Category Archives: Installation

The Poetics Project

The Poetics,from right: John Miller, Tony Oursler, Mike Kelley, Bill Stobaugh, and John Arnheim

The Poetics,from right: John Miller, Tony Oursler, Mike Kelley, Bill Stobaugh, and John Arnheim

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’.

Still from Pole Dance by Mike Kelley, Tony Oursler and Anita Pace, 1997

Still from Pole Dance by Mike Kelley, Tony Oursler and Anita Pace, 1997

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).

The Poetics Project by Mike Kelley and Tony Oursler. Installation view at Centre Pompidou, Paris, featuring a projected interview with Genesis Breyer P Orridge (right)

The Poetics Project, installation view at Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2013, featuring a projected interview with Genesis Breyer P Orridge (right)

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!

Still from Synesthesia: Alan Vega by Tony Oursler

Still from Synesthesia: Alan Vega 1997-2011 by Tony Oursler

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.

Choccie Santas

Christmas.  Remember back in 2007 when Paul McCarthy turned commercial gallery Maccarone into a fully operational chocolate factory that made these?

Santa with a Buttplug chocolates by Paul McCarthy

Santa with a Buttplug chocolates by Paul McCarthy

Over six weeks, the factory produced and sold over 1,000 of these pricy chocolates/cheap sculptures daily (check it out in operation in the top video).  This year, he’s doing it all over again at the Monnaie de Paris as part of his first major solo exhibition in France.

Installation view of Paul McCarthy's Chocolate Factory

Installation view of Paul McCarthy’s Chocolate Factory at the Monnaie de Paris

Those of us in the antipodes can even get in on the festive action by purchasing McCarthy’s sweet treats online – choccie santas and the classic buttplugs – oh, I mean ‘trees’ – are $75 each.  Merry Christmas!

Three Great Things in NYC

In New York it goes without saying that you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to all things art related. Here are three of my top art experiences from my time away.

1. Ragnar Kjartansson Me, My Mother, My Father and I at the New Museum

Ragnar Kjartansson, 'Take me here by the dishwasher'

Ragnar Kjartansson, ‘Take me here by the dishwasher’ 2011/2014, installation view

Ten handsome young male troubadours milled about a dimly lit exhibition space, sitting on squabs, leaning against the wall, pulling beers out of a fridge.  They were singing the same song, in a heartstring pulling minor key, over and over again.  Initially it was all too schmaltzy, too earnest, but it didn’t take long to be sucked in.  This same group of singers occupied the exhibition space 6 days a week, eight hours a day, for FOUR MONTHS.  So there was a significant feat of endurance at play that cut through the frat boy prettiness.  On one of the gallery walls was a large video projection on a loop.  Shot in soft 70s hues, it featured a housewife and plumber arguing in a kitchen, before falling into an awkward embrace.  This was in fact the artist’s actor parents, starring in Iceland’s first feature film, Morðsaga (1977) and family legend has it that Kjartansson was conceived the night after the shoot.  Deciphering the lyrics to the troubadours’ song, which included the title of the work; Take Me Here by the Dishwasher: Memorial for a Marriage (2011/2014), added an element of humour that initially made me feel embarrassed about my indulgence in the sheer beauty of the thing.  And this is what makes Kjartansson’s work so great – he attempts to convey genuine emotion through melodrama, seeking sincerity within stereotypes.  This was one of the best works I have ever experienced.

2. Stephen Lichty at Foxy Production

Stephen Lichty, 'Untitled', 2014

Stephen Lichty, ‘Untitled’, 2014

LOL was surprised to discover that the commercial galleries in Chelsea were largely filled with big, bad paintings.  Lichty’s show, his first commercial solo, was a welcome antidote.  Containing only four works, each sculpture and installation was a refined study in the interplay of two corresponding materials –  a small square of basalt sat upon an identically sized block of steel, two strands of black Japanese silk knotted in the middle stretched floor to ceiling, Fred Sandback style.  In the back room, two bronze troughs filled to the brim with water bubbled ever so slightly as the water was pumped gently from one end to the other, emulating the basic functions of the human body, and oxidising the base of each object in the process.  These three works were foils to the show’s centrepiece, a single piece of naturally shaped basalt topped by a taxidermied cat.  Lichty worked closely with the taxidermist to ensure that the resting shape of the creature closely followed the form of the rock, the top of which he had polished by hand.  Speaking with the artist, Lichty mentioned that his hands were all over this show, an interesting observation given the slick and minimal result. Despite this, the work has real warmth – it’s distinctly human.  Lichty is one to watch.

3. Maria Lassnig Retrospective at MOMA PS1

Maria Lassnig, 'Lady with a Brain', 200

Maria Lassnig, ‘Lady with a Brain’, 1990

Lassnig was wild.  The Austrian painter’s tightly curated retrospective was presented chronologically, charting the artist’s progression from graphic abstraction to figural representation, when she began painting according to ‘body awareness’ – aiming to represent the way her body felt from the inside, rather than superficially.  Reveling in abjection and the monstrous feminine, her portraiture battled conventions of female beauty head on.  We’re presented with images of the artist naked, hairless, with her brains spilling out of the back of her head, or, iconically, toting two guns – one pointed at us, the other at herself.  This gritty, confrontational subject matter is matched by the most exquisite, fresh palette (helpfully amplified by the blonded wooden gallery floors). Lassnig was a brilliant colourist   Many works in the show that she made in the 70s look as if they could have been painted today, her singular aesthetic is resoundingly contemporary.  The Austrian painter began showing in New York in 2002 so the exhibition was timely.  Sadly Lassnig died in May this year aged 94.

(You can watch a video walk through of the show here).



Supersymmetry, a new installation recently launched by Ryoji Ikeda at the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media interprets quantum mechanics and quantum information theory from an aesthetic perspective. It looks incredible. More here.


Here’s footage of a show by Sarah Lucas at Tramway in Glasgow that contains, among other things, 2.5 metre long sculptural erections, smashed up cars and an enormous wanking hand.  Lucas was interviewed about the exhibition – her first solo in Scotland – by Teddy Jamieson from the Herald Scotland.  Describing her more prurient interests she stated: “I’ve always found the penis a really useful sculptural thing. I’ve always said, ‘When in doubt … knob.’”

(Also worth noting is Tramway’s commitment to video documentation of its exhibitions – an excellent resource for those unable to attend a show in the flesh).

So long, Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt in Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor, England in 1969, photographed by her husband Robert Smithson

Nancy Holt in Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor, England in 1969, photographed by her husband Robert Smithson

Visionary land artist, photographer, writer and film maker Nancy Holt has died aged 75.  She is perhaps best known for her Sun Tunnels (1973-76), situated in Utah’s Great Basin desert.  The work is comprised of four, five and a half metre pipes, aligned according to the sunrises and sunsets of the Summer and Winter solstices respectively.  Each tube bears perforations that, when in full sunlight, project the constellations Draco, Perseus, Columba and Capricorn upon their interiors.

Nancy Holt, 'Sun Tunnels: Sunset,' 1976

Nancy Holt, ‘Sun Tunnels: Sunset,’ 1976

Holt was only recently the subject of her first retrospective, Nancy Holt – Sightlines, organised and toured by the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University.  Her last project was the editing of her film, The Making of Amarillo Ramp (2013) (currently on display in the Dallas Museum of Art’s Robert Smithson in Texas show), which details the creation of her late husband and fellow land artist Robert Smithson’s sandstone earthwork in Texas in 1973.

Prada Marfa Under Fire

Installation view of Elmgreen and Dragset's 'Prada Marfa', 2005

Installation view of Elmgreen and Dragset’s ‘Prada Marfa’, 2005

Elmgreen and Dragset’s Prada Marfa installation is under threat.  Occupying a desolate stretch of Texas highway, the faux store was created by the Scandinavian duo in 2005 and funded by New York non-profit organisation the Art Production Fund.  Its presence has been compromised thanks to a legal dispute earlier this year over a Playboy-sponsored Richard Phillips installation a few miles down the road.

The Texas Department of Transportation classified Phillips’ large ironwork version of the infamous bunny logo as a sign, not an artwork, and has called for its removal because it violates the 1965 Highway Beautification Act (which prevents logos being posted along the highway without a special permit).

Elmgreen and Dragset see the branding on Prada Marfa as essential, stating that “It was meant as a critique of the luxury goods industry, to put a shop in the middle of the desert.” Because the artists are displaying the Prada logo on land where that is prohibited however, their work, too, has now been classified by the Department as an “illegal outdoor advertising sign”.

With the Department of Transportation “still working on the matter”, the fate of Prada Marfa now hangs in the balance.  “If they want to remove it because of bureaucracy, we tear it down,” say Elmgreen and Dragset. “And then we can say that one of the quite well-known permanent artworks – that hasn’t cost taxpayers anything and that has been elected one of the most-worth-seeing roadside attractions in the States – is no longer.”