Ivan Lozano's post about Marina Abramovic, Joan Jonas, Tino Seghal, and the conservation of performance art is absolutely fantastic. [It's built off the Performance Workshop Klaus Biesenbach held a couple of weeks ago, which was written up by Carol Kino in the NY Times.]

The idea of a single orthodox means of retroactively preserving or documenting or re-performing or whatever early performance art strikes me as unreasonable; I like the idea that artists can decide if and how they want their work to live on, whether if it's as a score, video documentation, ephemera, or in Seghal's case, unwritten verbal transmission.

Lozano hits the nail on the head with his awesome characterization of Abramovic [above]. And kudos to her for making a strong play for preserving her own work and for influencing the present and future of the medium. But one thing about her stone cold divadom that he doesn't mention that came immediately to mind was her establishment of the Marina Abramovic Institute, which is charged with the preservation of performance art.

It reminds me of the Eric Carle Musem of Children's Book Illustration, another ostensibly comprehensive history-writing institution which was founded by a practitioner--who wasn't waiting for history to decide his place in the history books.

Like everyone else reading it on OSCAR NIGHT®, Andrew Hultkrans' 1995 Artforum interview with Kathryn Bigelow gave me hope for the films-by-artists genre, if not quite from the direction people might expect. To hear a double OSCAR® winner say of film noir, "That's how I moved from art to film, so to speak: I went through Fassbinder on my way to noir."

ANDREW HULTKRANS: It's quite a leap from Conceptual art to the culture industry. KATHRYN BIGELOW: It does seem like a departure. I was studying painting at the San Francisco Art Institute and one of my teachers put me up for the Whitney Program, so I went. This was '73 or '74, when Conceptual art really came to the fore. I did a couple of videos with Lawrence Weiner, and I worked with Art & Language, an artists, group who were critiquing the commodification of culture. So I was very influenced by them, and my concerns moved from the plastic arts to Conceptual art and a more politicized framework. And I became dissatisfied with the art world - the fact that it requires a certain amount of knowledge to appreciate abstract material.

Film, of course, does not demand this kind of knowledge. Film was this incredible social tool that required nothing of you besides twenty minutes to two hours of your time.

Wait, Lawrence Weiner videos? No, not that one.


Bigelow appeared with Sharon Haskell in Weiner's Done To, 1974, which Alice Weiner describes as:

...simple camera frames which are silent and/or unconnected to a complex soundtrack running parellel [sic] to the images. There are brief instances where image and sound meet; however, the majority of the images are overtaken by at times symphonic, at times cacophonous soundtracks which displace the normal filmic viewing experience. The standard film format for going from frame to frame -- and then and then and then -- is what the film is concerned with.
E.A.I. has a fuller synopsis, and VDB has a tiny clip viewable online.


She also appeared briefly in Green as Well as Blue as Well as Red, 1976, [above, vdb clip here] where her off-camera conversation with Weiner is mixed over the shot of two women reading from a red book at a rainbow-painted table.

Bigelow is credited as an editor and production/script consultant on Weiner's first narrative-based work,Altered To Suit, 1979 [vdb clip]. From Alice Weiner's synopsis at EAI:

"The mise-en-scene, the whole story, takes place in one location, the artist's studio. A delicate psychological allegory on 'a day in the life of' anchors the displacement of (filmic) reality and the alienation of the (players) self. Devices such as incongruity between the image and the soundtrack, odd camera angles, and plays on objective focus are integral and explicit components of the narrative.
Altered To Suit overlaps with the beginning of Bigelow's own film work; she made her first short, The Set-Up, which she completed in 1978 while at Columbia.

Bigelow mentioned two other very early, art film-related gigs in an interview with Gavin Smith published in Jessmyn & Redmond's 2003 anthology, The Cinema of Kathryn Bigelow: Hollywood Transgressor [seriously]: She appeared "for about five seconds" in a Richard Serra video, and she shot some B-roll for a Vito Acconci installation.

[He] needed these slogans and phrases on film loops that would play on the wall behind him during a performance piece he did at Sonnabend in a rubber bondage room he created. The job was to film these slogans. I'd never worked with a camera. I was starving to death. If I hadn't been at the brink of economic disaster, I think I never would have had all these detours.
I haven't been able to figure out which Acconci performance/installation Bigelow's referring to. Acconci showed at Sonnabend in 1972, '73, and '75. But 1972 was Seedbed, where the artist hid under a ramp masturbating for several weeks. The 1973 performance, Recording Studio From Air Time consisted of a video feed of Acconci in an isolation chamber/ confessional for two weeks, analyzing a romantic relationship in a mirror. I haven't found a description of the 1975 show, but MoCA curator Anne Rorimer has written that after 1974, Acconci "dismissed himself as a live presence" and began using video and audio of himself in his performances. If her description and timeline is accurate, I'm guessing this is what Bigelow filmed, and what Acconci showed in 1975.

While Googling around to identify the Richard Serra video with Bigelow's cameo, I found Bettina Korek's fresh post at Huffington, about Bigelow's art career. She links to "Breaking Point: Kathryn Bigelow's Life In Art," an exhibition at castillo/corrales in Paris which has been on since mid-January and continues through next weekend.

The most likely possibility for the Serra video is his 1974 game show/game theory critique of TV, Prisoner's Dilemma, in which Spaulding Gray and Leo Castelli are supposedly at risk of getting stuffed in a SoHo basement for 50 years [The video was shot at 112 Greene Street, the first home of White Columns. has an installation shot from White Columns' 40th anniversary show of stills from Prisoner's Dilemma.]

Sure enough, sometimes it still makes sense to get up and walk across the room, because Serra discusses it two interviews, with Liza Bear and Annette Michelson, in Richard Serra: Writings/Interviews.

With Michelson, he explains how the angry art world-y studio audience tore down the screen to save Castelli. And in the notes for Bear's earlier interview, the video's credits include: "D.A.'s Secretary: Kathy Bigelow." So there you go.

UPDATE: BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! Francois from castillo/coralles emailed with some more information: "Vito Acconci, when visiting the show, mentioned [Bigelow] had collaborated on his installation 'Pornography in the classroom', originally conceived in 1975."

Which should put the issue to rest, except that "PITC" doesn't seem to fit with Bigelow's account, either of the work she did [filming slogans and phrases], the installation/performance [bondage equipment, with video projected behind Acconci], or the venue [Sonnabend]:

"Pornography in the classroom" as it's known today is a slideshow of images from 1970s porn magazines, projected over a single channel video monitor [originally Super8mm film] of an ascending and descending penis, which is accompanied by the artist's voiceover ["Thar she blows!"] It was shown at Gladstone in 1998, and the Kramlichs [of the San Francisco video art-collecting Kramlichs] bought it. It's an edition of one, though Acconci apparently retains the master slides and film. The Kramlichs donated "PITC," along with many other of their video works, to the New Art Trust, a consortium of museums and archives.

In a fascinating-to-video-collectors article in the 2001 Journal of the American Institute of Conservation, Timothy Vitale all but says flatout that the current incarnation of "PITC" is not just artist-remastered, it is completely new media. Neither the slides nor the video show any traces of aging or reformatting. If Bigelow did, in fact, shoot footage for "PITC," her camerawork has almost certainly been replaced.

Of course, I'd think that, given her lucid discussions of her and others' conceptual and performance work, I don't think Bigelow would confuse "phrases and slogans" with "bobbing penises." My guess is she didn't work on "PITC". And if she did, she may not want to talk about it.


Joerg has an interesting recap of Thomas Ruff speaking with Philip Gefter a couple of weeks ago at Aperture.

I'm a fan of several of Ruff's series of work--and distinctly not a fan of others, but hey. Here's a bit about the Sterne/Stars photos, one of several of Ruff's appropriation series:

Ruff has worked a lot with images that are not his own, be it the stars, the newspaper clippings, or the images of machines he found on a set of glass plates he bought. Each of those series centers on investigating the essence of authorship or reality in photography: The stars he picked as the most objective photographs one could possibly produce (as an astronomer I'm not sure I agree with this)...Here's a photographer who not just decided to play with images to have them fit his artistic vision - instead, it's a photographer who has looked at what photographs can do from a very large number of angles...
I love that Joerg's an astrophysicist/photographer.

Though Ruff uses contemporary plates from an entirely different survey form a different observatory in an entirely different way, his Sterne are definitely an inspiration for my plan to show and reprint the NGS-Palomar Observatory Sky Survey.

Also an antecedent, if not a direct influence: Ruff's Jpegs series, which blows up low-res web-scavenged images to grand, pixelated scale. Even though the discussion was scheduled to promote Gefter's new book and the limited edition of Ruff's Jpegs catalogue [published by Aperture, with an essay by my buddy Bennett Simpson], the jpeg images didn't make it into Joerg's notes.

Neither, alas, did much input from Gefter. He's a very attuned guy, and it was great to work with him on some of my pieces for the Times. So basically, I'm a 360-degree fanboy over this event, and am hoping Aperture will indeed post video of it soon. Or ever.

update: aha, they did. right here. Thanks again, Joerg.

Ein Abend mit Thomas Ruff []
Thomas Ruff: Jpegs


Seriously, I could fall into Gerhard Richter's website and not surface for days. There's just so much stuff. And related stuff. And meta-stuff. Auction histories for specific works? Cross-referenced Atlas pages? It just goes on and on and on.

Recently, two interviews with Rob Storr were added: one is about Richter's Cage Paintings, which Storr showed at the Venice Biennale in 2007, and which are now at the Tate. [It's a comically great business model to make and sell giant series of paintings intact instead of slogging it out one by one.] There's a lot of discussion and still photos of the making of palette knife & squeegee process for the abstract pictures--I always thought Richter only painted them on a table, but there he is on his ladder. And Storr has a thoroughly enjoyable smackdown of the fiercely "deterministic" Rosalind Krauss's connection of Richter and Johns. I'd pay cash money to see that panel discussion.

Same day/same outfit is another video, Storr is in the office at Marian Goodman, discussing September, the small monitor/TV screen-sized painting of the World Trade Center attack that opened Richter's latest show at the gallery. [Yeah, I know it was actually a photo of the painting.]

It's funny, I'd conveniently forgotten how central war, destruction, civilian casualties, and terrorism have been to Ricther's work and his experience. How does that happen? Anyway, it's interesting stuff. []

December 10, 2009

Anne Truitt, Cool Warrior

I've always smiled when I read this exchange from James Meyer's 2001 interview with Anne Truitt:

JM: People often try to connect the artist's life and work In obvious ways: They refract the art through the lens of biography. I can already see a reading that goes like this: "Truitt, living in Washington at the height of the Cold War"--

AT: I'm just agog with interest at what you're going to say--

JM: --"devised an abstraction that sought to escape, and yet expressed, US Imperialist power." I'm thinking of the old reading of Abstract Expressionism's manipulation by the US Information Agency to represent an American ideology of "freedom."

AT: That's true.

Also true: Truitt's best friend was JFK's mistress, who was murdered; her kids attended preschool at the White House; and her friends--and possibly/probably her Washington Post/Newsweek executive husband--were in the CIA.

Grand Allusion: James Meyer talks with Anne Truitt [artforum 2002]

I'm diggin' the crazy cats at WNYC and The Jazz Loft Project. After abandoning his family in Westchester, longtime LIFE photographer W. Eugene Smith wired his 6th Ave loft for sound and recorded the hell out it for several years in the 1950s. Until 1998, no one had ever listened to the 4,000+ hours of tapes in Smith's archive. Turns out they held the conversations, practice sessions, and jam sessions, and hundreds of jazz musicians, and they captured a remarkable slice of mid-century downtown/underground New York City.

They're up to Episode 6 right now. Ep. 7 will be about how "urban pioneers in New York's Flower District find ways to make lofts more livable."

Catch up with the series and check out the enticing web extras at WNYC's Jazz Loft Project page []

'We Like Lists Because We Don't Want to Die'

The headline was glib enough that I waited several days before actually reading it, but Spiegel's interview with Umberto Eco does turn out to be worth it.

SPIEGEL: But why does Homer list all of those warriors and their ships if he knows that he can never name them all?

Eco: Homer's work hits again and again on the topos of the inexpressible. People will always do that. We have always been fascinated by infinite space, by the endless stars and by galaxies upon galaxies. How does a person feel when looking at the sky? He thinks that he doesn't have enough tongues to describe what he sees. Nevertheless, people have never stopping describing the sky, simply listing what they see. Lovers are in the same position. They experience a deficiency of language, a lack of words to express their feelings. But do lovers ever stop trying to do so? They create lists: Your eyes are so beautiful, and so is your mouth, and your collarbone ... One could go into great detail.

SPIEGEL: Why do we waste so much time trying to complete things that can't be realistically completed?

Eco: We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That's why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It's a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don't want to die.

Interviews and breathless features about Eco are popping up everywhere because he has been a "Special Guest Curator" at the Louvre. The resulting show, "The Infinity of Lists," [1] is open through Dec. 13. Previous Special Guest Curators include Robert Badinter, Toni Morrison, Anselm Kiefer and Pierre Boulez. The Special Guest Curator program is absolutely not a publicity stunt. As Jean-Marc Terrasse, Eco's handler at the Louvre for the last two years explains in The Art Newspaper:
Umberto Eco is an ideal guest for many reasons. He is a man who has worked in all the artistic disciplines and who thinks at great speed and has thousands of very lucid ideas. He is a particularly interesting personality because he has a very clear, erudite vision of the art world, combined with a particular ability to marry high culture and pop culture, the sublime and the profane, the arcane and the new."
The Louvre's next Special Guest Curator is film director Patrice Chareau.

[1] Actually, the show turns out to be called "Vertige de la Liste."

November 1, 2009

'The Sound of Footsteps'

Tacita Dean on the making of Craneway Event, the rehearsals of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in a former auto factory on the San Francisco Bay, which she filmed exactly a year ago:

I edited it alone on my film-cutting table using magnetic tape for the sound, which means you have to continually mark everything to keep the film in sync. The sound and image are separate, and the moment you lose sync it's a nightmare: It's just the sound of footsteps, which could be from anywhere in the film so it's nearly impossible to find sync again.
17 hours of film edited down to 1h48, which fits nicely with the "longueur of some of [her] other films." Looks and sounds fantastic.

Tacita Dean | 500 Words []
Craneway Event premieres Nov. 5-7 at St. Marks Church as part of Performa 09. []

0300801.jpgThe newly redesigned Design Observer would've been awesome even without hosting the archive of Places: Forum of Design For the Public Realm, a print journal published by the architecture faculties at MIT and UC Berkeley from 1983 until Spring 2009.

One of the first pieces to be republished is an interview from 1983 with James Turrell conducted by Kathy Halbreich, Lois Craig, and William Porter. Much of the discussion is about Turrell's "most ambitious current project," Roden Crater, which is only now nearing completion, 25 years later. A couple of interesting parts, the first of which is only interesting insomuch as it kind of puts paid to Michael Kimmelman's recent [sic] lament over dwindling museumgoer attention spans and how people only stand in front of the Mona Lisa long enough to take a picture. Turns out a) duh, b) duh, and c) Turrell's been looking at looking for decades now:

Places: You're really challenging the 15-minute museum experience. There's a requirement, there's a demand in this to be somewhere.

Turrell: Well, if you don't do that, then, it's just the emperor's clothes. Either you do the work or you forget it. There is a price of admission and most people don't pay it.

Now for something I didn't know, even after decades of looking:
For instance, there's one light event that's every important to me: the rise of the earth's shadow. When the sun goes down in the West and you look to the East on a clear day you'll see this pink line, with white silvery-blue below. Actually, you're looking at the earth's shadow advancing up in the sky in the East as the sun goes down in the West, so you see the earth's shadow projected in the atmosphere. What you see underneath is night rising. Night doesn't fall. It rises.
Really? Really. With formulas and diagrams and everything. The anti-twilight arch, or as the Victorians called it, the "Belt of Venus," is also new to me. If there's anything more banally sublime than the Mona Lisa, it's a beautiful sunset. And yet there you go.

Sounds like it's time to break down and read The Nature of Light and Colour in the Open Air, Marcel Minnaert's almost quixotically exhaustive and hugely influential attempt to pin down and explain all the phenomena of light in the world. Turrell mentioned it last Spring.

The photo above of a 2001 space shuttle launch at sunset shows part of the exhaust plume in the earth's shadow, and part of it illuminated by the sun. Apparently, the shadow of the plume itself, which only appears to connect with the moon, is called the Bugeron Effect, [or Burgeron Effect?] which is apparently different from the Bergeron Effect . So that's like three or four things I didn't know, and one I still don't. here's a normal picture of the earth shadow rise. [via]
Posted [sic] 07.15.83 An Interview With James Turrell []

Here are some dots I never would have connected. When Stephen Shore took his photography-changing 1972 road trip from New York to Amarillo, was he going to see Stanley Marsh 3?

No se, but as this portrait shows, Shore definitely made it [back?] to Marsh's by 1975:


I've been a huge fan of Shore's work for a long time, and I have a hard time seeing myself asking a single one of the questions Steve Lafreniere asks. Maybe that's why this interview is so interesting.

Stephen Shore interviewed by Steve Lafreniere []
image: Stephen Shore, Stanley Marsh and John Reinhardt, Amarillo, Texas, February 15, 1975 []

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Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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