Page 1

Curator’s Perspective: Glenn Phillips Recurating, Remaking, Redoing #2

The following is a transcript from a Curator’s Perspective talk with Glenn Phillips at The Kitchen on November 9, 2010. Glenn Phillips is Principal Project Specialist and Consulting Curator in the Department of Architecture and Contemporary Art at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.

Good evening everyone, and thank you so much for coming, and I’d especially like to thank Renaud and Chelsea at ICI for inviting me here this evening, and to The Kitchen for hosting. Today I want to talk about some types of artwork that we most commonly associate with the 1970s and the later 1960s—although they are also extremely common practices today— and those are works that do not have a fixed and stable material form as art. This includes performance art, obviously, but also some other kinds of ephemeral conceptual art that involve the construction of temporary installations or galley interventions, and other sorts of work that exist primarily as instructions to be followed, or works that now exist primarily as archival documentation. And what I want to talk about in particular tonight are some of the issues that curators are faced with now as we try to include this type of work in exhibitions, which is now leading many artists and many curators and many institutions into the territory of producing reconstructions, or reinventions, or re-dos of historical work. This is a topic that scholars are debating heavily now, trying to think through what re-dos mean, and how they affect meaning, and what sort of status these works have, since they’re not quite a historical work, and not quite a new work, and not quite a reproduction or a simulation either.

were some of the defining questions of this period of our art history, but what I’d like to do tonight is look at this question from the other end and talk in practical terms about what happens when you decide to exhibit an artwork that doesn’t have a set form as object. What happens next? What’s the curator’s role in deciding what form the work should take in the gallery? Should you just realize the piece in whatever way the artist or the estate would like you to do it, no questions asked, or might you need to intervene in the process a little bit––or even a lot¬¬––to keep the piece within some historical or aesthetic parameters? I think that this is a very tricky ethical question, and it’s also a completely unregulated territory. I think that to some degree, many of us probably assume that if our museums are presenting reconstructions of historical works, then it’s probably being done with some level of oversight or best practices in mind, because we all want to assume that institutions will, at the very least, display work properly.

What’s at the core of a lot of the discussion around re-dos today is the question of whether they should even happen at all, since they essentially remove the ephemeral nature from ephemeral artworks and allow them to be commodified and absorbed into the art market and into our standard conventions of institutional display––thereby de-politicizing works that have previously been seen as inherently political precisely because they couldn’t be bought and sold and lent in a standard way.

This is an artwork you probably all know by Joseph Kosuth, called One and Three Chairs, and this is an example of the work installed perfectly. This piece exists primarily as a set of instructions you have to execute if you wish to display the work, and there are three major conditions: you set up a chair in the gallery where you wish to display the work, and have it photographed; then you print that photograph so that the image of the chair is the exact same size as the chair itself, and you hang that photo to the left of the chair; finally you take a dictionary definition of the word chair and hang that definition to the right of the chair, at the same height as the photograph. It’s easy to see here that the photograph was taken in the exact spot where the chair sits in the display (for instance you can see that darker board in front of the leg on the left), and all of the other conditions are met here in terms of the size of the photograph, its placement, and the placement of the text panel.

I think that these are fascinating questions, and in fact I think that we’ll be finding that these

Here’s another installation of the piece, here you can see the chair was not photographed in the gal-

Independent Curators International / Journal


lery where the work is displayed, because the floor is different in the photograph than in the gallery. And here’s another installation with the same issue, and in fact you can see both installations here have used the same photograph. (The photo was loaned from one venue to another.) Here’s a third example using the same image, although in this case you can see they’re using a different print of the same image. Here’s a case where they did not photograph the chair in the gallery, they did not manage to print the image at exactly the same size of the chair, and they did not hang the photograph at the same height as the text panel. And here’s a case where they made all the same mistakes as the previous example, and in addition did not manage to hang the text panel to the right of the chair. As reconstructions go, this is a work that should be pretty easy. It comes with a set of instructions, and there are really only three conditions to meet. But it’s clearly not as easy as it seems to meet those conditions. So, as I was saying before, we want to assume that we can trust museums and galleries to do things perfectly when it comes to displaying an artwork, but when it comes to ephemeral works, or works that need to be built in the galleries, there’s nowhere near as much oversight as you might think. There’s lots of oversight when real objects are involved, because you have conservators and registrars and lenders and insurance policies and a whole network in place to protect the treatment of objects. So, for instance, if another institution is lending you a major painting, and they send you set of instructions that say the work can only have so many foot-candles of light on it and it needs a barrier of a certain exact size in front of it, then I can guarantee you that there will be people who are making sure Independent Curators International / Journal

that these instructions are being followed exactly, because if you don’t follow them then you are probably in breach of contract. But when you’re creating something from scratch because you’re realizing a set of instructions or reconstructing an historic work, then a lot of the points along that support network begin to excuse themselves from the process. That’s why I think there’s been a natural tendency with One and Three Chairs to treat the photograph as an art object rather than something that’s produced on site each time. In fact, there’s been an issue with another Kosuth work that has a similar structure to One and Three Chairs where a museum officially decided to reject the instructions because they said the original photograph is an original Joseph Kosuth photograph, and it’s part of their photography collection. I think that’s why you also see so many artists from the 70s going back to their archives now and producing framed arrangements of documentation to sell, and these are often very large arrangements that can be put in giant frames that hold a lot of wall space. Artists are enlarging their archival photographs to sizes that you never saw in the 1970s, or they’re deciding that their videos have to be projected instead of screened on monitors, or they’re removing components from works or introducing new components of pieces to get them into a stable and gallery-ready form. But the formal logic behind doing this has nothing to do with the 70s, and everything to do with the typical scale of work that people produce today; nonetheless, these arrangements are becoming the final form for works that are then given a date from the 60s or 70s. You particularly see estates doing this a lot, often even creating works out of things that were never intended to be artworks; but you also see this from living artists. There’s a very famous artist who has an assistant whose main job is to create arrangements from the archive to sell, and I know another artist who has an assistant sitting at an old typewriter with old paper, because this artist has decided to turn their old typewritten works into limited editions rather than selling them as unique works. 2

I’m not showing any examples here because I don’t want to sound too judgmental about any one artist, and because in many cases I think this is actually the artists’ best option for getting their work to be exhibited and collected—so I’m not necessarily against this practice. But we do need to acknowledge that the formal logic behind these works are detached from the logic of their inception by several decades and I think that does change their meaning in ways that we won’t perceive until we’re further away from this moment when all of this is happening. We collect a lot of archival material related to performance art and conceptual art at the Getty, and in general we won’t buy these arrangements of materials that have been skimmed from an archive, nor do we want to buy archives that have already been skimmed to make arrangements. But we can’t really be all that stern in taking this position because we do also want to exhibit this material, and there are only so many ways that you can put something on the wall. I did a show at the Getty a few years ago called Evidence of Movement, which was all drawn from our archival collections of performance art, and what I tried to do in that show was to neutralize the framing conventions as much as possible. When I was working on this show I started feeling a little bit of institutional pressure to make these materials look more like the nice big pieces you see in museums, which was something that I wanted to resist. So what we did was take shallow metal panels that could be turned horizontally or vertically but otherwise were all the same size and sort of like bulletin boards, and the archival materials were placed on them with magnets, and I tried not to get too caught up in aesthetics. So, for instance, with something like Carolee Schneemann’s Meat Joy, we have hundreds of tiny little photographs of Meat Joy in the collections, as well as Carolee’s original scores and drafts for the work. So we displayed the final draft of her score, and then we just started taking Independent Curators International / Journal

photographs out of the box pretty much at random, and just hung them up one after the other until the frame felt full. Ultimately, what we wound up with in Evidence of Movement were still giant frames containing new arrangements of archival material from the 60s and 70s, but I don’t think anyone could have come away from the show thinking that these arrangements were anything other than provisional, because the frames were all exactly alike, and we often put multiple works by multiple artists inside of each frame, and in some cases we put the labels inside the frame too, and then of course everything was tacked up with magnets. So again, the hope was to neutralize the framing the convention a little bit here and allow people to move immediately to what was inside the frames. And what was inside the frames was often very challenging material from artists like Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley— but again, focusing on these little bitty snapshots, which is never how you see Mike or Paul’s work. Or work by Vienna actionists such as Hermann Nitsch and Günter Brus, and then what emerges is that the Actionists were some of the great original packagers of performance art. So, for instance, here in the bottom half of these frames you see the elements from a little kit that Hermann Nitsch put together that pairs images from one of his Orgies Mysteries Theater performances with these little drawings that use bandages and dressings and pigment. Another approach we took in this show was rather than framing something like this kit together, we split them across multiple frames––in this case, with work by Günter Brus occupying the top half of the frames. The problem that you’re faced with in shows like these is that so many of the works you want to show don’t have a set form––there’s just documentation in an archive—so you have to figure out how to exhibit the work. I think Evidence of Movement is an example of an attempt, at least, to keep the documentation as provisional as it actually is, but sometimes you want to do the opposite of that. Sometimes you want to reconstruct a work and bring it back into being, which is very tricky terri3

tory because, again, you don’t have the same sort of oversight you have when a valuable original object is involved. Reconstructions are not straightforward projects because times have changed, and materials have changed, and artists have changed, so it’s almost never possible to create things exactly as they were, and you have to think through what it means to introduce changes to a work. You will also usually find that just about any artist will want to introduce changes to the work because artists are interested in the things that interest them now, not then. And there’s not a rulebook you can refer to tell you which changes are okay and which aren’t when you’re making a reconstruction. I did an exhibition at the Getty Museum in 2008 called California Video, and a few of the pieces that we included in that show required what I’d call simple reconstructions, but there was one piece in the show that required a really major reconstruction, and that’s a work from 1976 called The Eternal Frame by the Bay Area collectives T.R. Uthco and Ant Farm. This is an image of the original installation of the work at the Long Beach Museum of Art, where the artists created this lower-middle-class living room filled with Kennedy memorabilia as a setting for their video, which documents the artists’ trip to Dealey Plaza to do their own sort of re-do, which was a reenactment of the Kennedy assassination. The artists went there expecting that they would probably be arrested rather quickly, but instead, all of the tourists who were there just loved it, and figured that’s just what happens in Dealey Plaza now. So they kept reenacting the assassination all day, and then they used the video post-production facility at the Long Beach Museum of art to edit the footage and create this installation. I believe that this piece is one of the major works of video art of the 1970s, and I wanted to bring it back into being. The Getty had acquired the video archive of the Long Beach Museum of Art in 2005, so between the Getty and the Independent Curators International / Journal

original artists, we had what little bit of documentation remained about this piece. Very little from this original installation had been saved, just a couple of the items you see on the wall. And here’s an image of the reconstruction of this we did in 2008. This was a case where I felt it was very important to do a pretty obsessive reconstruction, or really to attempt a simulation of the piece. So I spent a lot of time trying to identify the best conservator to supervise the reconstruction of this piece. But in the end I did something different, which was to hire a Hollywood set dresser instead. This is Beatriz Kerti, who had recently done the sets for the movie Bobbie, so she had spent a lot of time researching the Kennedy era, and she was also someone who is a specialist in reshoots. In Hollywood, whenever a studio has to go back and reshoot scenes after production has closed, the original art director and set dresser are almost always on another project by that point, and all of the original sets have been torn down. So people like Beatriz would be hired to reconstruct sets working from photographs so that there won’t be continuity errors. So Beatriz went through and inventoried everything we could make out from the old installation shots and mapped out how they should be hung, and within a week she’d found about 75% of the components of the installation, and then we spent the next year trying to figure out the other 25%. It was absolutely impossible, for instance, to find the original wallpaper pattern, so we hired a company to redraw this print and fabricate new rolls of wallpaper, and this is where you start learning about the limitations of process. While the wallpaper we made is close, it’s not exact—the scale is just a tiny bit off, but this was a situation where the fabricator basically told us that if we sent the pattern back for revision one more time, they quit. So sometimes you have to settle. We found a carpet that was pretty much an exact match to the original, but what was once a super-cheap shag carpet is now a jaw-droppingly expensive carpet that we had to import from Italy, and the carpet wound up 4

T.R. Uthco and Ant Farm, The Eternal Frame, 1976, The Long Beach Museum of Art

being the single most expensive part of the reconstruction. When it came to the lamp, we could have had MGM sculpt a mold for us and fabricate a lamp that would look exactly like the original for $15,000, or we could have an 85-year-old lampmaker named Bernie in South Central Los Angeles make a similar lamp for us for a few hundred dollars, so we went with Bernie. We found a chair that almost matched the original, and then we built a couch to match that chair, and we went through six months of hell investigating every orange upholstery on the planet until we finally figured out the original furniture was pink. Then we had to deal with the artists’ desire to change the piece. Since this piece was going to continue to exist as an installation following the show, I wanted the Independent Curators International / Journal

reconstruction to be as exact as possible, but for that very same reason, the artists wanted to improve it. So, for instance, we did artificially age the furniture a little bit. For instance, you can see the upholstery sagging a little on the couch, but the artists begged us not to make it too crappy, since it would of course age on its own over time. Originally, the artists couldn’t find enough wallpaper to completely cover the space, so part of one wall remained bare. Then, shortly after putting the paper up, it started coming undone in the corner, so they added a molding up the corner to keep it down. In our case, we could fabricate as much wallpaper as we needed, plus we were having to extend the dimensions of the piece to increase the distance between the couch and chair so that a wheelchair can maneuver inside this environment. 5

Reconstruction of The Eternal Frame, 2008, J. Paul Getty Museum

So we decided to go ahead and wallpaper the whole thing, and then when we started installing, we decided to stretch out the hanging on the right wall because it looked stranger to keep the original dimensions with the wallpaper now extended. The artists had always hated that white molding in the corner, so we decided not to use it, although if I could do it again I think I would add it back in, because I do think it adds something to the appearance of the piece. In other cases the pieces we were finding were damaged, so we did restoration to make them look a little better. There was one postcard that we never even came close to finding, so we used an insane drum scanner to produce a super hi-res scan. The original negative was lost so we could only work with this section of Independent Curators International / Journal

a photograph that’s not even half the size of your pinky nail, and then we had a guy spend a few days going in and sharpening the image as much as possible and outputting it on postcard stock to produce this piece that in some ways is the very most authentic part of the installation. So, all in all, there were dozens of changes that were made to this piece, and overall I feel pretty good about the decisions that we made, but they were all on us, meaning Beatriz Kerti, the artists, and me. Again, your decision-making network in a museum sort of disappears when you’re building something from scratch, and this is true even at the Getty, which is one of the most regulated institutions on the planet. The artists had held on to one of the plates from the original installation, and they lent it for the show, and the Getty packed and tracked the hell out of that plate and then it was 6

a big production once it was time to place that plate in the installation. But I could have come in and said “the artists have decided to paint everything purple,” and I don’t think anyone would have said a word about it. But I felt that the best thing to do here was to be obsessive—far more obsessive than what the artists felt was necessary, because this work was going to remain as a sculpture afterwards, and in fact it’s already been exhibited again recently in Vienna. Ultimately, in situations like this, I think you need to think about where the meaning of a work lies. And in a work like The Eternal Frame, the meaning is certainly not in the little details of ‘this card means this’ and ‘this lamp means that’—it’s not that type of work at all. It’s much more about the overall impression of the installation, so I don’t think these little changes were really altering the meaning of the piece all that much. But we could have decided to take another approach with this piece, which would have been faithful to the original in another way: we could have gone to the Long Beach Salvation Army and just put the work together based on what we could find there, just like the artists did originally. That’s what happened the last time the work was reconstructed, when the Long Beach Museum decided to show the piece again in 1984. And you look at the press at the time and this was seen as a fabulous reconstruction. I also think that in the history of reconstructions of conceptual art, this was a very early one, and I think you can see a 1980s aesthetic at work here, with the installation focusing primarily on the few major signifiers from the original work, and sort of purging some of the more baroque details. If you’re looking at the history of reconstructions, then we may want to list Duchamp as one of the first artists involved, when he began reissuing his early works as multiples in the 1960s. But I think that the artist who really started dealing with these issues in depth Independent Curators International / Journal

pretty early on and in a very extended way is Allan Kaprow. Here’s Allan Kaprow’s Yard from 1961 and here it is in a very different form as reconstructed for LA MOCA in the 1980s. Here’s Kaprow’s Apple Shrine from 1960, and here it is in 1991 as redone by Kaprow. As you can see there are massive differences, and I think that when Kaprow made this reconstruction of Apple Shrine, there were some people who started wondering if maybe Kaprow had lost his way, because how could you possibly say that this was the same work? But what I think we can say now is that Apple Shrine in 1991 truly does look like a work of art from 1991, to the same degree that Apple Shrine in 1960 looked like an environment from 1960, and I think that was part of the idea. Kaprow started calling projects like these “reinventions,” as he very specifically never wanted to make that sort of period room reconstruction like we did with The Eternal Frame, because he thought works should always respond to their present. Kaprow, I think, was one of the first artists who was persistently having to deal with requests to re-stage his pieces, so he developed ideas around reconstructions and reinventions quite a bit earlier than most people, and I think Kaprow was simultaneously the best and the worst artist to be confronted with this problem early on. By the time he made it to the 1970s, I think it’s fair to say that an anxiety about documentation and gallery display had really started to send Kaprow into a little bit of crisis, and it was a problem he was never able to resolve because his works were events, so how could they have a gallery form? By the 1970s, Kaprow had moved away from the spectacular sorts of Happenings and environments that had made him famous, and he’d moved on to what he called Activities, which were typically more private events designed for couples or very small groups of people to do. For his work Time Pieces in 1973, he developed the first of what he came to call Activity booklets, which contain instructions for performing an activity so you can do it yourself without Kaprow having to fly to your town and lead you through the performance—which was becoming a real problem for Kaprow. And to pro7

duce these Activity books Kaprow had to start making a sort of preemptive documentation, so Kaprow staged people pretending to be doing the work before anyone had ever actually done it, and then the Activity Booklets could be handed out to participants. Kaprow described the images in the Activity Booklets as being like diagrammed plays in a football game. Time Pieces is a wonderful piece that involves pairs of participants listening to their heartbeat and holding their breath and breathing into bags and counting their pulse and tape recording most of this activity so your partner can listen to it. And it’s actually a very physically demanding piece as you’re forced to hyperventilate in several sections, and hold your breath for long periods of time. And part of the idea behind the piece was to sort of clinically generate anxiety in the participants, without resorting to any sort of emotional trigger. But the photo illustrations often became rather comical as Kaprow tried to load all of the elements of an instruction into a single photograph. So we see here, for instance, a photo illustrating the act of breathing into your partner’s mouth, in and out, and timing the activity for one minute. Or here we have the illustration for meeting with your partner and holding your breath and taking each other’s pulse and blinking your eyes in rhythm to your partner’s pulse for one minute. When Kaprow did the piece in Berlin in 1973, he had the whole thing documented with video and photography. But then when it came time for the gallery show that was supposed to accompany the performance, Kaprow couldn’t figure out what to do. Ultimately, he didn’t exhibit the videos he’d made, or the score for the piece, or the audio recordings the participants had made, but instead he exhibited the tape recorders the participants had used along the walls, and he hung bags they breathed in from the ceiling, and then he threw some photographs in a vitrine. So I think if there’s ever been a case of an artist struggling over how to display an Independent Curators International / Journal

ephemeral project, this is it. I mean, he exhibited the tape recorders and didn’t play the tapes. And then over the years Kaprow made the Time Pieces video again, and did photographs again, and all in all he tried redoing the visual components of this piece on five different occasions before he ultimately decided to reject, and in fact, forbid the use of Activity booklets. He found that people were just imitating the photographs rather than finding their own way into a realizing a score, or even more pervasively, they wanted to just use the photographs from the Activity books as a stand in for the artwork. So they would never actually go through the process of the Activity, which is the actual work itself. This is really interesting to think about in relation to the Kosuth instructions, although here the problem was that people were following the instructions too exactly. Kaprow thought and thought about this problem of display, and he went back and forth between allowing reinventions of his work and forbidding them. And towards the end of his life, what Kaprow seemed to have settled on in particular was the idea of having other artists be the ones to reinvent his works in completely new ways, and introducing this great latitude into his works that I think is simultaneously liberating and terrifying. Here’s John Baldessari and Skylar Haskert’s reinvention of Apple Shrine from 2008, which pulls elements from both the 1960 and 1991 versions Kaprow had done. Here’s Kaprow’s Fluids from 1967, and here’s Hauser & Wirth gallery’s reinvention of Fluids in Switzerland in 2005, where they felt freedom to use the very deluxe and air-bubble-free ice blocks that you use for ice sculptures to create this incredibly seductive, pristine, and meticulous structure that you could walk inside. When we redid Fluids across Los Angeles during Kaprow’s retrospective at MOCA, we were able to use the same ice company that had provided the ice in 1967, but we made our own change to the work at the Getty because we’d noticed that the photos from Fluids that always get published were the macho ones with shirtless guys. But in the archive we saw all these images of women working on the construction, so at the Getty we only invited 8

women artists to build the piece, which felt like an interesting thing to do. But it was also adding new content to the work, so it’s hard to say whether it was the right thing to do. But what we see with Kaprow even in the 1980s and 1990s was that he was landing on this idea that the best thing to do is to reinvent pieces for a new context rather than trying to do a really careful reconstruction of the original appearance of a work. And while no one was really paying this any mind 20 years ago when Kaprow was working through it, I think we’re now finding that reinventions—meaning taking the original concept of a work but changing it sometimes drastically for your present context—is becoming the most standard approach that artists and curators are taking to these historical works. The latitude allowed in a reinvention makes it a little harder to go completely astray with a reinvention. Or maybe a better way to say that is to say that your risk with a reinvention is the same as the risk that any new artwork you commission will turn out to be bad. To be honest, I think none of us really know what the right thing to do is with reinventions and reconstructions and re-dos, except to say that there’s no a single approach that’s right for all pieces, and that curators really need to consider all the angles of a piece, even if it might entail trying to convince an artist to take a different approach than they currently want. What I certainly know, however, is that what we’ve seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg, and that, as time goes on, more and more and more curators are going to be involved in doing this type of work as a regular part of their job. There is absolutely nothing in our training and education that really prepares us for it, and most of the discussion around re-dos, at this point, is in a pretty theoretical academic vein. In Los Angeles, we have an absolute avalanche of shows on the way that will be dealing extensively with ephemeral artworks from the Independent Curators International / Journal

1970s, and you’re going to be seeing lots of curators and artists taking very different approaches to this question. Beginning in the fall of 2011, Los Angeles and the Getty will be launching an initiative called Pacific Standard Time, which is a region-wide collaboration that will present more than 50 exhibitions about L.A. Art from 1945 to 1980 over a 6-month period at just about every cultural organization in Southern California. I want to show you a little video we’ve made about Pacific Standard Time. This video was made for a very general audience, but I think it will give you a sense of the project. It really freaks me out when I say this, but we’ve been working on this project at the Getty for nine years now. It began with a two-pronged initiative to start recording oral histories with some of the key players in Los Angeles who had been active as artists, curators, dealers, and collectors from the 1940s to the 1980s, which we worked on at the Research Institute. And then also to start identifying, locating, cataloging, and preserving some of the key archives of L.A.’s artists and institutions from this period, so that they would be available for research––and that section of the project was an initiative of Getty Foundation. That first portion of the project took more than five years, and it was really about laying down groundwork for proper scholarship, and now all of the fruits of that research are going into these exhibitions. When we started the project people would very earnestly ask us whether we thought there had been enough art made in Los Angeles during this period to produce one good show and book, and now we’re up to something like 56 exhibitions, and more than 20 full-sized catalogs, and what we’re finding is that there are still glaring omissions from the project because the history of art in Southern California has truly been one of the great untapped areas of postwar art history. Just to give you a run-through of some of the exhibitions: The Getty Center is presenting four shows, with the main one being a survey of painting and sculpture in Los Angeles in the 1950s and 1960s. Andrew Perchuk, Rani Singh, and myself 9

are organizing that show. In terms of continuing the overall survey of this period, the Orange County Museum of Art is doing an exhibition about the early 1970s, and Paul Schimmel at MOCA is doing a show about the later 1970s in California, and that show alone includes more than 130 artists. The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is looking in-depth at Light and Space art. The Hammer Museum is presenting a survey of African-American art in Los Angeles, and that’s one of six exhibitions about AfricanAmerican art. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is presenting a survey of Southern California design, and that’s one of five exhibitions throughout the region looking at architecture and design. LACMA is also presenting a retrospective of the Chicano conceptual art collective ASCO, and that will be one of six exhibitions in the region looking at Chicano art. There are also multiple exhibitions looking at Chinese-American art, Japanese-American art, queer art, and feminist art, and three exhibitions looking at ceramics, and multiple others examining the use of craft in Southern California. There are multiple exhibitions looking at specific media, such as photography, printmaking, political graphics, or video, and multiple exhibitions about performance art. Several exhibitions are looking at the history of specific spaces and institutions, such as art school programs or alternative spaces. Several other exhibitions are looking at the history of specific topics during this period, such as landscape or the history of what we call Abject Expressionism in L.A. The Palm Springs Museum of Art is doing a history of the swimming pool. What we had also assumed when we began this project was that most of the overlap between exhibitions and negotiating to decide who gets the loan of what work would happen over the 1960s. This was, after all, the period when Ed Ruscha, and David Hockney, and Richard Diebenkorn, and Larry Bell, and John McCracken, and Ed Kienholz and so many Independent Curators International / Journal

other artists were producing some of their best work. What we found instead, however, was an overwhelming interest in the 1970s. So we have a huge number of museums who are grappling with some of these same issues of display that we’ve been discussing: how do you deal with ephemeral art, how do you deal with performance, how do you deal with archives, how do you deal with reconstructions and reinventions of works that no longer exist? And I think what we’ll find when all of these exhibitions open is that different curators and artists are taking wildly different approaches to displaying this work, because we’re really just feeling our way in the dark and trying to figure out the best approach. What I’d like to do now is just show you a quick sample of some of the reconstructions under development just for the handful of Pacific Standard Time exhibitions that I’m involved in organizing, and there are countless more in the works by other artists and curators. But just from my shows we’re trying to deal with how to rebuild Chris Burden’s minimalist sculpture from his undergraduate days, which originally had a wood veneer that he spent months perfecting, and the finish was ruined the moment he moved the work outside. So now he wants to fabricate in aluminum. Is that ok? Or Lloyd Hamrol’s great project that turns the gallery

Tom Eatherton, Rise, 1970


and a shifting scale of what is and is not an appropriate type of reconstruction, and there’s really no authority you can refer to to tell you whether you’re making the right decision.

Tom Eatherton, Reconstruction of Rise, 2011, Pomona College Museum of Art

into a reflecting pool for these balloon clouds, but which only lasted for a few days before the water leaked and the balloons deflated. And we have to figure out how to keep it stable for three months in a smaller gallery. Or Llyn Foulkes’s amazing assemblage wall, which I think has really just been the way he decorated his home for the last 40 years, but now we’re going to adapt it for gallery display. Or Jack Goldstein’s early lumber stacks that weren’t joined in any way so they toppled over every single night when the temperature changed in the gallery. Or Ron Cooper’s broken windshield sculptures, which are in many ways easy to remake, but they’ll never look the same. Or Mark di Suvero’s Peace Tower, which has already been reinvented before in ways that really change the work, but we have access to its original site in Los Angeles—should that make us be more faithful? Or Tom Eatherton’s Rise, which is one of the great forgotten works of Light and Space art where you enter this large elliptical space and feel the walls just dissolve completely around you into pure light. And it was seen as a miracle that they managed to get a perfectly even light back then, basically by obsessively fiddling and rearranging dozens upon dozens of lights behind the fabric wall to eliminate all hotspots. We could do it with LED lights today in a snap––the artist is begging us to do that. But wouldn’t it be wrong to do it that way? Every piece here is requiring a different approach Independent Curators International / Journal

The final major component of Pacific Standard Time will be a citywide performance art and public art festival that will take place over 10 days at the end of January 2012. The festival is being directed jointly by myself and Lauri Firstenberg. One of the ideas with this festival is to take this issue of redos and reconstructions and reinventions head on, and to present a selection of large-scale projects that attempt just about every strategy for reinventions and re-dos that you can think of—basically to just try everything and then let people debate what worked and what didn’t. The festival will open at the Getty Center with a major new site-specific commission by Hirokazu Kosaka. I imagine most of you have never heard of Hirokazu, but he’s one of our very best artists and least known artists in L.A. We will essentially be combining aspects of several of his past works into one gigantic work called Kalpa, which will transform the Getty Plaza into a sculptural and performative installation. The Pomona College Museum of Art will present a full day of projects, including A Butterfly for Pomona, a new pyrotechnic performance by Judy Chicago based on her Atmosphere performances

Judy Chicago, Reconstruction of A Butterfly for Pomona, 1/21/12, Merritt Field, Pomona College. © Judy Chicago.


of the early 1970s; as well as Burning Bridges, a recreation of James Turrell’s 1971 flare performance on the Pomona College campus; and Preparation F, which is a 1971 performance by John White involving the Pomona College football team. Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, or LACE, will work with Suzanne Lacy to produce Three Weeks in January. This will be a reimagining of Lacy’s seminal collaborative project Three Weeks in May, which was a citywide series of 30 performances and interventions in 1977 that took action against rape and other forms of violence against women. So here’s an example, for instance, where you just can’t re-do a piece like this without it turning into a horribly degraded form of theater. So rather than trying to re-do any of the original projects, Suzanne will be thinking about how you can go about making art against violence against women in 2012, and thinking about the technologies we use today, the social structures we have today, and the ways that the problem of rape and other forms of violence against women has changed since 1977. West of Rome Public Art will present Trio, which will be a series of three new performances by Andrea Fraser, Mike Kelley, and Vaginal Davis, all inspired by the legacy of the Los Angeles Woman’s Building. So here we’ll have

Judy Chicago, A Butterfly for Oakland, 1974. © Judy Chicago. Photo by Donald Woodman.

Independent Curators International / Journal

works that aren’t based on any specific work of art, but which will instead be driven by these three artists’ very different and sometimes contentious relationships with the history of feminist art in Los Angeles. The Museum of Contemporary Art will present a series of West Coast punk performances, and that’s including both music and performance art, and I think the issue they’re grappling with right now is to what degree these performances should be centered around performers who are now in their 50s and 60s, and to what degree punk might be better re-performed by people who are much younger. The Department of Cultural Affairs will present Civic Virtue: Watts Here and Now, which will use the grounds around Watts Tower as a site for temporary public sculptures, as well as musical and spoken word performances coming out of the history of the Watts community. The Society for the Activation of Social Space Through Art and Sound (SASSAS) will present Welcome Inn Time Machine, which will transform the rooms of a Los Angeles motel into a venue for live performances—like little micro-concerts in individual motel rooms—which will create a thirteenstop tour through key moments in L.A.’s history of experimental music ranging from the 1940s all the way up to the 1980s. Outpost for Contemporary Art will be looking at the Highland Art Agents, which was a group including Paul McCarthy, Barbara T. Smith, Linda Burnham, and a few others. Highland Art Agents used to do projects all over town, including organizing L.A.’s very first citywide performance festival, called Public Spirit, in 1980. The idea here is that Outpost is redoing the concept of Highland Art Agents, meaning that they’ll turn themselves into a roving arts organization doing contemporary projects all over town during the festival. Eleanor Antin will be directing a new presentation of her play, Before the Revolution, which I think might have been a work that Eleanor originally presented here at The Kitchen. Eleanor’s play will 12

be hosted by the Hammer Museum, which is also presenting reinventions of work by Maren Hassinger and Senga Nengudi. LAXART is organizing a number of components of the festival, including Eleanor’s performance, our collective effort to realize the Peace Tower, a conference, as well as a Ball of Artists, which will transform historic Graystone Manor into one big space for performances by contemporary artists as a gala closing event for the festival. There’s also going to be some live coverage of the festival. Julie Lazar, working with LA Freewaves, will create KPST, which will be a sort of pirate radio station that will be covering all of the events and making them available over the internet, as well as producing some of its own events, and making a number of historic L.A. performance recordings available. And there are many other projects under development as well, including works by Willie Herron, Niki de St. Phalle, Channa Horwitz, Lita Albuquerque, Single Wing Turquoise Bird, and Bob Wilhite. Plus the Pasadena Armory is going to present Richard Jackson’s Accidents in Abstract Painting, in which Richard will load a 10-foot model airplane full of paint and then crash it into a wall. So I think the festival should be an amazing experience for our audiences, but beyond that we’re hoping that it will be a provocative project for scholars and other people who think very seriously about these issues. I believe it will be the most ambitious project devoted to re-dos and reinventions that’s been attempted so far, and we’re hoping that it will provide some raw material for this ongoing debate.

Above: Lita Albuquerque, Spine of the Earth, 1980. © Lita Albuquerque Studio Below: Lita Albuquerque, Spine of the Earth, 2012. Photo: Michael Light. Independent Curators International / Journal


Profile for Independent Curators International

Recurating, Remaking, Redoing, #2  

Curator's Perspective by Glenn Phillips

Recurating, Remaking, Redoing, #2  

Curator's Perspective by Glenn Phillips