Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Week of 2012 – Ernest Hemingway, Gym, Jasper Spicero, Bunny Rogers, Facials, Ingmar Bergman, Luis Buñel

New Year’s Eve! Woo-hoo! Done is my gripe, boo-hoo-fest that I’ve been blabbing about of late.  I feel not great but the doom net that has been cast these last few weeks is starting to de-tangle and I feel optimistic about 2013.  2013!  Its seems crazy that we are all not eating capsules for food and wearing shoes that can make us hover yet.  Soon, soon.  This past week has been a time of laying low and in this final week of 2012, I have seen, read, and thought about a whole lotta stuff that makes me excited about the coming year.  Below are a few of these things I recommend that have made this final week bearable, noteworthy, and exciting.  So if tonight you are at a big party, small party, coupled up or solo celebrating, cheers, and congrats to surviving all that was 2012 and may 2013 be as full and even more fantastic!

Ernest Hemingway - A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises – If you want to read two amazing novels then read these.  Hemingway is Hemingway for many reasons but there is no way to cut it besides he is a master of the English language and more specifically of the American word.  Words, tone, edit, and structure, are diluted to such a perfect form in these novels but not at a loss or a burden to the stories being told.  The focuses of these books are of the most basic of human things; love, friendship, existing in a time, but they are not escapes or re-tellings or capsules for they are of universals.  To see words and story to be told in the manner they are in these two books makes one understand what ‘art’ is.  This unpinnable brilliance of truth that is rare but obvious. 

Gym – Anyone who knows me in real life at all knows that going to the gym is the last place in the universe I would find enjoyable, BUT, it is true, I have joined one and it has only been a week but I am hooked.  It started because I was told that exercising at least 30 mins a day for at least 4 days a week and having your heart rate at 155 rpm will drastically increase levels of seratonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter, which will drastically make you feel not so blue.  Maybe its all psychosomatic but it seems to be doing something good and getting sweaty and having that white-buzz-exercise high is a fun feeling.  There are many gyms in NYC but I am going to one called blink fitness that is only $20 a month and doesn’t have a year-long contract.  Working out amongst strangers is fun too.  You see people and interact with people that one’s mini-micro world normally wouldn’t include.  Also seeing other’s gym wear is fun and makes me want to get a cache of my own.  Plus, you can watch crappy stuff like VH1 best of shows and not feel like a slouch.

Fresh Young Things Found on the Internet – Jasper Spicero, Bunny Rogers – Internet blah-de blah, anyways that being said, there is a never ending fresh crop of kiddies out there that make it all seem worth while.  Two that have caught my eye of late are Jasper Spicero and Bunny Rogers.  I have not met either in real life but their peripheries are haloing in some worlds I do participate in, hence my awareness of them.  Spicero is an artist, I think currently based in the west coast.  His mixture of new media, sculpture, and installation is fresh and although familiar in some ways, is much more interesting then most.  His work seems acutely intelligent as well.  It is going to be absurd how well he will do if he keeps it up.  Very excited about his art at this moment.  Bunny Rogers is an artist as well, I saw only one piece of hers in real time, which was good but not sufficient to make an overall assessment.  What I am enamored with is her poetry which can be read on her tumblr, Cunny, and it is not so much the actual poems that are great but the overall package, tone, style of it all.  The young alt-lit community has gone stale and circle-jerky so it’s refreshing to see someone out of this loop but who is still bringing it.  Her almost embarrassingly personal self-reveal is also another lure, it is just not being done these days and that is always something to get siked about.

Facials – If you have problem skin, like moi, it’s a drag, your face is the thing that is the ultimate physical calling card.  I highly, highly recommend the aesthetician, Hillery Skyler who has a small, (very small), space off of Mio Mia in Williamsburg Brooklyn.  She is a facial goddess.  It makes me want to learn to give facials, like hers, so that I too could give aesthetic holistic renewal.  Until then, go to her, everyone deserves to have great skin.

Movies – Ingmar Bergmann, Fanny and Alexander and Luis Buñel’s, Exterminating Angel – Watching movies is the quickest way to auto tune your life and to pass the time or unwind.  I’ve watched a few this past week and the bad, The Hobbit (Why Peter Jackson Why!?) and Bridesmaids, really make you sad about the state of film but then watching some gems like Bergmann’s Fanny and Alexander and Buñel’s Exterminating Angel make you sigh some relief.  I won’t get into either but both are really worth their while.  If anyone does see them/ has seen them, did you notice in Fanny and Alexander during the funeral processional the notes that are for sure the same as Darth Vader’s theme? And in Exterminating Angel whatever happened to the women who locked herself in the closet with the vases? 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Blah blah blah

Holiday season is in full effect and I for one can’t wait for it to be over.  I can’t wait for this whole damn month and 2012 to be over.  Gawd damn Mayans and their false hopes.  Still here, barely, and as much as it’s a downer to be a downer, it’s the truth for me at this moment.  Are my blahs due to the general crap-tack-u-lous state of my life, and probably a lack of sunshine, serotonin and love life?  Yes, yes and yes but I also blame the universe for the general malaise that is casting shadows on me and I’m sure many other people as well. Those who are giddy this time of year, good for you but bugger off (in a nice way).  I need this time to wallow in the whoa-is-me, at least for a little bit longer.  Holidays, end of the year, birthdays if you have them around this time, are weights that measure your present state, your year gone by and the things to come.  We all have to grin and bare it and get dressed in the morning and know that it is all going to be fine, next year will be a-ok, the next you will be super, everything is super-duper-a-ok-fine but sometimes you need to take a time-out of the progress and life-fulfillment machine and just hunker down with a big piece of self-critical face slapping. 

Being blah is so blah, I know, no one wants to talk about it.  Only teens and those that are in some alt-lit communities, who are basically regressed teens (desperately so), find pleasure in this condition.  Everyone is supposed to be chill, a-ok, confident, fun, malleable, easy to be around.  Everyone is supposed to be having a good time, letting others have a good time, being inspiring and weird and interesting and never personal.  Personal is out, Detachment is in.  It’s all good in a way because really, emo is just so emo, but being a perpetual outsider (not in a romanticized way) is just the worse in this current cultural climate.  There are sayings like, “I would never a join a club that would have me” paraphrasing Groucho Marx, which act as ego balms for self-labeled non-norms but really, we all know that’s not true, not deep down.  We all want to be a part of the club, if it’s a club that is super cool and full of good looking, interesting, creative, successful people.  I don’t wait in lines, (only for really good sample sales) but I would secretly wait on this line and so would everyone else.  Admitting a need to belong isn’t weak, it’s honest. 

2013 is coming, can’t wait for it because these last few months of 2012 have left me wanting to Bas Jan Ader myself.  To trend report or to reflect on what’s to come is as interesting to me a cold hot dog on the ground but I will chime in on one thing.  2013 will be about communities, these groups, mini-tribes of people that are huddled and bound by the dense and rich subcultures they inhabit.  The time for the observer, like me, will be made irrelevant in this concentrated form of culture.  You can’t passively observe if you don’t get what’s really going on.  This is the most interesting thing that is happening.  With all the bigness and vastness of the internet, things have not gotten more expansive in respects to sub-cultures.  It has gotten more compressed and deeper, which is not a bad thing at all, but it is a thing for sure.  This is the year that if you are not a part of one thing or another you will be like a tethered balloon with no other balloons to party with. 

So what to do?  Who knows.  I don’t have a clue.  All the skills that are rewarded by the internet and it’s ways of trolling, seeking, connecting is something that I know how to do but find even less compelling then the hot dog thing.  Being anti- to anything is duller then being pro- anything.  Being into things is good, finding things that make you go “gah!” is the best.  Hopefully there will be things in the coming days, weeks, months and year that will make my brain and heart go gaga but until then, I will embrace the last bits of my blah.  Cry it out, feel sad, be depressed, act like a crazy person, wallow in the bleakness that is your existence.  It’s okay, it means you still have something persisting inside of you. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

What A Week – Reflections on the Apocalypse, Love, Gagosian, Art Galleries, and Youth

The Apocalypse is (Maybe) Coming; Do You Have Someone to Love?

If the conspiracies are true, this may be the last post I make for if on Friday, December 21st this planet gets shebanged in one way or another then bye-bye ya’ll. Fingers crossed it doesn’t but even with the probability that it won’t, this Apocalypse thing and it’s doom wave are influencing this time and this crazy ass week we have just experienced, and it seems to be ushering in a shifting time.  There isn’t a clear way to express it but doesn’t it feel like things are really f-ed up at the moment?  There is a flux occurring that seems both personal and collective and it doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon (that is if we survive Friday).  What I have been noticing a lot in this backdrop is the idea of ‘love.’  What does that mean?  I don’t really know fully but ‘love’ seems to be the big buzz and it is not the cliché, love-y-dove-kumbaya sort of love, but a sincere sort.  Maybe it’s the nervous rush to the end days that makes it seem more qualified but it is happening nonetheless and with the unfathomable events like the Sandy Hook, Newton CT mass shooting of twenty six people, twenty of them being children aged 6-7, it seems like things like love and god are being gripped onto even more fiercely and understandably so.  Maybe this is all coming to a head because I have been thinking a lot about love and art and the impossible questions like “what is the meaning of all this?”  I once thought that art was the only pure pursuit to achieving self, to being complete, but now, I think it is love, in its various incarnations, that is the most vital to the actualization to self.  So whether you are wanting, or ignoring the big day on Friday the 21st, may you be close to someone you love, romantically or otherwise, because hey you never know.

Gagosian Gallery Exodus and The New Gallery Model

Another sign of the end times?  Not really but it is a gossipy note to remark on.  Damien Hirst, yes, that guy, and Yayoi Kusama are leaving Go-Go and though it really doesn’t make much difference, it is a little something, a seed perhaps of the changing tides in Gagosian’s Evil Empire standings.  I don’t think Gagosian is evil, he is the thing that we all wanted, asked for, you can’t create the monster and then call it an abomination if it grows too big to handle. It is interesting though, the shifts in the gallery world.  Both Holland Cotter and Roberta Smith have astutely remarked upon this in their recent yearly roundups for The New York Times.  They reflect on how things have gotten stale, and how art fairs and necessity to survive through these has in some ways diluted the gallery experience and how museums have been acting more like the movies, bring in the crowds with blockbusters which lead little in the conversations about art.  There is most certainly a new normal in the art world, in New York specifically, and that is, it is too normal.  It is all so obvious that it is bland.  Is this a symptom of too much of everything?  Too many galleries, too many artists, too many curators, too many pundits, too much money.  Too much art and no play makes us all a very dull boy/girl.  There has to be a change, there has to be a new model no?  Well there is and it is best practiced by the Reena Spaulings Fine Art and Alex Zachary/Peter Currie types.  There is anonymity yet precision, there is intimacy versus ass kissing, there is connoisseurship versus exclusiveness, there is allusiveness versus social media overload.  I’m not sure how exciting or impactful it all is but this model is the one that will clip away some of the latchers-on as this is where the money will go. 

Black Youth and Culture Will Save Us All

Now this is a sticky topic to say the least.  There is no denying in American culture, and thus worldwide as our influence is still number one in that department, that African Americans are highly influential in our culture, if not the most dominant one.  There is a long and complex history of this and at many points it has changed the social fabric in politics, economies, and race relations.  This will continue because a few decades does not amend the historical arc of anything.  What has caught my eye, even within the past few days, is the new pedagogy of the black youth to white artists.  It is done in a way that is different then one would think.  It still stings back to the ideas of race, otherness, voyeurism and all else but it also possesses another quality, something that seems sincere, possibly.  One instance is the video for the musician Adam Bainbridge aka Kindness and his video “House,” that has him talking about music and the access to this on the internet and the excitement which that brings.  The video has him talking with a young black boy named Ramon about music and then proceeds to teach Ramon how to use a beat generator and eventually plays a clip of “House” with Ramon’s participation.  It is cute and sends warning waves of racial tropes but in the end there is a warmth that cannot be denied.  The second instance is a video by D’Ette Nogel, who currently has a show at Clifton Benevento, which I have not yet seen but a friend highly recommends, entitled “Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (Teach Me How to Dougie)” in which she is learning how to do the Dougie, a dance, by her students (she is also a teacher).  Her students are teenage black youths that are taller then she is and the contrast between her earnest ‘white girl’ style untrained limbs to their assured mastered moves is goofy in a good way.  There is a sense of joy in trying to learn this and it does starkly contrast the cultural worlds she and her students live in, but it seems to be a gesture of participation versus impersonation. Youth, black or otherwise, are the standard-bearers of our culture.  The kids will be the one to determine the new tides, trends and ways of being.  Once you pass a certain point in your life, you become not irrelevant but you are not the same factor, and that’s okay.  Being curious, always, is key to understanding and enjoying what is new, what is happening, because although it is both obvious and strange all at once, life and art keeps moving and changing with or without you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Art Plus Money Makes Things Funny

There is something in the air about money and art right now.  A few examples just this past week have been voiced including; Patricia Cohen in her New York Times article, “An Art World Gathering, Divided by Money,” about Art Basel Miami Beach and collectors influence on art, Simon Doonan’s oddly 90s regressed rant on Slate about art, fashion and why he wouldn’t be caught dead going to Miami Basel, Camille Paglia’s article in The Wall Street Journal that proclaims that the avant-garde is dead and why this is and the lovable curmudgeon David Hickey saying he is retiring from art criticism because the art world is “…nasty and it’s stupid.  I’m an intellectual and I don’t care if I’m not invited to the party, I quit,” as re-qouted from The Guardian. 

Maybe it’s post Miami Basel blues, maybe it’s the fact that the recession, Hurricane Sandy and how various minor and major events seem to have little to no effect on the art market’s strength.  Maybe it’s all of these things, none of these things or a confetti blast of all this and more.  Whatever the causes, it is clear that people have had just about enough of the art and money mix.  When I write, Art Plus Money Makes Things Funny, it is not in the funny ‘haha’ but in the something is off and may make you sick soon funny.  Art and money is always a sticky topic, sticky because it’s like family secrets that are better left buried and unspoken because it is too ghastly, uncivilized and draining to discuss.  Money as the arbiter the enabler and the proof of artistic merit is the antithesis of what ‘real’ art is supposed to be contingent on.  Well, sorry to be the awkward one but we all have to reality check ourselves, each and everyone of us, about the scope of this intermingling and how we all in turn benefit and are also demised by it.  As it is said in the bible and reiterated many other places, “the truth will set you free.”  Truth is a concept that seems impossible in the big philosophic sense but let’s investigate what’s in the air and then to possibly use that to think about what the heck is happening and to see if this reality we are living even has a chance to change.

Art Basel Miami Beach happens every year in the first weekend of December and it is the Carnival, spring break, prom of the art world.  It’s drunk and sexy and fun but also sloppy and vulgar and draining.  It’s probably the closest thing to the mirror the art word has.  It’s excess, desperation, and fabulousness all wrapped up in sponsored parties and everyone has to have a damn good time because you have to follow to rules to play in this game.  The art that is on view is the prop, the enabler, and the high culture reason of why the entire hullabaloo has purpose.  Art fairs are there to sell art.  They are trade shows, and this is a fine set up.  Art fair’s purpose from the start was never about cultural awakening or a revelations.  They have always served to be consolidated places where art can been seen en masse and then purchased by people who are too busy to go around and see all the art the world has to offer.  Also we all want to see and be seen, we are animals, we like to sniff each other from time to time.

What is on view is brought to you by the dealers that have home bases scattered in various cities and at art epicenters.  They have showrooms and staff and electricity and insurances to pay for, they make the money to do this by selling art work and the artist agrees to share in the sale of the work, almost always 50% of this retail cost.  This lets the artist make more work, have a studio, buy supplies, etcetera and lets the dealer pay their bills and salaries.  It’s a simple cycle and simple ecosystem when it comes right down to it.  What is not so simple is the effect that money plays in the value and what is shown.

Collectors are what make the art world go round.  Artists make the art world exist but there is no spin without the grease of money and those who have expendable cash are few.  Well that’s not true, but we are talking about the big bucks pockets now, and those that buy things for a few million are not your average bear.  The artists that make a few million or the upper hundred thousands for their art become a part of the elite in which collects them.  They become elite and their dealers do as well.  Rich people like other rich people, it makes them assured that their reality is real.  This is something that was bound to happen.  What can anyone do?  Pretend capitalism doesn’t exist?  Let’s not be so quaint. 

There is no ‘solution’ no way to ‘fix’ this, but there is a way to possibly slowly shift how these deep pockets effect ‘art.’  The only way I can think of, at this time, is for those who do not have millions to spend on art, maybe those that have a few thousand, a-thousand, even a few hundred extras bucks, to every once in a while to buy art.  The system is rigged in a way, it makes it seem like the artists who cost the most have the most influence and this is true in a way, but it’s just the truth in one aspect.  The way to fight capital is with capital, but not in the -my boat is bigger then your boat way- being subversive with the art market is the key to success.  Yes, subversion is still possible these days.  Instead of wanting to have the boat or to dock on the same island switch it, make it better, cooler, more rewarding to have something else/be somewhere else.  The only thing that money can’t buy is philosophy of life and a way of living it.  Money isn’t bad though, and supporting artists when you can so they can pay rent, buy food, buy materials and to think and actualize new ideas is the best sort of commerce anyone can participate in.

Now, sorry to say this but collectors are not the only variable in the problem.  Artists, yes some of you artists, are also a part of this crazy money art problem.  Artist is a word that is bandied about and it doesn’t need proof or evidence to support it, which it never should.  It has become more of career though.  There is a lot of money to be had in the art world and why not do the things that you would be doing regardless and fingers crossed you can make a living off of it?  The intents have changed though.  To make money off one’s art is more commonplace then one would think and once an artist gets to that level they sure as heck want to stay there as the value of their art practice is wedded to its sales.  Those that are not there yet but are assenting to it or see peers near at hand who are doing so, it’s so close that one can taste it and if you just maneuver well enough, play the game correctly you too can be an artist making money from your art.  We all want to do the thing that we think is our most perfect selves, our most actualized selves but there is a point when the getting there and reason why one was making art in the first place needs to be reflected on honestly. 

But maybe it’s not the artist’s fault.  They may just be making what they are making and feel it is the greatest thing since suitcases with wheels and whose to say how anyone’s brain works in self reflection and self criticism?  This brings in the role of the dealer and the curators that seem to abound in the art world into focus.  Dealers are not evil, working in art galleries for seven years has taught me the truth of the costs and the stakes that running a gallery has and it is not easy.  It is like any small business but in this case the goods are art and ideas.  That being said, the dealer has to sometimes work with, promote and to develop careers of artist that sell sell sell.  There is almost always a balance of this on most gallery rosters.  There are a handful of moneymaking artists and a handful of ideas/new artists.  The moneymaking artists let those artists that do not sell well, or sell at all, to have the solo show, because their revenue supports the whole shebang.  The ideas/new artists in turn lend to the legitimacy of the overall program.  The moneymaking artist may have fabulous ideas too, and this may have taken years, possibly decades of not money making but nurture and support from the dealer to establish.  This is a simple cycle to understand as well.  What is complicated is that many dealers just by being the dealer they are, can up the pricing of an artist or create a market for the artist just by their say so.  This is power and this is fantastic for the artist and dealer, but if the alignment of the ideas and strength of the art is not considered and the factors of only what is hot, marketable, and saleable is the dominant deciders, then this is a bad thing for the entire art universe. 

Dealers have been doing the above to such extant, bringing on and conflating artists careers driven more dominantly by market and buzz incentives that the curator has come to take the role of the cultural arbiter. The curator is considered to be not sullied or constrained by the need to meet overhead.  This is an interesting shift that has been more career-ified in the last decade or so.  All those programs, all those dissertations, all those grants and symposiums.  It is all happening because the art world needed it, or needed to show that there are those not reliant on the art market’s success alone.  This has a shadow of intention as well though because the more the art world is academicized the more validated it becomes and authority is the base for history and history is the bases for accumulated value in influence and in market result.

You can’t blame anyone for this really though.  We are all just trying to survive and the truth is that the world of higher education, and the institutions and professors and all else involved is as big an industry as any other.  Why not latch on to something that is ripe with cash flow?  There are very good curators out there.  Many whose brains are very big and they are essential to making the art world interesting, less uneven and something worth thinking about.  There are also a lot of not so good curators and like artists, there are entirely too many of them.  We need more good and less bad of just about everything.

Finely, the critic.  Critics, I believe, are truly the last hope for art truth telling.  Sadly there is only a handful worth their salt, you know who they are.  They make you scared to read the review if it’s about your show and they make you feel like you got the biggest gold star in the world if they speak favorably of you and likewise to crawl in a hole and just disappear if it is unfavorable.  Everyone’s a critic, most of them poor ones at that (myself included).  There is nothing critical about ranting or raving or linking or blogging or tumbling or twitting about what it is you like, love, hate, think is cool.  It is inevitable though and the more people do it the more filters we need.  Writing is the key to good criticism.  If you can’t write well, sit down for goodness sake.  There is so much art, so many shows and events and so much money involved and the structures of reading about it all and promoting everything is all changing with the new models of advertisement and the internet.  Because of these new models there are a lot people putting in their two cents and each one is legitimized by who they are or who they work for. 

Critics used to be very influential in the directions of the wind the art world was in or about to take and although it will never be that way again, nor should it be, it would be wonderful if there were just a few more snappy, fair but firm, and also highly stimulating critics out there to put a little weight and a little fear into this whole art business.  What has taken the bite out of young critics and writers these days?  A job baby, a job.  It’s hard to keep it and to get a better one if you use up your goodwill when you have little granted to you in the first place.  Hopefully there will be some new voices that can kick art criticism butt in the next five years.  If not, we are going to have a gapping wound of bullshit to fill.

Okay, that’s enough for now, barely think much of this made sense but hey, this is my head, and you and I are both just visiting it for a bit.  Art is the best.  I love art, not because it is the thing I make a livelihood from, which I do, not because I have met most of my friends and had great conversations, which I have, and not because it is fun and elite and makes me feel like even being not wealthy or normal is a-ok, which it does.  I love art because it gives anyone, everyone, the chance to think, to question, to possibly change the way they see themselves, reality and even ways of thinking.  Art is not a solution, it is a series of questions and it is in questions that we find other things, things that bring us to other things and back around again.  Art and money will be linked for all time and that is not a burden or a negative.  We just have to all collectively make sure that the other parts of art and all the things that make it as necessary and captivating as it is are still present, still at the forefront.  Maybe the whole money art mess is a new form of art in itself, which is highly possible. That is what makes all of it never endingly fantastic and something that even though I want to just walk away from sometimes, will never actually do.  No one can kill or control art, not you, or I or all the money in the world.  Let’s try to shift things though, as daunting as that seems, it’s possible, anything in art is possible.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Walter De Maria, The New York Earth Room, New York, NY

Holy hell, how has it taken me this long to see Walter De Maria’s, The New York Earth Room?! I have lived in New York for seven years or so and I have only JUST made it a point to see it this weekend.  This long standing installation is located at 141 Wooster Street and it is a thing to see.  Anyone who has not, you must make it a point to, it really will make your night, day, or week seem filled somehow.

This is the third incarnation of De Maria’s work, the original was done in Munich Germany in 1968, the second iteration at the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt Germany in 1974 and the one in New York was done in 1977.  The first two no longer exist and this installment has been on continuous view since 1980 and is maintained by the über art facilitator and authorizer the Dia Art Foundation.  Think what you want about moneyed culturization, but maintenance and access to this work is a generous gesture to art and one we should all be thankful for.

You walk through Soho, which is the epicenter for retail excess which is beautiful and perfectly distilled to the point of art in a way.  This area once used to be the ground zero for the New York avant-garde, when these beautiful massive columnar buildings were inhabited and renovated for the purposes of art action, art gesture, art parties and a glamorous subversiveness that only succeeded by its level playing field of poor artists wanting to hang out and make things happen and see each other make things happen.  That time is bygone, shed no tears for it though, it’s not location that makes art but the necessity, concentration and the revelations of its participants.  But, even saying this, there is something to be remarked about this history of this once art district and The New York Earth Room being still sited here as it echoes back to this time yet also to the possibilities of cyclical reoccurrence. 

You buzz the Dia buzzer and you walk up a flight of stairs, lovely worn in slate stairs, to the second floor and you come into a room that has a small reception area to the left and to the right is the work.  What hits you first is not the actual piece but the smell.  You smell earth.  It is that smell, which for those who grew up around nature, suburbanized or other, recalls when you dig into the dirt, deep under, and you get that rich brown sort of wet soil that has micro shimmers of metallic grains and you understand quickly how things can grow out of this and also how it is the material that can decompose flesh.  Then you go to a little mini hallway of sorts, and there is a clear plexi wall that separates you from the room that is filled with dirt.  This is what this work is, a room filled with dirt.  Actually it is a large room and there is a smaller open room inside it which is also filled with dirt.  As simple as this sounds, it is more intriguing to see then I could have ever imagined. 

The work, as written by Dia Foundation, is 22 inches deep, 3,600 square feet with 250 cubic yards of earth and weighs 280,000 pounds.  Its weight is the most compelling visual, you can sense the denseness, the heaviness of this soil.  The coloring is a deep healthy brown, it is moist and this moistness can be seen on the windows that are on either end of the room.  The sweat on the window panes is that of nature and it feels more present in this room, with its resistant boundaries, then it is nature itself. The room itself looks like it was used as is.  What could have been a nice office with the generic alignment and construction of space is filled to waist high level with soil.  It is more then soil and also it is less then soil because there is no growth, no use of its potential.  It nulls the potential for the original conceived use of the space as it also nulls the soil’s natural desire to grow or decompose things.  The whiteness of the walls contrasted with this deep brown is wonderful to look at.  You see it as a sculpture; you see the room, the soil as form, as space, as object.  Another notable thing in addition to the sense of weight in the work is the effect on sound.  The room feels heavy, still, quite but not in a deadened way, it is dense in its quietness, absorbing and dominant.

There were questions I had about the work and those were generously answered by the attendant whose name was Bill.  Bill has been maintaining the work for 25 years.  Yes, the soil was from the original installation that De Maria installed. He was not sure of the soil’s exact origin, possibly upstate New York or Connecticut.  The soil was selected for its color.  Bill waters and rakes the soil once a week.  This takes hours, to water and to rake.  He uses a hose and lets the soil absorb the water.  He walks on top of the soil and he rakes it until he rakes his footprints away.  At the beginning of the project, the soil was tested and there were a lot of living organisms, now he does not think there are is much left but it is still alive.  People throw seeds and other such things into the soil all the time but this has little effect and he doesn’t think people realize how often he waters and rakes the soil or how thoroughly he does it.  I asked him about the smell, how he felt about the smell of the work, he said that he enjoys it, that he likes the smell of the soil, of nature, or something along those lines.  Bill seemed extremely happy, very “zen” in a way.  Is this what happens when you live and experience and in many ways become a part of an artwork that is De Maria’s New York Earth Room?  If so, that seems sort of magical and a wonderful existence and experience to participate in. 

So, again, for anyone who has not seen this, it is a must see.  For those who have but maybe did not have a chance to talk to Bill, go back.  For those who know all there is to know about this piece (which I sure don’t) see it again anyways.  It is a great piece of art and the length of its duration makes it feel challenging in the face of many things occurring in this fast, quick, throw away art world today.