Archive for November, 2013

A night out at Performa, November 18th, 2013


Clifford Owens, Photographs with an Audience (Houston), Hold #1 and Hold #2, 2011 (detail) 2 c-prints, 20 by 24 inches (each)

Finding out more about the artist later, I realized my three-minute experience could have been different had I done my homework before, but not necessarily better.

We signed up for the performance, and when we got there we were told we would each have 3 minutes alone in a room with what turned out to be one performer. We signed a waiver which was quite long, the most salient points of it seeming to be that we were not to describe our experience to anyone, after (which is why of course I’m describing it now).

I watched the first two people come in and out intact with no readily interpretable expressions on their faces. I was ushered in, after a loud knock informed the facilitator that the performer was ready. I found myself in a pitch-black room, reminding me of other times I’d been in pitch-black rooms, at other performances.

A voice asked me if I could hear him, and to identify where I thought he was. He then provided some simple directions to navigate around the room, at one point taking my hand, asking me to stand in one corner or the next. In the first corner he asked me to say something, anything I wanted. Realizing he had expectations for me to be more interesting, I immediately became bereft of thought. In the second corner he told me to ask him any question, any question at all. I felt very badly because the only question that came to mind was whether he had any clothes on or not. I countered instead with a position of social nicety, and asked him if his background was in Performance Art. He said, somewhat dramatically, “I have no background”.  I could feel myself being propelled towards what I knew, now that my eyes had adjusted to the light, was the exit. I stifled the impulse to apologize for being so boring. Feeling summarily dismissed, I had the nasty feeling for the rest of the evening that I’d been on a very unsuccessful date, but at least it only lasted three minutes.


New York, 2008 – 2013


NEW YORK CITY,  November 14, 2013

(original post for Akimbo)

Lucy Hogg‘s work is on view until December 22 in Quotation, a group exhibition curated by Pan Wendt at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. She currently lives in New York City, after having moved from Vancouver in 2003. Since shifting from a painting practice five years ago, her recent work is photo-based. Her photography examines the contexts in which art is exhibited and made, while relating those situations to the material aspects of everyday life. Her painting projects were also parasitical and looked at the history of 17th, 18th, and 19th Century painting from the point of view of gender. She also has a secret life as a photojournalist.

Mike Kelley

1. Mike Kelley at P.S.1

The first time I went to this show I was struck by how Kelley wasn’t exempt from channeling the styles of each succeeding decade: early drawings typical of student work of the early 70s, precocious performance with minimalist props documented by grainy video in the late 70s, bratty large black and white drawings of the 80s (Borofsky and Pettibone come to mind), slacker stuffed-toy installations of the early 90s, and then the pumped up video/stage-set extravaganzas of the last years. Although that is a bare listing of the breadth of his production, his work channeled all possible modes of art production over the last thirty-five years. The second time I went I realized how many of my students over the last twenty years have completely absorbed his gestalt. I felt like I was reliving my entire teaching past.

2. Amie Siegel at Simon Preston Gallery


This show is down, but Siegel is now on my Google alert list. Provenance traces the path of a 1950s Corbusier chair, originally designed for a government complex in Chandigarh also designed by “Corbu,” in what was then the government capital of the new Indian state of Punjab. Framed in its own modernist aesthetic, the film is a luxurious travelogue of interiors that seem to be continually sliding past as you follow the chair’s trajectory backwards from its final resting place in a chic London loft to the auction house where it was sold to a high end refinishing factory to a shipping container gliding across oceans to moldering in piles in the deteriorating modernist buildings in India where it began life. What we don’t see is any documentation of its first incarnation. That moment is irretrievable.

3. Omer Fast at the Rose Art Museum


I haven’t seen this particular installation, but I saw 5000 Feet is the Best in 2011 at the Venice Biennale and went back twice to take it all in. Off-camera, a former drone operator describes the technical aspects of his job and its psychological difficulties. A re-enactment depicts a lonely alienated figure sequestered in a low-end hotel room sandwiched between glimpses of the outskirts of Las Vegas. This is woven among three other narratives of grifters in casinos, an American suburban family suddenly becoming refugees, and a man impersonating a train operator. Fast’s work is a contemporary version of history painting. It attempts to recall events that otherwise seem to be forgotten, as one failed military intervention replaces memories of the previous one. If digital archiving doesn’t fail us, we’ll be looking at this work fifty years from now to try to make sense of these histories.

4. Sophie Calle at Paula Cooper Gallery


I’ve read about Rachel, Monique before, and reading about it can almost seem like enough, but to spend time among the artifacts of her ruminations on her mother’s life and death is like spending time in someone else’s apartment while they are absent, with instructions that you go through their papers. Her work is too easily written off as sentimental, but the only other place I’ve seen that kind of vulnerability treated is in the typological displays of Mike Kelley’s homemade comfort toys (or “transitional objects”). Compared to the objects in Calle’s installation, Kelley’s seem stuck in emotional stasis, unable to move on.

5. Bagels


I had a conflicted response when I heard that Montreal bagels could now be bought at the Whole Foods store in Union Square. They will become slightly less exotic, but I will still keep booking flights from NYC to PEI that connect at the Montreal airport where you can buy them fresh, a dozen at time.

Looking Forward

catalogue essay for Annual Report

a solo exhibition by Jim Rieck at Lyons Wier Ortt Gallery, New York, 2008.


Jim Rieck’s paintings are large. Their slices of suited bodies, sourced in annual reports depersonalize their already impersonal sources. Found together in a room, these paintings’ monumental, pristine surfaces make the rest of us feel just a bit smaller and a little too tactile. Maybe even mortal.

The paintings’ cropped compositions remind us of the impersonal capture of the camera’s lens. They focus our attention on the gesture of the body. These are bodies all too aware of the ritual moment at hand, the posed-corporate, post-corporeal moment.

Like all the people in Rieck’s paintings, these headless men and women are trapped in their clothes. Across an adagio of pinstripe, discrete plaid and a dominate matte black, our attention is drawn to a series of hands at rest. The gestures are chaste, hands resting on laps as if not knowing what to do with themselves. One can hear the panty-hosed thighs rubbing together, or the gabardine pant legs crossing and uncrossing at a long board meeting. The climate is controlled, the coffee is predictable, and casual Friday is nowhere in sight.

The history of the commemorative, corporate moment goes back at least to Frans Hals, although his businessmen seemed like they were having more fun. But Hals’ compositions have much in common with the corporate portrait of today. Rieck’s paintings draw our attention to the abstraction that can be found in both: the rhythm of gesture, the angle of pose, the neutral formality of dress and the relation of one body to another. But we can get a little too close to these modern bodies. Replacing their lost heads with our own, we take on their gestures. We are ‘holding’ ourselves for the camera, but the instant of the shutter’s release is extended into the painful posterity of a painting.


Frans Hals, The Regents of Saint Elisabeth Hospital, 1641