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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Shotgun Reviews

Richard Mosse: Incoming at the Barbican

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, Eva Mak reviews Richard Mosse: Incoming at the Barbican in London.

Richard Mosse in collaboration with Trevor Tweeten and Ben Frost. Incoming, 2017; Installation view. The Curve, Barbican Centre, 15 Feb - 23 April 2017. Photo: Tristan Fewings / Getty images

Richard Mosse with Trevor Tweeten and Ben Frost. Incoming, 2017; installation view, the Barbican, London. Courtesy of the Barbican. Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

No matter race, age, origin, or legal status, while the human body performs the physiological processes that keep its vital functions intact, it radiates heat, thereby making it detectable to thermographic cameras like the ones used for military-grade surveillance. In Incoming, on view at the Barbican, Irish conceptual documentary photographer Richard Mosse repurposed heat-sensitive surveillance technology to create a powerful piece of humanist art: a portrait of today’s refugee crisis, registered in black-and-white signatures of relative temperature difference.

Flipping a dispassionate war mechanism to function as a subversive documentary tool, Mosse worked with cinematographer Trevor Tweeten to scan the land- and seascapes traversed by today’s staggering numbers of migrants: from Syria and Libya to Berlin; from Sahara Desert to the Calais camp. The photographic project is a chilling document of human suffering, yet resonates with a striking lyricism. The mesmerizing footage shows glowing ghosts—without identities, without origins—moving in slow motion through dark, otherworldly settings.

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San Francisco

Gary Simmons: Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark at Southern Exposure

Depending on when one visits Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark, the current exhibition by the visual artist Gary Simmons at Southern Exposure, one will experience two very different, equally worthwhile shows. A visitor attending the show during regular gallery hours on any given day will face a work of installation art: An impressive tower of speakers sits, along with a boxy old television, on a low plywood stage. Encountering this ensemble feels like walking into a site with a history, a space where bodies once moved and sounds were made. Traces of this history are visible: shoe prints mark the stage; the wood encasing the speakers is worn, flecked with splattered paint and stained by graffiti; the television displays looped recordings of musical acts performed in front of those same speakers.

Gary Simmons. Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark, 2014; installation view, Southern Exposure, San Francisco, 2017. Courtesy of the Artist and Southern Exposure, San Francisco. Photo: Shahrzade Ehya.

Gary Simmons. Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark, 2014; installation view, Southern Exposure, San Francisco, 2017. Courtesy of the Artist and Southern Exposure, San Francisco. Photo: Shahrzade Ehya.

But the installation refers to pasts beyond the performances playing on the television. The work as a whole is inspired by the producer Lee “Scratch” Perry’s legendary Black Ark recording studio in Jamaica, the site where reggae and early dub music developed. Artists like Bob Marley and the Wailers, The Heptones, and Max Romeo recorded there, to name a few. Celebrated for its unique and inimitable acoustics, the Black Ark was an improvised setting and space of experimentation. Both the studio building and many of the innovative sounds and effects made there were created with found materials and everyday objects like corrugated metal, chicken wire, and broken glass. Sadly, the studio was short-lived. Built in 1973, it burned down in 1979, and while many have since tried to imitate the unique style of sound produced there, none have had any great luck.

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