Days after seeing this show, I read the UK’s Independent 1995 article: Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’. I haven’t read Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War by Frances Stonor Saunders. Have you? What do you think?
Continue reading: my interview with Crystal Gregory discussing her creative process, published on Velvet Park Media.
Particularly memorable: Something he said really stood out to me, and I’m loosely paraphrasing, but AS said something like “my whole thing is being where I’m not supposed to be”; and this was in reference to choosing his photographic themes. Outsiders make the best insiders, right?
My review of the show, published on Velvet Park Media.
I was still luxuriating in post-yoga endorphins when my painter friend told me he needed to take a break…continue reading my review of this exhibition, published on Velvet Park Media.
Visited the studio of performance artist and painter Zefrey Throwell, with Radiant Mayhem. Amazing. Zefrey has been developing work that challenges the specificity and authoritarian rigidity of public spaces.
Particularly memorable: Zefrey taking a group photo of us, then casually chomping on a large bar of chocolate, as though his body is super-powered by chocolate rather than oxygen. There’s just no kryptonite in sight for Zefrey, nothing stops him.
Read my review of this show, published on Velvet Park Media.
Continue reading: the interview with Jo Ann Santangelo, published on Velvet Park Media.
Schoeller states that for him, female bodybuilders “challenge the boundaries of not only the shifting, maddening, and ruthless standards of the female beauty industry, but of what constitutes (un)natural.”
Confident enough to enjoy it? Then read my review of Martin Schoeller’s show, published on Velvet Park Media.
I don’t need more, new knowledge.
I want new ways of knowing knowledge.
See close-ups of images, and read my take on this ambitious project.
My first interview with Jo Ann Santangelo, published on Velvet Park Media.
Infancy, adulthood, mortality. These stages were depicted on glass by the careful hand of Kiki Smith. When I entered The Pace Gallery on 22nd Street, I immediately thought: Japanese screens. But after walking around each freestanding piece, I modified that thought. “Pilgrim”, as the works are collectively named, felt like a collection of windows. It wasn’t just the symmetry of painted glass—each stage of the human pilgrimage was rendered as a world in itself, portrayed as rooms without walls. Inspired by Prudence Punderson’s The First, Second and Last Scene of Mortality, Pilgrim focuses as much on eternal consolation as it does in momentary despair. The winged form and feather of Ave, 2000 was present. In most of the pieces that contained them, light bulbs reminded me of dream catchers. That led me to wonder about relationships to light as guidance. If “Pilgrim” takes its cue from the North Star, what can we deduce from the dream catcher’s relationship to an electrical synapse? Is it contrasting an eternal light with a contemporary source of illumination? Is each stage of the cyclical journey illuminated differently, due to reliance on the body as compass?
The gallery space became a sitting room, complete with three benches for viewing “Pilgrim”. As viewers we sit, look at windows encapsulating trajectories of the human condition, in the form of female experience. Although it’s not the first time Smith has applied the use of a grid, as a viewer, it’s the first time that a square shape has ever felt cyclical.
Read my piece on Kiki Smith at the Brooklyn Museum and Pace Gallery on Velvet Park Media.
“Visual culture has changed. As a gallery director and soon a museum director, I am adapting to this new audience and the artists who come out of it.” —Jeffrey Deitch, Director, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
“I have a feeling that, like radioactive matter, there might be a half-life for the relevance of certain types of space and the art they promote.” —Rem Koolhaas
“As public institutions museums have lost much of their mediatory power and…privileged position in defining what we understand to be culture…There is therefore a pressing need to invent new models.” —Manuel Borja-Villel, Director, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
“The museum—far from being an institution to be deserted posthaste—is a crucial site of political contestation.” —Chantal Mouffe
The second time I committed to a full day’s wait at the museum, I glanced up from my mobile just in time to watch someone walk away from the chair. As the middle aged woman strutted smugly, with an unforgettable, lifted swaggering of the shoulders, Marina crumbled a little. Cleansing her emotional palate took a little longer than we had been used to seeing. And a strangely grotesque feeling passed through my stomach, like an invisible current; a wandering illness.
Until that point, I had wanted to sit with Marina to experience a silent dialogue completely dependent on a setting where representations of the female body are usually cast, painted or drawn into the inanimate. The appeal was to animate the female form in a museum, while remaining still as a statue. After witnessing Marina’s reaction to this particular sitter, my motivation shifted from curiosity of form to an embodiment of sustenance.
When I first saw the show in March, sitting with Marina wasn’t imperative. Strolling by her in the bright square of the atrium seemed sufficient. After seeing the retrospective again, something clicked and a decision surfaced-—I would try: to animate form within confinement, in direct dialogue with an expert at doing just that. This curiosity led me to stand and sit for three full days on queue. (And some previous feeble attempts; an hour here, two hours there, but feeble is not a useful word in the context of Abramovic. Even as a viewer it’s full dedication or nothing.) I succeeded on the third full day, with new friends cheering me on. What, was I not hungry enough? Did I not want this? Why was I so hung up on arriving with dignity, as my ankles were kicked and my small feet stomped? On day 61, I speed-walked, with a determined dignity on full-throttle.
The fellow who sat with her before my turn hugged me before leaving, depositing a renewed strength of happiness into my arms. The guard signaled, I walked to the chair and sat. Immediately, (to overcome shyness) I placed the right index finger on my left inner wrist, beat-matching breath to the vascular organ. Within several moments of focused calm and under Marina’s warm gaze, I relaxed. The circus sidelining the perimeter melted away.
Her first glimpse of me began with my shoes. Marina’s gaze brightened, towards the benign acknowledgment that precedes the union of strangers. The most overwhelming emotion wasn’t nervousness but an intense desire to deflect the direct harshness of strobes. Sitting still seemed easier than connecting with endless pairs of eyes under such probing light. Most of what I remember isn’t easily rendered verbally, but in approximation: intense, focused, open. That space between clavicle and lower rib flooded open, wildly. I didn’t anticipate nourishment to have rushed from there, but it did.
For me, Marina’s work carries severe Buddhist undertones: combining tenacity of spirit and discipline of mind towards transcending. In Buddhism, feet symbolize presence. How fitting, that she met each sitter by first acknowledging their feet. What better language for grounding the transcendent? If Buddhist theory is applied to the space between chairs, all forms of presence (being, mind, body) begin with showing up and taking seat. My black linen Chinese slippers now remind me of that power; the power of observance in tenacity, and vice versa.
Although I assured my new friends I would only take ten minutes, (“but it might be two, or maybe twenty…”), I didn’t want to be a devourer. But, just in case, I asked A. Y. to walk into my field of vision and signal, were I to remain beyond thirty minutes. Wasn’t necessary—I stayed ten minutes exactly without keeping track of time or breath.
This exhibit brought out the best and worst. In simple shock at the fury of fandom, a yogi musician behind me noted “Everyone is just hurrying to get somewhere, but if they realized that there’s no where to go—we could all just be.” Waiting was part of it, tolerance was key: not becoming overwhelmed by the neediness of others. Also, joy: witnessing love as language in those who were respectful. And, of course, observing disparaging comments here and there from passerbys. When art lovers complain about Marina’s work as an attack on the female form, have they not contemplated “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”? Or “Woman, I”? Did they not notice Marina hovering as Saint Teresa? So many questions.
On the last day of the performance, thunderous clapping soared and echoed from the atrium to the museum doors. A few A-listers were there, completely obscured among the reoccurring faces on the Flickr diary, who were there, basking in a haze of instant micro-celebrity. Marina bowed graciously, surrounded by her troupe and made her way out of the spotlight, flanked by body guards and the grateful adoration of her loyal set. On my way out, I greeted familiar faces, some of whom didn’t get a chance to sit with Marina but remained authentically invested in the possibilities of the work as creation, as community, as life, as eternal. Their dedication is not captured in a Flickr portrait; or a webcam capture—but they were there. And they were quite present.
Republished with permission by Velvet Park on June 9, 2010.
Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Kristen McMenamy, Amber Valletta, Daria Werbowy, Natalia Vodianova, Jeneil Williams, Lara Stone
See this most resplendent exhibition!
See you Thursday, at the Higher Pictures gallery in NYC.