Sunday, October 23, 2011

Nam June Paik's Global Groove at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

The proximity of my studio in Olive Tjaden Hall next door to the Johnson Museum of Art has led me to frequent the museum fairly often, whether for getting soup during the week at the 2 Naked Guys Cafe in the lobby, or simply to loiter with or without intent.

The Johnson is a relatively new museum, opening in 1973. Cornell University had no centralized art collection until the organization of the Andrew Dickson White Museum in 1953, which was located in the A.D. White House, now the home of the Society for the Humanities. The A.D. White Museum grew into the Johnson Museum with the support of alumnus Herbert F. Johnson '22. The Johnson is a small but spectacular I.M. Pei design, a small concrete tower on the north end of Libe Slope, with views on all sides. The view north towards Cayuga Lake over the thick trees of Cayuga Heights & beyond being particularly pastoral & picturesque.

I.M. Pei's design is notable on several levels. For a concrete tower, with a bunker-like aspect, it is also paradoxically light & airy. There is a 3-storey sculpture deck on the 2nd floor which floats above Libe Slope, with views towards the Arts Quad & the original buildings of the university: Morrill, McGraw & White Halls. The best views are at the top of the building: the 5th floor Asian galleries which has views on all sides & the 6th floor conference room, which has a wall of window facing north to the lake. The galleries vary considerably in size & proportion, which also influence one's experience of the entire building: it seems much larger than it actually is, there are a lot of different kinds of galleries. Such variety expands one's sense of the place.

With the recent expansion completed, some of the existing spaces have been retrofitted, in particular the Asian galleries on the 5th floor. Included in the Asian galleries is a space for modern & contemporary art, which are currently installed with 2 Nam June Paik videos. Yesterday morning I watched Global Groove (1973) which I hadn't seen in several years.

At the risk of dating myself, I had seen Paik in the past at Anthology Film Archives, and even earlier, once I saw Charlotte Moorman, which was as exciting as when I saw Yma Sumac perform at a tapas bar/piano bar in Chelsea, years & years ago. In our virtual world it now seems kind of impossible - a flesh-&-blood encounter now seems moot, likewise both Paik & Moorman now fall into a purgatory of history. Paik's videos look utopian in what is now our hellish conflation of technology & capitalism aka the internet.

The ebullient silliness of Paik still seems potent to me: What is best about television is the ability to change the channel, randomly, & that is what Global Groove is like - going from one thing to another with a kind of hilarious velocity.

If there is a dark side in Paik, it is in the credits: Global Groove was made in conjunction with an experimental television workshop in Binghamton. Now all that (the idea of experimental television, Binghamton as something more than the depressed town it is now) seems lost. Although we still have the specter of tap dancers, John Cage, Charlotte Moorman, et al to remind us of better things.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hans-Peter Feldmann: The Hugo Boss Award

The quote, or more properly, misquote (probably), is from Thomas Bernhard: In one of the books he wrote that getting a prize is society's way of shitting on you. It has been many years since I first encountered what is probably a genuine misread, yet in whatever error it exists in my memory, it has somehow stayed with me, as a call to stoicism contra the capricious vulgarity of any sort of award.

At this point I am from an older generation when awards had a clearer caste system: When Pia Zadora getting the Golden Globe was kitsch both for Zadora AND the Golden Globe, for example (& one could appreciate Pia Zadora even more for being such an ebullient prize winner, but of what?). Awards add luster & validation to the most routine entertainments - my sense is in the future the database of awards will function as a social mirror much in the same way that advertisements can, as embodiments which seem full in their time, & afterwards act more as a graph of lost illusions.

Last week I saw the Hans-Peter Feldmann installation at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, in conjunction with his award of this year's Hugo Boss Award, which comes with a grant of $100,000. Feldmann's installation is lining the walls & posts of the gallery with 100,000 US dollar bills, pinned in even rows, floor to ceiling.

The gallery is large. Before I saw the installation, I had wondered if 100,000 dollar bills covers a little or a lot. There is some overlap involved which makes me think that it did involve some creative geometry to include all the bills. US money is remarkably drab - the neo-classical graphics are lugubrious both in dull, narrow monochromic tones & in all-too-official, historicizing imagery. The sober tonalities line what is otherwise a brilliantly white cube contemporary gallery. The dollars look like some dull reptilian scale. That week, my friend S. whose interests are in the realm of haute couture & what he terms luxe, told me about a $40,000 handbag made of wild crocodile he had seen. Unlike such a luxe handbag (well, at least for some), seeing $100,000 pinned to the walls is extremely static & uninteresting, which is I am guessing, precisely the point, or a point - I think there's a lot going on with this installation.

The Hugo Boss Award is a global art prize: it presupposes a globalized art economy, presumably without national borders. There's a lot of conceit in this: one could still stake out borders within this magical Everywhere. "Global" is for a "global" class which excludes most of the globe. A "global" award functions like any global corporate action. It is not art which is the global Esperanto linking all, but the economy itself, & in things like the Hugo Boss Award, or the Guggenheim franchise (from NYC to Abu Dhabi), it is all luxe decoration, & perhaps not as satisfying as a wild crocodile handbag. One looks sadly for more purpose than that, & come up short. It reminds me of a visual pun in Jacques Tati: an office lined with travel posters for far-flung places of the world, all of which look identical.

The installation was remarkably empty, in fact it was downright peaceful. Other than seeing 2 boys stopped from photographing one another posing with wide-open arms in front of the plenitude of dollars, there isn't much to do in the gallery per se, although I found it remarkably moving, perhaps because of its visual spareness, & that it could function without the existence of any art object. If anything, going into the next gallery, for an installation of post-Impressionist paintings from the Thannhauser Collection, which included, immediately, a spectacular Van Gogh of the mountains of St Remy, & a Gauguin Tahitian fantasy of a near-nude boy with a horse in a jungle, both of which I could describe flippantly as masterpieces, was quite jarring. & if anything, $100,000 could buy a few inches of these paintings at best. & masterpiece quality aside, these paintings looked like psychedelic posters in comparison.

Feldmann's installation made $100,000 look insubstantial, even a bit unreal - excuse the pun, but it just didn't "add up." It was not like seeing the interior of Fort Knox like in Goldfinger - it had nothing precious or prized about it at all. & it was neither cynical or ironic - if anything it reminded me more of simply pulling a few dollars out of my pocket, when that is all there is, rather than any artistic strategy.

There were crowds, mostly of tourists, going into the Guggenheim, most of which was closed for the Lee Ufan show. A well-dressed woman pushed past me in the revolving door saying she was here "FOR THE FELDMANN!" as was I - & I never saw her in the gallery, either. The more show-stopping Van Goghs & Gauguins were mere steps away, after all.

The quietness of Feldmann's gesture of the installation impressed me, as well as the larger issues at hand: the airy symbolism of money, its teetering between worth & worthlessness, its use as a kind of black mirror in which one could see the commodity of art reflected in it. Money has a different presence for those with or without it. Given that almost any thing per se can be used in art-making in a "post-medium" art world (which is also global, of course), it still has a sense of being artless, even with the methodical if not decorative mode of pinning the dollars to the walls. The greenish tones of the dollars made the gallery feel like one were at the bottom of a very still pool.

I think of Feldmann's books & collections of ephemeral images - all of them modestly scaled. One of my secret tests with my professors & colleagues is to see how they react to Feldmann's work - does it have any impact or not? Feldmann is not that well known in the US & the only large-scale show with his involvement that I know of is The Last Picture Show which I saw at the Walker Art Center. I have a few rumpled issues of Ohio Magazine as well - another litmus test. Perhaps in the US the everyday is supposed to be be more special, & it can be jarring to sense that it actually not, visually, or otherwise.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Hellfire Club episode of the Avengers 2011

The current show of Karen Kilimnik's work at 303 Gallery includes a reconstruction of the installation The Hellfire Club episode of the Avengers, along with some photos of a girl posing a l'Emma Peel, and paintings of more "traditional" subject matter - dogs, landscape, portraits in heroic style (I can hear my Aunt Lucille imitating the movies here, pronouncing it "veddy English"), which relate in a kind of thrift store Anglophilia all around.

I find myself able to relate to it, both in terms of it as an art practice, as well as something (maybe not even art per se) which interfaces with media, with pop culture, which casts the experience as a kind of internalized subjectivity from which there is no discernible awakening. It's like a dream, the nature of which cannot be easily determined. It can be both gorgeous & terrifying. It's as if one's ego is nothing, supplanted by floating images from elsewhere, which are eminently desirable, yet it's awful too, sometimes.

There's a lot of art which deals with media images directly, with celebrity as a kind of mirror of whatever. & I get a sense that there really isn't much irony or depth in some of the work, or that there is meant to be (such as Elizabeth Peyton or Richard Phillips), & I'm not intending to suggest that there has to be. It doesn't mean much to me, but these images have had at least a contemporary resonance, for some. They show in galleries (what does that mean?). What I am intrigued with in the work of Karen Kilimnik, continually, is its morbid, romantic obsessiveness, its attachment to fantasies both grand & cheap. The work has a kind of entropy in its attachments, it is abject, it is kind of falling apart - & as such it resonates with a psychic landscape laid out like copy in a fashion magazine. The work picks up on the invasiveness of media, its aggressions.

But I am missing something here too: a figure like Emma Peel, especially in The Hellfire Club episode, is also a very empowering figure. She's tough, hot & self-possessed. We should all take some lessons from her, this fictional sylph. The photos of the girl posing with images of Emma Peel/Diana Rigg pick up on this, in a very direct way. The photos are wonderfully not-fine. They are simple; if they were in an envelope from a one-hour lab they would seem like someone's ordinary caprice, a scenario of "this is me, like the picture." The "amateur" can be theorized as a hapless consumer, as an absolute in passivity, however it could be seen as a much more complicated interchange. There's a murky deliriousness in the contemplation of these materials. There are intimations of violence - violence in cheap toys & decorations, in tinsel & gilt, in dupey Xeroxes, in not-so-secret yearnings for a world much richer than our own.

Signs on the Road

Artists often fixate on particular found material (imagery, objects, quotes, fragments of text, etc.) that reveals no direct connection to their practice but that possesses for them an enigmatic, resonant meaning. This material may serve as a beacon for their practice, suggesting an unrealized and indeterminate potential for future work. Perhaps this material is the uncanny of artistic practice.

For this exhibition we collect such material from over a hundred and fifty artists, each invited to submit a single-page digital file to be printed on an 8×10-inch sheet. This small archive will be handed over to three curatorial collectives, each of whom will mount a treatment and exhibition in the diminutive (10-foot by 10-foot) Curatorial Research Lab at Winkleman Gallery. Despite the collection's necessarily small scale, we hope for a different order of insight than can be derived from primary artistic production. What if, for a moment, we treat such secondary material as primary? We are curious to see what tentative and comparative understandings can be drawn regarding a collective sensibility of the moment. Could organizations of this archive serve as signs on the road toward something beyond its constituent parts?

Workroom G is Michael Ashkin, Leslie Brack, and Joshua Geldzahler

Gogue Projects is Matt Freedman & Jude Tallichet

Camel Collective is

Cathouse FUNeral is David Dixon, Karen Miller, Pete Moran


David Adamo, Alyson Aliano, Greg Allen, Meredith Allen, Robert Andrade, Mirene Arsanios, Michael Ashkin, David Atkin, Nancy Baker, Conrad Bakker, Michael Ballou, Sarah Bedford, David Benforado, Annie Berman, Eric Ross Bernstein, Roberto Bertoia, Mary Walling Blackburn, Lee Boroson, Leslie Brack, David Brody, Monica Burczyk, Pam Butler, Sharon Butler, Holly Cahill, Zachary Cahill, Tiffany Calvert, Francis Cape, Zhiwan Cheung, Piotr Chizinski, Jennifer Coates, Elisabeth Condon, Anne Connell, Diana Cooper, Daniel Cosentino, Amie Cunat, Elizabeth Dadi, Iftikhar Dadi, Jennifer Dalton, Donna Dennis, David Dixon, Ben Draper, eteam, Julie Evans, Anna Faroqhi, Anoka Faruqee, Renate Ferro, Paul Festa, Matt Freedman, Carolyn Funk, Lee Gainer, Joshua Geldzahler, Benj Gerdes, Lindsey Glover, DeWitt Godfrey, Maximilian Goldfarb, Edward M. Gomez, Anthony Graves, Lisa Hamilton, Shadi Harouni, David Hartt, Kirsten Hassenfeld, Jennifer Hayashida, Eric Heist, Amy Helfand, Alika Herreshoff, Clara Hess, Bob Hewitt, Susan Homer, Bettina Hubby, David Humphrey, Gabriela Jimenez, Christopher Lowry Johnson, Ron Jude, Martine Kaczynski, Efrat Kedem, Christine Kelly, Daren Kendall, Baseera Khan, Elke Krasny, Larry Krone, Lasse Lau, Jill Lear, Ronna Lebo, Diana Seo Hyung Lee, Karen Leo, Jason Livingston, David Lukowski, Pauline M'barek, Rose Marcus, Justin Martin, Mark Masyga, Graham McDougal, Todd McGrain, Doug McLean, Vincent Meessen, Danielle Mericle, Elisabeth Meyer, Andrea Minicozzi, John Monti, Pete Moran, Ray Mortenson, Erik Moskowitz & Amanda Trager, Carrie Moyer, Nicholas Muellner, Chris Nau, Yamini Nayar, Gregor Neuerer, Jennifer Nichols, Meredith Nickie, Marty Ohlin, Chris Oliver, Craig Olson, Ruth Oppenheim, Maria Park, Ahndraya Parlato, Ditte Lyngkaer Pedersen, Liza Phillips, Anna Pinkus, Maggie Prendergast, Johannes Paul Raether, Paul Rajakovics and Barbara Holub, Cuba Ray, Dylan Reid, Thomas Rentmeister, Noah Robbins, Christopher Robinson, Kay Rosen, Douglas Ross, Benjamin Rubloff, Kathleen Rugh, Faride Sakhaeifar, Rachel Salamone, David Scher, Mira Schor, Peter Scott, Dennis Sears, Daniel Seiple, Rachel Selekman, James Sheehan, Buzz Spector, Suzy Spence, Liz Sweibel, Stan Taft, Jude Tallichet, Nick Tobier, Nathan Townes-Anderson, Jeanne Tremel, Lauren Valchuis, Chris Werner, Leslie Wilkes, Sammy Jean Wilson, Karen Yasinsky, Bernard Yenelouis

Saturday, January 22, 2011



In the Kabinett:
Unpunished, curated by Nayland Blake

January 20 – February 27, 2011
An opening reception will be held on Thursday, January 20 from 6-8pm.

Hello –

I've been asked to curate a small sort of cabinet de curiosité space in New York's Sue Scott Gallery as part of a show that opens on January 20th, 2011. So I've decided to put together a zine of the queer artists whose work I respect, with the title and theme of UNPUNISHED. You're invited to include a piece in the following format: two black and white 8 1/2 x 11 inch pages. Your name should be on one of them somewhere. The idea is that the two will be Xeroxed back to back to form one sheet, and then the copies of all the pages will be displayed in plastic sleeves, available to be compiled by each visitor. If you want your page to be copied onto a specific color paper, please indicate that. The cover will be the image that accompanies this email.

Thematically, I'm thinking Queer, unfettered exuberance, a bit of Juissance in the midst of our postmillennial winter. Don't fear the goofy, the groovy or the grungy. Two pages, so maybe: before and after, above and below, losers and finders, pitchers and catchers, all things bright and beautiful, questions and answers, fast and slow, inside and out and inside out?

Finally I trust your taste, so if there is someone else you think of who would be a good inclusion, feel free to pass this invitation on to them! I really hope you send something in, but thanks for even contemplating it and one last apology - since I haven't coordinated all my contact lists you may get this in a couple of locations, sorry about the duplication.

All the best,


Cc: Ronald Abram, Darryl Alvarez, Kim Anno, Chris Bogia, Rob Clarke, Liz Collins, Robert Crouch, Pradeep Dalal, Kerry Downey, Simon English, Bruno Fazzolari, Avram Finkelstein, Amanda Greenberg, , Daphne Gottlieb, Erik Hanson, Lee Harrington, Geoffrey Hendricks, Matthias Hermann, Hermes Payrhubur, Mena Kamel, Arnold Kemp, Daniel Lang Levinsky, Phoebe Legere, Sioban Liddell, Daniel Luedtke, Carlos Motta, Keith Meyerson, Midori, Nanney, Jeanine Oleson, Alice O'Malley, Uzi Parnes, Jennifer Rodewald, Christopher Russell, Gwenaël Rattke, Sue SaintSur, Odanjide Shabaka, Amy Sillman, Marc Swanson, Joshua Thorson, Carmelita Tropicana, Ela Troyano, Joey Veltkamp, Tobaron Waxman, David White, Jim Winters, David Yarritu, Bernard Yenelouis, Quito Ziegler.

For additional information, please contact Steven Stewart at Sue Scott Gallery by calling
212-358-8767, faxing 212-358-8785 or emailing