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Online Screening: Kim Beom’s Yellow Scream (2012)

After discussing his assembled materials–a primed canvas, oil paint mixed with turpentine, a size-3 flat hog-bristle brush–the video’s instructor begins: “The technique to this painting is to incorporate the sound of screams into the brush strokes.” Dressed in a pressed gray dress shirt and pleated pants, he explains to the camera, “A brush stroke done […]

Still from Kim Beom’s Yellow Scream (2012)

After discussing his assembled materials–a primed canvas, oil paint mixed with turpentine, a size-3 flat hog-bristle brush–the video’s instructor begins: “The technique to this painting is to incorporate the sound of screams into the brush strokes.” Dressed in a pressed gray dress shirt and pleated pants, he explains to the camera, “A brush stroke done with screaming is very different from a normal one. … The effect of the screams is recorded with the brush strokes.” He then dips his brush in a dab of lemon yellow paint, leans into the canvas, and lets out an anguished wail as he makes his first stroke: “Aaaaaaaaagh!”

Characteristic of the Seoul-based artist Kim Beom’s humor, the 31-minute video Yellow Scream (2012)–recently acquired by the Walker Art Center and shown for a limited time in its entirety on the Walker Channel–takes its inspiration from instructional television programs. The piece, the artist states, “is like the typical painting lessons of Bob Ross. What I was feeling in the theme of this video is the existential nature of contemporary art (and culture) as well as of artists. There are dynamics of many elements such as absurdity, the bizarre, intelligence, form, seriousness, and creativity.”

In that vein, the instructor, played by an actor, gives a deadpan course on technique, from priming canvases to color theory, while occasionally advising about the Zen-like quality of painting, from visualizing a balanced composition to controlling breath: “Now relax and try to feel your breathing, because screaming is part of breathing.” He then demonstrates his method, treating different types of utterances as if they’re artistic media or hues of paint. His brush strokes are variously accompanied by “a long scream that sounds like when you’re hurt, as if someone yanked your arm behind you or pulled you by the hair”; “a scream induced by psychological pain”; and “a more pained, wronged, and regretful scream.” Nearing the painting’s completion, he advises, “Let’s mix a bit of permanent green and add some refreshing hope and pleasure to the screams of joy.” The final work, he says, achieves a symphonic melding of color and emotion–a “clear, resonating chorus” of yellow.

Yellow Scream premiered at the Gwangju Biennale this fall and screened exclusively on the Walker Channel only from December 6–18, 2012. It will be presented on-site at the Walker in early 2013.

Kim Beom Painting yellow scream7Kim Beom Painting yellow scream8Kim Beom Painting yellow scream6Kim Beom Painting yellow scream2

From the Archives: Lucy Lippard, the Walker, and Materializing “Six Years”

The Brooklyn Museum of Art’s current exhibition, Materializing “Six Years”:  Lucy Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art, explores the impact of Lucy R. Lippard’s groundbreaking 1973 book Six Years and the development of the era’s highly influential conceptual art scene. In addition to works by 90 artists–including Vito Acconci, Eleanor Antin, and John Latham–the […]

Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s photo album of Maintenance Art Tasks (1973), next to an album containing N.E. Thing Co’s work North American Time Zone Photo-VSI-Simultaneity

The Brooklyn Museum of Art’s current exhibition, Materializing “Six Years”:  Lucy Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art, explores the impact of Lucy R. Lippard’s groundbreaking 1973 book Six Years and the development of the era’s highly influential conceptual art scene. In addition to works by 90 artists–including Vito Acconci, Eleanor Antin, and John Latham–the show features catalogues, photos, artist publications, and ephemera from key Lippard events. Among the objects presented to help illustrate the period are photographs and notes from Lippard’s exhibition at the Walker, c. 7,500, a November 1973 show of conceptual works comprised entirely of women artists.

In early 1973, Lippard’s writing and interest in conceptual art was becoming well-known following a series of shows and essays, culminating with the release of Six Years, a compendium of Lippard’s writings that both catalogued and described the development of conceptual art, while introducing readers to the works of artists and collectives.

Beginning in 1969, Lippard’s conceptual art “numbers” shows were small affairs, curated solely by Lippard and accompanied by hand-made catalogues, composed of randomly arranged index cards designed by each artist and following brief descriptions from Lippard on how these works related and what conceptual art meant to her. Lippard’s seemingly vague exhibition titles were derived from the population of each show’s host city: 557,087 was held in Seattle, 955,000 in Vancouver, and 2,972,453 in Buenos Aires. Each edition varied in style, construction, and content, as Lippard noted in a letter to Walker director Martin Friedman when asked about her shows for planning purposes at the Walker.

c. 7,500–named for the small town of Valencia, California, where the show originated–was Lippard’s fourth numbered exhibition but her first foray into showcasing conceptual art created solely by female artists. A feminist herself, Lippard had been troubled by questions regarding women in conceptual art. According to the accompanying catalogue, “the show was organized in part as a reply to the comment ‘there are no women conceptual artists.'”

Lippard described some of the participating artists as “not known names,” but many conceptual art greats, including the N.E. Thing Co. Ltd, Eleanor Antin, and Athena Tacho, were involved. “[I]t should also be added that the artists in this show are of no ideological persuasion,” she wrote in the introduction to the exhibition catalogue. “Some are feminists, some are not. All are artists. Their ages, backgrounds, even nationalities range too broadly to succumb to generalization.” Fittingly, the array of featured work included a variety of pieces from Mierele Ukeles’ Maintenance Art Tasks, which depicts Ukeles fulfilling a variety of household tasks, to Martha Wilson’s photographs of various breast shapes and Poppy Johnson’s audio recordings of words.  c. 7,500’s works were unique but fit into the idea of art where “permanence, formal or decorative value, are secondary, if of any concern at all.”

The show was also rather different from her previous exhibitions by its small scale and casual organization. As she explained to Friedman, most of the work could easily be shown in “notebooks on a long table.” Consisting mainly of books, printed material, photographs, and audio recordings, the layout of the show was dependent on the space in each venue and could easily be changed to suit the available room, giving a more collaborative and laid-back feel to the show. Lippard described this as a far less “sculptural” show of her previous “Numbers” exhibitions. This casual aesthetic would eventually be a source of praise to the exhibition when held at the Walker.

Clockwise from left: Athena Tacha’s Feet and Shoes (1970-1972), Expressions I (A study in facial motions) (1972), Hands (two versions) (1970-1972) and Ears (1970-1971). Visible to the right in the corner is 100 Identical Drawings (1969) by Nancy Wilson Kitchel

The Walker’s involvement with Lippard’s c. 7,500 began with a letter from the curator in February of 1973 discussing the show idea with Friedman. Writing rather matter-of-factly, Lippard explained: “I have put together a small conceptual art show for Cal Arts. They’ve run out of money and I need three institutions to take the show to cover catalogue costs.”

Held in the lounge on the Walker’s top floor gallery, this space was what registrar Gwen Lerner described to Lippard as “conducive to a leisurely perusal of the show, including reading and listening.”  The show was a success, attracting numerous attentive visitors, especially students. In a letter from Lerner to artist Adrian Piper, whose work was featured in the show, c. 7,500 was described as “fun to have and attracting many visitors.”

Christine Kozlov’s Nine Books Neurological Compilation: the physical mind since 1945 installed in c. 7,500 at the Walker Art Center, 1973

c. 7.500 was an important show for both Lippard’s career as well as the Walker. As Lippard’s work is revisited and her legacy is explored at the Brooklyn Museum, her brief stay at the Walker is an important part of that legacy and in the development of conceptual art.

Amaryllis and the 100th Anniversary of Tony Smith’s Birth

On the centennial of Tony Smith’s birth, Big Red & Shiny looks at the Minimalist sculptor’s 1965 work Amaryllis, a version of which was reinstalled last week outside the Wadsworth Atheneum. The 7,000-pound sculpture, made of painted Cor-Ten steel, was created in an edition of three: the Wadsworth and the Met each own one, while […]

Tony Smith and Martin Friedman, Walker director from 1961 to 1990, pose with Smith’s Amaryllis (1965/1968) in front of the former Guthrie Theater building, 1970. Photo: Walker Art Center

On the centennial of Tony Smith’s birth, Big Red & Shiny looks at the Minimalist sculptor’s 1965 work Amaryllis, a version of which was reinstalled last week outside the Wadsworth Atheneum. The 7,000-pound sculpture, made of painted Cor-Ten steel, was created in an edition of three: the Wadsworth and the Met each own one, while the Walker owns the third, which is on view in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. BR&S’s John Pyper describes the work:

If the flower is to be found in this sculpture, it hides its petals well. The Amaryllis is a cold weather flower that blooms readily and is associated through Ovid with devotion. Emerging out of the solid base (metaphorically its bulb), this metallic flower curves, possibly towards the sun. Created of strong triangular shapes, some truncated, the sculpture seems stable and solidly connected on the ground at some angles and balanced on a knife’s edge from others. The raised surface steadily grows out of its base. Depending on the angle, it forms an optical illusion, where it can seem shorter or taller as you circle it.

Born September 23, 1912, Smith passed away in 1980, but his legacy can be witnessed both with Amaryllis in the garden and in the galleries. He was patriarch of a creative family: his wife Jane was an opera singer, and two of his daughters, Kiki and Seton, are visual artists. Kiki Smith’s Kitchen is currently on view in the exhibition Midnight Party.

Tony Smith, Amaryllis, 1965/1968

Painting as Score: Sarah Crowner on Format

In Studio Sessions, our ongoing web series, the 15 artists in the Walker-organized exhibition Painter Painter respond to an open-ended query about their practices. In this edition, New York–based artist Sarah Crowner discusses the spreads in her recent artist book, Format, published by Primary Information. Primary Information is a nonprofit run by James Hoff and […]

Sarah Crowner in her studio, September 2012. Video still by Eric Crosby

In Studio Sessions, our ongoing web series, the 15 artists in the Walker-organized exhibition Painter Painter respond to an open-ended query about their practices. In this edition, New York–based artist Sarah Crowner discusses the spreads in her recent artist book, Format, published by Primary Information.

Primary Information is a nonprofit run by James Hoff and Miriam Katzeff. Its mission has been to reprint and make available books that aren’t accessible to a wide audience today. Kids today might now know about Avalanche magazine or the Great Bear Pamphlets or Lee Lozano’s sketches because of Primary Information’s efforts. They’ve just started working with contemporary artists as well. Their mission is to get the books out to the public as cheaply as possible, so the cost is quite low—they’re not fancy monographs.

They invited me to do a project about a year ago, and we’ve been working on it since then. What’s really great is to be able to synthesize your ideas into a book format. It’s helped me think about painting. It’s become reference material, in a way. I like the idea that if anyone is interested in my painting, I can hand them this book and they might understand without me rambling on for hours about it. This explains in visual terms, rather than words, what my practice is about.

One of the things I am interested in is how painting can engage the body. I have a highly physical way of creating paintings. The way I make paintings involves a lot of stretching, a lot of muscle, a lot of “body”–cutting, taking apart, dealing with the material. I think of painting as a collection of mediums, which might be oil paint, and also linen and canvas and different kinds of cloths. The way I construct something is to make a collection of materials that engage each other physically rather than making an image that is flat.

The title of the book is Format. It’s about the format of the book itself, but also form and formalism. A lot of the way these pages are laid out is thinking about repeating forms from everyday life, and forms from painting’s history. Building the forms together, and making a narrative with shapes.

For the last few years, I’ve kept a studio wall where I collect references and source material. Everything from a scraps of particular colors that I found in a fabric store, pages from art magazines, posters, or a postcard someone sent me from home that is really weird and has interesting visual elements. Maybe a Xeroxed copy of a drawing I’ve kept in my wallet for months.

I wanted to dive into these source materials with the cover, so the photograph on the right is of layers and layers of these sources glued together or stacked on top of each other. I found this picture of a work by Swiss artist Verena Loewensberg from the 1940s. She was part of the Concrete Art movement with Max Bill among others. It’s basically a composition that’s made out of circles, layered circles. It’s a really pure abstract work, but to me it has a great sense of humor, as if they’re thought bubbles.

I reversed the image and placed it on the back of the book. I’m interested in a book as an art form and what book-objects can do to images. I like to think about gutters, leaves, and bleeds, and the physicality of an art book.

Last March, while I was in Sweden, I was introduced to the work of the painter Sigrid Hjertén (1885–1948). She is quite well-known there. Sigrid was also a mother, and one painting I love is a picture of herself in her studio with her family distracting her. As a mother who has a three-year-old always distracting me, I felt a personal connection here. You can’t help but let your life come into your art. I did some research at the MoMA library and found some great books on her, and I made some copies. I don’t read Swedish, but I love the image. I also found a photograph from a Guy de Cointet performance in the 1970s with this woman. I don’t know whether she’s putting up, taking down, or caressing this painting. It looks to me like she’s installing it. Not quite.

I played with spot varnishing elements on some of the pages, such as the pink squares here. The printer sort of paints a gloss varnish on top of the page after it’s been printed. This way I can liven up this black-and-white fuzzy image a little. I did it several times within the book in other instances where you have this glossy painted object sitting on top of something that’s very historical. It’s a way of inserting myself into this already digested historical content.

Somebody sent me this postcard on the right of a Liubov Popova painting that became a part of a collage in my sketchbook. Sometimes these collages happen by chance. Sometimes they’re half chance, half composed. At the time, I wondered what would happen if we got these artists together and we all had a party? What would the conversation be with Popova and Guy de Cointet, and Hjertén and her husband, Isaac? I like the narrative it implies.

The images are of Sonia Delaunay’s clothing designs and a detail of an Yves Klein painting. The artists obviously have very different ways of approaching painting and the body. Yves Klein’s paintings were really beautiful, but he used a woman’s naked body like a paintbrush, like a tool. You think of Delaunay, the way she was thinking about painting and the body, in a different way. She turned her paintings into patterns that people could wear. She painted an automobile at one point. She did these stage designs, too. She was bringing abstraction into everyday life. Asking, “Can abstraction be a tool? Can it have a use? Can if have a function?” She was really doing that. It makes you think about painting in functional terms rather than pure fine art terms.

She’s always interested me for those reasons. The same way that Sophie Taeuber-Arp interests me, and a lot of the early avant-garde artists. Truly bringing art into life, with a kind of humor. This contrasts with the distanced spirituality of Klein’s paintings. They’re not even his gestures. It’s the woman’s body print but he’s calling it his own. She has to be naked. That’s like the first thing, right? I don’t know. It’s ridiculous. But at the same time they’re beautiful paintings.

This woman’s wearing an Hélio Oiticica Parangolé. It’s this human body interacting with fabric and color and making a geometric form, moving in the real world. I wanted to see what would happen if I reversed it. Some of my paintings also have this symmetry. I was narrowing in on this orange geometric form that she’s creating. Because it’s a reproduction, no longer an object, it’s just flat: it’s a picture of something. Reversing that, you then see what happens when you place the two parts together. I also love this guy in the middle. He’s sticking his arm out. The spread very intentionally has his arm creeping out. That’s something that could only happen in a book because the way you hold a book has this dimensionality, this curve, so he appears to be falling in. He’s looking really relaxed about falling into the gutter!

This is one of the paintings that I’ve loved for a long time—Picasso’s La femme-fleur (1946). I love how it’s a portrait of a woman reduced to geometric forms: lines, circles, and wedge-type shapes, but then it’s also a plant. The Picasso is very Picasso, but then there is this Leni Riefenstahl photographic still with the woman balancing on top of the painting. It was another object on my studio wall. You see how the stem is extending into this pole-type thing? She’s an acrobat or she’s a line that’s engaging with this painting, which is already a painting of a woman. There are two representations of women, and they’re both stuck onto a little drawing of mine behind.

On the left is an Alexander Calder acoustic ceiling in Caracas from 1952. These wedge shapes are reminiscent of the leaf shapes in the Picasso painting, so there’s a nice rhythm there. Also, she seems like she’s flying through air and there’s this great space in the amphitheater photograph, so it’s as if she’s soaring through that space. It’s a circular thing that’s happening. That gestural line connecting the Picasso and the Riefenstahl is a watercolor line from a drawing that I had covered up, which look like beans or lips.

I love this picture, the Vasarely painting on the left, with a fashion model from the ’50s sporting a new look with her tiny waist. I was thinking, “Is the painting the whole thing, the experience of this red coat in front of these black and white forms?” I’ve had this fascination with Vasarely for such a long time. Vasarely was considered the first Op artist before Bridget Riley, and in his early period he made some really interesting paintings that were very proto-Op. Before he got all psychedelic, he made these great hard-edged geometric paintings that began to trick the eye, but were not explicitly giving you a headache or making you dizzy. It was this great moment in the early ’50s. The first paintings that I made, which were made with a sewing machine and paint, were appropriated or borrowed from Vasarely’s compositions. And since then, I’m always Googling “Vasarely1953” or “1952” to see what I can find.

I’ve been looking at René Daniëls for a few years. He did this whole series of bow tie paintings around 1986 or 1987. His bow ties are just simple geometric forms: two triangles with a square in the middle, say, or sometimes it’s a triangle and a triangle. But what’s more complex about it is that he thinks of the bow tie as a representation of the exhibition space, so it’s also an architectural drawing of a space. He’s thinking about the placement of paintings in museums or galleries while he’s making the paintings. I like that on the one hand Daniels is making geometric abstraction, but on the other hand there is also something much wider and connected to life or the world.

I paired them together because I was looking at the black and whiteness of both paintings. But then the high-class formality of the bow ties with the model’s evening wear appealed to me also.

I couldn’t find any high-resolution image of the Vasarely on the Internet, so I printed this low-res version out, then I scanned it at 600 dpi, knowing that it would be printed at 300 dpi and hoping that it would not become too pixilated. The only nice paper I could find at that moment happened to have a paint smudge on it. I had one piece of paper left. I stuck it through. So this page is not a photograph anymore; it’s something taken from the Internet, inkjet printed, scanned, rescanned, blown up, it’s taken down, and then you’ve got paint on it. It’s become something new.


This image of the choreographer Eliot Feld and dancer Edmund LaFosse comes from this great book that I found called America Dances. It’s from the ’70s, this period of big hair and bell-bottoms and leg warmers, which I love on a personal level. I was born in the ’70s. I always loved the movie Fame. But then I really love the color palette, those dirty brown monochromes of ’70s New York. I can’t say how it directly relates to my paintings—perhaps in this last body of work, where I’ve been thinking a lot about dance and looking at the aesthetics of modern dance, like Trisha Brown, as well as the circus and acrobats, jugglers, bodies in motion. I love the way he’s leaping out of the gutter and seems to be balancing on this cane. It creates a great composition visually. You’ve got these two acute triangles pointing up toward his hands. Then you’ve got the ball of his Afro, the curve of his rear, and then the backs of these giant thighs. I think it could be a beautiful abstract painting, if you think about it in formal terms. I kept this page dog-eared in my library for a while.

The page to the right of that is another layering from my studio wall. The abstract shapes in black and white in the background come from a theater curtain that I was inspired by from Maria Jarema. Next to that, the great image in red and pink, is a rug advertisement from World of Interiors magazine. I love its palette, and I love the way its forms resonate with Maria’s. These two images become a backdrop, and then on top is something I grabbed from the New York Times with these great silhouettes onstage. The silhouette of the woman with the arm on her hip comes from one of Cecil Beaton’s scrapbooks. I carried it around for a long time in my wallet, so it’s pretty rough and tumbled. Basically here are silhouettes of bodies on top of abstract backgrounds, but it’s me thinking aloud again what if abstract painting could be a backdrop, and then suddenly you have LaFosse jumping out of the gutter.


This one is funny. It’s the only time one of my paintings appears in this book and it’s in the context of Greek Vogue. I had an exhibition in Athens a couple of years ago. Somebody bought a painting and placed it in his house. This house was then styled with ridiculous bunnies and kitties, and then the photographer took a picture of this model wearing shoes that match my painting. She was eating a lollipop. It’s the stupidest thing, but I like it. I didn’t know if I should put it in the book, but it’s not really a picture of the painting. I didn’t ever expect it to end up on top of this cat.

So, she’s looking across the gutter at this other page and having a laugh. This one man is juggling these two striped balls and the striped balls are related to the lollipop. I’ve been looking at all these books on acrobats and thinking of these stretching bodies. I love these two women forming a “T.” It’s amazing that the human body can do that.


We’re still with the jugglers and acrobats. This man on the far right is juggling these flying plates that become white discs, and then the white discs fly over to the other page, which features this crazy Alexander Calder wallpaper from 1949. He also wallpapered the ceiling. You have the light sources looking like the plates, so it’s as if the plates are flying over to the next page.

The wallpaper could have been printed on a fabric and then stuck on the wall somehow. It’s really ugly, but I like what he’s trying to do. I’ve always loved Calder because he was always pushing out of painting and sculpture. He did so many different things. He painted airplanes, and he made tapestries and rugs and the circus wire sculptures that we all know, and jewelry. And there didn’t seem to have be a hierarchy among the practices.

With many of these artists that I’ve been mentioning, it’s their open, almost generous way of working that I’m interested in. Sonia Delaunay might have said, “I’m an artist and this is one way that I work.” Thinking about painting as a part of life, what if a painting can be furniture? What if a painting can be something we walk on? Can it surround us everyday? A lot of artists have thought about these ideas throughout time.

This is the “Romy” spread. At the top left, you can see the “thought bubbles” from the same Verena Loewensberg painting that I use on the cover. We were trying to make sense of the cover and I kept cutting it and cutting it and cutting it up, and it wasn’t working formally. The more I cut it, the more the image was ruined, so I stuck it on this page in my sketchbook, which had Romy Schneider already there. My daughter’s also named Romy. I’ve always loved Romy Schneider as an actress. I found this picture of her smoking a cigarette with her shirt off, lying there. It’s like she’s smoking and the bubbles are becoming smoke bubbles, maybe. Or that these could be her thought bubbles. I juxtaposed them with the back of a Sophie Taeuber-Arp art book from Basel in the ’40s.

I like the formal rhythm of history. I kept thinking back to this idea, “What if we all sat down to dinner at a party? What would we say to each other, Sophie, Verena, Romy, and me?” I had these imaginary conversations. It’s another way of humanizing this found material, this very formal abstraction. If you look at the Sophie cover art, this is very formal, reductive. It’s very beautiful, but then there’s also something humorous about it when you place it with these other things. I don’t know why, but I always laugh a little bit when I see Sophie’s piece. It has an innate a sense of humor somehow. She had also made some woodcuts that looked like this drawing. They were made by cutting out the negative shapes from other forms. You can see that one’s a negative and one’s a positive. Then I imagine she shook up the forms in a box frame. This is a chance arrangement of forms, which is nice and maybe why it feels so light and less rigid and composed.

Earlier this year I made a backdrop, a curtain for a performance of a 1983 score called Perfect Lives by the composer Robert Ashley. I used a lot of the same approaches I use in my paintings to make a curtain that would function for this score, which was originally presented with electronic music. But I don’t have any schooling in electronic music, and to me it was important to recognize my own point of view in reinterpreting his score, visually.

And, thinking about the idea of a score, and painting’s history: what if this book, or a painting, is a score and you as a viewer can interpret it any way you want, or you as an artist can interpret it any way you want? You can reverse it. You can flip it. You can cut it up. You can treat artwork as something that can be engaged with, and manipulated, examined, and then physically worked with, rather than something that’s fixed, stuck, and dusty on your bookshelf, but something that we can revitalize. Art history as a score.

Sarah Crowner lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She received a BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1996 and an MA from Hunter College in 2002. Crowner was included in the Whitney Biennial 2010, and has participated in exhibitions at White Columns, New York; Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis; Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit; de Appel, Amsterdam; Culturgest, Lisbon (2010), and DAAD Galerie, Berlin (2008), amongst others. Recently, Crowner designed the scenography for a revival of Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives, which travels to Marfa, Texas and then on to venues in Europe.

All photos by Gene Pittman

FireCliff 3: In the presence of Monster

Looking back on the evening of Thursday 30th May, when Minouk Lim in collaboration with Minneapolis-based choreographer Emily Johnson presented the performance FireCliff 3 in the Walker’s Burnet gallery, it is rather difficult to recall the intricacies of the piece. This is made ever more complex by the fact that I was privy to its […]

Photo: Gene Pittman

Looking back on the evening of Thursday 30th May, when Minouk Lim in collaboration with Minneapolis-based choreographer Emily Johnson presented the performance FireCliff 3 in the Walker’s Burnet gallery, it is rather difficult to recall the intricacies of the piece. This is made ever more complex by the fact that I was privy to its development from concept to realization, so my thoughts are inevitably filled with successive impressions of it. For me, the performance exists as series of fragments of half finished and half completed movements, recollections of late night rehearsals and early morning Skype conversations, continuous reviews of scripted elements and sounds samples, all conflated with countless musings on the pragmatics of lighting, sound and crowd control. I suspect this is also how Lim and Johnson experienced that evening; as they stood at the crest of a figurative firecliff in the darkened gallery, ready to deliver for the first time to an expecting audience.

Despite my fuzzy memory, on the night, the work presented itself anew, and as I watched it unfold, certain elements that repeatedly came to the fore during the project’s gestation resonated once more. As such, in place of providing a play-by-play review of the performance, which will do it a great disservice, I offer a reading of it through the singularity of the word Monster. Yes, Monster. This particular noun came into Lim and Johnson’s joint vocabulary during the very early stages of their conversations, which were conducted via emails and Skype sessions given their relative distance from each other – being in Seoul and Minneapolis respectively. In an early correspondence Johnson writes about her explorations of “the ongoing creation of Monster” in a new choreography she was developing at the time.  Speaking about the menace of this at once real and imagined fiend, she conjured images of terror, fear, evil and destruction in relation to the natural world, socio-cultural relations and oneself.

Instinctively for some, Monster takes them back to childhood – to the creature under the bed (or in the wardrobe) that is a signifier of childhood fears and uncertainties about the world beyond the safe space of the bedroom. For others, Monster is the mythical being that populates old wives tales and urban legends. Ostensibly fictive, it often exists as a constructive coping mechanism in places that have faced real moments of trauma. Being from across the proverbial pond, the Monster to the north in Loch Ness is an international calling card for tourism to the region as well as a representation of belonging and shared belief (or skepticism) across the communities of those great isles. Even more menacing for some, in the complex realm of geopolitics, Monster poses a very real danger to real lives in the form of military action, seemingly dormant terrorist threats or even multilateral sanctions that purport to serve a greater good. For no matter what side of the geographical or ideological border you are on, the specter of war and conflict signal a very monstrous end.

Photo: Jenna Klein

All these strands converged poignantly in FireCliff 3, as Johnson’s scripted monologue and choreography returned the audience to the place of childhood memories and family interactions. In the haphazard yet formal gestures and poses of the five dancers, we witnessed the “feasting and dancing, talking and making things” of days gone by. Propelled into a space that narrated the ritualized effacement and remembering of the past, of time hurtling forward and receding back into personal consciousness, benign movements took on ominous tones. Surely we were not to trust the saccharine and homely landscapes Johnson’s choreographed bodies created, because beneath all this there lay palpable moments of loss, death and anxiety – Monster was indeed very present.

Photo: Jenna Klein

Likewise, as the narrative transitioned to Lim’s inner voice, we were brought within reach of the mental state of individuals and communities who live in the shadow of potentially monstrous neighbors. For the artist, this is most evident in the threat to the north of South Korea’s territorial boundaries. By extension, Lim’s script also articulated the dangers of seeking protection or release from the grip of Monster – and the ‘by any means necessary’ dictum that usually guides such desires. In this case, the rampant militarization of borders that has gripped her country in the name of maintaining the political impasse and the contingent relationship with western powers, particularly America, have in themselves become stifling facets of daily life. Lim summed this up beautifully when she uttered:

“I want to be part of you
I want to be chosen by you
I want to praise you and commit myself to you
I willingly show you the back of my neck”

On a broader level, Lim’s metaphor of vampirism and self sacrifice also extends to the quest for modernization and the compulsion to partake in capitalism’s global project that has gripped emerging economies in the late 20th century. This is has proven itself to be an ideal that consumes hearts, bodies and minds indiscriminately – a fact that Lim experiences firsthand living through rapid social and spatial change in contemporary Seoul. In touching on this very salient point, FireCliff 3 ultimately asks: ‘where do we to turn, when in an attempt for self preservation and progress, we succumb to Monster and end up replicating its features?’ This question lingered heavily in the air as the audience stared at their reflections and that of the infrared feed of the performance through the mirrored screen ahead of them. Thus begging the question, might we be able to turn to each other for emancipation?

Photo: Jenna Klein

If as the performance proceeded, there appeared to be no resolution to this conundrum, then this was certainly helped by sound director Byungjun Kwons’s fascinatingly anarchic soundtrack, which mixed sound samples from Korean Pop culture, Top 40 hits and traditional Korean instrumentals with aplomb. Under the weight of this aural onslaught, the performers oscillated between desperation and exhaustion. Similarly the assembled audience was caught in the belly of the beast unable to escape its raging tumult.

Nevertheless, amongst the darkness and melancholy, there was much light in the performance, both symbolically and literally. For essentially, both Lim and Johnson infer that when there is no one else to turn to, then courage must come from within. The kernel of this idea can be traced to earlier exchange between the collaborators, where Lim writes of conceiving “Monster as courage…who is not afraid of dying and darkness…” Sharing this sentiment, Johnson adds “Monster as flame of light, as courage to be reborn.”

Photo: Jenna Klein

At this point, it is important to mention the use of Lim’s wearable sculptures and Portable Keepers throughout the performance as it points to the possibility of countering the destructive forces of Monster. Constructed from scavenged industrial materials that are piled and pasted together, these objects at first sight appear to be of little use or import. But as the dancers go about carrying, holding, hugging and raising them aloft, contorting their bodies to the uneven forms, they take on a peculiar functionality.

At various junctions in the performance, the wearable sculptures become shields or appendages to the human frame, at other moments they are mere adornments –for a short while transforming into impromptu headdresses or jewelry. These vignettes gesture towards the overturning of fear and sorrow into direct action and resilience that often follows cataclysmic events of social change, political upheaval or natural disasters. Whether we consider the use of raw material as emergency shelters, or the shifting of social oppression into a revolutionary spirit or even the translation of acts of terror into an ethos of tolerance, Lim’s tactile sculptures embody the overwhelming ability of the human spirit to push through all costs. In the end, it is clear that Lim and Johnson encourage their protagonists and the audience alike to be consumed by the mess and mayhem of Monster – to emerge from within its bowels. Monster thus transposes into medium for constructive reawakening and rebirth.

Photo: Jenna Klein

Fittingly, the performance ends with Lim starkly describing the death of an unidentified lover, juxtaposed with a projection of her 2009 moving image work Portable Keeper. As the figure in the video carries a totem pole fashioned by Lim through the busy streets and construction sites of Seoul, the performers unravel and raise aloft a limp fishing net weighed down by latex. In this closing sketch, Lim and Johnson allude to the reclaiming of forgotten lives, memories, most importantly, a foreseeable future, that can be brought about after succumbing to and surviving the presence of Monster.

 

 

Yesterday’s Newspaper: November 8, 2012

For the past two days–Election Day 2012 and the day after–we’ve been posting images of Dave McKenzie’s work Yesterday’s Newspaper as it appears in the exhibition The Living Years: Art after 1989. Changing daily, the work, as senior curator Clara Kim has written, “bridges the distance between events and times—between what is happening now and […]

Dave McKenzie, Yesterday’s Newspaper, 2007
T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2012 Photo: Gene Pittman

For the past two days–Election Day 2012 and the day after–we’ve been posting images of Dave McKenzie’s work Yesterday’s Newspaper as it appears in the exhibition The Living Years: Art after 1989. Changing daily, the work, as senior curator Clara Kim has written, “bridges the distance between events and times—between what is happening now and what happened yesterday—to reinforce how yesterday’s news may still live within the present moment and how the present may affect the future.” Above, the piece as it stands in the galleries right now.

Hear McKenzie discuss his work tonight at 7 during a free talk as part of Target Free Thursday Nights.

Yesterday’s Newspaper: November 7, 2012

Here’s how Dave McKenzie’s ever-changing artwork Yesterday’s Newspaper, part of The Living Years: Art after 1989, looks in the galleries today, the day after a historic election, and here’s how it looked yesterday. Hear McKenzie discuss his work at the Walker on November 8, 2012.

Yesterday’s Newspaper: Election Day

Dave McKenzie’s Yesterday’s Newspaper, now on view in The Living Years: Art after 1989, is so simple it runs the risk of being overlooked. A copy of yesterday’s local paper lays on a walnut slab the way it might sit on your front doorstep. But the humble work captures a monumental gap: between news that’s […]

Dave McKenzie, Yesterday’s Newspaper, 2007
T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2012 Photo: Gene Pittman

Dave McKenzie’s Yesterday’s Newspaper, now on view in The Living Years: Art after 1989, is so simple it runs the risk of being overlooked. A copy of yesterday’s local paper lays on a walnut slab the way it might sit on your front doorstep. But the humble work captures a monumental gap: between news that’s happened and news that hasn’t, what we know and what we don’t, yet. For the next two days, we’ll present images of this ever-changing work. Here’s how the piece—featuring the November 5 issue of the Minneapolis Star Tribune–looks today, the day before we find out the results of another historic election.

Hear McKenzie discuss his work at the Walker on November 8, 2012.

Congratulations, Mr. Vo

It was great to see that Danh Vo was named the winner of the 2012 Hugo Boss Prize 2012 on November 1. The short list included some very strong artists, including the wonderful Trisha Donnelly, who was an important part of our 2009 exhibition The Quick and the Dead and whose work is in the Walker’s permanent collection. Having said that, […]

It was great to see that Danh Vo was named the winner of the 2012 Hugo Boss Prize 2012 on November 1. The short list included some very strong artists, including the wonderful Trisha Donnelly, who was an important part of our 2009 exhibition The Quick and the Dead and whose work is in the Walker’s permanent collection. Having said that, I’m a bit biased on this one as I’m working with Danh on 9 Artists, a group show that opens here in the fall of 2013. His work is also one of the most recent additions to the Walker collection: Last summer his Tombstone for Phùng Vo (2010) was installed in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, where it remains on view today. It’s a beautiful and complex work that we will likely be talking about more during next summer’s Minneapolis Sculpture Garden 25th Anniversary celebrations.

For more on Vo, watch my conversation with him or read an article on his ambitious project We the People–a life-size cast of the Statue of Liberty, presented in unassembled fragments–currently on display at The Art Institute of Chicago and University of Chicago.

Mediacity Seoul 2012: Olga Viso’s Top Picks

While in South Korea for the 2012 Gwangju Biennale, I visited the main venue of the 7th Seoul International Media Art Biennale — Mediacity Seoul 2012 — at the Seoul Museum of Art. The title of this installment was Spell on You, which was meant to conjure the deluge of media and its effects we […]

While in South Korea for the 2012 Gwangju Biennale, I visited the main venue of the 7th Seoul International Media Art Biennale — Mediacity Seoul 2012 — at the Seoul Museum of Art. The title of this installment was Spell on You, which was meant to conjure the deluge of media and its effects we are witnessing in contemporary culture. This theme, set by artistic director Jinsang YOO, professor of Kaywan School of Art and Design, seemed apt in a digital media city like Seoul defined by its commitment to advancing technology and myriad technological industries in the country.

My top picks, out of the 49 participating artists from 20 countries.

1. Zbyněk Baladrán’s diagrammatic lecture Model of the Universe, 2009

2. Till Nowak’s digital creations of impossible amusement parks

Till Nowak, High Altitude Conveyance System, 2011. Photo: Framebox.de

Till Nowak, The Centrifuge Brain Project, 2011. Photo: Framebox

3. Akram Zaatari’s melancholic typewritten love story on film Tomorrow Everything Will Be Alright, 2010

4. David Claerbout’s  black and white montage of 600 different views of the same “happy moment” on an Algerian rooftop

David Claerbout, The Algiers’ Sections of A Happy Moment, 2008. Courtesy the artist and Yvon Lambert

5. Dennis Feser’s absurd performance before the camera, staged on a rooftop overlooking Frankfurt using tape and celery

Dennis Feser, Vertical Distractions, 2010. Photo: Dennis Feser

6. 3D video installations by Robert Lepage, Sarah Kenderdine, and Jeffrey Shaw that create a projected theatrical space that visitors can experience in the round

7. Donghee Koo’s melancholic quest on camera as a man searches for a manmade stream using a divining rod

Donghee Koo, Under the vein; I spell on you, 2012. Photo: Mediacity Seoul

8. Ryota Kuwakubo’s hypnotic shadow installation, The Tenth Sentiment (2010), created using a child’s train set and light

9. Hong Seung-Hye’s minimal projections of rectangles on the wall and floor

Hong Seung-Hye, The Sentimental 8_Complementary Installation, 2012. Photo: Mediacity Seoul

10. Zimoun’s audio recording of 25 woodworms consuming a piece of wood

11. Daito Manabe & Motoi Ishibashi’s mesmerizing installation Particles involving an 8-spiral rail with animated balls of LED lights

12. Robert Overweg’s haunting still photographs of the precipitous edges of landscapes in video games

Robert Overweg, The end of the virtual world 4, Modern warfare 2, 2010. Photo: ShotbyRobert.com

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