Ryoji Ikeda, the transfinite, 2011, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.
Ryoji Ikeda is a Paris-based composer and sound artist. Ikeda’s musical work focuses on the essential characteristics of sound itself, which he manipulates in live concerts, recordings, site-specific installations, and publications. His largest sound installation to date, the transinfinite, will be on view at the Park Avenue Armory until June 11.
I HAVE MET MANY SCIENTISTS THROUGH MY WORK WITH NASA, and I am fascinated by the scales they work with, from molecules to the expanse of the universe. They are similar to artists in many ways, but they think beyond the conceptual. They can easily break the laws of nature through their practice and create an entirely new set of rules to follow. In that way, their work is very much like that of a poet or a musician.
Music and math are brothers. I have been obsessed by mathematical beauty for years, but I never really studied it. I dropped out of my university and didn’t attend art or music school. When I listen to classical music, like Bach, it’s so mathematically beautiful––it feels natural for me, as a musician, to dive into the mathematical world.
Over the past decade, I started to compose materials as installations, and now I am composing data. The structure at the Armory, and thinking about the space, is also part my practice as a composer. But I have never been trained as a classical composer. I can’t read scores, so instead of violins, violas, and pianos, I am always making my own score using pixels, color temperature, sine waves, square waves, triangle waves, and the ratios and proportion of screens. I like to orchestrate everything so it all operates at the same time.
I need the people to stand in the middle of this piece, on the floor, and notice the other visitors, because the visitors are all the performers. There is no correct position to see the piece, and since there is a huge wall in the middle of the drill hall, some people just enter the space and turn around to gauge their surroundings, which is also really interesting.
Sound shouldn’t be a slave to the visual. It has to be more democratic. My process can be very abstract or highly conceptual, with much back-and-forth from brain to hand. It is in this way that I consider myself different from visual artists, because I deal with sound and music as a vehicle for experience. This comes from my nature as a musician, you see: Without an audience my work is nothing.
Left: Cover of Architect for Art: Max Gordon (2011). Right: View of Andy Warhol’s work in Saatchi Gallery, Boundary Road, London. (Photo: Doris Lockhart Saatchi)
Trained in architecture at Cambridge University, at the Architectural Association, and at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Max Gordon worked under Gordon Bunshaft at Skidmore Owings & Merrill in New York before returning to London, where he eventually formed his own practice at the age of fifty. His prolific career designing innovative spaces for contemporary art—the Saatchi Gallery at Boundary Road in London and the Fisher Landau Center for Art in Long Island City, New York, among others—was cut short by his untimely death in 1990. In his new book, David Gordon, Max’s brother, celebrates this central figure of the contemporary art world of the 1970s and ’80s.
MAX WAS ONE OF THE PIONEERS OF THINKING ABOUT HOW TO SHOW CONTEMPORARY ART, and how to make the art, rather than the architecture, the focus of attention. I can’t say that he invented the white box art space, but he was a major force in shaping this aesthetic. He was interested in quiet spaces where architecture could be the servant of art. In many cases where we see star architects creating galleries, there is a conflict between the art and the architecture, Max’s architecture was in harmony with the art; his contribution was, perhaps, to show that the ingenuity of the architect could be to make something that was the most simple, the most quiet, the most fluid space for viewing art.
Max was, above all else, extremely practical. Some see him as a minimalist. I see him as simplicitist. He did the minimum necessary to create space, light, and proportion. He hid fluorescent tube fixtures in window casements and covered them with Synskin, a flexible fiberglass, creating a scrim that filtered and evened light such that there was no conflict between the artificial and natural light.
His friendship with Doris and Charles Saatchi led them to ask him to examine the space they had found to house their own collection of contemporary art. He said, This is terrific, it’s large, it’s got wonderful top light, but the walls are not high enough to show large-scale contemporary art. They excavated four feet down and thereby created a space that was magnificent and revolutionary, and art lovers from all around the world came to see it. It had a deep influence on the scale of ambition of British artists, and that, along with the movement of taking industrial sites and turning them into spaces for the showing of contemporary art, culminated in London, after Max’s death, in the Tate Modern.
The art world of the 1970s and ’80s was much smaller than it is now. It’s hard to think back to a time when there were a handful of contemporary art galleries. Now there are thousands. Max was one of a very small number of British collectors and was one of a group in London who formed the Patrons of New Art, a ginger group to persuade the Tate Gallery to be more courageous in buying the work of contemporary artists rather than waiting until their careers had been established. It was at a committee meeting that Max suggested an annual prize for a living artist. That, of course, became the Turner Prize.
When Max died in 1990, I was the chief executive of The Economist. As a direct result of my genetic connection with Max, I was asked to become the chairman of the Contemporary Art Society. The person who asked me to do it said, “We need someone who loves art and is an experienced person—and you’re Max’s brother!” Exactly the same phrase was used when I was asked by Norman Rosenthal to become secretary of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1996. So, after his death, Max guided me into being an arts administrator in London, and then director of the Milwaukee Art Museum. The book is a way of expressing my thanks to him. Max was someone I was very close to and he died prematurely—he was only fifty-nine. Max has been gone for twenty-one years. The book serves as a reminder of spaces that are no longer there and an inspiration for those that might be.
Left: Marina Naprushkina, The Convincing Victory: Two Stories on What Really Happened (detail), 2011, graphic novel and newspaper. Right: View of “Opening the Door? Belarusian Art Today,” 2011. (Photo: Contemporary Art Center, Vilnius)
Marina Naprushkina is a Belarusian artist based in Berlin. Her work is included in “Opening the Door? Belarusian Art Today” at the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw. The exhibition, which is on view until August 21, is curated by Kęstutis Kuizinas. It was recently shown at Contemporary Art Center, Vilnius.
THE PREMISE of “Opening the Door?” is to bring Belarusian artists and theoreticians together, to unite the isolated and disconnected Belarusian art scene. But it also fulfills another goal: to allow artists to work without censorship (and self-censorship as well). After the presidential election last December, and after a peaceful demonstration against the election was met with brutality by the police, Belarus is once again standing in the spotlight.
We all were shocked after election night; no one could imagine that such terror and ongoing repression by the government could be possible in Europe today. In reaction to these events, I created a graphic novel in the form of a newspaper, titled The Convincing Victory: Two Stories on What Really Happened. The novel shows the elections and, in particular, what happened the day and night of December 19, during the demonstration and riots. The novel presents two views: One relates how the events are interpreted by the state regime and currently widely publicized by state-run newspapers and television. The other presents information assembled from independent media, which for the most part exists only on the Internet. The newspaper appeared in English and Russian; activists in Belarus distributed twenty thousand of the Russian-language copies. It was important to bring the newspapers, not only to the opposition but also to people who do not read free news and blogs on Internet and are only watching Belarusian television.
My project is not directed at the dismantling of one dictator in a given country. Rather, I think it is necessary to ask why despotic regimes emerge and what are the particular conditions in society that maintain them. It is impossible to speak about the current political situation in Belarus as isolated from a larger European context or as disconnected from the other countries in distress around the world right now.
Left: Cover of Polly Apfelbaum’s Haunted House (2011). Right: Atelier Amden (Photo: Katalin Deér)
Polly Apfelbaum’s latest exhibition opens on May 21 at the Atelier Amden in Switzerland. Curated by Roman Kurzmeyer, the show will feature Apfelbaum’s new four-hundred-page poster book–atlas, which she discusses here.
HAUNTED HOUSE. That’s the first thing that came to mind when I was asked to do this show, which will be installed in a tiny mountain refuge, accessible only by hiking there. No electricity, no plumbing. There is a haunted house where we go in upstate New York, and I am sort of obsessed with it. My friend calls it a hillbilly meth lab, and it might be one of those. I’ve never dared to go in. I began thinking about fears––what could be in a place like that? Why are we so afraid of abandoned shacks anyway?––and for nearly six months I have found myself combing through Google, searching for images that, at least for me, conjure the feeling of a haunted house. But the idea for the show also came from actually taking a house apart. My father-in-law had lived in his house for fifty years, and as we were going through it we found so many pictures, the kind you’d see at a flea market or tag sale. These are such meaningful objects filled with memories that are sometimes just left behind. So I thought it would be interesting to use Google to make a collection of random images that seem similarly discarded. I decided to make an atlas of images for a haunted house.
It’s a poster book and there are 350 images in it––pictures of old children’s projects, family vacations, nature shots, and crude craft projects. It features everything from Noah’s ark to piñatas, from Hong Kong to the Wild West, rainbow-colored pancakes to forget-me-nots. There will be one unbound copy so that visitors can choose an image to take. It’s the first time I’ve distributed my art that way—although people have been known to walk off with random parts of my work. But there will also be some moonshine they are welcome to take too. I wanted to bring the hillbilly to this pristine alpine location in Switzerland.
I do think often about how places have memories and how those can be just floating around in the air. With all of the images on the Internet, it’s like they’re floating around there too. I wanted to materialize these images because I think we’re losing something without the concrete object. I mean, does anyone print out family photos now? I still love having them, even if that is very strange. But I’ve begun to embrace Google too, especially the randomness of what it means when you search for “haunted house” and you get a picture of somebody’s dog.
To me, this new work seems very abstract, even if the pictures are representations of people, places, or things. All of this falls in line with the rest of my art. I’m either trying to get to abstraction or beginning with it. There has always been a tension between those elements in my work. In the past few years, I have changed the way I work in my studio. I spend more time thinking about how to make the work and how to play with elements of chance. So when I discovered the massive amount of images on Google and realized that I could even take them as I wanted, I was like a very bad kid in a very big candy store.
View of “Barbara Kruger,” 2011. (Photo: Joshua White/JWPictures)
Barbara Kruger’s latest solo exhibition is on view at L&M Arts, Los Angeles until July 9. Filling the interior and exterior of the gallery, the show includes recent installations, projections, and multichannel videos by the inimitable New York– and LA-based artist.
FIVE HUNDRED WORDS can be too many or not enough. I should probably choose those words carefully. The choice of voice is important. I mean, this is Artforum, right?
And what to say? Should I foreground the apparatus at work when artists appear in magazines? Because an artist’s relation to publications, websites, blogs, or any other discourse and/or chatter is fraught. Should that fraughtness become the subject and engagement of these 500 words: how it’s all part of a subcultural anthropology that works to determine the visibility or invisibility of a practice? How it talks about how bodies making work are transformed into figures: into big-shot proper names making art? But maybe that’s obvious. But is it? Should the language be rigorous with an exhausting attempt to impress or should it exude a kind of well-rehearsed casualness? Maybe I should just recite a short narrative about what’s going on with me now. Just tell the story. A story I never thought I’d have the good luck to tell. But I better get on with it, because my 500 words are slipping away. Ok, here’s the “press release.”
I’m having an exhibition at L&M Arts in Los Angeles and it’s my first gallery show here in twenty-seven years. I don’t exactly have a Santa’s-workshop mode of production. But I did have an exhibition at LA MoCA in 1999 (that meant so much to me), had a video included in West of Rome’s “Women in the City” project, and currently have an installation at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA. But I felt it was time to do a gallery exhibition of my video installation The Globe Shrinks and a room wrap in L&M’s second building, the old Venice Beach power station. I just finished installing and that’s always the best part. But all the social paraphernalia around openings is like the ninth circle of hell to me. I like the everyday. I like the moments between events. And writing these 500 words feels kind of eventlike to me. And so far I only have 353 words. I hope this will be OK.
The New York–based collective eteam is Franziska Lamprecht and Hajoe Moderegger. Their latest exhibition, “If the dancing gets too stiff, the rain needs to get dug out as ice-cubes,” which connects local populations in Dewitz, Germany, and Oasis, Nevada, is at Galerie M29 in Cologne through May 28.
THIS SHOW IS PART OF OUR LARGER PROJECT, OS GRABELAND. The “OS” stands for either “open source” or “operating system,” and the German term Grabeland means land for digging, particularly land left over from allotments leased to people during World War I and World War II so they could grow food. As with our ongoing project International Airport Montello, we used eBay to purchase land, but this time we purchased a set of allotment gardens in Dewitz, a village north of Berlin. We became the landlords of a 36,000-square-foot plot of land with eight remaining tenants and seven feral lots. After receiving complaints from our tenants about the lack of access to water, we suggested that we dig a well, an idea our tenants rejected. Their complaint provided us with a connection to the land and the people of Dewitz, and over the past several years we have searched for water in different ways. We have used this exploration both as a motif and as a means of turning the local into the global and connecting the plot in Dewitz with land in northeast Nevada. The water of the Atlantic geographically separates Dewitz and Oasis, but the lack of access to water connects the two sites.
Initially the project fell in line with our first land project, Acre Flat Screen, in which we acted as real estate developers. However, in Dewitz it was not as straightforward. When you work with people and depend on their collaboration, you can never plan. You have to feel out what is happening, all kinds of directions, and see what really works. In Dewitz and Oasis our work now happened on a more metaphysical level.
We believe that each place emits some kind of information. We were in Dewitz trying to see the place from a different perspective and have it used differently, to expand the ways in which people think about a specific site. With International Airport Montello, it had been easier for our collaborators to project their dreams onto the blank land of the desert. But in Germany, it was harder for projections to appear since there was so much tied to the use of the land, with the efforts to plant the vegetables, to use the correct fertilizer, and to grow the food in the appropriate way.
The exhibition includes a five-channel video installation with snippets from our work with the people in Dewitz and in Oasis, showing different parts of this social, mental, and metaphysical experiment, as well as photo collages and a series of “code-calligraphic” drawings, which show codes we devised after analyzing line-dancing steps. The project as a whole focuses on the search for water as a vehicle for moving and creating something new, and for expanding people’s conceptions of a particular site. How you look at the field as water? How do you produce water? And how do you make it visible? These were some of the things that interested us. In the end, though, it was not really about bringing the water to the site but about changing people’s perspectives of the land. Do you still complain about the lack of water if you have the ocean around you?
Since 1999, the Paris-based artist Charlotte Moth has worked on the Travelogue, a collection of photographs that she constantly updates. Her discovery of pictures that were taken by Raoul Hausmann in Ibiza in the 1930s became the basis of her exhibition “Noting Thoughts,” which is on view at the Musée Départemental d’Art Contemporain de Rochechouart until May 29.
I’M VERY INTERESTED IN A SCULPTURAL RELATIONSHIP TO EXPERIENCE. An image can later function as an aid to memory, it becomes a hybrid, and something perhaps better described as an “image-memory.” When I was in art school I was taking a lot of photographs, and for me that acted as a way of studying things, trying to learn what was around me. I was absolutely fascinated by the structural forms of architecture––all types––and using it as a way to think about how to generate work. This habit of taking photographs became very accumulative and naturally charted a kind of itinerancy or movement in space and place.
I really wanted to develop a relationship between research and looking, where research becomes work and work becomes research. So for me the photographs in the Travelogue are very structurally grounded in research. And this led to traveling to Paris, Marseille, London, Los Angeles, Kyoto, Hamburg, Maastricht, and Brussels, to name a few. The more you travel, the more you discover, and the more you read the more you want to travel.
For my show in Rochechouart, I really wanted to make a transition in space and time by using these tables to lay my photos on; they create a sort of horizon in the space. You’re walking around them and they become islands. You could read the layout as a narrative, but it’s very segmented––more like a three-dimensional book, as the images are mounted on folded metal sheets.
This year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the museum’s collection, and to mark it the institution invited two artists to produce a site-specific work that dealt with ideas of collection and archiving. I was very pleased to be chosen, and I decided to look at the archive of the Dada artist Raoul Hausmann, as it’s very special and the largest collection of his work. It includes all his photographs, even all his ties––Mr. Hausmann had a cravat fetish. But it has many of his writings and poetry too. I was kind of overwhelmed by these things in a very lovely way. Even though he was quite political, he was also a dancer, a poet, and a painter. So this archive is extensive.
I was particularly interested in the images from his stay in Ibiza from 1933 to 1936. To him, creating photographs was more like a making an anthropological survey of the island—it wasn’t just buildings that he liked; he was also taking pictures of people, landscapes, houses, plants, all this kind of stuff. Perhaps he was looking for an untouched land. When I went to Ibiza, I was surprised to feel like I had already been there, that I had ideas of what the land would be like, perhaps from looking through his archive. And the ironic thing, which isn’t really ironic at all, is that when I arrived in Ibiza for the first time I felt like I had already photographed it.
Left: Mural by Italian street artist Blu being painted over by LA MoCA workers in December 2010. This image was featured in an East of Borneo article by Thomas Lawson titled “Institutional Whitewash.” (Photo: Casey Caplowe). Right: A 1974 picture by Allan McCollum of Vija Celmins and her dog. McCollum posted several portraits from the ’70s on East of Borneo’s Facebook page.
Thomas Lawson is founder and editor in chief of East of Borneo, a website that launched in fall 2010. With editor Stacey Allan, he envisioned a hybrid journal that combines commissioned essays and interviews with artists, alongside primary material such as photographs, video, sound, and ephemera uploaded by readers. Based at CalArts, East of Borneo focuses on presenting the untold stories of contemporary and historical art from Southern California.
I LIKE THE PRESENTNESS OF MAGAZINES, the way they allow for disparate voices, speaking in the here and now. There’s always a reason that we find something interesting today or this month, and I prefer to follow that rather than some arbitrary overarching theme. For East of Borneo I wanted a lively format that could engage readers as partners. I also wanted the site to be identified with a place: Los Angeles. With its sprawl and interconnectedness, the web of freeways, it’s a city of nodules, and East of Borneo is an ideal way for imagining it. The openness allows for different kinds of traffic jams.
This is the second time I have started a publication. In the late 1970s, Susan Morgan and I began publishing REAL LIFE Magazine to provide a voice for our generation, the people we knew and were interested in. We also wanted to contest the strong historical narrative of New York art and hear from members of the previous generation who had slipped out of view—not the Conceptualists, but people like Robert Moskowitz and Michael Hurson, who had been doing work that influenced, in part, the return to painting in the ’80s. From the viewpoint of a person in his late twenties, that was history.
People stereotype Los Angeles as a place without a past, when in fact the city is rich with a twentieth-century history that is incompletely understood. What’s always struck me about the art history of Los Angeles is that few people have contested the one tenuous narrative built around the Ferus Gallery. The open, hybrid structure of East of Borneo offers a way to collectively reexamine art in Southern California in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s and build a more compelling theory of what was interesting, productive, and generative. When you open up a journal to a broader public, readers can accept or contest the editorial voice, add their own evidence. If one person writes about a particular performance, someone else can respond: “Wait a minute. I was there and it didn’t take place like you say. It was like this, and I have a photograph that I took, or notes that I wrote.” We may not create a consensus, but over the years something comprehensible and meaningful will accrue. The hybrid nature of East of Borneo means that our various complementary narratives can weave new patterns—or unravel old ones—to give a clearer picture of what really happened, more than any single historian could do.
As part of the “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A., 1945–1980” exhibition initiative that will take over the city this fall, I’m developing a project for REDCAT with a class at CalArts. We have a plan to reexamine the networks and support structures of the emerging and experimental art practices of the ’70s through a series of interviews, discussions, and dinner parties. REDCAT is a real space, but it’s just a room, a project-oriented space, not a museum space, so we won’t have art objects—just a computer or two in the middle of the room and a display of items. We hope to stir up a conversation. In a way it’s a replication of the East of Borneo model but in real space and time, rather than Internet space. East of Borneo will function as an expanded exhibition catalogue, with essays and relevant archival material. As this plays out, we hope other institutions across the city will recognize that we can help them publish their material, particularly smaller organizations that can’t afford publications.
Mark Wyse is a Los Angeles–based photographer whose second artist book, Seizure, is published by Damiani Press and designed by Project Projects. It also includes an essay by Charlie White. A version of this work was exhibited last spring at Wallspace in New York.
WITHOUT THINKING TOO MUCH I make and collect a bunch of photographs over a period of time. Then I get bored and go in divergent directions, playing with relationships and associations between photographs until I break down from thinking too much. The neurotic resolve by working through this process becomes the platform for the project. Seizure tries to foreground this sort of tension and how it might unfold through an assembly of photographs. My last exhibition in New York did the same thing with some of the same work, but through a new form and new set of relationships.
The word “seizure” implies the mind and the body violently working something out. That idea resonates for me. When I look at photographs, I often experience a mental seizure; I see the world, but feel a specific thought. My body projects onto the photograph new attachments, new thoughts that have nothing to do with and everything to do with the image I am looking at. The notion of whether something is a projection of the mind is a recurring element throughout the book.
The book begins with a text that I wrote with two voices in dialogue. They are connected and disconnected. One voice keeps talking about the nature of thoughts and the other keeps talking about photographs. They are both lost. One is trying to be real and concrete. The other is dreaming.
I think the book is intimate, emotional, and alienating. Maybe that has something to do with growing up in a family and later becoming a father––having a daughter really propels you to try and get your shit under control. The love will break you. It is exhilarating and painful because you know you carry all these wounds in you that you don’t really even understand yourself, yet you still have to move forward while not knowing. But the book isn’t about that; the photograph of my mother is about Roland Barthes and Camera Lucida, the dog in the forest is about Courbet and painting, and so forth. The photograph titled Mother is not actually a picture of my mother but it’s an image from a book: A woman dancing in a stream from Americas Magnificent Wilderness. There’s also a formal studio portrait of another woman, and this is my mother. It was taken before I was born and it is titled with her name: Linda.
“Sentimental” is a word I don’t feel comfortable acknowledging. I prefer “naïve,” “absorbed,” “impressionistic,” anything except “sentimental.” I tend to defend against it by intellectualizing my desires. When making a mix-tape for someone you don’t have to deal with your conscience beating down on you. What better gift is there than what two lovers might share––the ability to be vulnerable without needing a reason.
Liz Magic Laser will present a new iteration of her ongoing work Flight in Times Square’s Duffy Square on May 3, 6, and 7. Flight adapts chase scenes from films such as American Psycho and Vertigo with a cast of six actors, and was sponsored by the Times Square Alliance and the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art.
WE PSYCHOLOGICALLY REHEARSE FOR TRAUMATIC EVENTS BY WATCHING MOVIES; by enacting panic we anticipate its cause. But these scenes of violence and terror place us in a passive role. When they are transplanted to a crowded public space, atomized spectatorship is replaced by interactivity and mutual responsibility.
Flight is made up of twenty-three scenes that take place on stairs. The action traces the history of the staircase in cinema from a social to an individual space. In Battleship Potemkin, the staircase was the site of the catastrophic defeat of the 1905 revolution. In later films, like The Shining, the stairs became the site of individual trauma. In every case, this architecture is the stage for a dramatic confrontation. Over the course of Flight, the actors––Nic Grelli, Elizabeth Hodur, Liz Micek, Michael Wiener, Lia Woertendyke, and Max Woertendyke––shift roles between victim, aggressor, and witness. In the final scene, which takes its cue from Final Destination 4, the trauma returns to the public arena, but the struggle is now defined by apocalyptic paranoia.
Flight is highly scripted, but the script includes many moments when the actors have the option of engaging with the audience. We’ve been rehearsing in Times Square before an audience of bystanders; many are sightseers, people waiting in line for theater tickets, or teenagers hanging out. The script facilitates engagement with this crowd: If someone runs toward you screaming “Help!” or approaches you with a raised fist, you’re implicated immediately.
These scenes of violence resonate in a place that has a history of petty crime and public danger. When I asked an actor to scream “Help!” she did and immediately asked, “Is this OK?”—was she shouting fire in a crowded theater? Last week, we were rehearsing a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and an actress performed Madeline’s suicide right next to the line of people waiting to buy tickets. A security guard came over and said, “You can’t do this, you’re alarming people.” Yesterday, I had to intercept a police officer trying to save an actress from being strangled in a part from Henry Hathaway’s Niagara. As we’ve rehearsed, we’ve started to see what happens when these fantasies enter everyday life.
Times Square is swarming with cameras. We are constantly asked to take photos, and we inevitably appear in them. Experience is mediated through the camera, and this becomes integral to the piece. When I first staged this performance at PS1, I did not want cameras to prevent people from engaging with the actors. In Times Square, the camera and its image are part of the environment. The video of the performance will mimic the cinematography of the original films, but the onlookers—the crowd—will become the backdrop for these iconic scenes of individual trauma.