Monday, January 26, 2015

I Came for the Abstraction but Stayed for the Light Show – Fiona Banner selects from the V-A-C Collection: Stamp Out Photographie

Since Thursday I have made it a point to try to find some rejuvenating art in London so with that I went to museums, I went to some galleries, I went to more museums and  honestly there was not too much that revived me. I’m tough to please, I have an impatience for bad art in good contexts but also I know that it’s a time for changeovers in London’s exhibition schedules so I didn't expect too much. In face of the mostly underwhelming on Saturday I thankfully saw a real tingler of a show at Whitechapel entitled, Fiona Banner selects from the V-A-C Collection: Stamp Out Photographie.

So the title says most of what is happening. British artist Fiona Banner (a YBAer) has taken works from the V-A-C Collection (a private collection in Moscow) and has installed and re-imagined them into a room in one of Whitechapel’s free admission galleries. This being the setting doesn’t give away the plot though as what is inside this room and what Banner has done with it is where it thickens. The room is a fair size, not too big, not too small. It is just long enough to not feel claustrophobic but also small enough so you can see from opposite walls with ease. Well seeing with ease is actually not that easy but it’s not from the architecture of the space but from the lighting imparted in the exhibition. Instead of the steady brights and dramatizing spots Banner has opted for a dimming fade of CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) which varies from dim to dark and never fully bright.

These slow shifting lights reminds me of being in a car driven by someone who is trying very hard to be cool and has their windows tinted to a virtual black. Looking out of them, through them, the world is always pre-midnight and a touch sinister. This effect has a bit of the too-cool-for-school/trying-too-hard but it actually works incredibly well. The scene outside is not of the mundane suburbs but of some of the heaviest art hitters our (mostly) Western world has produced in the last hundred years. These artists include:
Richard Avedon
Olga Chernysheva
Liz Deschenes
Shannon Ebner
Olafur Eliasson
Andres Gursky
Wade Guyton
Michael Krebber
Sherrie Levine
Claude Monet
Sigmar Polke
Gerhard Richter
Bridget Riley
Rudolf Stingel
Andy Warhol
Christopher Williams
James Welling
Christopher Wool
I have taken the time to spell these names out because it is through the names that you can start to imagine the show. These artists’ names trigger into the mind a ready formed visual and all these names/artists being in the same room together creates a mixing of those visuals.  All of them in one room could seem like a recipe for disaster but take my word for it (or go see it for yourself) it works surprisingly well. The Richter is a one of his smaller single candle paintings, Kerze, 1982 but it is hung low and stacked above is Guyton’s Untitled, 2007 which in the dim light auto-conjures Barnet Newman as the fact that it was inkjet on linen misses your eyes with the fading of the lights. Shannon Ebner has a few contributions and the photographic gray scale of them enforces the purpose of the light’s optical effects. Artists that I find a bit annoying like Christopher Williams I found totally fitting in the room as the screaming cry for attention that I usually can’t stand in his flattened photographs gave some geometric surface and playfulness in the room. Also, to see a Monet street scene, The Church at Vetheuil, 1878, in this black-light-esq setting was odd but fun especially when the lights made his whites seem neon.

I don’t know much about who or what the V-A-C is but they have a good eye and obviously a capacity to purchase such a wide swath of art. The collection as museum, the collection as archive is something that has been around for a while and with the total enmeshing of ultra rich with the purchasing of art, this is something we will see more and more of. Being rich and buying a lot of art still has a taint of the tacky if done a certain way. But create a foundation, share your cultural wealth with the public, well then you are like the old school type of rich person we can stomach which is the philanthropist with civic honor. Snark aside, seeing this selection of this collection wasn’t a reveal in the gems that the V-A-C might possess but it was fun nonetheless and Banner’s creative and witty flair for putting works in a room together made it exciting even in the familiarity of the artists and works.

This mixing of genres, times, and value of content is an interesting model for curation and installing. It is one that I think we will be seeing more of, as there seems to be a need to make sense of what all this modernism was and is for. It’s a cleaning out but also a means of measuring relevancy, connection, and necessity of successive generations of art which seems to be getting shorter and more densely populated. Banner’s theatrics in lighting, her taste and style of selection and installation made this process feel fun and slightly liberating. It was a show that gave these artists and the over familiarity we have with them some room to play. Banner let them be cool, underneath the tint of the dimming lights you got a chance to see them without the rose colored glasses of art history and expectations.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Insomnia Thoughts

Insomnia has been my bed mate for the last week and that might be in part due to my persisting jet lag but it might also be do to my hyperactive brain. Do you ever get that way? When you just think about this, that and the other thing in what seems to be ceaseless linking and segways? When thoughts about the meaning of life, the interactions you had that day and the article you just read keep repeating themselves in redundant and at times elucidating ways? Of course you do, we all do at times and this is the state I've been in almost every night this past week.  Me in bed with eyes closed trying to pretend myself to sleep. In light of this insomniatic state, I am going to take this opportunity to try to expel some of these thoughts out of my head so that maybe, just maybe I can get a good night’s sleep. So here goes in no consequential order or relationship:

Meditation – People are really into meditation at the moment. Why is that? I think that maybe we are all just searching for some means to cope with things and also I think it is the new next level thing and trend to attest your struggle with existence in a certain type of way. A while ago being a depressive was en vogue, even more recent the idea of sensitivity and introversion were. These are type B, anti-socialized personality groups whose perhaps declared membership within offsets you from the cruel, oppressive world. Or maybe I’m being too harsh in this view; maybe we are all just saddies trying to get by. Anyways, meditation is pretty amazing and if it’s a way to cope with all this angst and anxiety involved with this whole living thing then mantra, mindfulness yourselves away.

Charlie Hebdo – It’s a terrible situation but one that I can’t even bare to participate in as it speaks of a continuing trend of trauma fetish which is making me sick in the guts about our hysteria mob instincts. This article on Paper Bird made me feel at least not in a desert of this thought and they did it way better then I could. People, let’s think before skydiving into trending rhetoric.

Words that I just don’t want to see for a long time – Trigger(ed), Neo-Liberal, psychoanalysis(analytic), Quotidian, Post-Internet.

Things that I wish would just stop in the art world – Hyperallergic, Paddle8, Sotheby’s Institute, celebrity art, gallery owned restaurants, boring panels, boring lectures, boring performance art, boring bores, museum twitter feeds, museum everything feeds, illusion of avant-garde, mostly female staff in contrast to mostly male rosters, lack of people of color, rich people’s social club, bad blog art writing, usurpation of liberal politics, misogynists in power, snobby kids with pocketed parents art-slumming it, sky miles.

Things that I wish there was more of in the art world – A new/expanded form of e-flux, more arts funding for galleries and artists, outdoor gallery work zones, dinner parties in people’s homes, more Mike Kellys, more John Baldessari, more Louies Bourgeois, more Paula Coopers, influential art critics, symposiums, maternity and work laws, transparency.

Caffeine – I’ve discovered I am allergic to caffeine and in this discovery I have been reading a lot about it found out that caffeine is evil for those that are allergic to it. It can make you think you are cuckoo-bananas and this allergy has many of the same symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks and also feelings of bodily dislocation. If you are having anxiety or panic attacks I recommend cutting out caffeine to see if that might not be a cause or the cause.  The body is a strange, strange thing.

Neuroaesthetics – This is what I am basically obsessed and buried eye ball deep in at the moment. Like it is making my brain pop and sizzle. The brain is amazing and how it relates and effects art, perception and subjectivity is knocking my socks off. Can’t even, it’s that engrossing.

Time Zone – Why does the planet have to be round and spin and make it so that time one place is a different time another place? I know it has to be and know why but it is such a mind trip to think about time and reality of time in that sort of way. Also thinking about others in other time zones is a mind mess as well. The basics and structure of their living and your living are not overlapping but hinged at different points. How that effects matters of the heart is something very much on my mind.

London Art – Things seem so striated here in terms of art worlds and their mingling. There seems to be specific tiers and groups that do not overlap as much as they do in other places (I’m thinking specifically of New York, LA and Berlin). Maybe it’s the topographic distance of things. Maybe it’s England’s obsession with class. Not sure yet but it seems self-defeating and dulling perhaps.

Organic Food – I’m a spoiled food cooperative brat, which likes my veggies diverse, fresh and local, as well as having an easily accessible variety of dietary surprises and essentials. I am not happy about my situation in London in regards to this. Where is the Ginger-Aid Kombucha? Where is the nutritional yeast? Where I ask? WHERE?

Cold – It is less cold in London then it is in New York. It is less cold in New York then it is in Chicago. Knowing this I am still always cold and I can’t imagine being sweaty ever, ever again.

Sauna – Speaking of sweating how does London not have a Korean Spa? It should be illegal to not have a Korean spa in a major city. I think I have found a Turkish one. I am seriously looking up “spas London” in my phone like every other night. Need the detox heat, right now.  
Out of sight, Out of Mind – I seriously think I’m some sort of small furry animal as I truly have difficulty and/or interest in things that are not in my current purview mentally or physically. Like I just don’t care. Is that normal? Not sure but it’s actually sort of a relief in some ways.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Zach Shipko - The Kanye Westification of Digital Culture or "Imma let you finish but first check this new Monster energy drink flavor"

I am sitting at the library drinking redbush tea (aka rooibos tea) and I am focusing in and out on essays, work emails, news outlets and an assortment of social media and messaging formats. I am sipping my tea and thinking about these various acts and tasks and they feel like flattened stacks of things floating in some gravity free space. Then around these floating stacks are points of light that I guess could be called ideas and memories. While drinking tea and imagining all the things I am doing and have to do one of these memory lights starts to move around, grabbing my attention. I pause the stacks and go closer to this moving light because I am not sure exactly what it is and why I am being called to it. I stop drinking tea and I focus on this light.

This light happens to be something that I read in 2013 by Zach Shipko. It is a statement/reflection/position of sorts that talks about the Internet and the condition it is in and the passive and active ways one can or cannot operate within it. It says many things that ding that bell of agreement but it also gives an option for outlet in the project form of artf0rum, a message board created by Shipko and Rebecca Veith. You should peruse this site as some entries read like a type of poetry, which is always nice to read.

So what’s the point of this? I’m not sure but I have learned enough about my brain that when a light flicks for attention there is some reason why and I’m glad that I followed it to this memory today because re-reading Shipko’s essay and checking in on artf0rum made me feel better about all ‘this stuff’ and the state of things. Knowing that there are like-minded and intelligent people doing their thing in the ways they see fit makes all this more bearable somehow.

2013. The internet. Net art. Likes. Forums. It all seems so obvious. It all seems so dated as well as so right now but that aside, we need to take a minute and step back from our collective disengagements and pause, take a sip of tea and reflect on issues that seem small and unchangeable. We need to do this so that we can measure and possibly adjust how we treat others and ourselves both online and in real life.

Zach Shipko

The Kanye Westification of Digital Culture or "Imma let you finish but first check this new Monster energy drink flavor”

Rebecca and I created out of an interest in identity-free discussion and a curiosity based on understanding what exactly other people creating art on the internet are interested in.
I now realize that we were naive for believing that people would be interested in genuine discussion because it is very clear that Internet based art has become a training camp for simply establishing a cohesive person brand.  This totally disregards the various dialogs that have given meaning to digital art; the dialogs that have existed since the beginning of the internet.

To seed the initial user base Rebecca and I followed a random sampling of a couple hundred 'artist types' on twitter because we assumed that they would have some interesting things to say about the state of the internet and what it means to create art that mainly exists online in the year 2013.  I think this was our biggest mistake.  Many of the people we picked seem to exist in some sort of tumblr bubble with no concept of creativity online beyond the quest to establishing a personal brand.

It seems like people no longer consider an overarching base ideology when creating images, but rather are interested in being noticed by remixing images already deemed popular. There is no longer an acknowledgment of the radical power of the internet as an equalizer and instead it is seen as a tool to break away from your peers... some sort of method to propel yourself into the limelight based on follower counts.

I am not discounting the power of mainstream social media - but longing for time when there was more variety. When not everything was accessible by a simple like or fave but was part of a larger discussion.  When I first started creating art on the internet there were many places where people would actually discuss, share and reference the things that other people would make - not just consume them blindly.  One of my favorite platforms was - the ability to share links and comment on them while not being tied to a specific platform was extremely powerful. Delicious was never trying to piggyback off of your content and I suppose that's why they had a hard time keeping it around.  Artf0rum was modeled after this but updated to feel familiar to those used to contemporary social networks.

(note: before delicious there was usenet, irc etc… and these were even less limiting modes of discussion)

What I have realized in all of this is: these discussions, which I still consider to be relevant, are effectively dead - they may be revisited at some point in time but for now they are antiquated questions based on a history/reality that we are unable to relate to anymore because of the power of marketing lingo.

"i think u guys need a fav function"

What I didn't realize until now is the extreme power given to a like or fave on the internet.  These actions have become the driving force behind all internet interactions.  If something is un-faveable then there is no way to identify yourself with that content unless you directly reference it in another way. This leaves room for establishing a personal brand and very little room for discussions that allow alternative thought models to be born.  Instead we are all stuck being 'like collectors' working toward developing an outward identity that generates interest.

"i hate art i hate giving things more attention than they naturally generate, it works against survival of the fittest"

The above quote was one of the few things posted on that consisted of full words, and was not an attempt to inject javascript into the page (I get it you know what XSS is!).  What does it even mean?  Does the World Series naturally generate attention? Definitely not. Nothing can naturally generate attention when we are all aware of so many things - that is why targeted advertising and internet marketing are multi-billion dollar industries.  In other words - get off the fucking internet if you feel that way because that's all the internet is.  My understanding of "netart" is that it is a reaction against this sort of thinking.  It is an acknowledgment of the importance of generating discussions surrounding minute details of existence and understanding how we are able to alter our understanding of those details using digital media. 

I am sure the person who posted that quote has a twitter account where they have posted images of monster energy drinks or stuff like that - by doing so they are creating more attention for monster energy while dismissing their ability to do the same thing for critical thought and discourse.

Welcome to the corporate internet.

If you would like to continue this discussion I would love to hear from you… feel free to email me at or we can try to figure out something else.

Rebecca and I will also be discussing this on

For those of you who think this is stupid, it might be but please just fuck off.

Monday, January 5, 2015


I am surrounded by my cats. I just ate a big burger. I just got into New York last night and my brain is fried and my stomach has been filled too much with food for the past few weeks. All I want to do is chill with my cats and decompress and so that means you get no quick wits or mental meanderings. Instead, you will get the below which are some lyrics by Jandek who is a fabled recluse musician and for some reason he popped into my head today and that was right before I sat down to type this so this is what you get.

If you don’t know about Jandek, look him up on the internet. He has a Wikipedia page and a documentary and you can listen to some of his music online. I recommend the older recordings not the live ones but do what feels right.

Okay, bye now, going to rub cats’ heads.

First You Think Your Fortune’s Lovely  
Everything’s so restless 
The wind has come again 
Blowing me so far 
I think I see a star 
First you think your fortune’s lovely 
And you fly out through the door 
Grandmama I feel so lonely 
My rapture’s painted on the floor 
The roads lead all to Jacob’s kitchen 
I’m sitting moon eyed at the table 
Sitting blank-eyed by the door 
Oh Lord, do you really think I’m able 
Well I chose this love completely 
When you took away the charm 
Set your mind on breaking burdens 
Said you done no one no harm 
I feel a bit like floating water 
Headed for the rocks at bay 
Crash upon some ocean liner 
Comes upon my lonesome way 
Thought I see your eyes a-flashing 
Thunder in your hair 
I burnt a match for your complexion 
The lights went out and you weren’t there 
Seated by the ranch I’m owning 
Staring at the cellophane 
Somebody came in for a question 
I poured a glass out in the rain 
The reason I have been accepted 
Is that I failed to come on strong 
Found a chair beside a window 
Found a place where I belong 
Inside myself there is no question 
Just the jangle of our brain 
Three times four is twenty-seven 
Only fragments still remain 
I curse the day I found my freedom 
You took the mirror from the wall 
Placed it in a single suitcase 
Pointed down a hollow hall 
You said you see your true direction 
I’ll be there behind the sun 
And I’ll go with you in the springtime 
When all your travels have been done

Know Thy Self  
You think I got time for you? 
You’re just somebody in the snow 
I don’t even know why I think about you 
Somehow I just keep seeing you around 
Everybody’s coming and going 
I thought I’d stay for a while 
It had to be you threw me out 
I didn’t know you were so cruel 
But thanks for all the gifts 
Hang on silver branches 
And now we’re all out here 
And your eyes find me in the glass
You’re The Best One
You’re the best one that I came to see
You’re the last one that I want to see
You’re one in a million, Lord I think I forgot to come
You’re the top of the mountain, the rest is on the way down
You know I think I could tell you
I think you ought to know
There was somebody new before you
With you I learned to know them all
And all that came before them
And all that go here from now
You go with them gently
With love on your mind

Your Condition
Well that’s your condition
Well that’s your condition, that’s your condition
That’s your condition your condition your condition
That’s your condition
Condition your condition
That’s your condition
Your condition your condition your condition
That’s your condition
Your condition your condition
Well that’s your condition
Oh Jenny 
Oh Jenny, didn’t mean to do you so bad 
Oh Jenny, I’d like to give you everything I have 
Jenny, didn’t mean to do you so bad 
Oh Jenny, I love you with all my heart 
I’m just knowin’ it now 
Oh Jenny
Until Then 
She came, she left, she’ll stay one day 
She came and she left, she’ll stay one day 
She won’t have any choice
The Janitor
You got quite a lotta habits for a janitor
See you wash clothes three times a day
See you think about dirt quite a lot
That’s a disgrace the way you keep your backyard
You should take more care the way you fix your hair
It’s enough to make me sick
Why don’t you live life more naturally

Mostly All From You (2/2) 
Rain on my head and it’s mostly all from you 
Rain on my head and it’s mostly all from you 
Layin’ in bed and it’s mostly all from you 
Rain on my head and it’s mostly all from you 
Rain on my head and it’s mostly all from you 
Layin’ in bed and it’s mostly all from you 
Layin’ in bed and it’s mostly all from you

Love, Love 
Love love is the only way 
Love love is the only way 
The only way 
Love everybody, love yourself 
Make yourself the best person you can 
To give to everybody some way or another 
Love love is the only way 
Love love is the only way 
Make the most of your talents 
Don’t bury them in the ground 
Decide for yourself just what is God 
And love love is the only way 
Love love is the only way