Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Paul McCarthy: The Last Artist We Needed to Meet

Artist Paul McCarthy with J. Shimon after McCarthy's lecture at
The Art Institute of Chicago, May 2012. Photographed by J. Lindemann

A person definitely gets over meeting famous artists after being hired to photograph them by the dozens. There was one remaining exception, a single artist who seemed to rise above, Paul McCarthy. Our friend John McKinnon organized a talk at the Art Institute of Chicago last May (2012), and somehow intuitively knew we needed to connect. It was a rather conventional artist's talk, focused on more obscure works and maybe with a thicker than normal air of discomfort with the action of speaking about oneself. A handful of people came on stage to get various things signed, rather quickly leaving Paul standing alone. I approached him, we started out laughing, had a short, abstract conversation about holes/passages, barriers/containment, voids/hollowness, and began weeping. Julie immediately intervened and asked him why he quit teaching. "Didn't want to become one of those" was his reply. Yea, that is an issue isn't it. A contemporary art member/MBA/golfer type then whisked Mr. McCarthy away to the special VIP fundraiser dinner. Such is the life of a visionary artist.

Paul McCarthy lecture opening slide
at The Art Institute of Chicago, May 2012.
The New York Times Magazine ran a feature on McCarthy's work on May 10, 2013 titled:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

More Real than the Real Thing: Media Artist Jack Goldstein on UbuWeb

Portrait of Jack Goldstein by James Welling
UbuWeb's founder, an American poet and professor of poetics at Penn State named Kenneth Goldsmith, writes: "It’s amazing to me that UbuWeb, after fifteen years, is still going. Run with no money and put together pretty much without permission, Ubu has succeeded by breaking all the rules, by going about things the wrong way. UbuWeb can be construed as the Robin Hood of the avant-garde, but instead of taking from one and giving to the other, we feel that in the end, we’re giving to all." It is on UbuWeb that a viewer can find a wealth of artist Jack Goldstein's works.

UbuWeb recently posted 10 films from the 1970s by Jack Goldstein (1945-2003), a Candadian born, California-based performance and conceptual artist. States UbuWeb, "Beyond their political content...the sheer beauty of Goldstein's '70s films constantly forces one to remember that, even when he deploys the strategies of spectacle ironically, Goldstein is a talented visual artist. That these works still look so fresh testifies not only to his refined aesthetic sensibility, but also to his influence on many of today's artists, for whom media culture and the loop have respectively become the subject and device du jour." According to the Jack Goldstein Estate website, "Goldstein was one of the first graduates of CalArts and went on to experiment with performance, film, recording and painting. This exciting early work of the late seventies, eighties and early nineties influenced many artists who came after him." His work was recently included in "The Pictures Generation" curated by The Met in New York City. Wrote Robert C. Morgan about Goldstein's work in the Brooklyn Rail: " There is a sense of ambiguity about it—an ambiguity without the weight of disaster. Instead, one senses a kind of arbitrariness in Goldstein’s work that is fully conscious of its beauty and elegance. His presentation is about the distance between beauty and the dark side of human and natural events, how they come together through a kind of poetic sublimation."

A suite of nine records (sound effects) by Jack Goldstein, 1979

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Transformation and Fair Use

Richard Prince from Canal Zone
French photographer Patrick Cariou sued Richard Prince for using/appropriating his photographs from his series Yes, Rasta circa 2000 as the basis of Prince's Canal Zone series circa 2012. The courts recently found that Prince had "transformed" Caribou's work to make a new more contemporary statement hence declaring it "Fair  Use".

Patrick Cariou Yes, Rasta (left) vs. Richard Prince Canal Zone (right)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Museumised: Rose-Coloured Resurrection

The Loud Family for the PBS documentary An American Family,
which "devastated" them when media called them "affluent zombies"
while accusing gay son Lance Loud (upper left) of
"camping and queening about like a pathetic court jester".
"We all become living specimens under the spectral light of ethnology, or of anti-ethnology which is only the pure form of triumphal ethnology, under the sign of dead differences, and of the resurrection of differences."
-- Jean Baudrillard, Simulations (p. 16)
With the mission of chronicling the "daily life of the Louds - an upper-middle class family from May 30 to December 31, 1971, PBS museumized the family as it fetishized their interactions and relationships in the series An American Family aired in 1973. They became specimens before the camera, which precipitated the parental divorce and the punk antics of Lance Loud, who had famously corresponded with artist Andy Warhol as a teen. Sited as the first "reality TV" show, An American Family changed the lives of the Louds, and it "changed my life," stated Craig Gilbert, the creator of the series stated in 2011 in a New Yorker interview. In a subsequent HBO drama titled Cinema Verite about the making of An American Family aired in 2011, the producers tried to "convey the surreal enormity of An American Family to viewers who are more accustomed to the idea of living in public, whether in front of cameras or through social media" and understanding the innocence of the early 1970s. Writes Baudrillard, "More interesting is the phantasm of filming the Louds as if TV weren't there. The producer's trump card was to say: "They lived as if we weren't there." An "absurd paradoxical formula--neither true, nor false: bit utopian"(50) wrote Baudrillard while concluding that the family were victims of a sacrificial spectacle offered to 20 million Americans (51-52). Such museumification of human subjects continues more broadly today in everyday life everywhere as every minute seemingly is captured and uploaded for all to see. An American Life is a harbinger of the Internet exploitation of the individuals and disasters to come.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Video is Not Film

Bill Viola with video camera © Russ Roca

Bill Viola (b. 1951), and his Australian partner Kira Perov spent three days at Lawrence University campus. Together they presented panel discussions, a work shop with Q&A session, an intimate lunch with students, and screenings of Viola's early video work.  Viola spoke repeatedly about today's digital technology, "We're experiencing an amazing renaissance and we don't even know it" he exclaimed. Viola's visit was spurred by a project curated by philosopher Christopher Zimmerman (LU '96) titled Bill Viola-Light, Time, Being focusing on screening Viola's early single channel video work from the 1970s and 1980s. In his 2011 essay titled "Video is Not Film", Zimmerman argues:
"...there is a tendency today to amalgamate film and video within the larger culture of the moving image. The accessibility and ubiquity of video and digital technology seem to have softened the once critical distinctions between two art forms. However, under closer scrutiny, the finer differences between film and video reveal essentially two different mediums, different developmental traditions, different apparatus producing different practices, and different aesthetic stances as to the meaning and significance of moving images." 
Zimmerman writes further on a number of topics relevant to Viola's video work from "Light and Reception" to "Being and Projection." Viola's experimental early videos screened in the Wriston Auditorium by Zimmerman on three consecutive evenings have been superseded by more polished projects shot at 3000 frames per second exploring themes of mortality and death according to Perov.

Viola performed himself as an artist with his head in the clouds wearing Buddhist Mala Beads and emphasizing the spiritual while needing to be reminded by studio manager Perov to organize his notes, address the audience question at hand, and/or use the restroom before taking the stage. Digital Processes student and Senior Studio Art Major Rachele Krivichi (LU '13) introduced Viola's convocation lecture. Viola's lecture on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, titled "Artless Art", included projections of this recent video projects such as Three Women (© 2008). Viola charged students with mindfully and responsibly using the digital technology that's "going into you in the deepest possible way". Use it as a tool, he advised, to merge the human soul and the digital.

Lawrence University Associate Professor of Art History Elizabeth Carlson facilitated Viola and Zimmerman's campus appearance sponsored by the Committee on Public Occasions. 

The Divine Irreference of Images

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse at Disneyland,
Anaheim, California, Christmas 2007 by Mouse Planet
"This deep-frozen infantile world happens to have been conceived and
realized by a man who is himself now cryogenised, Walt Disney,
who awaits his resurrection at minus 180 degrees centigrade."
© 1983 Jean Baudrillard, Simulations (p. 24)
"Disneyland is a perfect model of all the entangled orders of simluation...what draws the crowds is undoubtedly much more the social microcosm, the miniaturised and religious revelling in real America..." © 1983 Jean Baudrillard, Simulations  (p. 23)
An inkjet print project funded by the Lawrence University Department of Art & Art History Dyrud and Stark Funds enabled Digital Processes students to experience the work flow of producing Epson inkjet prints. By first developing a concept, then making work prints before editing and enlarging images to 17x22", students explored both Jean Baudrillard's writings on "the edifice of representation as a simulacrum" through their images and the making of photo quality inkjet prints.  Large scale prints of the strongest image on this theme by each of 13 students will be on display in the Wriston Atrium windows May 2013 to May 2014.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sonja Thomsen's Nexus

Sonja Thomsen "Oil Self Portrait" inkjet print © 2013
Milwaukee artist Sonja Thomsen visited Lawrence University Department of Art & Art History on April 9-10, 2013 to talk about her projects and critique student work in conjunction with her Nexus installation at the Wriston Art Center Galleries. Her last visit to LU was April 28, 2010, for a lecture on her water-related work and to meet with students. The Nexus series (an ongoing project since 2010) creates the "skin between memory, place and the present." Her Epson inkjet prints on Hahnemuhle paper are mounted and displayed on shelves hung at varying heights to "play with the perceptual shifting of scales" and are sometimes purposely disorienting to viewers. We first met Sonja in 2005 at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design just after she received her MFA from San Francisco Art Institute. We were visiting artists brought in to critique senior work. She had just started teaching photography courses part-time and was critiquing with us. Since then, her work has evolved to include installation and sculpture. Her images have become more abstract while functioning as critical views of the important issues of our time, ranging from family life to big oil. These investigations exist in an intellectual space that combines philosophy, science, and aesthetics. Her work is in the permanent collections of Milwaukee Art Museum, Ljosmyndasafn Reykjavikur, and the Midwest Photographers Project at MoCP. She has won numerous prestigious grants and fellowships including the Greater Milwaukee Mary Nohl Fellowship for Established Artists

Sonja Thomsen critiques Digital Processes student
Emma Moss's inkjet prints on April 10, 2013 in Steitz Hall

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Basic Reality: Can You Say Simulacra?

Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007): French postmodernist
sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist,
political commentator, and photographer.
He is the author of our text this term: Simluations.
From Rockabillies embracing the fashions and ethos of pre-Civil Rights America to the Olive Garden Italian Restaurant capturing the "welcoming atmosphere of a Tuscan farmhouse," contemporary American pop cultlure is built from cinematic fantasies and strip mall stucco to simulate another time and place as predicted by Jean Baudrillard in his 30-year-old book Simulations (1983).

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Wisconsin Death Trip Hommage

"Family Outside House" circa 1910 by Charles J. Van Schaick
Wisconsin Historical Society Visual Archive

Wisconsin Darkness & Picturesque:
A Multimedia Response to
Michael Lesys Wisconsin Death Trip

Saturday, March 9, 2013 @ 8:00 PM
Esch Hurvis Studio @ Warch Campus Center
Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin

This 1-hour program features videos by LU ART 240 Digital Processes students
accompanied by improvisational performances by LU faculty: Jesse Dochnahl '06 (sax),
John T. Gates (voice), Brian Pertl '86 (Tibetan horn & didgeridoo), John Shimon (guitar).
The artists are responding to the seminal book, Wisconsin Death Trip (1973) by
Michael Lesy (American, b. 1945). WDT juxtaposes archival photographs by
Charles Van Schaik (made 1890-1910 in Black River Falls, WI) with 19th-century stories
published in the Badger State Banner newspaper. Lesy wrote in his introduction:
“It is as much an exercise of history as it is an experiment of alchemy.


Yoga Exorcism by Rose Brosie” Broll 14
Manipulated/Insanity by Shea Love 14
Reversal of Fortune by Amber Latimer 15
Kid Play by Amalie Ludwig ‘15
A Stroll in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, by Xian Qu 14
Insanity by Frank “Frankie” Lieberman 14
Shoemakers by Sarah Jane Rennick 15
Shitfaced Voyeurism by Emma Moss 14
BFF by Htee Moo 15


Shitfaced Voyeurism by Emma Moss 14
Insanity by Frank “Frankie” Lieberman 14
Yoga Exorcism by Rose Brosie” Broll 14
Shoemakers by Sarah Jane Rennick 15
Adams Death Rib: Eves Trip to Genesis by Alfredo Duque 14
BFF by Htee Moo 15
Reversal of Fortune by Amber Latimer 15
Foxes are Common by Renee Kargleder 13
Kid Play by Amalie Ludwig ‘15
Manipulated/Insanity by Shea Love 14
A Stroll in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, by Xian Qu 14

Sponsored by the Lawrence University
Department of Art & Art History and the Conservatory of Music
 Alfredo Duque Vocalizes to His Video:
"Adam's Death Rib:
Eve's Trip to Genesis" © March 2013

 Renee Kargleder Dances to Her Video:
 "Foxes are Common" © March 2013

Evan Baden & the Digital Natives

Evan Baden with his photographs, circa 2011
Milwaukee Art Museum curator Lisa Hostetler showed us Evan Baden's Illuminati series on a visit to the MAM Print Room. He'd made the work while an undergraduate at the College for Visual Studies in St. Paul (to close in June 30, 2013). We emailed Evan to arrange a visit to his studio in Minneapolis/St. Paul in June of 2011 where he showed us his provocative Technically Intimate series that we'd seen excerpts of in various glossy magazines. The walls of his small studio were covered with blow ups of his best images and he pulled out a few work prints of experiments. The Lawrence University Photography Club, lead by the dynamic Will Melnick, invited Evan to speak on his work and visit with students March 5-6, 2013. In his lecture, Evan pointed to the painstaking detail to convey his understanding of his extensive Internet research of online phenomena. His photographs ultimately critique how online experience is shaping real world relationships. He covered his resourceful technical practices too. Most memorable was adding supplemental light with three iPods to most convincingly simulate the illumination provided by the handheld electronic devices shown in Illuminati. His latest series, Under the Influence, examines how teens perform themselves and their sexuality for the camera (see below image). His 4x5 format view camera and use of color negative film heightens the intensity of such coreographed performances embellished by props and supervised by parents. The prints are titled with captions taken directly from mainstream magazines. Museums and galleries in the US and Europe have included his work in exhibitions interrogating technology and its impact. Baden ships rolled-up prints or uploads files to servers for output on location. The venue mounts the print on aluminum, exhibits then destroys it. Some prints make their way into museum collections rather than face destruction or the expense of crating and return shipping. Evan is working on an MFA at Columbia College in Chicago and lives in Oak Park while he juggles the demands of an international speaking/exhibition schedule, making work, and teaching.

"It's All About Me. I Mean You. I Mean Me." © 2012 Evan Baden, panoramic inkjet print

Thursday, February 14, 2013

We simply are not equipped with earlids

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007), the most important and
controversial electronic composer of the 20th and 21st centuries
"Where a visual space is an organized continuum of a uniformed connected kind, the ear world is a world of simultaneous relationships," writes Marshall McLuhan in The Medium is the Massage (1967). The "ear world" influence of German electronic composer, Karlheinz Stockhausen, trickled down to the pop level via The Beatles and others bands of the 1960s creating many "simultaneous relationships". His electronic, spatial, and chance compositions (e.g. "variable form") influenced other 1960s pop musicians as well, including Frank Zappa and Pete Townsend. The Beatles included his face on the cover montage image of their album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Inspired by Stockhausen and the Fluxus sound experiments of Yoko Ono (now 80 years old and a huge Twitter and Instagram user), Beatle John Lennon wanted to make his own experimental sound piece. Lasting more than 8 minutes, Revolution 9, contained random everyday sounds and tape loops (some from the archives of EMI ) of cheering crowds, cooing babies, random conversation, orchestral music, and laughter. The Stockhausen-influence as heard in Hymnen (1967), made up of electronically manipulated national anthems, is obvious. After some controversy, Revolution 9 (1968) was included on THE BEATLES (a/k/a "The White Album"). The most accessible Stockhausen sound continuum may very well be the Beatles' A Day in the Life. The culminating track on their Sgt. Pepper's album, it includes sounds of an alarm clock, panting, and piano strings aggressively banged and left to decay. "The ringing of the piano went on and on and on...with an 18 kHz track for dogs to listen to," said producer George Martin in a video interview (below). Marshall McLuhan writes of the Beatles influence on "musical effects":

Myth means putting on the audience, putting on one's environment.
The Beatles do this. They are a group of people who suddenly
were able to put on their audience and the English language
with musical effects--putting on a vesture, a whole time, a Zeit. (p. 114)

George Martin talks about "A Day in the Life" by the Beatles

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

It Is What It Is: Image + Book

TV Room from Suburbia © Bill Owens, 1973, revised 1999
The generally affable Bill Owens (American 1938- ) had just returned from a stint in the Peace Corps. He observed the normalcy yet strangeness of the burgeoning American suburbs. While working for the Livermore Independent as a photojournalist, he became intrigued by suburban Livermore. He photographed on assignment and made pictures of people in their homes doing what they do for work and leisure. After he had enough material and was laid off, he collected quotes as text to make something substantial, a book titled Suburbia published in 1973. Though his photographs were collected and exhibited by prestigious museums from the MOMA to the Getty, it wasn't a living. He had a family to support. Always entrepreneurial and a believer in self-publishing, he wrote a book about making books (extremely rare) after his own experiences. He later quit pursuing the "art world" to put his energy into more economically viable projects like a brew pub (1983) and later distilling (2004). As Canadian media critic Marshall McLuhan wrote in his 1967 book, The Medium is the Massage: "The poet, the artist, the sleuth--whoever sharpens our perception tends to be antisocial; rarely "well adjusted," he cannot go along with currents and trends. A strange bond often exists among anti-social types in their power to see environments as they really are." (p. 88). Owens did exactly that in his books and ongoing projects. Entering suburban space in earnest to photograph, he left us with a critique of a lifestyle that today may strike us as comic yet coaxes feelings of pity. McLuhan continued, "Humor as a system of communications and as a probe of our environment--of what's really going on--affords us our most appealing anti-environmental tool. It does not deal with theory, but in immediate experience, and is often the best guide to changing perceptions." (p. 92). Perusing the Suburbia work today becomes an act of discovery, a probe of a mental space and a place that once was. Decades later, suburbia has mutated throughout America into a boundless sprawl of fast food restaurants, faux artisinal boutique stores, big box stores, parking lots, seemingly infinite beige, gray, and white cookie cutter houses, and vacant McMansions

Tupperware Party from Suburbia © Bill Owens, 1973, revised 1999

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lynda Barry's Digits

Lynda Barry, author and cartoonist
Cartoonist and author Lynda Barry presented an evocative convocation at Lawrence University on Thursday, January 24, 2013 wearing smart velvet hat and long braids. She has been a keen observer of digital culture noting that parents spend more time looking at their smart phones than looking at their children's faces. Holding her arms up in the air and wiggling her fingers, she pointed out that fingers are the original digital media. Telling a naughty joke about snoring and balls that her farmer neighbors told her, she amused the audience but made the college president squirm. Barry let her freak flag fly and the audience loved it on a cold January day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Time" has ceased, "space" has vanished

Chris Burden, Shoot, November 19, 1971,
F Space, Santa Ana, CA
"We have now become aware of the possibility of arranging the
entire human environment as a work of art, as a teacing machine
designed to maximize perceptoin and to make
everyday learning a process of discovery." 
Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, 1967

Pondering Chris Burden's performance piece, Shoot, mounted at F-Space in Santa Ana on November 19, 1971, we see that Burden (who studied for his B.A. in visual artsphysics and architecture at Pomona College and received his MFA at the University of California, Irvine from 1969 to 1971) played off what a camera does (shoot) while making a statement about the gravity of the gunfire in Vietnam, which has resonated through the decades. Electronic media allowed the below seven second film and audio documentation of a private event witnessed by 12 people to become iconic. Until we entered this era only material objects could attain the status of Art. Shoot made Burden a "living myth". When a UCLA student tried to do a piece with a gun in a graduate seminar, in 2005, Burden retired his position. McLuhan presaged Burden's performance piece "arranging of the entire human environment as a work of art" by 4 years.