VOL 2/II SIGN & SYMBOL
“GOd gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water, the fire next time” ~FROM “O MAry Don’t yOu WEEp”
EDITOR AND PUBLISHER Cat Gilbert
EDITORIAL/WRITING/INTERVIEWS Nina Simon J.D. Siazon
Special Thanks To
John Jennison Jeff Burns Laura Grandmaison Andru Bemis Pablo Malaurie Charlie Waters Steve Dalachinsky Yuko Otomo Sarah Bernstein Rami Shamir Rita Grollman Stephanie Valente Oilcan Press Firas Sulaiman Samantha Kostmayer Sulaiman Liam Carey Valerie Kuehne The Supercoda Andrew Barker Charles Waters Duo Alexander Barton Andrew Topel A Gathering of the Tribes The Counting Room
Front: Astro Nacht III by Alexander Barton Back: Astro Nacht II by Alexander Barton
1) ALEXANDER BARTON
(pg 8) is a New York based visual hound dog, bred in the toxic state of New Jersey. He earned his B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design and is currently an M.F.A. candidate at the New York Academy of Art. His work centers on the perversion of popular culture debris. Over the past decade Barton has shown his work between New York City and Providence, with several solo exhibitions including “Hot Hide”, “Comex or Becamus”, and “Body Of.” He is a President’s Scholar at the New York Academy of Art and was awarded a residency at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York City (2005) and the Leipzig International Art Programme in Leipzig, Germany (2011). Barton is presently working on a collection of paintings to be exhibited in 2012 entitled “Filth and Foremost.”
2) CAPTAIN PANDAPANTS (ROSCOE ‘Rocky” PANDAPANTS) (pg 106) is known to his close
friends and clients at “Captain Pandapants”, and although he has never served in the uniformed services, he was made an honorary “Kentucky Captain” by Mayor Hugo Chumma, at the Sedalia, Kentucky “old home day’”parade in 1989. Although he spends much of his time in Kentucky, he has tasted the fruits of many a state and town. Once, he even spent nine months as a chemical taster for the Mobay Co, Inc. in Trenton, NJ, where he yearned for the open road—and the open fly! He later found both. In reality the Captain is Brian Hanlon who lives in New Hampshire with his lovely wife. He is collector of odd ephemera which he enjoys incorporating into his animation and collage work.
3) COLIN OULIGHAN
(pg 24) is a painter working in Brooklyn. He had his first solo show in 2011, entitled “Shapes” at Work Gallery in Red Hook.
4) DAMIEN KNIGHTLEY (pg 182) is a writer and artist who currently resides in Leeds, England. He is
currently working towards publishing his first novel. A selection of his poetry and visual work can be viewed here.
5) DAVID BAILIN (pg 38) is an artist and teacher living in Little Rock, Arkansas. He attended Hunter Col-
lege, helped create The Abreaction Theater with Geoffrey King, and has served as the Museum School Director at Arkansas Arts Center. He teaches at Hendrix College, The University of Central Arkansas, and recently curated several shows including the “Winthrop Rockefeller Institute Legacy Art Exhibition,” the “Irene Rosenzweig 2011 Biennial Exhibition,” and “54th Annual Delta Arkansas Arts Center Show.”
6) Derek LArson (pg 66) is a video artist working in Brooklyn, NY. 7) EDWIN ROSTRON (pg 56) grew up in the North East of England. He studied at the Royal College of
Art and currently lives and works in London. His work encompasses animation, comics, writing, and drawing. He has shown around the world in exhibitions and festivals such as onedotzero, the Australian International Animation Festival and Pictoplasma.
8) EMILY GINSBURG (pg 74) was born in New York City. She received her B.A. in Art History from
Trinity College in 1986 and her M.F.A. in Printmaking from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1991. As a conceptually driven artist, she maps, physical, written, and spoken behavioral patterns in the context of the everyday through diverse media. Recent accomplishments include completion of several public art projects for Seattle City Light, Portland State University and Cyan/Pdx. She has been awarded various project grants and residencies, and exhibits nationally and internationally. Her work has been published recently in two books, Data Flow, The Map as Art and projects have been reviewed in Art Papers and Art U.S.. She is currently an Associate Professor, and Chair of the Intermedia Department, at the Pacific Northwest College of Art.
9) JAMES GALLAGHER (pg 94) uses collage to investigate human form and personal identity. Piec-
ing together images cut from discarded books, forgotten issues of National Geographic, and the occasional vintage sex-manual, he creates stark and provocative scenes that reflect the world around him. He has recently curated a series of exhibitions showcasing contemporary collage entitled “Cutters”, and edited a related book published by Gestalten entitled Cutting Edges: Contemporary Collage. Gallagher’s art has been featured in magazines such as Juxtapoz, Elephant, Cent, NYArts, Twill and Lines & Shapes. His images have appeared in numerous books, including American Illustration, Communication Arts, and a variety of Die Gestalten Publications. Gallagher earned a B.F.A. from The School of Visual Arts in New York City. In addition to creating art, Gallagher is a Creative Director for a marketing firm and an instructor at Parsons in NYC. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three kids.
10) JOESPH LEROUX (pg 114) is originally from northern NY and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts
from the State University of New York at Potsdam and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. After receiving his M.F.A. he moved to Philadelphia in pursuit of a career in the arts. He has recently had a string of national solo exhibitions at Gallery M (Milwaukee, WI), Cleveland State University Gallery (Cleveland, OH), The Abington Art Center (Philadelphia, PA), and has curated exhibitions in Madison (WI) and Seattle (WA). Joseph has been included in a number of online publications including Beautiful Decay, Artist a Day, The Empty Kingdom, Handful of Salt, and Revolution Art Magazine.
11) JONATHAN WOOD VINCENT
(pg 126) has played music since the old days when his father would submerge beautiful flowers into steaming liquid nitrogen. Early on, it was apparent that making art was utterly impossible. Despite this, he has played, recorded and toured as a pianist, accordionist, singer, actor, dancer, and other things with lots of musicians and artists. These include Masashi Harada who conducts bands by flapping his hands in faces around a recording studio with chains and ribbons, Katt Hernandez, Tatsuya Nakatani, free improvisers who reinvent their instruments every day, Zack Fuller, post Mortem neolicious scary dancer, post Torah folk rockers Girls in Trouble, mainstream alt country singer songwriter Eileen Rose, and a multilingual stripper rap band called Un Cuerpo Exquisito, etc., etc. He has recorded on Emanem, Sony, Kimshee, J-Dub, Stone Quarry, Generate Records, etc.
12) KIKUKO TANAKA (pg 146) was born and raised in Japan. She is a frantic artist currently based in New
York. She has performed and exhibited in various venues, including Smack Mellon, Momenta Art, NARS Foundation, Amelie A.Wallace gallery at SUNY Old Westbury, Vox Populi, and Arario Gallery, among others. Her work has been reviewed in Art in America, Art Info, and Hyperallergic. She was nominated for a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Visual Art Grant in 2010. Her ongoing multi-media tragicomic epic, “A Tragic Bambi”, is fiscally-sponsored by New York Foundation for the Arts. She has an interdisciplinary background, holds a B.A. in Landscape Design, has studied fine art at the School of Visual Arts, and various academic disciplines including art history, anthropology, philosophy, and literature, at Hunter College. She is also a cofounder of a gallery, Agape Enterprise, which opened it doors this November in Brooklyn, New York.
13) KYLE COFFIN
(pg 136) is a painter who lives and works in Western Illinois as he pursues a degree in Mortuary Science. He holds his B.F.A. from the State University of New York at Potsdam and his M.F.A. from New Mexico State University. He is represented by 7444 Gallery in Saranac Lake, NY and has shown in Dallas, TX, New York, New Mexico, and Illinois. His figurative narrative paintings deal with the anxiety of the portrait, experiencing loss, and the family snapshot through the language of painting.
14) MARUCS KENNEY (pg 158) is originally from rural Louisiana and currently lives in Savannah, Geor-
gia. His art has been exhibited nationally and internationally in museums and galleries and has been reviewed in Art in America, Artnews, Artpapers, The New York Times, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He has a collection of his work published by S.C.A.D. of which he is an alumnus. His work my be viewed at his website www.marcuskenney.com
15) MARIO KOLARIC
(pg 84) is an artist and illustrator born in Serbia, currently living and working in Zagreb. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb and has served as a jury member for M.A. degree at Sint-Lucas Beeldende Kunst in Gent, Belgium.
16) NANCY FLYNN
(pg 8) hails from the coal country of northeastern Pennsylvania where, at an early age, she fell in love with words instead of into a sinkhole, or the then polluted Susquehanna River. Her writing’ has received the James Jones First Novel Fellowship and an Oregon Literary Fellowship. Her second chapbook, Eternity a Coal’s Throw, will be published in 2012. A former university administrator, she now writes creatively and edits carefully from her sea-green house nearby lovely Alberta Park in Portland, Oregon. In 2004, she happily reclaimed http://www.nancyflynn.com/ from the realtor in Massachusetts who had it first.
17) ROBERT KULESZ (pg 106) has stories in Electric Windmill, Scissors and Spackle, Juked, Busk Literary Journal, Short Fast & Deadly and 5_Trope. As a musician he played shows with the Circle Jerks, L7, Redd Kross, Social Distortion, and toured throughout the U.S. and Europe. He lives in Queens.
18) ROBERT LUCY (pg 168) is an painter and curator living in New York City. He attended The Art In-
stitute of Chicago where he became involved with the Chicago Imagists movement. He is highly influence by iconography, particularly Indian minature painting, and has shown extensively throughout New York and the U.S.. He currently works and helps curate The Secret City with his partner, Chris Wells.
19) STEVE DALACHINSKY (pg 34) was born after the last big war and has managed to survive lots
of little wars. His poems have appeared extensively in journals on and off line including, Big Bridge, Milk, Unlikely Stories, Xpressed, Evergreen Review, Long Shot plus such anthologies as Beat Indeed, The Haiku Moment and the esteemed Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. His books include A Superintendent’s Eyes (Hozomeen Press, 2000) and the Pen award winning The Final Nite (Ugly Duckling Presse - 2005). His most recent books are Long Play E.P. (Corrupt Press - 2011) and The Mantis (Iniquity Press - 2010/11). His latest cd is Massive Liquidity a collaboration with French experimental rockers The Snobs (Bambalam Records, 2011.) He has read his work extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe.
20) THERA WEBB (pg 84) is a radical feminist and resident of NYC. Her poetry has been featured in Fiction (Japan) and Forklift, Ohio, and she occasionally reviews things for Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll. 21) VENTRAL IS GOLDEN
(pg 182) is an attempt to mediate the structures of digital meta-narritives, with the delicate vibrating tones of post-structuralist philosophy, in both visual and literary based contexts. Ventral is Golden has been showcased in exhibitions curated by the likes of Nous Vous, The Clinic, Paper Scissor Stone, as well as being featured in Beautiful/Decay and D(x)i Magazine. Ventral is currently working on a new series of digital poetry books, live internet video projections at Mexico Project Space, and also co-curating WWBT online project “Mind Wheel”, an ongoing series of artworks adorning the symbol of the Mac colour wheel. Ventral was established in 2009.
22) (pg 154) is a visual artist & a bilingual poet. She also writes art criticism, essays and does translation. Her work has been shown in various gallery spaces such as Tribes Gallery, Anthology Film Archives Courthouse Gallery, ABC No Rio, Brecht Forum, and Vision Festival. She has read her poetic works in Poetry Project at St. Mark’s, PS1, Queens Museum, Bowery Poetry Club, Tribes, CUNY Graduate Ctr., Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival, Jazz at Home (Paris), Stone Temple (Germany), and A-Bomb Memorial Reading (Japan).
RPOEMS BARTON BY CY FLYNN
Combat Papers or the New/Old Glory From uniform to pulp Battlefield to workshop Warrior to artist —www.combatpaper.org
Every recollected treachery, page after watermarked page— these combat papers, sewn from stolen threads. cotton linen flax kanaf kozo hemp All will mix in the macerating vat. Slice the arms and legs, their sourdough of camouflage & sweat, strips to dunk in a Holland beater & release: limp vows, such raggedy bonds. Then cook. A cutter called a guillotine slits the deckled edge, once stitched. Every head’s its own explosive device inside the cradled fold of a shirt turned paper flag. Nothing can remove
OPENING SPREAD: WHITE PEOPLE, 2011, MAGAZINE ABOVE: TABLOID Carnivore VII, 2011, MAGAZINE
Tabloid Carnivore II, 2011, magazine
that splash of pulp. Watch her stamp the letters I.E.D. across the uniform sheets. Warriors like themâ€”
the ones who carried paper making wisdom to the Tigris and Euphrates, through the Hanging Gardens, Second Wonder of the Ancient World! Sown with the stolen threads of youth, the back-break stoop of the fallen, every cottoned row: our field of dimming stars & stripes.
Code Talker Say nickel and mean token for the turnstile. Say thimble and mean a demitasse of flesh. Say sieve and mean wind from a flensing typhoon. Say lipstick and mean war paint on the prow. Say dagger and mean no Johnny-come-latelies. Say dungarees and mean do-se-do your cuffs. Say clothesline and mean every secret hung to dry. Say brothel and mean a house of many wombs. Say peony and mean raptureâ€™s flower hurried to skillet. Say gasoline and mean the fire lit toward them. Say votive and mean snuff the devotional stars. Say stigmata and mean target, every ripening wound. Say incense and mean joss stick flagellations. Say obelisk and mean the fallen, the disinterred. Say liver and mean none who survive. Say shadow and mean any god who flauntsâ€”this.
Tabloid Carnivore VI, 2011, magazine
ABOVE: Astro Nacht III, 2011, magazine TOP RIGHT: Astro Nacht I, 2011, magazine BOTTOM RIGHT: Astro Nacht II, 2011, magazine OPPOSITE PAGE: Tabloid Carnivore IV, 2011, Magazine
Tabloid Carnivore V, 2011, magazine
AN INTERVIEW WITH ALEXANDER BARTON THE 22 MAGAZINE: You started out in the Providence art community, correct? What caused the move to New York and how has your identity changed as an artist in New York, if at all?
ALEXANDER BARTON: Beginning as an artist in Providence is like growing up as the middle
child. I feel that I have gained a valuable humility from this, or maybe the city has just given birth to another attention-starved slut. There is no “market” in Providence, no collectors, no one’s ass to kiss; my ideas were rarely vulnerable to any commercial invaders or fashionable flagrancies. The people participating creatively in Providence have a different lens; comfort is taken in cynicism and irony. I claimed a healthy amount of influence, attitude, and direction from R.I.S.D. and Providence and after gathering my goals, with a generous opportunity from the New York Academy of Art to pursue an M.F.A. in Painting, I decided to grow my fangs and join the bloodsuckers of New York City.
22: Is there anything you would change about the current NY art community? AB: It’s a monster in its own right. I always visualize the blob when I stick my head out and look at the
art world objectively. “Beware of the Blob, it creeps and leaps and glides across the floor right through the door!” It’s almost self-destructive to allow yourself to be consumed by the impending doom of such an inescapable beast. It’s amazing, but the art community has evolved into everything it claims to hate. A superstructure, with a hierarchy like any system we want to throw stones at or flip off. Can we even still turn our heads and call the state of the art world a “contradiction?” Contriadictions like musician’s singing songs for the working class and charging two hundred dollars a ticket, or the army of people wearing Obey t-shirts, trust fund artists, and artist-on-artist gentrification. We are bottom feeders: the canvas stretchers, the students, the interns, and those paying ninety dollar submission fees to be considered for some group exhibition. It’s a brilliant and profitable business to sell someone their own hope. There is nothing more reckless than the optimism of people. Look at the cost of education! Not to mention the goddamn “P.H.D. in Studio Art.”
22: Do you feel there is danger in a community that defines itself uniquely and possibly isolates itself from the very social context or elements it seeks to change?
AB: There’s a vanity in calling yourself an “Artist.” There’s a sexiness in poverty. If you work crea-
tively in Providence you are a participant in an exodus-like community that consciously works outside ground zero of the art world for experimental, for absolute, for academic, and for practical means. Providence is a dissonance. The fine arts are passive and can be fairly insular. There’s unrest between any two interests, at times it harmonizes, but I’m not going to flail around for ideologies within the community collective. “Change” is for kids, finger-crossers, and political incongruence. It’s my job to transgress the current orthodox and paradoxical traditions. Besides, it’s going to take much more than an image to make an impact during these dangerous days.
22: You describe your work as “compositions of an American Grotesque, that explore what it means
to be human today.” What is “American Grotesque?” How does the exploitation of sexual exploitation play a role?
AB: The scattered and displaced arrangements are an offense to form and mockery of the “living.”
These are sacred slurs. The body (flesh, bone, blood, and guts) is the lowest common denominator between people, and therefore the most sacred of objects. I want to separate the body from the spirit to make an ultimate shell, a radiant corpse, half-mast, meat ghost, absolute materiality. Although we may already be the result, there is a race in every field to transcend the modern body to an immortal simulation, a cyborg, Frankenstein. The hyperrealist America we are exposed to is the true pornographer. A filthy jungle gym. A perversion of itself. Outlandish natures are acceptable and endless trash is produced to try to fill in the black hole of post-modernity. Americans should never take for granted the junk we are fed. I look at everything I am exposed to as a signifier. With paint and in this case tabloids, I aim to objectify things with a capital “E;”context makes this a reality. I wanted to be a garbage man when I was a child; I’m just trying to keep the dream alive!
22: What led you to explore this specific idea of being human? AB: I am compromised. I am neutral. The concrete is becoming obsolete. The plastic is the natural.
I’m an animal, an impeccable animal. What kind of a man am I? Who’s moral is MY moral? I have done unspeakable things. Nothing is sacred. Fragmented and fermenting. So how much of The Body is being “human?” Jesus was an early model for me. The visual depictions of his martyrdom and transcendence could be applied to abstractions of a contemporary experience. People and their fetishes are endlessly curious, and I will always take empathy with the laborer, the busser, craigslister, the Holden Caulfields and the rogue.
22: What would you say to folks who suggest that your works are self-indulgent? AB: Jesus Christ I hope so! Human condition, the self, and navigating your cultural presence create
a distinction between fine art over craft. I am very suspicious of art that is appealing to a majority. It’s the artist’s discoveries and interpretations that make the universal statements and progressive material.
22: Symbolism is obviously a key element in your work and we talked a little about a religious up-
bringing as well as an “exhaustion” with culture playing a role in that. Can you talk a little about those past influences and the current role symbols play in your work?
AB: A church is the best example of the power of a symbol. In exhausting abundance the interior is
drenched with objects, icons, and materials, which all instruct the ritual of living under God. This
Astro Nacht II Backside Accident, 2011, magazine
Tabloid Carnivore I, 2011, magazine
propaganda is aimed at a massive audience; the messages are subject to the same semiotics when interpreting a painting. Meaning can be forced upon or liquidated from these objects of worship revealing absolute truth like Duchamp’s Readymade. I read icons as material that can be deftly rearranged, rearticulated and recontextualized. The technical processes, materiality, and formal considerations are the persuasive tongues giving voice to my images.
22: You’ve recently started a series of collages using materials from German porn magazines. I thought the reason you started these was pretty funny. Can you tell that story?
AB: I attended a residency in Germany. I protest trying to claim I’m a multilingual worldly traveler.
I was born in New Jersey, skateboarded my way through youth and today I live on candy and curse words. That said, I had an interesting time abroad. I arrived in Leipzig eager to work on a holiday weekend and the only store I could find open for days was a gas station—with a tabloid stand packed with familiar celebrated celebrities and trucker porn. It was a perfect limitation to explore their idea of a explotative culture. Bauhaus did have a huge influence on modern design, which will inherently always have its place in my decisions, but these collages (for lack of a better word) are an important part of developing and organizing my paintings.
22: What about the series really appeals to you and how does it differ from working in paint? AB: With knife, tape, Dadaism, and The Situationists at root, I’ll devour these references and re-
gurgitate my transhuman, posthuman, Ubermensch, my Jesus Christ! It’s no coincidence that the 21
images haloing this text are entirely constructed of magazine carcasses. I wanted these reanimations of the printed spectacle to run through my filter of discontent and then to be let free in their original wilderness of the CMYK. I wanted to make something absolutely disposable, something spoken in our pure American language, something slang. Accepting ruin and employing failure is the alchemy of our time.
22: You mentioned Damien Hirst as being an artist you admired. How do you feel about the lawsuit brought against an artist who utilized one of his images in a collage?
AB: I am amazed by Hirst’s success to transcend into a different realm of an artist. He successfully
transformed himself into a spectacle much like Michael Jackson and Andy Warhol. I thought his lawsuit against that kid and his bad art was hilarious! It was his duty to uphold his profile as an untouchable. Hopefully the kid learned not to make pastiche allegorical doo-doo.
22: In “Hot Hide” you use real pig blood as a medium to depict animals’ heads. Talk a little about this choice and what you think it conveys?
AB: Blood is intuitively in dialogue with my questions of morality, futility, living in quotations and expressions of alarm. I use blood with its connotations of excess, violence and rebirth to depict death objects, taxidermy, and human abstracted hybrids with their literal physical by-product.
22: In past interviews you cite the swine flu epidemic as inspiration. How influential are current events in your work?
AB: The air usually smells of combat and disappointment. It’s important to know where the meter of
antagonism stands to keep a sharp spatial recognition and contemporary critique. American news is filled with really heartbreaking ephemera. We thrive on hysterics. I can’t count how many Judgement Days I have survived. The Rapture came and went on May 21st. Y2K was fun. The hurricane sensation. There is actually a daily chart to measure the threat of terror, like a horoscope. It’s yellow today, “elevated,” I think I’ll brave it. The Gods and gossip gods have repeatedly spared our earth, strengthening our spiritual calluses, recuperating our humanness and refreshing our fragility. I should pick out a comfortable lawn chair to await the promising disasters of the 2012 calendar.
22: Do you believe your work or others can effect events and culture? AB: Art raises questions and arms people. It trickles through academics and encourages fellow awk-
ward warriors. When a radical idea reaches the streets though, that’s when a concept could have enough momentum for a monolithic resolution. N.W.A. really opened a dialogue. The Weather Underground brought the war home. I would never underestimate the angers of youth. There are some real vulgar things happening today that will take a clever and deafening retaliation for peoples’ frustrations to be heard. This action will be in pedestrian hands which will be much more than a black presi-
STREET TRASH, 2010, MAGAZINE
dent, a political pinky-swear, a Robert Mapplethorpe, a â€œThe End is Nearâ€? alarmist, or an abject symbol. Until then, everything is just a giant puppy made of flowers, a black square, an irony, or a corpse, awaiting the third day to Rise.
â€œI think a lot of it is doing something that is straddling a line between being offensive or aggressive, and being completely a Itâ€™s the dynamic of the relationship between an object that has all these fixed meanings, and an object that is utterly mean
arbitrary and mundane. A borderline violent gesture, which is meaningless and not targeted towards anyone or anything. ningless.â€?
OPENING SPREaD: Slanted Flag, 2011, Flashe on Canvas OPPOSITE PAGE: Shapes (Black), 2011, Acrylic on canvas TOP LEFT: Untitled (3 Candles), 2009, Oil on Canvas Middle LEft: Triangle Situation, 2009, Acrylic on Canvas BOTTOM LEFT: Halloween Painting, 2009, Latex house paint on Canvas BOTTOM RIGHT: Shapes (All Black), 2011, Acrylic on canvas
TOP LEFT: Red Apple 5, 2010, Oil on Canvas BOTTOM LEFT: Red Apple 3, 2010, Oil on Canvas TOP RIGHT: Red Apple (Orange Version), 2010, Oil on Board BOTTOM RIGHT: Red Apple 4, 2010, Oil on Canvas
AN INTERVIEW WITH COLIN OULIGHAN THE 22 MAGAZINE: So you grew up in Stamford, CT? Can you tell me a little about that experience?
COLIN OULIGHAN: I guess I don't have much basis for comparison. Where I grew up was very
suburban; a little bit in the woods. Stamford is mainly a commuter town for people who work in the city. Growing up my dad worked in the city.
22: How did you first get involved with painting? Any memorable experiences? CO: I was interested in art…always…I think. Maybe less in art and more in comic books. I got at it from that angle as a kid. I always liked video games, comic books, but not art with a capital A.
22: Were there any specific comic books? CO: To be honest I was never a really big fan of reading comic books, just looking at the drawings and
drawing my own. Mine were always really terrible, because I was only really interested in the drawing.
22: You went to R.I.S.D. after high school right? What was your experience there? CO: It was important. There’s a foundation year, which is good. It’s a lot of back to basics the first
year. It beats any preconceived ideas you had out of you, and then the second year you start to build back up from scratch. I actually started in illustration and then switched over to painting when I realized I didn’t want to make illustrations. That was a good choice for me.
22: So after R.I.S.D. you moved to Brooklyn? CO: Well I spent a year at my parents’ house to save money and worked at an auction house in Stam-
ford. I had my studio in the basement and I saved up a lot of money, moved here, and then didn’t find a job for a solid year. In the end it was good that I saved, otherwise I would have had to move straight back home.
22: Why did you choose Red Hook? CO: Mostly WORK Gallery. I was already aware of them. I knew the director of gallery through working with him. I helped him renovate the gallery awhile back. I was really familiar with this area in between Red Hook and Carroll Gardens. I liked it a lot and I knew I wanted to move here.
22: So you said you switched from illustration to painting? Was paint your main medium before switching?
CO: No it wasn’t. Part of it was that when I was in illustration, I didn’t know what medium I liked. I fooled myself into thinking that I liked working in pen and ink for awhile. I was doing illustrative work and then I started looking at art and lost interest in illustration.
22: What was your first series? CO: I guess I didn’t work in very concise or a serial format until pretty recently. I’m still not sure I always do. I tend to think of my paintings as needing one another. Maybe one of the paintings doesn’t contain all the information that you need to read it. You might not understand where my intent lies unless you see several of them. I’m still trying to figure that out.
22: It's interesting you say that because in looking at a lot of the paintings I kept coming to a few
themes: the idea of space, our perceptions of it, and the idea of illusion within space. Do you feel those are themes and if so, what intrigues you about them?
CO: I think these are pretty central themes. I’ve always been attracted to a sort of flattened or simpli-
fied space. Attracted to very simple illusions that create a space. As much as I’d like for this not to be the case I think that was instilled in me through playing a lot of video games as a kid. There are these certain spatial conventions that they adhered to because of limited technology. A lot of the same strategies are used in painting. It’s just fundamental to the nature of image-making. Do you look at the surface or do you look through it like a window?
22: What about the slanted flag? Was that an exercise in space or more of a statement? CO: I think a lot of it is doing something that is straddling a line between being offensive or aggres-
sive, and being completely arbitrary and mundane. A borderline violent gesture, which is meaningless and not targeted towards anyone or anything.It’s the dynamic of the relationship between an object that has all these fixed meanings, and an object that is utterly meaningless. Also, I was thinking a little bit about space and the flag’s relationship to abstraction.
22: Tell me a little about the “Work Art” series. These were altered photos, correct? CO: All of the images were taken at the antiques auction house I worked at, while I was living at my
parents after graduating. It had to do with this jumble of objects I was surrounded by. This jumble was constantly changing. You'd leave for a day and everything would be pushed to one side. We were constantly moving things around almost for no reason. There was something interesting to me in the fact that all these objects had no real relationship to one another, yet they were together. Sometimes on top of one another. I wanted to get at that sort of arbitrariness. So I was just walking around taking snapshots at random, sort of at arms length. Then I would just take an object from one photo and paste it into another. I did like a hundred of those and chose the ones that were interesting.
22: What about the “Apple” series? CO: Once again there's sort of a spatial thing happening, where the apple is physically on top of the
canvas but looks as if it's sitting behind a hole cut in the canvas. I was thinking about the potential for meaning within any object or any image. An apple is an object that's been endowed with a lot of meaning: health, sin. The shapes that vignette the apples are randomly drawn, just a scribble. It’s the dynamic of the relationship between this object that has all these fixed meanings, and an object that is utterly meaningless. It’s thinking about the apple in a way that's just as meaningless.
22: Your most recent series I believe is “Shapes?” CO: Yeah, I started doing some doodles for what became those paintings probably over a year before
I started the first of them. It just took me that long to figure out what they should be or not. There was a lot of really negative decision making. I had to close all these doors until there only one way left. I guess they have a lot to do with everything we've talking about whether it be spatial illusions or arbitrariness. Maybe it's helpful to talk about how I physically created them?
22: Sure. CO: I started with these children’s blocks called Pattern Blocks. I used to play with them as a kid.
They fit together like tangrams. I created a jig that lays down on the projector. I drop them onto this jig and it creates a stack of them at random to project onto the canvas. They’re automatically composed, except for the colors, and I choose the colors in very arbitrary ways. The way the paintings are made I can’t paint two shapes next to each other at the same time. I have to let the paint dry first. So I’d start with two or three colors chosen at random and then react to those colors, often by saying, “what would I never put next to that color?” Then if it was getting too horrendous, I would start pulling back. It was always about pushing and pulling to achieve some sort of balance but there was no hard and fast criteria.
22: So what about the pumpkin pieces? Were those inspired by anything…besides pumpkins? CO: Yes, Halloween! Those pieces are about repetition and in particular the repetition of goofy faces.
It's a strange thing. You can have the most ecstatic expression and as soon as you repeat it two or three times it completely nullifies it. Those pieces may still become a larger series. I started thinking about whether they should be displayed in October or not in October. I got really hung up on that detail.
22: I think not in October is better. CO: That's what I was thinking. 22: It’s already such an interesting contrast to see this pumpkin face on such a flat canvas surface.
CO: Yeah, I was also thinking about color schemes, associations, and the way a color scheme really
hits you in the gut with a certain kind of meaning; something I thought about in my flag painting too. That meaning, who knows where it came from? It has nothing to do with the thing itself. It’s about the cultural association that you may have with the color scheme. Red, white, and blue or the Halloween colors. I was just thinking about how you can’t use orange and black without it being Halloween.
22: (Laughs) I do it all the time! Specifically for that reason! CO: Good! 22: So what are you working on now? CO: The beginnings of a series that has to do with The Iliad. It's in the very in the early stages. That's what these shaped canvases are for.
22: What appeals to you about The Iliad? CO: I’m still trying to figure that out. A lot of what appeals to me is that it’s so different from the last
series in a lot of ways. Plus It’s the oldest piece of literature there is. It’s established enough that it can withstand whatever I put it through. I don’t need to claim ownership of it, everyone owns it.
22: Have you done any human figures before? CO: Not since I’ve been making work that I show. I think [the paintings] will have a lot to do with arbitrary colors, maybe less to do with space.
22: Are you choosing the canvas shapes for any specific reason? CO: They're chosen very much at random, but I like the illusion of fragments of pottery and the utter arbitrariness of the decision to even put them on shaped canvases, because it will crop people’s heads out. It will be really hard to work with them so I probably won't be composing quite so much directly on them.
22: Well it’s been lovely talking with you. Thank you, Colin. CO: Thank you.
LEFT: Shapes (YELLOW), 2011, Acrylic on canvas
CRIPPLED SYMMETRY by Steve Dalachinsky (written listening to the music of Morton Feldman performed by S.E.M. Ensemble at New York Studio School 4/3/05)
1. pipes straight-arced mesh of gold/afloodstars this is why crippled the leg always tries to rectify itself verify tolerance / total spin cluster / why do you melt of the sheen a double-backed diamond enamored of itself high in the low-tones grappling w/ the whole range of whiteness? why so many bare & pockmarked walls in a structure so filled with its own knowledge ? purpled pomped mallets creased blue curtains exposing the fluted pale lowbreathing carrier of greenglassed arpeggios what is wrong w/ this picture is there is no picture but what is wrong with blank space repeating itself? is blank space truly blank as blank is? why is there maiden transfixed when there are no maidens left to transfix? a so lid tightly a jar was this lip a crossed/out patchwork of genocide’s attempt to corrupt itself? it self always @ the fore of my self your self by self by self one’s & left everyone else be ………… damned this nagging notated pang. hands that drew the once blue silence now emptied into emptiness. but what is so bad about blank space? what is blank? why are these pocked & primed bare walls considered bare? what is empty or full? what does filled with emptiness mean? Longing?
patches & spots of color on the earth brown floor like there a spot of red & here a spill of animal yellow&orange i can swim thru the hole in the broken brick gnaw thru the metal’s facade what there is is more of the same & more of the same is what there is but different a crack in the quietude a sneeze a cough a rustle a rumble a low driven mimic a crumble of what-is-where-from & the crippling ringing of LIFE
2. an o.k. survival kit peek into space thru doorless doorway look around sky itself is the skylight see streaks of pale blue on earth-colored floor semi-circles of off colored creams pull back hit your forehead with your palm quietly scream OH NO loudly inside your head wash your hands of the whole affair as your stomach begins to rumble like a coming quake drink turpentine glance at yourself in the bathroom mirror smile fleetingly walk into a stall sit on the bowl & wait a mesh of starlike petals unlock themselves from their grid……… nothing left
piano lays out c 12
17 (drops off the quantum ) 30 24/ 30 36 54 (?) working in *8â€™s scale of re mi fa circular linearities single note clusters forced to ignore
nothing matters 48/28 reg /// 4 / 4 / 8 10 6 18
barelegged belch boo tonicity htdtAfbnmkxysu5ereNB VC567*)(*(* &% intently listen
OPENING SPREAD: Bone [Noah], 1995, Charcoal on paper ABOVE: Salt [Lot’s Wife], 1994, Charcoal on paper, collection of the Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, AR OPPOSITE PAGE: LAND, 2004, Charcoal on Paper
AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID BAILIN THE 22 MAGAZINE: Can you tell me a little about growing up in South Dakota and how you ended up in Colorado?
DAVID BAILIN: I had a fairly typical family life. We lived in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; a small Mid-
western city built on German and northern European foundations. We were part of a very small Jewish congregation and I was aware of that distinction. My father was a lawyer, active as an A.C.L.U. lawyer and in civic affairs. My mother left a teaching job to raise my sister, brother, and me until we were all in junior high, when she earned a master’s and started working as a speech pathologist. Upon graduating from high school in 1972, I went to the University of Colorado, Boulder, to earn a B.F.A. I focused in studio art. 40
ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF Koplin Del Rio Gallery unLESS OTHERWISE NOTED
THE 22: In one of your interviews you mention bringing an image of Ludwig von Drake, from the comic books, to your father that you had drawn from reference. Were comic books a big influence for you? Were there any other influences from childhood that helped shape you artistically?
DB: Actually, I never read comic books, just the Sunday funnies. I am told that my teacher scolded
me in class for allegedly tracing a turkey image for a classroom decoration. When my parents went to the school for a conference and noticed that my turkey wasn’t up, they were outraged and brought me into the classroom to draw the duck cartoon to prove to the teacher that I didn’t need to trace. My turkey appeared on the wall the next day and I was forever after recruited for school art projects. I think, early on, my parents saw that I had a talent for art and enrolled me in painting classes at the local arts center and later hired college professors as my private tutors. My lessons covered art history and drawing. My last tutor was Carl Grupp a big, burly, redheaded, Norwegian master printer and Augustana College professor who reminded me of Rembrandt. Every year I studied with him I’d ask him to teach me how to paint. Every time he replied that when I learned to draw he would teach me to paint. He never did teach me to paint and I think the reason I draw exclusively now is that I’m still learning to draw. I looked at art books a lot. I still have my first art history book. I received the Time Life Library of Art series and ARTnews and Art in America. I was confused about
the work being produced in the sixties and never was able to integrate it into my studies. I liked pop art for the imagery but I was never talented at color. I never had the patience to learn about it.
THE 22: Your father was an attorney and a mortarman in the war. Did this influence you as an artist? DB: My athletic father served during WWII in the army as a mortarman trained as a gunner. In other
words, he was an infantry soldier who looked through the mortar sights and aligned them with the aiming post during firing. The army experience left his nerves, and therefore his dream to become a doctor, in tatters, so he began his career as a lawyer. At six or seven I had little interest in anything; I didn’t play and I didn’t read, but when asked about what I wanted to be I’d say a lawyer who played catcher in college and handled a big gun in the army. My parents worried about my inactivity and they determined that my talents weren’t athletic or lawyerly but artistic. When I met the local arts center director, Robert Aldern, he became my mentor, introduced me to painting and drawing, set me up with tutors, and advocated for my art career with my parents.
THE 22: You mention not really reading your first book until the sixth grade and it was called Shag:
Last of the Plains Buffalo. I’ve only seen the cover, but the aesthetic reference definitely seems to be there in your work. Can you explain what influence this book had on you, if any?
DB: Robert McClung wrote the book with illustrations by Louis Darling. It had a picture on every
page, the text didn’t get in the way of the story, and I read it from cover to cover―notable for that accomplishment since I had no interest in reading anything. Darling’s drawings are wonderful―luscious black and white lithographic drawings, with elements of revision in the work and some rather funny elements (like the small fleck of a bird drawn on the cover illustration in the upper right hand corner on the same diagonal of Shag’s head or the cartoonish white man countering the noble Indian). If there is a drawing influence I wasn’t aware of it. However, I have always felt that color adds an extraneous element to image making―a distraction and a visual complication I wasn’t interested in spending time working through.
THE 22: Talk a little about your time in Colorado. Were there any major influences or experiences that occurred there to affect your work?
DB: I was not a receptive student. I had had studio lessons for years and I wasn’t about to sit through
basic coursework. I was completely focused on art, took only the required intro classes in all other fields (to my current regret), and didn’t notice the Rocky Mountains until my senior year. But while I wasn’t interested in basics, I was aware that the art department faculty was hungry for recognition. This created a sense of urgency―an energy in the department that I haven’t witnessed anywhere since. This faculty was consuming art magazines, discussing with their students the latest critical and pictorial developments, and we got caught up in it. During the early seventies, there was an interest in Bay Area Figurative, Chicago Imagists, The Hairy Who, and some installation and performance work tempered with a distinctively punk/glitter flair. I went through the typical art student rebellion,
moving through approaches and negations―pseudo-Jack Levine political painting, pseudo-Jasper Johns color field paintings with attached shoes and objects, pseudo-Edward Hopper existential paintings, and eventually arrived at a perfect blend of anti-painting techniques (read finger painting), conceptual diagrams, and anti-intellectualism to produce large-scale paintings with blotches of pure tube paint that looked like skin diseases and documented my life. The paintings were identified with prosaic titles My House in Sioux Falls and Girlfriends from 1968-1972. Even then I was working through narrative structure, trying to find a way through the desert of conceptualism, minimalism, and ‘the next inevitable step.
THE 22: From Colorado you went to New York. Hunter College, correct? What caused you to head to New York and what was your experience there?
DB: During my last summer in Colorado I took a cross-country trip to several art capitals. I al-
ways figured that if I was serious about being an artist, New York was where I had to go. I visited Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston just to make sure. I settled on New York because I got a free ride. A gallery needed volunteers to deliver art back to artists in New York so I left with two other friends in a large truck. We arrived at Canal Street in lower Manhattan at noon after an all night drive and I felt like I was hit in the chest. I’d been to New York before―I had relatives in Queens―but I had never experienced it knowing that I was going to live there. I met up with a Pratt Institute grad and we rented (along with purchasing the ‘improvements’) a loft on Bowery Street. After a couple of months I got a job at Hunter College and then discovered that Robert Morris and Rosalind Krauss taught there. I enrolled and began my master’s degree work. Morris began his class informing us that he was not going to be looking at any painting or drawing. Nothing ‘diagrammatic.’ We could do sculpture or performance. That gave me the push to translate my narrative paintings into performance pieces. I gave four performances, each using a minimum of props (cot, window, wooden chair, tape recorder, clipon lights) and always working from my notes (I wasn’t approaching this work as theater or as an actor). I wrote in the style of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, which had just come out. Fragmented, journalistic, and filled with angst―typical youthful fodder. The final piece was an ensemble piece called Kidnapping by Psychological Questionnaire (the assassination of Italian Premier Aldo Moro had just occurred) that included independent scripts for each character and resolved when the kidnappers killed the captive. By that time I had started taking a theater directing class at Hunter College offered by Harold Clurman, founder of the Group Theatre, and had started to see a lot of downtown theater. That was where I discovered Richard Foreman.
22: How did you first get involved with Geoffrey King, Richard Foreman, and the OntologicalHysteric Theater?
DB: I took a leave from my master’s program to become Foreman’s stage manager for Madness and Tranquility (My Head Was a Sledgehammer). Until that point I was working the graveyard shift at U.P.S. off 43rd Street, going to classes in the mornings, sleeping a couple of hours, working
in Foremanâ€™s Ontological-Hysteric Theater on West Broadway until midnight, and then going back to sleep for two hours until I left for work. After weeks of somnambulism, I convinced Foreman to hire me for a hundred dollars a week so that I could quit my U.P.S. job. The most interesting assignment I had from Foreman was searching for the face of God in lower Manhattan. I learned everything about theater from him: script building, stagecraft, directing the actors, sound and lighting. I found myself so stimulated that I began to construct my own script using the fragments of old performance scripts as a basis and then turning to newspapers and magazines that I began to tear up for material. Foreman didnâ€™t assign characters to his lines until he staged them; I translated that freedom into assigning text to images while I composed on cardboard. One image simply had to be connected with one line of text at a time. Those storyboards evolved directly from a process I discovered by watching Foreman work. I began to see how language could be manipulated in visual terms (I was reading a lot
LEFT: VISION, 1999, Charcoal on Paper ABOVE: Pyramid [Moses & Aaron], 1999, Charcoal on paper
of Barthes, Lévi-Strauss, and October articles at the time). I started working with non-sequiturs and started to think of those sequences as space between responses―i.e., the less logical or expected the response to a sentence the greater the psychological ‘space.’ Linking one image extracted from one context to another image extracted from another context was similar to linking one line to another. The secret was matching the temporal and spatial leap. My scripts were an attempt to move the action through disparate parts, not story line. I wasn’t looking for stories; I was looking for a certain kind of text and image that had a sense of weight to them and that, when placed with and opposed to each other, moved the play forward. When Foreman announced to the cast and crew that he was closing down the production to sell-off the theater space so that he could complete Strong Medicine, a movie he filmed earlier that year, I asked him if I could have his bleacher system and any of the lights and electrical cord I could pack up. Storing the stuff in my Bleecker Street loft, I drew up plans to contact the actors left behind and bring my own play into production. While I went to art shows and openings all through that period, I remember feeling that the most vital art being created in downtown New York was in theater: The Performing Garage, Squat Theatre, Mabou Mines, OntologicalHysteric Theater, Robert Wilson, the performance artists Stuart Sherman, Laurie Anderson, and Meredith Monk, and the composers Phillip Glass and Robert Ashley.
22: Tell me a little about the creation of the Abreaction Theater and the shows that you developed there.
DB: Geoffrey King and I created the Abreaction Theater to present our collaborative works. After
completing my play and transcribing the collages, I sent my script to a friend, who in turn gave a copy to King, a composition graduate student from the New England Conservatory of Music. He created an electronic/vocal piece entitled “Radio Sonata” and, with the success of its premier in 1979 at the Conservatory, we decided to produce the play. I was the director, writer, set designer and prop carpenter, the painter, the lighting director and the electrician. King was the composer and audio technician and ran the complex sound production during the play. At that time, New York City loft space was not hard to come by, at least outside of the Soho art district. My biggest concern was the commitment to a one-year lease (I figured that I would deal with that later).The Crosby Street space was perfect. It had a freight elevator and easy access to the downtown crowd. The electrical system was upgraded as part of the lease deal, so we had more than enough power to run the production. The walls were unencumbered by surface decorations. Most importantly, the building wasn’t residential (our neighbors were sweatshops), so our sound system could be optimized. After installing Foreman’s bleacher system, the loft started to look like a theater. I used my savings to pay for construction and painting supplies, lights and additional wiring, and went to work preparing the space. It was great fun. We produced Disparate Acts: At a Distance in the winter of 1979. We were lucky that season that Richard Foreman and Robert Wilson and other downtown companies weren’t active, and the performance was favorably compared to other downtown productions. We actually ran with full houses. After a good run, we abandoned the loft, put our bleachers into a friend’s loft for storage, and moved to Boston to work on our next play. I never considered myself in theater even while I produced the play. I viewed the work in terms of visual arts―specifically in line with the current practice at the time of installation, conceptual and performance art. Foreman’s plays came the closest to that practice and his ability to combine techniques from film editing, Brechtian aesthetics, and pre-recorded audio to create his staging was exciting to me. While I was interested in making a name for myself, I didn’t think in terms of permanence as much as sustaining the aesthetic ‘high’ of producing the Gesamtkunstwerk. This need to create the total work of art failed me in the next effort, Confessions of a Conformist, for a number of reasons: the script was too long and too visually complicated, my rehearsal and construction schedule was impractical and underestimated and therefore too time-consuming, locating and securing a space in downtown NY was nearly impossible after Soho became upscale, and my collaboration with King was problematic, to say the least. Within two years, the NY scene had changed and I wasn’t prepared to adapt. Cutting edge performances took place in small venues with quick production times. Texts were moving towards narrative again and the East Village art scene had exploded.
22: If you could present one piece again today, which one would it be and why?
DB: My most successful theater piece was Disparate Acts: At A Distance because it had a solid foun-
dation and fulfilled my intentions. I’d prefer to present Confessions again because it had a superior collage foundation, a more interesting premise, and deserved a better outcome. But I’m no longer interested in theater. I moved all my attention to drawing and the themes developed in Confessions are still a vital part of my work.
22: Tell me a little about your ideas on deconstruction as an art form. DB: While deconstruction is a method for clarifying the particulars of an art form, it is not the basis
for effective or powerful art. Creating powerful art is not a theoretical position but an instinctual one. Solely pushing the boundaries or testing limits is spectacle, which is fine as far as it goes, but limited unless it is the result of working through the ideas and materials. I can’t think of a single work of art that has retained its vitality solely on pushing boundaries or breaking taboos. Even Duchamp’s Fountain worked because it was an elegant combination of idea, intention, and material. I have lived long enough to see elements of sixties, seventies, and eighties art appear in current artistic practice as if they were newly discovered and invented, but I’m not cynical. I think the current environment is as exciting and challenging as it was during my coming of age in the seventies. As my friend Warren Criswell puts it, …”sometimes we’re ambushed by our own unique truth, and that’s where the trouble begins.”
22: Are you currently still involved with theater in New York? DB: I am involved only through friends I met during my Abreaction Theater days. They keep me posted on their work and interesting developments.
22: In talking about your work you mention that it is never good to start a work with a metaphor, but
instead to start with the mark and let the metaphor develop out of it. Can you talk about this method and why you think it is the most effective?
DB: My working method hasn’t changed much from that developed for my theater. I still begin with
images and while working in theater I considered the approach to be drawing, while working in drawing I think of the paper as a stage and animate it. I have a character that stands in for me. His activities are also similar to the activities I subjected my actors to: listing, cataloging, recording, filing, searching, inventorying, and hiding. For a show I had at the Koplin Del Rio Gallery in 2007 I prepared a list of my “confessions,” that sum up my “working method:” 1. I admit that I like enclosed places without natural light. 2. I admit that I like filing cabinets, bookshelves, newspapers, manuscripts and books, lamps, tables and desks, stools and wooden chairs. 3. I admit that I like rifling through boxes of clipped newspaper articles and images. 4. Lists. 5. I admit that I have habits of behavior.
BOTTOM LEFT: STILL FROM Disparate Acts [At A Distance], 1979, PHOTO BY Craig Massey BOTTOM MIDDLE: CORNER, 2005, Charcoal on Paper BOTTOM RIGHT: THREAD, 2009, Charcoal on Paper
TOP LEFT: TREASURE, 2011, Charcoal on Paper TOP MIDDLE: STRING, 2009, Charcoal on Paper TOP RIGHT: STILL FROM Disparate Acts [At A Distance], 1979, PHOTO BY Craig Massey
6. The way things are arranged is meaningful. 7. Order is unavoidable. 8. I admit that objects in the room interfere with my behavior. 9. While I am in the room, I admit that I feel vulnerable. 10. Locks are a necessity. 11. Escape is binding. I don’t finish drawings. I exhaust the possibilities in each rendering. I revise and rework and more than likely destroy drawings. The last couple of years, only three drawings survived. I draw until the figure and the environment have weight―plasticity and narrative. I draw until I find a hook that sustains my viewing for more than a couple of days. If that hook doesn’t last, then I go back to revising. Whatever began the drawing―the studies, the images from my boxes―is started again when I pick up my piece of charcoal. Because the mark is not the idea, I have to battle what making that mark means. Does it define the outside or the inside of the object? Is it defining a texture, a contour, or a tone? Since all of us have mark making down, we think it’s automatic. At its fundamental level, a drawing is a progressively complex listing of strokes. Nothing more. To assume that you can go to a metaphor before controlling and manipulating the material is ridiculous. That’s not to say that you don’t have a start. I have plenty of starts, plenty of ideas, but once you are on the paper it’s a whole different game.
22: Talking about some of your early paintings, you mention that they are “like candy,” in that their element of perfection is also their downfall.
DB: Regarding painting, I can paint; I just don’t like to. I have no color sense, but that isn’t neces-
sary for painting. I use a universal mud theory―any color will work if it contains trace amounts of any other color in the painting―and a well-drawn understudy. Together they allow me to paint as well as anybody. The problem is with the act of painting. In periods when I did paint and I had everything under control—my palette, my brush—I seemed to go into a trance. Nothing I mixed was wrong, every brush stroke and position was spot on, and the painting developed without any hesitation. While I didn’t dislike the paintings, there was no resistance to their development and if there was no resistance, no feedback, no ‘blow-back,’ then there was no meaningful experience in the process―no life. If there was no meaningful experience other than the technical finesse, then how could I expect my viewers to have one? The process tasted good but had no substance. Milton Resnick talked about the pit artists fall into when their work ceases to have meaning. The artist remembers that anxiety and trauma and seeks anything to keep out of that pit. For some, the development of gimmicks or tricks keeps them from the pit, but once the artist uses those tricks to avoid the pit, he dies as an artist. I felt like painting was avoiding the real issues of making art. If I define myself as an artist, then my approach must be a constant battle with the pit.
22: Tell me a little about your idea of expression and emotion in work and how it is tied to the expres-
sive or “human” mark (ideas like scratching, smoothing, rubbing, etc). Do you think leaving a “trail” is the most effective form of human communication?
DB: As a child I saw a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Bugs, dressed in an artist smock and beret
and dipping a large brush into a bucket of paint, paints the Mona Lisa in two passes of his hand. This was an amazing thing to watch. I could never figure out how he did that. Every time I lifted a brush it appeared to be so limited. Later I realized what that joke really meant for the artistâ€•create the greatest amount of significance with the least amount of effort. You see it in masterful work. It only seems like the piece just appeared fully formed and effortless. While studying art history in Italy, I visited a monastery. Walking into a dark cell from a long, sun-drenched corridor, it took a while for my eyes to adjust and I noticed that I could only make out parts of a fresco. As I waited for the image to fully appear, I made out a crown of thorns, a stick, and then a bloody gash. To my astonishment, I realized that there was no complete image. The artist had created a painting that every monk could complete in his own way. This unknown
EVIDENCE, 2008, Charcoal on Paper
artist had produced the most devotional piece of art I have ever seen. Both of those experiences came to define my approach to art. For me, that meant finding out what was extraneous to image making, discovering how far could I go towards developing a story without losing an image. That meant no color, no printmaking process, no chemical/digital processes at all, just simple mark making. The mark is fundamental to human communication―forming letters into words, into sentences, and into symbols, into images. In fact, for me, the most important part of my drawings isn’t the final image but all the pentimenti: the traces of the underdrawings, the wipe-outs, the erasures, the revisions. Those pentimenti are closer to ideas than fully formed drawings. Recently I’ve taken to photographing those traces. Someday I may feel courageous enough to create a body of work just of pentimenti.
22: Some of your stories read something like psychological fables and some of them directly reference
historical or religious stories. Can you talk a little about these, particularly the “Midrash”series? Do they have anything to do with a Jewish background?
DB: My current work has more to do with Keaton and Kafka than with Jewish tradition. If I had a
film genre it would be black and white silent comedies. Combine the main character of Buster Keaton with a storyline by Franz Kafka and that pretty much sums up my work. I have a streak of anxiety about me―a feeling that at any moment the Cossacks could come and destroy everything I hold dear. And every time I go to bed I say to myself, “Well, you old fart, nothing happened. You’ve lived your life.” And then I get up in the morning and think, “Today is the day.” So I am the character in the drawings who continually shifts the boxes around, searches for or files away pieces of paper until there is no space left. Whether this is heroic like a Keaton film or just tragic like Kafka I don’t know, but I find it funny. The “Midrash”series came about because in the late eighties Ronald Feldman, director of the Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York, told me that my work was going nowhere because there was no personal stake in it, and I agreed somewhat and started to think about a personal stake. I was never religious or a practicing Jew, but I am tied to and proud of my family’s heritage. I began a series on small city life, then one on the Holocaust, and in 1993 I read The Book of J by Harold Bloom (translated by David Rosenberg). It got me thinking about how God was depicted in my years of Sunday school and I remembered that there were several stories that bothered me: Lot’s wife, Noah, Job, Cain, Adam, and Moses. I decided to create stage-like large drawings with life-sized figures. This series was a solution to the dynamic of handling a full-time job, having five children, and trying to do my artwork. I decided to work smaller because that seemed like the logical way to do create art when you didn’t have a lot of time. If I started a piece that couldn’t possibly be finished during the weekend, then I’d have something to work on when I got back, and during the week I could plan my next steps. It also alleviated the problem of trying to get a gallery since no one would be able to show the work anyway. Each of the pieces took six or more months to complete. During the process, I created and revised the drawings and also reconciled my version of the story with the biblical one. So, for instance,
in the flood story what was traumatic for me for what was what was left out. Dove signals land, everyone departs, and everything is beautiful (until Lot’s time). In the drawing called Bone [Noah], I depict the holocaust after the flood―Noah, looking over the hillside, has just realized the cost of his survival, while his wife waters a plant with water carried up the mountain from the valley. Technically, as the series progresses, my drawing style changes from careful rendering of the elements and a theatrical presentation to a drawing almost entirely comprised with pentimenti like in Pyramid [Moses and Aaron].
22: Some of your other pieces sometimes have an “office” quality or “family” elements, and I just won-
der in general if some of these works were the documenting of your change from an artist in New York to a teacher in the South?
DB: Unlike many of my friends in New York, I had no skills in carpentry, plumbing, or electricity (al-
though I could do it for my own loft when necessary). I didn’t have the coordination to wait on tables or the design skills to work in publishing. I discovered that I did have an ability to work in offices―filing, typing invoices, light typing, and bookkeeping. It was all hand done, before the introduction of computers and word processors. Because it was part-time, it permitted me to work on my plays and other writing. Bookkeeping was the best artist job I ever had since the work involved tidying up the past and leaving everything at zero; I could come to the studio without any lingering issues. That experience did influence my work. Of course, there is something mindless and numbing about filing and entering numbers into ledgers. I don’t believe any of the papers or ledgers were ever seen again after I stored them. For a couple of years I worked in two “kafkaesque” offices: a law office in mid-town and an insurance company located in the Upper East Side. In Saramago’s All the Names, any clerk who wanted to seek out a document from the storage labyrinth had to tie a string around his waist before being permitted to enter. Sometimes walking down the hallways of New York office buildings felt similar. The lifestyle change from New York to Little Rock was dramatic but not traumatic. In New York I appreciated being close to so much activity. Even if you didn’t take part in half the stuff, it rubbed off on you. Looking for avant-garde film? Check out B movies in Alphabet City. Traveling on the F line to Times Square? Discover a Keith Haring on the subway wall. Stuart Sherman is set up on the Staten Island Ferry. Charles Ludlam has opened a new play in the West Village and Phillip Glass is playing at St. Mark’s Church—Ginsberg is reading there later. It was a lifestyle for sure but it wore you out. This was especially true if you hadn’t made it yet. So Little Rock allowed me to slow down and start work I never had time to create in New York. This last spring I had the opportunity to travel around Arkansas meeting artists in their studios for a show I was curating. Their work was as eclectic and their commitment to exhibiting it as important as that of any artist I had met in Boston or New York. Since moving to Little Rock I have witnessed the development of a sophisticated artist scene and while many of us complain that serious collectors have a tendency to purchase our art in galleries outside of the state and that, except for one professional art supply store, we have to mail order supplies, most of us have thrived here. The cost of living, the beautiful land, the long and sustaining friendships with other Arkansas artists: Sammy
Peters, an extraordinary abstract painter, and Warren Criswell, a kind of Renaissance artist using any and all kinds of media to pursue his psychological and metaphysical realism, to name just two.. A friend of mine from Hunter College commented on my choice to leave NY as detrimental to my career and questioned my seriousness as an artist. It is typical to draw a line marking territory but difficult to understand why. I did not enjoy living in NY or Boston. It had nothing to do with my art, but it affected everything about my art. I don’t believe that making art is any easier in one place or another. As to missing out on the chance of fame, fortune, and influence? It’s kind of like waking up every morning and thinking, ‘Today is the day.’ I’ll let you know in fifty years.
22: On that note, can you talk a little about how you ended up in Arkansas? DB: When my wife, Amy Stewart, accepted a clerkship with the Chief Judge of the U.S. District
Court in Little Rock, Arkansas, we figured it was a two-year commitment and then we would move back to the East Coast. While I was concerned about moving to the South, my work was never predicated on a location. It was a fortuitous opportunity that when I applied for a bookkeeper job at the Arkansas Arts Center, I was offered the position of Museum School Director instead. Directing a school with faculty and facilities for pottery, glass blowing, woodworking, jewelry making, photography, printmaking, painting, and drawing was a dream position but, more importantly, it gave me proximity to the Arts Center’s collection of master and contemporary drawings. The Arts Center’s collection was curated and sustained by its director, Townsend Wolfe, from whose connoisseurship I learned a great deal. It was a unique and comprehensive collection by any museum standard, and I had access to its riches for daily study. In the end, Little Rock proved to be a perfect situation. Hillary Clinton and Vince Foster recruited Amy to join the Rose Law Firm, and my work at the Arts Center was the perfect job at the right time in my career, so we decided to stay.
22: Are you currently teaching and, if so, where? What are some of the most important lessons you would suggest for a theater artist or painter/drawer respectively?
DB: I am currently an adjunct professor at Hendrix College and an instructor at the University of
Central Arkansas, both located in Conway, Arkansas. Teaching keeps my mind functioning outside of the studio and requires me to define and articulate the drawing techniques for my students. My lessons for any artist: 1. Don’t make wallpaper 2. Don’t contemplate your navel. 3. Be hungry.
22: What are your current projects or upcoming shows?
DB: I am drawing and thinking about repositories and I am preparing for a show at the Koplin Del
Rio Gallery this summer. In addition to curating the “Winthrop Rockefeller Institute Legacy Art Exhibition,” (Petit Jean Mountain, Arkansas), I am jurying the “Irene Rosenzweig 2011 Biennial Exhibition” at the Arts and Science Center in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and exhibiting as Delta winner in this year’s “54th Annual Delta Arkansas Arts Center Show.”
22: What currently inspires you as an artist? DB: News and found photographs. 22: What currently disturbs you as an artist? DB: A tea party without tea…and other political extremists. 22: You mention that, for you as an artist, to not work would be more painful than doing the work.
Where do you think this drive or desire comes from, particularly with artists? Does it harken back to the idea of human expression and the need to communicate directly?
DB: I have defined myself in many ways, but the core has always been my work. My studio is not my friend. I avoid going into my studio, but I know that if I don’t open the studio doors, walk in, and confront the work, I will be lost. It’s one thing to think romantically of the idea of human expression but, frankly, the world doesn’t really need any new pieces of art and that certainly goes for my new pieces. But I need new work―it’s not about communication or expression or fame or fortune. It’s about moving all the anxiety, all the joy, all the thoughts, feelings, and inspiration out of me and into something tangible. I don’t know if it has meaning or is meaningful, but if, through hacking away at a drawing, I can live some more, then there it is.
PALMERSVILLE BY EDWIN ROSTRON
Elizabeth drove underground trains for a living. She felt at home there, hurtling through the dark. The noise and the smell were part of her. She liked the deepest tunnels the most, the deeper the better. She sometimes imagined a special place, like an amusement park ride that had been made especially for her, which was just an endless system of tunnels, far, far deeper down than hers, where you could drive at top speed for as long as you liked without stopping. Her life above ground was quiet and still. When she was not in the tunnels she always felt like she was waiting to go back in. She went through the motions of existence and didn’t consider herself to be unhappy. She sometimes sat looking out of her kitchen window, faintly wondering if she should be worried about herself. She realized that she had been single for longer than most of her friends, but this completely failed to bother her. She wondered if that in itself was a problem. These thoughts were dim and indistinct, though, and once she was back underground she forgot about the whole concept entirely. She began to feel unwell. It started with sudden attacks of intense tiredness. They were short and abrupt, and didn’t seem to correspond to how much she’d worked or slept beforehand. The rest of the time she felt completely normal. In February she began to have hallucinations during these attacks of fatigue. Seeing things in the tunnels was not so unusual, and many of her colleagues had stories of their own. Otherwise straightforward and honest people claimed to have seen phantom schoolboys, long-dead workmen, and even the ghost of a whole train during their shifts, but Elizabeth preferred not to discuss what she had seen. She struggled to put it into words, even to herself. It was exactly the same each time. A smallish, contained area of some sort of thick grey mist or smoke, but more compact and solid, floating, slowly descending towards the ground. This didn’t really come close to describing it, but it was the best she could do. She decided to take some of the annual leave she was due. Once she was off work the whole thing seemed a bit ridiculous. She longed to be back in the tunnels, and regretted having booked so long off. She couldn’t concentrate on anything substantial. Reading books and watching films was useless, and the city was in the grip of a terrible blizzard which meant she was pretty much confined to the house. She lay in bed with the TV on quietly in the corner of her bedroom. Through her window she watched the snow fall, barely visible against the white sky. A strange light illuminated the room and everything was quiet. She spent the day drifting in and out of sleep. A TV program about a woman who survived being trapped under snow for two days merged into her dreams. Sometimes Elizabeth was the buried woman, sometimes she was watching her, and sometimes she was herself in bed. Later on in the evening she got up. She drank a glass of water in the kitchen and as she gulped it down it occurred to her that somebody had been in the house while she was asleep. She couldn’t say why but she was sure. She walked around, studying the rooms for evidence but nothing was changed. She checked the door but it was still locked. There was nobody here now, but she knew there had been. Part of her was terrified, part of her was exhilarated, and part of her was completely unmoved. She could not separate the twines of those feelings so she just stood there blankly. Elizabeth realized that she had sunk her hand all the way to the bottom of a plant pot full of soil. 57
She went to bed and back into sleep. At some point during the night Elizabeth opened her eyes and saw it floating above her near the ceiling. The thing from the tunnels. She felt no fear. She was lying on her back. It began to slowly move downwards and she dreamily lifted her legs and arms up in the air. It rested softly on her hands and feet. It was made of some incredibly dense gas, almost solid, and somehow both weightless and heavy at the same time. It was slowly rotating in the air, and she gently moved her arms and legs in response to its movement. It had intelligence, of that she was certain. She knew it from the tunnels, and then it came to her that she had known it before that too, when she was a child. She suddenly remembered how she had first seen it in the caves near where she had lived, and how when she told her parents about it, they dismissed her story as one of the many visible strains between the young Elizabeth and reality. They had moved soon after and over thirty years she had forgotten about it. Tears trickled down her cheeks onto her pillow as she looked up into it. Gradually it began to descend further, as if gravity was slowly taking its toll. Her hands and feet began to slide through it, and she carefully tried to propel it back upwards. But it was no use, its slow descent was unstoppable and eventually she gave up trying. Bit by bit it got closer to the bed and enveloped more of her body. She let it fall. It passed through her, and there are no words to say what she felt. She lost consciousness and when she came to the thing had gone. She felt as if something impossibly precious had been lost or taken from her, and she couldnâ€™t understand why, or how. She cried until the sun came up.
Palmersville was orginally written for 1001 nights cast, a durational performance by Barbara Campbell.
WATCH THE FILM
AN INTERVIEW WITH EDWIN ROSTRON THE 22 MAGAZINE: Can you give me a little history about where you grew up and how you first started working in art?
EDWIN ROSTRON: I grew up on the outskirts of Newcastle upon Tyne, in the North East of England. I always liked to draw. My parents taught art when I was a child. They both painted, my mum still does. My dad drew cartoons which I guess had a big effect on me. I got taken to lots of exhibitions; there were art books in the house. It’s always been part of my life.
THE 22: It was mentioned that your works reflect the “Post-Industrial England” that you grew up in.
Can you talk a little about what this means environment-wise and as an artist?
ER: The North East of England used to be famous for its coal mining and shipbuilding industries,
but these were in rapid decline by the time I was a child. I lived in a fairly pleasant suburb, but further out on the fringes there were expanses of wasteland, big grey fields, scrap yards, derelict pit depots covered in graffiti—places where strange, murky things might happen. I used a lot of photos of these places in my early work. Now I live in London. It is quite a different kind of environment, but still I find myself drawn to places which seem to exist slightly outside of the normal functional world, which there are plenty of in London.
THE 22: You attended The Royal College of Art a few years after your undergrad, correct? Why you
did you decide to go back?
ER: After I graduated with my B.A. I was in the wilderness a bit. I gravitated to what filmmaking was
going on locally, which was generally quite narrative based, live action short films. I thought I could benefit from learning how to make “proper” films, so I focused on writing and directing for a while. I made a couple of short films but after a while it became obvious to me that I should go back to how I had been working before. When I started making animations again I felt much more enthusiastic and confident, so I think it was beneficial to take that detour. Having realized what I wanted to concentrate on, doing a master’s seemed like the best way of being able to focus and develop my work.
THE 22: Many of your characters seem to focus on longing, loss or the unattainable. Can you talk a little about this idea?
ER: This is something which resonates with me, yes. I’m not sure why. I think it’s a fairly universal
theme though. If I can say anything about it, I guess it is in my work.
THE 22: Many of your collage animations are very different from your hand drawn pieces. Can you
talk about what or who inspired these two different styles?
ER: I enjoy using what happens to be available to me at the time, as well as the processes and materi-
als I use to dictate the aesthetic as opposed to any pre-planned concept. Finding out what the film is, what it will look like, and how it will feel only happens through the process of making it. My early animations evolved out of a series of collages. I had access to 16mm film facilities at University and so I set about developing the collages into stop frame animations. My inspirations included zombie films, trashy horror films, the early animated works of David Lynch, particularly The Grandmother (1970). I was also inspired by the aggressive energy of some of the music I was listening to at the time: Industrial music, the Digital Hardcore label, Wu Tang Clan. My recent work uses the same approach of letting things develop without a clear idea of how they will turn out, but the process of drawn animation brings with it many more possibilities than my collage method. When I made my last film Visions of the Invertebrate I was looking at images from Books of Hours, the work of Scottish artist Alasdair Gray, the animations of Al Jarnow, among other things.
THE 22: Can you discuss the process of creating a hand drawn film versus digital animation and why you prefer hand drawn?
ER: Most hand drawn animations now involve some software along the way, and my own hand
drawn films rely on digital software quite a bit. Everything is assembled in After Affects, and recently I have used Photoshop to colour the drawings, so it is really a hybrid process. I just try to find the most direct way of connecting with what I am making, which for me is primarily through drawing, but my process is constantly evolving.
THE 22: A few of the recurrent “symbols” seem to focus on dogs, snakes, the head, decapitation and
perhaps plants and organic masses. Is there any symbolic significance to these elements for you?
ER: They invariably have some immediate relevance or meaning to me, but those meanings aren’t re-
ally why I use them. I just go on a feeling of whether it is right or not, and that feeling relates to something I couldn’t really explain. I am interested in using animation to articulate things which I cannot say in words, things from beyond the rational, conscious mind. This material has its own logic and patterns, and those recurring symbols are part of that. If I wanted them to be interpreted in a specific way I would make it clear, but this is not my intention. I would like people to connect with my work in the same way I make it—unconciously, without needing to interpret or find resolution, but people can take it any way they like really!
THE 22: Palmersville, Visions of the Invertebrate, and Of Unknown Origin were all collaborations
with Supreme Vagabond Craftsman and you worked with Kate Allen to create The Disaster Area series. Can you talk a little about the your feelings on working solo versus working collaboratively?
ER: Generally I like to work alone, but at the moment I am really enjoying my ongoing collabora-
tions with Will (Supreme Vagabond Craftsman). The collaborations you mention have both been with close friends who are into similar stuff as me. With The Disaster Area, Kate and I just decided what we were going to do and then did our drawings separately, with some blind faith they would go together—which they really did. With Will it is an ongoing collaboration which has become stronger as it has gone on. To begin with he just did music for my films, but his text and readings were really the basis of my last film Visions of the Invertebrate, which was the first in a series. We still work fairly separately though, he gives me his material and I work with it. We both respect each other’s work and trust each other enough not to have to discuss it all that much. We are also both really interested in creating something surprising and unexpected, which the collaboration certainly encourages.
THE 22: Of Unknown Origin has a really interesting story. Can you talk a little about Raymond Cass and why his work inspired you?
ER: Raymond Cass was a hearing aid specialist from Hull (the poet Philip Larkin was one of his
patients). He was also one of the UK’s leading paranormal researchers. His research was specifically into Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP), which is the term used to describe unexplained voices captured in recordings of radio frequencies between stations, or in the amplified background silence of a room. Many EVP researchers believe these voices to be those of the dead. I heard the CD The Ghost Orchid, which collects Cass’ recordings along with his own commentary on them, and was really inspired by both the recordings and by Cass himself. Some of the recordings are quite amazing, whatever you think they are caused by. The CD has these really unearthly, terrifying and sometimes beautiful voices coming through radio static, and then in between is Cass talking about them in his Hull accent, being quite serious and matter of fact about the whole thing. There is something about him that reminds me of other eccentric middle-aged Northern men I have known, obsessed with buses, or trains, or radios but with Cass it had this paranormal aspect to it. He was quite obsessed with it, and I just felt real empathy and warmth towards him, or the idea of him I
OPENING PAGE: PENSIVE LIMPET, 2009 PAGE 59: PENSIVE LIMPET, 2009 PAGE 60: Silence, 2009 PAGE 61: The Disaster Area, 2007 TOP LEFT: Of Unknown Origin, 2010 (WATCH FILM) TOP RIGHT: MORRIS AND THE OTHER, 2008 (WATCH FILM) MIDDLE LEFT: Visions of the Invertebrate, 2011 (WATCH FILM) MIDDLE RIGHT: PALMERSVILLE, 2008 (WATCH FILM) BOTTOM LEFT: PENSIVE LIMPET, 2009 BOTTOM RIGHT: The Disaster Area, 2007 OPPOSITE PAGE: PENSIVE LIMPET, 2009 PAGE 65: PENSIVE LIMPET, 2009
had from his recordings. Animate Projects commissioned me to make a film I had proposed inspired by Cass and his work. I initially wanted my film to be more about him but ultimately it became more about the recordings. I suppose the type of work I make is more suited to explore their atmosphere and abstract weirdness than to convey a personâ€™s life and character. Someone should make a documentary about him though, he was quite a fascinating man.
“I like how advertisements can be read as both totally meaningless and as an explanation of “who we are.” It’s hard not to makes the message so meaningless to an individual. “
see them as being so totalizing -- probably since theyâ€™re supposed to appeal to a large demographic, which is what
OPENING SPREAD: savannah botanical I, 2011, (WATCH FILM) THIS PAGE, TOP: Lumière Quaker à Daytona Beach, 2010, (WATCH FILM) BOTTOM: TO CHantel MOuffe, 2010, MIXED MEDIA
AN INTERVIEW WITH DEREK LARSON THE 22 MAGAZINE: Tell me a little about when you started to get involved with video art and
what really appealed to you about it?
DEREK LARSON: Portability. I started making video in 2002 because it required less studio space
than most other things I was doing at the time. I can make video anywhere and carry my tools with me at all times.
22: Tell me a little about why you chose experimentation and documented measurements as a gen-
eral theme in your work?
DL: The measurement videos are just one of many ideas at the moment, I started them as a way to tie
sculptural elements to my video, as a quick task to keep busy. This idea then branched into other ideas and thinking about digital media in a tangible way.
22: One of your more recent projects, “Commonwealth,” is based off the quote “satisfaction of temporary desire falsifies experience.” Can you explain what you mean by this?
DL: I knew that if I was going to make a virtual sculpture garden then it could only be a flimsy replica
of the Museum-like thing that I was referencing. So that became the whole idea.
22: Tell me what role the billboard played in the commonwealth project. DL: The billboard was an advertisement for the show but it was also an ancient and cryptic message
to the city of St. Louis.
22: What do advertisements mean to you in general? DL: I like how advertisements can be read as both totally meaningless and as an explanation of “who
we are.” It’s hard not to see them as being so totalizing -- probably since they’re supposed to appeal to a large demographic, which is what makes the message so meaningless to an individual. The funniest and best ones are print ads in magazines like People, Us Weekly and OK!
22: Many of your works utilize pop or cultural icons, sometimes juxtaposing them with everyday
reality. What are some of your favorite icons to play with and why? What do you look for when you are looking for footage?
BOTTOM: Measurement: Cheers (WATCH FILM)
MIDDLE: ----------------, 2011 (WATCH FILM)
TOP: savannah botanical II, 2011 (WATCH FILM)
Telegeographies, 2009, MIXED MEDIA
DL: I like working with the idea of “digital nostalgia” and trying to combine something humane with
something theoretical. Mostly I’m pairing pop references with something I’ve read about and then using old media as bad stand-ins to explain some unrelated idea. I like using old sitcom footage and I don’t know exactly why. I don’t enjoy watching it but I like the nostalgia I associate with it.
RED MTN (INSTALLATION VIEW), 2010
SUNNY SEQUIM (INSTALLATION VIEW), 2007
ABOVE LEFT AND BELOW: SUNNY SEQUIM (INSTALLATION VIEW), 2007, MIXED MEDIA
ABOVE RIGHT: COMMONWEALTH, 2011, MIXED MEDIA
AN INTERVIEW WITH EMILY GINSBURG THE 22 MAGAZINE: Tell me how you first started making art? Any childhood experiences or otherwise that influence you?
EMILY Ginsburg: I made drawings, performed in plays, and made Super 8 movies with my
friends in the neighborhood where I grew up in Baltimore from an early age. There was a great sense of possibility and just making things happen because we wanted to. My aunt is also an artist and I have distinct memories of working with her hand-me-down art supplies and “coloring in” her drawings on pads she had left at my grandparents when she was off to college. These were all seminal experiences.
22: Tell me a little about how documentation and measurement play a role in your art? What appeals to you about “useful” elements or elements that collect or record in art?
EG: I am thinking often about evidencing the complexity of behavior through the events, occurrences
and patterns in everyday life. The simultaneity and distinctiveness within what we think, feel, enact, and how we communicate are deeply fascinating to me. I guess I am thinking more about evidence vs. documentation, as I take many liberties that are meant to suggest both the attempt to map or track situations or conditions of “being,” and are also intrinsically embedded with the attempts to process or make sense of these moments. They are openly embellished with subjective reflections, questions and contemplation in an associative manner. In cinematic terms, they can be at times simply like the cross between a documentary and a soap opera, or the director’s cut with commentary. The idea of the “useful” is a grounding position when embracing subject matter in the realm of the familiar. I am more inclined to say that I both respect and re-purpose images and objects and their use value. I rely on them for their ability to communicate a sense of a common understanding but then I am also interested in complicating this understanding by combining it at times with varying levels of ambiguity. By ambiguity, I mean embracing multiple associations at once. These are hybridized forms. This would be true within some of the “Social Studies” prints where silhouetted forms operate like ink blots or in other cases where invented devices within the composition perform acts of transmission, sorting, filtering thoughts and actions, in a kinetic like fashion. For the “Dance Card” series, I remade a 19th century object at a much larger scale into book form that maps daily rituals from waking to sleeping as a form of choreography, as a set of scores. Within the IN/HABIT: Messages to a Past, Present or Future piece, I was inspired by a pocket watch, compass, rotary dial phone and even a typewriter as a means to design a device for navigating, tracking, and negotiating action, communication, thought, and emotion over time. The piece both visually embraces those separate influences and also asks the viewer to see the whole of the interactive object as something new.
22: Do you believe there is symbolism in your art? If so what? If no, why not?
SOCIAL STUDIES #11, 2005, screen print on museum board
EG: I believe that I am working with a consistently evolving lexicon that includes images that mildly
corrupt, reinterpret, and reposition symbols and iconic forms. I am also equally fascinated by modes of representation that attempt to show you something “as is” commonly recognized. I so appreciate the way Russian revolutionary period graphic artists used pictographic language as a way to communicate to a largely illiterate population. The books on signs and symbols amaze me as results of endless prototyping design processes attempting to construct universal languages for anything from weather patterns, hot coffee, to pedestrian signs. With that said, I think of symbolism in my work as a means to create a language, to tell stories.
22: What are some of your favorite objects and why? EG: I have become more interested in the idiosyncratic nature of objects that surround me as well as archetypal forms. I think knowing an object over time, through repeated use compels me the most as a quality that I consider. This is true of the specificity of the shape, touch and feel of say, the hand crafted mug made by my partner which I drink my morning tea, to the standardized industrially designed metal folding chairs in the studio, food containers, shopping carts, and the evolving design of telephones, remote controls, etc. I can cite specifically a 17th century iron pothook I saw at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London which reflected the mechanics of its use in its overall design. It included a sequence of pictorial images of the object being made by the blacksmith and its use in the cooking process as part of the design. The object both tells the story of the object and captures it’s ritualized nature. I also very much consider the body as an object. While considering the body as a whole, I am extremely aware of the micro gestures, tasks and expressiveness of hands as well as the performative patterns in time and space created by our foot traffic as we move, make decisions, and position ourselves within social interactions. This is all about body language.
22: Many of your objects also rely on a set of instructions, correct? EG: I think for most of my work, the notion of instructions are implied in that there are multiple pathways to follow as sequences of action or thought are laid out in diagrammatic fashion. This is apparent most fully within the “Social Studies” series where I am nodding towards a sense of the performative, creating images of devices both functional and fantastical to catalyze the viewer’s sense of variable avenues of looking, thinking, and feeling. With the “Dance Card” series, the diagrammatic imagery is using the guise of dance step diagrams, instructions for learning as a framework for a series of scores in efforts to elevate our awareness of various daily actions in a similar manner. Where this is different is within the IN/HABIT: Messages to a Past Present or Future project. In this piece, I am dealing with the use value of the object in a practical way. I want the viewer/ participant to have resources to put together a multifaceted reading of “self” at a particular moment in time. As this is a complex concept, I want to offer some tools to understand the components of the object so they can physically engage in this activity.
SOCIAL STUDIES #18 , 2006, digital print on hahnemuhle photo rag paper
22: Do you think there is a division between art and design? EG: I find that I donâ€™t polarize these terms. The reality is that they are deeply interrelated in terms
of tools for making and issues of audience and context. I engage in public projects, exhibitions, and publications. All have diverse elements that utilize strategies that cross many platforms for generating, constructing, presenting and experiencing work.
SOCIAL STUDIES #19, 2006, digital print on hahnemuhle photo rag paper
SOCIAL STUDIES #15, 2006, digital print on hahnemuhle photo rag paper
Title: SOCIAL STUDIES SERIES
Date: 2005 Media: screen print on museum board Dimensions: 32 x 40 inches The pieces in this â€œSocial Studiesâ€? series are idiosyncratic portraits of human dynamics. Through images inspired by the body, electronics, comics, model kits, science, architecture, and other related systems, I am exploring the synaptic patterns negotiated in everyday interactions. Recorded, read, utilized, stored, amplified and disseminated, these traced pathways and points of interchange are subject to the complexities of flow and interruption over time. Constructed digitally, the act of composing these collected moments is experienced as a form of mapping. With this work, I am continuing to create a visual language for reflecting on the humor and conflict within situations.
TITLE: DANCE CARD
DATE: 2010 Media: oil on laser cut plexiglass, etched aluminum, and mirror This object is remade and scaled up from a 19th century silver and ivory dance card that is repurposed to some degree to expose events that are mapped to reflect a series of performative scores, and then engraved into the surface to elevate our awareness of quotidian rituals. The sequence chosen reflects evening rituals at home in the colder monthsâ€”making a pot of tea, making a fire, reading a book, and sleeping. While only a small number of the pages are contained and fanned open within the dance card object at one time, what is included can be exchanged, culling from the larger catalogue also on view.
IN/HABIT: MESSAGES TO A PAST PRESENT OR FUTURE
Year: 2010 Media: laser cut, black anodized and etched aluminum, enamel, and magnifying lens This is an interactive sculptural device reflecting on the structure of consciousness in everyday life. It examines the interrelationships between the physical, spoken, contemplative and emotional levels of experience at a particular moment in time. The passerby can adjust each layer to reflect their disposition, past, present or future. The piece was commissioned by Gerding Edlen Development Corporation and is located in the the Cyan Pdx building on Southwest 4th between Mill and Montgomery in Portland, Oregon. The â€œInstructions for Useâ€? information graphic was designed in collaboration with Zimco Design.
THERA WEBB ILLUSTRATION BY
Survive Winter In the land where we all go to die – where the soil under calloused feet meets bones dried white by sun – where you come with your shadow (a shadow’s heat: the temperature of skin; the temperature of the wolf’s tongue that licks the blade, blood melting ice where the handle froze; the temperature of clay taken too soon from the kiln) with your baby strapped to a board – where the pale grooved tooth, the whale tooth carved down palm size, is palmed in sequence of your prayers— where you stood on the cliffed red crag of ice where even plankton freeze—the sun blinds when you run, we can’t prove the snow will stop.
ALL WORKS FROM THE “8 SOUNDS” SERIES BY MARIO KOLARIC, 2010
Invocation Frost-bearded I come on the night when the wolves run together. Iced breath on hollow hair, light-refracting whitness in my eyes. Oh, soft chewed sinew my hand guide your needleâ€”guide me arrow straight tonight. Let your muscle memory make silence of the air. Let them never hear my footsteps on the fragile snow. Bright Moon, you look down on us all tonight. You shine, reverse iris of the sky, more brightly now. The path I walk rises up, branches scratch my skin, I can see them before me. In the clearing, muscles tense, I kneel.
Dreamâ€”water The deer running down the highway turn into your breath. The hurricane that touches land. You are part of it too. Your skin glows white in the shadows of the sky. If I could tell you I am this ship at sea the water parting around the coral-lipped fish that flash silent, through my heart. Beneath the pounding waves itâ€™s quiet. From the bottom I look up. See how your hands hold the water. Seaweed surrounds my face. The clouds break away. The rain begins again.
AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES GALLAGHER THE 22 MAGAZINE: Can you give me a little history about where you started out in art? JAMES GALLAGHER: I was an illustration major at S.V.A. (School of Visual Arts), with a
focus on printmaking, specifically monoprints. I loved the immediacy of that particular printing style, it worked nicely with my impatient personality. Soon after graduating I began my shortlived illustration career in the midst of a recession with a newborn baby to care for at home. With printmaking as my desired medium, it was extremely challenging finding the time and energy to get to a print shop for every piece I made. So, on the eve of a tight deadline I just began cutting apart old prints and piecing together my new assignment. I quickly realized that I was onto something. The surprising results that developed in my work completely reinvigorated my creativity. Very soon after that I had ditched the printmaking and focused completely on collage. Piecing these forms together turned out to be very therapeutic for me, it felt very comfortable and reminded me of my younger days when a jigsaw puzzle was my ultimate pleasure in life.
22: You currently teach at Parsons correct? JG: I teach a ‘digital presentation’ class at Parsons. It’s geared towards helping fourth year stu-
dents prepare for entering the professional world of art, illustration, and design. We build websites, plan promotional campaigns, and discuss best practices. Although the focus is not so much on their art per se, I do encourage them to keep pushing the boundaries of their desired style or medium. I think the exercises where they take completed projects and deconstruct them or repurpose them can lead to interesting discoveries about their work and themselves. Using my entrance into collage as an example, I urge them to rethink continually.
22: You also work with your son collaboratively? JG: My son Ryan is in his senior year at Pratt. He’s a painting major in their Fine Arts program.
We collaborated last year on an installation in Philadelphia. It was interesting to work side by side with him, he played off my imagery very nicely, and ultimately giving the piece more meaning. Ryan also traveled to Ireland with me earlier this year to help install one of the “Cutters” exhibitions that I curated.
22: In your work you use fashion mag adds and other obscure material along with some porno-
graphic content. What about slipping in this more obscene element appeals to you and what about it do you think appeals to the viewer?
JG: My art had been transitioning from commercial to fine art for some time. Finally, about ten
years ago, during a rather intense period in my life, I began to express myself in a much more perOPENING SPREAD: Swivel Step, 2007, COLLAGE ON PAPER LEFT: EamesL, 2008, COLLAGE ON PAPER
OPPOSITE PAGE: Kennedy Cards 1-4, 2005, COLLAGE ON PAPER ABOVE: Paris 4, 2009, COLLAGE ON PAPER
ABOVE: Dressed on Grey 2, 2007, COLLAGE ON PAPER TOP RIGHT: Drop Shorts, 2009, COLLAGE ON PAPER BOTTOM RIGHT: THE Frequency of Sexual Intercourse, 2011, COLLAGE OF PAPER OPPOSITE PAGE: Group Scene, 2008, COLLAGE ON PAPER
sonal manner. It became a theraputic and inspiring experience. Thankfully it was something that immediately connected with viewers. I began to explore the private world of human relationships, not only the physical but the emotional interactions. This was something that I was experiencing in my personal life at the time since I was newly single and dating for the first time in my adult life. My goal was to open the curtain and expose the secret behaviors that are performed on private stages all around us. When I capture that moment in time the viewer can project onto it his or her own experiences. It is interesting to hear such varied reactions to the work. It is a bit of a Rorschach test. I feel that the internet has taken the mystery out of sexuality. Iâ€™m trying to bring it back. I am interested in the thrill of a quick glimpse of something private, or a hint of sex lurking in the
shadows. Like an old sex manual that you would stumble upon in your parent’s bedroom. The tattered and sepia stained paper and the anonomyous relationships recall the gritty days of the seventies. Back when relationships were happening in the dark underground clubs rather than on the glowing computer screens.
22: You curated a show called “Cutters.” Who are some of the other collage artists from that show or working today that you admire?
JG: I started curating the “Cutters” shows in 2008. There has been three unique lineups with
shows in Brooklyn, Cork, and twice in Berlin. The most recent exhibition coincided with the release of a contemporary collage book entitled Cutting Edges, that I co-edited for Gestalten Publishers earlier this year. The catalyst for the first show was the huge folder of collage imagery that I had collected off the internet. I was starting to realize that there was something happening at the moment with this medium. I was interested in knowing more about the artists and thought that if I could propose a show to a local gallery I would have my chance. I pitched the idea to Cinders, a small artist run gallery in Brooklyn, and began the exciting process of getting in touch with like-minded artists all over the world. Since then there has been many friendships created and numerous collage exhibitions shown all over the world. There are so many collage artists that inspire me at the moment that it’s difficult to just name a few. Some of my favorites are Brion Nuda Rosch, Matt Lipps, Lief Low-Beer, Paul Burgess, April Gertler, Dani Levinthal, Erik Foss, Jason Glasser, Valero Doval, Liam Crockard, and the Spaniards: Maxomatic, Ruben B and Cless. Every one of the artists in the “Cutters” exhibitions had a unique way of juxtaposing found images and ideas, to create a range of work that encompasses everything from social and political commentaries to personal confessions, not to mention surrealist fantasies, composed of shreds from real life and from the imaginary.
A New Fast Paced Exciting Endeavor, 2011, COLLAGE ON PAPER
OPPOSITE PAGE TOP LEFT: Abroad, 2010, COLLAGE ON PAPER OPPOSITE PAGE TOP RIGHT: Girls 1, 2006 , COLLAGE ON PAPER OPPOSITE PAGE BOTTOM LEFT: Finance Series 2, 2011, COLLAGE ON PAPER OPPOSITE PAGE BOTTOM RIGHT: Strength Series 6, 2011, COLLAGE ON PAPER TOP LEFT: Threads, 2010, COLLAGE ON PAPER TOP RIGHT: Germany 2, 2005, COLLAGE ON PAPER LEFT: Black Bottom, 2005, COLLAGE ON PAPER
WORDS BY ROBERT Kulesz
COLLAGE BY CAPTAIN PANDAPANTS
She kept the giant reptile in a refrigerator box on the kitchen floor until the husband was forced to kill it. He petitioned repeatedly for a stronger box at least, to prevent it from escaping and sliding through the house, to no avail. She refused, so he was forced to kill it with a spear through the eye. Where he found a spear in this day and age is impossible to say. Perhaps it was a knife tied to a pole but not likely. It was too dangerous to attack a thick-skinned creature with a rigged contraption of this sort. “I have excellent instincts when it comes to things like this,” he insisted. “don’t you remember the Serhus children and the giant eel in the swimming pool?” “No.” “Don’t you remember anything?” he shouted and slammed the door so hard the house shook. His wife smiled. She knew he only acted like this when he was scared. She put the refrigerator box next to their little son’s bed one night while she sat in the side chair and finished her knitting for the day. In this way she could keep them both under her eye. Her husband padded down the soft carpet of the hallway to the boy’s room and poked his penumbral skull inside the doorway. “Why is the beast sleeping next to the boy?” His wife refused to see the danger in it; her calm defiance of his concern fueled the barely controlled fear and anger inside. “The box,” he urged in a low voice, “there’s nothing to hold him in that box!” He put a foot into the room. “These manufacturers think they can get away with all sorts of cheap crating nowadays!” She dismissed his fears because to her, the creature in the box made her think of something she couldn’t quite remember. It had to do with something other than marriage she decided, but trying to recall the thought was like trying desperately trying to hold a dream as it evaporated around you in the morning light of consciousness. “Then write the FreeZee Refrigerator people if you’re so bothered,” she replied. “It’s only natural the poor thing wants to get out and rend things. For God’s sake I would! It has absolutely nothing to do all day but lie inside that box.” It was a sorry proposition, she added, with pat satisfaction, but that’s life when there’s nothing to
do and nowhere to go. The husband eased into the room, standing in his white briefs and black socks by the darkened bed, agitated. He kicked the box, checking for holes by which the lurking thing might seek egress. The whole cardboard structure shifted slightly. He jumped back, nearly impaling himself on his wife’s knitting needles. The boy lay on the bed, dumbly asleep in his underwear and the box moved again. “Take it away, I want you to take it out now,” hissed the husband. “It’s too dangerous.” She knitted and smiled to herself because she knew he wouldn’t dare to take it away on his own. “I don’t know why you get so angry at me when you’re scared” she said. “When you get nervous you take it out on me. What did I do?” She placidly clicked her needles. “It’s your goddamn box,” he whispered two inches from her face, afraid the black reptile might hear him. “It’s about to devour our fat little future, lying right there next to it on the bed!” His eyes lit with primitive fear. “Is that what you want?” “You’re beginning to act like prey,” said his wife sweetly. “Watch yourself around the box.” The cardboard was tearing along the folds, near the red arrows where it said THIS SIDE UP, and the floorboards vibrated from the shifting weight of the beast inside. The boy rolled over on his side, exposing his chubby white waist. “Oh fine,” she said “you fraidycat! I’ll move it but you might want to get out of the way.” He retreated to the kitchen to pace and quietly swear. “Why would you want a blood-starved reptile in your home?” he wondered, staring at his reflection in the window over the sink. “It’s hardly rational.” He waited five minutes and padded back down the hallway to his son’s room. The boy was gone, the sheets of his bed smeared with blood, urine and lizard grease. The box was gone too. His wife was just coming back to collect her knitting things. “Mother of God how could you do this?” He put his hands to his head. “It ripped apart the boy while he was sleeping!” He dropped his hands. “Where is it?” He dropped to his knees and peered under the bed “Don’t be an idiot,” his wife replied. “I moved it like you asked. They’re just playing together. In the box.” Antediluvian monsters and human children are not marked by nature to be playmates—this he knew. In the darkened living room, the box lay next to the couch. There was no sign of the boy but the box stirred with inner motion. The arrows of THIS SIDE UP pointed towards a figure on the
couch. It was the husband’s mother in her underwear, sound asleep. His wife entered the room behind him. “For God’s sake why are you doing this and how could you do it to us—to me—don’t you know what’s going to happen?” His wife took a seat in the overstuffed chair by the window, her silhouette dark against the barely lit street outside. The house was silent but for the click of her needles. “This box,” he said, trying to stay calm “is not strong enough to hold such a creature. Time and again I say this yet you refuse to believe me. Or you pretend to believe me and you refuse to act. This thing knows it can break out now. It just devoured our child and you sit there like—” His mother snored stupidly in her underwear and he kicked the box, checking its structural integrity. “You think it can’t get out of here,” he pointed “but employ reason for just one moment and recognize that it escaped a short while ago and went on a rampage. It ate the boy. Did you see the sheets on the bed? This monster left his bloody signature all over them!” “Pretty fancy talk,” his wife answered “his bloody signature.” She clicked her needles at the box fondly. “How do you know anything?” Her husband ran from her through dizzy hallways, reeling against walls the color of
bleached bone which shone dimly in the dark. “I’m going to kill it do you hear me,” he cried over his shoulder. “I’m going to find something sharp and kill it before it eats one more soul!” “What are you getting so mad for?” she calmly shouted in reply. “It won’t hurt you.” A spear appeared from somewhere, probably from the basement where the family heirlooms rotted. The fishing and ship captain side of the family perhaps; all rough drinking men of the northern seas, spearing fish, and sinking the planet over. The husband had never gone fishing in his life. He came back to the darkened living room but the couch was empty. His mother, he supposed, was now “playing” with the creature. The silhouette of his wife sat in the chair staring out the window. Her needles had gone silent. “I wonder what’s out there,” she said to herself, hands resting in her lap. “It’s hard to tell in the dark with the streetlights not working. Sometimes I think they’re all gone.” “Where is it,” he asked “the box. Where did my mother go?” She made a weary motion. “I moved it to the kitchen. They’re resting.” “In eternity more like.” With his spear in hand, he made his way through the reeling dark passage to the kitchen. The giant box was on the floor next to the refrigerator. He kicked it and it shifted. The monster was in there wanting to come out, hungry, wanting something new to do in the husband’s house. What did she want from him, what did any of them want? Did she want him to be fearless like the men on TV? They don’t tell you that it’s stupid to be fearless. He sobbed and fell screaming onto the box, punching at it, breaking through the soft lettering, tearing at the heavy staples. A vaporous blast, the stench of decomposition, hit him full in the face. Something huge emerged, sliding across the floor heavily. He couldn’t make it out in the dark. The husband raised his spear and brought it down hard into the beast, thick and wet. He tugged and heard a soft pop. On the pointed end, the bulb of a beastly eye glowed. It was blue like his wife’s eyes. He poked around some more in the dark but heard only the tap of linoleum. He wandered back through the shadowed halls to the overstuffed chair by the living room window but his wife was gone. The knitting things were gone too, and for that matter the couch and all the other furniture had disappeared. Strings were loose on the wall where pictures had once hung. “I had to kill it,” he said out loud. “Before it destroyed everyone in the house.” The sound of his voice died in the carpet. 111
THE 22 MAGAZINE: Could you tell me a little about your background and how you started making art?
JOSEPH LEROUX: I grew up in Northern New York in a small town called Newton Falls, in
the Adirondack park, a couple hours away from the border. The town was very small and isolated, almost the opposite of what people think of as New York. When I finished high school I had played music for quite a few years with a wide range of musicians. A group that I was playing with had broken up and I decided that I would go to art school in an effort to find more musicians. At the time I thought I’d quit school and hit the road with a musical group of some kind. Of course that didn’t happen. I was not immediately as attracted to the visual arts as I was to playing guitar, drums, or singing on stage. That all changed when I took a first sculpture class at SUNY Potsdam under Doug Schatz. Up to this point I hadn’t realized a fascination deeply imbedded within me for objects. I loved the idea of tearing things apart and putting them back together, as well as working with raw materials. At Potsdam we did a lot of bronze pouring and it’s still a process that I am OPENING SPREAD: THE LANDING: HALO LEFT: THE LANDING: CONE ABOVE: THE LANDING: AMPLIFY
fascinated with. I felt at this point making art was just like writing songs except that it was a visual stimulus as opposed to audio. When I finished my degree at Potsdam I went right to work on my M.F.A. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and began looking at the scale of my work and the stillness of fine art in general. One of the things that excited me most about playing music was the live music experience, the amount of energy that is put out by a band and the audienceâ€™s reaction and regurgitation of that energy. I wanted to find a way to capture the energy seen in other areas of my creative practice and harness it within object/image based work.
22: What are some of your current materials?Â JL: The current materials that I use are varied and include: steel, street signage, industrial paint, quilting pins, acrylic, ink, drums, brass, logging saws, wood, rubber, and many found objects.
22: Many of your objects tread the line between mundane and extraordinary. Tell me a little about this dynamic.
JL: I think often of the things that I would be doing had I stayed in Newton Falls and worked at
the paper mill as many of my relatives and ancestors have done. I have a fascination for the materials and techniques of industry that I have never actually been involved with because of my choice to go to college. I wanted the tools, techniques, and materials that I would have been using in an industrial
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situation to become the materials that I would force myself to learn and use in an art situation. I have begun acquiring large industrial machinery and teaching myself how to use it. I think that the process of learning to use these tools, that would have been very familiar to older generations of my family, is a important to the final pieces of sculpture. My musical background has also lent me a vocabulary in which I can express ideas not only through sound but also through instruments, the people who use them, and the ephemera surrounding musical performances. A concert drum is very different than a drum set because of where it is literally placed, hierarchically and historically. Also Iâ€™m very interested in urban environments. I was raised in a place where I had to drive a half hour to see a traffic light. As soon as I began to hang out in places such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and NYC, I was very anxious, confused, and thrilled to be in situations that I was not at previously comfortable in. Billboards, skyscrapers, and the urban landscape visually excite me and spark many ideas for new work.
22: Is there a narrative or story line behind any of the series? JL: We are surrounded by objects, images, architecture, and cultural debris everyday. We are very
good at categorizing all of these things. I try hard to pay attention to scale, color, mobility, and other characteristics of these objects so that when I make a sculpture it is not completely unfamiliar. I want you to feel like you understand my objects even though they donâ€™t occur in your everyday experience. In The Landing and Conveyer I initially set out to do a few things. I wanted to create the objects/images that were artifacts from some kind of narrative or story. I wanted you to be able to look at the objects as a whole and begin to pick out similarities. In Landing I originally intended for the pieces to be performative. The objects would literally be moving in your space and you would be confronted by characters that are described through the objects that they are interacting with. I found that by leaving out the actual people or actors, you get to decide what your role in the narrative is. It allows you the option of interacting with the objects or being an outsider looking in on a set of objects from something totally foreign. With The Landing I used myself as a way of displaying the interactions with the objects partially because I felt that this body of work was more autobiographical. I originally intended to use other models but soon found that the model makes a huge difference on the pieces. All kinds of issues arise dependent on the race, culture, appearance, sex, etc of the model and so in the end I decided to use myself as a kind of blank canvas for the interactions with these objects. The Landing is also loosely based around the idea of a narrative. The interesting thing for me is that I donâ€™t feel as if I have to follow the conventional rules of telling a narrative. I was very interested in the idea that these pieces were props or artifacts from a larger narrative, which is mostly based on my experiences in life. In this show I also set it up so that the viewer could walk up and interact with the props. The large images of myself interacting with these objects gave the viewer an idea of how to interact with the objects.
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JONATHAN WOOD VINCENT
“People are like why are you doing this? What’s the point? At the same time it’s the only thing that seems for a brief mome art is better than not art. Not art doesn’t allow you to collaborate, it throws answers in your face. Art creates more questi
ent to feel real. Art is where we have the opportunity to invite others to share in a new idea of reality. Iâ€™m not saying ions.â€?
AN INTERVIEW WITH JONATHAN WOOD VINCENT THE 22 MAGAZINE: I’d love for you to tell me a little about your history first if you
Jonathan Wood Vincent: History as in artistic history? 22: Yes, maybe just when you started playing music? JWV: I grew up outside of Baltimore and I was already writing music by the age of six. I wrote some-
thing for piano called “Mysterious Island.” I started piano lessons when I was five but I had already made up my own little [language], notating stuff, and I was already improvising. I was really excited about piano lessons. My first teacher had a house that smelled awful, I remember. My third teacher, David Holmes, was cool. He introduced me to Schoenberg and Morton Feldman. He also taught piano to Greg Saunier, the drummer for Deerhoof. Then I started playing the French horn and singing in chorus when I was in middle school. My grandfather, Theodor Uppman, was an opera singer so there was a professional musician in the family. There was a belief in my family that music was really important, at least classical music. It was considered a serious endeavor.
22: Your grandfather played the first Billy Budd [Benjamin Britten’s opera]? JWV: Yes, in England, and he sang in the company at the Met, but he never sang Billy Budd at the
Met. His whole family was singers. They were from Sweden. His older brother was supposdly one of Al Capone’s favorite singers and he was an actor. He acted in a movie about this guy all strung out on moonshine and he ended up becoming an alcoholic in real life before he started painting watercolors. My grandfather’s family is a bunch of really interesting people.
22: And your father was a singer? JWV: No, my mother sings, but my father is a chemist. A physical chemist at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I went to college there because the tuition was free.
22: And Papacookie is named after your parents or your grandparents? [Papacookie is the concert salon series curated at Jonathan’s home in The Belnord apartments on the Upper West Side.The Belnord is presently suing Jonathan, trying to evict him and the series is on hiatus and looking for alternate venues.]
JWV: My grandparents. My grandfather was named “Cookie” because my sister thought he sounded like Cookie Monster when he sang and also because he would do this Cookie Monster voice when we were kids. My sister named my grandmother “Papa,” because my grandfather sang Papagano from OPENING SPREAD: PHOTO BY Richard Daniel Bergeron
Mozart’s The Magic Flute and there’s this song, “Pa-Pa-Pa...” that he’d sing to my grandmother a lot. People often get confused when I say my grandmother’s name is Papa. She didn’t really like it either.
22: Your grandparents are the ones that originally lived here, in this apartment? JWV: Yeah, they moved here in 1962. It was really different around the Upper West Side then. They moved here to be closer to my grandfather’s work. There were more middle class professional artists living around here then.
22: Did they have an artists series or were they simply just surrounded by artists? JWV: Not an artist series, but they had people play here. Leonard Bernstein came by. Benjamin Britten stayed here every now and then, along with Peter Pears. People would come and perform, but they wouldn’t have concerts like I have exactly, more like concert/cocktail parties. More like the opera world. Lots of make-up. There was a scene but I was really young and don’t remember much.
22: Were you in New York at the time? JWV: I was mostly around Baltimore, but I would visit often and meet some people...I met Sidney
Cowell, Henry Cowell’s wife. Henry Cowell used to come up here a lot. He dedicated his New Musical Resources to my grandmother’s father. My mother used to go and help catalogue stuff for Cowell. Through him, she met American composers, including John Cage. Moondog did stuff two floors up with the woman who still lives there now.
22: They recorded up there? JWV: She played cello with him. One floor down the Marx family used to have concert salons for new music composers, mostly from Columbia University. I remember them but I was kind of still growing up. The town that I grew up in was called Columbia, Maryland. The actor Edward Norton’s grandfather, James Rouse, started it. It was a planned community. In the town center, it had one of the first big sprawling mall complexes. And it has pyramids. Columbia was one of the first planned urban communities in the sixties. It was built in 1967. It has it’s own symbol, which is this people tree. This tree of people...
22: That sounds kind of horrific! JWV: Yeah, (laughs) it looks like they’re all on fire and exploding. You can see it in the downtown area.
It’s interesting. The town wasn’t suburban but it wasn’t the city, it was something else. You could walk everywhere, you could bike everywhere, there were paths connecting the whole town. The town center was in the middle and around it were “the villages”. A lot of them were named after poets and then in each village there would be a certain number of neighborhoods, also named after writers or poets. Mine
was named for Robert Frost poems. The street names are funny: “Satan’s Run”, “The Bowl”, “Baby Harp Seal Way.” My elementary school didn’t have any walls inside. Did your school have walls?
22: Yes. Was it just one giant room? JWV: There were partitions, but often they wouldn’t even have walls at all. Anyways, I feel like that
had a lot of influence. I grew up with a math class in one ear and a reading class in the other and something else behind me. That guy James Rouse is the same guy who designed South Street Seaport, Harbor Place, and Faneuil Hall in Boston. He had this utopian idea about Columbia. People in Columbia had this funny reverence for him.
22: And Columbia is still going strong? JWV: No, it was bought by this other corporation. Incidentally, one of Animal Collective’s albums
was named after the big concert place there called Merriweather Post Pavilion, in Columbia. At first it was where the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra used to do its thing in the summers but then they started having more pop music. It was cool because I could stand in my backyard and hear it pretty clearly. Every year at a certain time, The Grateful Dead would come through town— they got banned later on but at the time the whole town was covered in Deadheads.
22: That’s funny. The utopian town covered in Deadheads. JWV: Yeah, it was really funny. It was nice though, I was grateful. There was also this concert series
that my parents helped with sometimes that brought in groups like the Arditti and Kronos Quartets. I was hearing really good music a lot, and I started going to this summer camp for composers when I was younger, called The Walden School.
22: I think I’ve heard of it. JWV: It is affiliated with Peabody and San Francisco Conservatory. 22: Was it a one time thing or did you go every summer? JWV: I went four summers in all, but not in a row. I’m not sure how my parents got the money for
that. My father wasn’t even a full professor. I think I had a scholarship maybe? Maybe it was cheaper back then.
22: What did your mother do? JWV: She was a special education teacher in public schools. She’s retired now.
22: Did you go to any schools beyond The Walden School? JWV: I went to Baltimore School for the Arts, briefly, but my teenage years were messed up. I went a little crazy and ended up going to schools you go to when you do bad things...
22: Reformatory? JWV: Not quite like that, more like nuthouses...I didn’t go to high school and I didn’t even do much
music then. I did and I didn’t. I guess I didn’t really know what was going on, just trying to survive. In places like that [the institutions] you get used to living in a ridiculous but weirdly comfortable system and you end up just kind of living in that system for years after. It’s sort of the way things go. Even when you are an adult. After a few years, I was in a place where you got to go home on the weekends. When I went home I wouldn’t have friends. I would just go on really long walks, smoke cigarettes, and listen to music. I listened to the most unusual stuff I could possibly get my hands on. I don’t why, I just felt drawn towards that. I would walk through endless fields of tall weeds while listening to things like Einsturzende Neubauten, Diamanda Galas and The Swans. I used to go to the library and get all the composers that seemed the most obscure. For a while I was composing, and then I stopped when I went crazy, and then I met Kelli Williams. She was this artist at the Maryland Institute of Art and you know you go through life thinking “I’m making this completely useless thing,” and though my parents were really supportive of the arts, after awhile of acting crazy they were more supportive of my not acting crazy. I think my whole family was really going insane at that time, as a group, but Kelli was brilliant, she got into the Maryland Institute of Art at fifteen and right now she’s painting all these wild things, these super pornographic paintings. She’s really successful. She believed in what I was doing and inspired me to start composing a lot more. I went back to the Walden School for the last year or two years of high school. I ended up going back to a normal high school, very briefly. Now, it’s kind of all a blur. I finally ended up going to college at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I met the composer and professor Stuart Saunders Smith there. I wasn’t even really that interested in college or being alive at all, but it was free because my father worked there and I was like, OK, I’ll go check it out, and I walked into the room and this guy was so inspiring. I had no idea what I could do and he introduced me to playing music that was incredibly complex. His rhythms would often consist of seven lines at the same time as another five lines or something like that, and you had to carefully figure out how it all worked in your fingers and your ears and how to play it. We did group composition performances. I found people I could improvise with. I was transcribing, all sorts of different things. He got me a gig to write a marimba and vibraphone duet for this group that won The Gaudeamus Competition in Europe. It’s this big new music and performance thing. It just [all] opened up this huge new world. I was just halfway dead after my high school years and then [later] Stuart brought Toby Twining to teach. Toby is a choral music genius. He writes everything in just intonation. Do you know Ben Johnston, one of Harry Parch’s students?
22: Yeah, yeah.
JWV: Toby Twining studied with him. Toby recently lived here, at Papacookie [my apartment] for a
little while. He was just moving back to New York and stayed here for a bit which was cool because I got to listen to his group and wow, it was just really beautiful stuff. Back in college, we sang microtonal music with him as well and Medieval and early Renaissance choral music. Stuart Smith would also write these systems of organization that could be used by any time-based performance medium. You could also even paint something using them and not perform. You could be a dancer and follow these scores, a musician, anything and so we had this group of friends that we would create these pieces together. It was really wonderful. I have a strong feeling and belief in there is a discipline that is necessary for the arts in their own world but finding these different ways of being involved in another medium, and another, and another, and how they relate is great because it opens up new ways of making music and art. For example, music is theater, dance, mise-en-scene, and a philosophy in action. There is this combination, that’s all very important. I also met Zack Fuller in college, and we’ve worked together for almost twenty years now. Zack was definitely a huge influence in my life and he ended up at U.M.B.C. in his late twenties after singing in hardcore and thrash metal bands in D.C. and working with the Polish Laboratory Theater director Grotowski’s pupil Ryszard Cieslak in the eighties. He danced with Min Tanaka’s company later on. A lot of people there were older. It wasn’t like when you go to a private school and everybody is the same age. You could just go in and practice and use the facilities relatively unsupervised. It was a really neat place. It’s a different place now. A lot less free. Next, I went to the New England Conservatory. At the time I was playing a huge amount of music, but most of it was my own music and newly composed music. If it was jazz, it was way out there stuff. I thought I needed a more practical education, so I went to the Contemporary Improvisation Department. You learn everything by ear; by singing it first. I didn’t even play piano for awhile. Which kind of worked in a way as I had developed a nervous complex about the piano and I was almost unable to play for a year or so. Instead I was learning to sing a zillion pieces. Jazz solos, Klezmer, Turkish and Greek stuff. And I got an accordion. I hung out with this brilliant teacher, composer, reed player Joe Maneri who was really helpful, and I met Katt Hernandez, she’s a violinist and composer, and we improvised together. We did a huge amount of work together.
22: What’s going on with your current work? JWV: Ah, yes well this leads very well into it! I was in Boston and Joe Maneri was really into micro-
tonal music and a particular approach to music that worked perfectly for him, but I didn’t want to be a disciple. I loved it but the avant-garde world is a very small world and I started getting frustrated and lonely. I wanted to experience more of the world. So I started playing with more singer/songwriters, more conventional musical scenes. This was in Boston. I lived in Boston from 1997- 2005. I did things like an apocalyptic rock opera, and two mini-cabarets musicals: one based on Jean Genet’s, The Maids and the other one based on Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal. I started working with people doing a wider range of stuff. I was an accordionist for this mainstream alt country singer named Eileen Rose and I kind of wanted to do more of that stuff but I was trying to do my own music at the same time. I wanted to write songs and I wanted to sing so I started doing that, very badly. I really didn’t feel confident writing pop songs until later when I moved to New York in 2005. At the time, the band U.S. Ma-
ple was a big influence, but they’re a rare thing. Their songs are disjointed but intricate, really thought out but visceral songs that were not rock or classical or pop or anything but themselves. I could relate to their influences. I even transcribed some of their songs. Their album Talker was produced by Michael Gira from the Swans, so some teenage obsessions were also connected to it.
22: Do you consider your work pop songs? JWV: They’re so much more poppish than anything I ever did before. “New Friends,” that’s pretty pop
song stuff. Or at least folk songish. I played in this Jacques Brel cover band in Boston, and so Scott Walker became an influence. I think the immediacy and power of rock ‘n’ roll is really wonderful but also limiting to people. For a long time my songs kind of came out of a desire to not write anything down. Every time I wrote music down I felt I needed to make it into something permitted by my education. So I just wanted to do whatever I could remember, or came easily for me and then it would slowly grow that way. There’s an idea of finding the immediacy of what people like in rock ‘n’ roll. What I mean by rock ‘n’ roll is something like Iggy Pop. Just accepting the first thing that feels right. Iggy comes from a jazz aesthetic. In some jazz there’s a tacit belief that playing music is revelation of truth. I don’t know if I believe that or if I believe in anything I could really describe but I’ve experienced a taste of it, a trust in something immediate. I was trying to find something like that and that’s what these new things [the album] are all about.
22: A lot of times your work sometimes seems like a discussion with the audience or talking about daily life or routines, “New Friends,” “Tall Trees,” etc?
JWV: Yeah, and a lot of my live performances are like that. I think it’s because performance is a really
strange thing. Nowadays people believe everything needs to be documented but the best stuff I’ve ever witnessed in my life no one will every know about because no one every recorded it. The idea of being a person in the world performing as a musician is really perplexing because there are these paradigms of local, popular heros, and there is the belief that there are scenes. But each performance is here and gone. Even here with Papacookie we have people and do things and there’s this idea that it’s a community but it’s not, really its just people coming to a particular place. It’s always ending. If I have a goal, its that I can have this place to make what I can wherever I can find it, here or in some other place, and I’m really lucky now to have it. I didn’t grow up with tons of money, and I’m just lucky to have Papacookie now and I want to share it with people. I have this idea, maybe it’s ridiculous, that when people do perform here in this luxurious sort of place that they are getting this idea of accessible luxury and so they’ll be used to it, and they won’t be intimidated or daunted by it. As far as being a performer in the world, we’re kind of like whores, there’s an idea that we have to be up there giving them something. I don’t believe you can give anyone anything that they don’t make for themselves. But we’re all necessarily entrepreneurs now and we can all be barons or dukes or avant-luminaries and musicians. We put ourselves together and brand and groom ourselves to get ready to be lucky to be chosen, like some cargo cult. In a way I’m doing it because I want to share what I am doing and I love it, but I’m confused by the process of transmitting art. And someone said to me recently that people really stop
listening after they turn thirty or so and I was barely writing songs before I turned 30. He also said music might be finished, that maybe we had 700-800 years of music and we’ve just got mood music and metronomes now. But I do want to try to be a person in the world too. My grandfather groomed himself and he got lucky, but I’m too attracted and repulsed by it. There’s an idea that as a performer you have to be giving something. I don’t think you can give anyone anything that they don’t make for themselves. In other cultures, like in West Africa they have griots. They had a very particular place in the culture. Here, it’s sometimes like one big game. There’s nothing wrong with things being a game but when I write something, I’m really perplexed by it. Why it is in the world? In a way I’m doing it because I want to share what I am doing. I want to explore it. Yet there’s always a paradigm in performing. Like renown in a particular scene or city. It’s like crabs pulling each other down and pushing each other in a barrel of boiling water. You get nervous about going to this show or that show and every single moment is a part of a career.
22: It’s a game with no rules sometimes. JWV: Yeah, if you know that you are playing, it can be fun perhaps. The only billionaire artists are
Steven Spielburg and George Lucas, so obviously, nobody really wants anybody to become an artist in this country. People are like why are you doing this? What’s the point? At the same time it’s the only thing that seems for a brief moment to feel real. Art is where we have the opportunity to invite others to share in a new idea of reality. I’m not saying art is better than not art. Not art doesn’t allow you to collaborate, it throws answers in your face. Art creates more questions.
PHOTO BY Richard Daniel Bergeron
LISTEN TO STRANGER TAPES #2 LONG BROOMS OF INFINITE HORSE
LISTEN TO JONATHAN WOOD VINCENT AND FRIENDS VOLUME I
WORK WITH ZACK FULLER: INTO THE SHINY BATTLE STATIONS OF THEE HEADWOUND/ SHAVING CREAM BLOODLINE IN THE SNOW
THE 22 MAGAZINE: Tell me a little about your background? Where you grew up? Where you went to school? How you first got started in art?
KYLE COFFIN: I was raised in upstate New York in a rural community bordering Ontario, Canada
and the Akwesasne-Mohawk reservation. My hometown was a factory town once, but several of these industrial plants have closed over the last decade. This led to a dramatic decline in the population and the inability to maintain the prosperity our community once had. My mother and father have supported my desire to pursue a career in the arts for as long as I can remember. I felt confident about my capabilities with drawing; my father and my brother had a natural ability to draw, which pushed me to practice more. I went to the State University of New York at Potsdam for a B.F.A. in Painting and then New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico for my M.F.A. in painting; both of which were smaller, traditional, figurative schools that really challenged artists to work as authentically and conceptually sound as possible.
22: What led you to want to work with your current materials? KC: Painting and drawing are one in the same, and it’s with painting I feel the most effective. I start
with nothing, a blank canvas, white paper, and I construct everything from scratch and it’s all in my control.
22: Who are your inspirations for the portraits? KC: Some are family, some are historically based. The thread I find between these seemingly different
bodies of work has to do with the fleeting nature of the portrait and the anxiety that goes along with the photograph. It also hints at what we sometimes take for granted as a society in the fast-paced lives we lead. The portraits that sparked the beginning of the “Ghosts” series were from Southworth and Hawes’ daguerrotypes of an anonymous young girl. The sharp/blurred focus of the image resonated with me and led me to reconstruct them into paintings and bring new life to these lost relatives. After some time these anonymous relatives seem like family, or at least it feels that way.
22: What got you started painting structures and decay? Does your environment reflect any of the paintings?
KC: The structures and decay are reminiscent of where I grew up and what I call home. I began to
see the economy’s impact on my community-the industrial plants closing, friends moving away. Some of these plants have been gone for years already. I saw these abandoned spaces as a stage and a way to keep my roots always present in my work, a way to keep it honest. For awhile I had only been working with the figure and using it to do all of the talking so I eliminated the figure for awhile. Then I began to see the language that was present with the absence of the figure, a history that I could get at through the structures and decay that was at times more powerful to me than the figure. OPENING SPREAD: Remnants, 2008, OIL ON PANEL LEFT: LAWYER, 2010, OIL ON PANEL
THIS PAGE: PORCH, 2008, OIL ON PANEL
OPPOSITE PAGE: SPECTRE, 2010, OIL ON PANEL
SHUTTER, 2008, OIL ON PANEL
22: What was the inspiration behind your “Reinvesting the Loss” series ? KC: This series was also sparked by my interest in the Daguerrotype, which soon led me to investigate my own family’s pictorial history and remnants from the early 1900’s. During the infant stages of this research, my father died suddenly and unexpectedly. The series shifted to my relationship with him and what I perceive as symbols of our masculinity. The study had changed from a historical journey and a vehicle to explore ideas about painting to become a grieving process.
22: Tell me a little about your degree in Mortuary Science. KC: I am currently pursuing the degree in Mortuary Science because I have always had an interest
in the industry and see it as a way to help people and be inspired daily. When I started getting serious about painting I made a series of autopsy/casket portraits, they didn’t work out at the time but I knew there was something about that series that was complete. I see the “Reinvesting the Loss” series I am currently engulfed in tied directly to what a funeral director deals with on a daily basis. Funeral directors help families cope with grief and the loss of loved ones everyday and I imagine this influence being the next step for my paintings.
22: Can you talk a little more about the symbols of “masculinity” used to commemorate your father.?
SOMBER, 2010, OIL ON PANEL
KC: The masculine symbols present in this series are really like trophies or lack thereof. The guns
and bucks were where the pride of my father and his dad flourished, they thought this was what made them men. I don’t think they consciously thought this or told anyone but I could see it in my father’s eyes when he had shot a buck or mounted its head on a plaque. I know the image of them and their kill was how my father and grandfather would want to be remembered so there is that aspect to the paintings. Also, I never hunted anything or had that to share with my father, which is a bond that many fathers and sons share and I regret that I didn’t get to share that moment with him.
22: Did you finish the research of your family history? KC: I feel that the preliminary research is complete, I have gathered a lot of imagery that I just haven’t
had the time to make. At this point, I can make really personal images from my family’s archive but I am searching for the images that have something that everyone can relate to.
22: Can you explain the idea of the “anxiety” behind the portrait? Does it harken back to the old fear of the camera stealing the soul?
KC: I think that there is that sense of stealing the soul and we also have to consider the amount of time it took to take the photograph. They had to hold that pose for such a long time; the easiest expression
to hold is that stern, dispassionate look that translates to “anxious” today. I think people generally view the blank facial expression as a sign that something is wrong or cause for concern. I see that blank expression as more open to various interpretations, and for me that attention a portrait receives actually gives me a lot of anxiety. The overwhelming amount of pictures of ourselves that come out over social networking sites or the ease involved in taking photographs leaves us feeling like there is a lot of pressure associated with how we are presenting ourselves to the world.
22: You talk about these anonymous relatives seeming like family. Do you think there is a collective history we all see in portraiture and painting?
KC: I think we can admire images so much that they become like family because we spend so much time understanding them and what they symbolize for us. With the portrait, I think most people try to capture the moment that defines and includes everything about the person that they can into one image.
22: You talk about structures and decay that at times seem more powerful than the figure. Why do think this is? Particularly for you and your history with these spaces surrounding you?
KC: I feel like the structures and decay seem more powerful than the figure because they are at times
out of our control and they have a tendency to impact your impression of things. If things fall apart around you physically, they can unconsciously shape your personality. I think you cannot help but be influenced by your surroundings and for me it became part of my artistic process to investigate that connection.
22: What is the current state of your hometown? KC: My hometown has been through a lot of changes with the current state of our economy. Every
small industrial town seems to have went through a lot of changes, it’s really devastating to see the place that we once knew deteriorate before our eyes.
22: What are you currently working on? KC: I am currently working on smaller pieces that will inform larger pieces in the “Reinvesting the Loss” series as I pursue my degree in Mortuary Science. Since I just finished my M.F.A. this past spring, I am working on pieces that I have wanted to make that didn’t fit into what I was trying to accomplish in art school. The most exciting thing about art school for me was the wave of ideas that you have in working intimately with other artists, now I feel more freedom to make as many different bodies of work as possible.
LEFT: NOCTURNAL, 2010, OIL ON PANEL
â€œThere are some symbols that are both in Western and Japanese tradition. The top of the mountain has been associated the dead and the supernatural. Both are rooted in classical thoughts that are associated with the patriarchy. I donâ€™t thin
d with immortality within Western thought. In Japanese culture it is a psychic space where shamans communicate with nk I can negate these ideas altogether but love to derange them in my own context. â€?
AN INTERVIEW WITH KIKUKO TANAKA Kikuko Tanaka’s work examines love, violence, and death through oriental and occidental philosophies. She recently had her first solo show at Vox Populi art space in Philadelphia. This interview was conducted between J.D. Siazon and Kikuko Tanaka.
JD SIAZON: Who is your greatest artistic inspiration? KIKUKO TANAKA: Hmmm. My work is very inter-textual. My inspiration come from works in
various genres as well as social phenomena, and a series “A Tragic Bambi” is my psychic autobiography based on my encounters with these sources. There is not one path of inspiration. For example, the second episode of “A Tragic Bambi,” “Traumatic Encounter Forever!” is explicitly based on a stanza from “Les Chants de Maldoror” by Comte de Lautreamont and a Japanese traditional puppet play Double Suicide. Both portray love as an impossibility and death-driving force. Castration, which has been discussed within psychoanalytic theories as well as feminist discourses, is also one of the themes that repeatedly appear in my work through images of decapitation, dismemberment, the wound as well as through barbecued meat. One of the performers of “Traumatic Encounter Forever!” is derived from the Creature of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, which offers a variety of interpretations by itself. For me, the Creature is a nightmare of Utopia that is actually enacted. It is dismembered bodies assembled together; the state of oneness that lovers long for. Of course, the most obvious source of inspiration throughout “A Tragic Bambi” is Disney’s Bambi, which reiterates patriarchal ideology, based on murder of the mother. Some of my inspirations are contradictory, and most of them are subjects of criticism. I’m not interested in proposing a “correct” model through my work, but in connecting seemingly incompatible ideas and deranging then in my own context.
JDS: What does your art convey about utopia? KT: Utopia is an important theme throughout my work. As the word reveals, we find that utopia
is “nowhere”, which does not exist. It is sometimes the place that is lost even prior to its attainment, and obviously utopia reflects desire enacted through impossibility and loss. I believe many of our activities in various spheres function as temporal enactments of utopias. My work exhibits a trope of utopian elements death, sexual ecstasy, enactment of symbiotic mother and child relationships, a state of immanence/transcendence through repetition, political protests, festivity and communion-like food serving–out of my own emotional need to know through rehearsal, and also as a form of self-criticism through a joke. What differentiates Japanese and American artists?
KT: I’ve been living in New York for the last ten years, and American people are still a mystery to me.
There are certainly cultural differences but I believe that we are NOT opposites. Because of the guilt
ALL IMAGES FROM “A TRAGIC BAMBI”
of the past colonialism, which is still exploited through global corporatism, and the West’s own cultural deconstruction, I notice that some Americans turn to non-Western cultures and fetishize them in order to escape their own guilt. Yet, even before globalism and web-communication, both Westerners and non-Westerners have never held clearly “opposite” positions. Oppositions were created by the mind of those who want to see non-Westerners as opposites in order to define themselves as the other. I grew up in Japan until I was 22 years old, and I have lived in the United States since then. It is very natural for me to to pull from both from Japanese and Western cultural icons and symbols. Both cultures give me a certain sense of identification as well as alienation.
JDS: Where did you get the idea for the piece Museum Flood and how did it lead you to make a urine fountain sculpture?
KT: Actually, this idea came from a retrospective association of two dreams I saw in consecutive nights. In the first dream, I’m pushing a broken bicycle that is also a roller coaster up a steep mountain. In the second, I wander through a dark museum during off-hours and find that there is a flood flowing from a closed exhibition room. Later, these two dreams merged and became a motif that I repeat in several works within “A Tragic Bambi.” The performances of both “Mother’s Tears” and “Traumatic Encounter Forever!” end with the museum announcement that requires the audience’s 152
evacuation from the museum due to flooding. There are some symbols that are both in Western and Japanese tradition. The top of the mountain has been associated with immortality within Western thought. In Japanese culture it is a psychic space where shamans communicate with the dead and the supernatural. Both are rooted in classical thoughts that are associated with the patriarchy. I don’t think I can negate these ideas altogether but love to derange them in my own context.
JDS: Why do you depict open wounds in your art? KT: From the very beginning, “A Tragic Bambi” involved wounds because it had something to do
with decapitation and dismemberment. But it wasn’t in my conscious mind until much later. It was in 2009 that I started a series of small sculptural studies of wounds, which are made through the repetition of egg-like shapes. It came very spontaneously in order to express my own psychic sense of injury. Later, I encountered psychoanalytic theories of the subject enacted by injury, as well as the wound as female sex. It became a theme I consciously explore and reflect upon. Do you consider yourself a rebellious artist?
KT: Not at all. I create artwork through compassionate identifications with others. I am even skepti-
cal about art’s tendency to attribute artistic merits in “rebelliousness” against the past and presumed authority. I consider it infantile. Some historians consider modern art history to be a series of “patricides,” and try to define Modernism as a complete “break” from the previous era. Some post-modern critics also theorize post-modernism as a “rupture” from modernism. My work repeatedly alludes to the idea of castration—the death of Man. Yet, my intention is not to rebel against presumed authority in a straightforward sense, but to examine how subjects of resistance are constructed and create meanings. For me, art is a form of knowledge as well as a process toward knowledge. Yet, I do not take a position of criticizing existing social structures in the pretence of my immunity from them.
JDS: What would your dream project be? KT: I have several projects that I am planning right now: two video projects and a new episode called
“Poultry Paradise and its Discontents.” I don’t know which one to make first yet. Too many ideas and too little time…..Let’s go and make them!
POEMS FOR ROBERT FRANK’S “THE AMERICANS” by Yuko Otomo
ROOMING HOUSEâ€”BUNKER HILL, LOS ANGELES It is a play. I am an actor. I am on a stage. I am costumed, as directed, in a dark suit with a hat & a cane. I say nothing, hiding partially under the weathered wooden staircase. A curtain is up with the late afternoon air as its only audience. A room is free & empty. The season is unknown. I stay motionless till the air flow changes to shift the angle of light/darkness of the day.
NEW YORK CITY A man is a woman & a woman is a man. Only when you hide your face, the world reveals itself clearly to you. Human hipbones, harder than those iron fences, wind swifter, wiser & faster than fish bones do. Troubles; pranks; tricks. A woman is a man & a man is a woman & feet are minds & eyes are feet. “Where is today’s catch?”
VIEW FROM HOTEL WINDOW—BUTTE, MONTANA I was here once. Who was I with? I have no recollection. But, I remember how my heart ached when I saw the devastation of human lives & its resulting landscape outside my hotel window. Was I with a man? Or was I with a woman? Was I with a friend? Or was I with a lover? I have no memory. But, I can never forget the way my soul trembled when I breathed in the grey silence of the flat roofs & cruel, clumsy insignificant chimneys. I don’t remember what day it was, but I remember that I was shattered totally by the fragile beauty of the fluttering curtains that divided my room from the view outside. “People live here.” I remember muttering to the one next to me. I don’t remember who it was, but I remember that we were once definitely here together.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MARCUS KENNEY THE 22 MAGAZINE: Where did you grow up in Louisiana? MARCUS KENNEY: I was born in Franklin Parrish which is north of Baton Rouge in a little iso-
lated community named Cooter Point. Cooter Point is the area where the Bayou Macon and the Tensas River converge. I grew up in the middle of two cultures. My mother’s family are Catholic Cajuns and commercial fisherman, and my father’s are Protestants and farmers. We lived on my dad’s farm and I spent a great deal of time searching for Native American artifacts in the soil. I found hundreds of arrow heads and tools over the years.
22: Did your childhood affect your outlook or work in any way? MK: Its hard to signify exact elements but for sure there are many aspects of my work that I pull
directly from my own history. The taxidermy pieces for example are a direct response to my mom’s decoration of a large buck she has displayed in her home. Each season she will attire it with appropriate décor such Santa hats and Mardi Gras beads, etc. I lived on the banks of the Bayou Macon and often experienced large snakes and alligators, so there was always the presence of danger which tends to find its way into my narrative work. I went to the same school building from kindergarten through high school and graduated with the same 22 kids that I began with. I think it is those types of things that are expressed in my work. I was not exposed to art or culture outside of what was created around me but I was allowed a lot of freedom to roam the countryside and the rivers. That lead to many situations and experiences that very few will ever have.
22: Tell me about Savannah. How did you end up there? What about it appeals to you? MK: I had a friend from college that transferred to S.C.A.D. [Savannah College of Art and Design]. I had recently graduated from University of Louisiana Monroe, so I tagged along. A short while later I enrolled at S.C.A.D. and earned an M.F.A. in Photography. After graduation I weighed the option of New York and the other major cities and decided that Savannah had all the necessities I needed to have a career and raise a family. Because of my involvement with S.C.A.D. and the art community I have been able to have dinner with Robert Rauschenberg, spend an evening with Dan Cameron, have Nick Cave visit my studio, and party with DJ Spooky. That is the advantage to living in Savannah as opposed to larger city. It is small enough that it doesn’t overwhelm and still gives me access to exciting things.
22: Tell me a little about the provocative nature of your work and how people respond to it. MK: I try to make my work rounded enough that it is able to be provocative and aesthetically pleas-
ing at the same time. I love getting responses to my work that vary greatly from the general perceived interpretation. It seems because most of the art world is thought of as being liberally biased that art is
too often read within that pretext. However if the viewer has a belief in an opposing version of a political hot topic they may see something supporting their view and I am completely open to that. Otherwise art becomes propaganda. I have no interest in choosing a side and making work to promote a particular view. As a contemporary American artist I want to create works that convey the times in which we live. Sometimes there is success. I have had people give opposing views of the same work of art and be so sure that they knew exactly what I was thinking when I created it. I think when I am most successful it really becomes about the viewer and all of Marcus Kenney is swept aside. The most recent work is getting away from the overt political and moving into different directions.
22: What is your idea of kitsch? Do you think you work within the realms of that? MK: I hope not but I could see on first glance where the viewer would go there. If the appropriate
attention is dedicated to my work I donâ€™t see how anyone could stop at kitsch. People confuse kitsch with craft and that is a mistake. I think kitsch is a modern disorder that a culture who has lost all hope suffers from. Let us make ourselves feel better by filling our lives with meaningless things.
22: Is there any particular reason you use children more often than adults in your work? MK: I think I was doing what I was familiar with. I have three children and it seemed natural. I am evolving out of that phase now.
22: Do you think your artwork is a commodity? MK: Of course my work is a commodity. Our culture has to attach a value to everything to make it seem meaningful.
22: Tell me a little about your recent taxidermy series? MK: I grew up in a hunting family so having deer around the house were quite common. As I said
before, each season my mother decorated the taxidermy with the appropriate holiday attire. It seemed natural to the evolution of my work to create my own version. I obviously have taken it to another level by embellishing taxidermy to present the animals as deified beings instead of a trophy that symbolizes conquest. A deer adorned with the trappings of royaltyâ€”a pearly headdress and a lace backdropâ€”is no ordinary deer. I am interested in transforming the animals into more than a trophy and into something that resonates beyond the material aspects and deeper into the spiritual not unlike altarpieces or relics. I try to give each one its own particular identity and work in a way that the sculptures develop themselves over the course of several months. Items brought into my studio tend to find their way onto a particular work as if it belonged there since its inception. I have found this way of working quite rewarding considering my previous two dimensional work was mostly narrative. These have allowed me to work a lot more intuitively and let the pieces themselves dictate the direction a piece follows.
OPENING SPREAD: Nature’s Super Friends, 2004, mixed media OPPOSITE PAGE TOP LEFT: Defend Boundaries (Establish Validity), 2007, MIXED MEDIA TOP RIGHT: As It Was, 2005, mixed media BOTTOM: THE NEW SLANG, 2011, MIXED MEDIA THIS PAGE TOP LEFT: the new communism, 2008, mixed media BOTTOM LEFT: return of metacom, 2010, mixed media on canvas BOTTOM RIGHT: be careful what u call home II , 2009, mixed media on canvaS
OPPOSITE PAGE: TOP LEFT: blood suckin vampire, 2010, mixed media on canvas TOP RIGHT: Almighty, 2010, MIXED MEDIA BOTTOM LEFT: Farewell to Allusions, 2007, mixed media BOTTOM RIGHT: The New Communism, 2007, mixed media THIS PAGE: TOP LEFT: Sons of Liberty, 2007, mixed media on canvas TOP RIGHT: Daughters of Liberty, 2007, mixed media BOTTOM RIGHT: lotto: the remix, 2009, MIXED MEDIA BOTTOM LEFT: Timeline, 2000, mixed media
ABOVE: Saint KicKitic, 2010, MIXED MEDIA LEFT: Everything Ever Said, 2004, mixed media OPPOSITE PAGE: Facing the Future (iâ€™ve seen the world) (DETAIL), 2007, mixed media
AN INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT LUCY THE 22 MAGAZINE: So to start with, where were you born again? ROBERT LUCY: I was born in Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. My dad was in the Marine Corps at the time. It was military base.
22: Did you guys move around a lot? RL: My brothers and sisters more than me; I was the youngest. I mostly lived in Arlington, Virginia until I was eight and then I went to St. Louis.
22: You went to The John Burroughs school in St. Louis? RL: Yes, it was a prep school. 22: Was it specifically for the arts? RL: No, but it was a fantastic school. I was really fortunate to get to go there. It was one of the best
things my parents ever did for me. It was great community of teachers. I had this teacher named Ms. Collins, who was amazing. She really encouraged me and â€œsawâ€? me as a painter for the first time. It really made a huge impact on me.
OPENING SPREAD: Rite (The Transfiguration of Ekhardt Boehnn), 2011, OIL on canvas LEFT: LIPSTICK ZOMBIES IN CANDYLAND, 2011, OIL ON CANVAS ABOVE WHEN THIS YOU SEE, 2001, OIL ON LINEN
It saddens me to see public art education is almost gone. Most public schools just don’t even have it anymore. The ones that do, don’t really develop true in art. From the beginning Ms. Collins just taught you to really see and look at art.
22: After Burroughs, did you go to college? RL: Yes, I went to Chicago to go to Northwestern, which was a decision based on not really know-
ing I could do what I wanted to do. I felt really pressured by my family to become something other than what I wanted to become. In fact, when I went to Northwestern to visit, we also went to the Chicago Art Institute and I remember seeing these kids lined up. They all had portfolios. I remember thinking, “Wow, they are so lucky they get to go to the Art Institute.” I look back on that memory and it’s strange. It didn’t even occur to me that art was an option for me. I went to Northwestern for two years, and in my sophomore year when you had to declare your major I started taking art classes because I wanted to and I had this epiphany that I was going to be an artist. That I was really going to do this. It was a split second. It all just changed.
22: Did you meet Ed Paske at Northwestern? RL: Yes, I took a painting class with Ed and he was a relatively new faculty member. His work is still a big influence on me, he was an amazing teacher as well.
22: He was the one that introduced you to the Chicago Imagists? RL: Yes, and more importantly Dennis Adrian. I took a freshman seminar at Northwestern with him
and he is a huge figure in my life and in Chicago art. He was sort of a spokesperson for the Chicago Imagists. He wrote about them profusely. He was a critic, a teacher, a huge collector. The MCA [Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago] had a show of his collection. He was a major influence and would occasionally take artists under his wing. I was one of those artists. I would have dinner there almost every night. He and his partner had this two floor apartment that was literally packed with art. Everything from Philip Pearlstein to Robert Arneson-all the imagists. There were stacks of dusty drawings. I basically lived in that environment and it had a huge impression on me. It was all very psychological, powerful imagery.
22: Can you give some details on what the Chicago Imagist Art movement was? RL: There was a core group called “The Hairy Who” and that was around five of them. Then which
became known as the “Imagists” was a looser group but it included Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Carl Worthsome, and others. Then the imagists became a larger group that was more like fifteen of them. It was all sort of irreverent, post–abstract expressionism, ironic, nasty, high psychological content, high color, distorted figures, funny, and a lot of it based on comic art. It happened simultaneously with pop art but it was different. Edgier, and really technically amazing. Jim Nutt is one of the real well
-known figures and his work is insane. When he paints, he paints like one painting a year.
22: Following that you took a really interesting trip with Sylvia Sleigh? RL: It was actually multiple trips. Sylvia Sleigh is a really interesting character in herself. She was a
very important member of the woman’s movement in New York in the early seventies. She was a figurative painter but she would paint men in these languid poses, nude on the couch or seated. Sort of reversing the male gaze. It was super relistic as well. She was also married to Lawrence Alloway who was the first curator of the Guggenheim and also coined the term “Pop Art” and wrote about all the Pop artists and women artists. We ended up being in the same gallery in Chicago and she was friends with Dennis Adrian. I was talking to her, and she was talking about this trip she wanted to take to the South of France. Jokingly I said, “Pack me in your suitcase!” and she said, “Well, do you know how to drive?” I went with her to London and the South of France for five weeks. Then she decided we need to go to Eygpt. We did multiple trips in a short amount of time. We went to Greece, Indian, Rome, Venice, Paris, and Spain. All the major capitals. Since we are both artists, we really only went to museums and major architectural sites. I was in my late twenties, early thirties. I saw so much art in that time. We would spend hours in the Louvre and the Prado. The biggest influence of all was my trip to India. It exposed a whole other art history. One we are not often exposed to. When I went to India I thought, “I want that art history.” The flat abstraction, the attention to detail. It was an approach to painting that really changed my work.
22: Was there any specific piece that really spoke to you while you were there? RL: Kind of yeah. We were staying in this hotel and within this hotel was this gallery that had old In-
dian miniatures. I was looking through all these paintings and I spent a long time there. I came upon this painting and it was one of those moments where you just gasp. It was this face of a maharaja but his face was in gris. I put the face in two of my paintings, one was a self portrait as maharaja, and then there is one called The Torrent, where the maharaja painting is in the background.
22: Do you still have it? RL: I do, just not with me. 22: On that note, many of the figure artists you’ve shown with put their subjects in really direct straight on poses, almost confrontational. Was that part of style the Chicago Imagists movement as well?
RL: Yes, Richard Willenbrink was a very close friend in Chicago.There was also David Sharpe, Anne
Abronsand Sylvia Sleigh of course. These were mainly the artists I worked with. I dipped into figure painting, in a way because it was in the air, but even during that period I was more interested in painting still life. I didn’t always want to have someone with me when I paint. I enjoyed being alone. I
TOP LEFT: LOVE STORY, 1998, OIL ON LINEN BOTTOM LEFT: BUD, 2003, COLORED PENCIL ON COLORED PAPER OPPOSITE PAGE: CHERUB, 2002, COLORED PENCIL ON COLORED PAPER
enjoyed painting the portraits and the figures, but it was a different thing.
22: You lived for a long time in Oregon where you did the “Wainscoting” series right? Tell me a little about the change in your work at that time.
RL: My work changes a lot but I think its also just because my life changes a lot. Dramatic shifts in
environments. When I moved to Oregon I was dating a guy who owned an antique store. My life with him for five years was all about antiques. We were always looking at old things and prints. The things I was looking at brought about new interests. I started seeing a lot of early American paintings and sort of the naive 18th, 19th century American seascapes and figurative work. I was always around objects and the objects I collected started to change. The “Wainscoting” series was a lot about interiors and the objects were just in my world. I started setting up the still lives and there would always be something behind them. Then it became about the metaphysical qualities within space. We take it for granted that the objects on the table are real but are the objects depicted in a painting hanging on the wall in a painting real? Also when I was living in Chicago, I had a dealer and there was a very present art world. There was a lot of pressure to get something done and bring it into the gallery. I think once I got to Oregon, time changed. I started living with my work for a longer period of time. Instead of having to contend with a deadline I would stay with the work. Up until that point my technical ability versus my vision was never really linked up. At the end of the painting I was always saying “I wish this or that could be better.” In Oregon, time changed, there was no art world, I was living at the beach and I stayed with the paintings longer and longer until I got to Sea Flowers. By the end, I was painting a little object for days. It was a big painting and I reached this point where I finally matched technically my own vision. It was a breakthrough. I could finally paint like those painters I was trying to emulate and something clicked inside me. I thought, “Oh I don’t need to worry about that anymore. I don’t need to prove it to myself or anyone else.” So if you looked at what happened afterwards it really freed something inside of me. I was allowed to play with space. I didn’t feel that pressure to prove myself.
22: So it was during that time you met Constance who was studying Shamanism? RL: Yes, it was a difficult time with my partner but it was also when I can really point out that my life
changed. I exchanged a colored pencil drawing in return for a soul retrieval which is basically a Shaman ritual to confront the different blocks you psychologically and spiritually face. I made a drawing for her in exchange. I had never done any colored pencil drawings before and I really wanted to do a drawing based on Velazquez’s painting of that princess with the butterflies in her hair [Infanta Maria Teresa], so it was a dual image. That was my first ever colored pencil drawing and my first ever dual image. It became the beginning of an entire new body of work.
22: What was the “Lucid Collective?” RL: It was named Lucid for Lucy Smith, my last name, and lucid dream states. Lucid is basically me,
my niece and my nephew. My older sister is fourteen years older than me, so her daughter is ten years younger than me and her son thirteen years. We’ve always had a strong connection. They are both artists as well. When I left Oregon the three of us drove across country together. Whenever we get together we just really like to play with costumes, photos. It helps us to stir it up and be playful and not quite so reverent about art.
22: So after Oregon you moved to Atlanta? RL: My brother at the time had this house in the mountains in North Carolina. I was leaving Oregon
and I thought I would just go drop my stuff off in Atlanta at my brother’s house and go up to the woods, explore the country and figure out a place to move. My brothers house just ended up being so isolated and the town was not right for me. Alec and Lucy at the time were living in Atlanta and it ended up being the right time and place. As soon as I moved there Alec helped me make a website, and get all my artwork online. Which was huge. We spent an entire year going through twenty years of my work. It became a year of digesting and getting work into shape and finally eventually letting go of it. That was the point where we made series out of the work. It affected the way I think about my past even to go through everything and catalog it.
22: The website is beautiful. RL: Yeah at the time Alec was in school with these guys Kirby Mcclure and Julia Grigorian. Their
now a collective called “Radical Friend.” They were early design students then and now are music video superstars.
22: Can you tell the story about finding the painting in Chattanooga? RL:
Well my grandmother had been a portrait painter. She lived in Columbia, TN which is an hour outside of Nashville. She was “the artist” in my family. We used to draw names to give presents and I drew her name one year. I think I may have even asked for her name beacuse I wanted to do this painting that was a still life with a book, with her initials, and some African violets. I gave it to her at Christmas, and I don’t think she really liked it but she put it up in her house. So she passed away and my aunt lived in the house, and after my aunt had to move to a nursing home my mother and sister went to clean out the house. For some reason I always assumed the painting would have been a keepsake. Anyway, I was driving back to Atlanta from Chicago and I had been sick, my car had been broken into—it was a really bad trip. I think I was driving it all in one day and usually when I drive I stop at antique malls but on this trip I decided I wasn’t going to stop. I didn’t have the time. I had just driven through Chattanooga and there was an antique store at exit 109. I thought about stopping but I kept going. Finally I felt really compelled to just pull over at exit 109. I didn’t really want to go but I just kept going. The antique mall was just a shanty in the woods. It was old and creepy. I go in and start looking around, and in the back of the store there were all these paintings hanging on a wall. I look up and there, is my granmother’s painting. I was totally shocked. It was a disorienting moment.
TOP LEFT: FOrmal wear, 2002, COLORED PENCIL ON PAPER BOTTOM LEFT: Self-portrait as Maharaja, 1997, oil on linen BELOW: FAGGOT!, 2011, OIl on Canvas OPPOSITE PAGE, TOP: SEA FLOWERS, 2001, OIL ON LINEN BOTTOM: MARRY MERRY MARY, 2011, OIL on canvas
It had a price tag on it that said $55 dollars and that was scratched through and marked $15!
22: Ha ha ha! RL: I walk over, grab it and run up to the register and say, “This is my painting!” The cashier is like
“Oh that’s nice.” I tried to explain that I painted it and didn’t live in Chattanooga but they sort of just looked at me like I was crazy. So I buy it, load it up, and then like a couple miles down the road I started getting really angry, thinking “Did they throw my painting away?!” I called my parents and I was like “You’re never going to believe what I found…” Anyway, they basically just gave all the stuff to auction but the chances were so slim that I would find it. It was really funny.
22: So, now you live in New York with partner Chris Wells? How did you guys meet? RL: I was living with Lucy and Alec in Atlanta. Lucy studied with Anne Bogart at Columbia and
Anne asked Lucy to come replace Helena in this production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. She went to New York for like three rehearsals and then it opened. During this time she met Chris, who was playing Bottom. She really liked him and she told me all about him and wanted me to meet him. I was sort of in this place of not looking for anyone and I was like “Sure, great” but not really that excited. Anyways, so we had already planned to go see Lucy in the show and she had really hyped me up for it so finally I was like, I guess I’ll meet Chris Wells. I messaged him and said I was looking forward to meeting him but it was also this added pressure of the story of him. So, anyways we see the show and of course he’s amazing, unbelievable, hilarious. After the show (and he always tells this story), I walked into the reception area, saw him, turned around, and walked out; I was so nervous. Finally I walked back in and it just began. I was really hesitant because I had no idea if I would respond to him in real life but the moment we started talking it clicked. It was just like, here he is. Here is this person I have known forever. It was just done. It’s a no brainer that we are together. Then we started the Secret City and…
22: Happily ever after? RL: Exactly.
OPPOSITE PAGE: SPHINX, 2002, COLORED PENCIL ON COLORED PAPER
VENTRAL IS GOLDEN/DAMIEN K EXCERPTS FROM Funny World : The interpretation of a Dog
A detailed prose poem, recording, and restructuring event that took place within a six month duration, in order to give
e an impression of the colour blue
Three dark triangles throw mescaline to a god no one ever sees. I’ve been inside this cigarette now for two days trying to find myself. The man situated approximately three feet in front of me is most definitely a myth. The girl in front looks over her shoulder with sultry eyes apropos nothing. This is a manqué imitation that fails on all fronts to incite or interest. Why am I becoming increasingly nostalgic for paranoia? A fear of contentment when it turns out you’re just a little mop. “Death.” I say in response to a question I didn’t hear. “I’m waiting for this fucker to light.” My momentum is waning like an emersion tank full of rust. I fill my pockets with a plagiarist’s playground and the very universe that fell out of her eyes. I’ll haul you up that fucking mountain again whilst you whisper in my ear “die Sisyphus, die.” Looking through the lens of my medium format eyes I start to see things differently. “Do you live on cardigan road?” I hear in my sugar lump. I fully expect these surroundings to ignite as soon as the music stops, disintegrating this esoteric surrealism that everyone shares. Everyone’s brain fits in their head. This is a simple fact that almost always goes unnoticed. This music isn’t going to stop. Senses are increased with a tint of rose. This silken finger is draping my spine. I touch her face, every meander of the fingertip like an interview. I loosen the motion. Thinking about the throws of your undulations and the dip of your physical, tachycardia takes hold. Am I getting to know your nature correctly? The Andy Warhol look-a-like with a face of graphite hasn’t said a word since I arrived. Please Andy, whilst the cheese is melting, give me some advice. “If the novelty is good enough, we will give it a carrier bag.” “Thank you, Andy.” Little moon stares at my brain and teases my blood stream. Red flag, you cannot be present in a system like tomatoes are present in salad. After seven days my left ear has finally popped. Observation 0.1 : there is still a constant sound, not too
dissimilar from the ones you hear when you first switch on a television, only this lasts forever. Observation 0.2 : I can hear the sounds of my fingers before I even move them. Dead rainbows scatter the floor, illusions breaking instrumental rhythms. Nib, nib, nib. “Well, I heard God say something, but he didn’t mean it.” These are the basic ingredients of a complex thought. Streaks of red sharks span the sky. How am I supposed to expand? Birds, birds, birds, these repetitions are killing me. Intake deeply. “He’s back, you were right.” Asleep waiting for Nehe Miah and the impending desolate warehouse, the address comes to me in small doses. “You don’t have to live anymore.” Beak, rigid, like a post at the end in between two ceilings. “We are both waiting for our hearts to stop.” Smudge the day into alpha waves and fibre-optic giggle faces. The weak end caresses my body like a carpet of milk in all its absurdities. “Reductio ad absurdum, don’t you give me this cat and pretend that the world is real!” Two polar feelings in one minute. My life is taught but my creations are flaccid. “Let’s have a go on your face, I’ve nearly done.” For the first moments I thought I was a mushroom with beams above my head, talons like clay and car-boot nostrils. I’m moving on, are you coming with me? I’ll start moving sometime soon, but these maxims are quite heavy and your eyes are still closed. In the afterglow we’ll decide not to do this anymore. This metamorphosis and french abstraction perpetuates my Theta state. I’m collecting all my feelings but I keep loosing count. This pen keeps me attached to Beta with the long legs, who appears without knowing. She doesn’t speak a word but laughs in my direction. Cool static vibrations and digging tunnels for kicks, log cabins and tree houses made from divvy bas-
tards. Someone give me a ladder? These Thoreau-dream-states are dancing like rampant squirrels to the sounds of strings and leaves. A damp squib of piano fingers and quotes, just so I have time to dig out a cigarette. Retune this dream. Nought point five, this horse is very tall. I fell in love with relativity, only for it to sell me out for a cheap sense of mathematics. I can’t bare to look up anymore. I’m not stereotypical. Bass peddles and connecting hoofs that seem sky bound. How wrong can you be? Metal collar bone reflex and parian animal fleeces. Look deeper you philistine. How wrong can we all be? Tell me, tell me everything that I first offered to your opinions. Solipsist, you are singing in monotonic soliloquies, flakey sponge, but it’s ok, so am I. Float and forget me so you won’t feel so deflated. There’s a fifty-fifty chance that I’m either having a seizure or toasting cinnamon bagels. Outward, vibrant sound waves like soothing lava and metal. All we see are internal landscapes, these depths are nothing at all... A bag full of shit that I haven’t touched. Tease the growl and run. Where’s the cat gone? Where’s the lips? Where’s the detail? It ends so disappointedly yet so colourfully. It can only be a good thing that I have drank bad milk. Have you ever had the feeling that someone else’s shoes are next to your face? Honey panic, black lights. I am more aware of this single colour spectrum than ever before. I have reason to believe that you have not just been admiring her curves, but her angles too. Dead donkey piano’s and jewelry, bridge thick, touch smile breath. I had a massive panic attack the other night because I realised that I wasn’t Orson Welles. Remember when I reorganised your door into what I thought was a coherent sentence? Well, it wasn’t. I guess that explains a lot. “Why have you done it?” She said. “You’re a human, not a bear.” I couldn’t reciprocate, but already I knew the answer. I did not want to participate in this duologue. Who am I to explain anything? How can a biscuit make you feel remarkably insignificant?
I find that I’m mostly dead or reversed, and the sea has destroyed the patterns in my mind. It’s funny how this memento has carved out the last link that connects you to me. I’m not laughing though. My nostrils start to burn. Why do chairs exist if you’re not sitting on them? Someone told me that pain is good, helps you to differentiate. The only problem is that I don’t know what I’m differentiating between. Derrida, could you give me some words to position? In an hour or so, I’ll open my head to find that the cat is either dead or sleeping. I can’t tell anymore. “I like the feeling I get immediately after coughing, it’s a nice reminder of not having a cough...do you ever wonder about the things we never said?” This has flown over your perceptions of me hasn’t it, but it’s ok, I didn’t expect you to understand, your opinions blossomed without the thirst for water. The cycle reverts, and I begin to push my head along the sea again. The wind picks up... There are too many people walking around, my eyes can’t handle this inside someone’s tonsils, talking about death and climbing walls. Butterflies in nice coats. This burning tonsil staircase is where I met all my friends, and the ones that float past, like weightless vinegar stories, have hidden plots, but all the while, comfort me in the strangest of ways. I contemplate walking back to the hive of flickering activity, my toes like hot marshmallows, a satisfactory puddle in my shoes. I can sense a warm glow and imagine a timeless cafe in Zurich, with twenty Tristan Tzara’s smiling at me. I begin to walk over, aware that I am feeling the contours of the wall like a hidden cognitive map. My eyes are intent on contorting the geometry of the people I know. I focus on reflections in the distance, and the glowing white pen held aloft like a beaming statue for my senses. I submerge into the cushions. Is it sufficient enough to say that ‘art is everything’? No matter how surreal this sounds, its still more likely to happen than getting hit in the face by the moon. My legs are engines generating hairspray suns. This is not the sense of relief that I thought I was investing in. Whilst my insides are rotting, the blue spruce is in full bloom.
“I’ll take three.” He unravels the orange casing, disregarding the need for delicacy. My head becomes a slip road for tranquilizers, this inertia is hard on my shoulders. I can sense these events becoming circular, my conversations are slipping down their legs. The time is half past the existence of good ideas. Our ankles are tied, somehow we have managed to tangle gravity in knots. “I know what it means to lose touch with reality.” “Are we losing touch with reality?” I asked, “or have we just found a tighter grip on our arms?” Contained in a self-reflective chamber, I am aware that we have been reduced to a series of vibrations. About turn, there’s a peddler in the church, just down the road. He is brilliantly flawed by inevitable absence. He couldn’t help but wish her lips were bigger. These days the leaves fall a little in front of him. If the dream theory is true, he saw her last night. He can feel the grip. Ghost words that push people away, unlocking his nose. He feels a little better. La lueur bleuatre, stolen. Sanger in full swing. Tigers and wolves, grip and clasp, fizzy pegs, spirit pupils, nursery rhymes. Again and again, cobweb joints, black marbles, blue ran, feel the push and contain the motion. This is not a song and dance number. Arabic writing and fingers. Her cat like behavior hidden by her cat like fringe. A rocket in his face, lost patterns and tea cup eyes. Swallowing constellations with a spoonful of salt. Fizzy skull. His hand to eye coordination is a rule of three. He has his eyes at the bottom of the stairs, climbing up the fish scale wall into Victoriana. Taking her cardigan for a walk. Rule of triangle. The mirror image changed their names. Jack? His real name escapes him. He keeps hearing him but he’s an advanced measure, walking a pet echo. Jack’s in the wall melting black vapors. Balloon fingers and too much ash belly from smoking Salvador’s moustache. Fresh out of passports and pulses. Keys, keys, keys, for doors and noses. Jake’s in the bag and his gloves are making his hands shake. A girl on the ceiling.
Coth and spittle fused to bone. Black bottle tops in the mirror. A drawer full of hoodlums shotgun the silver. Fixed smile, so many marbles, settees on people, why wont he take his jacket off? Repeat to swallow. Honest to god I will die if I climb down. Same names, different cushions. Dog hair and snow string caressing his tongue. Swallow hard the black marbles. Voices in the rafters. The room is upside down. He is drowning in verbal dribble and throat. Why don’t you fuck off and lick the wounds on the sordid roof of your pill mouth? The muscles are grim reminders of evaporations. Tigers made out of £10 notes. “Would you pay £200 for the foot of a white tiger?” “That is where we beg to differ.” Black nectar, give some more of your black nectar before he remembers her name. Powdered noses, powdered roses, shit it’s coming back to him, quick pass him the black nectar. He is embracing the honey panic. Stop. Velvet pouches and impossible nonsense comes in dream like waves of horror. Patterned arms? maybe, one day. He cant believe he refused the note. Locks and keys. Drug politics. Bird snarls. New years French abstraction. Buttering the ceiling with his swollen bladder. This fucker needs a cone through it. Thousands of deaf handshakes gathered in the sway of the wallpaper. Against the pull he saw a beautiful waste of a girl, lost in the brickwork, her red eyes bleeding tears onto her baby damp cheeks. They needed wiping and it more than crossed his mind to turn the cheek into tissue. The whole house attached to one broken telephone. One side needs sweeping, the other is godlike. Soaking up filthy stares we endlessly track the wrong rooms. He thinks the volume button is on his neck, but he can’t find it. Standing on the purgatory kitchen cabinets, he reaches for the pointless roof within a roof. Measuring twin sisters with his fingers they can only conclude that their eyes aren’t lying. His plug socket joints and muscles are frayed. The yarn is spun, the knot loosens, his knees fail. She begins to knit her own words skyward, chasing them as they leave her mouth. It took him a while to notice she was shoeless.
He never questioned it. Where’s the girl with the gun tongue? He needs some more of her vaginal discourse, the pen is running dry. Admiring the calcium build up on the wall, he changes the channel on the cardboard box. The 7:16am girl cranks the wood on her knee and takes another kick. A belt of teapots and an offer refused. 36 hours of daylight and his pupils are still coming into land. Grinding his pegs, he falls into a candle. He’ll invite them all for tea. His thoughts always snag on the girl from the afternoon. Parading her portrait inside his television mind, he is porning poetry for drugs in a lame attempt to change the channel. In this moment he would murder for her dog parts. Eight girls to eclipse the girl and she still burns through. Nothing more than the shakes. Her eyes were set to ‘catch the light’. Her lips were flush with inflorescence. Her hands were spread to clasp his own. He doesn’t blame himself for failing so miserably.
Out of her purse, up her nose, out of her mouth, into the bowl. The beautiful machine. Biding my time in the guts of the beautiful machine. Rowing my boat in the guts of the beautiful machine. Kicking my shins in the guts of the beautiful machine. Catching my eyeballs in the guts of the beautiful machine. Taking the blame in the guts of the beautiful machine. Bleeding the goat in the guts of the beautiful machine. Goating the bleed in the guts of the beautiful machine. Drinking tea in the guts of the beautiful machine. Failing in a dream in the guts of the beautiful machine. Staring at the screen in the guts of the beautiful machine. Delivering animals in the guts of the beautiful machine. Swallowing a forest in the guts of the beautiful machine. Showing my knees in the guts of the beautiful machine. Opening a tin in the guts of the beautiful machine. Being left behind with nothing but a bottle and a raven in the guts of the beautiful machine. Taking a piece for myself in the guts of the beautiful machine.
WATCH THE FILM THE BEAUTIFUL MACHINE BY DAMIEN KNIGHTELy, VENTRAL IS GOLDEN AND BEN FOWLER
THE BEAUTIFUL MACHINE
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