Cornets & Screwballs: Ethnic Art Now?
Last week, a few of the MAKE SHIFT crew rolled around in glitter and inhaled harmful amounts of spray mount under the guise of assisting London based artist Chila Burma. No but really- I’ve been assisting Burman for the past few weeks and O Murphy and C Potter jumped on during their time in London. It was refreshingly reassuring to see art like this from the cone up- that a finished, funky, sellable, interesting piece really begins with a can of glue and box of glitter, and magazines and newspapers, on a plastic tarp, outside, under the English summer sun.
Burman’s finished piece, Cornets & Screwballs, in addition to two of her Bindi Girls 2D mixed media/ bindi collages, are part of Aicon Gallery’s new showA Missing History: The Other Story Revisited, which opened on Tuesday.
The show re-stages the original The Other Story, the pivotal 1990 group show of Black and Asian British artists, whose original cast included the likes of Mona Hatoum and Rasheed Araeen. The show includes 13 of the original 25 artists.
It is not insignificant that the show is just as old as we are: the perspective of its participants and curator come from a distinctly pre-90s place, where the need to clearly shout out RACE was pressing and the soon-to-be imperative of nuance and irony had yet to really take hold on the art world.
The show is successful in its own right. I’m a bit biased, but Burman’s work really does shine (hah) and added a distinctly pop flavor. I was also struck by Sonia Boyce’s installation Devotional Wallpaper. The work consists of sheets of names of Black British female singers repeatedly outlined to create ring-like ripples. The piece appealed to my love of lines, black and white, and other minimalist motifs. It also got into my head, and kept me thinking long after the free wine was gone and I left the swanky Heddon Street location. Boyce’s archive of divas draws up all those questions of economy, race, and commodification that really get me going, and rings contemporarily relevant.
The show as a whole forced the question in my mind: is it enough to come together just because we are Black and Asian and British? Is that a valid, relevant perspective, still?
Its a question rooted in the contentious post-structuralist understanding of race. If race is socially constructed, why don’t we get over it? That of course, misses the major effects of living in a racialized body. The solutions to the theory-battles walk the ever-thinning line between helping and hurting a constructive understanding of race. To make an exhibition that takes a racial category as its assumptive foundation, in some ways, does the same harm the complete 360 perspective causes: categories like “Black” or “Asian” are fixed, given, static, factual. As theorists have been fighting to explain the past decade, these labels are constantly in flux, morphing, expanding, and never meaning quite the same thing to the people attached to them.
For us multiculturalist babies of the PC era, it’s not enough to just add color to the whitewashed surface of the art world. We’ve seen that and witnessed mixed results. Regardless, we are acutely aware that the problems that forefront this historically titled “race problem,” are not fixed. To simply speak or show race is not enough any more. We want pointed questions that ask why? for whom? to what ends? by what twisted means?
Why I can’t help but walk away from The Other Story Revisited slightly cynical, and more confused, is the same reason that Obama has proved to be a bittersweet semi-victory. We elected a black president- bout damn time. Change is proving, however, to be as about a true-to-life slogan as I’m Lovin It. We’ve eaten it up, now wait- bloated bellies, creeping regret of our decision to bite- and hope, like we’ve been told, that we find some answers. Aicon’s show lets us reflect on the activist-artists who, back when were fresh out the womb, made work that pushed the boundaries of the time and demanded a much-deserved, historically denied space in art. As their tactics wear their age quite noticeably, we ask ourselves, two decades later: what are we doing to change things?
A Missing History: The Other Story Revisited opened at Aicon Gallery, 8 Heddon Street London, 29 June 2010. The show runs through 24 July.
Finding Vincent Moon in Paris & New York
During this last week in Paris I have often been reminded of one of my favorite Parisians, the film-maker Vincent Moon. There’s something about him, besides it being his birthplace, that seems innately connected to this city.
I met the self described “nomadic film-maker” Vincent Moon about a year ago at a club on the Lower East Side. I had heard his name dozens of times and spent many hours watching his Take Away Shows, so spending a sunny spring afternoon with him was borderline surreal. But he was as charming, enthusiastic and interested as you could hope for. His energy was almost overwhelming, while talking with us he danced, lit cigarettes and fixed cameras, constantly in touch with his surroundings and the energy of the room. On stage he seemed as comfortable as the musicians themselves, weaving in between them effortlessly.
Self described “nomadic filmmaker” he has worked with REM, The National, Beirut, Grizzly Bear and almost every other indie band that you can think of. The Take Away Shows that he has produced for the French website La Blogotheque are brief, raw, moving portraits of musicians at work. Though these films are essentially music videos, they are really quite the opposite. While many music videos build up the brand or mystique of a band, Moon’s work tears it down and presents the music and the musicians for what they are. In Moon’s lo-fi aesthetic there is something personal and exquisite, he is able to capture something in the people that he films that most of us can’t see without his help.
He recently put a very comprehensive catalog of his work on his website, all of which is available to watch for free. If you are looking for a way to escape from this insane July heat or simply looking for inspiration, Moon’s videos will do the trick. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
The show is the first of the Active Curation series of one night pop-up exhibitions using the creation of art as a means of non-verbal exploration of a concept. This show focuses on “Digital Flux” and the multifarious effects of digital media on our thinking and structural functions.
The show acknowledges the fact that verbal methods of examination and analysis only extend so far, and that non-verbal consideration is integral to a complete and comprehensive meditation on any subject. The works included in the show were all made specifically for the show in an effort to actively contemplate and express the artists’ stances on their relative personal understanding of how the advent/their quotidien use of the Internet, social networking Web Sites, and other digital media and devices have affected the way they think, function, perceive and present themselves to the world.
Not only is the curation involved in the show “active” in the sense that the show’s concept functioned as a stimulus for thought and actual art production, but the show is also socially-active and -involved in that a percentage of the proceeds from the show go to the One Laptop per Child organization, committed to using pervasive technologies to develop more widespread educational opportunities to underprivileged children around the globe.
MAKE SHIFT is committed the perpetuation of thoughtful art production, the use of art production as a means of considering complex ideas, and using our respective skills to help and empower others. Each Active Curation show will draw upon these principles to explore, inform and empower.
I decided to begin the series with “Digital Flux” because it is a concept that pertains to all of us. The artists involved each have a distinct and compelling point of view on the subject.
I think we can all agree that technology has become part of our daily lives on a number of levels, perhaps both for the better and the worse. But how, exactly, has it crept into our minds and our lives? Come look, think and talk about it at Active Curation: Digital Flux on July 31 from 8 to 10 pm at 7 Dunham Place in Williamsburg! The artists will be present, and so will free champagne.
A New Yorker Sees Mt. Eerie in Berlin
Festaal Kreuzberg is teeming with a calm excitement, which matches that of the headlining act. Mount Eerie, hailing from America’s North West, takes the stage after opener No Kids at this small venue in Berlin during the band’s European tour this past spring. The crowd has been quiet for a while, moving slowly towards the stage in anticipation. “Hello, we’re Mount Eerie. And we’re gonna play some songs.” Says Phil Elverum modestly into the microphone. “Thank you for being an audience, and I hope you enjoy it.” At this he turns and the show begins on a rib-cage-vibrating frequency.
Festaal can be described to New Yorkers as Berlin’s small scale Webster hall; the stage is close to the floor and a balcony encircles the top of the room. The floor is filled with people, all moving within their own space; some are swaying slightly while others bang their heads at a low-fi pace. They’re playing songs off their newest album, Wind’s Poem, as Elverum explains about half way through the show, “we’re at track 7…just so you know where we’re at.” His voice is just a whisper amplified, much like the vocals on most of the tracks. There is a softer sound to Wind’s Poem than most of Elverum’s earlier projects including, The Microphones. But the same naturalistic themes, which come from the artist’s upbringing in Seattle, persist.
As the set comes to and end Elverum stops again, the lights are dimmed on the stage except for his face. “Maybe… you could consider this our last song, kind of like an encore with out us having to leave the stage. I hate that. And we wanted to end on this song because it really is the culmination of the entire album,” he explains to his eager audience. There are subdued claps and a few words of encouragement from the crowd and again he turns his back, closing the show on the same note as it opened—with a fervent, sincere force.
Young American Shaman- a sneak preview of a collaborative publication between Josh Cabrido (words) and Sarah Faitell (Images).
Y.A.S. is a project for those shamans that are left out of shamanic culture. It is an instructional manual, a spirit guide, a chakra healing warpath on the loose. This publication centers around the many struggles facing the young american shaman. Soon to be distributed at natural health and healing stores throughout Brooklyn.