Passing Notes is an exercise in collaboration; a melding of unique new voices bouncing off of each other in order to interpret the echoes. We are not writers. Rather, we are artists who write. We are peers holding hands in the dark leading each other to where our instincts and our insights take us. Though we aim for expertise, we are not experts. We are pioneers attempting to navigate our thoughts, our communities, and the nature of the new world we reside in. 2
6. I read Oscar Wilde and Wrote An Artist Statement. I Threw Most of it Away: by Remy Knopf
8. Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975 by Defne Tutus
14. The Power of Suggestion by Sarah Borruso
18. Elise Drake
by Rachel Jeffers
23.Repetition as Revelation: The Work of L. Ryan Smith by Defne Tutus
28. Joy Ray
by Jen Angulo Salguero
32. Amanda Hunter by Jade Greene
35. Sarah Borruso by Donald Martiny
40. Hands, Rachel Jeffers By Alicia Savage
I read Oscar Wilde and Wrote An Artist Statement. I Threw Most of it Away: By Remy Knopf
The mind is an atmosphere, and at that moment the temperature was anxious. I often feel like a failed weather reporter. I approach the work with my hand. My hand is a string and my mind is the balloon attached at the end, but the atmosphere is too thick. I want us all to deeply understand each other, but we all know that’s a pipe dream. At least we can agree on that. See? We are a little closer. Living is liminal so the drawings must be that way. I used to think good ideas could only be written in the best handwriting. Language has always been playful and thus makes it suitable for laughter. 6
Once upon a time, we were all children. More often, once upon a time they did not become adults.
www.remyknopf.com @remyknopf 7
Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975 By Defne Tutus
There is a machine-like comical violence in Martha Rosler’s performance in her 1975 video titled Semiotics of the Kitchen, that reminds me of bell hooks describing in an interview how people can’t help laughing when she says “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” in her lectures. It’s almost as if pinpointing the intersectional institutional structures of oppression is directly linked to the audience’s funny bone. The colossal entrenchment and ubiquity of these systems defies being named and untangled, so the attempt to identify them with frank, clunky words is unbearably absurd. The tense, impotent rage that Rosler enacts with her kitchen instruments is initially hinted at with innocent clatter and swiftly crescendoes with the emotional provocation of a robotically stabbing arm wielding a fork. The urge to laugh is overwhelming at this juncture and sets the scene for a virtuosic six minutes of feminist history easily found on youtube. It is impossible to decipher the exact nexus of comic drama in Rosler’s performance, but it lies somewhere in the monumentality of the task; attempting to define what women do in this place, the kitchen, and our incredulity at her gall. What makes a woman so valuable in the domestic sphere - more specifically the kitchen? The question Rosler takes on is simultaneously too vague and too deeply rooted in our psyche to approach. Before the transition to Capitalism, the body was thought to be imbued with magic and unnameable powers. The worker economy yoked this mystery and disciplined it for maximum productive capacity. Within this system, women’s reproductive production is devalued even though producing new human beings is the linchpin of the worker economy. Included within the sphere of reproductive labor are all the activities which safely cushion and reproduce the 9
conditions of everyday life: child rearing, house cleaning, food shopping and cooking. This work is subsumed into the economy as labors of love and caring - the labor that simply flows freely from women as if by nature. Domestic labor power is harnessed under capitalism and renamed housework. Famed for her involvement in the Wages for Housework movement in the 70s, Silvia Federici writes in depth about the physical, emotional and intellectual labor that can’t be separated when you’re taking care of a child or a family, because to deprive that labor of emotionality would be to act like a machine and to be inhumane. To take care of someone when they need your help, such as taking care of the elderly and the sick, bathing and dressing children, you should be emotionally invested, loving and generous. To perform this labor without caring is to be cruel and make the other person suffer. Food preparation is similarly hard work which can’t be technologized - it must be done by a human being. It is both absolutely necessary to the survival of the working family and it must be performed for free for the economics of the situation to work out. This requires the person performing the labor to put aside their own needs and wants - it paradoxically requires a certain amount of unfeelingness on their part. The woman in the kitchen is expected to be perpetually free from irritation, performing her unpaid duties cheerfully, day in and day out, purely out of love for her family. Rosler said this work requires “..the transformation of the woman herself into a sign in a system of signs that represent a system of food production, a system of harnessed subjectivity.” As she makes her way through the alphabet 10
of kitchen instruments, Rosler’s stiff movements suggest a machine-like performance of labor. In her performance of the letter “U,” she includes both herself and implicates us, the viewer. With her sharp economy of performative gestures, she holds herself cold and aloof. She preserves her dignity. Her movements are tightly controlled and efficiently meted out to preserve her self, in contrast to the generous, expansive role of the stereotypical mom - a familiar, nurturing pillar at the stove or the sink, lovingly cooking for her family and freely doling out affection and emotional support in ample supply. The absence of emotional affect in Rosler’s rigid performance underscores her lack of maternal expenditure. The point is so well made that the brief cock of her head and conspiratorial shrug in the closure of the video is the only indication of human warmth or personality. It fills us with an uncanny relief. It was all just a show.
References 1.Silvia Federici, Wages Against Housework, 1975. 2. Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch: Women, The Body and Primitive Accumulation, Autonomedia, 2004.
On Memory 4”x5”, Color Pencil on Paper, 2021 Jen Angulo Salguero @jen.angulo.art 12
The Power of Suggestion by Sarah Borruso
Avocado green The blender base, Nonsense machines Lies The power of suggestion Osterizer Cycle/Blend Imperial Pulse/magic Autocorrect: pulse|matic The shape of a cross in italics — A symbol for what? Ease, efficiency, calm, control Master of the Kitchen Whirling liquid — Master Blender Master Lie Lender Chop Grate Grind Stir Purée Whip Mix Blend Frappé 14
Liquefy Can we please just admit that every button does the same thing? The power of suggestion is great, but I’m not deceived. Orange White Clear glass Cups measured Plug Cord Magician Electric Magician Magic machine From solid to liquid In seconds The Liquefier From something to almost nothing — Is that what we want? Try this button Watch out — there’s no going back. Avocado green The color that opens up A river of falsities A mirage of promises Santa Claus clauses’ revealed via home machine Corporate grownup-masquerade-speak for simple plain facts That reveal a basic wheel in a plastic box The first curtain pulled back of many Child, not fooled any more Child, sees buttons and words and finally detects the nonsense layers applied so thick Silly Got my pulsematic pulse going Just from remembering avocado green.
Just from thinking about avocado green.
www.sarahborruso.com @sarahborruso.studio 16
Elise Drake by Rachel Jeffers
Elise Drake makes sculptures and wearable art. While a wide range of structural materials are employed from one piece to the next, enthusiastic colors, bubbly girlpower slogans, and cute charms are recurring features. Cheery amulets in the form of rainbows, dice, and elephants accumulate on necklaces. Sewn patches are scattered across forms in the manner of a child who has come upon a stash of old stickers. Sunflowers adorn breasts while a hot pink “YES” chimes in with affirmation. But the girlish vibe becomes distorted as incongruous messages appear. A towering replica of a phone screen displays a search window where images of activities as sweetly innocuous as women eating fruit are gathered and reinterpreted through a filter of male fantasy. In this world, a pornography infused male gaze directs the algorithms, curating the information we access and absorb. Attention generates attention. Like a modernday version of the old-fashioned “telephone” game, the original message is repeated and corrupted in an increasingly garbled feedback circuit. In “Ladies”, the two life-size figures are soft, their skin constructed from the same material as a knit sweater. Their bodies slump, inert. Their blank faces appear asleep. While the figures have both feminine features and male genitalia, they are not so much androgynous as they are armatures designed for the presentation of male lust. An unsettling mash-up of a cupid with the head of Steve Jobs overlooks the tableau from the wall above. The iPhone, the ultimate purveyor of attention, is today’s god of desire - the new divinity. Human experience is generated and mediated via a vapid dopamine loop. Thumbs traverse glossy landscapes on hand-held screens. The ethos of this all-in-one universe funnels into Drake’s 19
wearable art. Embedded within the fabric of a schoolgirl skirt is the message “Clear search history”. A hand-made ski mask is emblazoned with text, spelling the word “notoriety” like a golden sun over a pink and purple sky. A cozy sweater, upon closer inspection, reveals a house on fire. Above the house, spaceships mingle in the sky with winged cars, while down below, blood spills from livestock. Notoriety is a mask.
www.elisedrake.com @elisedrake www.racheljeffers.com @racheljeffersstudio 20
Repetition as Revelation: The Work of L. Ryan Smith by Defne Tutus
Gestural, round marks in colorful mediums march across an ample blank canvas. The impulse to keep going and cover up every available inch of the canvas in a frenzy of bumping, overlapping markings has been kept willfully in check by a desire to wrangle the marks into neat, orderly lines and to preserve just enough margin and background space to recall words in a letter, a sheet of music or a bird’s eye view of people waiting on a line. Smith’s wall hanging sculptures are similarly restrained. Vibrantly painted clay beads are strung together, forming lines that flow effortlessly, like honey dripping down the wall. These wall sculptures are hung like gargantuan necklaces. Sometimes they give the impression of clusters of tangly vines, punctuated by bright plumsized berries. Or, most appealingly, as in a circuitous wall drawing called Play Me Baby B, 2020, the forms manage to invoke both ancient fertility symbols and freshly drawn graffiti. The repetitive nature of Smith’s work could be a vehicle for self-hypnosis, like handling rosary beads or a practice of votive making. The sculptural works share a devotional aspect similar to that found in Polly Apfelbaum’s beaded ceiling works. The freedom of colors and materials used suggest the interrogative nature of a science experiment. They evince a desire to juxtapose hues and textures for maximum visceral and tactile effect. Meeting with artist L. Ryan Smith over Zoom, our conversation easily ping pongs between Artemisia Gentileschi and Lorena Bobbit, Rumplestiltskin, and the crushable fortune in fast food containers that is the work of B. Wurtz. Smith is attracted to deskilled work as a mechanism that enables greater introspection and 24
personal experimentation. A champion of mundane materials, like plain rope or twine found at the hardware store, she rejects stretching her canvases, opting to hang her paintings in a way that gives the textile some freedom to drape and act like fabric. The importance of color and material to her work is primary and instinctive. The vivid colors are unmixed - often straight out of the tube or the result of direct application from writing & drawing implements. This revelation on her practice prompted me to ask if Josef Albers was an influence, which roused in Smith an equal if not greater affection for Anni Albers, who’s meandering thread is summoned in both her drawing/ painting and rope/clay sculptures. Searching deeper in to Smith’s website archive, I’m drawn to a series of works titled 100% Plastic Rocks -
dozens of believably rendered rock replicas cast from a half dozen mother molds. My expectation of rocks, namely their humble randomness, is mildly frustrated once I comprehend the fungibility, the sameness, the reproducibility of the rocks. Initially I feel a reflexive revulsion when confronted with dozens of identical rocks arrayed in a beautiful pattern of concentric circles. The dip in the road is the uncanny valley. I have to admit the effect is not unpleasant; the artificial order and symmetry imposed on nature is satisfying. It’s a rest for my eyes - a comfort. Nature has bullied us long enough. Smith has manufactured a subversion of nature, but being unable to control the nature in herself, her hand has produced something which can never be a perfection. It’s a marvelous piece. Much has been said about nature’s abhorrence of repetition(1,2,3) but you only need to look closely at a carton of eggs to observe this for yourself. What at first appears to be repetitive sameness is in fact a multitude of infinitesimal differences which each chick will evidence as it grows. Repetition is a natural impulse which Smith takes in her hands, determined to wring revelations from it. https://lryansmith.com/ @ lsmith_partyartytime www.mirabile-visu.com @defne.tutus References 1. Henry David Thoreau “Nature abhors repetition” 2. Magdalena Abakanowicz “I feel overawed by quantity where counting no longer makes sense. By unrepeatability within such a quantity. By creatures of nature gathered in herds, droves, species, 26
in which each individual while subservient to the mass retains some distinguishing features. A crowd of people or birds, insects or leaves, is a mysterious assemblage of variants of certain prototypes: a riddle of nature’s abhorrence of exact repetition, or inability to produce it. Just as the human hand cannot repeat its own gesture, I invoke this disturbing law, switching my own immobile herds into that rhythm.” 3. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1892, resignation speech titled “The Solitude of Self,” “We come into the world alone, unlike all who have gone before us, we leave it alone, under circumstances peculiar to ourselves. No mortal ever has been, no mortal ever will be like the soul just launched on the sea of life. There can never again be just such a combination of prenatal influences; never again just such environments as make up the infancy, youth and manhood of this one. Nature never repeats herself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another. No one has ever found two blades of ribbon grass alike, and no one will ever find two human beings alike.”
Joy Ray by Jen Angulo Salguero
Joy Ray’s Plague Manifesto (2020) is an almanac for a twenty-first-century plague made from upholsterer’s cotton, house paint, sand, thread, and fire. With three colors (primarily black, plus white and red) and a variety of textures, Ray builds a vocabulary of char, receded waters, and illness that spans twenty feet from peak to valley. The scroll resembles an EKG printout, spiking, at one end against the wall, to an eight-foot high, mostly black monolith. It then drops dramatically to foothills and expands across the floor to sea level at the opposite end. The mainly white, coastal edge reveals a handsewn face mask partially submerged in sand. Embroidered next to the mask are Xs counting, perhaps, lives. The idea of embroidering sand, a symbol of impermanence, is heartbreaking in its futility. There are all kinds of plagues. Flood, fire, and disease are all examples that Merriam-Webster and the Bible agree upon. The face masks embedded within the work emphasize our current moment’s place in the continuum of humanity’s afflictions. The coiling lines and hash marks Ray has calligraphed with threads and embroidery record time at the various tempos one experiences in quarantine. Ray has made a personal reflection on this plague, that remains relatable to anyone.
www.joyrayart.com @joyrayart www.jenangulosalguero.com @ jen.angulo.art 29
Amanda Hunter by Jade Greene
Amanda Hunter works in the realm of illusion, of things being and un-being, seeing then seeing double, and seeing again. Her collages cast figure as foreground and faces as vases, portraying the interrelation between our sense of sight and our perception of time/space. This relationship is made complex by competing, simultaneous perspectives in which viewers see objects as they appear from one point in time and space while also remembering how they would appear from another point. Amanda utilizes a lexicon of Rubin’s vases, flowers, perspective grids, and gradients. These elements work together subverting and supporting each other in the space of the paper, creating surprising and paradoxical depths within the planarity. These effects are exemplified in palpable never-never lands (2019), a piece in which physical, digital, and two-dimensional space merge and complement each other. The shadow of an illusory Rubin’s vase profile denotes an expanse proceeding into the paper, yet the same contour lines of this shadow flatten, taking on the quality of the marching ants of Adobe Photoshop’s selection tools. Rectangular cutouts in the style of perspectival drawing exercises are scattered across the piece with uniform verticality. The manner in which they stand at attention--casting shadows behind them into the recesses of the entire image, is repeated in the very same frames around each shape. They become windows unto themselves--indeed into the very process of the making of the work. Amanda’s use of myriad scrap papers, spray paint, ink, graphite, and watercolor add to the visual complexity of the experience. The textures offered by each material carry their own expectations of space and surface area. These expectations are then distorted by a neighboring element. The work takes on the quality of a pop-up book for the quantum physicist. 33
Using the concept of illusion as a jump pad, Amanda Hunter’s collages portray the pluralities of experience and perception. She is creating work that speaks to the process of art-making, of holding competing visual realities concurrently in the mind’s eye. www.amandahunterstudio.com @a_rose_hunter www.jade-greene.com @j.a.d.e.g.r.e.e.n.e
Sarah Borruso by Donald Martiny
I love my television remote. It empowers me. If a film or show I’m watching doesn’t interest me, I simply push the off button, and it magically disappears. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a remote to control all the troublesome and annoying things we are confronted with as we go about our day?
With her series Home Machines (2019), San Francisco artist Sarah Barruso takes this idea and runs with it bringing her experience as a writer, musician, and fashion designer into her diverse artistic practice. Her work is highly conceptual, witty, and fun without being the least bit cynical. Home Machine 2 is a very small work, only about 2 inches square, made of glazed porcelain and could pass for a toy washing machine for a doll’s house or a tiny version of EMERAC, the first IBM computer. There is a line of three green buttons and one prominent red button. I imagine them to be on and off buttons. Other works in this series have more buttons; one can only imagine what they do. She photographs the machines in 36
various places around her home, making the images feel intimate and autobiographical. Other works by Sarah also play on the theme “on and off.” She placed a red and green button on a piece of unglazed ceramic toast. I know that if I don’t monitor my toaster closely, it will find a way to burn my toast the moment I look away. Some of her work deals with larger issues like her work titled Denial Blinds, a video she made in 2020 that specifically addresses the terrifying California fires as well as the environment in general. Of course, we all know denial doesn’t really solve problems, and there is no off button for the problems of the world but it is empowering to feel like we have control over small parts of our lives. We can calm ourselves, find peace, even if only for a short while by looking at art, listening to music, or using one of Sarah’s empowering talismans.
www.sarahborruso.com @sarahborruso.studio www.donaldmartiny.com @donaldmartiny 37
Hands, Rachel Jeffers By Alicia Savage
Hands, by Rachel Jeffers, is a curated, collective study of hand gestures represented in figurative paintings during a visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 2021. Captured with an iPhone, and zoomed into the paintings to show only the figures’ hands and their immediate surroundings, the photos were then sorted by historically represented gender roles, and arranged in a grid format. Viewed in this way, the gestures are magnified. Women’s hands are visibly defined, palms down. Their forearms are exposed, almost always with pale white skin, delicate in pose, and frequently depicted holding a child, or within a domestic context. Often shown close to the body, the placement of women’s hands calls our attention to her body as a focus of contemplation and connection. Women’s domestic surroundings express a contained, private position within society, giving symbolic reference to her caretaking role. Her hands are clearly visible in the paintings. Men’s hands, in comparison, are often covered to the wrists, extended, and blurred in action. They are often 40
engaged in the use of a tool, participating in a working or exploratory setting and sometimes they portray aggression. In contrast to the female hands, men’s hands are often roughly defined by movement and smaller in scale as a functional part of a broader environment. Similar to a palm reader predicting the future, I’m drawn to the hands as a means of reading the past. Based on the Impressionist brushwork, hints of European middle-class fashion and public working spaces, many of the paintings seem to date from the late nineteenth century - a period when strong ideas of masculine and feminine behaviors and social spheres were held. The contrast between the worlds of the men’s hands and the display of the women’s illustrates a proximity of social interaction from oneself. Throughout history there are reasons why hands are ornamented with rings and manicures - wealth, social status, culture, self-expression - and perhaps also in emphasis of voice when a public one is inaccessible. Such focus draws attention to non-verbal forms of communication, accentuating a fluency of hand gesturing and body language. It is not surprising that the hands of the women depicted - representative of their agency within society - appear both displayed and stilled.
www.racheljeffers.com @racheljeffersstudio www.aliciasavage.com @aliciasavage 41
1. Rachel Jeffers
4. Defne Tutus
2. Alicia Savage
5. Jen Angulo Salguero
3. Karen Rosenkrantz
6. Colleen Blackard
Passing Notes: A Visual Game of Telephone One of us created an image and passed it to another. The recipient responded with an image of their own, and passed it on to prompt the next.
Wanna pass notes? email@example.com
Passing Notes was founded in 2021, during a period of social and environmental turbulence. We recognize that the arts and language have a duty to document this upheaval and to catalyze a transformation of thinking that provides the basis for broader structural remodeling. To contribute to this shift, in curating Passing Notes we will seek to uplift diverse and underrepresented voices. We will make mistakes. We invite your input. The editorial team met and began our exchange of notes in NYC Crit Club. Passing Notes is an independent publication that is an affiliated showcase for NYC Crit Club, while also bringing into dialogue a larger audience of artists, writers, and exchange.
www.nyccritclub.com @nyccritclub Editorial Team Alicia Savage @aliciasavage Karen Rosenkrantz @karen_rosenkrantz Jade Greene @j.a.d.e.g.r.e.e.n.e Rachel Jeffers @racheljeffersstudio Colleen Blackard @colleenblackard Design Team Remy Knopf @remyknopf Defne Tutus @defne.tutus Jen Angulo Salguero @jen.angulo.art