Daniel Spoerri, "Tableau piege, 17. Juni 1972," 1972.
By Jason Foumberg
The long black hair that I pulled from my Pad Thai confirmed that it was a lunch like no other. Rirkrit Tiravanija, who has made an international art career serving free meals, often Pad Thai, to museum goers, did not intend for the hair to disrupt my experience of his performance lunch in 2008—or was the hairy blooper a disturbing reminder that no matter what we eat, someone else, often many people, have touched, groomed and manhandled our food so that it appears, on our plates, so perfect?
The free lunch is now an established genre of contemporary art, and the Smart Museum’s exhibition, “Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art,” arrives right on the heels of the foodie revolution. But this retrospective exhibition of eighty years of food service is not about fresh, local, healthy, or even tasty food, nor is it about haute cuisine, world hunger, obesity, genetically modified ingredients, or organic farming. Instead, “Feast” identifies a strain of performance art, which climaxed during Happenings in the 1960s and feminist performance in the seventies, that uses a familiar setting—eating in the company of others—as a device of social confrontation and political disruption. Read the rest of this entry »
“Cynic” seems an unfair label for the uncompromising Diogenes, who carried a lantern during daylight in search of an honest man. At bottom, Dada was similarly nostalgic for art as a lost ideal, an end in itself rather than a vehicle for reflection. This starry-eyed hopelessness applies to an evolving exhibition now in its third iteration at ADDS DONNA, whose title, “Wish You Were Here,” underscores the theme of glibness thinly masking absence and loss. Read the rest of this entry »
Kasia Houlihan, "Tender," 2011
No one doubts that we are living in hard times, especially young artists. Video and photo-artist Kasia Houlihan and photographer Aidan Fitzpatrick draw us into their discontent, the first with a sense of futility and the second with a sentiment of existential unease. Houlihan’s video “Hold On” shows her young female model jump-running aimlessly around a mowed field in a random, abrupt and staccato motion, exhausting herself and looking it—wasting herself. In a color photo, we see the model sitting in her panties on a slightly rumpled white sheet covering a bed, her head turned over one shoulder and one of her hands fingering the edge of a lobster-red sunburn, a doleful expression on her lips and her eyes shut. Read the rest of this entry »
In the heaven on earth of postmodern play, Anthea Behm is the games’ mistress, this time consummating a high-low (don’t ask, do tell) unholy liaison between stodgy elitist cultural theorist Theodor Adorno and sportive young adolescent-minded Ferris Bueller, played by a number of male and female performers wandering through the Art Institute spouting texts from the theorist’s impenetrable aesthetics and the boy wonder’s screenplay, in succession in an endless forward-backward loop without beginning and end. Don’t worry if you aren’t a graduate student in semiotics; Behm has made the audio loud and indistinct, leaving the viewer-listener to pick out words and phrases like “socialism” and “who gives a cultural crap?” Read the rest of this entry »
By Gretchen Holmes
My lover always complains about the smudges I leave on his glasses when my nose and cheeks and forehead smear oil and makeup across his big, thick lenses. ”Darling,” he says, “your love and its little mark-making project, it obstructs the aim of my gaze.” This seems ungrateful: my love’s lenses, the point of contact between his appraisal of my formal qualities and my own expression of desire, are the palimpsest where my filthy face writes and rewrites its love letters. They are a screen onto which intimacy is projected from both sides. But that kind of screen is also a barricade ensuring that these two hopeful, hungry trajectories never meet. The scene encourages the unilateral effusions that make intimacy so seductive: my to-be-looked-at-ness and his wanting-to-be-wanted-ness condone each other, and ideology’s most despondent-making pathologies become sweet, private yearnings that nurture our bond. A more doctrinaire feminist would toss her lover’s glasses aside, thus disarming the patriarchy and transforming the male gaze into a dizzying, haptic blur. But me? I persist. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jason Foumberg
Last Saturday night, the fifth annual Earth Hour (turn out your lights for one hour) met some blazing competition in the form of BYOB, or Bring Your Own Beamer, a group show of digital video art projected simultaneously and splatter-style on a Pilsen apartment’s walls, ceiling, floor, anywhere. Of the dozen or so projectors, only a couple overheated. The room was packed full of viewers and it was hard to avoid getting a beam of light shot into your eyes every now and then. Sometimes the effect of a projector throwing its image on a body perfectly captured the event’s energy and premise, of being made by and for the crowd.
Often, in video art installations, there is some glitchy tweaker noise or looped ambient music to accompany the projections. In the four video art shows I saw this weekend, all of them featured this type of soundtrack, amplifying the lights-off, hyper-sensory experience. Barbara Kasten’s “REMIX” at Applied Arts is accompanied by what used to be called intelligent dance music, by Lucky Dragons; Nicolas Grospierre’s “TATTARRATTAT” video at the Graham Foundation has a minimal soundtrack of softly hypnotic beats; Ben Russell’s sculpture of 16mm projectors at threewalls creates its own hissing and popping music; and a single ambient track blanketed all the videos at BYOB. Sometimes these soundtracks are intrusive, and sometimes they melt into the viewing experience, but they are always necessary; video art today is competing for your attention. Read the rest of this entry »
Gallery 400’s exhibition of new work from Steve Reinke and collaborators Dani Leventhal, John Marriott, Jessie Mott and James Richards manages to be both sardonically funny as well as often unexpectedly and profoundly confrontational. Centered around an hour-long suite of Reinke’s new video work, which mixes moral interrogation with humor, ironic voiceovers and Beckettesque failures (my favorite: “cartoon for those who have a certain fondness for ideas, but are tired of thinking”); but it’s the work in other media that’s ultimately the most moving. Neon, needlepoint and mixed-media collages reference Bruce Nauman in a way that’s thought-provoking and unaffected; a study of Peanuts cartoons as repeated objects echoes a message of futility that F. Scott Fitzgerald once articulated as the combination of seeing that things are hopeless but being determined to make them otherwise. Detournement finds its strongest application in “Guernica,” which combines a doodled copy of Picasso’s painting in gel medium with a found photograph of a vulnerable, half-naked young man in a sailor hat in front of a poster reproduction of the painting. Solo work by Reinke’s collaborators is less moving but still wry examinations of sex and death from a more comfortably ironic viewpoint. (Monica Westin)
Through December 18 at Gallery 400, University of Illinois at Chicago, 400 South Peoria.
Despite radical changes of art in the twentieth-century, a significant market remains for landscape painting, with dozens of professional painters who show that genre in Chicago. One of the most successful has been British-born Ben Whitehouse, whose riparian views have always made me smell the water, hear the insects and feel the sun beating down on some gentle Midwestern stream. So I truly believe him when he says, “I have always thought that good art resulted not from a desire to ‘make art’ but from a genuine effort to solve some kind of problem… if you intend to make a painting to convey authentic landscape experience, the one thing you notice immediately is that everything is moving, evolving… so you want your paint to do that… every square millimeter of it has to be enlivened with light, gesture and mark.” Read the rest of this entry »
from Ben Russell's "Trypps #7"
By Jason Foumberg
Did filmmaker Ben Russell know that, in the Museum of Contemporary Art, his new 16mm film, titled “Trypps #7 (Badlands),” would be shown in a gallery directly below Robert Smithson’s 16mm film “Spiral Jetty,” from 1970? Whether the answer is yes, that Russell intentionally played with Smithson’s proximity, or no, that the pairing is a happy curatorial coincidence, the two artworks engage each other in a call-and-response separated by forty years and a thin ceiling/floor. The concurrent showing of Smithson’s old film and the appearance of his legacy in the work of newer artists underscores that, for object makers, Smithson is the current ruling father (not Warhol or Beuys), and that this first decade of the new century is strikingly similar to the late-1960s, from our relationship to nature to continued civil rights struggles to a flourishing counter-culture. Read the rest of this entry »
In Latham Zearfoss’ 2008 video “Self Control,” an animated silhouette formed by a pair of hands, “the spirit of… past and future utopias,” appears in the multicolored bars of a test screen, announcing its intention “to guide you to the new subjectivity, a place of great trust and sensuality.” This magical optimism of communitarian queerness, a theme throughout his work, has an intriguing dissonance with an assertion made in another video: “The personal is NOT political!” This is a call-and-response chant led by Anil Ramayya, a speaker on behalf of the collective Feel Tank at “Pilot TV,” a 2004 event focusing on radical video and “queer feminist trespass” held over a space of four days in 2004 and documented in Zearfoss’ 2006 documentary, co-directed with Dylan Mira: “A Call and an Offering.” Ramayya’s statement presumably had some ironic intention, but it’s hard to escape the suspicion that the “spirit’s” promises, particularly in a video focused on themes of trust and danger, also connote emotional distance. Read the rest of this entry »