Wolfgang Laib installing Wax Room (Where have you gone–where are you going?), 2013, at The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC. (Photo: Rhiannon Newman)

The German artist Wolfgang Laib is well known for his meticulous installations. Pollen from Hazelnut, 2013, is on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York until March 11, 2013, and the permanent Wax Room (Where have you gone–where are you going?), 2013, opens at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, on March 2, 2013; for more information click here. In addition, some of Laib’s output will also be on view in two overlapping solo exhibitions in New York: “Without Beginning and Without End” at Sperone Westwater, March 1-30, and “Photographs and Other Works” at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, March 15–May 4.

I FIND IT VERY BEAUTIFUL that these two very different projects, Pollen from Hazelnut and the wax room, are happening so close to each other. The work at MoMA is in a very public space, where many people can see it—at the center of the museum, in the biggest city of the world. It radiates throughout the whole institution, like the glowing sun, and it can be seen from all the floors. The pollen piece in a public space is always an incredible attraction and stirs up emotions and inner feelings in people’s hearts, which is very moving. It is always like that.

At the Phillips, it’s the opposite. The strength of the Phillips is its intimacy and privacy, and here the wax chamber will be in a very small room. What attracted me, especially, was their Rothko Room. In the United States people often say that my pollen pieces are like a Mark Rothko on the floor, but that is much too simple. Over the past two years I have read quite a bit about Rothko. My work is very different from painting, but I was not surprised when I discovered that our interests are similar, and we have the same favorite paintings by Fra Angelico and Giotto. Somehow, we have a close relationship that is much more than the visual similarities between our works. I said to the staff at the Phillips that if we could make a wax chamber near his room, that would be my real relationship to Rothko.

I have made beeswax chambers over the past twenty-five years or so, and more recently I have felt that I would not make them for temporary exhibitions, one after the other, but only if they could be permanent. A wax chamber is something like a house, anyway: You build a house and you don’t take it down. A wax chamber is also something that you could never explain, and it would be a pity to try to do so, because it’s so simple and also very complex.

For instance, people always think that pollen and wax are natural materials, which is true, but they are also more than that. These are materials that of course I did not make, and that is a major difference. The pollen and the beeswax are not mine; they are much more than myself. This is a very important issue. These materials exist beyond the individual. In Western culture there is an emphasis on the individual doing something and it belonging to him. But while that has an incredible power, for me it also has its limits, because then you are not connected to the rest of the world. Something like pollen, it’s not me—it is something bigger.

— As told to Leslie J. Ureńa

Martin Rev


Left: Cover of Martin Rev (1980). Right: Martin Rev. (Photo: Fabrizio Zampighi)

Martin Rev is a New York–based musician and the instrumentalist in Suicide, one of the most celebrated electronic protopunk bands. His debut solo album, Martin Rev, which he recorded in 1980, has been recently rereleased for the first time on vinyl through Superior Viaduct. Here he speaks about what it feels like to have it reissued, his ongoing work with Suicide, and his recent collaborations with French artist Divine Enfant.

I’M BASICALLY A ROCK ’N’ ROLL BORN AND BRED PERSON. But in 1970, when I started Suicide with Alan Vega, minimalism was the general atmosphere; Stockhausen and German electronics were, as we used to say, “in the air.” There wasn’t much precedent for electronic American rock. In my music, I started simplifying things more and more, trying to find out what we were really looking for: our own electronic sound.

I discovered electronics in the Museum of Living Artists, a cooperative gallery loft on Waverly Place and Broadway, where I used to rehearse at night. I ended up doing two shows there and that’s how I first met Alan. He was experimenting with the feedback of tape recorders with visual artist Paul Liebgott, who was himself experimenting with feedback on guitar. Electronics were just what was most available to us. Alan and I kept on running into each other too. It was like we were the last two ships out at sea. If we didn’t do something about it, the opportunity would have sailed us by.

So I brought a keyboard that I had down to the museum one night and started experimenting with these little electro-harmonic boxes, putting them in different series with an amplifier, to create music. These boxes became a minimalist drum kit by way of their electricity, which is still around today. People have since asked me if the Europeans who were really into electronics at the time influenced me—bands like Can, Tangerine Dream, and Klaus Schulze. But they were more tech-oriented, robotic even, which was interesting in its own way. We were coming from another place. Alan, in echoing Iggy Pop’s performances, would instigate audience anticipation by also expressing anger in a kind of living theater, its illusion being something we both embraced in our performances. In retrospect, it’s like we wanted to make electronic music seem more human. Our first album, Suicide, was released in 1977. The critics at the time were pretty baffled when I released my solo album because it was so soon after the first record and right around the time when Suicide’s The Second Album was on its way.

Martin Rev and Divine Enfant, Asia, 2012.

Now, I’m kind of accustomed to rereleases in general. But what makes the reissuing of Martin Rev interesting to me is the response it will generate by posted reviews on the Internet, something this work hasn’t seen before, a completely different type of feedback. Recently, I’ve been creating music videos with the visual artist Divine Enfant. We shoot the video first, then she adds a track I’ve already worked on. They’re incredible LED experiences that remind me of the solo performances by choreographer Murray Louis. We’ve posted quite a few of these videos on YouTube. The more I do them, the more I realize they could look great as a gallery installation. I could do a live performance with Divine’s projections.

— As told to Courtney Yoshimura

Left: View of “Taft Green: A Knot That Is the Name,” Los Angeles Museum of Art, 2013. Right: Alice Könitz’s balsa wood model of LAMOA.

On the empty pavement beside her studio in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, artist Alice Könitz runs a small open-air museum—what she calls a kind of “wunderkammer”—constructed from sturdy timbers and sliding panels. Known as the Los Angeles Museum of Art, the space hosted its inaugural exhibition in December 2012, featuring a sculpture by Taft Green. A project by Stephanie Taylor will open at the space on March 9 and will remain on view until April 29.

BUILDING A MUSEUM IN YOUR YARD raises questions of institutional value. I didn’t intend my museum—the Los Angeles Museum of Art, aka LAMOA—to be a critique, but considering the museum crisis in LA right now I suppose it could be perceived that way. Nevertheless, even though it may be a mimicry, I take my museum very seriously as an exhibition space, and the people who show there are artists I greatly respect. I try to get as close as possible to my idea of a legitimate institution, within the given circumstances. For example, the museum has two tiny collections: one of artwork people have given me and another of altered dried fruit. The idea that it is a museum and not a project space or a gallery matters to me. A “museum” has a certain gravity to it. It has a very slow time frame; it’s kind of a sedentary thing.

One of the advantages of LAMOA is that it is tiny and doesn’t need to fulfill any expectations. Of course, it is more private than public. I have a blog about it, and though theoretically anyone can visit during open hours, so far most that have come by are people that I know. It might be different if the museum were in a storefront. In 2006 I hosted a project in Koreatown called “24 Hour Donut Shop,” which was a private space that I declared public, inspired by the donut store’s claim to be open and accessible at all times. I installed a sculpture by the shopwindow and received guests whom I had invited. In contrast, LAMOA is a public institution in my private yard. I’m fascinated by the organization of public and private space, as they are separated by a vast area of gray. It’s interesting, for instance, that you can’t just camp in any public place, a regulation perhaps set up to protect the public but one that assumes a certain public, which raises questions about whose benefit is served by such regulations. Most American museums are funded both by the government and by private trusts—one of their duties is to serve the public. I believe that privately funded museums have obligations to serve the public as well. LAMOA exists on an entirely different economic scale; everything about it is voluntary, driven by the noncommercial, if private, interest of a small group of artists. It’s not an answer to the problems that our big museums have, but it is an alternative.

LA already has a number of small-scale museums, like the Museum of Jurassic Technology, CLUI, and the Wende Museum; I am sure there are many museums that I have never heard of as well. Starting LAMOA had something to do with not completely accepting what’s already here. Like these small museums, LAMOA directly addresses microcosmic points of view. But each of these institutions is centered on one person’s vision, whereas LAMOA offers a specific yet open space for artists to deal with an exhibition situation. The artist community ends up shaping what the institution really is.

— As told to Travis Diehl

Today Is the Day inaugural fundraising gala and art auction benefit at the Jane Ballroom, New York, November 27, 2012. Photo: Michelle Wang.

Noritoshi Hirakawa is a New York–based Japanese artist, filmmaker, and producer. Last year he spearheaded the formation of the Today Is the Day Foundation, a nonprofit based in Hiroshima, which has begun working on diverse art projects. The foundation held a gala in November 2012 to benefit children impacted by the disaster in Fukushima. Here Hirakawa discusses the impetus behind the project and some of its goals.

FOR A LONG TIME, maybe a decade now, I’ve been meeting with people related to the Fluxus and Conceptual art movements. Fluxus had a vision of how to change society. In a somewhat similar vein, Conceptual artists in the late 1960s protested the war in Vietnam. Artists involved with both of these movements hoped that the world would change for the better. But that didn’t really happen. Today art is not functioning as art—now, however, it seems like commercial success is the only reason for artistic creation.

That’s one of the reasons why I decided to pursue this project. I believe that change has to come from inside. I think it is very important to create an environment, a natural place for emotion to come out. It’s like a language—but it’s more than that. When language doesn’t convey a message or is misunderstood, consciousness is not transformed. People today are searching for a new system completely detached from contemporary systems. We’re in the middle of a big transition toward a different direction. It’s a great time to have a new discourse because people are interested in evolving their consciousness.

Today Is the Day is an organization like Fluxus in that we are focused on sharing. We’re working on several presentations right now—preparing workshops and speeches. We’re looking to embark on a collaborative project with the Marina Abramović Institute. Yesterday I met a composer from Hiroshima. He was very interested in the foundation, so he wanted to meet me. Each individual has the ability to contribute to Today Is the Day in his own capacity. Someone else has asked us to design a new concept for the future of a community in Japan.

Right now we are living in the poorest form of society; in the last thousand years we’ve become mechanical components, just functioning for creating money. We’re living for money. Of course money is now a requirement for living, but we weren’t born for that. We’re the worst civilization that has existed, perhaps, in the last ten thousand years. But this is life now: We are struggling with money, supposedly where happiness comes from. This is an illusion. It is important to know that our current beliefs will model our future reality. We have the ability to choose what comes next.

— As told to Arthur Ou

Left: Allyson Vieira, Weight Bearing II, 2012, drywall, screws, steel, 75 x 65 x 22“. Right: Allyson Vieira, Clad 13, 14, 15, 2013, metal stud, drywall, Plaster-Weld, screws, plaster, ink, cardboard, tape, gloves, cups, blades, sweepings, Clad 12 scrap, wax. 65 x 16 x 5”. Photo: Allyson Vieira.

Allyson Vieira is a New York–based sculptor. Between installing her work at MetroTech Center in Brooklyn for “Configurations,” which is on view until September 16, and prepping for a solo show in New York at Laurel Gitlen from February 22 to March 24, as well as a joint show with Stephen Ellis this summer at Non Objectif Sud in Tulette, France, and then a solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel in September, Vieira recently took time off to travel to Greece for research. Here she talks about her fascination with the Hellenic architectural and sculptural legacy, and how it informs her practice.

THERE ARE TENSIONS between material and form and between labor and form that excite me. I’m not talking about labor in a politicized way, but something more along the lines of labor as skilled, manual work—maybe cutting off material from a mountainside, the accumulating and forming of materials. Some recent pieces, a series called “Clad,” are made from the detritus of my studio—the stuff that gets chipped off of other pieces, the sweepings off the floor. I mix plaster into a conglomerate with this junk material, pour a thick layer of it on top of a stud and drywall form, and then I work that surface after it cures with chisels, a rasp, a grinder, whatever. They’re made in order, and they’re numbered sequentially. So all that detritus from Clad I goes into a scrap bucket and then gets mixed with the next batch to make Clad II, and so on and so forth. Each piece includes the scraps of the one before it, along with whatever else I was making in the studio. It kind of becomes an irrational index of what was going on in there at the time.

One of the newer “Clad” pieces contains concrete chunks I brought back from the garage where we finished the “Weight Bearing” pieces for MetroTech. Those pieces start as accumulations of construction materials into blocks suitable for carving a figural sculpture. The ones at MetroTech are made of mortared cinder blocks; other ones are made of stacks of drywall screwed together to create a solid block. I love it when you go to Lowe’s and see those drywall stacks that go up to the ceiling. It’s like going to Carrara. I kid—sort of. Millions of years from now, what’s the rock that’s made from the layers of materials we accumulated on the surface of the earth going to be like?

With the “Weight Bearing” pieces I’m trying for something pretty simple: to create works that simultaneously feel like vertical blocks—which can read as figural, whether there’s a figure carved into it or not—and also have a sense of contrapposto which I hope infuses these pieces with a kind of dynamic tension. And hips. This kind of talk about figuration probably sounds like I’m a reactionary or something. But it’s exciting stuff and people have loved it for thousands of years, so why not? Just because we have the Internet doesn’t mean we can’t be thinking about form sometimes too. I used a Sawzall to carve the drywall “Weight Bearing” sculptures. I like being limited by tools: I could only cut so deep, and only at certain angles. I didn’t know how any of it was going to work out when I started because I hadn’t done it before. And then there are the marks of the tool. If I use too many different tools on one piece, those marks get obscured.

That’s one of the things I love about Greece, where I end up going every couple years at this point. It’s like sculpture porn over there. You get to see up underneath pieces and between blocks, to see the weird ways that they’re clamped in and braced, the backsides, the rough parts. Everything you’re not supposed to see. It’s completely different than seeing that stuff in American and western European museums. On site, it’s all cracked open and you can see its gooey insides. It’s dirty and real. When I was just there, I watched masons fluting the Parthenon’s restored columns with grinders. Their workmanship is astonishing. And the intelligence with which the Greeks have been pursuing the recent bout of restoration—the new marble is carved to perfectly match the old fragments like insane three-dimensional puzzle pieces, but they make it visibly obvious that the restored parts are restored, and everything they do is completely reversible—really feels right. It’s not Disney World; they’re not trying to fool you. It’s a contemporary project that feels as deeply invested in the present as in the past. When you watch them, there’s an uncanny sense of temporal displacement and simultaneity—objects persist through multiple slices of time, actions replay but are not replicated, materials and sites are reutilized and changed.

It’s cool to feel like you’re part of a humanist tradition that extends that far back. I’m not saying I’m the inheritor of Phidias or anything, I’m just one of a bunch of schmoes who have decided to do this with their lives. The long view of humans building things from Paleolithic times up to the present is just really interesting. You get to see all of that laid out before you when you’re there.

— As told to Dawn Chan

Glenda Leon


Glenda Leon, Wasted Time, 2013, hourglass, sand, 78 3/4 x 94 1/2 x 94 1/2".

Glenda Leon is a Cuban artist based in Havana and Madrid. Her conceptual works span a range of media including drawing, video, and installation. Leon currently has a solo exhibition at the Chateau Des Adhemar in Montélimar, France, which is on view until March 24, and she will also exhibit her new work, on behalf of Magnan Metz Gallery, in Solo Projects at ARCO Madrid, which runs February 13–17. Leon, along with two other artists, will represent Cuba in the 2013 Venice Biennale.

BEFORE I WAS A VISUAL ARTIST, I was a dancer. Cuba is a country of dance—it’s everywhere here: in the streets, in restaurants and bars, performance halls and schools—and from the time that I was a little girl, I studied dance, hoping to become a choreographer. I realize now that this passion for dance actually came from sound; I had an enormous need to express with my body what I was listening to. I believe that music is actually a superior art and that it can take us, like no other medium, to a higher level of existence.

Sound is an element I play with aesthetically. I like the space where sound and the visual merge—where sound is not yet music and where the visual takes on another dimension. Every object contains a potential sound, and as an artist I look for ways to shape sound visually. I am interested in the abstract quality of sound and its connection to that part of us that we can’t verbalize.

In the past, for instance, I created a series of music boxes, “Interpreted World,” where the names of gods of different denominations are spelled out in braille; I have translated the braille into notes on a score and each music box plays the resulting sound. In much of my work, especially the pieces that I’m presenting at ARCO, I want to get at the interstice of sound and time. Time passes as quickly as sound passes, but the visual is static. I suppose I try to freeze sound and time through visual representation—to get at the interstice between sound and silence, between the instant and eternity—sound being the absence of silence.

Until recently in Cuba, artists were one of the few groups of people that were allowed to travel freely and live abroad. And while living abroad I have realized the wide spectrum of possibilities that exist artistically, the different sorts of artwork that can be produced. It’s much easier to do certain technical things outside of Cuba; fabrication is practically impossible to do in Cuba and supplies are quite hard to come by. But what I like about being in Cuba is the easiness of life there. Art, at least for me, aims at taking one to a higher state of being, but that shouldn’t, or doesn’t need to, come out of tribulation—that’s perhaps why much of my work uses sound to get at silence, a concept of inner silence.

Silence is where one can find balance—there is so much talking, so much wasted time. One of the pieces I am showing at ARCO Madrid, Wasted Time, is a mountain of sand with an hourglass peeking over the top. It’s sort of a pessimistic work, as it gestures at lost time—it’s as if at each point the hourglass has been turned over, sand has slipped through the glass, collecting into this enormous pile. But don’t mistake my work for being escapist—it’s not—I want to pay attention to the real root of how transformation and solutions occur. There’s already enough noise in the world, don’t you think?

— As told to Allese Thomson