Author Archives: asuperheromusical

Miami Art Basel 2nd time around

This was my 2nd visit to Art Basel Miami in 2 years, which I feel like is the true test.  Have you ever seen a movie and it rocked your world, and then you saw it again and it was still great?  I did not feel like Art Basel Miami was like that.  I was shocked by how it was almost the exact same experience the difference being what is trendy shifted some.  There always seems to be a few artists work that you see everywhere or themes.  So I feel like often once you go to one convention or tent all the other ones seem quite similar.

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This year I felt like sparkly/shiny things were everywhere.  Venues like Untitled and Aqua that had been really exciting for me last year, felt like nothing had changed this year.

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 The main Basel Convention is always a little amusing for me.  It feels no different that a comic book convention or craft trade show.  Instead of seeing people in $10,000 custom cosplay costumes, you see people in $10,000  unique couture fashion. Instead of buying 10,000 first addition comics, or authentic movie props, people are buying 1,000,000 dollar works of art.  Boat shows, bridalrama, gun shows – it’s all the same game, bringing together people with similar interests to spend money.  I guess I expect more from the art world. In my opinion, good art questions things, makes you think.  But Art Basel follows the same trade show protocols as any other.

I realized about half way through this trip that I was desperately seeking a quality experience with a work of art.  But I was in the wrong place because you are taking in such a large quantity of art you hardly have time to process what you are seeing, much less be moved by it.

I’d say out of everything I saw I found Scope, Nada, and Design Maimi to be most interesting.  I felt like I saw more unexpected and unusual things at Scope than any other show, which was a breath of fresh air after seeing a lot of the same thing over and over again at the other fairs.  What I liked about Nada and Design Miami was that they transformed their spaces, giving the view an experience instead of being overwhelmed by the white cube art experience.

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I did get my chance to have an art experience at Scope.  The piece was a performance by Einat Amir called Enough about you.  With the tag line of “when did you last have an intimate conversation with a complete stranger?” The performance was every 15 min and you were not allowed to document it.  They were herd about 20 people against a wall that were standing across from 3 Tardis Shaped, sound proofed, white boxes with plexi glass front so we could see inside.  Then they would personally invite people to participate in the performance.  They put two people in each box.  In my case each box had a male and a female.  At first you think they are just talking and you observe their mouths moving an gestures with each other.  Then you start to realize that all the boxes are receiving the same audio prompts when they all put their hands on their hips at the same time, then later cross their arms, hold hands and dance.  I could see that one woman was definitely stressed by this situation but mostly everyone seemed to smile through this whole performance, which lasted for 10 min.  It was fascinating to stand in silence and watch these social interactions unfold.  I thought about this piece all day.

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I also visited the newly opened Perez museum, but sadly I responded much more the crazy building, interior space and environment they have created and less to the work on display inside.

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I did get a chance to see Mickey Wolfson’s private collection while I was in town, which was really interesting.  It was exciting to see how passionate he was about each and every item, and his parameters for collecting were so interesting. He really liked work between 1880s-1990s focusing on art from times of conflict, buying a lot of work around ww2 and other difficult times.  This brought up a lot of dialogue around visual art’s ability to have a voice in the face of darkness.  I also spent a lot of time thinking about the difference between hoarding and collecting.

The weather in Miami was dream compared to the icey cold Chicago I came from and Miami was buzzing with things to do.  As much as I like being immersed in all things art, I think, for me, Art Basel Miami might need to be an every 5 years type of adventure.  Give the venues some time to shake things up a bit.

L Whittle

Art = the cost of fabrication

A lot of my time in grad school has been the realization (at least in my program- fashion) that if you want people to invest in your work, you have to too.

 

In my undergrad , while studying painting, I would have been horrified to realize that it’s becoming more and more rare for art to be made by the artists themselves. If the artist is a successful working artist today, there is probably a strong likelihood that their art has been professionally fabricated or it wouldn’t have existed without the help of 15 studio assistants.

 

It’s very possible that is train of thought is quite cynical.  But as I walk through museums and galleries today and approach works of art, I think to myself “WOW I can’ t imagine how the artist found funding to fabricate this.”

 

So how do you approach this world if you are an art student?  It’s usually the other way around right?  You get a job and make a lot of money and then spend it and impress people.  But in the art world you are supposed to compete and contend with art being made that has an extraordinary budget before you have a job that gives you income to make your work.  Which then starts the cycle – – if you have a job that supports the work you make, that job takes away from studio time. 

 

It’s just not possible to be the starving artist that everyone romanticizes about.  You can’t be starving and broke and get a 5000$ piece of art fabricated for your next gallery show. 

 

Check out this article in the New York times that talks about a Jeff Koons piece that will take 25 million dollars to fabricate. . . . http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/arts/design/27fink.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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So what’s next ?– dream up big projects and then brainstorm how you will fund it.

 

 If I figure all this out, I’ll let you know.  In the mean time I’ll continue to use my student loans and maxing out my 1 credit card to try and pay my extraordinary art school tuition costs and fabricate interesting enough art to try and get a foundation in this field.

 

 

 

Lwhittle

Celebrity Artist

I recently watched the documentary “The Artist is Present” about Marina Abramovic’s work at the MOMA in 2010.  I had heard her name dropped a lot in my various performance classes.  She is comparable in legend as her bodily harm performance counter part, Chris Burden.

It was a very interesting documentary to say the least.  Though I can’t imagine what kind of picture it paints of the present art world to people who aren’t as familiar with contemporary art.

As someone who does some work in performance, I was super intrigued by her inviting her performers on a fast/retreat with her for a few days to try as an attempt and get her performers in the write head space. She took away their phones and did exercises with them to clear their heads. – – I find directing performers to be in my work very challenging.  It’s hard to transfer everything you are thinking about your work to the people who are going to activate it and it’s not something you can do very quickly.  Performers really need to spend time to get to know the work before they can activate it. However Marina was training them to be her, since they were re-performing her old work.  Where as, I try to be open to new things that performers will bring to my work, it’s not about me so the prep process would probably be very different for me.

Her story and the timeline of her work progression was interesting. But I had a lot of thoughts about her staring piece.  I felt like the piece seemed to be more about her use of her celebrity.  If they had an unknown artist sitting in a chair all day for 3 months I doubt 750,000 people would come to sit across from them.  I doubt countless of celebrities would ask for special tours of the exhibit.  I also thought it was disappointing how secure the piece was . If anyone remotely deviated from the plan (for example one person put on some kind of mask)  they were asked to leave.  It was a VERY controlled performance, no room for change or growth.  However it was intriguing to me just how much impact this piece seemed to make on a large variety of people.  I wonder if people just do not connect as much as they need to with others, and need a moment to deeply star into someone’s eyes.

I have heard of all kinds of spoofs of this piece like artists staring at plants saying the plant is present etc.

Over all I think Marina really depends on the hype of her work for it to be successful, but she is one of those rare artists that reaches beyond the art-world into the general population.

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This documentary could be worth a watch if you haven’t seen it yet.

lwhittle

Another Fashion Exibition

Recently I had the priveldge of visiting The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk At the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

In the past few years I have seen quite a few fashion exhibitions at art museums. I saw Savage Beauty (Alexander Mcqueen)"Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" Costume Institute Exhibition At The Metropolitan Museum Of Art - Preview

and Superheroes: Fashion and FantasyRUCOSTUME at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Fashion in Color73805035_833413aa86_z

at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum to name a few examples.

Fashion as a medium encompasses a lot:  2D process works,  fashion photography and video, performance, garments etc.

I can’t imagine how curators go about organizing and conveying all of this information in these large fashion exhibitions.

Something I have come to dislike about fashion exhibitions is the theatrics that accompany them.  It seems that fashion bridges the gap between the fine art world popular culture.  Fashion exhibitions bring people to museums that might not frequently visit museums.  My experience is that museums tend to cater to that.  They bring a level of theatrics through sets, sound, and accessories that just bombard the viewer, and try to tell them what they should be experiencing.  Instead of giving the viewer a chance to form their own opinion, and letting the great fashion works, stand up for themselves.  (the Cooper Hewitt Did a great job of not bombarding the viewer with too much other stuff)

I wish that curators could give the space and breadth to the garments we are observing that you would give a painting, sculpture or installation.  I can’t imagine building a set and or adding music to display a sculpture.

I also am consistently let down to observe fashion on mannequins.  Clothing was meant to be worn, to have movement.  I dream of an exhibition that hires live models or finds some other creative way to bring garments to life instead of sitting there motionless.

That being said, I think the Jean Paul Gaultier was closer to this dream than the others I mentioned.  All the mannequins had faces projected on them and they were speaking as you walked by.  The projection over a mannequin with a nose distorted the face a little and made it almost alien like.  But it made the still models more active and interesting than any other fashion exhibition I’ve seen.  There were still a lot of unnecessary theatrics that compete with what I was actually there to see.  But as usual to see such exquisite examples of fashion up-close, I am willing to try and block out the distracting additives.

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Still, Gaultier has an impressive lifetime of work on display, and it is worth investigating.

-Lwhittle

Labels for an interdisciplinary world.

Today in our super connected interdisciplinary world we seem to all a jack-of-all-trades on some level.  In the past, people would pick a trade and learn everything they could and become an expert.  Today, fashion designers direct movies, painters are curators, actors make art etc.

There is a certain amount of expectation to have a huge trick bag of skills, especially, in my opinion in art related professions.

We are expected to do it all.  But when you meet someone  and they ask you what you do – – What do you say?

In my case I land somewhere between art, costume, fashion, performance and community work (this is the shortlist).  Sometimes I just tell people I make performative wearables that multiple people can activate at one time. But both of those are pretty long to put on a business card and still doesn’t give someone an idea of what my work is.  I am actually quite jealous of people that fit under specific descriptive categories: painter, teacher, doctor, actor etc.

Since I can’t sum up my genre in a few words or less I think I come across really confusing on paper and it’s hard to apply for things like residencies, competitions, and programs since those are usually under a specific categories themselves.

So for now, until I come up with something that I think adequately describes what I do, I look for other people doing similar things and how they label themselves.  The closet thing I have found so far is Hibino Kod(z)ue, who calls herself a “Costume Artist.”  Her work falls somewhere between art, fashion and costume.

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While I continue to develop a label, I will have a super crowded business card.

-Lwhittle

Aside

I recently attended the Chicago Art Expo 2013.  It had interesting moments.  I mostly walked around talking with a friend taking in visuals when they intrigued me enough to pause.  But I was stunned when I came a across the … Continue reading

Not your typical hotel experience.

 

 

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The first time I walked into 21c’s lobby, in Louisville, KY, I was trying to decide if it felt like a hotel lobby or an art museum.  Somehow defied both and had a feeling as unique as the experience it offers.  You are greeted with contemporary art on the sidewalk around the hotel and from the moment you walk through the doors.

21c has a feel of old and new together. The building itself is rehabbed from historic tobacco and bourbon warehouses (important Kentucky products) that were renovated to be a contemporary space.  This was a very clever way to merge the city’s history and culture with new ideas. 21c also has hotels in Cincinnati, Oh and Bentonville, AK

I had read and heard about this hotel for years. So I jumped on the opportunity to spend the day there.  Despite all my research, I still expected it to be a hotel with an art gallery and distinct places where art is placed in the hotel.  It was quite the opposite.  Contemporary art is integrated in every aspect of the hotel.  There are traditional gallery-type spaces in the hotel.  But at the same time 21c almost offers an alternative reality, one that keeps you on your toes at every step.  You eat, sleep, even use the restroom immersed in artworks made by living artists.  These experiences are provoking and challenging of daily rituals and the roles of art in our lives. But does this experience really challenge the museum experience or does it embellish it?

Just down the hall from the lounge area, is “Text Rain,” an interactive piece by Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv.  This piece is projected on the wall in between the 2 elevators on the ground floor.  This piece puts the person standing in between those 2 elevators inside the projection and the raining letters build up and bounce off the projections of the people.  If one needed to go to their room they are forced to be part of this piece every time they wait for the elevator.

Once in the elevator, above one’s head is a piece “Untitled” by Ivan Navarro.  It utilizes lights and mirrors to create an endless tunnel of light.  I noticed the plaque with a title before I looked up and realized the elevator itself was an experience of art, again almost forcing patrons to participate with it.

The public restrooms on the ground floor near the elevators, force people in the restroom to question the issue of privacy.  Both the men and women’s bathrooms contain large 2 way mirrors on the outside walls, so that people outside the restroom can peer in.  One cannot see into the individual stalls, but the rest of the bathroom is visible.  Curiosity seems to force almost everyone that passes by to peep through the mirror and are then met with embarrassment when they realize they were now “peeping toms.”  Inside the restroom  (I can only speak for the women’s restroom) you are still confronted with the concept of being watched.  The mirror in the restroom is littered with small LCD screens with rapidly moving eyes.  This is a piece by Sean Bidic titled Voyeurism #6 and #7.  If one reads the plaque they learn that the recorded eyes are eyes of people who are blind, so they are being watched by eyes that can’t see.

Even the restaurant Proof, which is part of the hotel, not only provides unique culinary experiences, many specific to Kentucky, but it also provides a space where you eat surrounded by contemporary art, in front of you, behind you, above you etc.

21c offers a free 24 hour experience of art that artists like the Art Workers’ Coalition would have fought for in 1969 -70. Still it seems to not have won the battle against the bureaucracy of the privileged art world like the artist Hans Haacke built art around in the 70’s also. 21c embraces the luxury of the art world. It is not an inexpensive “Super 8” or “Days Inn.” What would the experience of contemporary art in those type of hotels be, compared to 21c? The average “joe” may not be able to afford 21c’s 230-500 dollar a night rooms, or expensive dining.  Could 21c be a family experience like most hotels promote?  Maybe not with the explicit content that contemporary art often offers.  Would there be more of a risk of the art being damaged or stolen in more affordable hotels, especially with contemporary art pieces in every room?

The artworks that hotel patrons in 21c could “live” with in the actual hotel room would have to be curated very carefully too, and there would be a lot of limitations to how far a patrons dreams could be realized.  These works would have to be safe and sturdy and be conducent for sleeping, a Dan Flavin neon piece might not be optimal for a good night’s sleep

Does artwork in this hotel context change the work at all?  Maybe the experience of being on a stress free vacation and being surrounded by art in your stay gives a more peaceful air to the works, or maybe being forced to interact with work brings frustration to the art.

The first time I visited 21c, I had the privilege of visiting Miami Art Basel a short few weeks later.  It was interesting to me that I saw a lot of the same artists’ work over and over at the various fairs in Miami that I had just seen at 21c.  I love it that a an art hotel in Louisville, KY is so update on the contemporary art world, that it shows the same work one would see at a famous art expo in the US.

Often my personal basic definition of successful art and art experiences, is art that promotes discussion and provokes questions.  Though 21c might still be an imperfect institution to display contemporary artworks, it left me thinking and talking about the experience.  After leaving the hotel I found myself wondering, what will the next generation of art viewing experiences bring?

-L Whittle

 

 

another lecture.

I try to frequently attend artist talks.  I listen to fashion designers, artist, performers, musicians illustrators etc.  I observe there seems to be a standard format for how these things are supposed to go. In general, we, the audience, travel through time as  artists break down their artistic development while we view the highlights of their practice through slides.
 
 Last Wednesday 9/10/13  I attended:
 Performance: Robin Deacon
“If Not from the Heart, from Where?,” presented as part of Assistant Professor Robin Deacon’s final review toward tenure in the Department of Performance.
 
I am always pleasantly surprised to experience artist talks by performance artists.  All bets are off.  This talk was no exception.
 
This was not a tenure review I imagine, an artist defending their practice and their place at an institution.  Deacon utilizes speech as one of his performance tools, so I tried to pay attention to every detail presented to me.  Often speakers get lost in their thoughts and catch up with pauses or “ums.” In Deacon’s speech every bit of information seemed to be presented in a manor that it was specifically rehearsed and delivered.   If there was a pause I felt like it was supposed to be there, and I went along for the ride.
 
I appreciated how the artist utilized humor to deliberate over intense concepts.  Something very interesting for me was his challenging the very stereotype of what performance art is.  
 
I left this talk contemplating what performance art asks me to think about a lot-> Which is: If performance artists can elevate simple tasks like a lecture into a performance, then as artists, how do we navigate what is worthy to be a performance and what should remain a standard ritual?
 
If you haven’t seen or heard any of Deacon’s work it’s worth investigating:
 
http://www.robindeacon.com
 
– Whittle