An An Chen

27 Feb

An An Chen

Third CCA find. Unsure of relation to Abraham. Something interesting may have happened here that I did not get to see. Cocked eyebrow.

Abraham Chen

25 Feb

Abraham Chen

Second contender from CCA. I found the whole thing unexpectedly endearing – I think it was the shape of each individual McNugget. I’ve never considered the possibility that each nugget might have its own personality, but after seeing those grease stains, I am touched. And disgusted. But then not, since it is a proven fact that McNuggets will never decay.

He also had a sealed hanging bag made of paper and containing what looked to be a pound or two of McNuggets, and a grid of themnailed to a board, but there is something very hilarious and sad about those nugget pockets – like a prolific mutant kangaroo with an attachment to cuddling deformed proto-babies. Upon reflection, there is something very aborted and alive about those nuggets that makes me all sympathetic yet cringe-y. (Another Cards Against Humanity moment here – the “Lots and lots of abortions” card…)

He also had, in the back corner of his studio, a mysterious little printout of texts. I couldn’t get a good picture since it was really stuck in a tight corner, but if you can read them, it is pretty intense. I’m aching for a back story here. Death conveyed by text is just so modern and surreal. And a print-out of texts – so casual and voyeuristic. I wonder if it is real…

Either way, I like the idea of someone thinking about mortality and grief and then deciding to work in the medium of chicken McNuggets. Jumping jacks!

Heather Murphy

23 Feb

Some of us took a little field trip last Sunday to the CCA MFA open studios, which can sometimes be overwhelming, as there are several hallways lined with tens of studios and people trying to go every which way into and out of all of them during the busy times. Still, the density was exciting since our program is so small and intimate. I had doubts about whether I could work with so many people around (I’m not social enough!) but I like seeing a bunch of art at once (would I actually love art fairs??), so this was interesting. I must be wired for excessive stimulation, because after walking through everything, I felt like I could see even more. I didn’t go into every studio, but I rooted out a couple of things I really liked.

One of the first studios I wandered into was Heather Murphy‘s. Perhaps I was primed by having recently watched the indie short Noah, in which all of the action takes place in social media/web windows on a computer desktop, but I liked her most recent “Trending” video. While the older two felt more random, this one was interesting for its mix of movie and real life violence augmented by the musical, horror-film narration of that random Shia Lebeouf dance video and the verbal aggression of the Hollaback! walking in NYC video.

The audio is well timed, combining both serious and silly in a way that actually made the serious a bit more disturbing because I had to consciously shift between suspension of disbelief and action violence mode to consideration of a real (though not explicitly shown) bout of gunplay. There was a moment when a video paused on a man’s face came into the frame and began playing, and for a split second it could’ve been plausibly either real life or action movie.

I took a gander at her other work, and there’s a sense of humor that I enjoy in some of them. In this one she rides BART while carrying a plush coffee cup, smart phone and headphones. It’s a not a flashy gesture, but I would not know what to make of it if I saw it in person. She sips from the coffee, scrolls around on the phone…

You can also take a look at her a scroll-through of her monthlong browsing history from around the time of the Trending videos. The effect of seeing the whole thing is oddly calming – I immediately wonder how much of my life is discernible in my history, and I’m glad to see the mix of serious career shit mixed in with searches for “sexy action women” that inevitably lead to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Plus, my appreciation of her hair and her willingness to flaunt it seem to be at equilibrium. I’ve been feeling the Youtube aesthetic lately too.

Also, anyone who looks at Komar & Melamid automatically gets +10,000 pts.

I recently got together with a friend who started a game of Cards Against Humanity. There’s a card that just says “Chutzpah.” So perhaps that’s what I’m feeling here. Cocked eyebrow.

weekend silliness – Be My Bumble Bee

22 Feb

This should’ve been my Valentine’s Day post:

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Every year I try to discover 20 new songs I really love and this is the first of the year. There’s a Doris Day version, but this one is so much odder.

(via one of our adventurous DJs)

singles: Azikiwe Mohammed

20 Feb

Azikiwe Mohammed

(via Humble Arts)

single: Marci LeBrun

19 Feb

Marci LeBrun

(via Humble Arts. The Radical Color show looks good – it’s curated by Jon Feinstein and is at Newspace, Portland, til 3/30)

Sadie Wechsler

18 Feb

Sadie Wechsler

(via Humble Arts)

the bank the bank the bank

13 Feb

For the 1%:

Hollywood Agency Announces Plans to Represent Visual Artists

United Talent Agency, the Beverly Hills-based talent agency known for representing actors like Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, and Gwyneth Paltrow announced the launch of a new division called UTA Fine Arts, which will manage the careers of visual artists.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the agency will not seek to replace galleries in terms of showing or directly selling art. Instead, they will help artists find financing for projects, sign corporate sponsorships, or get involved in the movie business if they desire.

For the rest of us:

Advice for Art Writers: Keep Your Standard of Living Extremely Low

Which is probably why Whitney Kimball said…

So Long

I consider this leave from the art world as a lifeline. I saw my career flash before my eyes, a looping treadmill through an animatronic hell where robot choirs sing the same praises of blue chip artists and hollow prefab trends. I’ve watched an art dealer praise a mirrored Damien Hirst sculpture for its reflective quality; I’ve watched collectors in Miami contemplate buying a multi-million dollar artwork, because “that would go with the one in the foyer”; I’ve watched galleries stock up on safe painting, zombie abstraction, and bland conceptualism all calling back to the same Modernist touchstones. And if an art writer wants to eat, this is the world you’ll be covering for your for-profit collector-driven art magazine.

Can you blame the galleries for perpetuating this crap? A few years ago, rent in Chelsea hit $30,000/month; I can only imagine how much art you have to sell to stay in the game now. “There isn’t a place for us in this world”, one of my friends observed a few years ago. That conclusion has not changed. Worst of all is watching my emerging artist friends aspire to break into this system.


The Billionaires at Burning Man: Move over, Google Bus. There’s a new symbolic fight over tech money, class, and privilege

For his 50th birthday, Jim Tananbaum, chief executive officer of Foresite Capital, threw himself an extravagant party at Burning Man. Tananbaum’s bash went so well, he decided to host an even more elaborate one the following year. In 2014 he’d invite up to 120 people to join him at a camp that would make the Burning Man experience feel something like staying at a pop-up W Hotel. To fund his grand venture, he’d charge $16,500 per head.

There would be no roughing it at Caravancicle. Accommodations would consist of a series of cubical tents with carbon fiber skeletons. Each cube would have 9-foot ceilings, comfortable bedding, and air conditioning. The surrounding camp, enclosed by high walls, would be safe and private. Amenities would include a central lounge housed in a geodesic dome, private showers and toilets, solar panels, wireless Internet, and a 24-hour bar. Guests could count on a “full-service” staff, who would among other things help create “handcrafted, artisanal popsicles” to offer passers-by. To help blend in with the Burning Man regulars, who tend to parade around the commons in wild, racy outfits (if anything at all), the camp would include an entire shipping container full of costumes.

And, even grosser, the Times recounts the sordid (and pointless?) story of Joe Lonsdale’s relationship with a Stanford undergrad he was mentoring in an entrepeneurship class: The Stanford Undergraduate and the Mentor

I see all these headlines as I’m trawling online for residencies and shows to apply to. The whole thing makes me want to commence sequence:

– Enact an unconditional basic income for everyone
– Move to Wyoming

So. That’s not going to happen, but it does make you wonder where an artist go to escape this climate of money and social climbing. (Read: “the city has started the process of adding the couple’s name to the hospital, making it the Priscilla and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.”) I’ve never been the type to wish I could move to NYC to make it and now SF is starting to acquire a very overt NYC feel despite its outward prettiness. I’ve been harboring fantasies of moving to a remote wilderness all my life but now it feels more like a push than a pull.

There seems to still be a fair amount of denial in the art world, as people cobble together residencies and grants and whatnot and convince themselves that this is a sustainable way of living. Yes, perhaps for the younger crowd, but what about those who will want a family eventually? What about those who are thinking about their 70s? Yes, we can residency hop and not have many expenses, but can you save for your dotage? How can all of us pretend that everything will work out for all of us when it’s obvious that it only really works out for a tiny percentage of people? It makes me sick to try to convince myself that I will be one of those few people, because I hardly believe it. It feels like to really be confident about my work and prospects, I have to engage in a level of self-delusion that the logical, data-driven half of my brain will not allow me.

If we’re talking money, then we’re talking business, and it seems to only make sense to me if someone can actually put a number on what my return on investment would be. What is it exactly that I’m getting in return? What are my concrete chances? That’s what I need to know to make decisions about my future. I’m taking a writing workshop this semester, and the instructor made an observation about the art world: it isn’t an art world per se. It is the intersection of art and business. All of us who complain about the prevalence of money in art perhaps simply naively misunderstood from the very beginning. At least in America.

The art world, for all its liberalism seems to be stuck in a backwater where the labor movement never happened and labor is cheap and exploitable. In what other field do you do work without getting compensation and pay fees to apply to jobs? Imagine paying $30 every time you emailed a resume! I’m looking at all those residency application fees and mulling over the argument that it’s an investment in the future. Fact is, I’ve already made the investment of aiming my entire life, all my time and effort, toward the making of art. Aside from shaping our household finances such that we can support my art habit, I still need to make further financial investment? I get it; those who are willing to stick in there and deal with the art world as it is now will remain at the end and reap, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is such a harsh profession. We found ourselves discussing, in an institutional setting, the potential payoff versus the risk in just ignoring one’s student loans. Things are pretty bad if this is what the establishment has for its emerging talents.

The whole structure of the art world bears an unfortunate resemblance to those scams where modeling agents convince young women that they could be supermodels if only they’d “invest” hundreds or thousands of dollars in workshops and classes and “development.” Of course one or two do make it, so it’s not technically a scam, but there is some power imbalance that makes the whole thing feel funny. And of course those who can afford to pay at the outset are always at an advantage, have less to lose if things don’t work out. So – is being an artist a middle to upper class endeavor?

We met to prepare for application to a local prize for MFA students, and found out that one criterion stipulates that work cannot be collaborative. It must be made by only you and if you worked with people, you had better have been telling them exactly what to do. It has to be about one person’s vision. This is insane. It’s so every man for himself, and that’s the worst collective strategy when the whole ship seems to be yawing and pitching like it’s about to sink.

The dynamic right now is competition – we all feel supportive of each other, but ultimately, it’s either you or me, 1 out of 10, 1 out of 20, 1 out of 250 who gets the opportunity. I’m curious about whether there could be a scenario where all of us could come up together. I wonder what we artists can do for each other. In our local scenes, how do we construct our livelihoods so that it is more impervious to the ups and downs of the market? How do we do something together and not scatter to the four winds? How do we secure spaces in our cities that won’t be handed over to the highest bidder?

The thing is, since most of us don’t require riches or fame, this might not even be out of reach. Maybe we just haven’t tried hard enough? Obviously, the culture at large does not care enough about art to help us or give us much, so it’s something we need to do ourselves. It seems high time that we thought a bit harder and more practically about it, instead of each waiting on our own for the Koonsian golden ticket. I really don’t want to be “elevated” to those levels. I just want my normal life that I have now to be sustainable into my 60s and 70s. I am happy eating noodles and living in my little 700 sqft space for two. I just want to figure out how to do it. Maybe if a few of us sat in a room regularly and made a plan, a space and a livelihood would start to look attainable.

To hell with good intentions

11 Feb

Next to money and guns, the third largest North American export is the US idealist, who turns up in every theater of the world: the teacher, the volunteer, the missionary, the community organizer, the economic developer, and the vacationing do-gooders.

…All you will do in a Mexican village is create disorder. At best, you can try to convince Mexican girls that they should marry a young man who is self-made, rich, a consumer, and as disrespectful of tradition as one of you. At worst, in your “community development” spirit you maight create just enough problems to get someone shot after your vacation ends.

The Peace Corps spends around $10,000 on each corps member to help him adapt to his new environment and to guard him against culture shock. How odd that nobody ever thought about spending money to educate poor Mexicans in order to prevent them from the culture shock of meeting you?

– Ivan Illich, To hell with good intentions

On being a good neighbor

9 Feb

I imagine that the first question which the priest and the Levite, asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” The good Samaritan engaged in a dangerous altruism.

True altruism is more than the capacity to pity; it is the capacity to sympathize. Pity may arise from interest in an abstraction called humanity, but sympathy grows out of a concern for a particular needy human being. An expression of pity, devoid of genuine sympathy, leads to a new form of paternalism which no self respecting person can accept.

…Dr Harry Emerson Fosdick has made an impressive distinction between enforceable and unenforceable obligations. The former are regulated by the codes of society and the vigorous implementation of law enforcement agencies. But unenforceable obligations are beyond the reach of the laws of society. They concern inner attitudes, genuine person to person relations, and expressions of compassion which law books cannot regulate and jails cannot rectify. Man made laws assure justice, but a higher law produces love.

We cannot survive spiritually separated in a world that is geographically together. In the final analysis, I must not ignore the wounded man on life’s Jericho Road, because he is a part of me and I am a part of him. His agony diminishes me, and his salvation enlarges me.

– Martin Luther King Jr, On Being a Good Neighbor