Hey Mark, one thing I like more than art in many forms is history (especially Asian history).
When I was studying for my Associates Degree, my history classes would only catch my full attention when we would discuss Southeast Asia. What is interesting is that the further back I go with Asian history, the closer I get to Africa.
One of the most fascinating things I've read about are the facts on the Olmecs. Although they lived on what is now America, they greatly predate the Native Americans. According to archaeologist and scientist, the Olmecs mixing with the Chinese produced both Mexicans and Native Americans. Anyway, below are a couple interesting reads that I sent to my Filipino friends on myspace. I thought you might find it interesting as well...
While on Youtube I looked to see if they had any clips of Kidlat Tahimik's monumentally important film Perfumed Nightmare. They didn't. However, I noticed Les Blanks is distributing the film, which is encouraging. Perfumed Nightmare is a no-budget Super8 personal documentary/narrative film about a Filipino's (mock?) obsession with American culture. The film is an intersection of many things - the independent film, the personal documentary, Third World cinema - all into one brilliant combination. I imagine if an OTS reader liked Sherman's March, then they should equally enjoy Perfumed Nightmare, though for vastly different reasons, and for vastly different obsessions with American Culture. But other than that the similarities are endless.
On Thursday I was notified on an event going on that night at Artpace. I wasn't sure what to expect but certain keywords were thrown at me - video, feminism, performance...
The artist - Kate Gilmore. The show - Girl Fight. I arrived like many thinking there was going to be some sort of performance involving...things getting smashed? The image at the top is of a previous video wherein Gilmore tries to break out of a bucket of cement with a hammer (or something close enough.) There wasn't a live performance that night but there was a talk with the artist and a debut of a new video made for Artpace entitled Endurance Makes Gold.
Her work is usually mentioned in regards to feminism. This is obviously true because Gilmore mentioned those connections, but if I was to see the work without being put in that mindset I wonder if I would immediately be drawn to that same conclusion. I'm not so sure.
The videos share a consistent struggle for escape. The acts have an existential quality but more than anything I see in them a youthful curiosity, partly because the predicaments, as seen literally, are a navigation of a confusing adult world. How else to understand their simplicity? Who gets their foot stuck in a bucket? If that is true, then these scenarios are potentially much more than only one interpretation. (However, the videos could also be the opposite in that they aren't enough of one thing to be anything, but that's a path I'm not informed enough to travel.)
In analyzing the situations one can see an absurdist quality (as mentioned, getting one's foot out of a bucket, trying to climb out of a shaft...) and for some reason to me they seem more in line with Buster Keaton's stone-faced slapstick scenarios. Like Keaton, the appeal to these videos would be in the lack of specifics. However, the more Gilmore talked and the more she gave away in the discussion, the less I saw her connections. Though the videos are basically silent, her added details gave me more than I needed, which is unusual because the talks with the artists are almost always the best part of Artpace openings.
Perhaps the videos spoke for themselves and didn't need any introduction. Yet, if she said nothing it would have felt like a let down. Such a demanding balance to be met...
Many of the shows that night shared an architectural focus. I don't think this was the intention here but I began to see castles and other ancient invisible cities.
I can't claim to have absorbed all the nuances but with the help of macro-lens photography, the details do seem magnificent.
Next door at 3 Walls the personal architectural journey continued with Josh Welker's Can You Pay the Gas Bill?, which may or may not have been a rhetorical question.
Structural forms took on new contexts. In randomness lies innovation.
In an email, I received this statement...
According to the artist:
"Through sculpture, I interrogate the integrity and constitution of forms that have served manifold purposes throughout art and human history. Currently, my interrogation is aimed at two specific forms, common in both use and the discourse of contemporary art: the pedestal and the architectural support. I do this in order to enact a process of reproduction, performed under self-enforced rules and restraints. Working procedurally and somewhat serially, each new sculpture—each new incarnation of a specific form—is the formal reconsideration of a previous incarnation."
So I wasn't completely wrong with the architectural connection, however the degree that the forms are 'formally reconsidered' is the question, as well as the crux of the show. And for that I have no answer.
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch (UTSA)
There was a group show at the UTSA sattelite space. It was a lesson in dichotomoy, however the two artists didn't negate each other so much as go in two completely disconnected directions. Maybe this was a good thing.
One on hand - hidden messages...
...and primary colors. I believe there is historical precedent to this approach.
And then on the other part of the room there were several paintings in this intricate style. The details were specific. From afar they seemed like ancient tapestries.
Up close, the details told stories within stories.
The Big House
At the Bluestar main gallery many people had their eyes on a poor young soul who had vomited on the floor. I tried to stay away not to embarrass her further but later wondered if anyone had tried to give her medical attention. A security guard stood over her while the wail of sirens grew louder, but I'm not sure if anyone actually made an effort to see how she was doing. Psychologists call this diffusion of responsibility (or something like that) and I was guilty as well.
On the other side of the room I noticed this foto which conjured thoughts of something between Marfa and Mexico City. Architectural 'things' were everywhere in the main gallery.
One Last Thing
At Joan Grona Gallery were these paintings by J. Derrick Durham. There was a competing sense of movement with stagnation, simplicity with grandeur.
Random trivia question #323. If anyone can name this person I'll give you a nickel.
In the back nook of the gallery, a nook I actually never knew existed, I came across works by Tim Olson. I wonder if other intriguing work has been hiding in the back for months. Quite possibly.
There were several impressive pieces made on a small scale. Textures, illustrations, big words - all intermingling.
Both parties in dissarray. Exactly what the people needed?
Another discussion with the people's politician, "Congressman Al". (As a side product of these award winning fireside chats, I've noticed an insane amount of breathing into the telephone on my part.)