Teaching and Talking about Art and Performance in Unpresidented Times

Today from our sister publication Art Practical, we bring you Thea Quiray Tagle’s article from issue 8.3: Art can’t do anything if we don’t. Quiray Tagle highlights the importance of teaching art in its most intersectional and inclusive form and actively engaging with politics and current events. She states, “For those teaching art and social change in the ongoing aftermath of this election—thank you. For those joining political actions and using arts as a platform for the first time— fantastic. In all of these endeavors, consider your politics of citation: who you turn to and give credit for as sources of artistic and intellectual expertise.” This article was originally published March 23, 2017.

Johanna Poethig. Songs for Women Living With War, 2016. Courtesy of the Artist.

Johanna Poethig. Songs for Women Living With War, 2016. Courtesy of the Artist.

(some thoughts for other instructors and artists)

my sister
when will it come finally clear
in the rockets’ red glare
my sister
after the ceremonial guns salute the ceremonial rifles
saluting the ceremonial cannons that burst forth a choking
smoke to celebrate murder
will it be clear
in that red that bloody red glare
my sister
that glare of murder and atrocity/atrocities
of power
strangling every program
to protect and feed and educate and heal and house
the people

(talking about us/you and me talking
about us)

—June Jordan, “Poem to My Sister, Ethel Ennis, Who Sang ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at the Second Inauguration of Richard Milhous Nixon, January 20, 1973”

Listen to Black women. Listen to women of color. Listen to indigenous communities. Listen to queer and trans people, especially QTPOC.  These are the things, above all else, that I want my students to learn, in the art schools where I’ve been one of the few instructors of color, in “diversity” classes at the public university I teach at now. Listen. Look. Learn.

Read the full article here.

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Shotgun Reviews

Unflinching Facades: New Work by Carolina Borja and Jesse Matthew Petersen at Soo Visual Arts Center

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Camille Erickson reviews Unflinching Facades: New Work by Carolina Borja and Jesse Matthew Petersen at Soo Visual Arts Center in Minneapolis.

 Carolina Borja. Lucha, 2017; collage and acrylic; 12 x 10 in. Courtesy of Soo Visual Arts Center, Minneapolis.

Carolina Borja. Lucha, 2017; collage and acrylic; 12 x 10 in. Courtesy of Soo Visual Arts Center, Minneapolis.

In the exhibition Unflinching Facades at Soo Visual Arts Center, new collages by Carolina Borja and Jesse Matthew Peterson plunge into the amorphous archives of religious iconography and fashion. By employing mixed media and visual manipulation, Borja (the subject of this review) alters the concealed power structures beneath the sumptuous veneer of mass representation. In the series All of Them Us (2017), Borja injects appropriated images of saints to reconsider their importance outside of a prescribed religious order. Layered collages featuring Catholic saints with glowing, hand-painted halos, removed from their natural habitat, congregate on the wall. Borja prompts viewers to “choose a saint of inspiration,” and provides a table of accoutrements, including artificial branches, candles, and plastic crowns, inviting viewers to “search for symbols that pair well with their needs.” Against a lustrous blue backdrop in the gallery space, viewers can also strike a saintly pose while (as the wall texts suggests) “acknowledging the strengths you lack and empower yourself.”

In a corresponding video, Borja wears a crown of flowers and a red cloak, freezing her pose as if for a photograph. She breaks this arresting stillness with a smile, exposing the exaggerated nature of her actions. Typically, Catholicism maintains a stringent grasp on the tenets of tradition and guides many Mexican customs, but Borja envisions a renewed enactment of devotion by inserting her own body in a campy performance—and encourages viewers to do the same.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Molly Dierks

In her work, Molly Dierks forces together concepts of normative femininity and elements of industrial fabrication—sometimes uneasily, other times uncannily well. Using saturated and pastel hues typically associated with women’s products in combination with hard metals and unyielding forms, Dierks makes associations between femininity and fabrication that describe complicity rather than contrasts. Her sculptures do more than point out the labor intrinsic to the production of femininity; they implicate an unseen ecology of machine manufacturing behind it.

Molly Dierks. Parts, 2010 (installation view); car parts, paint, metal and wood bases; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist.

Molly Dierks. Parts, 2010; car parts, paint, metal and wood bases; dimensions variable; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist.

In her installation Parts (2010), Dierks erects three metal objects with evocative but nonspecific shapes and details. Painted a warm coral hue like lipstick or rouge, the forms suggest sections of mass-produced, utilitarian objects. Strangely feminized by their shapes and color, they appear like hybrids of car parts and pantyhose, fenders and legs. But what is strangest about them is how surprisingly natural it feels to a viewer to see both a car door and lipstick in the same object. Parts goes beyond a mere feminizing of typically masculine objects—the maligned “shrink it and pink it” ethos applied to marketing products to women. The congruity of these readings reveals a deeper entanglement between them, of seeing the production of a concept of a woman in the production of a car.

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Edward Krasiński: Two Retrospectives

László Beke’s essay in a 1999 exhibition catalog, Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s–1980s, synthesizes broad Eastern and Central European conceptualist practices. Within the text, the Polish artist Edward Krasiński is mentioned only briefly in parenthesis as a “peculiar” artist.[1] This alone indicates Krasiński’s outlier status and exceptionality with regard to Eastern Bloc conceptualism. While Krasiński’s practice is clearly influenced by Minimalism’s phenomenological attention to space and simultaneously approaches the proverbially Conceptual “dematerialization” of the work of art, the idiosyncrasies and distinctive approaches found in his work have often been compartmentalized to fit within Western contexts.

Edward Krasiński. Intervention, Zalesie, 1969. ©Anka Ptaszkowska and archive of Museum of Modern Art Warsaw. Courtesy of Paulina Krasinska and Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw. Photo: Eustachy Kossakowski.

Edward Krasiński. Intervention, Zalesie, 1969. © Anka Ptaszkowska and archive of Museum of Modern Art Warsaw. Courtesy of Paulina Krasinska and Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw. Photo: Eustachy Kossakowski.

Krasiński’s large and multifaceted oeuvre, spanning five decades, encompasses painting, sculpture, installation, and performance. However, his use of blue Scotch tape remains his most identifying strategy in the West, perhaps because it most resonates with the dominant practices connoted by Conceptualism. Kasia Redzisz, Senior Curator at Tate Liverpool, amply took this point into consideration in curating Krasiński’s first UK retrospective at the institution, which will move to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam this June. Redzisz did well to situate the diverse strategies that comprise his career, presenting a wide selection of the artist’s polyvalent work chronologically, and installed, where possible, as re-created installations—though clearly divorced from the historical and political context of their production.

Krasiński never ceased interrogating the artwork’s spatio-temporal positioning and how the viewer navigates through space, which inform his earlier paintings, quasi-Minimal sculptures, and later, his quite Conceptualist installations. Krasiński’s practice of site-specific installation, while firmly rooted in his Polish postwar context, was not produced in a vacuum; it was in dialogue with Conceptual art during the process of its theorization in the West.[2] While Krasiński co-founded and regularly exhibited at the Foksal Gallery in Warsaw—a pivotal alternative art space in state-socialist Poland—he also exhibited his work in the West. Given Poland’s somewhat mitigated artistic freedom—relatively expansive compared with other countries in the Eastern Bloc, such as Hungary—during the postwar period, Krasiński exhibited in New York, for example, as early as 1967. His sculpture, No. 7 (1966), was selected by curator Edward Fry as one of two Polish contributions to the Guggenheim International Exhibition 1967: Sculpture from Twenty Nations, and was likely received as an implicitly Minimalist work given the developing polemics within the New York art world at the time. The sculpture, however, gives the impression of vertical motion that contrasts with Minimal sculpture’s then-prominent convictions for “static” objects.

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Interviews

Talking About 100 Days Action, Part 2

April 30 is the last of Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office. To mark that inauspicious event, I spoke with Kenneth Lo, artist and social media manager for 100 Days Action, and artist Ricki Dwyer, who contributed the intervention Shred and Re-weave the American Flag. Our discussion ranged from how resistance efforts have changed since the inauguration, to the role artist–activists play in those efforts either by choice or a sense of obligation.

Ricki Dwyer. Shred and Re-weave the American Flag, 2017; participatory action, performed on January 27, 2017, at Open Windows Cooperative in San Francisco, as part of "100 Days Action"

Ricki Dwyer. Shred and Re-weave the American Flag, 2017; participatory action, performed on January 27, 2017, at Open Windows Cooperative in San Francisco, as part of 100 Days Action. Courtesy of the Artist.

Roula Seikaly: Kenneth, you’re leading the social media charge for 100 Days Action. Have you noticed a change in the proposals? Are they responsive to proposed or realized executive orders, such as the Muslim travel ban, or defunding Planned Parenthood? Or are proposals more consistent in the sense that a general protest is mounted?

Kenneth Lo: I’d say both. Even before the travel ban was executed, there was the idea that Trump would do it. It happened to be timed almost perfectly that when the first travel ban was proposed, we featured Lizania Cruz’s project My Immigrant Route. That was a popular project that saw a lot of participation. But I’d say that for the first month, the submissions were more concerned with self-care.

RS: Self-care for the artists themselves, or self-care as a collective action?

KL: Both. Like, “We’re tired, we’re screaming. Let’s do some yoga. Let’s have some food.”

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Interviews

Talking About 100 Days Action, Part 1

On November 8, 2016, Donald J. Trump reached the nation’s highest political office after a long and brutal election cycle. In response, artists throughout the United States mobilized to resist regressive policy changes that would set progressive efforts back by at least fifty years. Writer and activist Ingrid Rojas Contreras collaborated with numerous Bay Area artists to form 100 Days Action, a creative affiliation described as a “forum for resistance” and “a call to all bodies that stand against bigotry, xenophobia, racism, sexism, and the destruction of our environment to act together.” I spoke with Contreras, Zoë Taleporos, and Dana Hemenway of Oakland’s Royal NoneSuch Gallery about how artist–activist gestures for 100 Days Action are selected, and the role that arts institutions can play in times of political crisis.

Jenifer K Wofford. No Scrubs, 2017; participatory action, performed on January 21, 2017, at the Women's Marches in San Francisco and Oakland, as part of 100 Days Action. Courtesy of the Artist.

Jenifer K Wofford. No Scrubs, 2017; participatory action, performed on January 21, 2017, at the Women’s Marches in San Francisco and Oakland, as part of 100 Days Action. Courtesy of 100 Days Action.

Roula Seikaly: How are interventions vetted and selected? Have you received proposed gestures that haven’t aligned with the 100 Days Action mission?

Ingrid Rojas Contreras: Our curatorial team sits together in pairs to review each proposal. We look at each gesture and decide if it is within our mission, and if it is, we ask which dates are appropriate or workable, and then situate them within the calendar. We received a proposal that was physically violent, where the gesture crossed a line we don’t want to violate. We’re trying to be inclusive and to reach out, but there have to be hard limits to what we support. We’ve published actions that are edgy, but not too extreme. We don’t want it to go that far. We’ve also received suggestions that we wouldn’t feature in the calendar. For example, people getting together to write postcards and sending them to senators and representatives. Since that isn’t an artistic gesture, we agreed to signal-boost the effort through social media, but not add it to the calendar.

Dana Hemenway: I wanted to add that even though there are some gestures that were not included, the 100 Days Action project is still monumental. It’s a huge undertaking. As anyone who plans events knows, lead time before an event is crucial for preparing and promoting it. There’s something to do every day—from an administrative perspective, it can be overwhelming. That said, it’s also what makes it such a powerful project.

Zoë Taleporos: The organization was built in such a small amount of time. To mobilize that many people and to settle on decision-making modalities and set the mission—Ingrid and company just jumped right into it. I think sometimes a narrow response time can prompt the most creative and organic things.

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Refusing to Be Fed

From our sister publication Art Practical, today we bring you Vivian Sming’s article from issue 8.3: Art can’t do anything if we don’t. The issue takes its name from Sming’s article, where she states, “Raising these questions is not to say that we don’t need art, or that art can’t do anything at all, but rather that art is not exceptional. Art can’t do anything if we don’t. We cannot fail to recognize when and how artists participate in an exploitative market, which does not only include commercial galleries and auction houses, but also museums, nonprofits, and academic institutions.” This article was originally published on March 23, 2017.

Screenshot, @age103, Instagram post.

Screenshot, @age103, Instagram post.

In the days following the 2016 presidential election, a seed of instinctual fear was planted and lodged within me. I live in a suburban neighborhood that is mostly White, in close proximity to a large and diverse immigrant population. As soon as all the votes were counted, I looked up the results within my precinct, and found that 25 percent were votes for Trump. While this is certainly a minority, I became obsessed over the fact that this percentage accounted for over 200 people—200 of my neighbors. Indeed, the personification of these very percentages are how the cracks between family, friends, and neighbors start to emerge.

The first week following the inauguration pushed me further to the edge, bringing me closer to survivalist thinking. With the signing of each executive order, I weighed my fight-or-flight options. As diplomatic relationships corroded, I almost too casually browsed NUKEMAP, a site that displays the detonation radius of different nuclear bombs that are known to exist on Google Maps. I mulled over our past as humans, and felt as if thousands of years of history had been compressed and brought into the present. I had always thought (and have had the privilege of thinking) of history as a document of the past—events that had happened that we, as a society, were progressing away from. However, history is not a record of the past; it is evidence of future possibilities, showing us who we are capable of being and what we are capable of doing, in all the horror and glory.

Read the full article here. 

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