Thursday, April 26, 2012

The “supplement”. Draft for a performance.

-Javier de Frutos
01. Introduction
In the twentieth century the modern museum has turned itself into one of the most poignant social paradoxes; public institutions alienated from a clear social mission, constantly playing out a balancing act between public and private funding. They’ve become institutions that have looked for too much time for a safe haven inside their own white walls, their own group of investors and donors (which gain profit from this relation through federally implemented tax deductions) serving as the primary interests to appease when taking into consideration the design of programs, the acquisition of collections, and the art historical frame to which the museums and curators abide. This has created a system of institutionalized art practice that is turning a blind eye to the social responsibilities that said institutions have with their communities.What can museums offer us besides showing artworks in tightly designed white cubes? As Habernas states, the challenge lies in the re-embracement of particular “supplements” such as education, forums for public dialogues, and addressing in an active manner issues pertinent to communities. For Habermas the challenge of the twentieth century is to reclaim the promise of the public sphere for  a genuine democratic debate.
Jorge Rivalta tries to re-define the “public sphere” in the institutional discourse by pointing out the importance of the museums in the creation of spaces for criticism, freedom of expression, play and experimentation. Nancy Fraser contributes to Haberma’s ideal system with a model of post-bourgeois audience in her book “Rethinking the Public Sphere”. Fraser thinks this sphere of critical debate ,in our case, the  museum,  should embrace the public without any social or economic discrimination; museums not just for an elitist group of people conscious of art’s neologistic discourse (and with a direct interests in the market), but also for a variety of people in the public sphere that are able to create  substantial debates that bring into light problems and preoccupations which affect them and their communities. She also claims for a fair space in which debate can take place and allow for the creation of new dynamics, and relations, between the different sectors in the social strata.
Looking through different museum philosophies, it is difficult to see the differences between their practices, but if we are able to understand how a variety of museums are supported we could easily understand how these 'supplements' work in their structures. Considering three different models (EEUU, UK, Europe) we will exemplify three different perspectives about the role of the institution and the creation of these 'supplements', or critical areas, in their relation with the public and their supporters.
The first example is the American Museum, based on consumerism, it gives importance to their donors, private collectors, or company-firms, which support almost 75% of the funding. The supplement for these Museums is usually a kind of an extra gift they share with the community. They are completely independent from the state; just 10 to 12% of their funding comes from public support, and 15% comes from ticket sales, which then further alienates it from the community. Because public participation is not required, there is the risk that it could lose the urgency to create any kind of significant supplement. The English Museum is the most populist, 60% of its support coming from private funds; almost the rest being supplemented by the state. Their idea of the “public” is based on the electorate: more people and more consumers means more public. The risk with this model is that the discourse could become superficial and banal. The European Museum, for the most part,supported by the state. They're focused on the creation of a critical sphere of discussion for the community. So as not to lose its critical spirit many of its educational programs are addressed to an educated elite able to keep up with its discourse.This model runs the risk of turning overtly elitist, leaving out the larger part of the community, creating the situation of a lot of money being spent by citizens who will never participate since its mostly made directed to educated scholars.
02. The idea.
With this in mind I have developed the performance “The Supplement”, based on the idea of the “hot dog serving” as an analogy for the contemporary museum system. This supplement  will involve placing a hot dog vendor outside of a Museum, in the street, for a month. The hot dog cart represents the “museum” as a space for critical debate, the vendor will be identified as  “the curator,” the person in charge of cooking a discourse as “culture” for the “public”, and the hot dog means the processed art . This performance is a metaphor about how the art is cooked by cultural institutional policies. In a smaller scale we will play with other smaller, but significant, details:  the package of the hot dog, (the culture industry) as a framework that confines the bun (the museum) as the shelter that holds in place the meat (the culture/art) with all its condiments, representative of different nationalities (the celebration of identity), and the extra, what we call the “supplement” , as in their commitment with comunities. My idea is to exemplify, through this project, the role of ‘the supplement’ in these three type of museum systems. Using different prices for the bun, the meat, the “extra”, we'll represent these three different ideal Museum policies. In this arena, the public will be designing their ideal museum by choosing the bun, the meat, the “extra” ; different features from these three models. The opportunity the public will have to decide and think what should be the “supplement”  Museums should give to their extended public as a further expansion that raises questions about the role of art in contemporary society and the institutional policies that delineate its practice. The project, will reach a wider audiences than the Museum's one, and with it a broader perspective and opinionated feedback. The unprecedented existence of this level of public interaction allows us the possibility of reconstructing an open critical discourse where the expansive and open nature of the project guarantees the existence of a truly democratic public discussion about the nature of the modern museum, as exemplified by a hot dog.
03. Budget.
Hot dog cart: 2000$
Hot dog vendor: 2000$
Meat, buns, condiments.. 1500$
Licenses: 1500$
Design & Packaging: 2000$
Organization: 2000$
*The first  day a real Curator will open the performance performing for 30 minutes as hot dog vendor .
 04. The installation of the performance.
The performance will be documented and become an installation that will be bought through live feed and create a conversation with the inside of the Museum. This piece will consist in an installation in which we will use the the hot dog cart, the feedback from the public, and the video installation.


Dia:Beacon, as a start.

I want to start with the trip.

Then the show.
Walt De Maria

Michael Heizer

Donald Judd

Sol Lewitt

Gerhard Richter

Robert Ryman

Fred Sandback

In the first few minutes when we started the tour with the curator, I did not have strong feeling of involvement; Walter De Maria’s Silver Meters looks no more than just interesting ideas with strong executive ability. However, with the tour going, when all the artworks started overlaying as a whole space, I can feel the extraordinary harmony and power in this exhibition. In this way, Dia: Beacon is definitely the best exhibition could explain the idea “experiential” I’ve even been.

Although most of the works delivered a kind of neutral visual expression, I get the idea of “anti value” behind them, and also a deeper critical concept. At a certain point, I felt like I want to grab my brain out of my head, and through it away, since I can’t bear that my sensory playing with my intellect. That is the time I forced myself to stop thinking about anything, or what it really is, and the whole space start to shift. Even if I ‘ve seen Richard Serra’s piece in LA, but the experience is totally different from that time, I was looking up following the edge between the installation and the ceiling, and really trying to feel how this piece work with the building, everything else became unimportant at all. I can feel my existed observing system and empiricism is breaking in the space, and can’t stop thinking about “Never trust your own eyes, believe what you are told.”

That was when the politics involved.

As an audience, when I realized my eyes cheated my intellect, I doubt if I really see what I wanted to see. At the same period some of these artworks were created, the artists on the west coast spare no effort to protest on civil rights, wars, and social problems in lots of their artwork, to tell people how the other side looks like. I was wondering if the same intention was hiding somewhere behind these relatively abstract “simplicity” artworks? If so, it is not just to implant a different aspect to subvert what people used to think, but a new way of thinking to make people doubt about what they believe they know.

In this way, it is still neutral, because it affecting the vision on both side of any conflict.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

-Off Schedule, On the Trend- Armory Show

When I walked into the Armory Show, I did suspect I would be as interested in the art presented as repulsed by the food court like experience. I was right. As I was discovering the different galleries and the artists they represent, I felt like I was in an all you can eat buffet where the caviar and bananas were presented alongside each other for the consumer to consume. At times hard to digest, the sequencing of everything was processed in a gluttonous way.

Progressing through the Armory Show, loaded with the art that was present, much of it was surpassed by the next booth. I wouldn’t say that everything was of the same interest, but moving with a certain speed, with the flow of the quickly increasing crowd, at times I could not remember what I had just seen. To the question ‘what did you like’, I would simply answer, ‘I will take a nap after I digest it all and will get back to you later’. Yes, more than a week after the visit to my first Armory Show, I am still digesting the information with random visual notes about what struck me, either the classical or the ‘new’ art pieces, as the words to describe the experience are slowly trying to emerge.

My perspective on art fairs has been altered. I do love art. In fact, I produce it. Creating it and marketing it are two very different things. It is like two opposing worlds interlinking . The whole point of the market being present at the art fairs is crucial for the art world to be fed. The menu gets overwhelming nonetheless. 

      So what is the recipe for good and sellable art? Is there one? Some artists are sitting on gold, or actually the market creates value, so the share over the perfect pie is split. Speculation, hypes and classics of contemporary art. The discourses are operating, as good or bad as it might be. I am not sure from which philosophical perspective I should take the art fairs from, but there is for sure issues concerning the relationship with the studio of the artists (the creation or making of art) and the art fairs (simply the market.)

How is art informed in art fairs? Is the art actually important? Who comes to see the art work if not with the intention of looking at what sells and for how much? Walking in a museum or gallery space surely brings a different feeling than an art fair does. Do we think about the content of the art piece? What it invokes? Or, simply how much its value can increase? When the art is validated by the art world, simply by being present in art fairs, is it still time to be thinking about what it represents or even being moved by it?

        Toward the end of my walk, at which point I was truly fed up, I came across a performance. Marina Abramovic was lying on her “Bed of Human Use.” I was alive again, and amazed. The piece was very interesting and the dynamic with the public, while rather disturbing, was totally working with the scene. There she was, all flesh, breathing under a huge quartzo crystal that could have crushed her head if it would have fallen. Peoples’ reactions were exquisite and fascinating. I am still wondering who took that piece back home for the collection.

I do remember some of my favorite pieces now! I always enjoy seeing Kiki Smith’s work. Its complex simplicity, its inherent beauty, brings me back to my childhood dreams with vivid imagination.

Another piece was a newly discovered artist whose retrospective I had the opportunity and pleasure to see last month at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles: Alina Szapocznikow. Her work was love at first sight.

At Volta art fair, I was delighted to see the work of a Montreal-based artist, Sophie Jodoin, whom I have been following for few years. . Battat Contemporary Gallery’s booth displayed Jodoin’s work. The Independent was also on my path that weekend in beautiful Chelsea. All these art fairs had the intention of selling art, but they were also a gigantic platform for artists.

The intensity of viewing art was at its paroxysm last week in New York City with 7 days in a row of major art fairs and exhibitions in prominent museums. It actually finished in my case by exhibiting in the International Juried Photography Exhibition at Viridian Artist in Chelsea, curated by Jennifer Blessing (Guggenheim Photography Curator) from March 13th to the 31st. I must admit to the incredible cliché : I love New York (and all it has to offer for the arts.) I did see amazing and inspiring art and was very happy to have my part in it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New York March 2012

Our class trip with Hanru to New York City was overwhelming. We packed in on average two to three museums per day, which included meeting with most of the curators as well. The museums that stood out high above the rest were the Guggenheim and the Dia Beacon. Of all the speakers, the two from these museums were also the most interesting and inspiring to listen to. Both places presented art in a totally unique way that moved me.

I had never been to the Dia Beacon before and was very impressed by the architecture of the museum and the way the art was displayed. The entire museum is naturally lit with skylights and windows. I don’t think I have ever seen art shown in that way before. It completely changes the viewing experience. The way the light hits the objects changes throughout the day and so the pieces look different depending on the time of day and quality of light. I have to say I think I was more impressed with the actual building itself than the art inside, but I was incredibly drawn to Richard Serra’s circular maze sculptures. While walking through Serra’s Union of the Torus and the Sphere (2001) I felt the quieting of my mind and a heightening of my senses. I became aware of the temperature drop, the way the sound differed, the way the texture of the walls felt, and the patterns of light and shadow that formed on the walls. The way the walls curved in an uneven way altered my sense of balance as well, however I still felt a sense of calm and peace while inside the mazes. I returned to the Serra sculptures later in the afternoon and was pleased to see how the light had changed and how that created a whole new experience inside the structures. I really enjoyed the talk by Dia Beacon’s curator Philippe Vergne. I loved what he said about “art is now, it is in the present”. It was interesting that he mentioned the Rothko Chapel in Houston, and discussed how different ways of viewing art, enhance and change the viewer’s experience. I had been home the weekend before and was telling my father about our trip to L.A. and my response to seeing some of Rothko’s large, subtle paintings. He told me about the chapel and his experience of how viewing the paintings within such an amazing space affected him deeply. After viewing the work at the Dia Beacon, listening to my father describe the experience of the Rothko Chapel, and hearing Philippe talk about theses two spaces and different ways of viewing art it made me think of all the possibilities of how art could be shown and viewed.

The Guggenheim also has a very unique way of displaying art. I had been to the Guggenheim before about 17 years ago when I was in high school. I remember it making a huge impression on me at the time, this time even more so. I really enjoyed how curator Sandini Podnar personally took us around and spoke about all of the exhibitions in the museum. Her passion and enthusiasm enhanced the whole viewing experience for me. I enjoyed the way John Chamberlain’s jumbled metal sculptures were displayed throughout the museum going up the ramp. You go off into separate rooms filled with different exhibitions. The one’s I enjoyed the most were Being Singular Plural and the Francesca Woodman retrospective.

Within the first room of Being Singular Plural Amar Kanwar’s short films of Burma were displayed in a beautiful way. The presentation in this room was a brilliant. The room was dark and small sheets of paper hung down from the ceiling and video clips were projected onto the pages. Off to one side there were books on display that had the first pages torn out by the Burmese bookshop owner Ko Than Hay in 1994. These pages had contained ideological slogans inserted by the county’s military regime. It was an ode to the thousands engaged in the ongoing struggle for democracy in Burma. It reminded me of the film Burma VJ, which captured this struggle of the fight for people’s freedom under a violent oppressive military regime. My absolute favorite part of Being Singular Plural was the film Residue 2011 by Sonal Jain and Miganka Mahukaillya. You enter into a small dark room with the film playing in a loop with surround sound. The visual imagery in this film was stunning and subtle. It had the texture of the works of Aaron Siskind, the color palate of Richard Misrach, and the mechanical structures and machines were reminiscent of Lewis Hine and Bernd and Hilla Becher. I was mesmerized by the images and the sounds. There were pressure gauges that looked like eyes that morphed into moths and flies. There were sounds of monks chanting over steel machinery inside an abandoned factory. Rust colored oil drums in an over grown field with static noise. Certain times ambient noise from the surrounding scene with rumbling noises in the background would get really loud for a split second. The sounds and music were very effective at hinting a presence other than the viewer. The colors, light, textures, and the slow panning of the camera were visually seductive. I went into the room and sat and watched several parts of the film at different points. Although the order of viewing did not seem to matter I still wish I could have watched it from start to finish.

-Celia Lara

New York

The last time I was in New York I was with a class visiting a wide range of museums and galleries. We saw the Whitney Biennial, went to MOMA, the New Museum, and many more. The most unique show I saw was Testimonials: 100 Years of Popular Expression at El Museo del Barrio. Our host was Deborah Cullen, the curator of the show, who had been part of the museum since 1997. During our visit, she walked my group through the show and explained that the work was all pulled from the museums permanent collection or on loan from private collectors. Testimonials set itself apart from other shows we observed on our trip because the majority of the artists were not traditionally trained makers.

This temporary show began with an artist named Ejlat Fewer who documented New York’s Puerto Rican community and nooks between neighborhoods. He photographed what these communities chose to do with the empty spaces between New York skyscrapers. These images capture personal shrines, gardens and gathering spaces. The photographs gave us a unique view into this private community that has a lot of vibrant personality. It was special to see what is behind the large buildings that make up what most people know as New York.

Our tour then led to a series of sculptures that Gregorio Marzán, a NewYork based Puerto Rican sculptor, created for his grandchildren as toys. He made animals and other items out of any found materials he had such as foil, cloth and household items. The sculptures were donated to the museum after he passed away by his family. It was wonderful to see that these sculptures were actually used by his grandchildren from the wear and tear that was visible. It’s refreshing that the museum is displaying someone’s natural talent made from fascination, imagination and pure love.

Further into the show was a grid of pano drawings that are made from ink on handkerchiefs. These particular drawings were made by inmates from a San Antonio, Texas prison. Mostly black ink on white handkerchief, the drawings were very detailed and animated. Some of the pieces seem to relay their history and dreams out to there loved ones where others appear to be telling a story of a past life or experience. Being from Texas and having a cousin that has been in and out of jail, this series was significant to me. The drawings resembled the tattoos that my cousin has covered his body from head to toe. Looking at the pano drawings, I kept thinking about how people create their own artistic expression through the materials that they have and say so much.

The final section of the show displayed cloth cacti in clay pots made from southern states border patrol uniforms. The work dealt with the Mexico border and the crossing of immigrants into the United States. Since I have also spent a lot of my life visiting South Texas where the patrols do make their presence known, there are numerous checkpoints and the landscape becomes denser with desert like plants, the work was significant to me. Margarita Cabrera is the woman that holds the workshops for female immigrants to share there stories and makes these cacti.

The unique array of mediums presented in the show was inspiring to see. As a curator, Deborah Cullen was very thoughtful in her choices and display of the show. The intent of the show that art is all around us was a necessary reminder for me as we saw a multitude of contemporary art, well known artists and exhibitions, and many museums.

-Kelly Nettles


This New York trip is amazing, visiting so many great museums in this short term of time, making me finally begin to feel something.

In these museums, my favorite it MOMA PS1. Too many people in the MOMA that day, so left to PS1 right after finish the Cindy Sherman show there. I really don’t like too many people in the museums or gallery at the same time, because you need to worry about not stepping on other people all the time.

From outside, PS1 is surrounded by a concrete grey wall with a cold feeling. But after watched the video on the first floor “Ki-ai 100”, I began to love this place. I really like this video piece, usually I don’t like video because they often placed in dark space and it’s depressing. But here I like how curator use the space, bright, open, and not confusing. The video self is great, humor, moving and full of positive energy.

Most spaces in PS1 have windows, using a lot of natural lighting. Natural lighting is always changing, different light temperatures can give art pieces different effects and it makes works more interesting in my opinion. It can give you surprise sometimes. This reminds me last month i have an installation in Diego gallery, while one time I went in there in the morning, the sun light through the round window right hit on the installation, it's really interesting and I didn't expect that but really love it.

Other stuffs in the PS1 are also very interesting, the meeting roofless meeting room, the hole on the wall, the sound piece and also the cats piece. They are interesting, meaningful but also I enjoy them a lot while trying to figure it out.

Ruya Qian