Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cai Guo Qiang's exploding cars

Now that I have said all the pluses about the new Seattle Art Museum, I have to address the exploding cars. The installation by Cai Guo Qiang suspends nine white Ford Taurus ( tauri?), from the ceiling of the entrance hall ( that tells you how big it is). My first thought was
suicide bombers
long taut lines of blinking LED lights start from the center of the cars, alternating red, green, blue on lines of lights that end in a cluster of lights in a small bursting pattern A video shows a car being exploded and there is the exploded car in the gallery as the other half of the work.

Come on folks, this is 2007 and people are being killed everyday with suicide car bombs in Iraq. How can this not be a reference to that
One other press person I asked said no, it reminded him of latinos who like their cars ( he was from LA), or an amusement park ride, another said no, "burning man" ( he does burning man).

Flashing lines of light that end in a burst of light.
coming out of a car

That's an explosion.
How does Cai get away with people declaring it anything else.
It tells you about how people see.
The director obviously wasn't reminded of impending death, but declared it as a way to attract children.
What's wrong with this picture??

PS At the Educators opening, hundreds of people were happily partying under the exploding cars. That is, apparently, the artists real point - we are oblivious to the violence.

New York Artists Against the War Action a Success!

New York Artists Against the War did a major infiltration of the government office buildings

and a banner drop of these two banners
statements you see on the banners. This is how they described it on the scene
"the action went well!!! wedneday petitions delivered to entire senate and1/3 of the house (some were confiscated and people were told to leave;some unpleasant exprience) THEN TODAY!!! banners dropped- 8 arrested.please see photos attached!!!!!!!!!! "

The New Seattle Art Museum Spring 2007!

The new Seattle Art Museum has been expanded to 268,000 square feet. They have the option to expand into another seven stories of the Washington Mutual Tower after ten years, or they can incrementally expand through the addition stories which will bring the total of square footage eventually to 450,000!!

The museum is a success in terms of architecture and installations. The architecture is not simply a platform for an ego, but a sensitive partnership with the art works.

The lighting is stunning. As the architect Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works explained it, the museum has layers of light, including something called a brise soleil which covers a window and can black out a gallery or open up gradually according to outside lighting conditions. The interior galleries flow from the old to the new building, giving a new sense of dimension to works that formerly seemed to hang flat on the wall in an interior space, we can explore in different directions, intersecting cultures, intersecting ideas.

The best aspect of the museum is the combination of historical and contemporary collections, particularly in the native American area and African area. The interlayering of contemporary practice and historical and traditional work as well as the intersection of traditional media with state of the art technology enlivens these collections. Three native artists, Preston Singletary, Sonny Assu and Chris White spoke about their work in the galleries. Sonny showed altered cereal boxes that make a witty comment on contemporary cultural icons and the kitsch side of native culture. Marita Dingus spoke about her work on the slave trade, 400 men and 300 women of African descent, a ritualized work made of scraps of fabric into hundreds of tiny figures. The museum has the 300 women on loan, hopefully for a purchase.
The artist Jim Dine gave two early works made with real tools.

The Jacob Lawrence and Gwen Knight galleries ensured the presence of both African Americans and women ( who are still underrepresented in the modern art galleries). The stunning installation of Jacob Lawrence and Gwen Knight's work is complemented by the display of his tools on loan from the estate of Gwen Knight.

The American Art galleries have expanded in an incredible manner with major masterpieces like John Singleton Copley's Dr. Silverster Gardiner 1772, and two loans, an early Winslow Homer and a stunning George Bellows from 1911 that was shown in the Armory Show of 1913 and barely seen since. In addition, the museum is showing the Bird in Space by Brancusi which is the very one that was held up at customs at the time of the 1936 Cubism and Abstract Art Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art!!

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the reconstruction of a 72 foot Japanese scroll. The museum owns half of it and through the wonders of digital technology they have been able to digitally assemble the rest from other collections to be scrolled through in the gallery, as well as project an enlarged image on the wall.

More to come. Even I can't digest an entire museum in two hours.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A scarey situation for a graffitti artist

This came to me from another website. It is a trully frightening story.

My name is Alain MaridueƱa. Many of you know me by my professional
name, Alan Ket, or just Ket.As some of you may have heard, I was
recently arrested and charged with numerous criminal charges
related to graffiti. What is different about mycase is that I was
not caught in the act of writing on property that doesn't belong to
me, and I was charged with a number of felonies that could result
in my going to prison for years.

In October of 2006, police showed up at my home early in the
morning while my neighbors were leaving to go to work. I was served
with a search warrant and the police entered my home looking for
evidence of graffiti (photos, paint, computers, cd roms, markers,
etc.). The police took away most of my property including all my
art supplies, my computer, home movies, photo albums, magazines,
etc. The property voucher was eight pages long.
Those of you know who know me personally know that I am a painter,
writer, historian, collector, and publisher of art books. I have
been documenting the movement since 1985. Most of the materials
taken by the police were part of my historical archives and
materials for a book I had planned to publish this year, The
History of New York's Subway Art.
After I was arrested, my lawyers told me that I was under special
investigation and that the property taken was going to be analyzed
to determine whether or not I would be indicted. There was nothing
I could do to get the property back and I might not see it for a
few years. In other words, buy another computer, and sit tight.

Months passed, and in March of this year I was formally indicted. I
surrendered myself to the DA in Brooklyn and ended up spending a
week in jail being bounced around the Queens, Brooklyn, and
Manhattan courts as I was charged with crimes in each county. I
found out that my charges were serious felony charges that each
carry a jail sentence of up to 7 years! That’s for each count! In
total I am facing 14 criminal counts in three separate cases that
are based on photos of graffiti art in my computer.

I could never have prepared for this. My lawyers believe that this
is the first time someone has been charged in three counties at the
same time. The lawyers told me to expect bail to be a few thousand
dollars so I left that with a friend in order for him to bail me
out. To all of our surprise my bail in Manhattan alone was $50,000.
People charged with violent felony assaults, robberies, and other
crimes of violence get lower bail than I did. A week later a Queens
judge tacked on another $10,000. Thanks to my family
and friends we pooled our resources and I was bailed out.

Today, I am still in a state of shock. I wonder what will happen
next? My three court cases will be complex and costly, running me
into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I believe that using
photos in a computer to charge me with all of these felonies is a
new tactic designed to intimidate and harass graffiti artists like
myself, to give up our mode of artistic and political expression.
This is a precedent setting case with ramifications for the entire
artistic community.

Feminism 2007

Feminist Art 2007 A Political Analysis

Let us look at the two new feminist exhibitions WACK at the LA County Museum of Art and Global Feminisms at the Brooklyn Museum. To a certain extent the covers of the two catalogs tells us everything that we need to know. On one cover is a detail of a video by the artist Boryana Rossa from Bulgaria from 1999 which explores “extreme psychological and physical situations. Fear of the unexpected is displayed in this video of the screaming faces of two young women” 154

On the other hand a landscape of naked women, blown up from a collage by Martha Rosler, a socialist, class conscious artist whose capitalist critique in the series is lost in this cover which appears to be mainly exoticism, objectifying and orientalist
The title of this work is Hot House or Harem. made in 1966 - 72
Here is a brief quote from the press releases of
WACK, the exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, which focuses on the 1970s era of feminist art in the US.

“The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) presents the first international survey of a remarkable body of work that emerged from the dynamic relationship between art and feminism in and around the 1970s. WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution—on view at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA March 4–July 16, 2007—brings together the work of 119 artists from 21 countries to examine how the feminist movement fundamentally changed the way we see and understand art.

Second, at the Brooklyn Museum is an exhibition that aspires to be global.
Brooklyn Museum press release
“Global Feminisms, a large-scale international survey of contemporary art, will inaugurate a major new exhibition and study center devoted to art created from a feminist perspective. Signaling an intent to take the study of new, often-critical visual expressions in new directions, the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, the first facility of its kind in the United States, ventures far beyond American and European borders for the inauguration presentation

Global Feminisms assembles works in a range of media by more than 100 women artists, most of whom are under 40 and two-thirds of whom have never before presented work in New York. Some 50 countries are represented, including a good number that seldom figure in the contemporary art discourse, such as Sierra Leone, Kenya, Russia, Yugoslavia, Costa Rica, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Taiwan”
So the emphasis in both exhibitions is global geography as a type of shopping list of "others," but the fact is that looking at the art, you can see the White, US, young third wave curator at work. There is a sameness about the art So we turn for clarification with the question

How do these exhibitions define feminist art?

The WACK catalog states “While the term “feminism” can be broadly defined, scholar and author Peggy Phelan states, “Feminism is the conviction that gender has been, and continues to be, a fundamental category for the organization of culture. Moreover, the pattern of that organization favors men over women.” Embracing this definition, WACK! argues that feminism was perhaps the most influential of any postwar art movement—on an international level—in its impact on subsequent generations of artists” Note that the dialogue is between feminism and art, not between feminist politics and art, or politics and women, or, in the context of the early 1970s, between women, race, class and war. All of these ideas are banished in favor of a show that looks at women in and of themselves as exploring new media in which they can display themselves.

The curator states “a curatorial analysis of relational analysis allows us to re read political activist religious anticolonialist environmental and other work as a type of ‘Subterranean feminism’39
( from Ella Shohat, pioneering feminist art critic from Lebanon. . strategy quote the person you are leaving out.

The WACK exhibition has a lot of themes
“ The themes are: Abstraction, Autophotography, Body as Medium, Body Trauma, Collective Impulse, Family Stories, Female Sensibility, Gendered Space, Gender Performance, Goddess, Knowledge as Power, Labor, Making Art History, Pattern and Assemblage, Silence and Noise, Social Sculpture, Speaking in Public, and Taped and Measured.”

Labor is represented be three artists,

Abstraction by about 11

The domination of abstraction underscores the exhibitions allegiance to the mainstream, to capitalism, and to market forces. Abstraction is the art that sells, that is popular with wealthy people who want to decorate their houses. Placing two artists of color in the Pattern and Assemblage category erases what they are talking about, in favor of how they are making art, another favorite mainstream strategy.
A small reference to the collective of black women from the 70s “Where we At” in Los Angeles is represented by a poster, rather than including the artists in the exhibition

In the Global Feminisms catalog the definition of feminism is:
“In Global Feminisms, we are attempting to construct a definition of ‘feminist’ art that is as broad and flexible as possible,” says Reilly. “Linda and I kept asking what it means to be a feminist in radically different cultural, political, and class situations. And we found not one definition, but many; hence, the term ‘feminisms.’” Note this is a non definition. There are categories in this exhibition as well, but they are only generally referenced in the catalog, so there is no way to know which artists are assigned to which category without going to the exhibition. According to the review in the New Yorker today, the categories are Life Cycles, Identities, Politics and Emotions. But the main theme of the exhibition according to Peter Schejdajhl is “the redolence of an almighty cultural agency that overleaps borders, blurs personalities and purees ideas, the art school.” ( 73.

I agree with Schejdahl that there is an almighty cultural agency at work here, but it is bigger than art school, it is capitalism. What is actually represented in these two exhibitions is art that is marketable, slick, mostly generalized representations of women detached from real world issues. There are a few exceptions in the Politics category Emily Jacir, Tanja Ostojic, Parastou Forouhar, but they are isolated, uncontextualized, and abstracted. The New York exhibition focuses on gender construction in global feminism, closely affiliated to the essentialism it claims to reject, - the images of nude and naked women from around the world.

Women of color in both exhibitions are a minor note, working class women are absent, politics of women’s bodies such as abortion rights, illegal trafficking in women, child care, sexual abuse, rape, all are marginalized, not to mention anti war art, torture, civil rights, all of the myriad of political issues that face us today. The occasional artist included who has addressed these issues, has work chosen that focuses on the female body itself, rather than political issues. The artist Suzanne Lacy for example has addressed rape in a potent work from the 1970s, but that is not her work in the exhibition. Martha Rosler has done work that juxtaposes war and American consumerism, but her work chosen is about the female body, a very early body of work.

Global Feminisms chose to focus on gender construction in India, rather than the powerful political art by many artists there. The same is true of Turkey, the one artist included has a photograph of a naked breast with milk dripping out of it, even though the naked female body is virtually absent from Turkish contemporary art by men or women.

Some essayists from outside the US do reference political issues and political artists
In the WACK catalog there is only Nelly Richardthe premier art critic from Chile Writes on “Fugitive Identities Dissenting Code Systems Women Artists During the Military Dictatorship in Chile.”
These works carry a much larger meaning than that of artists working in a safe US art studio. For example Richard states “what makes the work interesting is the acumen of its makers to shift from the view of marginality as external to power to the margin as a location for interrogating the symbolic effects of power. ( 416)

In the Global Feminisms catalog there are several women who write about art outside the US.
Virigina Perez Ratton writes about "Central American Women Artists in a Global Age" She features the work of Regina Jose Galindo for example, who does performance art that addresses “violence, whether political or criminal, public or private.” (139)

Charlotte Kotik looks at Post Totalitarian Art in Eastern and Central Europe, she summarizes
“ It remains true that in post Communist societies, women are still largely objectified, sexual innuendo continues to be a conversational norm and sex trafficking flourished to an unprecedented extent. “ 157

But the flavor of these exhibitions is third wave, apolitical, terrified of real issues. As I said the covers tell the story hysterical, feminine, out of control, or naked.

If we look at an issue of Heresies magazine from 1980 we see all of these dimensions in feminist art. If we look at the work of Sue Coe or a California Artist Nancy Worthingon, we see potent political commentary. These exhibitions avoid all of that and simply focus on medium and body. In spite of their many categories and claims, both of these exhibitions boil down to a new colonialismafffiliated with the orientalism and oppressions of the government’s current policies.