of “social protagonism” and the construction of “plane[s] of social transversality,” a space in which individuals and groups can explore forms of subjectivity and potentiality autonomous to the seeking of state power. In the wake of Colectivo Situaciones, one can start to imagine how art and performance can serve politics through commitments to the local, particular, and relational — which is to say, through a commitment to working with the people whom their art would be for, whom it would serve.
It’s not often that so many of my interests come together in a single book, but the arrival of LARGE SCALE: Fabricating Sculpture in the 1960s and 1970s, which was published last fall by Princeton Architectural Press, marks such an occasion. As an art conservator, I’m very interested in from what and how contemporary art is made because it informs us on how to properly care for it. I also have a ongoing interest in documenting the creation and display of public artworks. As a definitive resource, LARGE SCALE brings all of this together. To find out more about the context of this book, I spoke with its author, Jonathan D. Lippincott.
Jonathan was born the year after the first sculptures were made at Lippincott, and grew up watching the work taking place there. Since 1994, he has worked at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, where he is the design manager. He has also worked independently as art director and designer for a range of illustrated books about architecture, landscape, and fine art.
Richard McCoy: In the Preface, you position LARGE SCALE as an historical document about the fabrication of some of the most important sculptures of the era, and make the point that the process of fabrication is often overlooked in art monographs. Will you talk about how you put this book together from Lippincott, Inc’s archive?
Jonathan Lippincott: In putting together this book, I was working primarily from the photographs taken by Roxanne Everett, who was my father, Don Lippincott’s, first business partner. She and my father dreamed up Lippincott, Inc. together in the mid-1960s.
Right from the beginning, she felt it was important to document the art as it was being made and the collaborative aspects of the fabrication process, in part so they could show other people what they were doing, but also because this was a new idea–to have an industrial fabrication shop dedicated exclusively to working with artists to create sculpture.
In 2003, the Whitechapel Gallery in London invited Martha Rosler to recreate her classic video Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975) as a live performance. She accepted the invitation by holding a casting call for women to reenact the piece; the “audition” would be the public event. Rosler’s documentary video, Semiotics of the Kitchen: An Audition (2011), premiered earlier this week at Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) in New York.
After the screening, Rosler confessed that she was at first “annoyed and outraged” when asked to restage Semiotics of the Kitchen. Wasn’t it obvious that the piece was meant for video, not a live audience? “My work is about mediation,” Rosler stressed, and the television monitor was one of her tools. Among other misgivings, Rosler worried that the restaging might take on “a nasty, stage-managed quality” opposite the rough-and-readiness of the original. By “withholding” the glitz and glam of Hollywood in Semiotics of the Kitchen, she called attention to popular television depictions of the kitchen. “Boring is a tactic,” Rosler explained. “Everyone hated that piece for a long time.” But the artist, speaking to a packed room at EAI, seemed pleased with An Audition and even a bit charmed by the outcome: a small community of twenty-six women, rotating through a makeshift kitchen, giving their own quirky renditions of Rosler’s 1970s cooking show parody. And then there’s the irony and metaness of it all: the live performance of the video performance became another video.
An Audition was but a small part of EAI’s two-hour food-centric program. The original Semiotics also screened with Rosler’s other “kitchen videos,” A budding gourmet (1974) and The East Is Red, The West Is Bending (1977). Watching these, wherein Rosler performs the culture of American cuisine, I was reminded of Michael Pollan’s 2009 piece Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch, where he wrote of the theatricality of cooking shows today. In a nutshell, he argued that Americans no longer learn to cook from television but instead how to fetishize food and enact cooking. (Rosler touched on this very topic in a post for ArtFagCity that same year.) “Cooking is a spectator sport today,” the artist decried at EAI. “We’re back to the Benihana model.”
“…We look backward at history and tradition to go forward; we can also look downward to go upward. And withholding judgment may be used as a tool to make later judgment more sensitive. This is a way of learning from everything.” — Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1977)
In October 1968, Yale professors Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, along with Steven Izenour, embarked on a study trip with thirteen students. They headed out to the Sunset Strip of L.A. and Route 91, or simply the Strip, of Las Vegas, with the hope of conducting sensorial and experiential architectural research. Since both of their chosen destinations defied reduction down to a singular vision or architectural style, they were the perfect sites for the class’s collaborative research activities and, ultimately, for revealing how architectural design relates to urban planning.
Originally named “Learning from Las Vegas, or form analysis as design research,” by the end of the trip, students had taken to calling the course, “The great proletarian cultural locomotive.” Along with a trip to Disneyland, while in L.A. they went on a studio visit with Ed Ruscha and landed a ride in Howard Hughes’s helicopter.
A related exhibition, now on view at the Graham Foundation, is entitled Las Vegas Studio: Images from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. It’s a mixture of super-saturated Technicolor photographs, films, slides, and printed ephemera from their trip, some of which were included in their subsequent book, and which viewers can spot in the facsimile page layouts on view, and some of which were left like buried treasure in the Venturi/ Scott Brown Archives.
While conversations continue (albeit tiredly) to predict the demise of physical book production, new publishers continue to produce books. There is a wealth of new, bright-eyed small presses all over the country. None so unique as Brandon Alvendia’s Silver Galleon Press. There is a pioneer quality to Alevendia’s style of book making. It’s cheap and fast and easy. It’s also utilitarian. The preciousness of the object he creates comes from it’s easy, DIY production. These books are art objects as a result of their disregard for self-fetishization. Silver Galleon Press is one of many Branches in Alvendia’s art practice. First and foremost, Alvendia creates. The material in which his ideas manifest vary–whether its curatorial, written, published, performed, taught, filmed, or sculpted, the work follows from a verb of action. Alvendia is at the center of that action.
Caroline Picard: Where did the idea for the Silver Galleon Press come from?
Brandon Alvendia: The Silver Galleon Press comes from a desire to read from the infinite repository of texts stored online in a form that can be handled, highlighted, written-in, dog-eared, torn, collected, exhibited, archived, shelved, lost, given as a gift, traded or burned for warmth.
CP: How do you choose your publications?
BA: The continually growing collection of texts represents years of maintaining a folder on my computer named “readme.” Approaching one DVD in size, the library of PDFs is slowly built from a daily practice of hunting and gathering new reading material online. The books are published on an as-needed and on-demand basis to suit a wide range of distribution and exhibition contexts. Titles are also published by request or for personal enrichment.
CP: Can you talk a little bit about how you make your books?
BA: The Silver Galleon Press method of bookmaking is an economical and efficient process that can be learned by all. First, the captured PDF is minimally processed using the budget page-imposition software Cheap Imposter (OS X) to rearrange pages for printing. The PDF is then printed using generic printer ink, found online for as cheap as $1.99 a cartridge ($.01/page B+W). The pages are cut, folded and bound using common office supplies such as heavy-duty staples, two-hole brackets, and a wide variety of glue and tape (as in hot and duct, respectively). Covers are made from salvaged materials of all kinds (file folders, cardboard boxes, canvas, photo-backdrop paper, fabric, mass produced books, etc) manipulated with collage, paint and other mixed media. The whole operation can be reproduced anywhere and will adapt to exploit specific resources at any given venue/institution (ie color copiers, interns, etc…) Finished titles are distributed freely, by barter or on a pay-what-you-wish basis (and often part of a larger sculptural installation.)
This introduction is short. Anne Elizabeth Moore gave such thorough answers, it seemed more important to let those stand than offer an interpretation of her merit. Safe to say having published four books, Anne Elizabeth Moore is an accomplished author. Having shown internationally, she is a significant artist and permeating those facets of her work is a strategic, cultural investigation. She is presently on a Fulbright scholarship in Cambodia.
Caroline Picard: How would you characterize your work?
Anne Elizabeth Moore: Actually, I try not to characterize my work. This is the central issue in work that at its root hopes to investigate capitalism and the ethos of branding. Those boxes that make it easy to mark, identify, and sell something (either metaphorically or literally) also make it easy to either shut down criticism—if you identify with or have bought the item/idea/approach in question—or underscore it—if you are not the intended audience for that thing, pretending for a moment that we’re talking about “things. My work is like Justin Bieber if you like Justin Bieber: it defies categorization automatically because you adore it. But if you think Justin Bieber is a tool, then my work is not like that at all. In fact it is the opposite of that. Except for the fact that both Justin Bieber and I tend to be adored by teenage girls. That is exactly the same and there is no use denying it.
What I’m interested in is how easily systems of oppression become adopted and policed by the individuals they are aimed at oppressing. Branding is one of the primary ways this happens in the hyperconsumerist culture of the United States. But, like, you can’t just go get a job in that. You have to be a writer and an untrained lawyer and study sociology, and you have to speak a fair number of languages and appear friendly and approachable but also not be too scared when the guns come out. And also, because sometimes talking about this stuff is dangerous, you have to be willing to invent a new language, or perform, or work through ideas with a different, non-verbal part of your brain. Let’s be honest, if you study a lot of languages then you might get easily confused; sometimes you speak German or Italian to someone who only speaks Khmer, so visual communication—again, in its pure sense, as a two-way system, and not in the way they teach it at business school—is important.
From cotton candy rooms to painterly cakes, meaty dresses to pork rind sculpture, pickle portraiture to animated toast, this year was chock-full of good “food-art” — food inspired by art and art inspired by or involving food. So much so, that it would have been gluttonous to write this year-in-review by myself. For this post I enlisted the help of two art writers who share my passion for all things food: Andrew Russeth of the blog 16 Miles of String, and Megan Fizell of the blog Feasting on Art. Together, we’ve come up with a list of the year’s best. You might want to grab a bib in case you start to drool.
Best Food-Art Exhibition (Non-Edible): In Focus: Tasteful Pictures, Getty Center *
From 19th-century daguerreotypes to contemporary still life photography, In Focus: Tasteful Pictures contextualized the mechanical image within the genre. Paired with the recent Getty publication, Still Life in Photography, the exhibition provided a historic focus to the way art depicts our increasingly complicated relationship to food within a globalized world. With photographs by Henri-Victor Regnault, Walker Evans, Edward Weston, Martin Parr, William Eggleston, Bill Owens, and Taryn Simon, few museums could draw such a feast from their collection. (MF, NC)
Best Food-Art Exhibition (Edible): Licked Sucked Stacked Stuck, Brattelboro Museum & Art Center *
Art historian Nicole Root and artist Paul Shore create sweets that are modeled on iconic contemporary artworks. They baked a brownie to reconstruct, at a miniature scale, Walter De Maria’s New York Earth Room, and broke Necco wafers to form a Richard Long stone floor sculpture. Other times they opt for assisted readymades, as when they built Robert Morris’s classic mid-1960s block sculptures from sugar wafers and gum. The meticulous care that Root and Shore bring to their work suggest that they are loving tribute artists, but there is also a hint of subversion in many of the more than 70 works they have completed, which are often the “opposite of [the] serious, large-scale, large-budget works,” as Root once put it, describing a plan she and Shore hatched for a Richard Serra made of taffy. Grand and grandiose hallmarks of postwar art are shrunken down and rendered out of everyday materials, and the mystery and majesty of their source works is at least somewhat diminished. Of course, the pair’s work is no more open to the touch (or ready for the eating) than the art they transfigure. (AR)
An air of refinement hung fairly heavily throughout the old Armory building this weekend with a weighty reminder of the long history of printmaking at the IFPDA Print Fair. Many of the booths such as David Tunick’s, where Rembrandt etchings, Matisse lithographs, Picasso etchings, Edvard Munch drypoints, as well as nine Whistler prints of Venice hung salon-style, could have been plucked from the Drawings and Prints Room of somewhere like the Metropolitan Museum.
Barbara Krakow Gallery featured polygon etchings by Robert Mangold, with deliberate imperfections in his architectural lines and ruptures of bright green and orange bursting out of some of the shapes. Around the corner, Sol LeWitt etchings with aquatint Stars — Light Center in various gradations of gray were similar in tone to James Turrell’s spatial Series E, from 1st Light pieces on the next wall. Krakow also had a print of Philip Guston’s The Street, which seemed to provide an underfoot perspective of the chaotic street scenes depicted in a number of the Max Beckmann prints on the wall opposite at Alice Adam.
In fact, a whole wall was dedicated to Max Beckmann prints at Alice Adam as well as at another booth, Jörg Maass. The former gallery was offering pieces from his earlier period of 1916-22, while Maass had more from between the wars, which are a lot less salacious and no longer depicting a heady glamor. Albrecht Dürer was also as prolific as ever: C.G. Boerner had Dürer’s Melencolia I, Adam & Eve, as well as St. Jerome in his Cell, while R.E. Lewis & Daughter were selling his Joachim and the Angel woodcut from 1554 for $24,000. Five rare Goya etchings were available at Kunsthandlung Helmut H. Rumbler, featuring violent bullfights, the aftermath of warfare as well as his 1797 print Until Death of a decrepit-looking woman adjusting her headdress at her cosmetic table while surrounded by her servants.
Over the past few decades, “interdisciplinary” has emerged as a popular designation in academic culture, particularly in the arts and humanities. Both as an undergraduate in studio art and as a graduate student in art history, I have felt the lure of this word, which packages a spirit of emancipation inside of institutionally sanctioned language. At the same time, I have always felt uncomfortable with the term since so many divergent activities seem to take place under its name. In an effort to work through some of these concerns, I spoke with Jesse Aron Green, an artist whose practice we might place under the interdisciplinary banner.
Green was born in 1979 in Boston, MA. He received his MFA from UCLA and his BA from Harvard University. His recent exhibitions include: a solo show at Halle14, Leipzig; a solo project in the Oil Tanks at Tate Modern, London; the 2010 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum, NY; MOVE, Hayward Gallery, London; CCA Kitakyushu, Japan; and various other gallery and museum exhibitions. His upcoming exhibitions include solo shows at the CCA Ujazdowksi, Warsaw, and the Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown. He was a Henry Luce Scholar for 2008/09, a Trust for Mutual Understanding/Location One Fellow for 2009/10, and is the Arthur Leavitt Fellow at Williams College for 2010/11.
Oliver Wunsch: Can you talk about what it means for you to have an “interdisciplinary” approach to making art (if you accept this characterization)?
Jesse Aron Green: Interdisciplinarity is claimed for many practices and across many fields, which speaks to both the aspirational aspect of working across normative disciplinary boundaries, and the very vagueness of this kind of action or movement. I imagine the term is used liberally in the academy due to the influence of Cultural Studies as it is descends from both post-structuralist theory and post-Marxian critiques of ideology, with their emphasis on understanding social and historical phenomena in relation to both the objects of cultural production and their related subjects (and subjectivities).
However, we’re concerned with the field of art, within which the usage of the term “interdisciplinary” is a bit clearer (i.e. its lineage is clear, if not necessarily its current usage). Modernist practices from the middle of the last century claimed a kind of interdisciplinarity in their production across or between media. One thinks of everything from Black Mountain and the Situationist International to conceptual practices, performance, and so on (including all of preceding practices from earlier in the century to which these later ones claimed lineage, but which may have not made similar claims themselves); that is, all the practices that occupied the space of that which falls between [Michael] Fried’s refined, self-specific arts.
Moving forward, one can point to a range of factors that expanded interdisciplinary practice: technology’s erosion of medium-specificity; the dynamics of cultural stratification; and social movements that critiqued political and cultural institutions (Feminism, Civil Rights, and so on). It’s their legacy, and that of post-structuralism, that leads to a greater critique of forms and frames within the field of art, as well as the eventual theorization of post-modernism and the political imperatives of post-colonialism. It’s at this point, in the 1990s, that interdisciplinary practices are understood as those that borrow processes from other discursive fields: one thinks of both the “semiotic” and the “ethnographic turn,” as they have been called.
What interdisciplinarity means in the field of art at the current moment is unclear to me, except that those who make claims to it seem to do so out of an understanding of its relationship to critique, ideology, and histories of social change, especially as it also inheres a commitment or investment (or what have you) to other disciplinary or intellectual fields within or without the Academy. What the term signifies is even less clear when one tries to account for those who use it more generally: those who point in the direction of historical themes, or those who casually borrow the language of theory from one or another academic field.
None of this, of course, answers your question, which was about my practice.
This year’s NY Art Book Fair marks the departure of AA Bronson, one of the fair’s original organizers. Bronson resigned from Printed Matter only a few weeks ago, intending to focus on a retrospective of General Idea, of which he is one of the three founding members, along with studying for his Master’s of Divinity degree at Union Theological Seminary. Despite this seismic shift in the art book world, this year’s fair at MoMA PS1 still succeeded in bringing together not only New York publishers but also a wide variety of both young and established book publishers, distributors, antiquarians, booksellers, and artists from all over the world.
The first eye-catcher on the ground floor was the Purple Portfolio, featuring prints by Richard Prince, Terry Richardson, and Juergen Teller, selling for a whopping $25,000 at John McWhinnie at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller. Other high-price, rare books were scattered around at stalls like Anartist, who had Keith Haring ephemera as well as small books and exhibitions catalogues from Christian Boltanski, Mel Bochner, Dan Graham, Richard Serra, Sol Le Witt and Marcel Broodthaers, to name just a few. The latter, as with previous years, continues to prove popular with a number of booksellers, including Banana Books, who also featured his publications. There was a white-glove, ask-before-you-touch affair at the Belgian publisher mfc-michéle didier’s table, with exclusive books by Philippe Parreno and AA Bronson; while Francesco Clemente’s mammoth 50-leave portfolio The Departure of the Argonaut was on sale at Sims Reed for $5,500. Bookseller Marcus Campbell was offering slightly more affordable options by the artist Max Ernst, however. Unbound sheets from the original print run of Une Semaine de Bonte from 1934 were just $20.00 a sheet.
Sales seemed to be going quite well in general — the German publisher Sternberg Press had been finding John Kelsey’s Rich Texts: Selected Writing for Art was particularly popular with visitors and sales had also been going well for other German publishers, including the seasonal interview magazine mono.kultur.