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Art Fairs International Newspaper 2012

Art Into Life: PSPS in Chelsea By Paul Seftel

I opened PSPS in Chelsea in July 2011 on the northern edge of the gallery hub—a changing block rapidly rezoning from a scrap metal and nightclub wasteland into a city developer’s dream. Art has paved the way—as it always does—but for the next year or two the area will remain somewhat of a ‘free zone’ as they dig and build out of the dirt. Establishing PS Project Space in Chelsea has been about balancing my worlds of interest as a nature-inspired cityboy. I’ve lived and traveled across the US extensively. The extremes of living in remote mountain, desert, and island landscapes and the inspiration of my cultural and family heritage,

which is rooted in London and NYC, mingle in my process and work. Exploring nature, consciousness, and metaphysics, long periods of travel and exploration have deeply inspired me; the wilds of nature and outdoor living having been my preferred classroom. Textural and raw, ancient and modern, I’m interested in the fabric of time and how these distant spaces and worlds come together. Being in Chelsea, New York involves embracing my antithesis to some degree, allowing the greatest number of visitors anywhere in the international art world, so the opportunity to educate, inspire, and influence a growing audience is very alive. Since my inaugural show, which explored lost messages, mediums, time and the notion of Post Art, I’ve been intent on bringing elements of process and transformation into the creative space. Being located in a creative building and neighborhood helps immensely with outreach while creating work, producing projects and shows, and using the space as a platform for other artists and curators. PS Project Space becomes a fresh canvas every time a new project is created and I enjoy the challenge and momentum of each opportunity. As market models change, having a physical space far from guarantees sales, but the project space is my soup-to-nuts art studio, office, and exhibition space: a living blog and place to develop and go beyond my own practice and thinking. Building an audience and collaborating with other artists can be a rewarding learning process. In collaborative projects, from a large scale painting (i.e. the Four Elements project in Feb/ March 2012) to a pneumatic sound and light installation and performance (i.e. Space Within), to more static exhibitions, there are always interpersonal politics, negotiation and shared motivations as artists come together to produce successful projects. Wandering through opening receptions and gallery shows in Chelsea for many years, I felt like something was absent. Not just my work, as most artists' feel, but a way of thinking and approach that inspired me. Many very talented would-be artists remove themselves from the “art world” as it is often far from connected to the essence and energy of real life practice. The oft quoted “It's art 'cause I am an artist" has never flown with me. I’ve always asked myself big impossible questions like ‘What is Art?’ I question it and test it for myself constantly when considering creative concepts as form. To me art is a higher philosophical ground, a metaphysi-

cal reality. Art and philosophy are inextricably linked. Religion, science, mathematics, and law all play a part and where natural laws abide, art offers answers within the big metaphysical equations. The journey is the great adventure and only one’s thinking defines what is the end. Many museums have imported artists' studios into their galleries in the last few years, responding to the growing interest in project spaces and process driven art forms with shoestring budgets. I've encountered many artists—from Bushwick to Berlin—who derive their work from ephemera, found objects and 'ready-mades'. In this sense they embrace something of a recycled Dada zeitgeist, capturing the urban wasteland, but what seems missing in the focus of the art world at large is something more transformative. I'm interested in how art can transform life as one experiences it in the moment. This is very different from mutation, mimicry, and reflection, which I recognize as the real challenge. I am fascinated by the open-ended thinking that maps this personal and collective territory. Most industries craft illusions and spin propaganda as part of a larger conceptual con game, critical thinking has been mimicked and replaced by reality TV, while the illusion of art pedigree and academic credentials have been sold throughout the US. The art world is always ready to serve up the Kool Aid, but I wonder who has their eyes on the real prize. I still believe the market has room at the top. We know that art is constantly reborn. Collective consciousness reveals the timeless seeds of revolution and art may still stand up to the onslaught of social, political and environmental conditioning. The artist has to fight to keep their mind independent and freethinking. It’s important to keep pushing buttons and questioning reality, checking personal authenticity and following one’s own way. As an outsider, one can see a bigger picture and notice the details. Climbing ‘inside’ requires a whole other footing; as the shifting tectonics of creative introspection encounter art market self-reflection. Thankfully, more and more people are beginning to recognize what art is for themselves, perhaps through the whisper of spaces like PSPS. I meet the most interesting people with experience of all layers of life, and the opportunity to surprise, inspire and influence people with a love of art never grows old. There is real measure of success in that alone. PSPS will hopefully keep expanding beyond its physical presence in NYC to encompass my interest in working on larger scale, earth art and performance related projects and productions. Its pretty boundless, the idea and reality of a Project Space is as endless as one’s imagination. *

Documenting Documenta [CONT FROM PAGE 1 ]

Brothers Grimm Museum was a hidden dark room. On entering, it was too dark to see, and this was unnerving. I stepped cautiously through the entranceway, guided somehow towards the sound of voices singing and hands clapping. All around were sounds of scraping shoes and soft murmurs. As my eyes adjusted, I saw outlines of many people shuffling about in the darkness. The voices increased in volume and then suddenly, right next to me, a man began beat-boxing with great gusto, and then on the other side a woman began sweetly singing. Then, rhythmic hand clapping began. All at once there was an intense confrontation of many bodies dancing and making noise in the dark. I felt compelled to join in. These Tino Sehgal performers have been dancing in the dark every day, all day since the festival began and what a performance! Further down the street at the Neue Galerie, I through through the gallery aimlessly until I was stopped, visually accosted by the work of Zanele Muholi, South African photographer, performance artist, and visual activist. Her forceful photographs

of black lesbians and transgendered people in South Africa brought to mind news stories of hate crimes that are daily acted out against transgendered and homosexual individuals in South African communities and tales of “corrective rape” preformed by men pretending to “cure” non-conforming individuals of their sexual orientation and gender expression. Muholi’s portraits show defiance, pride and beauty, and most of all—self possession. I was also inspired by Jerome Bel’s Disabled Theatre. 11 mentally disabled actors of the Theater HORA based in Zurich, performed various instructions of Jerome Bel’s given to them by an interpreter. The show lasted an hour and a half and was performed three times a day for five days at Kaskade Theatre. Each individual spoke separately, telling their name, their disability and looking directly at the audience. Each person then preformed a dance that they had choreographed. Their exuberance was infectious and the normally straight-laced art audience was driven to clapping and laughing along with them. In this piece, Jerome Bel gives the possibility of not only inclusion, but confronts the audience

with its bias against mental disability. The performance was transcendent and with it, Bel put a spotlight on the dynamics of exclusion that lead to the marginalization of those considered unable to produce. dOCUMENTA was the initiative, in 1955, by artist and teacher Arnold Bode. His own paintings had been banned by the Nazis, and dOCUMENTA was his idea to create something new that could restore Germany’s image as a hub of European culture. Kassel had been devastated in World War II. Included in the destruction was the main museum, Freidericianum, which was heavily bombed, and its extensive library—with manuscripts dating back to Medieval times—was burned to the ground. That first dOCUMENTA exhibition was held in the Freidericianum, then in ruins, and it was dedicated to art that had been rejected as "degenerate" by the Third Reich. The radical intent of that first exhibition has set the tone for each successive dOCUMENTA.. There was insight from Beirutbased artist, Rabih Mroue, into the extraordinary documentation of deaths in the Syrian Revolution, made

by the victims themselves when filming the act of shooting with their mobile phones. In his lecture performance, The Pixelated Revolution 2012, he discusses how the cell phone has become an extension of the body—a replacement of the eye facing the muzzle—thereby distancing the “film shooter” from the actual experience of being shot. Chicago-based artist, Claire Pentecost, in an exhibition/installation at the Ottoneum, Kassels’ Museum of Natural History, exhibited alternative currency called “soil-erg” —earth created from vegetable compost. This earth was dried in molds, the shape of nuggets, a form usually associated with gold bars. The message is clear. I was reminded of the human and non-human effort that it costs to maintain life and of the land-grab going on. In her installation, she included a quote from Warren Buffet “over the next 100years, farmland will beat gold”. Her project continued outside the museum in the form of vertical beams filled with soil and designed for the intensive production of vegetables in land-poor communities. In the aftermath of 2008, the fi-

nancial collapse revealed itself to be more than an economic crisis. It signaled the failure of a global economic paradigm, which subjects all considerations of sustainability—whether social, cultural, political, ecological or biological—to the laws of profit. AND AND AND explored alternative systems. They provided a kind of artist retreat where participants could involve themselves, creating community gardens, planting seeds, planning, discussing, making art, etc. I didn’t get a chance to take part, unfortunately, but an interview with Podrescu from The XLterrestrials filled me in: “They kind of subverted the dOCUMENTA exclusivity and non-transparency (of the artist selection process) by inviting a whole sub-show of guests all summer long. There were many symposiums with luminaries like Claire Pentecost (mentioned above), Brian Homes, Bifo, Fran Ilich, Vandana Shiva, Alan Toner and a host of emerging artists who brought fresh ideas which will continue to resonate strongly in the field of arts and praxis. It’s what’s needed in attacking the shitload of work that needs to be done to wake people up…”* / / /


Arts Fairs Newspaper Winter 2012  

Art Fairs Newspaper is a publication brought to you byArt Fairs International.

Arts Fairs Newspaper Winter 2012  

Art Fairs Newspaper is a publication brought to you byArt Fairs International.