Author Archives: fabiennezuijdwijk

Marissa Lee Benedict at Threewalls

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Benedict is interested in processes. My question is: How am I, as a viewer, being made to understand the processes she is interested in? If I give a plain reading of what I see it would go something like this. “There is a bucket with green dirty water and lamps around it. In the middle of the room, t

here is a branch with a plastic bag filled with water attached to it. There are two SAIC drinking bottles with dirty water and an SAIC book with a magnifying glass mounted above it. However, by the way it is displayed I don’t feel invited to look through them. Probably she wants to show she studied at SAIC”

If she want to show her interest in processes, why doesn’t she build a laboratory? Go for it girl, all the way!

Benedict was much more successful with her piece in the lobby of the Sharp building of SAIC. She had build a structure in which she grew plants, all the way with lamps and dirt. Seeing this work as part of a larger setting where people work and study and pass by on the street, we are invited to witness the process of growing, nature, life. I enjoyed passing by her installation and the life and the green she brought into my life so much. It became part of my daily routine. We see the plants grow. How amazing it is, for us city people!

In respect to her show at Threewalls, the question arises: how does an artist translate a work to a gallery setting where the work is experienced as a one time event only? How do you engage the viewer in your basic interest in processes when the viewer spends only a brief moment with the work? Is the gallery the right place for her work?

LeWitt And Sandback at Rhona Hoffman

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Concrete Block Structure by Sol LeWitt

My first question seeing this concrete block is where did he build it? The next: how heavy must it be? And I end with: if he didn’t build it here, how did he get it here? It must be really heavy. I am aware that these questions aren’t relevant for any art historian or regular viewer. Maybe I am just not interested in some philosophical thoughts that inevitably lie behind this work, but more in my own struggles and amazement with building things. Whenever my father proudly helped me with hanging something on my wall or fixing something in my house, he’d say “It’s time you learn this yourself.” And I would hold my hand next to his and say “look dad, look at your hand, then look at mine. What difference do you see?” I am much better in making maquettes when it comes down to building things, so I have respect for people who build large things.

I had the urge to climb on it and sit on it for a while. Maybe waiving at the people passing by the window. But I thought it to be rather inappropriate. I know who Sol Lewitt is. And some institution or rich bitch wouldn’t like their work to be insulted by some art student, let alone, Rhona would freak out.

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Fred Sandback: Sculptures

Apparently the thread by Sandback is supposed to be the outline of something. Also, apparently, he had stretched strings for a long time. I am amazed how your artistic practice can get so narrow. If it is true that stretching thread is all he did, how did he keep it exciting for himself?

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There were also two drawings framed on the wall. They were cute. My first thought was well, they have to sell something… It was also my last thought in relation to the work.

Sorry, it is not really a review. I have honestly nothing interesting to say about the work. I am more amazed by the question of artistic boredom. Sorry again, I go with what I see and experience, not by art historical context. But in that respect, this is what it says on Rhona’s website:

“Exhibited concurrently with Sol LeWitt: Concrete Block Structure is the solo exhibition Fred Sandback: Sculptures. In 1986 Sandback, in looking back over twenty years of a consistent art practice, wrote “The first sculpture I made with a piece of string and a little wire was the outline of a rectangular solid . . . lying on the floor. It was a casual act, but it seemed to open up a lot of possibilities for me.” This exhibition marks the 6th solo exhibition for the artist at Rhona Hoffman Gallery and the gallery is featuring sculptures that span the period from 1976 to 2002.

The sculptures are composed of acrylic yarn, a material that for Sandback held no significant associations. The yarn’s soft, fuzzy profile invokes a less crisp line than that produced by other mediums, and its fiber makeup absorbs rather than reflects light. The resulting effect allows for a seamless and symbiotic relationship between the material, its composition and the site it inhabits. The mutable character of any Sandback sculpture is relative to its site, and its proportions are calibrated in response to the site’s architecture. While the line of yarn never posits to be more than a line, the linear imagination of the viewer envisions a plane. Trajectory, ascent and descent (the inherent qualities of a line) subside as the vibration of the invisible planes take precedence. The otherwise elusive void or vacancy is given form, illustrating Sandback’s ability to reveal the relationships between the incorporeal and concrete, the ethereal and the tangible.”

Impact Peformance Festival

At first I was afraid what to expect during a 3.5-hour performance evening, knowing that performance art can be dreading. But to my surprise the evening was well balanced and kept me engaged till the end.

It started with Hannah Verril’s performance Kind of Play which was situated in the main performance space, the adjacent class room, and the garden. As audience members we were free to walk around the different areas. In the main room there was a huge projection of the classroom (located at the other side of the wall it was projected on and filmed from the outside to the inside). In front of the projection, which was visually overwhelming, there was an installation of objects that all belonged to the nature of the space: chairs, a fan, pedestals, a ladder, a music stand. Both in the video and in real time, Verril was lying on the threshold between the garden and the classroom, suggesting a pathway from the outside to the inside. The five other performers, who reminded of stage helpers, moved the objects from the main space to the classroom and eventually into the garden. It was an ongoing reconfiguration of the space, which mirrors the nature of a theatre.

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Verril’s piece made me reconsider viewership and artist-ship as she drew me into her visual play of constructing and reconstructing a video installation, a performance, a sculpture. Was I witnessing an artist at work in her studio, a choreography piece, or was I part of the stage setup before the beginning of the show?

For Autumn Hays piece Operations we were redirected to the auditorium where Hays was lying on stage. Dressed in her underwear and with bandages on her body, she was quietly singing a children song. In order to take a seat we had to pass by her on stage. Hays doesn’t have the body of a model to say the least and we were directly confronted with the sight of an overweight woman. But as the performance starts she inverts our expectations by surprising us with humorous and painful jokes and gestures. Using her husband as her assistant, she starts cutting her bandages open with surgical equipment. This is filmed and live projected by her assistant. It looks very eerie until we get to see what she takes out happens to be a film-negative. It offers instant relief. All the while she tells bad hospital jokes.

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Hays’ performance makes me once more aware that things aren’t always the way they seem and that we shouldn’t judge people merely based on their appearance. There are so many more stories going on within us than we can tell from the outside. The body is temporal and sometimes does its own thing, whether we like it or not. Hays’ piece raises many questions in a very compelling way without offering answers. How do we relate to a body that is different from the commons? How do we deal with sickness and decay? How do we deal with bad news from the doctor? How do we talk about it?

The evening concluded with a performative installation by Aundrea Frahm. We were invited in a huge inflatable where performers staged a light and sound show. I have to admit that due to the large audience and my height I didn’t get to see much inside so I observed what happened from the outside. It was visually very appealing, the people on the inside looked like sardines in a can who were all mesmerized by the play with the light. Though I do think this work would have worked better in a big gallery show where you would discover the piece. Maybe it is because of the impermanent nature of light itself that it wants to be found instead of presented to you in an evening filling performance night. As Verril’s piece reminded us, everything in a theatrical setting is highly staged and controlled. But the thin plastic and ephemeral nature of the materials makes me want to see it in a less controlled and staged space. It would have triggered my imagination in a more profound way.