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January 12, 2005

This and That

Back briefly to point the way to a smattering of news and views.

First... If it's January in Chicago, you know what that means: aberrant weather and then some. Record high in the 60s today. Thunderstorm and flood advisories to boot. By Friday: forecasted high below 20 (revised up from sub-zero temps).

Rest assured that I'm not letting this allow me to shirk my duties around here, however. No, lack of posting is due to something else entirely.

Anyways, onward to a rundown of all that captures my fancy...

Our Man Henry

Tomorrow night is the Chicago premiere of Jessica Yu's In the Realms of the Unreal, a film about Chicago's own outsider par excellence, Henry Darger. Part documentary on Darger's life, part animated exploration of his work, the film features the voices of Dakota Fanning and Larry Pine, as well as interviews with some of Darger's few acquaintances and neighbors.

Proceeds from Thursday's premiere at the Siskel Film Center will benefit Intuit. General admission is $45 (Film Center and Intuit members, $35; students and AIC faculty and staff, $15).

Too rich for you? It will also be showing at the Music Box beginning Friday the 21st. You can join me then.

Some folks out west already got to see the film when it screened at the Hammer Museum on the 5th (and it hit the festival circuit before that): insurgent.muse and Rarified Air have the skinny.

An Institutional Burden

The hot item of the day in Artblogiana has to be this little shake-up at UCLA (abLA picks it up from Artnet News):

Last week a rumor shot through the California art world. Artists Chris Burden and Nancy Rubins (his wife) had resigned their positions as teachers in UCLA's art department after an art student loaded a gun and fired it during an art performance in class. Apparently, Burden wanted the student to be reprimanded, but the university administration demurred, leading to the resignations. Both the artists and the school are mum on the matter. Burden, of course, is known for a 1971 performance piece, Shoot, in which he had himself shot in the arm with a .22 rifle.

A comment at abLA suggests some further details, that the student in question "played Russian roulette in front of his new genres class." Scary shit, if this proves more than a casual locution, and I think prefectly legitimate grounds for a reprimand if not expulsion. Whatever the case, it is a classroom for God's sake. Let's leave the steel back at the avant-garde cabaret.

Caryn pegs Burden's reaction as ironic (Kriston too, it would seem). I'm not so sure I'd call it that, as I'd have to imagine he feels some sense of responsibility in response to this affair and, accordingly, some cumpulsion to act. [*Update: Kriston has since updated with a clarification and a fair share of indignation to level at UCLA.]

Then again, maybe Burden is just pissed at the inevitable academicization of his own avant-gardism. As if it weren't enough that the Conceptualists' objects and documents have, against all predictions, managed to rematerialize out in the vulgar art market, now Burden's shocking act has become a sort of token classroom gesture. The real irony here, and its a perrenial one: how institutional is our avant-garde?

Back in the abLA comments, Mark points out that Mat Gleason was on top of this a month ago, quoting a email that tipped him off to it. This may be little more than pure bloviation, but, absent the facts, I withhold judgment:

When you consider what this character did as a performance you gotta wonder why. Can you say hypocritical? Can you say cry-baby?
Seems Burden is lookin to crucify some kid to save his own bloated egotistical ass. It gets better. There are issues at play that are gonna ring real loud if they get beyond the walls which are currently protecting them. This is gonna be interesting.
I know this kids story. He aint no huff & puff typical student art fag. He is out on a limb. I invoke the spirit of G.G. Allin to come to his aid. Check it out, you'll see why. Right now he is waging a war against Chris, Nancy, Lari, etc. that i think you might appreciate.
They don't want the media involved. You'll see why.

My favorite response of all today comes from Sarah Hromack (with rhetorical chops like these, Sarah's grad school aps ought to blow 'em all away—so to speak):

What is it about the work of Burden and company that causes art students (most especially self-conscious boys, it seems) to blatantly imitate their conceptual hijinks? I suspect several answers to my own question, and none of them are simple. Thereís a point in an art studentís undergraduate career, somewhere around sophomore year, where one has completed basic art history requirements and moves past 1945 to more conceptual/ performative works. Everyone is sick of drawing figures, painting still-lives, and cutting up Coloraid, and on the verge of dropping out from sheer, mind-numbing boredom. Grandpa Art Professor gathers us around for a blessing with west coast fairytales, and within weeks, everyone is rolling in ketchup and shitting in their pants.
Yes, obviously, Burden and his fellow glass-eaters are crucial to the history of American performance art. Yes, we should learn about them as students. And yes, learning is a process sometimes best done through imitation and repetition. But how many sledgehammers have to be taken to innocent watermelons? How many heads cut off deer, dead dogs covertly stored in studios, childhood stuffed-animals lasciviously defaced? Way to go, self-indulgant, testosterone-driven undergrad. You ruined it for everyone.

I say chalk it up to the romantic lure of arch radicalism. If a bit of dook in the dungarees is what it takes to smash up the Society of the Spectacle, then so be it. Viva la Résistance!

How bourgeois is the derivative radical?

Julia Friedman Reloads

Also of note from today's Artnet News...

I see that erstwhile West Looper Julia Friedman reopens in NYC on February 4. The gallery's inaugural show at their new Chelsea location, Wanderlust, features work from Jacques de Beaufort, Katy Fischer, Pablo Helguera, Torbjørn Rødland, Santiago Cucullu, Johannes VanDerBeek, and Daniel Arsham.

James Wagner recently said of Joymore's move from Chicago to Williamsburg, "Chicago's loss is our gain for sure."

Let me echo this sentiment (from this end of the stick) re: Friedman.

New Art for Grant Park

At its January meeting today, the Chicago Park District is expected to formally approve the acceptance of a large work by Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz. Agora (or, as the Sun-Times would have it, "Angora") consists of 100 cast-iron figures, headless and 9 feet tall, and will be installed in 2006 toward the south end of Grant Park near the corner of Michigan and Roosevelt.

The work is a bit of Sister Cities cultural diplomacy courtesy of the artist, the Polish Ministry of Culture and "a private Polish foundation." (For the guests, some well-worn Chicago trivia: until fairly recently our fair city's Polish population was exceeded only by that of Warsaw, though we now face challenges from such upstarts as Krakow and Lodz.)

Of the new work Bob O'Neill, president of the Grant Park Advisory Council, says, "It's edgy... You'll be able to walk around the 'people.'" O'Neill also predicts "it will be the most talked-about Chicago sculpture installation since the Picasso in Daley Plaza" (the Tribune's words). A hot Polish sausage poised to outdo Anish Kapoor's chopped liver just up the road? Is there some sort of interpark rivalry we don't know about?

Form Forsakes Function

While we're moving up that road to Millennium Park... I see today that Gehry's lovely, serpentine bridge over Columbus Drive was closed down when the snow and ice hit this past week. Why? The Trib has the scoop [via New (sub)Urbanism, via City Comforts Blog]:

The deck of the $14.5 million span was built using 2,000 planks of Brazilian hardwood. Rock salt would damage the wood, and park officials also discounted using the only other obvious snow-removal technique.
"It's over Columbus [Drive], so it's not like we are going to go out there and shovel it and dump it on the cars," said Helen Doria, executive director of Millennium Park.
Until it snowed heavily at the park, which opened in July, officials were not aware that wintry weather would force them to close the bridge, Doria said.
Gehry did not return phone calls to his office in Los Angeles.
Getting you to the other side of a street or river is not always the main goal when a bridge is designed, experts said.
But Nair said Gehry does not necessarily deserve harsh criticism for his choice of material.
"This is really not the kind of structure that has to be usable every day," Nair said. "Maybe it's reasonable to put the aesthetic considerations over practical matters."

"This and That"
Posted by Dan at 07:14 PM


Glad to see that Julia has resurfaced. Sometimes "moving to NY" is euphemism for "going out of business." Continue to be very fond of Katy Fischer's ball point pen drawings. People of NY, go see this gallery.

Posted by: Cynthia on January 14, 2005 at 12:36 PM

Referenced in this post:

A Joshua Tree In Every Pot: Hey, Everybody, Let's Put On An Avant-Garde Show!
Art.Blogging.LA: Speaking of irony...
Artnet News 1/11/05
Chicago Park District
Chicago Sister Cities International Program
Chicago Sun-Times: Exhibit may make you feel like a kid again—Andrew Herrmann
Chicago Tribune: Park spares the salt and closes the bridge—Dan Mihalopoulos and Hal Dardick
Chicago Tribune: Polish gift to Chicago--100 sculptures
Chicago Tribune: Unauthorized Chicago
City Comforts Blog: But it's art!
Editor's Life Unedited: I Get Emails...
Forward Retreat: January 12, 2005
Forward Retreat: Let's Play 'Think About It'
Grammar.police: Goose, Gander, and Guns/Do the Right Thing!
IMDb.com: Dakota Fanning
IMDb.com: Larry Pine
Iconoduel: Farewell, Mr. Darger
Iconoduel: Our Institutional Revolutionary Party
In the Realms of the Unreal
Insurgent.muse: In the Realms of the Unreal
Intuit: Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
JamesWagner.com: Joymore
Julia Friedman Gallery
Magdalena Abakanowicz
Marlborough Gallery: Magdalena Abakanowicz
Music Box Theatre
New (sub)Urbanism: Snow closes Chicago's Millennium Park Bridge
Rarified Air
Rarified Air: In the Realms of the Unreal
Siskel Film Center
UCLA Hammer Museum