The exhibition comes accompanied by a text, written by Brache and annotated by manuel arturo abreu, which moves between the first-person subjective experience of her Taíno, Puerto Rican and US-American identity and abreu’s theoretical footnotes that connect and challenge the ideas of the two artists.
For many contemporary artists, the notion of a lucrative art practice is an oxymoron. With it one becomes accustomed to perpetual labour, a mix of both paid and unpaid work, where everyone becomes burnt out. But there appears to be something interesting emerging from between the polarized economic model of being either successful or’unsuccessful’ as an artist; a desire for a more horizontal redistribution of wealth and to find financial autonomy from the institutional gatekeepers of an industry. The white-washed elephant in the room is the fact that the hierarchy of accomplishment is a biased one, steeped in structural violence. It comes as no surprise, then, that the evolution of making (for some) is in some ways attempting to sever the umbilical cord by producing and selling their own products.
Making merchandise is obviously not a new concept, especially for those who are in the ‘business’ of spreading a message rather than a product. Artist/activist group Guerilla Girls have been selling affordable objects to support their cause since 1985. To acquire some form of monetary control, alternative income is a necessary tool for activists and under-represented artists. But it’s also a strategy employed in other contexts, from the gift shops and artist editions of larger institutions like ICA and MoMA PS1 (Zabludowicz Collection sells shoes and pins, jackets and vinyl records) to the work of successful artists critqueing capitalism.
Thinking back to the irony of Ryan Trecartin + Lizzie Fitch’s $78 Abercrombie Night Vision Sweatshirt, there seems to be a departure from the language of tongue-in-cheek gestures and towards a direction that is less self-serving. The commercial art world is uncomfortable and problematic. Institutions often exploit free labour in return for prestige, and arts funding applications require a lot of time and an administrative expertise that many artists just don’t have. In what often feels inaccessible, this climate of exclusion is creating an interesting backdrop against which people are engaging in a sincere exploration of how to support and maintain a sustainable practice.
The idea of ‘merch’ is for artists to create products to support and promote themselves, but at what point does ‘art’ become merchandise (and vice versa). Is it simply down to the price tag? Does this question even matter anymore? As we know, categories of making are continually bleeding into one another, and the distinction between ‘genres’ is becoming irrelevant.
There isn’t one method or definition, and the line is blurry when sold in editions (if the supply ends, the product will inevitably become more precious, making for a potential rise in value, regardless of the cheap price it was initially sold at). And while none of these modes are fully-fledged businesses — or the ideal answer to the problem of income — they are engaging with what feels like a fresh spin, the starting point of a real shift from status quo. Here’s to what happens next.
Below are some examples, in no particular order, of some of the ways ‘merch’ is being actualized by artists:
The Toronto-based artist’s dog tag (2016) series was sold via her Instagram account for $30 each, but with only 50 editions. The work is categorized as ‘editions’ among others on her site and includes a s&h as well as a “signed and numbered certificate of authenticity”.
The London-based artist sells a range of prints, hats, socks, stickers among others things. Her work explores gender and ethnicity through digital media, welcoming negotiations and discussions to foster a flexible relationship with the buyer. Mattu explores the idea of commissions in that “some of it can be designed, recreated and sold in any which way somebody may want it.”
For her upcoming show Belladonna’s Muse, opening March 17 at Rome’s Basement Roma CURA, the London-based artist will be selling (quite cheaply) pearl necklaces made by grandmothers in the community to go alongside the exhibition. She refers to them as trinkets and plans to make them unlimited and made-to-order on site.
A highly skilled potter and contemporary artist described by curator Kate Neave as having an “expanded ceramic practice,” the London-based artist explores the the relationship between art and function. The way these objects can be extended to the social, where you can purchase pieces from his website which often sell in a limited amount related to a current project.
A New-York-based multimedia artist who sells sweatshirts, key rings, and more off her website. Santana’s products are scattered throughout her Tumblr-style website, taking away any category or hierarchy of making.
The Tucson-based video artist and poet successfully lives off selling T-shirts and books through the publishing project he started called Boost House. Most importantly, he uses crowdfunding website Patreon which allows his fans to donate a small amount for each video he makes. You can ready more in our recent interview with him where he talks about the importance of keeping his work free on Youtube. His Patreon supporters are often sent postcards and given personalised videos to keep in touch. Just like charity, acquiring money is always more successful through exchange: I’ll give you money as long as I know you’re going to run a marathon.
“They’re not merchandise and not quite artworks either. They’re something in between,” says Samia Mirza of the bi-coastal art and production duo, including Justin Swinburne, about a range of silk scarves, featuring any number of appropriated images that make up their audio-visual oeuvre. “We’re making these things that happen to exist in these realms,” she adds in a 2014 interview with aqnb about selling clothing and accessories, in an act that’s as much a part of their practice as it is an income.
The music and artist project by Berlin-based artist Daphne Ahlers and Vienna-based artist Rosa Rendl, recently sold merchandise at Vienna’s Kurzbauergrasse for performance ‘Shortest Way to Confidence.’ While Lonely Boys is a band that produces merchandise, they still stand suspended between the realms of visual art and music, producing and performing in gallery spaces for events like 3hd Festival, and with the likes of fellow artist Philipp Timischl.
The London-based artist has both a craft-based and contemporary art practice, often bringing the two together in performance and installation. Inspired by racing girls, drag artists and hen nights, the current collection is called Hyperfemme and is “to be worn by anyone of any gender who wants to look femme as fuck.”
The anonymous collective sell sweatpants out of their gallery in Athens, recently opening a ‘shop’ in Berlin, with all proceeds directly support the exhibitions put on in the space. In a recent interview, aqnb spoke with LIFE SPORT about their reasons for selling sweatpants and the difficulty of getting funding as a nomadic project.**
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With the accelerated pace of commodification and consumption of marginal identities (and spaces) globally, comes the question of, and tension between complicity and resistance in political art and social critique. Discourse is developing beyond ideas of visibility and representation to notions of assimilation into existing cultural paradigms, which is why AQNB was in Los Angeles to present the ‘Accessing Economies: Engagement & Withdrawal’ screening and reading at Club Pro LA on July 17 to interrogate the politics of identity within commercial or institutional spheres.
It’s part of an ongoing series of screening, reading, performance and discussion events lead by editor Jean Kay and organised in collaboration with video production partners Video in Common, and follows similar events already held in London and Berlin –two key cultural centres in the art editorial platform’s network. Titled ‘The Future Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’ and ‘At the Backend’, together these earlier programmes interrogated the systems and infrastructures embedded in networked communication, and how this affects distribution, flows of information and power, as well as language, community-building and identity formation.
Meanwhile, ‘Accessing Economies’ carries on that conversation into the consequences of structural affiliations as both inspiring and influencing critical art practice, and creating new markets. Maria Gorodeckaya, for example, inverts the gaze through the lens of female sexual desire in ‘do it for me’, while Vika Kirchenbauer‘s queer subjects confront the high art voyeur with ‘YOU ARE BORING!’: “I mean, who wouldn’t want to fuck a work of conceptual art?”
Evan Ifekoya talks marginality as a lived position for AQNB/ViC editorial video commission ‘Genuine. Original. Authentic.’ and Sarah Boulton‘s poetry, read by Ulijona Odišarija, passively lingers in the margins, outside of valuation, by dealing with what the artist describes as “what you don’t need to say, and not saying it”. Imran Perretta‘s ‘Untitled (work in progress)’ explores the privilege of apprehension and self-analysis for a work in progress video, while Ann Hirsch and Cristine Brache present two videos that concisely and consciously apply for access to systems of power and control, only to complicate and disrupt them when awarded it.
Below is the full programme of video, audio and stills of the works presented in their running order:
Maria Gorodeckaya: ‘do it for me’ (2016) [5:11]
Moscow-born, London-based artist Maria Gorodeckaya explores the nature of women’s objectification,
reclaiming the gaze through the lens of the camera and re-directing it onto the male body. Inverting sexual power dynamics, Gorodeckaya’s work expands into poetry, sculpture and installation, building on her interests in desire and its suppression by religious, economic and institutional means.
Evan Ifekoya: ‘Genuine. Original. Authentic.’ (2015) [8:21 min]
London-based artist Evan Ifekoya discusses their ongoing music video series, questioning the notion of cultural or personal authenticity and what it means to be entertaining. Also working with collage, knitting and drawing, Ifekoya talks about deconstructing pervasive gender binaries, expressing the banality and importance of physical ‘making’.
Vika Kirchenbauer: ‘YOU ARE BORING!’ (2015) [13:44], ‘COOL FOR YOU – GIVEN YOUR CONVENIENT ABSENCE’ (2016) [2:25]
Berlin-based artist Vika Kirchenbauer looks at the transference of (certain) bodies and politics from subcultural to high art spaces and the new dynamics that emerge. In complicating ideas of performance and shifting the spectator’s perspective back on themselves, Kirchenbauer questions how power and self-understanding is renegotiated within an institutional framework.
Sarah Boulton: Poetry read by Ulijona Odišarija [2:59 min]
London-based artist and poet Sarah Boulton presents moments of inclusivity, engaging and implicating its audience directly or with distance, or both. Friend and fellow artist Ulijona Odišarija reads as a single clear voice without embellishment, expressing a certain creative ambience around perceptions and consciousness in relation to objects that refuse signification and thus capital value.
Imran Perretta: ‘Untitled (work in progress)’ (2016) [5:00 min]
London-based artist Imran Perretta explores the liminal space between socially and culturally constructed spaces, as well as the role of the body within that. Inscribed as they are with external assumptions, prejudices and, above all, concerns, Perretta’s film is an interrogation of white-washed narratives of privilege and their ideologies of self-actualisation, described in an aqnb review of his performance work as, “the over analyzed body in stark contrast to the under analyzed body”.
Ann Hirsch: ‘Here For You (Or my Brief Love Affair with Frank Maresca)’ (2011) [14:06]
LA-based artist Ann Hirsch interrogates (networked) media and its false assumptions of personal freedom. Placing herself in the externally constructed environment of a reality TV programme and its culture of constant surveillance, Hirsch surrenders to the mechanism of production, where she and 14 other contestants vie for the affections of ‘Frank the Bachelor’ on camera with no control on how they’re viewed, edited or represented.
Cristine Brache:, ‘Sequence 02 1’ (2016) [15:56 min], ‘finally people are reading about me’ [00:14 min] (2016)
Toronto-based artist and poet Cristine Brache shows marginal women’s bodies and their reproduction as objects in circulation. In complicating and questioning economic, political and sexual power relations as both oppressed and empowered, Brache’s at times fetishistic work expresses a tension between aspiring for access and visibility, and the means by which one achieves it.
aqnb x Video in Common’s screening ‘Accessing Economies: Engagement & Withdrawal’ was on at Club Pro Los Angeles, July 17, 2016.
Header image: Vika Kirchenbauer, ‘YOU ARE BORING!’ (2016) @ Club Pro Los Angeles. Screening view.
As discourse develops beyond ideas of visibility and representation to notions of assimilation into existing cultural paradigms, aqnb editor Jean Kay will be presenting a selection of artists’ works that considers the consequences of structural affiliations and institutionalisation as both inspiring and influencing critical art practice.
‘Accessing Economies’ follows similar events organised by the art editorial platform and video production partner ViC in London and Berlin –two key cultural centres in the aqnb network. Titled ‘The Future Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’ and ‘At the Backend’, together these programmes interrogated the systems and infrastructures embedded in networked communication, and how this affects distribution, flows of information and power, as well as language, community-building and identity formation.
Artists and works featured in this edition include an aqnb/ViC editorial video commission with Evan Ifekoya, video works from Vika Kirchenbauer, Imran Perretta, Ann Hirsch, Cristine Brache and Maria Gorodeckaya, as well as a live Skype poetry reading from Sarah Boulton.
See the FB event page for further details.**
Header image: Vika Kirchenbauer, ‘COOL FOR YOU – GIVEN YOUR CONVENIENT ABSENCE’ (2016). Video still. Courtesy the artist.share news item
An evening of poetry, ‘Apprehension: come back for another look’ is on at London’s Slade School of Art on June 16.
Performing are a group of artists and writers whose work could be said to deal with subjectivity, poetry, voices, being online and representation, including Cassandre Greenberg, Cristine Brache —organisers of recent ICA event No Screening —Ulijona Odišarija and Christopher Kirubi, all of whom are current Slade students.
The evening coincides with the MA degree show that runs until June 19.
Artist and poet Penny Goring and Aurelia Guo whose PDF, ‘black mUJI notebook‘ was recently shared online and contains Guo’s eloquent musings and stark thoughts, will also both feature in this evening of ‘Apprehension’.
See the FB event page for more details.**share news item
There’s something illicit about sitting in the dark with a group of strangers; something anticipatory. It allows a fantasy of privacy, of intimacy, even as the person who speaks remains behind the curtain that will not open. I think, at first, that I’m imagining this effect; that the performers at No Screening at London’s ICA on May 13 —co-curated by Cristine Brache, Cassandre Greenberg and Harry Bix —must have been in another room backstage. Eventually I spot shadows moving behind the curtain. I’m not imagining. There’s a bare shard of light, almost imperceptible.
This is only a hunch, but it feels like human beings of the ‘post-internet’ are less primed to be skeptical of aural information, of the ancient feeling of being told a story. Maybe it’s a primeval instinct, where the most important thing is how the story is told.
I wonder whether the performers feel the backstage feeling of childhood before a concert, it emanates suddenly a kind of sleepover feeling, like an allowance, outside of normal time. The room is comfortably expansive, not cavernous, and just the right temperature. Without other distractions, these things matter.
Harry Bix opens the performances with ‘Liquid Luther Vandross’. I think, that’s a magician’s impeccable timing. The darkness lasts just a few moments too long before his voice cuts in. He sings the post-disco soul singer’s ‘Never Too Much’ in a voice oscillating between tender and cheeky, Oh my love, a thousand kisses from you are never too much.
Mary Vettise’s ‘So it was the same for me as everybody else’ walks the audience through the house of an ex-boyfriend. It has some of the affect of a dream where you keep discovering rooms in a place you thought you knew by heart. Giving less information feels more confident, to trust the listener to build the story in their mind unhindered by specifics of time and place.
No Screening was organised as a response to ICA’s current exhibition, Martine Syms’ Fact & Trouble. Some performers seem to interact more with the US artist’s focus on gesture and the media, particularly Shenece Oretha’s ‘Sounding the Margin: (Inter)mission to James Brown’s Bridge’ and Ana Maria Soubhia & Rhoda Boateng’s ‘It’s Ahead’. Both use the voice in a way that feels research-based or archival, communal maybe, as opposed to the personal narrative mode of other works. Stripped of all identity markers, the performers or their proxies step in and out of accent, song, rhyme and tone.
Unlike a sound piece in a gallery, which the viewer can move through at will, the No Screening performance capitalizes on its sense of movie-time: not an individual choice but a collective agreement to time spent. The accompanying compilation album, available for free download from East Anglia Records, declines to reproduce the event, but rather contains some variations of works performed on the night, and other new or parallel ones.
As the program progresses, certain recordings blend into one another; with layers of different voices, music and echo, loops and pauses. I lose track of who’s speaking the dark. Sarah Boulton’s contribution, however, is unmistakeable: a single clear voice, reading without embellishment. It makes her small poems into objects that could almost be held in the mouth: a bird wing, a pearl, a bruise.
Ulijona Odišarija’s ‘End of Summer International’ appears the same in both the performance and on the album —a melancholy track of crows and overheard pop songs —apart from the presence of the artist at the back of the room. She is dancing slowly behind the audience, lit by a single small spotlight. It is almost too romantic, save for being seen by almost nobody.
Deprived of all other visual stimulus, I become obsessed with the glowing green icon of the exit sign. In the dark, the remaining senses become hyper-aware: my friend’s cardigan sleeve brushing against my bare arm makes me jump. On the hour, a few peoples’ watches go beep, beep. I’m aware of every gesture, hush, and shuffle. What darkness allows for is a moving through of space in the mind, an awareness of distance and proximity. Certain things, un-visible, become hard to prove.
Being told stories in this way feels childlike. It cuts through the sophisticated visual classification system necessary to build up as armour against an environment oversaturated with imagery. In short, a tale feels true when it’s told. When I got outside onto The Mall, near London’s Trafalgar Square, it is still just barely light and I’m surprised at the faces of the people around me. Echoing the earlier words of Mary Vetisse, “The world looked just the same except it didn’t and it wasn’t.”**
Header image: No Screening compilation cover art (2016). Courtesy East Anglia Records, London.share news item
5everdankly is a new online publishing community and project space.
On the 5everdankly site is already a project called irl pantie$, an international undies-burning video and animation show with contributions from artists and writers Cristine Brache, Penny Goring, Aurorae Parker, Dan Sanders, Hela Trol Pis (aka Max Trevor Thomas Edmond), Rachel Benson who is currently showing work on The White Pube‘s website, and other members from the collaborative 5everdankly dank play space.
5everdankly have also recently released new books, hatefuck the reader, by artist Penny Goring and RECEIVES THE MARKS OF EVERY THING, UNDERSTANDS AND INCLUDES EVERYTHING — EXCEPT ITSELF by Hela Trol Pis.
The space positions itself in the midst of online community, collectivism and self-organisation.
Look out for further projects and publication releases.**
Screen_ (read: “Screenspace”) is a new email-based art space presenting monthly shows which you can now subscribe to.
Looking back to the mail art work of Ray Johnson and those part of the FLUXUS movement, Screen_ takes pleasure in the fact that emails can be artworks in their own right and in their own form, existing in a private, one-t0-one space and intimately experienced. Subscribing to Screen_ means that an engaged audience can opt-in to receive the artworks, each made specifically for the space and each considering that the method of their dissemination is via MailChimp.
Screen_ is organised by New York-based artist Ada Wright Potter. The first show will be sent out on the last Friday of January and will include artists Jeffrey Scudder, Dina Kelberman, Cecilia Salama, Cristine Brache, Vanessa Thill, Will Rahilly, Lizzy de Vita.
To subscribe go here**
The Christmas Show group exhibition is on at Miami’s Guccivuitton, opening December 1 and running to January 9, 2016.
Featuring the likes of Cristine Brache, Autumn Casey, Phillip Estlund and Hugo Montoya among others, the press release consists solely of lyrics from WHAM!’s famous hit ‘Last Christmas’. The work is installed to make one feel as if they were walking through a Christmas display at a shopping mall, only the usual items one would expect to see have been disrupted in some form, such as with Paul McCarthy’s infamous ‘Santa with Butt Plug‘.
Other artists in the exhibition include Henning Fehr und Philipp Rühr, Elizabeth Ferry, Ash Ferlito, Kathryn Marks, Jonathan Peck, Teresa Sanchez, Richard Spit, Michael Swaney and Matt Taber, which will also be marked by a Holiday Party on December 25, with performances by Waterfront (Patricia Margarita Hernandez & Craig Poor Monteith), Jan & Dave, and Kayla de la Cerda.
See the Guccivuitton website for details. **
Arcadia Missa‘s How to Sleep Faster exhibition and book series launches its sixth edition, running at their London location from August 27 to August 29.
The ongoing publication and exhibition series published its first edition in 2011 and has featured some aqnb favourites throughout its five previous editions, including Jesse Darling, Paul Kneale, Huw Lemmey and Ann Hirsch in issue #4.
For its sixth edition, How to Sleep Faster asks: “How can we fuck in a way that doesn’t support a patriarchal prism and standard for sex to reflect capitalist relations? Can sex be a site for identity politics, after we are imbued with the lore and failure of the sexual ‘revolution’?” Amongst the dozens of participating artists are Amalia Ulman, Jaakko Pallasvuo, Hannah Quinlan Anderson & Rosie Hastings, and Cristine Brache.
See the event page for details. **
The artist-run, independent publication Low Impact is releasing its second issue, ‘Shallow Waters’, launching at 152 Wilmot Street in London on August 5.
Low Impact‘s first issue, titled ‘Transparentities’, featured works from Sarai Kirshner, Eiko Soga and Valinia Svoronou, a ‘Love letter’ from James Lowne, and contributions from Sarah Boulton, and Harriet Rickard, amongst others.
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You’re standing in a small parking lot. You’re being handed a photocopied sheet of paper. Handwritten in black marker, it lists twelve artists and areas of a car that have been assigned to them to respond to with a work in the Mark II exhibition. Air vents. Car keys. Ashtray, Maintenance, Hubcaps, Glove compartment. Rear window wiper. Sunscreen. Back seat. Stereo. Bumper.
You read the words on the sheet of paper and you look at the car. The car is a silver Nissan Micra, its ignition is on and its doors are open. It looks as if something debauched has happened and the owner ran away leaving the car as a recently deceased person leaves their home: all things intact and in mid-use as if they could be coming back any second to re-engage with the space. It’s like you’re part of a forensics team at the scene of a crime trying to determine what’s happened, or a voyeur that has come across an abandoned unlocked car in a parking lot, deciding to satiate your desire by looking deeply and maybe getting close enough to smell. You are the memory of the car and you are flashing back, revisiting every possible thing the car has ever experienced at once.
You begin to look for the objects in the car listed on the paper that now functions as a map. You’re in search of distinction as the art work seamlessly integrates into the car’s natural domain. A closer look is required to gain more insight into the curious narrative you’ve just stepped into. Perhaps these are some of the things organiser Harry Bix, whose choice of artist in relation to component parts seems carefully considered, wants us to feel.
The stereo spews self help. People in the car park are being told to “try ritual purification with wet wipes.” It’s speaking on behalf of Ulijona Odišarija who produces an eerie lo-fi mix tape called Revival 2015 that loops misshapen beats and chants, dedicated -isms that promise to change your life and make it better: “and if you need forgiveness in the present time just visualise that happening / do you want to party or cry? / Find that special place inside you where you feel no shame”.
Mary Vettise, assigned the car’s bumper, rebrands the Micra with her last name, “Vettise”, in cursive on its right side just above the silver “S” that denotes some special unknown attribute to the Micra. It’s a pun that doesn’t really make sense to most people; an inside joke as the artist says her last name is commonly misspelled “Vitesse”, which is french for ‘speed’ and often confused with the Rover make and model of the same name. The back seat of the car is full of cold medicine boxes and empty bottles of energy drinks left by James Lowne. A love letter rests on top of this pile explaining why he couldn’t be there. He is ill and sorry because he only thinks of you. Cristine Brache occupies a masculine object with feminine material by cutting a house key out of mother of pearl with the words “nothing but violence” engraved on it. The key hangs from the keychain, attached to the car key that powers the ignition.
The evening is comprised of three performances by Lea Collet and Marios Stamatis (maintenance) who dedicatedly wash the car, Sarah Boulton (air vents) reads poetry inside the car alone, leaving her audience with a powerful silence outside. They remain completely quiet, even though they can’t hear a thing. Boulton’s performance is, as she puts it, “fragrance-based”, challenging the audience’s expectations and desires by denying them access to her words, rendering herself mute. A few minutes into her reading people walk up to the car to put their ears near the window in an attempt to eavesdrop. Alex Carmichael concludes the evening by hotboxing the car in exaggerated form with a smoke bomb, fading it out of your voyeuristic gaze with the thick cloud. The stereo urges you to “say fast slowly”. You turn around and walk away but take this last mantra with you, whispering the word ‘fast’ very, very slowly. **
Exhibition photos, top-right.