The Spanish language title of the show translates to ‘The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the Porziuncola River,’ the original name of the City of Los Angeles during Spanish colonization of the area in the 18th century. Led by Franciscan friars and soldiers, what was originally a small military outpost on a fertile waterway — named ‘Porziuncola‘ after the Catholic chapel in Italy and meaning ‘small portion of land’ — would become the second most populous city in the United States with its barren concrete ‘water freeway’ of the Los Angeles River.
A rough translation of the text suggests the exhibition explores the principle of the ‘unfinished’ in contemporary art, where since the turn of the 20th century the idea of the open work —in which the object is only complete upon its perception by its audience —now prevails.
Referencing Juliane Rebentisch’s subject-object distinctions in installation art and speculative realist philosopher Quentin Meillassoux’s correlationism between artwork and reflective subject, Unfinished Symphony expands on these ideas and presents works that appear as complex singular yet interrelated object arrangements with an internal logic that together become a form of modern symphony.
Of the artists mentioned, Syms currently has an exhibition running at London’s ICA called Fact & Trouble, and Lonergan recently took part in the recently closed default group exhibition at LA’s Honor Fraser. Performance artist Linder took part in Frieze 2014, artist-designer duo Eckhaus Latta presented as part of this year’s Paramount Ranch and K-HOLE member Yago presented work at London’s Cell Project Space for the Columbidae group exhibition earlier this year.
Presenting a preview of their research on August 8 in an interactive workshop, Yago and Monahan sit comfortably in ICA Miami’s well lit project space. The walls are bare, save for a giant flatscreen TV that hangs between the artists to supplement their talk with slides. The room is full and quiet as they begin with a brief overview of K-HOLE’s past body of work: the group typically creates neologisms for their case studies, presented as trend forecasting reports that are freely accessible to the public. They’re responsible for the infamous ‘normcore’ coinage, which first appeared in their 2013 report ‘Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom’ but became popular online as ‘#normcore’ the following year. It even made it into the Oxford Dictionary’s 2014 list of new words and came runner-up to ‘vape’ for Word of the Year.
Yago and Monahan begin by describing normcore as being less a fad and more a philosophical idea. It was never meant in terms of fashion –as it’s now largely known for –but rather what they call “privileging communication over exercises of individuality”, regardless of what one’s wearing. Instead, according to the artists, the general public and journalists destroyed its “blurry, complicated utopian idea”, by reducing the report’s idea of normcore as a fluid community to simply that of ‘acting basic’ –another term in the same report that denotes a trend for dressing blandly as a statement about not making one.
Though Yago and Monahan appear disappointed with the phenomenon that followed their ‘Youth Mode’ report, one could argue that its misinterpretation attests to its success. After all, it is a trend forecasting report. Conventionally, these reports are made privately for companies in order to capitalize on consumer patterns at opportune moments by making new products based on what is observed. When the reports are made readily available to all, as K-HOLE does, the opportunity to capitalize is given to all, which is essentially what happened. #normcore, as well as ‘acting basic’, has generated a lot of content online and in the market, but as a mutation. Hence, the group’s impetus for their new report –and conversation –coming from the mass misunderstanding of the term, which drew their attention to what they call “language and the ambiguity of online speak”.
While research is still in development, K-HOLE present new terms at ICA Miami to potentially be included in their latest report, such as ‘consensus collapse’ and ‘unimpeachable language’ –where terms anxiously change meaning, making it easy to withstand any potential arguments against them. They also describe subjective and intimate language used as a mask over the language of infrastructures and technologies with ‘weaponized subjectivity’.
During their brief two-day residency, Yago and Monahan tried to find consumer patterns in Miami for ‘lifestyle burnout’ and ‘survivalist cosplay’, the two main ideas to be included in the report, which focuses on magic. Lifestyle burnout is described as “always being on” and “not having any differentiation between work and play” but seeking to retreat or escape, very literally, when one reaches a severe point of consumer exhaustion. Survivalist cosplay is described as short term extreme consumer experiences, usually concerned with the resilience of the body and its capabilities to survive an apocalypse, if need be. It is situation and reaction, while lifestyle burnout deals in sustainability and duration; a desire to stop being a consumer and its associated feelings of guilt. Survivalist cosplay is being continually absorbed by and embraces the consumer sphere.
Yago and Monahan admit to not having enough time to fully understand the complexities of the city of Miami their short time there. They acknowledge the obvious associations people have with it; that they didn’t really manage to reach a better understanding of what life is actually like for the people living there. The city is mostly known as a city for tourists, of indulgence, superficiality, debauchery and little else. While citing Miami as having one of the highest income inequalities than any other US city, and describing it as “unabashedly consumerist and superficial, that freaks out other Americans”, they still opt to research locations, such as Barry’s Bootcamp and Vitasquad, that perpetuate those preconceptions.
Barry’s Bootcamp is marketed as the best workout in the world. It is a combination of cardio and weightlifting done in a dark room to EDM with a militarized aesthetic. Though it’s a company founded in West Hollywood with branches around the world –including New York and London –Barry’s Bootcamp is presented as if it’s representative of Miami specifically, describing the bodies of the city as being “very different” and “less spiritual or yogic” than those in New York or Los Angeles. In fact, most of Yago and Monahan’s observations are made in comparison to these two cities. According to their presentation, people in Miami approach physical fitness as if it were a contest more than a health practice, grouping it under their ‘survivalist cosplay’ heading. They give no examples of how people in Miami are less spiritual and more competitive about their exercise routine than those in other cities, nor do they mention speaking to anyone in the workout classes they attend.
It seems impractical to want to find spirituality in a health practice such as Barry’s Bootcamp, as it isn’t based on a spiritual tradition and is specifically marketed as a tough militaristic challenge, attracting specific types of people with specific interests and goals. Similarly, Vitasquad, a service that provides intravenous nutrients for dehydration and is commonly used as a hangover cure, attracts people who like to drink and party. Businesses like Vitasquad also exist in New York and Los Angeles.
Considering that K-HOLE are working on a report on the subject of magic, it’s disappointing that they stick with what they already know. That being Miami’s superficial veneer, mostly centering around what South Beach has to offer, while overlooking the widespread practice of Santeria and vodou spiritual practices in the area. In light of the this limited approach to researching consumer trends, it might put the apparent misappropriation of normcore, as a too-generalized term for being ‘basic’, into perspective. **
Grand Opening Reception, a new project at Aachen’s Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, opens at the German art space this week, running from July 18 to September 13.
The project—conceived in collaboration with Kuwaiti architect and artist Aziz Al Qatami, founder of the architecture firm Atelier Aziz Al Qatami and member of the artist collective GCC, who was commissioned to create the Grand Opening Reception exhibition design—questions the role of “artistic positions in contemporary institutional marketing and the eventisation of cultural production in the form of local identity creation”.
The show, curated by Laura McLean-Ferris, is complete with live performances by Essex Olivares, titled ‘Office Riddim’, beginning with the opening night and reoccurring on March 28, April 18, May 2, and on the closing night on May 17.
Columbidae takes the “administrative labour” traditionally associated with office environments as its source of inspiration. Alongside Olivares’s performances are Barbara T. Smith’s Xerox poetry sets created during her dual life as a Pasadena housewife and emerging artist in the 60s, Mélanie Matranga disorienting sceneographies, and Dena Yago’s flatbed scanner images, which she will discuss during a Culture Now talk with McLean-Ferris at the ICA on March 27.
San Serriffe will be hosting the launch of fourth edition of the ‘Noon on the Moon’ poetic series on February 14.
The Amsterdam-based art book shop brings the launch on the ugliest day of the year – Valentine’s Day – perhaps as a means of channeling the forced sentimentality of the holiday into something actually meaningful.
The evening kicks off at 17:00 and the poetic series combines (like most things do these days) poetry, literature and visual art, challenging the traditional forms of narrative.
Melbourne’s Utopian Slumps gallery is teaming up with Centre for Style for the Silly Canvas group exhibition, running at the gallery space from December 15 to December 22.
The gallery and the Centre for Style exhibition space and retail store are joining forces again to host and curate, respectively, Silly Canvas, which will feature 14 various artists and artist collectives – including Amalia Ulman, ffiXXed, Marlie Mul and Trevor Shimizu– working within the restricted parameters of two rectangular pieces of material attached to one another to form a two-sided wearable canvas.
The December 15 opening kicks off with a panel and performance byAnna-Sophie Berger on the following Thursday, December 18, titled The Styled Canvas: fashion’s image and its various production lines and featuring D&K, Briony Wright and Robyn Healy in a discussion of “how image and styling mitigate fashion practice”.
The exhibition comes in conjunction with the launch of a Centre for Style publication, Centre for Style Rag, which is posited as a response to the themes of Silly Canvas and is comprised of texts by six writers, including Harry Burke, and artist pages by another five, including Dena Yago.
Established in 1996, the initiative offers emerging gallerists opportunities to show at one of the biggest fairs in the world, highlighting some (then) unknown artists through the years that went on to have prominent careers, including Wilhelm Sasnal and Elizabeth Peyton.
And NYC-based artist Dena Yago – also working with the NYC trend forecasting collective K-Hole – will be the first artist presented at LISTE by Sandy Brown gallery as they join the programme.