if you’re in nyc, check out what will undoubtably be an amazing conversation with some really interesting work from the artists Juan Betancurth and Benjamin Fredrickson. they’ll be in conversation with Allen Frame at Daniel Cooney Fine Art at 3pm. Hope to see some of you there!
thanks for all the selfies. new post coming in a bit. still time to do the homework!
Ten years, 37 countries in five continents, 450 pictures. Shown for the first time since its premiere at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, Tillmans’ Book for Architects shows us the patterns of homogeneity in contemporary global architecture. Free from the discourse of individual significance, photographs of each building play off each other, making rhythm out of repetition.
The 450 photographs are shown in a two-channel 4K video projection, onto perpendicular walls, with a bench for seating. Tillmans has installed Book for Architects in a manner that places the viewer in the fold of a social experience. Although we now walk around with digital tablets, or smartphones, containing our reading material, books were initially mobile: tablets with wax that people scribbled and tallied on. Because of their natural stickiness, papyrus leaves became the precedent form for the printed book as we know it today. Book for Architects gives us the book form we know so well but installed to be experienced large scale and not handheld, as a private act of consumption. The relaxed informal setting can be used to sit, lie down, recline while photographs flip through their order.
Where as the photographic slideshows has one coordinate for fidelity—the image—Book for Architects as an installation has a different priority: that of space, edges, and the shapes that cut through the expanse of skylines. The cinema traditionally also relies a single coordinate for final presentation: the flat horizontal surface onto which the image is delivered. With Book for Architects, Tillmans takes two perpendicular walls and changes the scale of the book experience, making it social and public: themes present in each photograph and often contested in architecture. Tillmans places viewers in the very middle of that conversation, using space and scale to show us the commodified structure of many spaces, and many scales.
All images: Wolfgang Tillmans, Book for Architects, 2014. Two channel video installation. Book for Architects installed as part of the 14th International Architecture Biennale: Elements of Architecture at the Central Pavilion, Giardini, Venice, 2014. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York, Maureen Paley, London, Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris, Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin.
Wolfgang Tillmans, Book for Architects
Metropolitan Museum of Art
January 26–November 1, 2015
This summer I am joining Baxter St at CCNY to present a monthly list of not-to-be missed photographs in New York City. That’s right: photographs, not shows. As photography continues reaching across social, aesthetic, and political arenas, it’s increasingly possible (and most enjoyable!) to encounter disarmingly excellent photographs in situations having nothing to do with photography as a theme. Experiencing a photograph next to a painting, an audacious distant cousin (such as a heliograph), a sculpture, or even within much-debated sets of social obligation (journalism)—each of these scenarios expands the conversation around how photography functions in specific contexts, both inside and outside gallery spaces.
This month’s list features photographs currently on view until the end of the month in the Bowery, Soho, Chelsea, the upper east side, and two significant shows in the Bronx within close distance of each other.
Enjoy the first of three installments this summer!
Jeff Whetstone, Banff Sun Spot, 2015. Pigment print.
Currently showing in the group show “Photography Sees the Surface” at Higher Pictures Gallery.
Closing August 7
Linda Connor, August 16 1895, 1996. Gold toned printing out paper from original glass plate negative.
Currently showing in the group show “Photography Sees the Surface” at Higher Pictures Gallery.
Closing August 7
Also of interest in this show is a beautiful 1899 heliogravure of the moon’s surface, by Loewy and Puiseux.
Sarah Sieradzki, Untitled (Arrangement #08), 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Jackie Klempay.
Currently showing in “Space and Matter” at Sperone Westwater.
Closing July 31
A young emerging artist living in Brooklyn, Sieradzki’s photograph is too delightful to avoid, try and peel yourself away.
Burk Uzzle, Dead Bird in Mirror, Florida, ca. 1975. Vintage gelatin silver, printed ca. 1975. Courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York.
Currently shown in “Burk Uzzle: American Puzzles” at Steven Kasher Gallery.
Closing July 31
Uzzle’s solo show is filled with the found geometries and blunt spatial engagements that street photography renders so well.
Currently showing in the group show “¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York” at Bronx Museum of the Arts, one of three Bronx venues focusing on different aspects of the movement’s history.
Closing October 15, 2015
Although this exhibition is up until October of this year, you should see it immediately, and make time to see the rotating films. “The Young Lords had a defining influence on social activism, art, and identity politics, but the lasting significance of their achievements has rarely been examined,” said The Bronx Museum’s Executive Director Holly Block.
Currently showing in “Altered Images: 150 Years of Posed and Manipulated Documentary Photography” at the Bronx Documentary Center.
Closing August 2
Part of a series titled “The Dark Heart of Europe” this staged image of a couple having car sex (the photographer’s cousin and his girlfriend) won the 2015 World Press Photo Prize. Like several other images in this exhibition, the WPP rescinded the award. Shown along side a larger context of image manipulation in contexts of journalism—from Roger Fenton’s Civil War photographs, to media outlets misrepresenting the Baltimore uprisings earlier this year by using a 2014 image taken in Venezuela—this show charts the of nuanced fields of responsibility and fallibility present in, and inseparable from, the history of journalistic practice.
Nobuyoshi Araki, Untitled, (Eros Diary, 2015.
Currently in “Eros Diary” at Anton Kern.
Closing August 7
A collection of 77 new black and white photographs by Nobuyoshi Araki: a diaristic engagement with the twists and turns of emotion while playing with time and time stamps.
Currently showing in the group show “Interface: Queer Artists Forming Communities Through Social Media” at the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.
Closes August 2
In an amazing show of well-selected and intellectually rigorous works, DeWitt’s print of a polaroid is a refreshing surge of photography’s ability to arrest the eye, through high glamour and an economy of means. A wonderful juxtaposition with the selections at Higher Pictures right now: photographs made to highlight photography’s ability to convey surfaces. DeWitt’s image is seemingly devoid of texture, but the nuances of emulsion are exceptionally present, a red-lipped whiplash pushing and pulling at the subtle qualities of image reproduction.
Currently in the group show “Land and Sea” at Danese Corey.
Closing July 31
A stunning image made with no technical gimmick, just pure eye (much like DeWitt’s approach too).
Sperone Westwater: 257 Bowery, New York, NY 10002
Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art: 26 Wooster St, New York, NY 10013
Anton Kern: 532 W 20th St, New York, NY 10011
Danese Corey: 511 W 22nd St, New York, NY 10011
Steven Kasher: 515 W 26th St, New York, NY 10001
Higher Pictures: 980 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10075
Bronx Museum of the Arts: 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10456
Bronx Documentary Center: 614 Courtlandt Ave, Bronx, NY 10451
By Jorge Alberto Perez
Ali Van enters first, slides her shoes off and glides onto the carpet. She sits like a geisha, legs to the side crossed at the ankles, back perfectly erect. There is something utterly feminine in her body language, beguiling in both senses of the word and though she may appear demure, she is in total control. This is her orgasm after all. Hers to do with as she pleases.
Three men appear from different directions and also approach the large square of gray carpet that dominates the 3rd floor space at the Fisher-Landau Center for Art where Van has positioned herself. She holds an i-something in her hand from which a splitter dangles with three bobbing receptors. The men also remove their shoes and sit as if in a dojo, seiza style. Despite the strong sense of ceremony, and the fact that we the spectators are here to experience a performance, nothing feels overt. The lights do not dim, but they feel as though they did, no more or less noise permeates the space as the foursome sit to face each other, but the present silence becomes more distinct. These are the elusive factors that matter to Van, a 2013 MFA candidate at Columbia University, near-invisible markers of time that she, with her subtle curating of objects, and now performance, weaves into highly dispassionate deeply personal work.
The men unravel earphones and each in turn inserts the male prong into one of the female receptacles. They close their eyes and she looks intently at each of them, her acolytes who have dutifully come for her today. Van presses play and manipulates the volume on her device and the men are seen to listen, wrinkles between closed eyes. A long and narrow groove in one, a short deeper trench in another, a gentle pulling inward of the eyes in the third. Though we can assume they are listening to the same sounds, each man appears to respond differently to what he hears by his outward expressions. It happens slowly, and builds on itself. They are climbing the same ladder, they help each other, though they don’t seem aware of it. One man is all breath, shallow and superficial. The next is a low moan, a growl that rumbles in the chest. The third is higher pitched ecstatic releases. Together this chorus performs a unique rendition of what can only be the complex aural orchestrations of the female orgasm. But not just any, it is hers, the action, the reaction and the reenactment. Possibly her most personal experience repackaged as a product for consumption.
From one vantage point Van has an open computer on a mid-century desk playing a clearly dated video of a brain surgery. When I first saw the video the week before this performance I thought it was a document of a wartime operating theater. It seemed so improvised and shoddy. Later I learned it was her father’s footage, who, wanting to see the operation for himself was only able to experience it when mediated by the camera. Today it waxed sexual. The wet, bloody sulci of the brain being probed gently by anonymous hands whilst in the room a trio of breathy moans burst like smoke-filled bubbles. As in most of Van’s art, the tidy compartmentalization of individual elements create untidy relationships in her tableau, discordant notes that when experienced together somehow create an unforeseeable 3rd thing.
This reenactment of her onanistic behavior slowly becomes unhinged somewhere between a science experiment and a defiant stance against male domination as the pitch slouches toward release. It is a petit mort syncopated both in duration and stress to better understand what it is not rather than what it is. Likewise, the fragments of other objects mostly in the periphery of the rug speak to the partiality of any experience, whether intentionally mediated or not. What tooth is this? Is it a human incisor or that of a wild animal? It bothers me to not know. The bag of what I think are desiccated figs, might be tangerines. A mound of lint from a dryer with a streak of pink in it begs to reveal something. A framed image of a foggy field is the 25-year-old blotter from her father’s desk. Every object asks a question, a single compulsive question. There are many objects, and if you let them they will haunt you. For a moment, however, they are held at bay, as most mundane matters are when we succumb to corporeal needs.
After reaching a pitch, a height, a precarious angle from which one can only fall, the breaths, growls and moans come together again in silence. The men emerge from behind shutters, looking guilty despite their best efforts; is that a self-congratulatory grin? We all smile, there is relief in the air. Almost in ostensible synchrony the men unplug and wind their now flaccid wires back into tidy little squares. Van stands and proceeds to the edge of the carpet where she puts her shoes back on and walks away. The men follow her example. We are left to our own devices.
By Jorge Alberto Perez
Without the help of a plot but with the rhythmic coaxing of a 12-string guitar, the one hour and one minute film “Street” by James Nares is absolutely hypnotic. Like Christian Marclay’s art-world sensation last year, (“The Clock”) “Street” has an addictive quality about it that makes you question the notion of time at a fundamental experiential level. With the former, one felt the anticipation of moving forward in time while engaged in the present moment’s deciphering of the rapid succession of filmic and cultural references of the past. In the latter, however, currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through May 27, one is mesmerized by the uncanny qualities of New York City’s street life when suspended somewhere between still and moving images where being and time collide to disrupt the present. In “Street” the minute details of life in the public sphere are able to take center stage as impressive open-ended arias in an epic opera of expressions, movement and vibrations. What normally escapes us unnoticed suddenly acquires magical qualities that seduce us with ease into a world that is at once familiar and alien. The ostensible simplicity of the premise (recording street scenes from a slowly moving car) produces a disproportionate amount of poetic results. It does what language cannot – allowing us a sensation of floating, the suspension of both time and the laws that govern the motion of objects in space, while making us witness to unexpected beauty.
The tradition of documenting street life has a long history in both photography and film and the deployment of a new technology for an artistic endeavor often yields an off-spring of surprising uncanniness. It has long been the task of the artist to reveal what is not known or unknowable in general, but more so when the subject matter is of quotidian life on the streets of the metropolis. Chantal Akerman’s “D’Est” and Dziga Vertov’s “Man with a Moving Camera” especially come to mind. In Nares’ hands, however, the final result of a high-definition slow-motion camera (so slow that at times the only movement appears to be from the apparatus itself) turns the pedestrian world of pedestrians into a meditation on humanity suspended in fragments of time that can only be described as sublime. But the work also speaks to the illusory quality of time itself, for although we might feel freed from its constraints momentarily, it is an invisible vise that tightens around us. With more time to see what might otherwise be missed we have even more information to sort through, most of which can no longer be easily categorized as we are untethered from meaning. Time dutifully slips through our fingers with same same ease as always but with the added effect of revealing some of its secrets. The film, like a mirroring mise-en-abyme, tunnels ever deeper away from the present the longer we look, and thus our own sense of “real time” is displaced. Moments that unfold with such graceful care are layered with multiple meanings and though we may search for their origin or terminus where we think we might understand what we are seeing, it usually eludes us as we are distracted with the rarefied truth of actuality. An expression that starts off like a grimace ends up in a smile, a cigarette flying through the air is less a moment about littering and more a meditation on gravity. The crumpled posture of a woman elicits sympathy until we notice she is trying to take a picture and is merely holding the camera in an awkward position. Rain drops harden into diamonds before bouncing off umbrellas, bejeweling headlights. An ordinary pigeon endowed with the majesty of an eagle maneuvers in order to land. Lights everywhere pulsate with the universal Qi.
Everything is authentic in this state of expanding time. Even when the camera is acknowledged by the subject, the fourth wall does not crumble. On the contrary, it is a revelation of authenticity when a vibration of strength penetrates us with eye-contact. A direct look is all-at-once dangerous, playful, unnerving and spiritual. We are privy to a coded conversation at a level we forget we are capable of understanding. If for no other reason I would sit through the film again to experience those moments of contact with these strangers, not to mention the elegant upward floating sparrows next to a sign that reads “play here” or the seemingly improbable physics of bipedal locomotion or the elegant ripples of the breeze on a young woman’s dress. To sense the joy that can be derived from the smallest expression, the tiniest gesture, the subtlest vibration in a democracy of meaning is a special achievement in a work of art. We are reminded that everything arises in relation to everything else.
In “Street” people stand on corners like a Greek chorus – each face the unique mask of an individual describing a state of universal experience. Sadly I was forced to draw comparisons with the myriad street scenes of Boston we have recently also been exposed to. Whereas the notion of the interconnectedness of humanity was already present in this work, it became inescapable that the sinister and dangerous qualities of the social sphere are also embedded in Nares’ work. And to that I can only say that the revelatory moments feel all the more precious when reminded of the fragility of the fabric that binds it all together.
The only thing I knew about James Nares prior to seeing “Street” was his large-brush paintings, often achieved with a single stroke while he is suspended by a harness above the canvas cirque-du-soleil style. The sense of ease and floating translates directly from his method of marking the canvas to a dynamic suspension of pigment that is both cascading and frozen. The theme of a suspension of movement, and thus time, may or may not be an intentional thread between these disparate works, but it certainly appears so in this 61 minute film – 60 minutes plus one more, spilling over and out of the neat container of time.
By Jorge Alberto Perez
Okay. So we all know by now that images cannot be trusted. Since Plato, the image (mimesis), indeed representation itself, has been associated with deception. It is certainly true that images today cannot be trusted to be accurate versions of what is real or represented – ‘likeness’ opting for the approximation clause inherent in the definition of image-making. And once tampered with and altered, these representations are more than twice removed from what it represents. And though we are generally savvy enough to discern how far from real images are in the spectrum of truth, in the age of photoshop and digital reproducibility, our suspicions are subordinated to the vast volume of images, gifs and videos with which we are confronted daily. Today, whatever might still be considered an emphatic expression of fact re-presented in visual terms floats in our collective willing suspension of disbelief. We grow unaccustomed to believing our eyes – even in the presence of the real, in real time…
On Saturday March 23rd I encountered an art work entitled “The Maybe” at MoMA. What I encountered, actually, was the crowd that had encountered the art work. Second order observation. Immediately past the entrance where the ticket-takers scan you in, in the most transitional space in the building, an unmoving crowd had surrounded an object, a thing, a glass case on a metal stand. It was tall enough for viewers to easily peer into it. it contained a simple pallet, a pillow, a glass water decanter with a drinking glass top, a pair of eyeglasses and a presumably sleeping Tilda Swinton. The wall tag read: “The Maybe, 1995/2013, Living Artist, Glass, Steel, Mattress, Pillow, Linen, Water and Spectacles.”
Like most of those who had gathered to see the contents of the glass box, I did not expect to find a living person, much less the enigmatic, androgynous beauty that is Swinton. In fact, at first my brain did this thing, a kind of processing hiccup, a glitch between the eyes and the brain. I saw the form of a person to be sure, from the back at first, so still that I was convinced it was a very realistically rendered figure. From the front, however, where most people chose to stand, what I thought I was seeing and what I was in fact seeing were separated by a gap wide enough to make me feel light-headed. Why on earth would a sleeping person be inside a glass box that has no clear way to get in or out, and be on display in the most awkward location thinkable? I stood still, as one does at the scene of an accident, to see something horrible, the confirmation that your senses are in revolt. The murmurings of the crowd faded away as my reptilian brain scanned the body for signs of life. She was dressed gender-neutral, neither too cool, or dated or brand-specific – in a loose summer linen shirt of faded baby blue, sensible sneakers, and modestly proportioned jeans. From most angles you could not tell if it was a man or woman. I looked to her abdomen, shying away from her face which was so close (and too real?) that it made me feel uncomfortable, like a voyeur, or worse. Her breathing was so shallow, that I had to look elsewhere for proof, because I was still doubting what I was seeing, mistrusting my eyes to tell me some truth. Swinton was asking me to be present. To watch her ‘perform’ sleeping. To be accountable for my presence. To take stock of nuance despite the fog of doubt, despite the carnivalesque din. Finally with patience I saw her eyes move inside their hiding place. She was dreaming. Now I push the maybe aside and I see she is alive, not a waxen figure or an image of deceptive realness. Now I see something that is true and must take in the consequences of what I know. Contrived or not, this is a kind of intimacy.
A torrent of unanswerable questions inundates me. How, and why, but also really how? Seriously, and the glass, no way in or out… Why should I ever need to be so close to her luminescent pale face, lightly reflective with the oiliness of the unadorned, unattended visage of sleep? From the crowd I hear, “I saw her fingers move.” Indeed they did twitch. It was such a tiny gesture, so small and concise, easy to miss, and yet there we were, about fifty of us, slowing ourselves down long enough to notice it, to see it and to know what it means, but not to know what it means to see it.
I am the voyeur. I am a man and I am watching her sleep, at her most vulnerable. I feel implicated in the male gaze. She has deferred her power and it unsettles me, dislodging violent thoughts. The metal stand feels too tall to be stable, the glass too transparent to be unbreakable. I want to beat on the glass and break her out. There is an implied panic at looking at a constrained person, because despite the ostensible serenity I suddenly realize her tranquil expression is portentous of a disturbance. So much can go wrong. The sleeping beauty box becomes a prison cell. I notice she has no belt. I feel the crowd inching forward, muttering, sniggering, disdainful. I smell someone’s sour breath and awaken as if from the hypnosis of the maybe-maybe-not-pendulum that momentarily dispossessed me of myself. I am suddenly afraid of the crowd, afraid for her safety. I don’t want her to awaken afraid, confused, her own consciousness hiccuping its way into focus. I want her to open her eyes, look right at me to acknowledge that I am her hero and close them so quickly we may all doubt what we saw.
I am also thinking… I have trouble sleeping, falling asleep, staying asleep. Too much light, not enough air circulating, too hot too cold, too restrained, not cozy enough – all these things awaken me. So it is no wonder that I marvel at Swinton’s uninterrupted REM and wonder if ‘maybe’ she took a little something. Maybe not, but c’mon – MAYBE.
This change of tone reminds me of what most of the reactions to Swinton at MoMA were like out in the twittering, texting, internetting world. Jerry Saltz seemed to have a meltdown on vulture.com and joked that celebrity art is like a crystal meth addiction to the museum, and that when it is not too busy perpetuating the guru status of some (read Marina Abromovich) it was turning itself into a circus. Why “The Maybe” was the tipping point for his disdain, only Malcom Gladwell may know. Snoozefest-cum-spectacle pretty much sums up his response. But it is unfair to gloss over it with such nonchalance even from a self-described sourpuss. At least the work was an opportunity for him to frame his contempt for the direction museums are moving in; and so the performance suddenly became institutional critique, among other things. Most other reports used puns to summarize Swinton. Sleeping on the Job. The Art of Napping. Strangest Celeb Hobby. Etc. And a few mentions of Sleeping Beauty.
Interestingly, one of constraints for this performance is that it is not scheduled into MOMA’s ever-growing dance card. The element of surprise is inherent to the piece. If she is Sleeping Beauty, she is not waiting for the prince to appear unannounced. Like in Anne Sexton’s “Transformations” the fairytale is upended. This is no ordinary Briar Rose. And not only can one not plan to see the work, as one could for “The Artist is Present” – it migrates within the museum interacting with other artworks. These “rules” literally unplug the work from any predictability, even of meaning. Maybe the work is a reminder to look to see, to know, to think, to trust yourself to be the author of meaning in the present as you experience it. Maybe the work is not even about Tilda Swinton at all, it just happens to be by her. Barthes would be pleased.