Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Food, Fashion, & The Body: A Tripartism

This is my final day with the Degenerate Art Ensemble’s Art Stream and I have to say it’s been a discipline-heavy bit of fun. Having to produce an offering to an art-loving public that is both credible and interesting every day is difficult, daunting. It’s also the reason I said yes to this project…

I’d like to close out my shift with three different artists, two of whom are local to my area, Seattle, and the other lives in Minneapolis. Anna Telcs works with clothing, costuming, ritual wear. Victoria Yee Howe is a multi-disciplinarian, but we’ll focus on her culinary constructions. Erin Hernsberger is a disaster artist in the spirit of Joel-Peter Witkin.

Anna Telcs is costume designer for Seattle-based performance group Saint Genet (fka Implied Violence). The work she constructs uses animals parts - leftovers from their destruction or rendering, ideas from shaker clothing and the military, ritual wear that seems to suggest the Greeks and their Mystery Plays.

Disclaimer: I’m a member of Saint Genet and have worn a lot of Telcs’ work. It’s given me rashes. Once she had me wrapped in the fascia of a cow. She will have wax and honey poured onto the performers as they make their way through a Saint Genet production. The Frye Art Museum was impressed enough to collect a number of these pieces.

Anna Telcs’s website: http://annatelcs.com/
A recent article on her.

Victoria Yee Howe is based in New York and is the creator of the underground-famous Chinatown Cake Club. She’s referred to as an artist and pastry chef; I’m not sure if that’s accurate, but I’m not sure what else to refer to her as. I’ve been hanging out with her for the last 2 months pretty regularly and it’s been enlightening to get glimpses into her process.

Credit: Pol Rosenthal

Lately, Howe has been working with smell and flavor combinations. In the last few days I’ve had bottles of the rotting fruit scent of durian and the fresh cat shit stench of civet waved under my nose. Howe isn’t afraid of the grotesque; she laughs at my obvious comic displeasure at having these foul odors wafted up my nose. It’s all part of her research for an upcoming show at a local café where she’s the pastry chef in residence, Arabica (in Seattle, WA).

Her most celebrated creation is probably the bruise cake. These are small cakes, pretty cakes, that are vaguely flesh colored. Flesh colored if you’ve recently been beaten or taken a tumble down the stairs.

For these cakes Howe had edible transfers made from photos of bruises given to her by lovers or nature. The cakes speak to the traditional role of women in the kitchen, the sacrifices that women have made of their lives. That you have to cut into a cake made of her bruises and then you are encouraged to enjoy partaking of it. That the cakes were blood colored on their interiors made me sad, but more respectful of Howe’s artistry and attention to detail.

Victoria Yee Howe on the web: yeehowe.com
Her food diary. Writings, travelogues, cookbooks, etcetera: herakliapress.com
Victoria Yee Howe will present SENSES at Arabica Lounge Dec’. 29, 2011 at 8PM.

Erin Hernsberger is frightening. Her image of a liver in a tea cup from the series, dissect, is nauseating, but yet absolutely beautiful, intoxicating. It transcends any actual disgust I could fathom and leaves me feeling excited in the same way that watching old videos of Hermann Nitsch makes you want to get naked with your close friends and kill some animals in a big castle.

The series Suture depicts sacks of flesh sewn shut reclining on nice curtains. The image reproduced here, Untitled 2011, shows what could be a brobdingnagian worm on the post-vivisectionist’s table. It is horrifying imagery.

But still it is flesh and we are flesh and we cannot be afraid or disgusted of ourselves.

Erin Hernsberger on the web: www.erinhernsberger.com


I’d like to thank everyone who’s visited these posts; your comments have meant a lot to me. Thank you Joshua Kohl of the Degenerate Art Ensemble for asking me repeatedly to participate until I had time (such patience!).

A small note: my method for these 2 weeks has been to focus on two things: work by women and institutions that support them; and to keep my posts as short as possible. Hopefully you’ve encountered some new things and the brevity of my writing has encouraged you to explore these works and ideas further.

Pol Rosenthal

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hannah Darabi: Alchemical Revisions

One of the more exciting aspects of escaping to a major center of urbanity from the middle of nowhere is witnessing endless processes of construction and destruction; that is the life un/cycle of the City. Well, the city qua City; the City capped and existing as a Platonic Ideal, also capped.

Here. An image by Paris-based photographer philosopher Hannah Darabi.

Darabi speculates similarly (if her translators are to be trusted), “…constructions constitute both signs of construction and ruin… “. But it’s not only a sign it is also the thing itself. This is a collapse of meaning, sign and signifier blessed in marriage as one.

Unfortunately, there is very little on this project, Unreal City, to be found on the Internet. Decent interviews with the subject-producer, Darabi, are also difficult to locate. Darabi herself leaves an image of text on her site with the smallest biographical fragments and explanations of the Unreal City so there is no copy&paste-ing anything about her; she must be re-constructed in her mysteriousness/obscurity even in this medium.

Hannah Darabi’s Unreal City: http://www.hannahdarabi.com/index.php?/works/unreal-city/

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Luxirare: Presentable Edible

There’s no time like Holiday time. This means I have no time to say anything useful. Thus, I simply present the presentation skills of Luxirare: http://luxirare.com/topic/food/

Grab a fork, spoon, chopsticks, and knife and dig in!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Open Sauces: The Practicle Kitchen

Maja Kuzmanovic is a founder of the Brussels-based art factory FOAM. It’s impossible to actually describe what she does there, but the one important to Art Stream is the Open Sauces cookbook.

A few days ago in discussing olfactory artist Maki Ueda I mentioned a “magical cookbook” and Open Sauces is it. It’s more than a tome of recipes though; in it there are descriptions of urban beekeeping and honey cultivation, notes on olfactory art, descriptions on ethnic enclave shopping, and ruminations on science in the kitchen. If you are looking for a means to bring some social input into your public kitchen and a peek at molecular gastronomy this could be your means.

Kuzmanovic is the driving force behind this project. As I wrote before it’s more than a cookbook; Open Sauces is actually an ongoing series of engagements that deal in food and our relationships to it.

Public Diet: Recipes For Disaster (2008) was the first foray into the Open Sauces world. Here’s FOAM’s description of the event: “Recipes for Disaster – a feasibility dinner for sustained sustenance… Artists, cultural organisations and members of the assorted cultural proletariat are invited to a potluck dinner and round table conversation on nutrition, catering and survival in the art world and the cultural sphere. From the early afternoon, FoAM’s cooks and guests will open the kitchen doors to our friends and peers from the cultural sector, to help us cook up a nutritious dinner and figure out what constitutes a Public Diet of artists and organisations in Belgium and abroad. Where do we source our materials? Do we cook? What do we cook for ourselves, and what for our guests and audiences? How is contemporary environmental, cultural and economic turbulence effecting our diets?" Ambitious and the work continues to this day with 17 events taking place. Open Sauces the cookbook is only one face of FOAM’s ambitious dialogue on food, society, politics, ethics & morality, and their intersections.

Open Sauces the cookbook, a free download in PDF format.

More on FOAM: http://fo.am/

I can’t find any good interviews with Maja Kuzmanovic so here’s her profile at FOAM: http://fo.am/people/maja/

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Co(te)lette: Object Before Objectifier

Writing dance.

Writing about dance is one of the most frustrating practices I’ve endured in all my forays in criticism. I’ve read books on the history of modern technique and ballet, experimental dance such as butoh, what some refer to as ethnic or tribal dance, in an effort to find a language that allows for the proper description of dance. I no longer feel that such a thing is possible.

I was recently turned on to Ann Van den Broek’s Co(te)lette by Ubu Web who wrote, “Perhaps the sexiest & most violent dance ever choreographed…,” which may or may not be true. I don’t care. I watched the linked video and was captured. The movement is superb in both choreography and execution. The damn film is beautiful to look at, too.

I did some research to find other interpretations of the piece and here’s one I came across: “In The Co(te)lette Film, three female dancers are shown in a rather intimate atmosphere, in a chicken-and-egg situation between desire and satisfaction. There is no confrontation, nor rivalry. No story-telling, no solution and no ending. The Co(te)lette Film’s story is restless and… empty." (from digitalberlin.de) This description is as empty as its take on the film. What is taken from this? Is this what French critical theorists meant when they wrote of the collapse of the sign into its signifier in an orgy of ecstatic codifications? Probably not, but at this point let’s feel free to throw anything in.

First I offer you this enticing cut from the piece:

And here is the entire film; make of it what you will. This is the death of the author’s language: http://ubu.com/film/broek_colette.html

And an interview with the choreographer, Ann Van den Broek.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Larissa Sansour: State of A Nation

I’m very excited about this artist and her piece, Nation Estate.

It’s just begun so there are only 3 images constructed so far. I will not reproduce any of them here because I want you to visit her site and see them in their natural habitat. And it will encourage you to read her accompanying message.

The work is political, polemical; it’s startling and witty, too. There are many who make the argument that art should avoid politics. I pose as counter to that Alexis Bhagat's lovely maxim: 'Art has become the religion of capitalism.'

Capital desires an end to politics. Social struggle and inequality demand that we work in a political frame. If Art refrains from the political what does Art have to do to remain relevant?

Larissa Sansour: http://www.larissasansour.com/nation_estate.html

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Edoheart: Popped Sensibilities

Edoheart is from Nigeria and now lives in Black Mecca, Brooklyn, New York. She is an experimental artist. As she herself says it’s rare to find African women (not Black) doing experimental art in Africa or the United States.

Here is her video for sosomoneycock. I’ve watched this a thousand times now and I still can’t tell someone what it’s about. The movement is describable. The vocalizations are too. The ‘what’ though is missing from the dialogue.

Edoheart claims backgrounds in classical voice training and butoh work. There is not much of a vocal workout happening here; the butoh invocation is evident. The rooster cries & Edoheart does a rooster dance.

Nigeria is becoming known as a performance capitol for experimental art, but as Edoheart has pointed out, there are few women in the sphere. It was only after much research that I even came across her. She’s an interesting ambassador and perhaps she’ll be a gateway.

Her website (with links to interviews, music downloads, her award-winning book of poems, and more videos)

Creativeafricanetwork.com offers an artist-map/artist-as-node map of Nigeria.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Claire Tancons: The March Is The Fight

Any search for Claire Tancons always yields this information:
Claire Tancons is a curator, writer and scholar based in New Orleans whose work focuses on Carnival and processions. As a curator for the 7th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2008), she organized SPRING, a procession inspired by political demonstrations and carnival processions, hailed as one of the biennial’s highlights. As a guest curator for the 2nd Cape Town Biennial, South Africa, Tancons organized A Walk Into the Night, a procession inspired by the processional and musical traditions of the Cape Town carnival against the background of the forced removals of the 1960’s." - from Buala, African Contemporary Culture

Tancons work producing and studying Carnival as a form might suggest that she is not an artist and perhaps she isn’t. The performative work mentioned in the above quote leads me to suggest that it is not Tancons as an artist that is up for debate because the thing she has created, the processionals, are themselves art. As I’ve been leading up to in previous entries here at Art Sream, I again assert that it does not matter whether there is an artist for there to be art.

Tancons as researcher/creator has given us something that we have always had, but transformed: the commemorative walk. By taking Duchamp’s path of creation via declaration (“This Is [art]”) her curated gatherings become artistic statements on the history and profundity of specific places and events. Not every parade is an art-object, but some can be.

I present to you two things: 1. An interview with the artist; and 2. a video of her speaking on her work.

The interview begins with the loftiest of language then quickly settles into more accessible speech. If at any time you find yourself drawing a blank feel free to skip around until you find some more interesting aspect to insert yourself.

The video is from a public speaking engagement and conversation that Tancons gave at Vancouver, Canada’s Western Front gallery. It’s good. It’s only 40 minutes long. You’ll discover a lot about history and its glorious bastardization. You’ll hopefully be entertained.

To get the most out of it I offer these two elements to assist you…
{Definition} métissage: crossbreeding, mixing, miscegenation {/Definition}
And this lovely quote from Tancons, “If my work is about bringing visibility to invisible subjects, then it aims to do so with the artistic tools and cultural strategies of these subjects, Carnival being one of them as well as other forms of popular resistance.

The Interview (from Buala).

The Western Front Speaking Engagement

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Maki Ueda: Scentsorialist

What interests me is helping people understand that these are actually works of art, that they are beautiful and esthetically important and meet all the criteria for art, equal in terms to painting, sculpture, music, architecture, and film.” - Chandler Burr, Curator of the Department of Olfactory Art at the Museum of Arts and Design, NYC on scent-based art

You can close your eyes but can’t close your nose…" - Maki Ueda

I can’t think of any time that I’ve had a conversation with an artist about smell as art, that is, where the scent is the art. It not for a chance encounter with the most magical ‘cookbook’* I’ve ever encountered I doubt I’d even be thinking to much about it today.

This peculiar volume mentioned the piece Smell X Illusion: an olfactory boat-trip by Netherlands-based artist Maki Ueda. For this piece Ueda took select groups of travelers through the city of Dordrecht’s harbor in the mouth of the Rhine river and suffused the air around them with scents. This was done to create new place-memories in the participants. How jealous I was of the participants.


(Fin-De-Sicle author J.K. Huysmans' infamous novel, À Rebours, has a very strange chapter on smell construction that might be the first mention of utilizing smell as a means to construct an art of environment, but he never created any such thing except in print.)


In 2008 Ueda ran a workshop on the construction of edible perfumes; scents based on food pairings. Participants extracted and distilled scents from foods in a method developed by the artist. If this sounds interesting to you then you’ll be happy to know that she’s outlined her technique for anyone to attempt.

Maki Ueda’s website: http://www.ueda.nl

A fascinating introduction to artists working with smells by Barbra Pollack: http://www.artnews.com/2011/03/01/scents-sensibility/

* The magical cookbook will appear this week with its own entry. Be prepared!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Alejandra Laviada: A Life Indoors

Continuing on the path of photography today I present the work of Alejandra Laviada. Like yesterday’s entrant, Marrigje De Maar, Laviada displays images of interiors. In contrast, no one lives in the world of Laviada. These are derelict locations, structures on the verge of collapse, abandoned, and perhaps slated for demolition.

I’m interested in cycles of destruction and construction in all the sites I photograph. And, in general, in the language of the city." - Alejandra Laviada

Laviada’s images partake of the language of sculpture, installation, and the sociology of her creations is not invasive in the same sense as De Maar. Where I find an attraction to De Maar’s photographs of the rooms of the impoverished in countries not my own that simultaneously leaves me distrusting my own voyeuristic impulses, Laviada’s work allows me to enjoy the disastrous remains of something I might call my own, a dead/dying universal city.

(All images from the series Juarez 56, circa 2007)

This is a photography that does not invade, but creates in the midst of fallow abandonment. Laviada takes what she finds in these spaces and allows them to have one last shot at investment. Her arrangements of these found objects brings them a purpose they never had in life, but perhaps allows them to go to the grave with an absolution for the inorganic.

Why do we build these things in our cities and then let them fall into disrepair? If we are going to keep our cities growing then let’s not waste so much time with the broken city; let’s continue growing instead. Sadly, though this model might lead to healthier psychologies for our citizenry it would leave little place and time for the work of Alejandra Laviada.

Interview with the artist at ARTINFO.

Alejandra Laviada on the web.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Marrigje De Maar: Impoverished Interiors

Marrigje De Maar is a trained sociologist who works in photography. Here are two quotes from her that offer a glimpse into her practice:

Interiors tell stories about people. In public space people follow the global trends and fashions. In their homes they tend to make other choices. The private space is the only place where we are ourselves.The personal story is told inside the privacy of our home.”

Many of my interiors give evidence of a frugal life, of inhabitants who are able to make their personalities known with only a few means. In my work I concentrate on this authenticity and dignity.”

De Maar has provided her sociological eye a moment to take us into the homes of Chinese citizens with her project Red Roses Yellow Rain. Spanning from 2005 to 2010, Red Roses Yellow Rain is a strange invasion of the privacy of the other. We are invited to look into someone’s home, but we are ghosts to them, figments that they are aware will be sorting through their privacies, escaped in time by the lingering pool of photography.

Here are three images from the series. Clicking on any of them will take you to the full set at De Maar’s site, takeadreamforawalk.com.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not Common People: A Commoner’s Eye

Not Common People is a location and I’d like to explore that for a moment. Is it possible for a location to give birth to art? In the Duchamp model we say, ‘it’s art because I say it’s art’. But along comes this commoner’s paradise, the web, and a sudden possibility of curation for the people and by the people, tumblr being the perfect example.

I have no problem with that and I find it exciting that we are publicly sharing our symbolic inspiration palettes/notebooks. It’s that aspect of concupiscent visual conquest that leads me away from presenting another individual artist today and instead offering a site.

Not Common People is a blog populated through an open submissions policy to a Flickr station. The editors of NCP choose someone and display their work with a brief set of interview questions (‘Who are you? Where do you live? Influences?’) and a pointer to more of it.

But I’m also interested in NCP as locus of art production. I don’t know if all those profiled consider themselves artists, but passing through the site the work becomes art. A take on the factory perhaps, not Ford’s, but Warhol’s where the question becomes once it leaves the site does it cease to be art again?

Which I guess if there’s any validity to what I’m proposing it would mean that art will have finally caught up to literature in being able to claim that its authors are also dead. So we can look at a thing and say ‘that’s art,’ but not be encumbered with having to fret over whether the producer is an artist.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Zhe Chen: In Objectification

Zhe Chen is from Beijing and now lives in Los Angeles. From what I can gather her work documents through photography a rigorous attempt at escaping from the scars of her past. The essay I present to you is titled ‘The Bearable’. The imagery is taut with fetishistic impulses and a desire to rewrite the fictions of history.

In her essay ‘The Bees’ Chen confronts the pain of others. An unnamed group of people move through their lives without explanation. Injured arms extend with handfuls of jujubes. A young girl practicing the violin. A woman in red bends at the waist to look into the mirror and flips her skirt up.

I’ve seen no explanation for why this piece is called ‘The Bees,’ but I’ll hazard that it has to do with identifying or being identified as a worker and knowing that your strongest act of protection or offense results in your death.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christine Sun Kim: Vibrating At A Higher Frequency

Christine Sun Kim is a sound artist and performer based in New York. She creates playing fields for sonic production and inhabits them. These small environments are filled with all sorts of noise-making contraptions that don’t just sound nice, they are amazing to watch.

The short film below is a tribute to Kim by filmmaker Todd Selby. He has the subject, Kim, become the narrative only lightly intervening with his own commentary until the end. Christine as living text is inspiring to anyone who is interested in sound as tapestry or in an immediacy of being.

Here’s a short interview with her from NOWNESS who I believe also sponsored the creation of Selby’s short.

[If you have a problem with the video loading… http://vimeo.com/31083172]

Monday, December 12, 2011

Unnur Andrea - Food and The Body Becoming One

Hello, I’m Pol Rosenthal and I’m guest curator for the next two weeks. It’s exciting and thank you to the Degenerates for giving me this wonderful opportunity to share the work of some artists I find interesting.

I’ll begin with Unnur Andrea of Iceland. Andrea is a performer, musician, and video artist. Presented below are three videos she made around 2005. Each deals with similar subject matter; each linked by explorations of the body, food, and the uncomfortable.

In one, Pastry, Andrea’s grandmother is covered in buns. Andrea’s friends eat them directly from her body. Her grandmother sits quietly and is well dressed. She seems a reflection of the Queen of England or a dowdy Mother of God.

In Service, a waitress paints a burger and fries in tar. She fills the coffee cup with hair pulled from her chest or bra. She serves it to her male patron. Her feet hurt from the inappropriate shoes she wears. It reminds me of Bunuel’s starving of the upper crust in his film, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

The final tableau is titled ‘Toilet’ and presents Andrea alone. A flushing toilet, one of the great inventions of this modernizing world, transubstantiated into a confection. The artist eats the reverent pastry.

Here’s a short interview with Andrea (that isn’t very good) that includes a link to her bio: http://videochannel.newmediafest.org/blog/?p=86

I hope you find the work of this young artist as exciting as I do. It’s a pleasure to share her work with others. Until tomorrow,
Pol Rosenthal