Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Chicago Artist Writers

Continuing our week highlighting the work of Chicago Artist Writers, today we bring you an extensive interview with artist and author David Robbins. In his books High Entertainment (2009) and Concrete Comedy: An Alternative History of Twentieth-Century Comedy (2011), Robbins reimagines the role of the artist in pop culture. In this conversation with Dan Gunn, Robbins focuses on President Trump’s rhetoric, capitalism, professional wrestling, Andy Kaufman, fake news, the problems with satire, and more. This article was originally published on January 20, 2017.screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-10-35-25-pm-copy

Chicago Artist Writers: Donald Trump is a crossover politician/media personality like the USA has rarely, if ever, seen before. I am interested in asking you about his persona and rhetoric because you’ve thought heavily about the intersection of art and entertainment as well as the real and the imagined. What kind of characteristics do you see in the Trumpian media theater?

David Robbins: I don’t have an especially sophisticated take, but as a good citizen, I’ll give it a try. Trump has the potential to put this country at risk. We’re all grappling with what’s happened.

First off, we have to recognize—or really, admit—that American society has been heading in this direction for a few decades now. I refer to the confusion of democracy with capitalism. Since Reagan—the first postmodern president, an actor who seemed to approach the office as another in a long line of roles—the idea has taken hold that the value of American society is primarily understood as economic opportunity, the pursuit of financial self-interest, and the social mobility this sometimes delivers. Increasingly, narratives of ascendancy—of going from nothing to something, or from less to more, or from plenty to grotesquely more than plenty!—replaced all other narratives. Which is no surprise, exactly, since money has a way of devaluing everything that isn’t oriented around money. Ascendancy stories were always important, but they used to compete with stories of freedom, of justice, of sacrifice, of pioneer hardiness, and so on. After the world decided—late 1980s, the Berlin Wall falls in ’90—to give up on formulating any real challenge to capitalism, narratives of opportunity and its conjoined twin, self-actualization, became the only stories that really mattered. This was the news that Jeff Koons delivered, no? A world of self-actualization, minus criticality.

Read the full conversation here.

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Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Chicago Artist Writers

This summer, Daily Serving is shining a light on some of the commendable arts publications that we regularly read, and this week we’re spending some time with Chicago Artist Writers. In “The Geese at Argonne: On Dan Graham’s Pavilion/Sculpture for Argonne,” artist and writer Yuri Stone discusses a road trip to visit a forgotten Dan Graham sculpture on the campus of the Argonne National Laboratory outside of Chicago. Stone’s essay considers minimalism in the context of postwar science and industry, and the particular situation that the pavilion awkwardly occupies today. The essay is a moving eulogy to a neglected artwork, and was originally published on November 22, 2016.

Dan Graham, Pavilion/Sculpture for Argonne (detail), 1982; Photograph by the writer, 2015

Dan Graham. Pavilion/Sculpture for Argonne (detail), 1982. Photo: Yuri Stone, 2015.

Marie retired from the Argonne National Laboratory a number of years before our visit but stays busy by hosting tours of the facilities. When we arrived, she greeted us with enthusiasm. She was joined by her husband, Robert, a current employee of Argonne, and they were both eager to share the anomaly on campus. We weren’t there to tour the nanoparticle lab or the electrical energy storage grid. We asked Marie how often someone requests a visit to the Dan Graham pavilion. She replied without hesitation, “Literally never.”

There isn’t a trace of Graham’s first outdoor site-specific sculpture, installed in 1982, on the Argonne National Laboratory website. I first heard about the piece when I was working at the Renaissance Society, where we had shown the Model for Pavilion/Sculpture for Argonne (1978-81) in his solo exhibition Selected Works in 1981 and had published an accompanying catalog. The Art Institute of Chicago purchased the model and the Pavilion/Sculpture for Argonne had been realized at the federal facility shortly after the exhibition in 1982. I was always curious. I emailed tours@anl.gov, just asking for a photo or information about the sculpture and its location on the Laboratory campus. I connected with an employee from the Communications, Education, and Public Affairs Department who sent a very direct, and simple email, “The pavilion is located near our cafeteria. If you would like a better photo, I would be happy to send one to you,” with an attached PDF of an Argonne “internal publication” from 1982. After several further email exchanges over the course of two weeks, and the agreement of Marie to meet us during off-hours, the tour was booked for a Sunday evening in early August. By then a particular tone had been set by the employee asking if I was a U.S. citizen, for my age, if I had a valid driver’s license, and what state I was from since “there are five jurisdictions where [a] driver’s license is not accepted at a federal facility.” The last email was concluded with a final requirement, “Everyone must wear flat, closed-toe shoes.”

Read the full essay here.

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Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Chicago Artist Writers

This summer, Daily Serving is shining a light on some arts publications that we regularly read and love, and this week we’re focusing our attention on the work of Chicago Artist Writers. In this interview with Dan Gunn, artist and curator Faheem Majeed discusses his exhibition Post Black Folk Art in America 1930–1980–2016, a reflection on the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s groundbreaking 1982 exhibition Black Folk Art in America 1930–1980. Majeed discusses institutional change, critiques of folk art, and his motivation to revisit this historical moment. The interview was originally published on September 29, 2016.

William Dawson. Collected Figures, c. 1970.

William Dawson. Collected Figures, c. 1970.

Dan Gunn: How did you come to curate this show, and what had you heard about the previous show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1982?

Faheem Majeed: I really wasn’t aware of the show prior [to Intuit’s invitation]. I was aware of Intuit, and they had invited me a while back to do a talk about the Chicago artist Eddie Harris, who is in the show. Anyone who knows my work knows that I was formerly the Executive Director of the South Side Community Art Center. My art practice centers around the mission of that historic WPA art center to support artists, especially artists of color. When I was invited, I spoke as an artist, I always speak as an artist first and as an administrator second. I talked about being impressed with the craftsmanship of Chicago artists and sculptors like Mr. Imagination, Eddie Harris, and David Philpot, and their ability to carve forms and do assemblage. These were things that I was interested in as a sculptor myself. The terminology of “folk artist,” “outsider,“ “intuitive,” none of these terms were familiar.

Dan Gunn: Because you encountered these people as contemporaries through the South Side Community Art Center?

Faheem Majeed: Absolutely, yes. They were people I admired because of their artwork. So I talked about that instead of how their work was classified. The board president and former executive director here, Cleo Wilson, said she really liked the way that I was talking about the work and approached me along with some of the art committee members to come and curate this show. I know what “outsider art” is in a very surface way, and I asked them to tell me what that is. Is that different than “folk art”? If there is a Black folk art, is there a White folk art? So I had all of these questions. These questions led me down the rabbit hole.

Read the full interview here.

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Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Art Practical

This summer, Daily Serving is shining a light on some arts publications that we regularly read and love. We’re excited to partner with publications such as Reorient, ARTS.BLACK, Contemptorary, and others, and will highlight the work of a different site each week. To begin, we’re proud to shine our light on some recent work at our sister site, Art Practical. Today we bring you Ashley Stull Meyers’ essay “Signs of the Times,” which probes the recent trend in collecting political ephemera by cultural institutions: “They must ask themselves whether they are building an expansive and intersectional politics to match their new-found institutional identity.” This article was originally published on March 23, 2017.

A sign from the Women’s March on Washington in Washington D.C. on Saturday, January 21, 2017. Photo: Damon Dahlen, Huffington Post.

A sign from the Women’s March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, January 21, 2017. Photo: Damon Dahlen, Huffington Post.

January 21 of this year was a historic day for Americans of all political leanings. For those who sympathize with or are protected by liberal-leaning ideology, the 2017 Women’s March on Washington served to illustrate that they were not alone—that an arguable majority of the nation shares their discontent. For those in celebration of the previous day’s inauguration and speculative incoming agenda, it signaled precisely how steep the incline toward a true national conservatism will be. Nearly 3.3 million people nationwide converged on the streets of their respective cities as a collective demonstration against inequities and improprieties—particularly those against cis-gendered, white women.

Images of protesters and their signs flooded social media channels; news outlets of varying reach and audience picked them up in equal measure. By January 22nd, several museums and cultural institutions had announced that they would acquire leftover or donated signs as a marker of the momentous spectacle. This choice surprises even for collecting institutions with an existing interest in historical documents. For public institutions, collecting political ephemera is fairly provocative. Museum acquisitions are inherently transactional, be it financially, conceptually, or both. Institutions either purchase artworks and artifacts outright, receive them as donations with their financial value declared, or accept them as gifts with acknowledgement of the institution’s and the donor’s growing relationship. Even when no money changes hands, it’s not unusual to expect a future quid pro quo.

Read the full essay here.

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Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Art Practical

This summer, Daily Serving is shining a light on some arts publications that we regularly read and love, and this week we’re highlighting the work of our sister publication, Art Practical. Today we bring you an emotional response to the tragic Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland on December 2, 2016, “All Is Fair in Dreams” by Bay Area collaborative duo XUXA SANTAMARIA. The publication of this essay and sound file marked the four-month commemoration of the incident that left an entire region—and beyond—heartbroken. As conversations continue regarding initiatives to help protect artists in the Bay Area, this song is a tribute to the lives and practices of the artists we lost. screen-shot-2017-06-06-at-1-28-04-pm

Russell tweeted when the fire started. We were already in bed after dropping Ben off at Eli’s and deciding not to go. We went to sleep worried about Russell’s gear, never imagining what lay on the other side of morning. When we woke up we checked in; from bed I pulled up the Google doc with all those names. I called, I texted, “Are you okay?/Have you heard from so and so?” Trying so hard to tick someone as “Alive.” Brandon said Kate was with him till late. The rest of the day moved slow like goo. Waiting for news, praying to something, something I never pray to, that somehow they would all walk around the building and be fine, just fine. We’d sigh a collective sigh and then cry and then laugh an uncertain laugh. But the day dragged on and on and denied us of any of that. What the day did bring, on top of the film of horror now covering every part of life, was a broadcast barrage of misinformation, a maligning of their names, a tarnishing of their spirit and their intent and their lives. It became a gruesome duality, indescribable pain and uncertainty burning in our insides and anger and fever burning on our outsides. We barely spoke to one another. Almost too shy to take up room, to say, “Hey, I’m feeling torn up inside, like, really torn up, like I might not be okay, all of us might not be okay.”

Read more and listen to the audio here.

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Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Art Practical

For the next few months, Daily Serving will be shining a light on some arts publications that we regularly read. We’re excited to partner with REORIENT, un ProjectsN-o-nS…e;nSI/c::::a_L, and others to bring you the best writing from a different art site each week. From our sister publication Art Practical, today we bring you Kara Q. Smith’s selection of episode 7 of (UN)making, a podcast hosted by Weston Teruya that launched in January 2017. His conversation with Postcommodity presents an opportunity to hear three artist collaborators discuss some recent projects that are situated in socially engaged and research-based approaches. The podcast was originally published on March 31, 2017.07-postcommodity-theearsbetweenworldsarealwaysspeaking01

In this episode, we talk with Postcommodity (Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martínez, and Kade L. Twist) about creating narratives that foster indigenous self-determination, refiguring ceremony, and preparing for indigenous futures. We also discuss the impact of their 2015 project, Repellent Fence / Valla Repelente, and get insight into their new projects launching at Documenta 14 and this year’s Whitney Biennial.

Postcommodity challenges global capitalism and continuously evolving forms of colonialism through site-specific, temporary public projects and immersive sound and media installations that assert indigenous self-determination. They have received awards from the American Composers Forum, Arizona Commission on the Arts, Art Matters, Creative Capital, Joan Mitchell Foundation, and the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.

Listen to the podcast here.

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Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Art Practical

What’s summer without a series? Over the next few months, Daily Serving is shining a light on some arts publications that we admire. We’re excited to partner with publications such as C&, Chicago Artist Writers, MOMUS, and others, and will highlight the best writing from a different site each week. This week, we’re proud to shine our light on some recent work at our sister site, Art Practical. Today we bring you Genevieve Quick’s review of Lynn Hershman Leeson’s retrospective at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Quick draws a narrative line through the artist’s representation of cyborgs and her radical approach to feminist art and technology, and points to where this trajectory leads a contemporary audience. This article was originally published on April 20, 2017.

Lynn Hershman Leeson. DiNA, 2004; installation view, Lynn Hershman Leeson: Civic Radar, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, 2017. Courtesy Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Photo: Charlie Villyard.

Lynn Hershman Leeson. DiNA, 2004; installation view, Lynn Hershman Leeson: Civic Radar, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, 2017. Courtesy of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Photo: Charlie Villyard.

As a collective humanity we make technologies into which we implicitly and explicitly embed our ideologies. Cybernetic organisms (or cyborgs) not only simulate our appearance and capabilities, but reflect the underlying ideologies of who we are, and what we hope for, or fear. As artist Lynn Hershman Leeson used her seminal character Roberta Breitmore to imaginatively explore the personae of an alias, her work with female cyborgs and Artificial Intelligence (AI) also probes the ways we mirror ourselves. The prolific artist’s decade-long explorations in technology and gender are displayed in her rousing solo exhibition at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Civic Radar. Hershman Leeson’s female cyborgs and AI projects explore seduction, the performance of gender, and the tantalizing idea of creating new life-forms and reproducing ourselves, touching on the utopic and dystopic scenarios inherent in both. As the artist’s speculations mine the gender dynamic of female cyborgs, she invites viewers to take leaps of imagination when considering the believability, cognition, and emotional potential of cyborgs, while exploring how they reflect our identities, anxieties, and aspirations.

In Phantom Limbs (1985–ongoing), a series of black-and-white photo collages, the artist hybridizes her body with cameras, screens, mirrors, binoculars, and more—technologies and objects for looking, recording, and display. Through titling this body of work Phantom Limbs, the artist speaks of a spectral body, where an amputation patient may feel pain or sensation in the area of loss. Through being neurologically-rooted, this concept reveals the mind’s capacity to override the body. As a media artist, Hershman Leeson has an intimate relationship with visual apparatuses, which through habitual use may be an extension of her own body such that their absence may cause trauma. With the loss or concealment of her head in the works, the central location for our being and identity, the artist also critiques the ways that images replace the individuality of women in mass media, in this case presented as cyborgs.

Read the full article here.

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