The Los Angeles group exhibition is on at Berlin’s 68projects, opening March 12 and running to April 16.
The last part of the ‘Berlin-L.A. trilogy’, the show identifies these two cities as major art centres with a strong transatlantic exchange and “an almost unimaginable artistic potential”. It draws on Oliver Zybok’s German-language Kunstforum article, ‘California Dreaming‘, that asserts the creative freedom, open-mindedness and cosmpolitanism of the two cities as one that links them together.
There’s a persistent push-and-pull present throughout Most Loathed, between feeling severely out of place –being that it is in a 1910 Bungalow located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles –and one of being right at home. It’s the inaugural exhibition in the house-turned-art-space that is 3401 Lee St, and it’s at once a show about ambiguity and exclusivity, all the while perpetuating a concept-driven approach.
Most Loathed is formally minimal, making use of the white-washed walls and open floor plan of the renovated space, and is curated in a sparse, spread-out way. The three artists involved, Sam Davis, Joseph Buckley, and Daniel Klaas Beckwith–including one candidate and two graduates of the Yale Sculpture MFA program –find commonality in an unseen ‘mood’ present in the show. This mood oscillates between the lighthearted nearly readymade ‘Spooky Action At A Distance’ (2015) by Beckwith–a vinyl Jack-o’-lantern face affixed to a gasoline powered leaf blower–and the bleak negatives present in Davis’ fictional correspondences between songwriters Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon. His pieces titled ‘Peter’ (2015) and ‘Paul’ (2015) feature two oversized black and white laserjet printed digital collages held to the wall by huge colored push pins in a hanging gesture which give the prints more agency as sculptural objects. Rather than using the ubiquitous small white pin or even a frame, ways of mounting that we know to ignore, Davis reintroduces himself as a sculptor.
‘Cabinet of Victory’ (2015) by Buckley serves as a middle-ground between the works of Beckwith and Davis. It consists of the severed heads of 10 curators, cut from clear digitally printed vinyl, and mounted onto the upper portions of the walls in a trophy-like way. Spaced-out through the entirety of the show, the heads are unavoidable and intentionally crude. The gallery lights reflect themselves on the vinyl and air bubbles can easily be seen. Buckley is not attempting to create a resemblance of decapitated heads, instead, similar to the pins in Davis’ works, they are giving the heads an enhanced materiality. The pieces are operating within the realm of a “fuck it” sentiment, and are responding to this feeling in fresh and intelligent ways.
The role this show plays in the current climate of sculpture as a medium is a significant one. It depicts a trend towards a querulous reimagining of the readymade, and seeks out a dialogue surrounding what is sculptural. Beckwith’s ‘Water Bottles In Bucket With Ice’ (2015) is a piece that is not only a readymade, but it directly comments on the abstract and ambiguous power dynamic in the display of contemporary art. A bucket full of water bottles isn’t necessarily ‘out of place’ at an artist-run space (as opposed to an established gallery or museum). Such refreshments are often offered freely but it is the work’s ‘art-ness’ that immediately disallows and complicates the relationship between audience and artwork: visitors must not touch the art.
The readymade is also reimagined in the form of two commissioned written pieces ‘Dear Westminster Kennel Club’ and ‘Beyond the Forest of Disinclination’ (by Becket Flannery and David Steans respectively) which are stapled to the screen door at the entrance of 3401 Lee St. Text typically serves as an entry point into art, a preface which we believe will give us answers and insights before looking at the work. Like the other pieces in Most Loathed these texts (which present themselves as angry ‘letters to the editors’ written by animals and a bizarre fantasy style narrative) once again leave us in the conceptual dark. Davis’ pins, Buckley’s heads, and Beckwith’s Jack-o’-lantern exemplify the fantastic and absurd trends throughout the show that don’t allow us to view the work within a traditional sculptural lens. The presence of these unavoidable details acts as the pat on the back that lets us know it’s ok to stop at the obvious, that sometimes the very point is ‘not getting it’. **
As one of the first net-based artists of her generation to make significant headway in the major art world with her recent Frieze London film commission, Cortright’s works, across webcam videos, flash animation and paintings on aluminium, silk and polyester, are potentially some of the first to request viewers to “check the internet for pricing.” Drawing from the internet, working on her computer and utilising only the tools and default settings made available through them, her practice is as inventive as it is concentrated on “avoiding invention while championing reuse”.
LA-based duo “Boy” and “Sis” 18+ have a third mixtape out, after last year’s revelatory drag mangling MIXTA2E and those sexy SimCity renderings from 2011. The aptly-titled MIXTAP3, is a more song-oriented affair, with less of a stretched and twisted vocal assault on popular RnB and hip hop hits and more unfiltered voices from the two, generally.
There’s even a track, the bouncing auto tune number ‘test’, featuring Berlin’s AIDS-3D, a looping sample of Kendrick Lamar in ‘dead body’ and more pervy sex talk in the lyrical standout of ‘oixu’. It’s possibly one of the most interesting projects out right now.
As the mother of all that is good in contemporary underground rap, we have a soft spot for original blipster M.I.A.. Despite the “radical chic” accusations and the incident with the swearing and the Superbowl (actually, because of them), M.I.A. wins full respect for remaining resolutely herself, while being emulated the world over.
Hence, our excitement every time she releases just a hint of her forever forthcoming new album Mathangi, now set for a release November 5 on Interscope, especially since the song and video for ‘Bring the Noize‘ (particularly the gold edition) were so good. This short number Unbreak My Mixtape strikes an uncharacteristically sombre note, featuring tear jerkers from Karen Dalton and Blur, as M.I.A. consoles us with “while I get my life sorted, here’s a mixtape”. Thank you. **
“Everything is extremely linear on Facebook,” says Maria Meixnerová, under her “krvavamera” name on Skype, roughly an hour before her first post on Chloë Flores Facebook Page. A cheesy YouTube video introduction comes in the form of “esomary”, leaning on one knee, explaining her project within a magnificent backdrop, breathing heavily while a wasp crawls over the camera lens. On her website she describes herself as a “CRAZY FREAK WITH NO SENSE OF DIGNITY, LIVING IN MY OWN UNIVERSE” and, while I don’t know about the “crazy freak” part, there is something rather odd, though interesting about her approach to world-building and multiplicity in her practice.
Based in the Czech Republic but living on Facebook, Meixnerová is a net artist starting a month long residency on a profile page. As part of a three year project of Los Angeles curator, Chloë Flores, Meixnerová – otherwise known as “(c) Merry”, “Mary Meixner” or “esomary” (depending on the online platform) –will be exploring Facebook as a medium for temporal metrical sculpture, inspired by experimental film makers like Peter Kubelka and Kurt Kren in Austria, Paul Sharits and Michael Snow in North America. Because, in the same way that these artists look at film beyond narrative –where light, installation and sound all play an important role in the audience’s perception of a work –Meixnerová aims to subvert the restrictive user interfaces of professionalised social media by using only the basic components of Facebook to disrupt the “stream”.
aqnb: The user interface of Facebook is so restrictive but, as with so many “professionalized” social media networks, users still find a way to to create and innovate within these rigid paradigms. Is that something you’re thinking about with this project?
Marie Meixnerová: Yeah, naturally. But when I use Facebook, or most people who use Facebook and are in contact with me are aware of these restrictions and are trying to work with them. I wanted to show that, even within this so limited space, where it’s like so ‘the big brother is watching you’, and it’s so restrictive, even within this space you can make some art. It’s not, let’s say, ‘politically coloured’ or reacting to those restrictions etcetera. I just take it as space you can work within, even when restricted. It is something that really scares me because people take all those restrictions as natural, in time. You just get used to it. But it is really not the theme of my sculpture. It’s something that I try to avoid.
aqnb: In terms of being political about it?
MM: Yeah. I’m also really, I don’t want to say worried, but I have some doubts about how this will develop because Chloë lives in Los Angeles, in America, and I’m in Europe. I’m a little bit afraid that, if she’s logging in on her profile, and I log in, because Facebook monitors those things, that she’s in the USA and I’m in Europe, I’m a little bit worried that it will want me to recognise my friends, or Chloë’s friends and I won’t be able to login on time to post something.
aqnb: You’ve plugged this as possibly the ‘first Facebook sculpture’ and then you said that Facebook is a sculpture in itself, so essentially you’re making a sculpture within a sculpture. That’s a bit meta.
MM: Yeah [laughs] but when thinking about Facebook within itself, it’s quite specific. It’s different because my approach is thinking about Facebook as a physical environment and creating within that environment. Most internet artists would say that they live on the internet and I feel, at this particular time, I’m not living that much on the internet as I live on Facebook; I take it as my natural environment right now. It’s similar as if I was living in the Czech Republic and I’m doing the First Czech sculpture [laughs].
But, for this one, I really take Facebook as a medium and as material, similar to these artists working with film. I really take Facebook as a kind of film strip that has, not only sound and image, silence and light, but it has many more elements, as I said, ‘liking’, ‘sharing’ and stuff.
aqnb: Are you saying that you don’t work as if you live on Facebook but you’re working with it as a medium?
MM: Right now, yes. I’m working with Facebook. As you see, I’m a little bit contradicting myself, or it might seem so, but I look at it this way: I feel like I live on Facebook and, I did many performances before on Facebook, but in this project, I take Facebook as a medium; taking its basic features as material and creating a sculpture. Now, it’s almost physical for me.
aqnb: So then, do you live in the Czech Republic or on Facebook?
MM:I live in both but more in Facebook than in Czech. I take Facebook everywhere with me; everywhere I have a connection to the internet, it’s my home. **
“In general I just don’t consider myself an artist or a curator,” writes Lucy Chinen in a long and thoughtful email exchange, based on her practice at large and the forthcoming group exhibition, Over the Valley at Steve Turner Contemporary,that she curates. Interesting, that with the modern focus on interdisciplinarity, Chinen would opt-out of an art world that has discomfitingly expanded into serious critical discourse around the likes of James Franco‘s General Hospital installation and Jay-Z’s meta-performance. But perhaps the definition of “art” is really no longer a relevant one. As prevalence generally correlates with value, the more you have of something, the less you want it and the lower its worth. It’s a sentiment Finnish video artist Jaakko Pallasvuo shared in a recent interview with aqnb where he blames the ubiquity and subsequent devaluation of the image (perhaps, echoing the ubiquity and subsequent devaluation of the artist) for his migration into writing: “I don’t feel like a visual artist anymore”.
Similarly, Chinen is less interested in media production and more interested in mediation. A turning point came with a lucid and incisive analysis of Web 2.0 in an essay, ‘Social and Connected: The Integration of Networked Language in ‘Connecting’’ as she began to recognise patterns in her own interactions with social media networks, leading to a growing fascination with the machinations behind tech companies and her compulsion to identify and catalogue them.
As an LA resident without a driver’s license, Chinen found herself wandering the stateless realm of the web early on, engaging with an artistic set across borders. That’s how Over the Valley features six artists from around the US and Europe, none of them based in Silicon Valley, from which the exhibition takes its title. That’s how, during a written and online interaction, Chinen can discuss criticality and subversion, artistic processes and perspectives, the angry red lines of my “English (UK)” setting on Microsoft Proofing being the only indication of our physical separation. That’s because all of us, as Chinen writes, “contribute to the core functionality of companies that use data, it’s almost a house we all live in, a company we all work for”.
aqnb: You seem fairly concerned with the subliminal effects of corporate advertising and its use as a form of control, when do you think you first became aware of this?
Lucy Chinen: I became interested in how it has so quickly adapted to technology and how advertising can be so ingrained within media. I’m naturally attracted to how these platforms make people feel. I became aware that that’s what I was concerned with when I saw that everything I was tweeting about or posting on Facebook was about that.
aqnb: In ‘Social and Connected’, you talk about advertising looking less and less like advertising as it infiltrates our social media feeds. Do you think the contemporary art aesthetic, particularly in post-internet art, reflects that, by itself looking more and more like advertising?
LC: There is definitely a blurry line between minimal corporate advertising and corporate aesthetic in art. Yet, I think lots of artists who make objects that are influenced by networked society are interested in advertising also because advertising advertises an idea, not just a product. It seems that artists are being inspired and almost looking at what art can learn from it as a psychological force.
I also see how technology has lots to learn from art, not just aesthetically. There are things that artists do that are free from being monetarily functional so its a very accelerated version of what’s happening now in technology. The artist doesn’t necessarily have to create that technology, just highlight the possibility; point toward a potential future that hasn’t been defined yet.
aqnb: Is it a subversive act?
LC: One thing I wonder sometimes is, how an artist can retain criticality if the art ends up looking or functioning similarly to the thing the artist is criticizing. Being subversive now doesn’t necessarily mean controversial, so it can be hard to distinguish if what is created is actually different from the system it is seeking to critique. I am unsure if being self-aware is enough to make it different. Additionally, I think whether it is actually subversive depends on a viewer’s understanding of what the artist is trying to subvert.
In an interview I did with Katja Novistkova for the catalog I asked a question relating to similar processes within art and technology one thing she said was, “I’m sure that some of the works being made by artists today will end up as ‘immaterial’ influences in the upcoming technological transformations; doesn’t matter if it happens via Hollywood, Art Basel or Internet.” I agree with this and following this idea I personally would rather see something interesting regardless of its ‘field’ or context. Cross-pollination of methods and techniques is natural, as artists comment on culture.
aqnb: In the Over the Valley press release, you make a point of mentioning that these artists are all unrelated, yet, share similar concerns.
LC: I mentioned that they are unrelated because they are all very different in the way the works look, and also the approach. One thing I intentionally wanted to explore was how a piece can become relevant again.
Electronic Disturbance Theatermade the Transborder Immigrant Tool in 2007 and that doesn’t seem like too long ago but I feel that piece is very specific to what was happening within the early intersection of activism and technology as art. They have contributed to the dialogue of civil disobedience and its almost like the actual functionality of the application on the phones doesn’t matter, it was a gesture to evoke response and to call attention to the legality of crossing a boundary that isn’t defined yet.
This concept comes up again with the use of peoples data, patent trolls and offshore companies; working around legality due to undefined territory occupied by digital transactions. This is something Goldin+Senneby and Metahaven in their larger practice are focused on as well.
Andrew Norman Wilson looks into the human hand in the digitization of printed material and a part of his larger practice looks into the whole structure of a company, the network of different hands involved in producing something of tangible and intangible value. Then, on the other end, Michael Manningreally embraces and celebrates the use of these corporate platforms, joyfully working with the structure defined by the company. Katja Novitskova looks into periods of rapid growth in space, nature and the internet. Her present practice looks into ancient cultures to predict future trends. So you see the variety of approaches these artists have and, through this selection, I have appreciated looking into these diverse perspectives on the matter.
aqnb: In ‘Social and Connected’ you talk about this idea of “auto propaganda” and its effect on shaping perspectives.
LC: The way a network is structured has a tremendous effect on the way you think when you use online tools or services. Boris Groys has written about the way one thinks of a question adapting to the way the Google search engine works and Metahaventalks about current design as a “Fischer Price interface culture with one or two buttons that do everything… representing a deliberate oversimplification of the world.”
It might sound sort of silly to think about your iPhone or Google search indoctrinating you but, if you use something everyday, the way that thing is structured, what you see and what you don’t see, starts to condition your expectations. One day, you can be using Gmail, YouTube, GoogleDocs, GoogleDrive, etcetera, and the next you find yourself in a theater watching a GoogleComedy staring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson called The Internship and you think to yourself “is this normal?”
aqnb: This selection of artists could also potentially be reflective of that capitalist model of new market generation, is that something you’d considered when putting the show together?
LC: When I gathered these works it became apparent that it wasn’t about Google, Microsoft, Amazon or Apple. It was an ideology that makes use of the way people view technology, with awe, wonder and confusion, which is also a place that is ripe for new markets. One example would be app culture. The idea that you could create the next big app or internet business, in general, where someone says, ‘it’s like this [a basic business model]…but online!’ For example, the online art fair or online art collecting within s[edition].
aqnb: In an interview around ‘artobj-cult.biz’ (2011), you’re really speaking the language of an expanding art world, one that is continuously absorbing new industries.
LC: Art Object Culture was a project I worked with Emilie Gervaison. We discontinued this platform of an online gallery when the time for that was over. Bank of America now has their online gallery and it seemed like an appropriate end to that project, if you visit the site now we just ‘iframed’ the Bank of America online gallery with a link to the archive of projects that were featured on the website.
When we responded to that interview, Emilie and I spoke in a very art e-commerce embracing way. It was also the same time that people were flirting with the idea that you were a curator of everything, clothes, food etc. We were seeing all these images of artworks online and they would be constructed entirely of commercial products. It also seemed like people were trying to come up with so many constructs as to how work online would be sold and it started to become so complicated, with all these arrangements of what you actually receive in return and it’s just meant to be a signifier of a physical object. In the end, the concept of an online gallery was also realized by Bank of America and so was the direct linking of products within an image.
aqnb: More generally, do you think the developed world is experiencing a period of entropy? Perhaps, it’s following a natural cycle, where things need to decay before they can regenerate.
LC: To me it starts to get really interesting when old structures and definitions, such as patents, intellectual property and privacy, are drastically changed by media. The old rules don’t make sense anymore and now these things have to be ethically reconsidered.
I think there is a period of time when people stop saying “THIS IS AWFUL” or “AMAZING” because it’s neither. There are aspects to the commercialization of society that are very interesting because they utilize new technologies or ideas and then there are times where it is just empty content. Likewise, the boom in the digitization of society is not all amazing and great and not every interaction should be digitized. Yet, it is also not the cause of all our problems. **
It would appear that NYC/LA artist James Ferraro is moving away from his reputation as musician-as-cultural-critic as fast as he got there in the first place. ‘Blood Flow’, the latest track to drop from his upcoming Cold mix tape, due March 25, picks up where last year’s Sushi left off. An extramusical conceptual bearing and not-so-easy-listening compositions give way to a more sensory experience of insistent break beats over a coarse modern RnB moan and synthesised ambience.
Since his noisy The Skaters days, Ferraro has become the symbol of an expanding culture of hyper-aware performers, exploring not only music but the mechanisms behind it, mainly centered around Capitalism. But since the acute underground success of 2011 release Far Side Virtual, Ferraro’s oeuvre can be seen shifting from its peak at masculist marketing, with his recent side-project, Bodyguard, to a more abstract form of sonic exploration. See the countdown to Cold here.**
Cameron Stallones has experienced the joys of spiritual enlightenment first hand. As quite possibly the sole reason one of the most significant Jamaican groups ever had reformed in 2010, the LA performer is releasing and later performing FRKWYS VOL. 9: Icon Give Thank with The Congos. That band released the seminal roots reggae album Heart of the Congos, produced by the equally revered Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry in 1977, and went on to inspire and influence generations of dub and roots musicians, no less an obscur-ish audiophile based on the West Coast of the United States. His personal catalogue of cosmic esoterica includes the improvised neo-primitivism of Not Not Fun release Heavy Deeds in 2009 and a record inspired by antiquity in Hippos In Tanks’ Ancient Romans last year, all produced under the better-known moniker of Sun Araw.
Joined by friend and live collaborator M. Geddes Gengras on another gruelling tour –physically somewhere in Middle America, psychically across the universe –Stallones is talking about how he found himself in the midst of a musical and metaphysical centre, 45-minutes out of Kingston, Jamaica, a year earlier. That studio in the town of Portmore, inhabited by a community of musicians and Rastas, is itself a reflection of the hazy middle-point between creative expression and spiritual exploration where Stallones himself lingers. Icon Give Thank is the result of that accord. Featuring submerged dub beats and fragmented samples, stringed together by the elemental vocal harmonies that made The Congos emblems of their time, the album is a result an unfathomable meeting of minds, that only someone as curious, bold and slightly eccentric as Sun Araw could pull off…
aqnb: Was it a given that Mark [Geddes Gengras] was going to be working with you on this?