I just finished reading Sarah Thornton's Seven Days in the Art World
It is an interesting read for any artists or person interested in the art world. But it's dogged focus on the commercial side of things prompted me to write this letter to her....
To Sarah Thorton
I have just finished reading your book, Seven Days in the Art World, and I wanted to tell you what an amazing book it was and a great peek into the international art world. But what I felt was a gaping omission from the book was any description of the more alternative side of the art world. The only chapter that didn't revolve in some way around the commercial aspect of the art world was the chapter on the crit.
I run an Artist Run Gallery in Melbourne Australia that is completely run by volunteers and takes no commission on sales. It is this part of the art world that I am most passionate about and try to put my energy into. I recently went to New York, not to see the galleries in Chelsea, or in Soho, but to see the alternative spaces in Brooklyn. Every part of the world must have amazingly talented artists who will never appeared in Artforum or at the Venice biennial or even be represented by a big name commercial gallery. That are working tirelessly out there making interesting things happen and are involved in the creation of work that is a lot more interesting than what is being shown in the main stream.
That said, your book was an amazing glimpse into a world that seems alien to me which is a great thing about it. A chapter about the unsuccessful much larger side of the art world might be a boring experience for the reader any way. I will be following your writing from now on, thank you for a great book.
Cory Arcangel was at the Whitney when I was in New York. I saw it on the first day I was there in a Jet lagged funk, so everything seemed a little surreal to me. And hear was this show that had a focus on old technologies that was so related to my own current research. The first room that you came to was this huge high ceiling cavernous room with the bowling work that is described in the video below. Each projection was so big that the "bowler" was almost life size, which added to the horror that Cory discusses. Instead of doctoring the cartridge to bowl gutter balls each time he doctored the game controllers to do it which was a little bit of detail that I appreciated.
There was also a work based around a play station golf game which he had doctored the actual game disk. You could interact and play the game but no matter what you did the ball would always shoot off to the far left of the screen. The security guard who was looking after it though it was a great old joke.
It turns out that Cory Arcangel also did "Super Mario Clouds" a work that I saw some time in 2007 and inspired me to explore a similar trajectory. And directly inspired my last show "Cutting Edge Gadgets", the way that I set it out and my own Mario cloud work. After I saw this work I spent months looking at sights on Modifying technologies. Which stopped me dead in my tracks for a long time until I realised I could get the effects I wanted through film editing techniques.
Lee Ufan "Marking Infinity" was showing at The Guggenheim when I was in New York. I had never heard of this artist before I walked into The Guggenheim for the first time. Above is the add for the show, it is a bit bad, but there is quite a good doco on the Guggenheim web site. I was straight away put in mind of Joseph Beuys work and the images of his retrospective that he had at The Guggenheim in 1979, 32 years ago and incidentally in the year I was born. There is a similarity between the two artists that is discussed in the documentary on the gallery's web site. They both use very similar materials, felt and iron and use the space in a similar way. The two artists also have a similar spiritual element to there work, similarities that grew up around the same time on different sides of the world. I spent a lot of the time I was at The Guggenheim talking about Joseph Beuys and Mathew Barney.
Auckland Airport 11.30am
Auckland has been a breath of fresh air since my American experience.
The people are all so nice and helpful. And the security guards all wear these almost comical powder blue uniforms that scream, I’m soft and fuzzy, you can tickle my stomach...or something like that. And the air port is so small and un hurried, out the windows are the usual views of tarmac and scuttling people. And just beyond are beautiful flowing green hills and lakes. It is not really like any air port I have seen before.
It is making me realised how much it was stressing me out just having to deal with the people in new york in the day to day goings on. They are all so full on, impatient and unhelpful. Also, the toilets are normal hear, the sigh of relief when I realised I didn’t have to worry about the water lapping at my bottom and splashing my hand.
The first person I spoke to hear, asked me what they were like in New York. And told me how people who come to NZ from there are always amazed at how nice people are hear. It was a nice little debrief we had. I will be back in Melbourne in a few hours now. I have been thinking a lot about the Edinburg castle. Might go there with Merryon for dinner this week I think. J
Somewhere over the ocean 2 hours from NZ
3:47am Australian time, 1:47pm NYC time
I managed to get to about 18 galleries on that last day in NYC all around the Lower East Side (LES). The area feels a lot like Richmond in the Vietnamese section Victoria Street. Lots of grocers, cheap tailors and restaurants ect ect. And I remember thinking to myself that it smells exactly the same as its Melbourne equivalent. Not a bad smell, but very distinctive.
Once again a lot of the galleries were of the commercial gallery ilk. And there were a few really stand out examples of Art wankers who were so engrossed in the work that they couldn’t be bothered acknowledging you. One space had these two people, in full arts worker look discussing contacting some gallery or other while they stared at their giant Mac’s. The whole time there was this Vietnamese father and his little son struggling to get the door open and calling out for help. In another place the woman there asked me if my photos were for private use (I had already asked another staff member if I could take some shots) When I told her I was a teacher she was suddenly interested in where I taught. I promptly told her, some where in Melbourne. Oh, Australia, she replied in a tone, and went back to her office. At least she knew of Melbourne and where it was in the world, unlike some other people I have spoken too.
That said there were some nice and friendly people along the way as well, one woman reminded me so much of The Nanny (remember that sitcom) it was brilliant, she was lovely in a “I’m not sure what the answer is” right now...sort of way. And there were a few smaller alternative spaces along the way as well. One that had only just opened by a husband and wife team, which I was happy to have found.
11.00 LA time
Back at LAX, and about to get on a plane that is going to Auckland then Melbourne, seems a roundabout way for me to go. Having stomach pains and have had a head ache since the start of the day.
I spent the last full day in New York touring around the galleries in the Lower East Side. It seems that the summer hasn’t affected the galleries in the area in the same way as it affected the Brooklyn galleries. Some of the spaces were really amazing which comes along with the age of the spaces in a lot of cases. And there were one or two that made really good and interesting use of their basements (since almost all the places in NY have basements). There was some work that I really loved (I will give more details at a later ). Got to go, my plane is boarding.
Spent a bit more time in Chelsea looking at gallery’s, the area is amazing in the quantity of spaces it has, the guide I picked up has over 100 gallery’s listed just in the Chelsea arts area which is only a small part of the suburb. And all of the work I saw was of a very high standard. But all of the spaces I have seen are all very commercial and dripping in money which doesn’t really float my boat.
And all of the spaces that are more the Artist Run Space, not for profit are all closed or keeping strange hours because of the summer. Which has been a bit of a bummer, I certainly picked the wrong time of year to check out the gallery’s in NYC.
But I did get to get a tour of ABC No Rio today thanks to connections that John made during his road trip across America. ABC No Rio was set up as a community arts and activism centre in 1980. The current building was amazing, ramshackle in disrepair and well lived in. The computer room was more like a museum of Apples with one pc. All systems that were donated or scavenged. The walls were covered with graffiti and art works that had been installed for years. And I believe that they had one payed worker at some stage. It hasn’t been sanitised yet, but that is very soon to change.
It soon is to be demolished and rebuilt as the current building so run down that it wouldn’t be worth renovating. It is a real shame that they have to upgrade and clean up. But it also seems like a necessary evil as the current building and facilities are going to not last all that much longer. It made me wonder what Footscray Community Art Centre must have been like in its early days. I wonder if it was as down to earth and dirty as this place. I imagine there would have been fewer meetings. :)
There was even a cat like at Footscray and Brun
8/7/2011 Friday 6.05
I have been excited about an invite I picked up for a show for most of the time I have been hear. An artist called David Krepfle had a show called Tonka Trucks, and in the invite it looks like he has hung the tonka’s on the wall. Although the few mentions of him and this show on line describe the Tonka’s stacked in the same way that I do it.
So get this, The show is at Brooklyn Library, I find my way over there, it's a bit of a mission, and a wee bit confusing. I walk in and ask where the current show is, because all I can see is lame paintings of local streets. I pull out the post card for another look and the invisible 2002 jumps out at me. The show was on 9 years ago..... How did we miss that? Just too excited about the Tonka’s and the July to August dates to look to much closer.
After that miss adventure I went to the Transit museum because it was sort of close. The Transit Museum is in an old Disused Sub-way station in Brooklyn near this huge old fashioned court house. The first level you hit is all displays about the building of the subway, the now defunct Cable cars (Trams), the buses and the artwork in the subway system. Then the next level where the tracks are just has a long line of carriages from all of the different eras. I loved the space age 50’s ones the most myself. There was lots of cool stuff but I got a little board, I think that my love of public transport goes hand in hand with my love of Australian history. Any way there are pics if your on my face book page.
So I decide to go back to New Museum because new shows had started. On the way I saw some guy get beaten up by 3 other guys and a broom stick. That was a little disturbing. Got to New and they were still installing the shows, so there web site was wrong. Decided to go to Greenwich Village but my train didn’t stop at the stop I expected it to so I just called it a day.
The Guggenheim was the most amazing feeling building that I have ever been in. It’s almost like it is made ice cream cake frosting, it is so white and smooth, rounded but still heavy. If you walked up the curving ramp, but instead of looking at the art work you looked forward you got vertigo from all the angles of the wall and floor. When at the top it almost looks like an optical illusion when you look back down at all the other levels and you see the people all walking in different directions. But somehow, with all of these distractions it still works really well as an gallery.
The show in the main gallery was by the artist Lee Ufan who’s work is reminiscent of Joseph Beuys work. I also go to see some Kandinsky works in the flesh which was very exciting as he is one of my favourite painters. And I got to see $100 000 American $1 bills attached to the walls of a gallery in Hans-Peter Feldmann. It was pure horror not being able to take a photo.
7/7/2011 Thursday 10.09
Today was probably the biggest fizzer for finding galleries. All but one of the galleries I found my way to were closed or keeping weird hours for the summer. But it was one of the coolest days because of the place I was wandering through. North Brooklyn felt a little like Brunswick, lots of interesting shops and strange suburbia. Walking around the back streets I started to see how easy it was to find Jim Jarmusch style urban/city waste lands. Brilliant! And there were lots of religious icons and American flags about the place. The one gallery that was open was Like the spice gallery. I didn’t much like the art work a whole lot, but I got into a conversation with the woman who was there, she was very helpful and tried to point me in the right direction. Thankyou Olivia. I also found an old school hatter that I had to go into and buy a hat. The old guy who served me had a mumble and maybe a South American accent. But we got on pretty well, seemed to have similar taste in hats. They didn’t have any of the green ones I liked, and I didn’t like the cut of the blue one I tried on. So I ended up getting the brown straw hat for the New York heat. It was an interesting mix of ethnicities all working in the one place, there was a African American, a Jewish guy and my old south American chap, just something I noticed. There were big yellow school bus loads of little Jewish Kids with their Jewish curls getting driven around as well. Cute. J I had lunch at a very cool little bar called Fatty ‘Cue, curious in amongst the urban waste land. The bar maid was really nice chatting with me about this and that and extolling the wonders of the food. The burger had a sour kick to it and was served with raw celery and radish and it all went together perfectly. Also for the first time someone asked me if I was from Australia, an Ethiopian fellow who was working at the 99c store I went into this arvo. He was very pleased when he had gotten it right. And even more so when I told him I was from Melbourne, he got talking about the large Ethiopian population in Melbourne. So I spoke about working in Footscray and we bonded a wee bit. That was a nice meeting; put a smile on my face. That 99c store was selling pregnancy test kits, I saw one get lifted down off the wall and sold. Random things that shouldn’t be sold in plastic kingdoms.