Monday, May 6, 2013

Performance Review: Teri Frame: Pre-human, Post-human, Inhuman


I recorded this clip of Teri Frame on my cell phone in Houston, Texas this past Spring at the 2013 National Council on the Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA). (A full length version of the video is available here: 

Teri Frame was featured in the 2013 NCECA Biennial for her 2011 work titled Pre-human, Post-human, Inhuman. According to her website, the work addresses changing human bodies in six acts entitled Simians, Early Humans, Hybrids, Proportions, Races, and Posthumans, respectively. The clip above features Early Humans, in which she sculpts and alters primitive and ape-like features on her own face using a white clay. The video is played at an increased speed, with sound.

In comparison to the overwhelming amount of disappointing work I experienced at this year's NCECA, this recorded performance was top-notch in terms of aesthetics, concept, and delivery. I was more than excited to see an artist using clay as a vehicle for a performance artwork! I'm compelled by the biological and scientific aspects to her work, specifically how she interprets the evolution of the human body and the sense of the "portrait." I also loved, for lack of a better term, the high contrast quality of the video-she has painted her body white, and is working with a white clay, against a black background, which to me alludes to Greek and Roman marble statuary. The speed of the video results in uncanny movements and exciting sounds, which are captivating. Yay for progressive, ephemeral, and performative ceramic art!

Exhibition Review: Priscilla Varner, persuasion

One of the photos from persuasion
Persuasion was Priscilla's first show here on UNR campus, as well as her first gallery exhibition to date. It consisted of several diptychs, with photographs of Parisian scenes mounted on glass, accompanied by several words of text mounted on another piece of glass: the words alluded to the images they were paired with, yet also had the ability to alter the viewer's perceptions of the images (or to persuade the viewer's to view the images in a certain manner).

Aesthetically the show was effectively and neatly displayed, but it was easy to negatively criticize upon first encounter. The lines of text seemed superfluous, a bit naive, and distracting, and did not do much for the images the text accompanied. Rather, the textual elements distracted from the images, which were aesthetically strong, visually interesting, and diversified in terms of content. Walking through the show, it was easy to shrug off the diptychs with a "seen that before" attitude. However, talking to Priscilla about her show altered my attitude toward it and replenished some intrigue and respect. Discovering that it was in fact the first exhibition of her life, that she was not an art student while she was an undergraduate, and that she is a mother of two children with a husband in the military, I had to applaud her for an artistic job well done, though I still shared with her some of my criticism. Looking forward to her next show, to see how the MFA program has affected her artistic practice and vision.

Lecture Review: Maddy Rosenburg

Maddy Rosenberg, curator and artist, as well as the guest juror of the UNR Annual Student Art Show

Maddy Rosenberg's lecture was peppered with images representing her career as an artist as well as a curator...two professions that must be interesting to juggle but that occasionally go hand in hand with one another. From what I can remember this is one of the only lectures I've seen here at UNR from someone with both professions. Because of this, the information Maddy had to share was pertinent and distinct. (And it's always satisfying to hear the back stories of who's in charge of jurying and  curating the student show!) I really enjoyed how she juggled stories of herself as an artist with those of her as a curator...despite all the exposure to other artwork and other artists, as well as all the heat she has received for producing paintings that are so small, she remains true to herself and her artistic vision, which is one that explores (through paintings at least) relationships between architecture, color, and depths of visual space. Her artists books display more variety and variability in terms of form and content; instead of her paintings that appear to be an ongoing exploration of a conceptual theme, her books are more individualized projects that work out specific concepts.

As for her curating and gallery practices (she is responsible for Central Booking in New York), it's compelling and slightly challenging to think that she treats every exhibition she curates as her own installation project according to her vision, taking into consideration the work at hand. For this reason, she plays, explores, and innovates the typical use of gallery spaces and alters them as she sees fit. For example, as can be seen in the Annual Student Art Show, she has pieces hanging unevenly spaced from each other, not along a center line, and she has grouped pieces of artwork together according to slightly thematic relationships. Being an artist and curator simultaneously, the concept of treating each exhibition as a personal installation piece challenges the notion of where the artist's intention stops and where the curator's vision begins, resulting in shows that are definitely unique and atypical. Thanks Maddy!

Questions for Maddy would be, "What themes did you find within the student work here at UNR?" (She mentioned she didn't find an overarching theme but multiple themes) and "What does a typical day or week consist of for you?"

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Lecture Review: Zoe Bray, Intimacy

One of the more humbling and inspiring artist lectures I've seen while here at UNR! Zoe Bray's empathetic intentions and altruistic beliefs as an artist are definitely something worth everyone's consideration...they fall much in line with the concepts expressed in the text we were introduced to last semester, The Re-enchantment of Art by Suzi Gablik. What I appreciate most about Zoe Bray's work is her interest in the personality and demeanor of individual in she is representing, which is an interest that takes precedence over her concern for the quality or look of her final painting. In other words, although she is obviously technically skilled at painting, she expresses less concern for her mastery and more concern for appropriately representing the inner personalities of her subjects through portraiture. 

She spoke of the intimacy experienced between her and her subjects (resulting in the tile of her exhibiton: Intimacy), which results from her own personal interest in anthropology and ethnography, as well as from the time spent with her subjects while she paints them. I appreciated seeing a show of portraiture in the Sheppard Contemporary, as I believe portraiture is overlooked in art and not as currently appreciated as it should be, stemming from the belief that it may be an age-old, worn-out genre in art. Yet, facial expressions and body language are a language we all speak (in the words of my teacher Clayton Keyes), and it is, and always will be, a valid and hopefully limitless genre in art. 

Questions for Zoe would be, How do you choose your subjects? and  What's next?

The Church of Fine Arts: Reflection of Final Group Performance

DJ Tilley with the paper vessel before the performance. Vessel design by Michelle Laxalt. Sigil designed by Austin Pratt and painted by Michelle Lassaline.
The Church of Fine Arts was successful in many ways. In terms of our aesthetic choices I think we were smart, simple, sophisticated, and intentional in every aspect, and we successfully transformed the courtyard into something completely new, with the perfect dose of secular and spiritual vibes. There were multiple aspects to the performance that could have used some refinement, specifically a few more run-throughs and perhaps a dress rehearsal with volunteers that functioned as our "guests." However, for our degree of preparation I think we managed to welcome and direct the guests effectively, with sincere attention given to each. I really enjoyed having the honor of making the paper vessel, as well as being an usher and welcoming guests individually into the space with no inhibitions.

Something very critical to the performance was the high degree of uncertainty we had to expect from participants, a result of our public invitation (an invitation that yielded a turn-out much larger than we expected!). It was incredible to see  peers who are normally quiet and introverted participate in the spoken word ritual. The most memorable and probably most frustrating moment was when one of the participants hurled the vessel into the air...rather uncalled for to say the least. Gratitude is paid to the other participant who luckily caught the vessel without damaging it. And although the toss was surprising and rather rude, the action was a result of the public invitation, a contract we signed in a sense to expect the unexpected....Props to Wesley for maintaining his composure so well...I know I lost mine as soon as I turned to see him, forgetting that he was going to wear the beloved red bucket on his head! We also could have worked on the procession of laughter during the ascent to the top of the stairs. A critique I heard from guests had to do with the projected flame, specifically that they were unsure of whether it was a live flame or a recording of a flame...some also expressed interest in perhaps viewing the burning of the vessel from a more distant vantage point (with the camera not as zoomed in).

But, all in all I thought the event was a memorable and successful one...I know I am going to perceive the courtyard in a new way, and I hope others will as well!

Beuys, Kaprow, Piper, Bourriaud (Relational Aesthetics)

Notes of interest for each reading, all of which to keep in mind when considering Relational Aesthetics:

Joseph Beuys, I Am Searching for Field Character:
  • Talks about the creative potential residing in everyone, which is realized through individual intent facilitated through freedom.
  • " is now the only evolutionary-revolutionary power."
  •  "Communication occurs in reciprocity; it must never be a one-way flow from the teacher to the taught. The teacher takes equally from the taught."
Allan Kaprow, Notes on the Elimination of the Audience:
  • Talks about Happenings and the drawbacks and shortcomings of settings that framed and staged the events, making it difficult for them to be as innovative or revolutionary as possible.
  • Sets up parameters for what is required for effective and intentional participatory performance.
  • "It follows that audiences should be eliminated entirely."
  • "To assemble people unprepared for an event and say that they are 'participating' if apples are thrown at to ask very little of the whole notion of participation."
  • " big difference is that while knowledge of the scheme is necessary, professional talent is not...The best participants have been persons not normally engaged in art and performance, but who are moved to take part in an activity that is at once meaningful to them in its ideas yet natural in its methods." 
Adrian Piper, Notes on Funk, I-II: 
  •  Elaborates on the differences in the perception and engagement of dance among black and white cultures, and talks about her participatory Funk Lessons.
  • "...whereas social dance  in white culture is often viewed in terms of schievement, social grace or competence, or spectator-oriented entertainment, it is a collective and participatory means of self-transcendence and social union in black culture along many dimensions, and is so often much more fully integrated into daily life"
Nicolas Bourriaud: Relational Aesthetics
  • Proposes and discusses the responsibilities of contemporary art as something that needs to be experienced rather than observed, through exploring and engaging in social relationships and encounters. Art is no longer something that is hung on the wall or propped on a pedestal...we need to require much more from art than these traditional values and expectations.
  • ""Art is a state of encounter..."
  • "Traditional critical philosophy...can no longer sustain art unless it takes the form of an archaic folklore, or of a splendid rattle that achieved nothing."
  • "...the sphere of interhuman relationships...modes of social exchange...interaction with the that can be used to bring together individuals and human groups...the relational sphere."
  • "Relational art is neither a 'revival'...nor the return of a style. It is born of the observation of the present and of a reflection on the destiny of artistic activity. Its basic hypothesis - the sphere of human relationships as site for the artwork - is without precedent in the history of art..."

Performance #3: Reflection of Pincolini Circus

Walking backward...

Through the tunnel...

Open-ended scavenger hunt...

Open-ended scavenger hunt...

Wesley's baptism...

Reflection of the day...
Our overcast day at Rancho San Rafael, which we have lovingly coined as the Pincolini Circus, has been the most transformative and memorable experience in this class to date...for me at least. It further solidified my recent realization that the role of art and the responsibility of the artist can at the bare minimum be successful if it facilitates viewers/participants to perceive the world in a new and different way, even if that new perception exists only for a second. (Artists and their work can be really successful if they can permanently alter someone's perception of the world or some aspect of it!) And that's what happened in every performance activity of the day...our perception of the world and our place within it were altered, albeit momentarily. To reference the words Austin spoke so effectively at the beginning of his performance: with Carl's sequence of movements and our invitation into his space referencing the geography of Nevada, we were able to walk like giants and explore a shrunken terrain; with Joe's, we were able to flip our perceptions of space and direction, testing our sense of balance and poise; with Big Michelle's we were invited to be voyeurs, watching her engage in a physically daunting task; with Kyle's, we were given common materials loaded with new significance and a sense of balance; with my own, we were encouraged to explore and interpret the space subjectively; with Kelsey's, we were invited to play and observe a nonsensical activity; with DJ's, we shared a fleeting moment of calm and reflection, becoming grounded to the space; with Wesley's, we ritually engaged in the unexpected, and were invited to be humored and even shocked; and finally, with Austin's, we engaged in a more dynamic, movement filled and meditative reflection of the days activities. Bravo everyone, and thanks for filling my day with much needed lightheartedness!

Performance #3: Concept

For this performance I am determined to have it be participatory and light-hearted, for I  feel that I am taking this class with much too serious of an attitude. I was deeply inspired by Austin’s performance last week, when we “christened” the soon-to-be Lost City Farm with recordings of “positive, life-affirming” sounds. I am realizing more and more each day that art—no matter the materials used, no matter the scale, no matter the price—is always meant to alter perceptions, challenge preconceptions, and allow you to reconsider the way you observe the world and the people and things that reside within it, even if that reconsideration occurs for only a moment. Austin last week challenged my notions of what could be recorded…for example, he recorded the sound of a “thumbs-up,” which to me is so incredible, albeit a little silly! He also allowed us to play upon, interact with, and acknowledge  our place and space within the Lost City Farm in its stages of infancy…we brought positivity to the farm because we believe we brought positivity to the farm. The performance was light-hearted and a little non-sensical, but so inspiring and revealing. 

For the Pincollini Circus, I will be inviting participants to re-evaluate and explore the space surrounding them through what I'm calling an open-ended scavenger hunt. The participatory performance will begin with me handing everyone slips of paper with written "directions," suggesting what to search for and find throughout Evan's Creek. The directions will be open-ended in the sense that they can be interpreted subjectively-- although everyone only receives one set of directions, the directions have the potential to be interpreted differently depending on who gets what set. Some examples of open-ended directions are, "Bring me something that may not be here tomorrow," or, "Bring me something that has light." After the participants set out out the scavenger hunt and find something subjectively appropriate according to their directions, they will bring the object back to me with their slip of paper. In exchange, I will photograph them with a camera that takes mini-Polaroid photos and give them the photo as an artifact of the exercise, so that they may return their found objects to the space.

Performance #2: Reflection

On stage, in the amphitheater at Wingfield Park
Pressing clay onto my face and making an impression

Repeating the action...
Placing resulting impressions (self-portrait masks) on stage for observation
Re-wedging the clay into it's original mound...

Really satisfied with my second performance (much more than my first performance!). The set up and space (a wooden table in the amphitheater of Wingfield Park) functioned appropriately for my performance and served it well, for the performance was one that involved spectacle and audience observation. The repetitive action of taking mounds of clay from a larger mass of clay, making impressions of my face, placing the resulting mask-like impressions systematically on the stage, and then collecting and re-wedging the masks back into the original clay mass was meditative, ritualistic, and durational in nature....some aspects of the performance were similar to my typical studio practice, while others weren't. As an object-oriented artist (meaning that in my usual artistic practice, I make art that is tangible, physical, and not temporary), it was unusual and challenging for me to wedge the masks into a mound of clay after I had made them, resulting in a performance that yielded temporal, ephemeral objects…usually I would have preferred to keep one of these objects as an artifact of the performance!

A critique I have for myself would be to have a more effective sense of initiating and consequently ending the performance, rather than just simply starting and stopping at seemingly appropriate times. I also wish that I could have performed longer...I believe that as a durational performance, it would have benefited from being lengthier. This is a performance that has the potential to be revisited and re-done nonetheless! And although lining the masks up in regularly spaced rows did have a weirdly haunting effect, more movement and activation of the space would have resulted if I were to place the masks randomly about the stage facing every which way...Additionally, from watching the performances from others in the class, I am realizing that performance art does not have to be limited to an audience simply watching an artist engage in performance as a spectacle…performance art often involves audience participation and involvement. For my next projects I hope to employ these ideas  of audience participation, and move away from the idea of artist-as-spectacle.

Performance #2: Concept for Re-enactment

Malediction, performed by Ann Hamilton in 1992

Performance Re-enactment: Re-enacting and re-interpreting Malediction by Ann Hamilton

I was instantly inspired by the photographs documenting Ann Hamilton’s Malediction, really because I find the idea of taking a material—in her case, a great mound of dough—and transforming it through repetitive, ritualistic actions (she transformed the dough by taking balls of it at a time and biting in to them, leaving impressions of the hollow of her mouth). I appreciate the monotonous, ritualistic qualities of the performance, and also how the vehicle she used for transforming the dough was her own body. She commented about the work in an interview, and mentioned in our Performance Art textbook how, “a woman’s work is never done” (which is perceived as a curse, or malediction).  I would like to expand upon this idea, but apply it to myself as an artist and human, using clay as my material and my face and hands as vehicles for transforming the clay. As an artist (not to mention an object-oriented artist), not only do I feel that my work is never done, but I feel that everything I do is an extension of myself—a self-portrait in a sense. Because of this, in order to transform the clay, I want to make slab-like mounds with the clay using my hands, and press these mounds to my face, emphasizing the eyes, nose, and mouths when I do so…all of which will result in mask-like impressions of my face, or in my view, self-portraits. I want to repeat this action until the large mound of clay (probably 20 lbs. or so) is transformed. I want to perform this piece in the amphitheater in Wingfield Park in downtown Reno, in order to emphasize the “spectacle-ness” of the performance—it does not require any audience participation but instead is meant to be an act that is observed and contemplated.

Performance #1: Reflection

All in all I would say that this performance was really beneficial and a great introductory performance exercise, despite how challenging it was. I have to agree with the others in the class who found it uncomfortable to sit and talk alone in a room without any audience response…for me it felt like my monologue was all the more automated because I wasn’t able to react to the audience’s responses. The performance felt unnaturally rushed for this same reason.  However, I found the idea of a virtual “presence” pretty compelling… although I primarily thought that I would feel less vulnerable in this situation, I felt extremely vulnerable, and obviously was very nervous!
I wish that I hadn’t performed when I did…I would have liked to experience more of other people’s performances before my own. Being the first person to present a more “traditional” monologue (meaning sitting and facing the computer, in comparison to Wesley’s performance, the first performance) I really didn’t realize how poorly I was positioned. I was too far from the computer and I felt that I must have looked like a news anchor! Definitely not as intimate as I had imagined, and thus not very effective in my opinion. I also was under the impression that we had to have our monologues memorized…so I attempted to do that as well, although I believe I am much better at writing and reading than I am writing, memorizing, and reiterating. I think that memorizing the monologue made it seem much more robotic than I intended…I think Joe described it as a little “dispassionate.” However, I do applaud myself for volunteering to perform early on in the class period, for that is an abnormal move for me to make. And I realize now that after the fact I was vulnerable because of that decision, and that I can only learn from the experience and feedback.

As for the rest of the class, I would say they all did an excellent job! I learned a lot from watching everyone else, and appreciated the variety of stories we were able to share. It will be an inspirational semester to say the least!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

First Performance! Skype Monologue

Spalding Gray- Swimming to Cambodia

Spalding Gray is incredible! That pretty much sums it up...It was simply fascinating watching Swimming to Cambodia, and the way Spalding Gray's tone and mannerisms undulated and morphed according to what he is talking about. An impressively daunting communicate and perform a monologue for more than an hour in a single stretch. I'm curious to what sort of preparations are required to fulfill a task like this so effectively.

Laurie Anderson

Not knowing much about Laurie Anderson beside a few examples of her work, I find this article extremely insightful and equally humbling. Most interesting is how she perceives herself as being primarily a storyteller and secondarily an artist. And although the use of technology and digital media in her work appears to be of prime importance, she refers to it as..."just a way of amplifying or changing things...the least important thing about what I do, by far." She continually mentions that her goal as an artist is to connect with people in an personal and intimate way, despite how visually and sonically grandiose her artistic productions appear..."I always just wanted to make things that other people understand. That's my only reason to be here. My only reason." Pretty inspiring!

Marina Abramovic- Name Writing Exercise

Time Spent: 1 hour, from 9:03 to 10:03 a.m. on January 25, 2013
This exercise was challenging and intriguing, and had much of the same effect that the mirror exercise had, specifically the requirement of intense concentration. Most interesting about this exercise was watching the slow, jittery, fragmented movements of my hand and the tip of the pen touching the paper...It became meditative in the sense that I was not necessarily trying to move the pen slowly, but trying to find a balance of not moving the pen and simultaneously moving the pen at the same time...Much effort was required to move slowly, progressively, and consistently. Again, I set a timer on my phone to let me know when the hour had elapsed. Like the slow-motion exercise, this exercise was designed to force participants to slow down and reevaluate what constitutes their everyday actions through altering and modifying the tempo at which they move...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Marina Abramovic- Walking in a Circle Exercise

Time spent: 1 hour, from 11:50 to 12:50 on Monday, January 28th, 2013.

For this exercise I headed to Mayberry Park, to an area down by the river. This has been the most difficult exercise yet for me, for several reasons. If I were to do this exercise again I would venture out further away from civilization...I thought Mayberry Park would be peaceful and quiet, but I could hear the whirring of some kind of machine in a nearby building the entire time, which was distracting. Second of all, multiple people walked by me during the exercise, sometimes more than once, which was not only distracting, but rather awkward (she's still walking in circles??)! I would also increase the size of the circle I walked was too small for the task at hand. In a minute I could walk two and a half laps...multiply that by sixty and you get 150 laps! I had much more difficulty clearing my mind for this exercise; maybe it was all the factors listed above, maybe it was because it's Monday and a whole week of work lies ahead! However, for this exercise I did set an alarm on my phone so I could keep walking without checking it to see how much time had elapsed. Again, an exercise not only in endurance, but resistance. I got pretty irritated at my phone because of this though..I kept glaring at it just waiting for the alarm to sound. Not my favorite exercise, although the resulting sense of accomplishment was rewarding!

Me before starting the exercise...happy, but not for long!

My path after an hour of walking...notice where the dirt is darker!