Monday, December 11, 2017

Reading Group



I have a freaking rash (again) and I my will to live is zero so I will share with you a list of essays and books that a reading group (that will hopefully begin/continue in the New Year) has compiled.

We all want to read more so here’s a start. Sorry, will post actual thoughts soon.


ESSAYS

"the outside can't go outside" by Merlin Carpenter

Living Currency By Pierre Klossowski

Minima Moralia: Notes on Gerhard Richter's Red, and The Singer of 1965 by Jaleh Monsoor

Sontag, "The Aesthetics of Silence"

Bernice Johnson Reagon - Coalition Politics

Alexandre Kojeve, Introduction on the Reading of Hegel

J.G. Ballard, The Overloaded Man

Maurizio Lazzarato, Immaterial Labor


BOOKS

Marshall Plan Modernism: Italian Postwar Abstraction and the Beginnings of Autonomia by Jaleh Mansoor

Lee Lozano Dropout piece by Sarah Lehrer Graiwer

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Clarice Lispector

The Art of Cruelty by Maggie Nelson

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Hito Steyerl, Duty Free Art

Edward Glissant, The Poetics of Relation

Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble

Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Edward Said, Orientalism

McEvilley, Art and Otherness

Trungpa, True Perception: Dharma Art

The Absence of Work (Broodthaers' biography by Rachel Haidu)

The Medium is the Massage, Marshall McLuhan

On Longing, Susan Stewart

In Praise of Copying, Marcus Boon

My Friend Dahmer, John "Derf" Backderf

Feelings Are Facts, Yvonne Rainer

David S. Roh - Techno-orientalism: Imagining Asia in Speculative Fiction

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing - The Mushroom at the End of the World

Hao Jingfang - Invisible Planets and Folding Beijing

Rey Chow - Entanglements, or Transmedial Thinking about Capture

Alice Walker, In Search of our Mothers Gardens

Paul B Preciado, Testo Junkie

Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace

Sadie Plant, Zeros + Ones

The Structure of Detachment: The Aesthetic Vision of Kuki Shuzo, ed Hiroyshi Nara

Quartet, Jean Rhys

Rey Chow - Primitive Passions but not Entanglements

Edward Glissant

Kill all Normies – Angela Nagel

Sloterdijk’s Spheres III: Foams

Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea by Christine Garwood (2008)

Jodorowski’s The Way of the Tarot

Monday, December 4, 2017

Mexico City Recap




It’s that time of day when I look at the clock and remember I have to blog and I’m like way busy, it being my first day back after my short vacation so yeah, going to just bang the keys a bit here (like usual).

Anyways. As you might know, I was in Mexico City aka DF for about a week and last week’s post was me just whining a bit about stuff so this time around I’ll be positive about my short jaunt. Trying to do this post in under a half hour so yeah, it’s not going to be pretty…

Tacos

I probably ate like 20-30 tacos while I was there. They are all really amazing. There is no taco in DF that I don’t like. There are stands on sidewalks/streets, wherever and they are usually 20 pesos (like a dollar) and they are yum yummy. Tacos might be the perfect food. The tortilla is it’s plate; it has no wheat, and is pure taste bud and fuel sensation. And the toppings! For free! And I always over do it but the classic is just with meat of choice, some lime, chopped onions and cilantro. A woman named Maria made the best tacos. She sets up her stand outside Bosforo, a mexcal bar in Centro, and for 20 pesos you can get her incredible Oaxaca cheese filled banana pepper with chorizo or beefsteak. She is there from 10pm-5am. She is a taco angel.


Construction

The recent earthquake probably had a lot to do with it but DF was like a permanent construction zone. It was a bit much, all the jack hammers until 2-3am but yeah, it’s got to be done. It’s kind of funny walking around and having to be extra diligent so you don’t literally fall into a very deep hole that is only covered with a little piece of wood. Everyone seemed chill about it though. If it were like that in NYC people would be loosing their minds. Seems nice to be relaxed about even stressful things.


Weather

Cold so you need a jacket at night but hot so you strip off your layers during the day. The weather in DF is nice because it gives you a burst of cold and heat all in 24 hours. It’s sort of a nice way to pace your day out. Like you adapt you activities and clothing to suit the mood and temperature. I guess LA weather is sort of like that but the sun in DF is warmer than in LA. LA light is so harsh, I just can’t deal.


Making Out

I think I have mentioned this before but wow, people love PDA in Mexico. One night I walked passed this park and there was a young couple literally on top of each other just quietly, passionately making out. About an hour later I walked past the same park and they were still at it. I hate PDA but ya, it’s cute sometimes I guess.


Make Do

There is this wonderful knack and grace that people in Mexico have with just making do with whatever is on hand. Like, if a string it too short, just tie on a shoelace. If a ladder is not tall enough, stack some bricks under it. If you don’t have curtains, make a newspaper collage. It’s aesthetically alive and wonderfully MacGyver.


Sexy Young Things

I went to this dance club and although there wasn’t many people there the ones that were, were so freaking cute. Some were super young, like possibly even high school age… but they all had on amazing outfits; tutus, bra tops with open biker jackets, boys with hair to their waists and glitter chokers. They were just divine and fabulous and they were doing it all for themselves and each other. It was just gorgeous and adorable.


Cheap

It is so cheap for everything in DF. Well, if you go to Condessa and Roma areas it can get like NYC prices, but in general, it is really cheap for everything. Three course meals are around 70 pesos ($5). Subway is 5 pesos (like idk, a few cents?) and a crazy night out with hours of mescal, micheladas and 3 Ubers later might cost you a whopping $40. There is a wonderful freedom in being able to spend without guilt or next day remorse. Yes, I know that is a privileged tourist position but hey, giving to the DF economy as much is I can is something I will always be first in line for.


Time

I mentioned this in my post from last week but wow, time is really different there. Yes, I was on sorta vacay mode while there but seriously, Mexico operates by its own clock. When you have plans at 7 that usually means midnight. When you text someone, them not responding for like 3 hours is totally normal. For a time spaz like me it was a bit bracing to be forced into patience but eventually I did and returning to NYC I feel maybe not chiller but more understanding of time.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Being Obnoxious in Mexico City




I’m in Mexico City and my cell phone is dead so I am chilling out, charging it and writing this thing in the meantime. I’ve only been here for a few days but I’m already exhausted. Vacations/trips are funny things. We go on them to ‘relax’ but really we are just headless monsters flaying ourselves.

I’m here for no reason really. An escape from New York. An escape from things, people, and responsibilities. Part of this trip was a way for me to reboot myself, a psychic cleansing of sorts. What has been upsetting though is that instead of a rejuvenation I am literally yelling and arguing about god knows what and making a bigger mess of my life. Partly, this is fuelled by partying, not enough sleep and general misanthropic disposition but yeah, it sort of sucks.

Nothing is too big or messy. I’m just the type that stews and internalizes but yeah, being in another country and trying to ‘unwind’ and chill out is not very productive when you are a grump ass.

Of course it hasn’t been all that bad. Like 90% of this trip thus far has been really great but it is annoying when you are escaping in all ways possible but then your like, crap, I’m still stuck with my damn self.

I was having this sort of conversation with someone yesterday. This idea of traveling, moving, being flexible in geography, movement and life and that being a form of independence. Mexico City is the type of place that people go to and are drawn to when searching or seeking this type of looseness and freedom.

For the people from here, it is obviously home, but there are slews of other people from all around the globe who are looking for something in being here. That is lovely and in Mexico City, it is possible because of the pace, cheapness and the massiveness of a city that somehow feels big and small all at once.

That is why I wanted to come, even for a short trip, to be reminded of that type of freedom. But sometimes it doesn’t matter where you go if you are still somehow trapped with yourself.

Sure, I’m being a little hard on myself. Sure, I have changed a lot since seeing some of my old friends here but there is this sense of something different, not fitting somehow, and that feels a bit sad and perplexing.  Perhaps this friction is the thing I need though. What will make me let go and alternate behaviors, thought patterns and reactions.

I’m really not sure what’s in the air right now. It felt this way in New York too, this film of anxiety, a weary edge of wanting progress, change, eruption, but having to be patient or resigned in waiting for it to come.

Mexico City is the most amazing place. There is a life here and time feels so different. It feels stretched out and days, hours literally feel longer. I hope that I can take my grumpy New York City mania and calm the fuck down and ease into this type of time.

Going to take a siesta now because I just ate a three-course meal (for only $5!) in the middle of the day. Sorry this was a bit emo, meh, at least it’s honest. For all the people I’ve been obnoxious to in Mexico City and in New York, my bad, but yeah, let’s all relax and be kind to each other, even if only just a bit more.

Monday, November 20, 2017

I’m So Tired I Think I’m Going to Die





This past weekend, well actually Friday till this morning, has been a social fun/hell scape. I’m pretty sure I haven’t been this busy for a long time. I have probably only felt this spent the last time I was working crazy international art fairs and partying all night and then working non-stop for days at a time. It’s that level of over-doing it.

Anyways, that being said I don’t have much to offer cause my brain is literally in pieces. (Body too). So with that I’m just going to spew some random ass thoughts because that’s all I can muster. Escape now or forever hold your peace.


It sucks being the oldest person at the party. Especially when it’s your birthday.

Sometimes you have to pretend you like the way something tastes to be polite even when you think it tastes not so good but meh, seems a little to ask to keep everyone happy.

I spent over $400 this weekend. Gahhhhhh.

Pretty sure I did drugs for 9 hours straight. Bad. At. Life.

Not sure how people can be high on acid/mushrooms in public. Seems hard/complicated.

People who ask to show you their portfolio, send you their website, at an opening should be shot on site.

Always feel happy when a chill group of Asians enters the party.

Pretty sure I talked to 500 people this weekend but probably only had like 4 meaningful conversations.

Old people like Facebook. A lot. Funny.

When you think someone has a crush on you but they probably don’t because they are probably gay (and you're not).

Sex bruises on one’s body is a sign that it probably wasn’t meant to be.

Really enjoy blocking people’s phone numbers. Like way too much. Seems okay.

When all your friend groups are in one room and you just basically ignore everyone.

Red wine tastes really bad to me atm. Huh.

When you are about to travel to another country and you don’t have anything prepared. Nada. Zip.

When you are spending so much money it might actually be better if you literally burned it.

When you want to live in Manhattan but you don’t want to live in a box for $2,000.

Telling yourself you are going to start acting your age but you're still drunk when you wake up.

No one should spend more then 48 hours straight with another person unless they legally have to.

When people trap you in a literal corner to talk to you about their art. K. No. Help!

When you hate your birthday but throw a big party because it drowns out the loneliness of existence.

People who are couples and only talk to each other all the damn time.

Trying to wear clothes that make you look hot is usually complicated and uncomfortable.

When all your friends are like 10 year younger than you and they get annoyed when you say how young they are but your like, ‘But you are young.” And they all shut up.

When you’ve accepted you will have acne until the day you die.

When people message you out of the blue and you are like, ‘yay!’ and then ‘weird.’

I’ve decided I like sleeping alone. Forever.

I love my cats but they are like furry balls and chains for another 10 years. Gasp.

When you date the wrong guy. Over and over and over again.

I haven’t made myself food in a long time and it makes me sad :,(

I’ve been told many times I’m too loud and now I realize how annoying that could be. Loud people are fucking annoying.

When you are actually, really, over someone it’s similar to that feeling when you pull the plug when your vacuum is running.

The Universe is a real asshole sometimes.

I’m grumpy. My new vibe is grumpy. Seems chill.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Does Being Rich Help You Be Successful In The Art World?


Jeff Koons bag for Luis Vuitton

The other day I was mindlessly scrolling through social media when I saw a link for an article by Ben Davis in artnet entitled, Do You Have To Be Rich To Make It As An Artist? I read it and only after finishing reading it did I realize it was from January 2016, which doesn’t make too much of a difference but it feels just as topical a subject/question to ask today. So I got to thinking about this idea, as this is something I have had so many conversations about though the years.

So, does being rich help you be successful in the art world? Yes, duh, of course it does but let’s unpack that and see what that means and to what degree.

Many times this question is more specially asked in relationship to artists like Davis’ article articulates. Does coming from wealth, like a lot of wealth, make it easier for you to be an artist? Yes, of course it does.

First it helps because art costs money to make. The more you have of it the better and to a higher degree of intricacy and professionalism can you make or have something produced.

Second, It takes money to have space. Studio space is expensive, especially in a place like NYC, and to have space is key to also having room to think and to not have restrictions of scale.

Third, money gives you time. That is a key element to it all. Having time to not having to work a day job in which you need/must work, 40 hours or otherwise. It gives you liberty to really work out ideas, to go to shows and be inspired, or whatever happens when you look at art, and to travel, and to move freely in the world that is not conditioned by making a paycheck.

Lastly, most importantly, money gives you a type of bravery. Not having to worry about money, time, space and to be able to be one’s optimal self allows for a type of risk taking which is so conducive to ‘creativity’ that one might say that it is at it’s core.

The above cases for why having money is beneficial to artists is transferable to other art practitioners. Gallerists, curators, theorists, critics, all else is made vastly easier, more accessible and swifter if you have time, space and mental liberty to experiment, take risks and to be entrepreneurial.

This is all so blatantly obvious, it might seem redundant to parse out but there is another angle to this as well. Having money, a lot of money, does make it easier but it doesn’t always work or stick. There are/have been/will be many artists past, present and future who have a lot of money who want to be in the art world in someway or another. And the truth is most don’t stick if their work is bad, their taste is bad, or they just can’t hack it. The art world wants rich people to participate and play. I mean, that’s who the real audience and reason this is all for. The uber rich supporting this thing called ‘art’ is what makes the whole machine work. But just because you are rich doesn’t mean you get a complete pass. Thankfully.

But, yes, we have all seen so many bad artists, bad spaces, bad projects helmed by this or that person who seems to just keep sticking around even though they really are not adding much to anything and we all know why they have this strange staying power but that happens, and it always will so there’s that.

What rubs me is the reverse of this. When poor artists are taken up by this rarified art world of ours and it is used to be exampled in a way. Like a ‘look, we support artists from here/there, who have this/that story, so that proves we are not elitist,’ or something along those lines.

The other thing that really rubs me is when super rich (or even really well off) people don’t think that being so allows them privileges, liberties and frankly a tipping of the scales. If you can take a year off and live somewhere else to read about semiotics and not have to work or take out loans, you are privileged. If you can hire a studio assistant to help you edit a video or make a sculpture for a show in which you probably won’t sell anything but will get rave reviews and you don’t have a side hustle, then you are privileged. If you work and support yourself month to month and do the hard work like everyone else but you have a trust fund waiting in the wings, you are privileged. You are and that’s great for you but just admit it! You don’t necessarily have to wear a stigmata of fortunes and family net worth on your sleeve but know it and understand what that means.

Art is a rich person (usually man’s) game and it has been and always will be. Us bleeding heart liberals can’t go around thinking we are some anti-capitalist saints. We are all participants in the most egregious form of cultural elitism. But we need to air this house out! It’s so gauche to talk about money and art. We want to treat it like some Athena sprouted whole and immaculate from the head of Zeus but alas we are far from that and never were or will be.

To all the rich and privileged artists out there, I don’t hold it against you. You were born into something and it’s cool that you are doing the art thing because hell, you could be putting all that capital and self into something worse, but come on, be honest about it. Everyone will respect you more for it. And if you are really rich and your art and taste suck, then yeah, just bow out and do something else with all that time and money, like buy art from those that don’t have that liberty.

To all the poor to truly self-sustaining artists and art world people, keep trucking. It’s stacked, and the more adjectives of race, gender all else will make the scales tipped even less in your favor but don’t let that demoralize you, and also don’t use that as an excuse. If you make good art and have some luck on your side, you’re successes will be even sweeter.

Money makes everything funny. I’ve said it for years and I’ll keep saying it. What’s important is that there is transparency. Let’s air it out, let’s admit what we have, what that means and how that changes how we live life, interact with art and how that positively or negatively upholds or continues structures of access and power.

Super wealthy, very rich, middle class, broke, poor, whatever you are or have been or will be doesn’t define you but whatever it is, make good art and support good art, with everything you have, even if it’s nothing sometimes.

Monday, November 6, 2017

My Boring/Busy/Beautiful Life This Past Week, Part IV




It’s November. I feel like if I can just get through the next few weeks than I can survive things. Like everything. Wish me luck and hope you are all sticking in there.


Monday 30

Went to work. Don’t remember much about the day. Oh yeah, all that Not-Surprised stuff happened. That was intense. I wonder if anything will come out of it. What fickle minds we have. Went to friend’s place to podcast after work. He lives in Clinton Hill. It’s adult there. Recorded podcast. Seemed okay. Went home and ate weird leftovers. Read book and tried to sleep but have only been sleeping like 3-5 hours a night. Feel wrecked.


Tuesday 31

Went to therapist appointment but therapist forgot about it so pissed and leave. Feel like the Universe is like ‘fuuuckkk youuuu!’ to me lately. Go to work. Busy all day. Don’t remember. Go to studio visit after work. Good visit. Talk a lot and learn about artist and his work. Feels fun to do. Go home and eat more weird leftovers. Read and try to sleep but realize it’s pointless when it’s 4am and I’m still awake.


Wednesday 1

Go to work. Very busy at work. Not sure how I am able to maintain my lifestyle/projects. Go to an opening. Leave and walk to Union Square. Listen to music and almost cry when certain songs come on. Talk to friend on phone while getting treats for cats at Pet Co. Go on a date. It’s fucking terrible. Feel like the Universe is like ‘fuuuckkk youuuu!’ again. Barley hold it together in subway. Get out of subway and cry inconsolably like a lil freak on the streets. Call friend and they make me feel better. Get ready for bed and feel like I’m a shell of myself in the mirror but also know it’s all fine so seems okay. Read and try to sleep but fail again.


Thursday 2

Go to therapist. Cry a lot. Like been crying almost everyday because I’m trying to be sober and also ‘radically honest’ with others and myself. Feels bleak but meh, something to do I guess. Go to work. Insanely busy again. Feel like a ping-pong ball all week. Go to a studio visit after work. Talk and it’s chill, we don’t talk about art work so much but ideas of relationships and collaborations. Get ride home, which is nice. Eat food (I think), talk to friend on phone, read and try to sleep but fail again.


Friday 3

Go to work. Feel fucking exhausted cause I haven’t really slept for a week. Leave work early. Bail on openings because the thought of being around people makes me cringe. Meet friend at bar but don’t drink. Eat burger and fries and drink water. Smoke cigarettes and talk. Another person comes. Talk more. They are going to a party but I feel old and want to be alone. Go home and shower. Really into hot showers lately. Read and try to sleep.


Saturday 4

Wake up at 7am cause my brain is a little bitch. Go to studio visit in Gowanus. It’s so far!!! Good visit. Talk about ideas and interesting things. Go to work on a project in Chinatown/LES for a few hours. Walk to Union Square to meet friend. Sit on steps and think about how life is bizarre. Go to Astoria with friend. Not many people at event but seems chill/better that way. Eat food and drink wine. First drink in weeks and weeks. Feels good/easy/relaxed. Talk and smoke and chill outside and upstairs. Vibe starts getting a bit weird/shifting to party mode so leave. Think we might go out more but say fuck it. Home by 11:30pm. Text with person I want to meet IRL, seems like we will never meet but that’s okay too. Sleep! Like actually sleep! I guess wine is my bedtime juice. (sad/whatever)

Sunday 5

Go to Bedford L to watch NYC Marathon. Want to see friend running but don’t see him. Feel a bit weepy cause of the humanity of it all. Go to work on project in Chinatown/LES again. Leave after a few hours to friend’s marathon party. Arrive at party, sorta quite, don’t really know anyone but seems okay. Eat too much donuts, pizza, Doritos and prosciutto. Feel ill. Want to go home but intern is excited to go to an opening with me. Go back to LES. Feel fucking cranky. See show. Talk to people. Sit in back and smoke cigarettes and drinks Coors Light. Feel a bit better. Go to another opening, hug people and say hi. Go to after party. Eat more pizza and get ride home, which is nice. Feel bone tired. Feel sad but know that’s just the vibe for the month and that it will pass. Go to sleep.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Reckoning Is Here: Sexual Harassment and The Art World’s Complicity

Jenny Holzer, Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise (1982)
 
Only if you have been at a silent retreat under a rock somewhere do you not know what’s currently happening in the art world and the allegations against ArtForum’s Knight Landesman and a slew of other actions and activities in response to this and the general exposing and denouncements post Harvey Weinstein et, al. in regards to sexual harassment and abuse of power specifically against women.

This has been a long time coming. Too long. And although it might feel like a nadir of social conveniences, and there is something to be said that it took ‘celebrity’ to bring this to the front pages and to an en masse meme-scape, but nonetheless it is happening and it’s about time.

Every woman, everywhere, has been a victim of sexual harassment. It becomes so familiar, so everyday and so subtle that we have not only learned to ‘deal’ with it, we have accepted it, and have even negotiated excuses for the perpetrators to lessen internal and social conflict. The constancy of daily subjugation in both private and public settings has resulted in women experiencing collective trauma.

We, Us, All Women are traumatized. This trauma is in our bodiesthe way we talk, stand, and move our bodies. This trauma is on our mindshow we think about ourselves, others and the perception of self. This trauma is in our heartswho we can trust, who we can become, and who we must submit to or manipulate for self protection. We are collectively reeling while also stoically trying to stand still, tall and proud. But it doesn’t work because it is in terms that they (men/society) grant. We are permitted to feel empowered, but only to a degree. We are permitted to feel secure, but only to a degree. There is always a lack. There is always a compromise and this is a feeling all women experience, no matter how ‘far’ we have come and how much we have achieved.

The art world is the worst place for women because it espouses and appears to be ‘liberal’, ‘politically correct’ and ‘open’ but it isn’t. It never was and it never has been. I have for years ranted and raged about the ‘art world’ and its utter hypocrisy and failings and those feelings, that anger and frustration, has been because of this hypocrisy. The art world thrives/survives on the oppression, subjugation and preservation of authority and hierarchies from the few against the many. That’s reality. That’s the truth.

Every gallery, museum, institution, non-profit, school, the bulk of the art word’s workforce, is women. But who is in power? We all know it’s not the women.

We trade ourselves, our bodies, our labor, our intellect, our energy and dreams to be a part of something larger, to make impact and be a part of the ‘Art World.’ We barter ourselves for access, privilege, and the next step on the ladder to get to a top and all along the way we are pitted against each other. We do this to ourselves because those are the rules of the game. We have been taught and trained to believe that this is the only way. And it is, it has been the only way and everyonemen, women, all of themalong the way who have allowed this to continue need to face what that means, what that has done and to understand there is a choice.

Power. The art world is all about power. We see power as this force that can be used for good or evil. Is benevolent power acceptable because it is used to help others? As much as I wish the whole system of authorities and power would burn to the ground and turn to ash, it exists. It has and will always exist but it’s not set in stone.

Power is energy, it is malleable. It only has agency if it is given. What everyone can do and should do is think about what power means. What it means to have it, lack it, give it, receive it. What is exchanged? What is lost or gained in these transactions. How can we all shift the dynamics of power so that it serves not ourselves but bigger things like art and humanity.

Art world, wake up.

The actions being taken, the words begin said, the signatures, the law suites, and the naming of names is just the start.

This moment feels like a reckoning and it’s about time. Revel in it if you have been waiting for this to come but remember, for this to really, really change everyoneeach and every single one of ushas to take a good hard look of what we have done and what we can do to make sure that we do not gain in our self value by the domination of another.

P.S. Easy tip for galleries on how to take action: PAY YOUR FUCKING INTERNS!


P.P.S. Articles, site to visit to be more informed/take action

Monday, October 23, 2017

Is The New ‘Fantasy’ Art Reactionary or Just Bad?

Kye Christensen-Lowe at LOMAX


So the other week I saw some gallery shows and yesterday I was talking to someone about one of these shows and we got to talking about a new trend that is popping up in younger artists’ work of late. I usually wouldn’t go to lengths about one trend or another (most of the time) but it was funny it came up again because I had a similar conversation about this specific trend a few weeks ago with another friend, so I feel there must be something to it.

This trend I am referring to is that of ‘Fantasy’ art. What do I mean by this? I mean art that is usually paintings that use mythic/gothic/ tropes that are hued in shades of sickly greens, pastel washes, waif figures, beasts, swords, and celestial and earthly delights. They are like William Blake meets, Egon Shiele, meets best high school art kid. They have a draftsmanship quality and there is an aggressive proving of technique but they also linger, nay try to evoke, a naivety that recalls ‘outsider art’ but not quite. I am calling it ‘fantasy’ because I am an actual fantasy book nerd and this is a sub-genre world I know more about than I would ever like to admit.

The show I saw was at Lomax and it was Kye Christiansen-Lowe’s Prima Materia exhibition. I don’t know the artist’s work and background, even though I was informed about it a bit by someone who does, but I’m not going to discuss this directly as I make it a rule to not critique shows by young artists who have only just begun to exhibit, but I will talk about the larger trend/implications this show brought to mind.

Why is there so much of this ‘fantasy’ art happening of late? As I talked to my friends there was this sense that maybe it’s reactionary to recent art and to ‘conceptual’ art and although I can buy into that idea to some degree, that’s not totally convincing. All art, no matter the end result is conceptual today. What I mean by that is that no matter what is being made, the concept, the background, and the origins is essential and the language, comprehension and interaction we have with art being made today is scoped and intellectualized within this paradigm.

But there is truth to their statements in other ways because one can’t deny what’s been happening. The predominant new trend that has been showing in the last few years is work that is ‘anti-art’ in some way. This anti-art trend is perhaps in reaction to the slick “zombie abstraction” that perverted markets for nearly 5-8 years, or to the corporatization and neo-liberalizing of galleries and institutions both for and non-profit. These plus many other reasons are probably why there has been a desire to create something messier, sloppier, less precious and to revert or reimage the aesthetic landscape.

This, at its core, is really great to see and very necessary to occur but is it just me or is there something else still missing and also a bit off? The art that I have seen that fills this void has all the illusions of being subversive, new, different, fresh but there is also this vague and detached affectedness and self-knowing that makes it hard to believe and frankly, to care about.

The use of big things like myths, legends or folk tales has always been a fabulous horde that has been culled and sourced for inspiration by artists. When done well, it’s brilliant, but when it is used just to impose a conceit of rigor, mystery, or enigma, I find it to be utterly facile. Many of the works I have seen in this specific trend are grandiose in their evocations of the sublime, the grand, and the archetypal. They are alluding to some deep narrative but when I look at most of them I just see surface and clever quotations.

Also, the look of them. The look of these works is most times really off putting. Because they are using the techniques, palate and reference to certain types of art for certain purposes they feel at times embarrassing to look at. And I get it! I know that this cringe factor is the needle in which many artists want to make you squirm, to get you over your hyper minimal conceptual self and to just eat some mushrooms and carry yourself to the next path but it’s all too heavy handed.

All art comes down to personal taste. Sometimes is works for you, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m fine with that, I actually really appreciate and value that but what I’m not on board with is art being ‘weird,’ ‘bad,’ ‘anti-whatever,’ just for the sake of it. And I’m not saying that all art employing this technique is bad and I’m not saying one show or another is bad, but the idea of things trending can definitely be bad. Maybe not bad but it is revealing of larger issues, larger things to still try to understand and try to resolve.

Because of the largeness of the voids and doldrums currently in the art world, I get why a return to or a re-imagining of certain aesthetics is being done but while it happens let’s think about what that means and to always, always, stay critical of why its being done and how and if it could be done better.

Monday, October 16, 2017

What Happens When You Don’t Like A Show Everyone Loves?


Susan Cianciolo at Bridget Donahue


Yesterday I had to do some work for a project and before setting off to that I wanted to see some art. Looking at art is something I really enjoy, it’s a reboot and many times a relaxing activity that I usually do by myself and on occasion with someone else.

I was in the Lower East Side/Chinatown area so I went to some shows I have been meaning to see but somehow kept missing. Some were okay, nothing really stood outit’s hit or miss when you gallery-hopand I wasn’t expecting much but something funny happened.

At one of the shows, the Susan Cianciolo show at Bridget Donahue, I had a very strange feeling.

I walked in and I looked around and I really wanted to like it, but I didn’t. And for some reason this made me feel bad. Or some sort of emotion of, ‘not getting it’ or a feeling of self-evaluation of aesthetic taste. I’m not here to dog on the show. It’s not about that. It’s totally par for the course that somethings resonate while other things don’t, but what I am curious about is what happens when there is a show that everyone else in the art world seems to love but you don’t.

There is every merit to why Cianciolo is having the applause that she is of late. Her work has bended and blended the lines between fashion and art for years now and should certainly be recognized. Her exhibiting at Donahue, which I have said a loud to many people, is the future and model for new galleries to strive for, and they make perfect sense together.

These things are right and just in the world and I’m not diminishing any of that, but there is an undoubted presence of the ‘cool’, of the ‘it’ in both artist and gallery that makes it hard to vocalize anything but admiration.

I guess it is only fair to say why/what I didn’t like about the show:

The show’s conceptual conceit, at its core, is the concept of the body. Cianciolo created three tent like rooms in Donahue’s space and there are three others, working in parallel, at Modern Art in London. The tents are open structures and are ‘room’ like in that they are populated with a domesticity that harkens to Bedouin tent meets afterschool program, meets quilting circle, meets ayahuasca safe zone. They are open, just beam structures, and you can see what’s inside, even though you are invited to remove shoes and go inside. The tents seem to have been ‘activated.’ There is debris and traces of participation. They are colorful, friendly, and have warmth but for me, something just felt off.

The inclusivity of it all made me a bit wary. The structures made me feel unconvinced. A tent is a place of hiding, a nest of safety, the way these were on view felt like displays and sets for some type of utopian living and interaction that I would only be able to participate in if socially forced and with audience. That felt strange, off, unsettling and it felt counter to the show’s premise. I didn’t feel my body and a relational desire to interact but the opposite. I was all cerebral. Wondering, what’s the point, what am I missing, why do I feel so distant and unconvinced?

This might be the point of the show, to ask these questions, and that in itself is a success but back to my main point. While I was looking and when I left the space I felt a type of guilt. So many people have mentioned this show to me. They don’t talk about it in big idea ways but there is definitely this overriding sense that it is ‘cool’ and that it is a must see because it is.

This happens a lot in art, there is a current of something that makes someone or someplace feel like it is epicenter, hitting a mark, is unquestionably good regardless of what is on view. The art world really loves this. It wants to feel like it is on pulse, on the cutting edge and this is at many times exciting to see and be a part of. What has me a bit flummoxed is that because of this, there is a blanket pass for work and shows and that seems reductive/bad for art.

If I say I don’t like a popular show it becomes not so much about the show but about my confirming a sort of status. It makes one feel like they are off the mark and somehow not attuned to what is ‘in’ and what is again the word, ‘cool.’

I’m not cool. Never been, never will be but I don’t say that or use that as a contrarian badge. I like to think and react to art for myself and I want to feel free to not feel this strange form of guilt because I happen to dislike one of the most endeared shows in one of the most endeared spaces in the city. I want to feel like we are all able to critique and be honest about what we are seeing and have a conversation about it versus feeling like taking photos, going to the opening, having degrees of association with it in terms of its in-crowd spectral is enough.

Not liking something is just as hard to understand and articulate as liking something. I know the word ‘like’ is the least expectable term when talking about art but let’s be honest. That’s what it comes down to and it’s the job of the viewer to understand why or why not and it is through conversations that one can be convinced otherwise or not.

Let’s evaluate how we view and feel about art, without the auras and obligations, and talk about how it can serve this big conversation of ideas and aesthetics without guilt, remorse or social status preservation.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Dose of a Hallucinogen From a ‘Magic Mushroom,’ and Then Lasting Peace




I didn’t blog yesterday because I was sad. It happens. I was talking to a friend about this article. I don’t do mushrooms because they make me sick but ya, it is an interesting thing to think about.


A Dose of a Hallucinogen From a ‘Magic Mushroom,’ and Then Lasting Peace
By Jan Hoffman 
December. 1, 2016 - The New York Times


On a summer morning in 2013, Octavian Mihai entered a softly lit room furnished with a small statue of Buddha, a box of tissues and a single red rose. From an earthenware chalice, he swallowed a capsule of psilocybin, an ingredient found in hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Then he put on an eye mask and headphones and lay down on a couch. Soon, images flew by like shooting stars: a spinning world that looked like a blue-green chessboard; himself on a stretcher in front of a hospital; his parents, gazing at him with aching sadness as he reached out to them, suffused with childlike love.

Psilocybin has been illegal in the United States for more than 40 years. But Mr. Mihai, who had just finished treatment for Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was participating in a study looking at whether the drug can reduce anxiety and depression in cancer patients. Throughout that eight-hour session, a psychiatrist and a social worker from NYU Langone Medical Center stayed by his side.

Published Thursday, the results from that study, and a similar small, controlled trial, were striking. About 80 percent of cancer patients showed clinically significant reductions in both psychological disorders, a response sustained some seven months after the single dose. Side effects were minimal.

In both trials, the intensity of the mystical experience described by patients correlated with the degree to which their depression and anxiety decreased.

The studies, by researchers at New York University, with 29 patients, and at Johns Hopkins University, with 51, were released concurrently in The Journal of Psychopharmacology. They proceeded after arduous review by regulators and are the largest and most meticulous among a handful of trials to explore the possible therapeutic benefit of psilocybin.

Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, a past president of the American Psychiatric Association, and Dr. Daniel Shalev of the New York State Psychiatric Institute are among leaders in psychiatry, addiction medicine and palliative care who endorsed the work. The studies, they wrote, are “a model for revisiting criminalized compounds of interest in a safe, ethical way.”

If research restrictions could be eased, they continued, “there is much potential for new scientific insights and clinical applications.”

Although cancer patients will not have access to therapeutically administered psilocybin anytime soon, the findings add vigor to applications to expand research in a multicenter trial with hundreds of participants.

Some medical professionals held the studies at arm’s length. Dr. William Breitbart, chairman of the psychiatry department at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, questioned this use of cancer patients. “Medical marijuana got its foot in the door by making the appeal that ‘cancer patients are suffering, they’re near death, so for compassionate purposes, let’s make it available,’ ” he said. “And then you’re able to extend this drug to other purposes.”

Psilocybin trials are underway in the United States and Europe for alcoholism, tobacco addiction and treatment-resistant depression. Other hallucinogens are also being studied for clinical application. This week, the Food and Drug Administration approved a large-scale trial investigating MDMA, the illegal party drug better known as Ecstasy, for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Cancer-related psychological distress, which afflicts up to 40 percent of patients, can be resistant to conventional therapy. Mr. Mihai’s anxiety began when doctors finally told him he was in remission.

He would keep touching the nodules on his neck, where the cancer had announced itself. He flew to Europe to celebrate the end of treatment and his graduation from college, but abruptly returned to New York, terrified to be away from oncologists. He began drinking daily, hard, jeopardizing his fragile health.

Alarmed, doctors suggested the psilocybin study.

He took the capsule and began tripping. After seeing himself on a hospital stretcher, he recalled: “I had an epiphany.”

“Why are you letting yourself be terrorized by cancer coming back? This is dumb. It’s in your power to get rid of the fear,” he told himself. “That’s when I saw black smoke rising from my body. And it felt great.

Three years later, Mr. Mihai, now 25 and a physician assistant in Las Vegas, said, “I’m not anxious about cancer anymore. I’m not anxious about dying.” The session, he added, “has made my life richer.”