Posts

Faculty Member Faith Wilding @ Western Exhibitions

Faith Wilding
Un-Natural Parables
November 3, 2017 – December 22, 2017
In Galleries One & Two

Western Exhibitions is thrilled to present a two-part solo exhibition, Un-Natural Parables, by pioneering feminist artist Faith Wilding. In Gallery 1, the gallery will present Natural Parables, a body of work last exhibited in 1985; large watercolor/drawing hybrids paired with oil-on-panel paintings shaped like pods. In Gallery 2 will be a new series of mixed-media watercolor paintings, Paraguay: Republica de la Soya, that reflect on the artist’s recent on-the-ground research into her birth country’s ongoing ecological crises. The show opens on Friday, November 3 with a reception from 5 to 8pm. The following day, Saturday, November 4, Wilding will be joined in conversation at the gallery by Shannon Stratton, the William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator at the Museum of Art and Design (NYC) at 4pm. Both the reception and the gallery talk are free and open to the public.

In 1941 Faith Wilding’s parents Edith and Harry Barron emigrated to Paraguay as members of the Bruderhof Anabaptist commune. Here, in a rural Bruderhof settlement, Wilding would be born and grow up with a rich relationship to a verdant environment, coupled with a communal upbringing where literature and music were as readily taught as animal husbandry and agriculture. Wilding has long mined this childhood in her work, grateful for a youth that was rich in community and ingenuity, but also deeply resistant to the strict gender norms and roles imposed by an otherwise quite radical Christian sect.

While well recognized for her early work co-organizing and exhibiting in Womanhouse and then later for her collaborative work with subRosa, Wilding’s robust painting and drawing practice has only recently been revisited. Truly the backbone of her practice, Wilding’s vivid works on paper often use imagery from nature as a metaphor for transformation. Her interest in exploring specific ideas of women’s transformation is as prominent as her inquiry into the metamorphosis of the natural world through human intervention and destruction. Wilding’s life-long examination of the body as political site and nature as political site marries an instinctive desire to reveal the ways in which humanity and the natural world are co-dependent. Her consistent commentary on humankind’s exploitation of the natural world and its subsequent weaponization anticipated art’s contemporary consideration of the Anthropocene as critical subject matter.

For Un-Natural Parables, Western Exhibitions will exhibit for the first time since 1985 Wilding’s Natural Parables series, originally produced in 1982 and last exhibited in Los Angeles. This work marked the culmination of years of Wilding’s early research into female mythologies, paganism, English Romantic poetry, illuminated herbals, bestiaries, alchemical manuscripts and female imagery. At the time she was seeking to create her own system of representation and illustrate an interconnection between beliefs, mythologies, dreams and fantasy worlds. Forty years later, Wilding made Paraguay: Republica de la Soya, a series that responds to the wanton destruction of Paraguay’s dense forests, verdant campos, meandering swamps and waterways through massive mono-cropping of GMO soy. With the help of an Art Matters grant, Wilding traveled back to Paraguay for the first time since emigrating in 1961 to study botanical collections and gardens. The resulting works on paper are part of a larger memoir project that Wilding is currently completing that reflects on her upbringing and her complex relationship to it.

Un-Natural Parables marries two distinct time periods in Wilding’s practice, connecting yet book-ending her early exploration and development of a feminist vernacular with the political concerns that emerged as part of a cyber-feminist practice that delved into reproductive biotech, labor, science and global capitalism. These two bodies of work are linked by Wilding’s continuous, sumptuous watercolor practice where captivating imagery and rich color vividly portray the fundamental inter-connection between humanity and the environment. This melding of the body with the earth through layering of washes, pencil, text, woven paper and occasionally collage, intensifies a message of connection, but also complicity – making it clear that environmental politics is not a “special interest”, but the politics of survival.

Faith Wilding is Professor Emerita of performance art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a graduate faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a visiting scholar at the Pembroke Center, Brown University. Born in Paraguay, Wilding received her BA from the University of Iowa and her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. Wilding was a co-initiator of the Feminist Art Programs in Fresno and at Cal Arts, and she contributed “Crocheted Environment” and her “Waiting” performance piece to the historic Womanhouse exhibition.

Her work has been exhibited extensively over the last five decades including the seminal survey WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, organized by Cornelia Butler, which traveled from the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles) to the National Museum of Women (Washington DC), PS1 Contemporary Art Center (Long Island), and the Vancouver Art Gallery.  Additionally, Wilding’s work has been exhibited at Reina Sofia Museum (Madrid); Centre for Contemporary Arts (Glasgow); Bronx Museum of Art (New York); The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York); the Armand Hammer Museum (Los Angeles); The Drawing Center (New York); Documenta X (Kassel); the Singapore Art Museum. Publications include By Our Own Hands: The History of the Women Artists Movement in Southern California, 1970-76 (Double X, 1977) and Domain Errors! Cyberfeminist Practices! (Autonomedia, 2003).  Wilding was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2009 and has been the recipient of two individual media grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.  In 2014, she was awarded the prestigious Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award.   Most recently, her work was included in Fiber: Sculpture 1960 to Present exhibition that originated at the ICA in Boston; her Crocheted Environment, 1972/1995, was shown in Art_Textiles at The Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, England (and it graced the cover of the catalog); she currently has work in Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A., organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, as part ofPacific Standard Time: LA/LA, up until December 31, 2017.

Faith Wilding’s work was recently the subject of a traveling retrospective, Fearful Symmetries, that featured a selection of works from her studio practice spanning the past forty years, highlighting a range of works on paper – drawings, watercolors, collage and paintings – exhibited together for the first time. Curated by Shannon Stratton and first presented at Threewalls in Chicago, the show traveled to Houston, Memphis and Los Angeles, where it was reviewed in the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly and received a Critic’s Pick in Artforum. This is her first show at Western Exhibitions and her first in Chicago since the retrospective opened in 2014. Wilding lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island.

PRESS for “Un-Natural Parables”: Artnet | Chicago Reader | New City

Western Exhibitions
1709 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622 USA
312.480.8390
[email protected]
 
Gallery hours
Tuesday thru Saturday
11am to 6pm
featured image:

Alumna Thais Mather Solo Show @ Form & Concept

Thais Mather: Reckless Abandon

November 24, 2017-February 18, 2018

Reckless Abandon Events

Opening Reception | Friday, November 24, 2017 from 5-7 pm — RSVP on Facebook
Reckless Abandon: A Reading | Saturday, November 25, 2-3 pm — RSVP on Facebook
Reckless Abandon: Performance | Friday, December 15, 5-7 pm — RSVP on Facebook

“I think people are getting these catastrophic feelings, that this is the end,” says Thais Mather. “I don’t believe in that. I think this is a beginning.” The feminist artist’s new exhibition, Reckless Abandon, comes at a time of cultural, political and environmental upheaval. It’s an ideal moment to examine human history from a revolutionary stance—and present urgent questions that can reveal a new path forward. Through a monumental art installation and a series of performances and events, Mather will challenge viewers to abandon patriarchal structures in favor of a transcendent vision for humanity. Reckless Abandon opens at form & concept in Santa Fe on Friday, November 24, 2017, and runs through February 18, 2018.

“I’m really contemplating humanity: how culture began, where we are now, and where that might evolve,” says Mather. Reckless Abandon comprises hundreds of artworks that will fill form & concept’s ground floor, tracing thousands of years of natural and human history. Mather’s explorations for the show started with a series of large, intricate woodblock prints depicting octopuses, snakes, tarantulas and other creatures. These animals were traditionally vilified by humans because their anatomy is so different from our own, and because their consciousness seems alien. “They are considered ‘total others,’” says Mather. “I’m connecting these themes to the ways in which women have been misunderstood and colonized because we are always foreigners in our own land.”

From this departure point, Mather has created a number of large-scale installations that incorporate ceramics, videos, drawings and other media. Reckless Abandon is a culmination of Mather’s artistic experience thus far. She grew up in Santa Fe, and got her degree in printmaking from the University of Montana in 2006. In 2011, she enrolled as an MFA student at Vermont College of Fine Arts. There, her focus shifted from technical expertise to conceptual rigor as she studied installation, social practice and critical theory. Prominent feminist artists Faith Wilding and Michelle Dizon became her mentors.

After returning to Santa Fe in 2013, Mather furthered her studies of feminist theory and incorporated what she was learning in the bodies of work Wonder Bitch and The Anonymous Author. She exhibited both series in solo exhibitions in Houston, Texas, but initially struggled to find an audience for her work in the famous art market of her hometown. form & concept Gallery Director Frank Rose offered Mather an exhibition in fall 2016, and she’s been hard at work ever since.

“Thais’ multidisciplinary approach was a perfect fit for us,” says Rose. “We look for artists who are open to crossing perceived barriers between art, craft and design in service of powerful storytelling. Thais combs through eons of visual history, and emerges with imagery that disrupts entrenched narratives.”

Reckless Abandon is Mather’s first major show in Santa Fe, though she hesitates to call it a solo exhibition—at least in a traditional sense. “I feel like the concept of the male genius artist presenting his solo magnum opus is a Greenbergian farce. Everything you create is influenced by other artists, by your mentors, by your relationships, by the music and literature you adore.” Mather says. She’s working with a number of feminist artists to present a series of performances in the space, and also considers gallery visitors to be collaborators when they cross the show’s threshold. The exhibition will evolve through these contributions and interactions, inspiring community members to return multiple times and experience new surprises. Inspired by the magical realist movement, Mather aims to weave moments of enchanting transformation into everyday life.

Reckless Abandon is a call to action, not just for us to treat one another and our planet with care, but also for us to abandon what we think we know, in order to create a life of magic in the next phase of our evolution,” says Mather. The artist will answer her own challenge by donating the proceeds of several artworks from the show to nonprofit organizations that focus on social and environmental activism. “We will have to create the impossible if we plan to survive. So why not use our imagination—a force, which as the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott taught me, is our prime source and mechanism of survival,” Mather says.

RSVP for opening weekend on Facebook.
Browse Thais Mather’s work.

Form & Concept

435 S Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, NM 87501| 505.982.8111

Alumnus Corey Pickett @ Form & Concept Benefit Show, Santa Fe

Guns to Art Benefit Show

November 7-17, 2017
Reception & Live Auction: Friday, November 17, 4-7 pm

RSVP on Facebook.

Decommissioned firearms aren’t the most pliable artistic medium, but that hasn’t stopped faculty and students at Santa Fe Community College from reshaping them into stunning artworks. They’ve been hard at work bending, slicing, shredding and melting old guns into sculptures, jewelry and even apparel. This fall, the art will appear at a special reception, live auction and silent auction in support of art and welding scholarships at SFCC and the 501(c)3 non-partisan organization New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence (NMPGV), along with juried works by artists from across the world that reflect on gun violence prevention. The Guns to Art Benefit Show runs November 7-17 at form & concept, with a reception and live auction on Friday, November 17 from 4 to 7 pm.

“When we first started, people would slam doors in our faces,” says Miranda Viscoli, co-founder and co-president of NMPGV. “They’d say, ‘You guys are not going to take our guns.’ This event is a culmination of our efforts to shift the conversation towards responsible gun ownership and gun violence prevention.” In August 2016, NMPGV launched a gun buyback program that invited gun owners to anonymously turn in unwanted firearms to New Mexico law enforcement. The Santa Fe Community College Art Department offered to turn part of the stockpile into art, and a collaboration with the Colorado-based RAWTools project called “Guns to Gardens” transformed the guns into gardening tools. Creations from both programs will appear in the live and silent auctions at the Guns to Art benefit.

NMPGV formed in 2013, the year of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Not long after the tragedy, a group of concerned citizens came together to face some tough realities about gun violence in New Mexico. They learned that in 2013, the third leading cause of death for New Mexican children was homicide, with 74% of those deaths occurring by firearm. Faced with this troubling statistic and others like it, the group leapt into action, designing programs that could curb firearm injury and death and promote responsible gun ownership through public health, education, advocacy and public awareness efforts.

“Over the years, we’ve developed a multipronged approach to build trust in the community,” says Viscoli. “We know the police, we know local politicians on both sides of the aisle, we know the press, and we know community members.” The programs they’ve launched include Murals to End Gun Violence and the Student Pledge Against Gun Violence, both of which engage  Santa Fe public school students. Since these initiatives started, there has been a 54% drop in local students bringing weapons to school. NMPGV also maintains an interactive map documenting incidents of gun-related violence and death in every New Mexico county. “Guns to Gardens” and the collaboration with Santa Fe Community College are also ongoing projects.

“We love the way NMPGV takes an intersectional approach to their projects and programs,” says Frank Rose, Gallery Director at form & concept. “Guns to Art brings so many of these local stories together, and also invites artists from across the world to express powerful viewpoints on gun violence prevention.” The Guns to Art Benefit Show opens November 7, coinciding with the launch of an online and in-gallery silent auction. Bidding for the silent auction will continue during the Guns to Art reception on November 17, and a live auction moderated by Jake Lovato will also take place at the event.

NMPGV, SFCC and form & concept would like to thank Mayor Javier Gonzales, the City of Santa Fe and Santa Fe Police Chief Patrick Gallagher for their support of this exhibition.

Learn more about the reception & live auction.
Enter the Guns to Art juried show.

Form and Concept

435 S Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, NM 87501| 505.982.8111

 

Visiting Faculty Member Việt Lê, Sum of Parts Interview

Excerpt:

Việt Lê is an artist, writer and curator using these creative narratives to tell stories around different forms of trauma: historical, state-imposed, identity-related, and more. Whether in the form of a poem or a curated installation, his work is deeply layered, tinged with loss as well as the beauty of living.

What drives you to wake up in the morning & what keeps you up at night?
I believe we are in a crisis. I don’t believe in the anxious language of refugee “crisis,” although we are globally experiencing mass migrations in the shadow of capital and wars.  In this age of Brexit, xenophobia, gun violence, self-interest and selfies, we are in the depths of a sociopolitical, environmental and spiritual crisis. What wakes me up and keeps me up is the crisis of meaning: how do we facilitate and create meaningful, productive exchanges with our limited world views?  And how do we get ourselves and others to expand the limits of our individual and collective vision?

Trained as an ethnographer, much of my art and research involves collaboration. I worked with many fantastic artists in Hà Nội, including Jamie Maxtone-Graham, my director of photography, as well as conceptual artists Nguyễn Phương Linh, Tuân Mami, Nguyễn Quốc Thành. The dancer is Duy Thanh and you may recognize Phong (the trans M to F protagonist) from the film Finding Phong.
eclipse is about longing and loss—losing a loved one or a country (as I did, as a refugee) and desperately wanting it back, with no recourse.  It is indicative of our current moment, wanting to “make America great again”: we’ve fallen from grace, lost our garden of Eden, there is no way back. On the other hand, it can be about spirituality—wanting to give up everything as a path towards enlightenment, towards ego-lessness—and its blind struggle.

To read full Sum of Parts article, click here.

To read more about Việt, click here and here.

Alumni Yukiyo Kawano Interviewed

A visual artist and a choreographer come together for an Aug. 9 performance work that bears witness to the annihilation of two entire cities and the complex Japanese and American narratives therein.

A scene from a prior performance of "Suspended Moment".

A scene from a prior performance of “Suspended Moment”.

Courtesy of Yukiyo Kawano

Seventy-two years ago, American pilots dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To this day, historians debate whether, as the U.S. maintained, the bombings were necessary to end World War II in the Pacific Theater, or whether, as some critics hold, they constituted war crimes.

Visual artist Yukiyo Kawano and choreographer Meshi Chavez are the creators of “Suspended Moment,” a multidisciplinary performance work they developed with composer Lisa DeGrace and poet Allison Cobb.

Kawano is from Hiroshima; Chavez grew up in Albuquerque — close enough to the Manhattan Project to have a feel for the American side of this history. They’ve performed this work in places with strong ties to atomic history, like Los Alamos, New Mexico, the Hanford Site, and are now bringing it to Portland for a fifth incarnation.

Chavez’s practice is based in the Japanese performance style butoh. You may have seen it performed by dancers in white makeup, moving with infinitesimal slowness. But Chavez’s style is something more kinetic and stately. In some sequences, he puts himself through organic contortions, twisting and spinning almost out of control. Others are direct references to everyday activities on either side of the Pacific.

Here are some highlights of the conversation.

 

Alumnus Jeff Marley Spider Installation @ Oconaluftee Island Park

In Cherokee, NC alumnus Jeff Marley and collaborator, Frank Brannon, presented an impermanent installation in Oconaluftee Island Park.

“Based on a spider web, the multi-media installation is part Cherokee cosmology, part commentary on the occidental/oreiental interpretation of historical events.

The web is made from mulberry, and in the folds, there are some hidden phrases,” Marley explained.  “It relates back to the story of when the first printing press was delivered to the Cherokee Nation.  These guys delivering the press were not Cherokee, and so they could not communicate with people as they moved into the Nation to deliver this.  They were really hungry and how do you get food if you cannot communicate? They finally ran into someone who could translate for them,” Marley noted.

To read the full article, click here.

 

Three Visual Art Alumni Collaborate in Minneapolis

Friendship is Magic is a collaborative site-specific installation created by artist friends Clea Felien, Damali Abrams the Glitter Priestess, and Ambivalently Yours. The show explores how the enthusiasm, language and rituals of girl culture can be used to represent ideas of friendship as a radical act of resistance in a political climate that is increasingly promoting xenophobia and separatism. In a world where adults are encouraged to cultivate potentially beneficial business connections instead of friendship, what does it mean to celebrate friendship instead?

For one weekend, the three artists from Minneapolis, Montreal, and New York will gather at Spackle Cat Gallery (Northrup King Building Studio 358, 1500 Jackson St NE, Minneapolis) to create an interdisciplinary alternate world where friendship itself is a form of magic.

HOURS:
Friday, May 19th – 5:00-10:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 20nd – 2:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 21st – Noon-5:00 p.m.

 

  • May 19 – May 21
    May 19 at 5 PM to May 21 at 5 PM EDT
  • Spackle Cat Gallery, Northrup King Building, Studio 358, 1500 Jackson St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413

Residency Public Events | 2017

The MFA in Visual Art program would like to invite the community to join us for presentations with our Visiting Artists, as well as student exhibitions, January 28 through February 3.

Graduating Student Exhibition – VCFA Gallery

  • Tuesday, January 31 – Friday, February 3. Hours: 9am-6pm. Gallery may be closed for critiques and reviews as determined by the program.
  • Opening: Monday, January 30, 8-9:30pm, VCFA Gallery

The daily exhibitions are free and open to the public most days. Please be considerate of critique groups and closures as needed for academic purposes.

New and Returning Student Exhibitions – Alumni Hall

  • Sunday, January 29 – Friday, February 3. Hours: 9am-6pm.
  • Opening: Saturday, January 28, 7-8:30pm, Alumni Hall

Gallery may be closed for critiques and reviews as determined by the program.

Visiting Artists Presentations:

Art, Place and Place-making
  • Sunday, January 29, 10:30am to noon,  College Hall Chapel
  • Artist-in-Residence, Mildred Beltré, will discuss her practice.

Mildred BeltreMildred Beltré, is a Brooklyn-based artist, mother, and popular educator working in print, drawing, and participatory politically engaged practice to explore facets of social change. She is interested in exploring political movements and their associated social relations and structures. Her most recent work involves looking at revolutionary theorizing and posturing through a feminist lens.

Beltré’s selected national exhibitions include: International Print Center New York, NYC; Burlington City Arts, Burlington, VT; Five Myles Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; BRIC, Brooklyn, NY; Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY; Freedman Gallery, Albright College, Reading, PA; University of Colorado, Boulder, CO; Art in General, NYC ; and international group shows at Projecto Ace, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Hollar Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic; Brun Leglise Gallery, Paris, France; among others.

Her work is included in the Special Collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, among others.

She has been awarded residencies at the Lower East Side Printshop, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Santa Fe Art Institute. She has received grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Brooklyn Arts Council,  Brooklyn Foundation, and the Rema Hort Foundation, among others.

Beltré is the co-founder of the Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine, an ongoing socially engaged collaborative art project in Crown Heights, Brooklyn that addresses gentrification and community building through art-making.

Waiting/Welcome
  • Sunday, January 29, 7pm, College Hall Chapel
  • A poetic meditation/reading/screening performed by MFA in Visual Art faculty, Viet Le and Faith Wilding with slides of images of colonial subjects from National Geographic, rephotographed and titled by faculty member, Michelle Dizon. A discussion with the audience follows.
Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine: Community and Collaboration
  • Wednesday, February 1, 1-2:30pm, Chapel, College Hall
  • Artist-in-Residence, Mildred Beltré, and her collaborator, Visiting Artist Oasa DuVerney, will discuss their collaborative work.

Mildred and OasaThe Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine is a socially-engaged project started in 2010 by artists Mildred Beltré and Oasa DuVerney. Dubbing ourselves the “Official Unofficial Artists in Residence” of our block, we set up tents, tables, and art supplies on the street outside our apartment building and invited anyone walking by to stop and make art with us. In this way we co-founded the Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine (BHAM), a collaborative public art intervention that explores art-making as a community-building tool.

Often when a neighborhood is undergoing rapid change, outdoor space is criminalized for some while being preserved for others. One thing that the BHAM seeks to do in its insistence to be outdoors, and particularly on the street, is about claiming the street as a generative space for people of color. Public and collective projects are a way of combating the social isolation that leads to suspicion amongst neighbors as opposed to cooperation. By engaging our neighbors on the street, we facilitate conversation and trust which is often lost when a community undergoes significant transition and upheaval. Our vision is to facilitate a public space for community members—often silenced by socio-economic circumstances—to get informed, feel empowered, create, and organize to take positive action.

As artists it is important to us to not create work solely for the gallery, but also to use our practice to make artwork with and for our community. By creating weavings and art activities on our sidewalks we provide a visible and participatory space for Crown Heights residents of all ages to see and interact with each other. These workshops serve as a creative outlet for our neighbors and provide an opportunity to engage with each other outside of the daily routine and thus encourage a new kind of interaction, one leading to new social relations based on mutual respect and understanding. The fence weavings provide an opening for that conversation amongst neighbors to begin.

Oasa DuVerney is a Brooklyn-based artist and mother, born in Queens, New York. Selected exhibitions include “The View From Nowhere,” Rush Arts Gallery, NYC (2016); “The Window and the Breaking of the Window,” Studio Museum in Harlem, NYC (2016); The Brooklyn Biennial, BRIC, Brooklyn NY (2016), “Crossing the Line,” Mixed Greens Gallery, NYC (2013); “March On!,” Brooklyn Academy Of Music (2013); “Through A Glass Darkly,” Postmasters Gallery, NYC (2012).

DuVerney was awarded the Rush Philanthropic Foundation Artist Residency (2016), Smack Mellon Studio Artist Residency (2014-2015) the LMCC Workspace program residency (2012-2013), Brooklyn Foundation Grant (2016) a grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council (2011), a grant award from the Citizens Committee For New York City (2010, 2013), and the Aljra Emerge Fellowship by the Aljira Center for Contemporary Art (2007).

Media and Publications include The Independent, UK (2016), PIX 11 News (2016), Hyperallergic (2015, 2016), The Guardian, UK (2015), Palestine News Network (2013), The New York Times (2012, 2011), and The New York Daily News (2010). She received her B.F.A. from the Fashion Institute of Technology and her M.F.A. from Hunter College, CUNY.

Visiting Artists/Scholars during the Visual Art residency:

Damali Abrams, Ujju Aggarwal, Eshrat Erfanian, Nils Karsten, Suzy Spence, Rodrigo Valenzuela, and John Willis.

Cauleen Smith Mousse Magazine Interview

Destroying Narratives: Cauleen Smith

Cauleen Smith and Carolyn Lazard in Conversation

Cauleen Smith is an interdisciplinary artist operating with multiple materials and modes, including installation environments, referencing mid-20th-century experimental film. She draws from devices originating in science fiction to deploy a conversation with the representation of black women in Western cinema as radical others, and to address the dislocated relationship with ideas of belonging to a “homeland.”

CAROLYN LAZARD: Over the past few years, you’ve created more and more installation work and pieces that expand outside of a traditional cinema environment. There seems to be this never-ending debate about the contested presence of cinema in the gallery space. Can you address these formal changes in your work and why you necessarily wanted to take your work out of the theater?

CAULEEN SMITH: When I first started making films, showing moving images in gallery and museum spaces was both prohibitively expensive and technically difficult. It was actually painful to have my work in art shows because the exhibition decisions were so disrespectful to the medium and the way the work was intended to be viewed. Digital video has changed that. A good projector is affordable and requires no human projectionist for operation. An extremely high-quality piece of media can loop effortlessly on a media player. Furthermore, there are the natural similarities between installation art and filmmaking: the completeness, the immersiveness, the totality of materials and playing with their materiality is, to me, echoed in each form. The installation becomes a container, a wrapper, for the films, and sometimes a physical echo of things occurring in the films. It also becomes a three-dimensional footnote in a sense because I rely on the environment in which my films play to expand and illuminate the content, tone, and forms deployed in the films. By building chambers, what I have taken to calling “space stations,” I have a chance to control the spectator’s approach toward the work and influence their receptivity. Frequently the installation is a playful obstruction. A way of slowing down the spectator, of inviting them to spend more time with the work by offering them information that can only be gleaned by being inside of the space that contains the film.

CL: In H-E-L-L-O (2014) and in The Way Out Is The Way Two: Fourteen Short Films about Chicago and Sun Ra (2012), you work directly with musicians, addressing the legacy of black music and the avant-garde. Your use of non-diegetic sound, dubbed dialogue, and text in lieu of voice can be quite disorienting. The dissonance between sound and image points to worlds outside of the frame, adding layers of perception. Often, one senses that there is an entirely separate sonic narrative unfolding under your films. Could you address your relationship to sound as a filmmaker?

CS: I admit to the strangeness of something your questions alludes to, which is the fact that I really do favor dissonant, non-diegetic sound design. I get excited when the sound I hear disagrees with the image I see but somehow manages to point me toward a new question or possibility. Whenever a spectator is offered drama through dialogue, they desire the satisfaction—the seduction—of losing themselves in the affective transference that occurs between screen character and individual spectator. Dialogue is a very special kind of text, different from essay, poetry, or expository voice-over. I love what it can do, but I don’t love enabling that traditional desire for illusionistic filmmaking in my spectators when I am trying to offer them a different kind of viewing experience. In the context of my work, it’s misleading to invite viewers to lose themselves in the narrative drama, when all of the tension actually resides in the image and its formal relationship to what comes before and after and what sounds support or undermine those images. Rather than completely mute the figures in my films, I prefer to untether the voice from the body and insert some slippage. In that space, I hope, is the potential for a kind of recognition of self, that invites more than desire. Cognitive estrangement and cognitive dissonance are both tactics that I rely on quite heavily. What does it feel like to live in a body that is perceived as malevolently vacant, fugitive, unknowable, and black? Estrangement and dissonance are two psychological states that come to mind when I think about how black people have to move through the world and the assumptions we are sometimes subjected to. Undermining the mundane aspects of moving through cinematic space by peppering the sonic environment with alien information seems like an invitation to contemplate the discomfort—and that freedom.

To read full interview click here.

Featured image:

Cauleen Smith, Song for Earth and Folk (still), 2013
Courtesy: the artist

MFA-V Alumna Kathy Couch | Performance|Portrait @ Invisible Dog Art Center

PERFORMANCE| PORTRAIT by A CANARY TORSI – Invisible Dog presents a canary torsi’s new responsive video installation, Performance | Portrait. The work invites each visitor to an encounter with a performer. Grounded in questions of intimacy and connection within the performance experience, four distinguished performers were recorded maintaining their focus on a future audience.

LEAD COLLABORATORS
Yanira Castro (Concept/Choreographer), Kathy Couch (Installation Artist), Stephan Moore (Interaction Designer), Julie Wyman (Filmmaker)

PERFORMER COLLABORATORS
Anna Azrieli, Leslie Cuyjet, Peter Schmitz, David Thomson

This exhibition is part of Intermediaries, a 2016 program co-commissioned and presented by the Invisible Dog and Immediate Medium and funded by the New York State Council on the Arts.

Commissioning support for Performance I Portrait also provided by the Catherine Tell Foundation and Creative Art Council at Brown University, as a part of The Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces (CRCI). Performance I Portrait is sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC). It was developed, in part, during a BRIClab Residency at BRIC House in Brooklyn, NY, a residency with producing partner High Concept Labs in Chicago, and with residency support from Gibney Dance Center and ISSUE Project Room in New York and Amherst College in MA. Additional support provided by UC Davis, CA.

Opening Reception: Saturday December 3, from 6 to 10pm
On viewing from Monday to Saturday from 12pm to 7pm, Sunday from 12pm to 5pm

Part of WONDERLAND, annual group exhibition at The Invisible Dog.