All works are from Welcome to Wyoming, Alan Vega’s recent exhibition at Invisible Exports in New York.
MOMA Chief Curator at Large Klaus Biesenbach’s current Bjork show is getting viciously panned. It seems that the narcissistic curator has lost the confidence of MOMA’s board, with only two of the 66 board members attending the opening of the exhibition, which was described by one of the gallery’s trustees as looking like “a nightclub in Ibiza.” Ouch! (You can read more takedowns of the show here). Perhaps it’s time for Biesenbach to stop spending so much time staring at himself (his Instagram is out of control), step away from the pop programming and concentrate more closely on the integrity of his shows. Or alternatively, he could continue on his downward spiral and curate a James Franco show – surely that would be the final nail in the coffin.
Artist Dustin Yeller and art collective Bazaar Teens are shredding $10,000 and using the remnants to create 10 paintings, that will sell for $10,000 each at this year’s Spring/Break Art Show in New York. Yawn. Oh, but that’s not all! According to Yeller, the profits from the sold works will “go toward the creation of eight grants for high school seniors interested in pursuing art.” Ok.
Yeller says; “The piece raises a lot of questions. “What happens if these paintings are failures aesthetically? Are they beautiful because of their intention? Will they still get sold? You can view it as a painting, or as potential for a graduating senior.” How incredibly tired and gimmicky and empty. This project is about as interesting as Francesca Eastwood’s destruction of a $100,000 Birkin bag in the name of art.
None of this even touches the KLF’s incineration of of one millon pounds in a disused boat house in Scotland in 1994, and these guys did it just for the hell of it.
Ervon Todd’s show closes at City Gallery Wellington on March 2nd (well, the bit including her 2009 Wall of Man series does anyway), so if you’re in Welly, make sure you check it out if you haven’t done so already. And here’s a short blog post I wrote on the Wall of Man blokes for the City Gallery blog.
Men don’t appear often in Yvonne Todd’s work. The first was Founding CEO (2008), a large, standalone portrait of a silver haired gentleman exuding a powerful sense of paternal authority. A year later, a whole troop appeared – 12 in total – including Family Doctor, who I first encountered at Ivan Anthony’s stand at the 2009 Auckland Art Fair, peering out, hand on chin, in a position of contrived benevolence. Todd fans build up an appetite for certain things – kitschy costumes, buck teeth, bad wigs. Family Doctor was different. He was so ordinary.
Todd had been interested in creating a body of work featuring actual male accountants arranged into a large-scale montage but decided that “the idea and the reality would not necessarily align and I was limiting myself by being too specific”. Instead, she placed an advertisement in her local newspaper The North Shore Times, calling for mature male models between the ages of 65 and 75. Her criteria were simple – they had to be “reasonably well groomed and socially functional”.
We’re all familiar with the visual language of the corporate portrait, featuring confident ‘experts’ with steely gazes and assertive body language, and Todd encouraged her resulting sitters to play the part. She clad them in formal shirts and jackets selected from local op shops and bestowed them with impressive titles like International Sales Director, Company Founder and Agrichemical Spokesman.
In front of the camera, Todd’s male models knew what to do. Retired Urologist squints smugly through his piss tinted glasses, Chief Financial Officer brandishes a fancy pen and Senior Executive smiles so calmly that we almost don’t notice his missing segment of finger. Part board room posturing, part amateur acting roll call, Todd’s blokes enact a strange form of mimicry.
The artist destabilises their authority through artifice. What at first glance appears to be resoundingly familiar slowly unravels as the sitters’ authenticity is called into question. Perhaps this is why I managed to convince myself, after looking at Founding CEO for too long, that his entire face was actually a rubber mask that could be peeled away at the edges, revealing the true subject beneath.
 Email correspondence between the writer and Yvonne Todd, Tuesday the 7th of February 2015.
 Yvonne Todd, ‘Yvonne Todd in Conversation with Serena Bentley’, Wall of Seahorsel, ex. cat., 2011
This June Marina Abramovic is bringing her raging ego to Sydney. She’s delivering a new work for Kaldor Public Art Projects entitled Marina Abramovic: In Residence, which basically involves her hanging out at Pier 2/3 at Walsh Bay and teaching people a series of ‘mind-expanding’ exercises known as the Marina Abramovic Method. (The video above features Gaga practising said method, try not to laugh too much, it’s SERIOUS STUFF). MONA are going to be presenting an Abramovic retrospective at the same time too. Hopefully it includes lots of her old work (like the classic Art Must Be Beautiful vid below), before she totally lost the plot.
The late Mike Kelly was known for his work with Destroy All Monsters, a band he formed in 1973 in Detroit with Jim Shaw, Niagara and filmmaker Carey Loen, but audiences might be less familiar with The Poetics, an art rock band he played in with fellow artist Tony Oursler. The loosely assembled group kicked around between 1977 and 1983 and worked on various projects including a radio show, a sound track and a dance piece involving mop poles entitled ‘The Pole Dance’.
During that period Oursler kept notes from each of the Poetics brainstorming sessions, later used as inspiration for The Poetics Project Installation created by Oursler and Kelly in the late 1990s at Metro Arts in New York that went on to tour internationally. Together, they re-examined the projects they’d begun in the 70s, re-mastering and releasing old tracks, re-executing The Pole Dance and creating an installation that was hailed by the New York Times as the ‘most irritating show in New York City’ (to Mike Kelley’s delight).
Both artists were interested in exploring the conventions of documentary video and ‘rockumentaries’, and one element of the installation was Synesthesia, a suite of videos by Oursler featuring interviews with twelve legendary underground figures of the downtown New York art and music scene in the 1970s and 80s. Participants included Genesis Breyer P Orridge, Lydia Lunch, Kim Gordon and Suicide’s Alan Vega. Sadly difficult to watch online!
There are however some great texts about the project written by Kelly and Oursler respectively that you can read here and here. And you can watch Tony Oursler talk about The Poetics Project in situ in its 2013 incarnation at the Pompidou Centre here.