The WINTER SESSIONS: A Season of Events at American Medium begins December 14 and is running to February 3.
New York’s American Medium gallery will host a number of events at their space over the winter season, with three sections: Alignment presents readings, Folds of Existence presents a series of film screenings and a set of experimental performances in Nocturnal Sub.missions.
– Folds of Existence is programmed by Lorenzo Gaorna and Mary Ancel, and brings together moving image works that mediate “the precarious boundaries between public space and personal psyche,” featuring over 2o artists including Benji Blessing, Rouzbeh Rashidi, Basim Magdy, Jodie Mack and more.
The my fossil, my echo, my excess, my scrap group exhibition at New York’s MX Gallery opened July 20 and is running to August 10.
Curated by Gabrielle Jensen and Julia Lee, the show includes work by Cristine Brache, Isabel Legate, Carmen Neely, Kayode Ojo, and Patrice Renee Washington. The press release reads in four paragraphs, one for each part of the title, mapping out the relationship between the works in the context of ‘Fossilization anxiety,’ ‘The echo [as] an interruption of presence,’ ‘Excess [as] an ecstatic surrender to unknowing,’ and “The survivor of mutilated material, the scrap refuses to perform a whole.’
The works vary in medium, scale and approach to the curatorial premise but each respond to and explore the space of proliferation, fragmentation, the relic and the discarded. **
Cristine Brache’s solo exhibition I Love Me, I Love Me Not at New York’s Fierman opened February 10 and is running until March 19.
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.
“With each pass, from vessel to vessel.6
6 Brache presents works that speak to the coloniality of mestizx identity, with its simultaneous assimilatory striving and inexorable sense of loss: a maple domino table with colonial-style legs features porcelain Hoyle-clone playing cards instead of dominos on the raised playing area, which has been coated in the “flesh” tones of silicone.”
Cristine Brache is an artist and poet who works between Toronto and Miami and recently exhibited Givens at Los Angeles’ AALA. Her first book of poems, I love me, I love me not via Químerica Books will be published in late 2017.**
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 $78Abercrombie 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 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.**
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 LAon 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 Brachepresent 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.
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 and Video in Common (ViC) are presenting screening, performance and discussion event, ‘Accessing Economies: Engagement & Withdrawal’ at Los Angeles’ Club Pro LA on July 17.
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.
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’.
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 Bixopens 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.”**