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.”

Monday, October 2, 2017

The World Is Falling Apart

Every morning when I wake up I reach over and check my phone to make sure the world hasn't ended/we not at war (a new one), that there isn't another massive devastation natural or otherwise. I know that basically everyone does the very same thing each morning. The time that we are living in feels overridden with calamities and like everyone else I’m exhausted.

This is not about how one feels nor the endurance towards events and its affects on personal scales. That would be entirely too self absorbed, but let’s all sit back and take a second to feel this overwhelming exhaustion for a few minutes.

Living in the US and having Trump in power is like a never ending shouting match where you are talking to the most irrational and illogical person who thrives off audience attention. Most of the time it becomes a form of white noise, you think you have buffeted it out of your psyche but it’s like some high pitched noise that gives you migraines and sporadic nose bleeds.

Then there is all this earth Armageddon. Earthquakes, hurricanes, more hurricanes, more hurricanes. The unrelentingness of it is heartbreaking and the mediation of it repulsing in the story line arc of who gets attention. Easy hint everyone, if it effects people of color then it doesn’t matter and it’s God’s will. If it effects people who are white, than it is tragedy that was never deserved.

Then there is politics around the globe. Catalonia, oh my goodness. Spain what the hell are you doing?! Venezuela, Turkey, all the atrocities in Africa we like to ignore. Remember Syria? How about Myanmar? A Nobel Prize winner ignoring ethnic cleansing, what a plot twist. And North Korea. Sure that bat-shit insane leader had a few good zingers towards Trump but he is literally starving his country. Where did I miss? Oh yeah, just about everywhere around the world is having some form of reckoning/despair.

Where is the leadership? Where are the god damn adults in the room that are facing, recognizing, helping and changing these things? The UN? Sure I think they should exist but they are so self obsessed with proving relevancy that it’s a bit of a lark.

This world is small. We think because of the internet and globalization that it has somehow gotten smaller but it has always been this small and it is inhabited by this species call homo sapiens and we are and have always been linked. Are we a species that wants to self annihilate ourselves and the environment we live in or do we have the capacity to make it so that it can thrive?

We are doing a pretty good job at the self-annihilation or the past forever but it doesn’t feel right does it? It feels terrible to me and I’m sure for most of you it feels the same way. I’m a certified expert on being a homo sapien all my life and so are you and if I hate what’s happening so much, as you probably do, why does it keep going down this path?

It’s all so much these days. Sometimes when I wake up I think, ‘Oh good, the end of times is here, great, finally’ but I don’t want that to happen. But I am exhausted. I’m tired of all this terror and terribleness. It becomes gnawing, relentless and it’s no wonder we are all catatonic and dazed.

Enough of the boo-hooing though. There is work to be done. Many of us are just observers to the traumas to the world and even though we too feel those affects, even in this position, we have an obligation to help those that are actually within in.

Even if you feel tapped out of empathy or caring, still care. Still try and do what you can.