Blogs Untitled (Blog) Interviews

2014: The Year According to Fionn Meade

2014 brought a new face and a new position to the Walker: Fionn Meade became our new senior curator of cross-disciplinary platforms, a job that acknowledges the “shifting terrain” of artmaking today, when artists fluidly traverse media and presentation spaces, from gallery to stage and beyond. In conjunction with 2014: The Year According to   […]

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2014 brought a new face and a new position to the Walker: Fionn Meade became our new senior curator of cross-disciplinary platforms, a job that acknowledges the “shifting terrain” of artmaking today, when artists fluidly traverse media and presentation spaces, from gallery to stage and beyond. In conjunction with 2014: The Year According to                                 , our series of artist best of-2014 lists, Meade shares his own perspective on the year that was. For more on the Walker’s curatorial perspective, read 2014: The Year According to Olga Viso, featuring top picks from the Walker’s executive director.
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2014: The Year According to Olga Viso

In conjunction with 2014: The Year According to                                 , our series of artist-generated best-of-2014 lists, Walker director Olga Viso shares her favorites—exhibitions, news events, projects, and inspiring moments—of the last 12 months. To read more of the Walker’s curatorial […]

Brian J. Evans on Performing Costume Made of Nothing

Costume Made of Nothing is a performance created by the artist Pope.L and is featured in the exhibition Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. It debuted at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) in 2012 and its most recent iteration at the Walker Art Center involved a weight-bearing structure and new movements. The performance takes […]

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Opening day performance of Costume Made of Nothing at the Walker Art Center, July 24, 2014. Photo: Gene Pittman

Costume Made of Nothing is a performance created by the artist Pope.L and is featured in the exhibition Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. It debuted at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) in 2012 and its most recent iteration at the Walker Art Center involved a weight-bearing structure and new movements. The performance takes place in the galleries, thirteen times over the course of the exhibition’s five-month run.

Prior to the final performance of Costume Made of Nothing, I sat down with the performer, Brian J. Evans, who worked with Pope.L to develop this new piece. Join us on January 4, 2015, at 2 pm for Evans’s final performance, which coincides with the closing of Radical Presence.

Tell me about your background and training.

I’m from Cleveland, Ohio, but I moved to Gaylord, Minnesota when I was seven. I went to Gustavus Adolphus College for liberal arts and left with a dance major. I didn’t find dance until I was a sophomore and studied abroad as a junior, so I only had three semesters and two classes of dance training before I got into the field. I had always done performance and I got super lucky when one of my professors, who was in Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater, set me up with an audition. At the end of two rehearsals they asked me to come dance as an apprentice, and eight years later I’m a professional performer and teaching artist.

How did you find out about the opportunity to perform in Pope.L’s piece and what was your audition like?

I found out about the audition from a friend of a friend, and when opportunities like that come up, I take them. So I looked at the video of the performance at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and my first inclination was that I didn’t want to do it. In this iteration the performer just stood there and put his arm into a hole in the wall, so I wasn’t so sure about it. But I did a little research on Pope.L and was impressed by what I found on Google. So I auditioned and went through the poses, and what then really peaked my interest was having a Skype conversation with Pope.L directly afterward. I remember he gave me directions to try out different movements, and he told me to go away and come back after thinking about it, but I decided to try to incorporate those instructions right then, on the spot. That’s when the collaboration started. I thought, ‘Good, let me try to do something that would inevitably start us on a process of collaboration.’

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Pope.L at the opening day performance of Costume Made of Nothing at the Walker Art Center, July 24, 2014. Photo: Gene Pittman

What was it like to work with Pope.L for that brief time that he was here in July? What was the working process?

There were three rehearsals, two to three hours each. In the first one, he said right up front that he’s not a choreographer and he’s not going to try to choreograph anything. He said that he would need me to collaborate with him to figure out the movements. He didn’t want to do what he did the other two times. The structure at the Walker is three times as big and is weight bearing. Right away we talked about his influences: Bauhaus and the German stylistic movements. We talked about character, and I thought to myself, ‘why the structure, why the costume?’

In the second rehearsal we got into it and he had this image of me hanging from the pipe. How to I get up there? Do I jump or crawl? So I improvised and crawled up and he said, “Yes, keep that.” We decided that I would say “Well” three times at different pitches and volumes. There are headphones attached to the piece, so what am I listening to? There were terms like ‘step and fetch it,’ ‘the funky chicken,’ and butoh—that’s where the walk came from. He would then send me away with different assignments like, how does this character walk, how does this thing look, how does he interact, why is he traveling, what does he do every day, and why does he continue to go to this structure? In the third rehearsal we had a set of instructions and a character sketch, and for opening night that’s what I had to work with. Since then, the character has evolved into a more multi-dimensional entity.

How has the audience reacted to this piece?

Pope.L and I talked about how it’s unimportant that there’s an audience. The character will do the performance regardless of an audience. There have been a lot of people that want to imitate me or block me when I’m moving through the space. I remember on opening night after it was done, Pope.L told me that this character doesn’t want to be touched, doesn’t want to be messed with, isn’t really inviting. I have to fight the temptation of allowing people to influence me. I don’t think this character is human so I don’t feel like I’m being mean to anybody, but I do find myself thinking, ‘Don’t touch me, don’t come close to me. I don’t know how I would react if you did.’

So it’s been interesting how people interact with me, whether they move or not. Older people tend to have a slightly more reserved reaction. I know I’ve startled people. Teenagers are always running away, but kids are fascinated. It’s performance art in a gallery, which is very different from performance on a stage. As a performer you’re trained to think that if people leave early you’re not doing your job correctly, but because this is not that, it’s been fine that some people stay for five minutes. It’s a different way of thinking about performance art.

Tell me how the performance has changed over time.

From the first time to today’s, and this was the twelfth time, it’s gone from more of a hollow character sketch of making sure I did all of the instructions right, to allowing myself to let the character interpret those instructions. That usually always changes because I, myself, as Brian, come to it differently everyday, because something’s happened or I’m thinking about something, or I’m totally focused, or I’m trying to reach a goal.

There were some performances where no one moved except for leaving and coming, and there were others where the audience would surround me and circle the structure. It’s different every time. When nobody is here I’m usually hoping that I don’t perform too quickly because there’s no one to feed off of. This was new today: when I was approaching the exhibition, I felt totally alone, so I thought, ‘I’m going to do my solo and no one’s going to see it and that’s fine.’ So that was a different mindset. I recognized people were watching me after a while, but my way into it was a solitary one.

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Opening day performance of Costume Made of Nothing at the Walker Art Center, July 24, 2014. Photo: Gene Pittman

The structure is like a prop or a second performer. How does its presence affect your performance?

I haven’t yet (maybe it will happen in the thirteenth performance) attached an identity to the structure. I will say that the structure does feel different. And that’s partly because of my physical stamina and how I’m able to approach it. The structure is the thing that keeps me grounded in what I’m doing. I always go back to it and everything is about that interaction, so I don’t ever really feel like I’m alone. Then it doesn’t really matter if anyone is watching, because this structure is consistent, unlike most things in my life [laughs]. Once we bolstered the structure, the thing became unbreakable. It’s always going to be there to support me.

Have you done any other performances that are like this—in the contemporary art realm, as opposed to performing arts, on a stage with a seated audience?

No, I’ve never performed when it’s called contemporary visual art. I’ve done things that are more along the lines of visual architecture or improvisations that had minimalistic movement parameters. This is something more in-depth. This performance has been different in that it’s just me and that structure. Every time I’ve done it, it’s gotten a bit more involved. Most of the time you don’t get to dive into a piece, you just have your weekend of performances.

Have you ever had to do something multiple times over the course of many months?

I’m part of a dance company, Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater, so we do a lot of touring. There are three or four full-length works that I’ve done anywhere from 30 to 50 times over the span of five months on tour. Costume Made of Nothing is different because it’s the same space, the same apparatus, the same lighting, the same area, and we’re shooting for the same duration. In the work I do with Stuart Pimsler we really want to know what the audience is thinking and feeling, and in this piece, I feel very autonomous. I wonder how many people saw me perform and what they felt and thought—and I’ll never know.

Pope.L asked me to record one of your recent performances with the idea that he would send you feedback and ask you to change aspects of the piece. I wonder how Pope.L envisions the final performance.

The little I interacted with him, I got the impression that he was very respectful of my process. The last thing he said to me, which has really influenced me, was that he was going to come by at some point. In the back of my mind I didn’t think he was actually going to, but because he said that, I always perform it like maybe he will that time. I think it was part of his plan.

 

 

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Brian J. Evans of Gaylord, MN is currently in his seventh season with Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater. In addition to performing, he serves as the company’s Musical Director. He is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, where he earned a B.A. in Liberal Arts with an emphasis in dance. In 2009, he was recognized by the Star Tribune and the following year received a SAGE Award for Outstanding Performer. He also teaches at the Saint Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts and Young Dance, and served as Dance Program Administrator for SPDT at FAIR School Downtown. Evans has also worked with numerous directors and choreographers on productions throughout the Midwest and performed as a singer/dancer at Valley Fair, as well as appearing in a feature film.

2013: The Year According to Matt Connors

To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from multimedia artist Ralph Lemon and photographer JoAnn Verburg to designer Martine Syms and musician Greg Tate — to share their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to       […]

UnknownTo commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from multimedia artist Ralph Lemon and photographer JoAnn Verburg to designer Martine Syms and musician Greg Tate — to share their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to                                 .

The last day of 2012 was also the last day of Matt Connors’ first solo museum exhibition, Impressionism at MoMA PS1. This momentum combined with his award-winning artist book A Bell is a Cup propelled him into 2013, a year when he participated in two important contemporary painting shows, Painter Painter at the Walker and Painting: A Love Story at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. The focus on painting in both show titles might obscure the rich influences that go into Connors’ work, as assistant curator Eric Crosby noted in his introduction of Connors at a recent Walker talk: “He freely borrows structures and ideas from design, poetry, writing, music, and the history of painting; but his marks aren’t derivative in any way. They’re removed, distilled, and recontextualized so that a poetic sense of things borrowed or overheard pervades the work.”

Reflecting on 2013, Connors shares some of these ideas in a top-10 list focused almost exclusively on musicians, from King Krule to Richard Youngs, and exhibitions, from Michel Auder to Ettore Sottsass. The only exception is a bookstore — where he gets his ephemera.

1

Marlow Moss

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Discovering the previously unknown to me work of  Marlow Moss (1889–1958) at the group exhibition last summer at Tate St. Ives. A queer/transgendered constructivist/neo plasticist Mondrian protégé? YES.

2

Ettore Sottsass: Important Works from a Private Collection | Christie’s Private Sales

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I stumbled upon this micro show because I found someone selling the catalog for it on eBay as I was conducting my daily Sottsass eBay search. I showed up on the opening day and received a private tour from the curator, who led me through an immaculate collection of ceramics, furniture, and printed ephemera from the collection of Sottsass’ wife. It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

3

Franz Erhard Walther’s Die Modellierung des Innenraums Werkzeichnungen 1963–1974

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 10.30.12 AMGigantic cluster of these strange and compelling ideagrammatic drawings that I stumbled upon after seeing a small flyer advertising it on a tram in Basel. This exhibition in a bank lobby (ah, Europe!) was maybe better than anything I saw at the entire Art Basel.

4

Mykki Blanco’s Instagram Feed

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Essentially, GOOD VIBES.

5

Richard Youngs and Luke Fowler

Richard Youngs and Luke FowlerRichard Youngs and Luke Fowler at Cafe Oto in London. I could just as well add Cafe Oto to the list, as their schedule will inevitably induce glee if I happen to be in London or anguish if I’m not. But the rare synchronicity that occurred in order to allow me to be in London when one one of my heroes, Richard Youngs, was playing could not be beat.

6

Mast Books

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As I go through my receipts at tax time I inevitably come face to face with how important MAST BOOKS has become to me. Somehow or other my daily dog walks always end up bringing me here. Part of a larger, exciting trend that heralds the return of the independent book and record store (fingers crossed).

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The Emergence of King Krule

King Krule: His unannounced secret appearance at Mercury Lounge to an audience of 40 or so, his super great takeover of RINSEFM, as we well as his album released this year, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. Chops and swagger!

8

Arp’s More

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More an album that I find to be really undeniable, that felt like an instant classic on first listen — and “Golden Teacher” both burned serious holes in my brain this year.

9

Michel Auder at Kunsthalle Basel

Michel Auder

I was already very familiar with Auder’s work as he was a teacher and became a friend, but knowing his work also means knowing that it is essentially inexhaustible, and this beautifully installed show felt like a succession of wormholes into the many different layers of this traveler’s past and future. I was obsessed with the exhibition design that finished in a dead-end, forcing visitors to reencounter, in reverse order, these multifaceted, durational pieces. Beautiful, gross, scary, embarrassing, sexy, stupid, fun, sad, joyous.

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Trisha Donnelly at Eva Presenhuber

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There was a video projected high up on the wall that consistently tricked my mind into thinking that it was actually a window, projecting daylight back into the space, and that somehow people were walking by outside despite the fact that we were on something like the fifth floor. Somehow I could not un-see it this way — even after finding the projector (I also continued to see this “image” in my head long after leaving the show). This belief inducing reversal seems to me somehow key in Trisha’s work and maybe in most artwork I respond to these days. Her reconstituting of the holdings of MOMA this same year will most likely end up on a lifetime top-ten list, but the experience of looking at it, and then afterwords, looking at the world through its/her lens, was an important event for me this year.

2013: The Year According to JoAnn Verburg

JoAnn Verburg. Photo: Jim Moore To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from painter Matt Connors and ebook publishers Badlands Unlimited to design firm Experimental Jetset and writer Greg Allen — to share a list of their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the […]

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JoAnn Verburg. Photo: Jim Moore

To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from painter Matt Connors and ebook publishers Badlands Unlimited to design firm Experimental Jetset and writer Greg Allen — to share a list of their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to                                 .

While the challenges of life can be difficult, JoAnn Verburg said on Twin Cities Public Television’s MN Original last May, we’re not alone: “Yet, at the same time, you’re the only one that looks at things the way you do. I think everything I’m doing comes out of that: the fact that we’re alone and we’re not alone.” As a photographer, Verburg has used her lens to examine this seeming paradox — of intimate connection and individual experience. As MoMA curator Susan Kismaric put it when Verburg’s MoMA-organized survey Present Tense came to the Walker in 2008, Verburg’s photos are “grounded in an attention to human interaction — between the people in her pictures, and between her work and its audience — which keeps both artist and viewers perpetually approaching a threshold between searching and finding.”

Verburg took time from her schedule — which includes preparing for a show this fall at Pace/MacGill Gallery of new work shot at Italy’s Fonti del Clitunno (see below) — to share some of her “searching and finding” from the past year in a best-of-2013 list. Many of her picks show an exploration of what connects us across geography, race, religion, and time — from the pages of Richard Wright’s 1940 novel Native Son to a predawn listening session overlooking Moroccan rooftops, an artistic mashup about loving kindness at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts  to a posthumous exhibition of works by Mike Kelley, her friend and studio neighbor when she first arrived in Minneapolis in 1981.

1

Best rehearsals and performances

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Robert Wilson, The Old Woman, 2013

One of my favorite moments of the year was experiencing Robert Wilson’s The Old Woman in a 17th-century theater in Spoleto, Italy (traveling to BAM this summer). When I see direction (“notes”) being given to an actor or the crew, it feels like an X-ray into the mind of the director. Of course, in theater, it is never as simple as one person — Bob Wilson, in this case.  Articulation is the word that comes to mind to describe how Willem Dafoe and Mikhail Baryshnikov — dressed alike, in matching white face paint, campy clothes, and plastic windblown wigs — used their bodies. Brilliantly. For us, the lucky audience. The story isn’t much more than a device that allows Wilson, via Dafoe and Baryshnikov, to stimulate and hold our attention with nonstop stunning visuals and weird sounds. By the way, why is Defoe’s tongue that color? From far up above the stage, on the ceiling of the theater, a super precisely focused red spotlight is shining on it.

2

Most surprising sound

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Rooftops in Fez

In Fez, Morocco, not really knowing why, I was obsessed with the idea of making sound and video recordings of the call to prayer. So one night, before the sun rose, I climbed up to a rooftop terrace above the city with my equipment. I can’t describe how beautiful it looked. I waited and recorded for about an hour, and finally I had to leave when my fingers were too cold to work. Here’s what I heard: I must have had the time wrong for the call to prayer, but as black night turned to the dark grays and browns of predawn, a lone rooster called out, sounding both ecstatic about life and and disappointed at not to be able to explain it. After many cock-a-doodle-dos, a second rooster cried out, then another, and another, etc., until countless invisible sound-points defined, almost visibly, the broad bowl shape of the ancient city below.

3

Best architecture/installation combo

Inside the Institut du Monde Arabe

Next time you’re in Paris, head for the Institut du Monde Arabe, the sister-building of the Guthrie Theater, by architect Jean Nouvel. The exterior entrance wall sets the tone. It’s a grid of intricately patterned circles, apertures lauded for their photosensitive responsiveness, opening and closing with the sun. Inside, the installation of the exhibition is astonishing, especially the entry hall of floor-to-ceiling mirrors alternating with floor-to-ceiling video projections of daily life in various neighborhoods in the Arab world. Someone is buying spices in Cairo as you see yourself walking. It pulls you in confusingly, beautifully and instantly.

4

Best sacred space

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JoAnn Verburg, untitled proof (Ping at The Fonti) © JoAnn Verburg 2013

In July, I went back again to make pictures at the Fonti del Clitunno, sacred headwaters of the Clitunno, where it is said that Jove mated with a mermaid. I’ve been using the idea of the park as a point of departure for an installation of photos, sound, and videos. Parks and exhibitions are both places where strangers come, walk around, look at the sights, maybe feel inspired, maybe have a conversation, and leave. I wasn’t sure what direction to go next with my shooting, but Ping Chong was teaching nearby at La Mama, Umbria, and was willing to model. I guess I don’t have language for what happened next, but the connection between stories of past visitors and our present-tense hot summer day, and also the layered feeling of earth, blue sky, cold water, human nature, conversation, ducks quacking, swans floating, trees, and so on did feel magical, if not part of something sacred. There was something about the moment his toe touched the water, sending out ripples…

5

Best classic novel

200px-NativeSonRichard Wright’s Native Son (1940) was on the required reading list for one of my sociology classes in college, but I didn’t read it until 2013. It is a tragic and too too relevant story about America.

6

Best movie Q&A

McQueenSteve McQueen at the Walker. I’d been intrigued by comments made by the actors in 12 Years a Slave. For example, given how unmitigatingly horrific most of the film is, that McQueen says that for him, it is a film about love. Love? Love. Yes, and that the actors felt trust and support and safety, and thus, were able to go deeply — even into their darkest selves — to perform their roles. Seeing McQueen in person at the Walker was a glimpse into the mind — the man — who needed to create extreme and obsessive hate, desire, and shame in 12 Years a Slave (and his movie Shame) and who, as a visual artist, had developed the discipline and skill to do it. Thank you to the Walker and other Minnesota institutions for bringing our artists into town: our artists dealing with our ugly problems and the exquisite beauties, too, of this moment.

7

Best explanation

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Christmas present

In Destiny Disrupted, Muslim author Tamim Ansary walks his readers through the origins of two different world views: Western and Islamic. To oversimplify his simplification, what we Westerners think of as “world history” has remained remarkably distinct from Islamic versions of what’s been happening within the same boundaries during the same 1,500 or so years. While our seafaring, sea-trading ancestors were developing and spreading our religions and ideas from port to port, a second set of religions and attitudes was simultaneously developing along overland trade routes. Certainly, there were points of overlap, but the mountains and other geographical barriers to travel and trade were overwhelming enough that surprisingly distinct cultures have survived. When many of us woke up on 9/11 with the questions “Is this really happening?” and “Why?” it was without much understanding of Islam, Islamic governments, or Islamic attitudes about science, individualism, human rights, and so on. For a long time — for other reasons — I’ve wanted to travel to Turkey, and this book pushed me over the edge. Jim and I just got back from two trips to Istanbul and Morocco.

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Best auditing

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American and Moroccan students presenting their report on Sidi Moumen at CCCL (مركز تواصل الثقافات or Center for Cross Cultural Learning)

Mary Stucky’s journalism class in Rabat, Morocco. Fifteen American journalism students partnered with as many English speaking Moroccan journalism students. After weeks of immersion and training, each pair ferreted out a story idea and interviewed Moroccans ranging from a 21-year-old man with AIDS to a sub-Saharan woman trying to escape the sexual slave trade, not to mention the only woman competing as a break dancer in a hajib (scarf). It’s thrilling to see hopeful brave optimistic American kids open themselves up to the big world, bonding with their new Moroccan partners, stumbling through language barriers, absolutely game. And lucky me, I got to listen.

9

Best saddest exhibition

WITH MICHAEL AND JOHN IN MN_(c)1983Verburg

JoAnn Verburg, With Michael and John in Minnesota, 1983. Collection of the Museum of Modern Art

Mike Kelley’s retrospective at PS1. Mike and I both moved to Minnesota in 1981 for one-year positions as visiting artists at MCAD, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. For that year, we had side-by-side classroom/studios and spent a lot of time looking at each other’s work, photo-ing (me), creating performances (him), going to see visiting filmmakers at Film in the Cities, and taking day trips to funny Minnesota places in my car. Mike’s performances were unique and ugly and powerful. In 2013, I kind of had to drag myself to Queens to see his post-suicide retrospective. It is worse than painful that Mike got himself into a corner he couldn’t gracefully exit, and it was impossible for me to see his exhibition without that filter. The drawings and videos from our shared year in Minnesota held such promise. He established his voice and his career. He was so dear and funny and ironic and pissed and sad, and I’m glad all those qualities live on in the work, but what a waste. Oh, and we had done a collaboration, a triptych of him as the Banana Man, but I’d never seen the finished video, which for about an hour, wonderfully brought him back to me.

10

Best re-mix

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Jan Estep, Are You There, Guanyin? 2013, as installed at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

At the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, a beautiful large wood sculpture of a bodhisattva is the only visible artwork (although it wasn’t originally made as art) in a darkened room. There are benches, so it is possible to sit and contemplate this beautiful transporting figure. And there’s more. Local artist Jan Estep has created an audio piece of voices reciting the loving kindness meditation. It’s an extraordinarily effective example of putting two artworks together in such harmony that neither one detracts or distracts from the experience of the other. In fact, for me, the sculpture focuses my seeing, and the rhythmic sound keeps my mind from wandering. I can’t wait to go back.

For more on the artist, read the September 2012 interview “JoAnn Verburg on Newspapers as Portals to the Political.”

2013: The Year According to Greg Allen

To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from conceptual painter Matt Connors and ebook publishers Badlands Unlimited to design firm Experimental Jetset and photographer JoAnn Verburg — to share a list of their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year […]

Greg Allen. Photo:

Greg Allen. Photo:

To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from conceptual painter Matt Connors and ebook publishers Badlands Unlimited to design firm Experimental Jetset and photographer JoAnn Verburg — to share a list of their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to                                 .

Artworld polymath Greg Allen is best known to many of us as the man behind the blog greg.org: the making of, published since 2001. But the Washington-based writer wears many other hats: filmmaker, author (he’s been published in Cabinet, the New York Times and WALKER magazine, for which he profiled Minneapolis-based furniture making, blogging, and landscape design team ROLU), and exhibiting artist (last year he showed at apexarts and 601Artspace). And he’s also found himself serving the role as experimental publisher.

In 2011, after blogging regularly about the Prince v. Cariou copyright infringement case, he realized that Richard Prince’s seven-hour grilling on the stand — under oath — was probably the longest interview the artist’s ever done — and that many people were interested in reading it. He compiled and printed a volume filled with transcripts, affidavits, artwork, and related images, and made it available for sale. It’s since been expanded in a new, 375-page version. Its full title: Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA: Selected Court Documents from Cariou v. Prince et al, including the Videotaped Deposition of Richard Prince, the Affidavit of Richard Prince, Competing Memoranda of Law in Support of Summary Judgment, Exhibits Pertaining to Paintings and Collages of Richard Prince and the Use of Reproductions of Patrick Cariou’s YES RASTA Photographs Therein, and the Summary Ass-Whooping Prince Received at the Hand of The Hon. Judge Deborah A. Batts, as compiled and revised by Greg Allen for greg.org: the making of in April 2011. In 2013, he published a book of documents related to the case’s appeal, as well as the Standard Operating Procedure, which includes the force-feeding protocols used by military doctors at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Here’s the ideas, moments, and events that most stood out for him in 2013.

1

The Embroidery Trouble Shooting Guide

Screen grab from http://sewingandembroiderywarehouse.com.

Screen grab from sewingandembroiderywarehouse.com.

At the Sewing & Embroidery Warehouse, an error in the web page’s HTML code, invisible to Microsoft users, causes the text to grow so big the letters become illegible abstractions.

2

America Over There

call me maybe marinesEven without getting on its gender rollercoaster, US military contractors in Afghanistan making a shot-for-shot remake of the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders’ cover version of Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me, Maybe” reminds me those forward operating bases are America, too.

3

Rob Pruitt’s Flea Market eBay Shop

panda glassI have no idea if including an autographed photo [“Perfect for framing.”] of each item transforms the junk Rob Pruitt’s selling into art. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the panda tchotchkes — which look most like his trademark paintings — consistently go for ten times more than anything else.

4

The stuff Jayson Musson sold online

instagram_sculpture_henrock_3Musson’s stuff, meanwhile, wasn’t even his. He threw himself on the capitalist mercies of his social media followers last spring by creating found-object sculptures on the streets of New York City, photographing them, and putting them up for sale on Instagram. Then he was stuck waiting until someone showed up to close the deal. [DISCLOSURE: I bought the first one after six hours, for $20.]

5

Picasso, Baby

picasso-babyWhen it was unfolding in real time on Twitter as a piece of durational performance art, Jay Z’s “Picasso, Baby” gallery stunt sounded like the shallowest, most obvious celebrity-worshipping trap imaginable. It turned out to be a music video, and a depressing percentage of the New York art world walked right into it.

6

Forged Masterworks

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Screen grab of Greg.org.

From the documents produced in the growing flurry of lawsuits from disgruntled buyers, it appears that the last decade of its 165-year existence, the primary source of profits for New York’s Knoedler Gallery was derived from the sale of forged Abstract Expressionist masterpieces. As prosecutors unwind the case, I now find myself looking at every Pollock, Kline, and Motherwell with a bit of suspicion.

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Salvaging Costa Concordia

Costa Concordia salvage operation in progress. Photo: Wikipedia

Costa Concordia salvage operation in progress. Photo: Wikipedia

On September 16, Titan Salvage uprighted the scuttled cruise ship Costa Concordia in the largest parbuckling effort in history. Reuters livestreamed the entire 19+ hour process, and it was incredible. GiglioNews, a local Italian media outlet, has preserved the feed in four-hour chunks on YouTube.

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Double Disaster

Andy Warhol's Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), 1962, as presented for sale by Sotheby's

Andy Warhol’s Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), 1962, as presented for sale by Sotheby’s

I get chills every single time I hear former Sotheby’s auctioneer Tobias Meyer’s 24-second rumination on Andy Warhol’s Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), which he would soon sell for $105 million.

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Turnkey Tyranny

Trevor Paglen, They Watch the Moon, 2010, via Guernica Magazine

Trevor Paglen, They Watch the Moon, 2010, via Guernica

Trevor Paglen has an uncanny ability to understand and present the invisible. Which is why his essay on the NSA and “Turnkey Tyranny” felt so urgent and outraging.

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Courtroom Sketches

Molly Crabapple's courtroom sketch from PFC Manning's trial

Molly Crabapple’s courtroom sketch from PFC Manning’s trial

Cameras and other recording devices were banned from the military courtroom for PFC Bradley/Chelsea Manning’s trial, which makes Molly Crabapple’s eyewitness sketch reportage for The Paris Review all the more important. She also drew her report on the inmate hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay.

2013: The Year According to Chris Larson

To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from painter Matt Connors and ebook publishers Badlands Unlimited to design firm Experimental Jetset and musician Greg Tate — to share a list of their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According […]

Chris Larson. Photo courtesy the artist

To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from painter Matt Connors and ebook publishers Badlands Unlimited to design firm Experimental Jetset and musician Greg Tate — to share a list of their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to                                 . 

To many, Chris Larson’s best known for torching a modernist home last summer. In Celebration/Love/Loss (2013), a sculpture and performance work created for the all-night Northern Spark festival, Larson built and then burned to the ground a full-scale replica of a Marcel Breuer–designed house built on a St. Paul bluff in 1962. But before that high-profile project, Larson was well known in the Twin Cities for a range of art projects — many equally large in scale and vision. Part of the Walker’s 1998 exhibition Sculpture on Site, the St. Paul–based artist and musician created a wooden, fort-like structure in the Walker’s Cargill Lounge for a 2011 show, and a pair of mini-golf holes he made with students in his University of Minnesota class were part of last year’s Artist-Designed Mini Golf course. His works of Insecure Architecture were featured in the 2012/2013 McKnight Visual Arts Fellowship Exhibition at MCAD, and his video work, Heavy Rotation, will be included in 2014 Whitney Biennial.

As part of our series reflection on the year 2013, Larson offers this list of “ten top things that kept me. In order of appearance.”

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Cyclone Haruna

Tropical Cyclone Haruna. Image: NASA

In my continued interest in rotating, spinning and revolving, images of Cyclone Haruna in February of 2013 held my attention for some time. This cyclone produced widespread flooding, which produced perfect conditions for a catastrophic locust infestation in Madagascar. Tragic.

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Sinkholes

The sinkhole in Assumption Parish, via assumptionla.com.

As above, so below. In 2013, an extraordinary video of a sinkhole was caught in action by a park emergency official in Assumption Parish Louisiana.
(Images of the 2010 sinkhole in Guatemala continue to hold my attention and still tops my personal top-10 list for 2011.)

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Unrequested

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2013, the first year no one asked for a friend request.

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Cooking with acorns

acorn

Free, easy to gather and a great source of protein. Acorns are bitter; make sure to bake and boil out the tannins before eating. Check for worm holes: avoid these or black acorns.  White oak is the best source. I eat acorn pancakes with birch syrup: delicious.

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Sumac

Sumac. Photo: Flickr user damozeljane, used under Creative Commons license

This summer at the Poor Farm in Wisconsin, I learned how to make tea and lemonade from sumac. Another free and easy way to eat and drink off the earth. Gather the sumac berries in mid-August, before the heavy rains (rain will wash away the flavor and acid). Berries should be ripe with a sharp lemon flavor and have a deep red color. Harvest the berries, soak them in water for an hour or so, strain the liquid with cheesecloth to get rid of the tiny hair and berries. Serve over ice.

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Circle Farming

Circular irrigated agricultural plots near the the Al Jawf oasis in Libya, as seen from Japan's ALOS satellite. Image: European Space Agency

Also known as Heavy Rotation-Center Pivot Irrigation, circle farming is an irrigation process in which a watering systems rotates around the crops. One rotation usually takes three full days. The central pivot farms in Kansas are captured in some incredible images, thanks to map images on the worldwide web. In September 2013, Japan’s ALOS satellite shot some beautiful photos of crop circles in southeastern Libya.

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“Art 665b Unraveling”

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Jim Hodges’ 2013 MFA sculpture course at Yale University School of Art. I would go back to school to take this class.

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9 Artists

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#OpenCurating: Yasmil Raymond on Curatorial Ambassadorship

Continuing #OpenCurating, its series of interviews and events exploring the ways Web 2.0 and social media technologies are informing new practices in art, the curatorial office Latitudes hosted an event in Barcelona recently with Dia Art Foundation curator (and former Walker curator) Yasmil Raymond. As #OpenCurating’s content partner, the Walker has participated in these conversations, both […]

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Yasmil Raymond (left) with Latitudes’ Mariana Cánepa Luna and Max Andrews at Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Februrary 19, 2013

Continuing #OpenCurating, its series of interviews and events exploring the ways Web 2.0 and social media technologies are informing new practices in art, the curatorial office Latitudes hosted an event in Barcelona recently with Dia Art Foundation curator (and former Walker curator) Yasmil Raymond. As #OpenCurating’s content partner, the Walker has participated in these conversations, both through an interview with our web team that launched the project in September 2012 and through publishing key pieces from the project on our recently redesigned homepage. Held February 19 at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, the event focused on Raymond’s work with Dia, where she’s been employed since 2009, and her current projects, including the forthcoming Gramsci Monument, a project by Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn that launches in July. In this excerpt from the full interview, Raymond fields questions on “curation,” including one from former Walker chief curator Philippe Vergne:

Latitudes:Philippe Vergne, the Director of Dia Art Foundation. Philippe’s questions are great but tough: “It seems today that everybody is a curator, that ‘curator’ is the new ‘DJ.’ How do you see the evolution of your own profession? Is there a different way to work with artists? And is Dia a place that has embodied proto-curatorial practices (in the 1970s) and post-curatorial practices (now)?”

Yasmil Raymond:As to how I see the evolution of the profession, I’ve only been in this profession for eight years — one year in dog years! But I do see an evolution in that the curators of the past like Harald Szeemann were so concerned with their authorship. Then we have great curators like Hans-Ulrich Obrist or Hou Hanru, Lynne Cooke or Catherine de Zheger, Ann Goldstein or Elisabeth Sussman, a whole generation of curators who I admire for their boldness and rigour on some levels, their scholarship and playfulness, their poetry. Some of them are phenomenal authors, they curate as if they were writing a book. I’m not interested in authoring in that way. When I write a text I am an author, but when I am working with an artist I’m not. I’m more interested in being a host. I look at it from the point of view of politics. I am the one that has to defend the work, first of all to my colleagues inside the institution, and to convince them that this is an exhibition that we need today, an artist we need to support today. Then we all have to convince the visitor. Winning those battles with enthusiasm and knowledge gives me real satisfaction. I’ve never thought of myself as a DJ, I’m not interested in playing to an audience in order to entertain. I am hostess, I make sure that the experience is unforgettable for the artist.

The artist Alejandro Cesarco recently gave a powerful talk at Dia about On Kawara, and it was like an artwork lecture, a homage to the great work of On Kawara. The next day I called him to thank him and he said to me that the experience of preparing the talk, of going to the archives, meeting the registrar, and so on, had really humanised his experience of the institution. I thought that was great. I’m a humanist and I want to insist on being humane, and for caring for the one-on-one, the face-to-face. So yes, I do think that Dia is gearing towards the post-curatorial in the sense that I don’t think artists need to be curated, I think artists need to be supported, enabled. And Dia means that, the word “dia” in Greek means “through,” and we have always said our mission is to facilitate, to be a conduit. So perhaps I’m not a real curator, I’m something else, an enabler, a vessel, and soon I’ll add ambassador to that list.

Latitudes:Let’s quickly move to the final questions. [Independent critic and curator] Maja Ćirić has asked, “What are the ‘cutting edge’ curatorial practices in United States today (spaces, agents, projects, exhibitions)?” And Agustín Pérez Rubio [Director, MUSAC, León, 2009–2013] asks, “As a curator with a Latin American background, how do you perceive the situation of Latin American art in the US, and more specifically in relation with Dia? Some of the most important Latin American artists lived or live in New York, from Felix Gonzalez-Torres to Luis Camnitzer… what is the relation with them?”

Raymond: “Cutting edge,” what is that? Well, I mentioned before The Artist’s Institute in New York, Anthony [Huberman] is asking very interesting questions about format, methodology and duration through his model of curating exhibitions. To answer Agustín, one of the founders of Dia in 1974, Heiner Friedrich, was a German art dealer who represented many of the artists than ended up entering the collection. There has been a few gifts since the 1970s but it is not like there was ever a plan or a committee deciding what to acquire, and we would need to have enormous resources today to commission or acquire large-scale projects in the same way as he did in the 1970s. So the idea of going back – not just to Latin America, but to any context – and to try to collect in depth a whole room of an artist such as Lygia Clark, it is just not possible. There is simply not enough work available to be able to go and buy a whole room now. Perhaps the situation is different with Felix Gonzalez-Torres. But in terms of this relating to my background, I don’t really work in that way. Perhaps my Latin gene is only active in my personal life. I’m interested in the energy of really extraordinary art, whether than happens to be made by Luis Camnitzer, or Gonzalez-Torres, or whoever, it doesn’t matter. But there is always a question of urgency. Gonzalez-Torres transformed what we understand today as art. But his work has been the subject of really important recent exhibitions and we need to weigh our priorities knowing that Dia cannot do it all. Perhaps one day, but not at the moment, we’ve made commitments to artists for the next four years.

Interview with Robert Bechtle

Robert Bechtle has been painting his surroundings in the San Francisco Bay Area since the 1950s. When I went to interview him the other day, it was a bit like being inside one of his photorealist works. On my way to his place in Potrero Hill I walked up some steep hills flanked by rows […]

Robert Bechtle in his studio.

Robert Bechtle has been painting his surroundings in the San Francisco Bay Area since the 1950s. When I went to interview him the other day, it was a bit like being inside one of his photorealist works. On my way to his place in Potrero Hill I walked up some steep hills flanked by rows of sunlit flat-front houses, under crisscrosses of power lines, and in and out of morning street shadows I recognized from his paintings and drawings. I crossed the streets in 20th and Mississippi Night (2001) and a few blocks over to the east is the corner in Covered Car – Missouri Street (2001)—both charcoal on paper drawings in the Walker’s collection. He would say later, “They’re all things that I’ve noticed just living here. Things that I see on my walk in the morning, or I’m driving by and something jumps out and says, ‘Photograph me.’” He may be the most familiar with San Francisco’s architecture over the past 60 years. Sometimes he’d draw and paint the same scene several times. (more…)

Selections from John Waters’ Library

Filmmaker/author John Waters — who guest curated the Walker’s Absentee Landlord exhibition — was recently invited to San Francisco where he extended his curatorial prowess to a new Reading Shop in the city’s Mission district. The shop is part of Kadist SF (counterpart to Kadist Art Foundation based in Paris, France)—a mixed-use 1,400 square foot nonprofit […]

Filmmaker/author John Waters — who guest curated the Walker’s Absentee Landlord exhibition — was recently invited to San Francisco where he extended his curatorial prowess to a new Reading Shop in the city’s Mission district.

The shop is part of Kadist SF (counterpart to Kadist Art Foundation based in Paris, France)—a mixed-use 1,400 square foot nonprofit art space on the corner of Folsom and 20th. Since last March when Kadist SF opened it quickly became popular in the local art scene for its flexible, laid-back, and definitely riveting program of exhibitions, events, artist/art magazine residencies, and, notably its reading room. The room would open Saturdays 11 am to 5 pm, inviting visitors to come by and check out more than 100 international art magazines not often available elsewhere. The visibility of these imports brought the public nearer to critical dialogues on art happening from Vancouver to Tel Aviv, and for the most part pretty far beyond the main distribution channels of arts discourse.

This month, in response to the Reading Room’s steady increase of visitors, Kadist SF expanded it into the Reading Shop—a reading room/bookshop. It not only stocks art magazines but also highlights independent publishers, and invites notable cultural producers to curate selections from their personal libraries. Waters was the first guest. He was given free hand to compose a list that includes novels such as David Gates’ Jernigan and Patrick White’s Voss, Jean Genet’s biography by Edmund White, and several writings by Waters’ himself (some of which you’ll find in stock at the Walker Art Center shop, too). The books bring new insight into the ways in which fiction has influenced the filmmaker’s work.

I asked curator Devon Bella about the Reading Shop’s culture, content, and the prompt to invite Mr. Waters:

Brooke: What is the story behind the Kadist Shop? Why did it open, what’s stocked, who does it serve?

Devon: The Reading Shop launched on the premise, and expansion of, Kadist’s Reading Room. It is a hybrid of a store and a library. As a program, the Reading Shop loosely addresses the current state of publishing, but in the most expansive and speculative sense — by making available selected art books and international magazines, creating space for public use, and responding to interested readers. It borrows various conditions from bookstores and libraries, and expands on them in order to heighten the culture of art publishing locally.

The Shop comprises a rotating selection of magazines and books – two racks of international art periodicals, one shelf dedicated to publications from an independent art publisher, and a table full of books culled from a personal library. All of the magazines hanging on the racks for the past few weeks are far too many to mention (I only order one copy per magazine), but in collection they represent an expansive view of contemporary practices in art publishing internationally. They include: Pages (Rotterdam and Tehran), It’s Nice That (London), Picnic (Tel Aviv), No Order (Milan), Graphic (Seoul), Fillip (Vancouver). This season we also opened with a survey of J&L Books, a small art press founded in 2000 by artists Jason Fulford and Leanne Shapton, alongside the library of filmmaker and artist John Waters.

In San Francisco, there are very few resources to peruse art publications from other countries, with only a small handful of art distributors circulating magazines for the entire US. Yet during the last decade, English has informally become a trade language of the international art world, so dozens of magazines from Europe and Asia that once printed in their local language were made increasingly legible for US readers. All this to say, the Reading Shop is an endeavor to intensify local art discourse by making known, and disseminating artistic and cultural perspectives from other city centers, from Seoul to Tel Aviv to Rotterdam, because each magazine produces, and is produced within, a context, and the experience of browsing and discovery has so much potential for cross-pollination.

Brooke: Could you talk a bit about the titles? How are they selected?

Devon: For each title, I always like to explore the visual characteristics, the editorial voice, and its seriality. I’m interested in how a publication date is also punctuation of time, and for magazines, in particular, how they evolve, or dissolve, from one issue to the next. Some of my favorite magazines over the last five years are no longer in circulation, and I find this impermanence really thrilling in the case it germinates further titles and new networks of producers, writers, etc.

A couple of my favorite magazines are produced by artists with wildly different editorial approaches:

Toilet Paper (Milan) is a high-production, lo-brow, text-free magazine combining commercial photography with dream-like narratives directed by the artist Maurizio Cattelan and photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari (Le Dictateur). It follows in the wake of Cattelan’s cult publication Permanent Food, with every issue produced under a provocative, hyperrealist theme. What really fascinates me about it though, is the online counterpart, where the absurd scenes one muses on in print are animated, and come alive for the screen. The magazine exists in a state of flux, in new space between print and the internet. Not to mention, even the fine print is curious, where one expects to find the typical names of contributors, editors, etc– TP credits include “stuntman,” “party boy,” and “ice cream whippers” (!!!)

Pages is a bilingual English and Farsi- magazine started in 2004 by artists Nasrin Tabatabai and Babak Afrassiabi, both Iranian-born conceptual artists based in the Netherlands. Pages publishes roughly twice-yearly with ruminations on Iranian art, culture, architecture, theater, history, and politics. It functions as a platform for dialogue between artists and writers from Iran and elsewhere, and in the process conveys a complex understanding of the region, a realm that remains primarily uncharted territory for mainstream media outlets.

Brooke: How does Selections from the Library of John Waters jibe with programming currently at Kadist (if it does)?

Devon: The library, as it operates within the context of the Reading Shop, is a lateral, programmatic shoot, with John’s library formalizing his various roles as a writer, filmmaker, artist, collector, and storyteller. Waters is the ultimate bibliophile, and I wanted to show the books he has read over a lifetime; it is an elaborate index of pulp, subversion, and bravura, where the substance of each title and the life of John Waters are intricately woven together, inhabiting a reflective, interior space of John himself. In comparison, I wonder if his exhibition at the Walker now also inhabits this kind of space, as it uses the very same formula.

In a way, yes. In the Walker’s parallel gesture of inviting Waters’ private art collection and his own artistic work to be thoughtfully positioned in public space, there’s this intimate look into the construction of a consciousness (some sliver of it). Inevitably the checklist and layout lends insight to Waters’ influences, affections, politics, and jokes. But while the exhibition may expose, somewhat indexically too, this interior mind space, I think there’s a lot of intrigue in the way curating becomes a provocative art form for Waters.

“Can artwork sexually attract each other?  Does minimalism make pop horny?  Does pornography elevated to high art lose its erotic power?  Does size matter or can a tiny joke compete with a maximalist icon?  Can art ever be “funny” without losing academic enthusiasm?  Would Fischli/Weiss and Roman Signer fight over who’s more droll?  More Swiss? And even more importantly, if all these works had to live together would Carl Andre ever be able to laugh?” – John Waters



The exhibition is imbued with his filmic language and contemporary art world critique. Walking through the galleries, you do find yourself, like Devon said, in this new fantastic context where John Waters the filmmaker, the writer, the artist, the collector, and the storyteller intersect. I’d like to know more of the visitors’ perception of what it was like to come to the Walker and experience this artist/curator sensibility. It’s so important to grant space for artists’ curatorial expressions, especially as the notion of curator is so radically changing, and it’s totally wonderful that Kadist SF is doing that.

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