April 29, 2015

Art Blogger of The Week: Naomi Hart in Los Angeles, USA

Naomi Hart, photographed by Brandon T. Johnson

Naomi Hart and I share a passion for art education and I'm so excited that in her blog Art Adventurer Naomi focuses on that niche of "education, learning, risk-taking and creativity". She recently moved from the UK to Los Angeles and therefore she has a pretty good idea of how different approaches to art education can be. In comparison, I can only get a little frustrated in Germany where art education is not very high on the list. For inspiration, check out Naomi's blog! And if you want to know more: Naomi has also a second blog about her own art. And you can follow her on twitter.

Art scene in LA
"LA is a massive city and the visual art scene in the LA area is hugely diverse.  Put simply, there are a huge number of spaces that show art, but the work shown varies vastly, as does the reason the work is shown and the vibe of the space itself.  There are a number of very well established art museums that show contemporary art, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art and LACMA.  There are also a huge number of private and commercial galleries, some of which showcase emerging contemporary talent and many others that show depressing mediocre work destined for the walls of wealthy and unadventurous wannabe art collectors.  I'm still very much discovering the art scene here, while I've spent a lot of time in LA I only actually moved here last year.  In my view, one of the coolest things about the LA art scene are the "Art Walks" that happen regularly around the city.  These are weekend-long events which invite all the art spaces - galleries, studios, pop-up performance venues, within a particular area to throw open their doors to the public.  You can grab a drink and great food from local food trucks and roam around, moving between voyeuristic glimpses into artists' wonderfully messy studio spaces and sterile gallery spaces.  It's a great way of looking at all kinds of different work and as an artist I find it so motivating to see so many artists working away at a grassroots level.  I think it's a healthy and inspiring alternative to always viewing the work of the select few that have made it into the collections of the established art institutions.  For me, as an artist and an art lover, Art Walks always offer a great opportunity to talk to other artists about their work, scope out interesting exhibition spaces, navigate your path through some awful and some amazing art and hang out with a crowd of engaged and excited art lovers." 

Why I blog
"I am an artist and an educator.  In addition to making art, I used to work as a full time art teacher and head of the art faculty at a huge secondary school in the North-East of England.  I'm as madly passionate about education as I am about art, and when I decided to take a year-long sabbatical from my job and spend it in LA focusing on my own art practice and doing some research into art education within the art museums in Los Angeles, I needed somewhere to share my observations and experiences.  I've always been interested in writing about art education and I've had a few articles published in art ed publications in the UK, and when I returned from the sabattical I was encouraged to submit my research to an academic journal.  I was skeptical, but I decided to have a go.  To cut a long story short, it was rejected for not quite being academic enough in tone and structure, which was absolutely fair.  It lead me to think a lot about how important it is to share ideas, experiences and concerns about art education but I realized that my day-to-day writing existed somewhere slightly outside of the academic realm.  I already had a blog for my artwork, but it was really liberating (and slightly scary) to set up my Art Adventurer blog and have somewhere to post my writing.  Now, my blog contains quick ideas for art class lessons inspired by contemporary art and useful resources for art education in addition to longer posts.  I'm starting to connect more with other bloggers and I'm excited about trying to expand my blog even more to contain guest bloggers.  While it really started as somewhere I could put my writing, I'm trying to get my blog out there more now.  As more people follow it, I hope to get more feedback about how to make it even more useful, interesting or engaging for people." 

"Bringing home the bread"
"At this point, I'm just really excited about using my blog to share good practice and ideas within art education.  I find that writing is a great way to clarify my own thoughts and ideas to myself as well as others, and having my blog is a great motivating factor - finally I have somewhere to put this stuff!  I don't really think about my blog as something that I could monetize directly, but it has been a really useful place to direct people when I apply for jobs and other professional opportunities.  It's valuable proof that I'm passionate about art education, that I have research experience, it is a read-made sample of my writing for opportunities that have a writing aspect, so I've found that sending a quick link to my blog is a great way to supplement by resume." 

April 25, 2015

Ode To The Art Teacher: My Neighbor Hannegret

Just bought this children book with the great message: "Life Doesn't Frighten Me"

I love children books and my favorite artists have made children books. But don’t ask me to teach children about contemporary art. They are so open and imaginative that it makes me quite insecure. I tried a few times at the museum, but without my back-up of theory and history I have no clue how to go about and I only manage to come up with one question: “What do you see?” Luckily, this question mostly does it because children’s imagination runs wild easily even in front of a Barnett Newman. Teenagers can be more tricky because they seem to have lost the willingness to go along. My neighbor Hannegret teaches art at high school and knows all about it. Having breakfast together the other day, she told me she had to change her idealistic endeavors of learning her kids how to come up with their own interpretations and associations. They rather prefer being told the “facts” so they learn those by heart in order to get a good grade. 

But I could sense that Hannegret is one those teachers who doesn’t give up easily on idealism, so I pushed her a little more. And I discovered she’s basically like a Valeska Gert dancing the Pause in the 1920s or a John Cage bringing silence into music, yet she does so in teaching. During every practice she asks the kids to remain silent for 10 minutes. If they succeed they get a +1, if not a -1 (without the grades, nothing works in high school). This way they work in silence, hopefully get the benefit out of it in their daily noisy high school environment, and maybe even get into the flow of making art. Even at the age of 14, Hannegret told me that she has to start with teaching the basics, like learning how to hold a pencil correctly and how not to crack the paper. So in art class she’s teaching the students basic tools for life, like attention, organisation, and carefulness. 

Hannegret is also quite avant-garde because instead of going with the contemporary art trend of “the more the material the better”, she asks her students to take a paper that would normally be thrown away. Then they have to look at this paper as something with its own particular identity marked with stains and cracks, and ask what it says and to work with that. This exercise results in the most wonderful drawings. Or Hannegret makes them fill the paper with small boxes of 2x2 cm. Then she asks her kids to imagine they are left all alone in the world and they have to fill these boxes with stuff they want to have in that world. Pizza appears and TV is a must. But one student started out with drawing a DIXI toilet in the first box and then a concert stage in the second one. A concert always starts with a DIXI toilet, he said. And that's a Marcel Duchamp right there. 

April 22, 2015

Art Blogger of The Week: Lisa Pollman near Seattle, USA


There are art writers who prefer to expand beyond their local art scene and Lisa Pollman is a great example how one can connect worldwide with a blog. Plus, Lisa Pollman is, what they call so beautifully in German, a Quereinsteiger. After a career in Healthcare, she reinvented herself as a freelance journalist. How cool is that! In her blog she collects her writings on Asian and Middle Eastern artists and you can also follow her tweets about art. 

Art scene 
"I work remotely. Very remotely! I am based in a small town just outside of Seattle in the United States but I work with contemporary artists from various parts of the globe. This month, for example, I am working with artists or organisations from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, India, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates primarily via Skype and email. I plan on visiting Sharjah later in the year and Baku is on my radar, with Tehran not far behind. 

Although I speak with people from very different locales and traditions, I have found that many of these artists and organisations do have similar issues relating to the art world (such as the globalisation of contemporary art and concerns about the commercialisation of art)."

Blog 
"At the moment, I write for several online sources and am moving towards print magazines. Early in 2014, because money was tight, I bartered with a friend who helped me design and launch my blog shortly after a trip visiting galleries and artists in Dubai and Sri Lanka. I thought it was time to have a more professional portfolio and I suppose in a way, feel validated! We also put together a Mailchimp account, so I could send out my work just as soon as it’s published. In addition, I have Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Twitter accounts. It’s a lot of work!" 

Expertise 
"I took a bit of a circuitous route towards becoming an Art Journalist. For many years (despite holding an advanced degree in Asian Studies) I worked in Healthcare, a field that I had no interest in. One day, I decided that it was time to take the leap and I ended up enrolling in an online class offered thorough an e-journal based in Hong Kong. Initially, my interest was primarily in contemporary art from Southeast Asia. Recently, I have included artists from the Middle East, as I wish to provide a platform where artists from that region can honestly speak about their work and address some of the very important themes and realities that they face." 

Money 

"Although my blog is not monetized, I do feel a strong sense of responsibility towards connecting artists from Asia and the Middle East to the West and hope that my efforts will help ease communication and understanding between others internationally."

April 21, 2015

Art Object Nr. 2 of The Week: The First Onscreen Female Orgasm

Hedy Lamarr in Ecstasy, 1933

Can art pave the way for mainstream culture to open up? The first interracial kiss on American television (Star Trek, 1968) followed a few years after Andy Warhol's underground movie Kiss (1963). And the first female orgasm onscreen in the 1933 Czech movie Ecstasy was preceded by Valeska Gert performing the "cramp" in 1920s Berlin. This brings together two of my favourite performers: Hedy Lamarr and Valeska Gert. Because it was Lamarr who acted an orgasm in 1933, being also the first woman to appear fully nude in front of the camera. Afterwards Lamarr moved on to the United States and besides being a famous Hollywood star she also invented our current Wifi. But, fact is that it was not Hedy Lamarr who acted the first female orgasm in film. Valeska Gert did so, but in such a non-conformative way that it is still shocking for today's standards. In G.W. Pabst 1929 Diary of a Lost Girl she plays the headmistress of a reformatory, ordering the girls to do their morning gymnastics next to their bed, moving up and down while Gert's hitting the rhythm on the gong. And it's there and then, with the cross bouncing around her neck, that Gert plays her orgastic joy. No wonder this one doesn't get mentioned as the first female orgasm onscreen: Lamarr's one is much "nicer", isn't it? 


Valeska Gert in Diary of a Lost Girl, 1929


April 19, 2015

Art Object of The Week: Biking Through The Museum Of Contemporary Art


On Sunday April 19 the artist Wolfgang Müller biked through Hamburger Bahnhof - The Museum of Contemporary Art. He biked past John Knight's The Right To Be Lazy in the courtyard, then sidetracked the newly opened exhibit of Michael Beutler in the Historical Hall which tackles the neoliberal (male) gesture of MACHEN! and SCHAFFEN! (doing! producing! sounds so much better in German). He then biked the whole Dieter Roth exhibition to end up in Bar 2 at the far end. It was very exciting because Müller's performance proofs that art doesn't need to be spectacular, long-duration, difficult, and interactive to be subversive, but can be indeed very simple, playful, short, easy and doesn't need a lot of material (artists! stop using material!). In the bar he sat down for a second performance: a talk, which in Müller's case is always a performance. His talks have become legendary by now. He throws you off track, he unsettles, he amuses. It's called the strategy of "Umschweifungen" (detours). There is one regular in Müller's talks, whatever topic he has been asked to talk about: it's the reconstructed sound of extinct birds (from his audio play Séance Vocibus Avium). So also yesterday the shrieking sound of birds that no longer exist, filled the museum space and didn't miss out on creating an absurd atmosphere so in contrast with the profound seriousness of any German art event that it made you twist on your chair and giggle. Because that sound, I can tell you, is so not "cool" so that it makes the artist, playing that sound while talking punk, so not look punk that it makes him so punk and subversive to begin with and it's really hard to understand how it works but there's no easier way to put it. 



Wolfgang Müller with Anne Fäser, DJ-ing for the occasion

Wolfgang Müller with surprise guest Françoise Cactus



The Alchemy Of Curating. "Framework 6: Parallelisms", Part 2 at insitu

At the opening of Parallelisms, Part 2, insitu

Basically, there are three kind of art exhibitions. Even if you don’t know a thing about contemporary art, you can trust your bodily experience on sensing the difference between the three types. A good exhibition is where you walk around in between the artworks and you feel there is a communication going on. One art work reveals something about the other and vice versa. This kind of exhibition works on all the senses: not only for the eye, but also for the ear, the touch, and the taste. Then there is the bad exhibition in which the art works communicate against one another and take away each others space. Instead of opening up into new spaces, the exhibition closes down. But the worst exhibition is the exhibition where there is no communication at all: you walk around and you see dead art. 

So what is the alchemy of good curating? The insitu team seems to have cracked its code in the second part of Parallelisms featuring Eli Cortiñas, Sam Smith and Ingo Mittelstaedt. Part 1 was my experiment in literary curating with the same three artists. I offered a story one could engage with or not, in a minimalist set-up with three posters and three art works, lighted mercilessly by neon tubes. Part 2, curated by the insitu team, switches sides in both form and content: a darkened room adorned with only a few soft spotlights and a newly built wall constructed as a negative of the doorway, while content-wise focusing on the negative spaces that characterise the approach of the artists, yet all this within a same minimalist set-up. And instead of letting the spectator decide to engage with the story or not, this set-up draws you in, unfolding itself when you move through the space. Very subtly the curating pushes you in a bodily way through the exhibition. 

To understand the alchemy of this curating, I did some sketching, trying to figure out the system behind it. Unfortunately, this mapping can’t be used as a dummy for all your future exhibitions: it totally depends on the space and the art work. The only solution would be to hire the insitu team (or to pick their brain)...



After all this mapping I came up with the following instruction manual, which is not complete because, evidently, it's really hard to put your finger on any kind of alchemy: 

1. Upon entering (going down the small stairs into a dark space) one first encounters the split screen projection of Sam Smith's Frame, Lens, filmed with an analogue and a digital camera, with Sam behind the camera pointing the camera first at you. 

2. The camera starts turning around similar to a tower with revolving search lights, scanning its surrounding space.

3. You get confused at some point, no longer following which camera is filming which space where and which camera is tracking which camera (the analogue the digital one, or the digital the analogue one). This makes you also loose your sense of orientation bodily, up to a point that you stop watching.

4. That's when you automatically turn to the light. Ingo Mittelstaedt's photography on your right side is lighted with a soft spot, and getting close-up you discern lines that you figure to be the contours of empty display cases. This way the undefined space scanned by the camera in Smith's work here gets a more definite shape in the form of a display case in which art can emerge but is not there yet. 

5. Looking to fill that empty space with something substantial, you turn around for more art and now notice that the wall of the Sam Smith's projection is put in front of a doorway that leads to the next space, and if you're very smart you notice that the wall is the negative of the doorway (but your body might get it anyway, without reaching the level of your brain).

6. Going through that doorway you're possibly confronted with spectators sitting on the bench watching in your direction because there is a video projected on the backside of the negative wall of the doorway. This makes you enter into the imagery, you become one with the video image, which, again, makes you the subject of the camera. In this video actors are only shown from behind, whereas you enter into the game showing frontal face.

7. You turn around to see what the spectators on the bench are looking at. You see that the actors in Cortiñas' video Confessions with an open curtain, are shown in a back view while standing in front of a curtained window. When you glimpse further back into the first space, you yourself are glancing towards the outside, just like the actors in the video.

8.  You turn now to the left to see the photography by Mittelstaedt, again lighted by soft spots. The characters of Cortiñas' video seem to finally turn around to show face in Mittelstaedt's photography, yet not totally: his analogue photography shows a stone that has the features of a face, a shade that finishes the profile of a damaged sculptural portrait, and a sculptural head covered with cloth.  

9. When you leave the insitu space, you glance again to the photography on the left in the first space, filling its empty display cases now with the sculptural faces of the photography in the second space. Going up the stairs, your turn your back to Sam Smith's camera, while simultaneously playing a role in Cortiñas' video. It's then that you might sense that the exhibition is the negative space of you as the main subject. 






April 15, 2015

Art Blogger of the Week: Abigael McGuire in Providence, USA

Selfie by Abigael McGuire

Abigael McGuire and I met online. No no, not on Facebook, but in my online class at Node Center. Yes indeed, it's the newest, avant-garde way to learn! Node Center - Curatorial Studies Online is directed by the genius Perla Montelongo and brings together people worldwide (+ you can be in your pyjamas and still attend class - awesomeness!). As you will read here below, Abigael is quite a character: she has an opinion (how refreshing!) and a sense of humour (yey!), and as you can see up here, she prefers to be in charge of the camera herself when a picture is being taken. All this is extremely promising for her emerging art critical career. Can't wait for her to produce those podcasts she has in mind... Check out her blog, and if you are visiting Providence, drop by the Hera Gallery where she is the director!

Art Scene

Providence does have a lot going for it as an arts city. It's the less expensive option for those looking for a cultured city with lots of things to do with music, theater, food (some GREAT FOOD HERE) and of course... art. There are many artists living and working here and I've heard that the amount of galleries is on par with Brooklyn per capita (Don't quote me on this). I happen to visit two of the most "worldly" spaces, Yellow Peril and GRIN galleries. They are really the only ones participating in the greater art scene with Yellow Peril going to international fairs and GRIN participating in an Armory Week satellite fair. There's also a non profit (AS220) space that has a 2-3 year wait list for artists to exhibit and they also offer low income spaces for artists to reside in. Many of the galleries work with locally based artists and this extends outside Providence too. One of my most enjoyable experiences was visiting an open studios tour in a rural area 30-45 min outside Providence and meeting the artists involved with that group. It's a small state with a lot of artists choosing to operate here rather than in higher priced NYC or Boston.

Blog

I started the blog because I wanted to be better at writing about art and I figured the best way to do that was to actually do it. Actually, your class gave me the courage to do so! So thank you An! I took the class with this goal in mind of starting the blog. I also want to go to grad school at some point in the near future and I thought the blog would help make me a stronger candidate for the more competitive programs. I'm not sure if my blog benefits art writing in general, but maybe if my humble little blog could inspire someone else to pursue their own art writing pursuits, then perhaps it would benefit someone. I've been very insular with my blog, which is silly as I should find my community, but there aren't many around me. I guess I need to start following more on twitter. He he. Fun side story: I saw that Roberta Smith was going to the Carl Andre show at Dia: Beacon the same day that I was on twitter! I later tweeted at her that the guards called me off entering an installation and she responded with a favorite! 
I write the blog now not to be critical necessarily of the artists, but to promote the happenings of what's going on in and outside the little Rhode Island bubble. I get very critical of curatorial decisions as I feel that it disrupts the work, but I'm new to the game and new in town so to speak. I don't want to be ruffling feathers at present as I've heard not so good things about the person who did come into town with guns blazing. 
I write the blog in search of my voice. I write the blog to keep me engaged and tethered to the art world. I write the blog because it keeps me sane even if I'm hustling to meet my deadline. It helps me feel somewhat productive. 


Expertise 

Oh dear! Well, I come at my blog as someone who's a budding curator and sees work not just for what it is, but how it communes with the rest of the work and the space as a whole. I've been the director of Hera Gallery for a year and a half now, so I've seen numerous shows come up and down here. I have my BFA in digital art and photography, but also an art history minor focusing on modern art and film. I've been going to museums with my extended family all my life and grew up surrounded by it at most of the homes of said family members. I am highly critical of photography, but I'm open to most things. I am also working on concepts for large scale installations, which is where my heart is at now. I guess to round that out, I come at this wearing many hats that all work together in some whimsical way. But I'm still young, it's to be expected.

Money 

Easy Answer- No. My blog is not monetized, but I'm contemplating how best to do so. I'm not interested in advertisements on my page, but thinking that Patreon may be an option so that I can be supported by my readers on a more sustainable form of crowdfunding. There are many podcasters, comic artists, and youtube creators who utilize it. I do not feel that my blog is there yet, however, as I only started it about seven months ago and am still building my readership. I have analytics, so I know that it's being read, but I'd like those numbers to be a little bit higher before I start holding out my hand for money. I'm not sure what I'd do for indirect income sources, but I keep toying with the idea of podcasting with artists (sounds like a bit of a redundant thing, talking about art without seeing it.... funny enough though, I love those podcasts that talk visuals without seeing it).

April 12, 2015

What Is Good Art? Rule Nr. 8

This is the 8th and last rule of What Is Good Art?! For now at least... 

Let's summarize:

1. Humor
2. Keep it simple
3. Open mind-set: Are you sure?
4. Position yourself! 
5. Thinking: this AND that, and not black OR white
6. Good idea = good Gestalt = Beauty
7. The ordinary is extraordinary enough
8. Timeless



April 7, 2015

Art Blogger of the Week: Anna Mortimer in Suffolk, England

Anna Mortimer and Shrink. Photo: Robert Taylor

There has been a lot of art criticism bashing lately. In Temporary Art Review Steven Cottingham stated that innovations in art criticism are fifty years behind, quoting Charles Bernstein in Parkett 84 saying that “art criticism, insofar as it succumbs to a paranoiac fear of theatricality that induces frame-lock, lags behind poetry at its peril.” Nottingham and Bernstein should check out Anna Mortimer's art writing on her blog. She is an artist, who knows how to make art writing poetic. And you can sense that already in this feature:

Art scene

Suffolk, on the East coast of England with its Constable skies, Hambling seas and Gainsborough portraits is still at its heart a rural idyll, its face resolutely turned away from passing time. However there are signs of strain on its contented face. A growing interest at Snape Malting with SNAP festival, The Pacitti Company Think Tank in Ipswich with its support of Live Art and many small nascent signs of a renaissance in provocative art practise.

Blog

I am a visual artist and began my blog in June 2012 to reflect on my own art practise as well as to engage with the contemporary art world whenever I was able. Visiting exhibitions and looking with my ‘blogger eyes’ has helped me take a more critical and dynamic view of the artworks that I have experienced. Passing these thoughts on in my blog has been another interesting stage in this ingestive/digestive process.
My blogging has also simply been a series of reflective conversations with myself, a kind of too-ing and fro-ing internal debate which I have then externalised online. Although this has been interesting I have at times foundered when I have had little or no response to my posts. The big question of ‘Why am I doing this?’ ‘What is the point?’ ‘Is there anybody out there!’ harries and bothers me but I never quite given up! There is after all pleasure and some satisfaction in giving voice to thought and opinion… even of it is my own.

Expertise

Although I perceive myself to be firstly a visual artist I have over the years of developing my critical writing found an interweaving of the two practises. Increasingly I use words in their ‘concrete’ form in the works that I make. There is play and experimentation taking place here and who knows where this may yet lead?

Money 


Maybe to the making of a pound or two...dream on dear…!

April 6, 2015

Art Object of the Week: Converse All Stars Arty Shoes

Fafi for Adidas

Are you a fashionista and an art lover? Converse All Stars just released a new series of Andy Warhol sneakers with prints like the Campbell’s soup cans. Besides making money, All Stars hopes “it inspires you to push boundaries with your creativity.” Art people in Berlin are not the most fashionable people. Berlin in general doesn’t really know how to dress. Luckily the art people don’t put on dresses over pants, which is a long-lasting favorite in Berlin that never seems to die. Art people tend to wear black clothes and that’s quite it. Seeing them, one just hopes that all their creativity goes into the art work. But I don’t know if these Andy Warhol sneakers are such a winner anyway. Who wants to walk in the shoes of another artist? I’m still debating. If they were really made by Andy Warhol, I would buy them in a heartbeat. But besides not making a Hollywood film, Andy Warhol also didn’t make fashion. He was not that commercial after all. Once I did buy sport shoes designed by the street artist Fafi for Adidas. I must admit that I didn’t know Fafi when I bought the shoes, I just happened to be in my pink glitter phase. That phase didn’t last long, so I’m happy they're still in a perfect condition. At the moment I’m in a quite expensive Claudie Pierlot phase, so if anybody wants to sponsor me, click here

April 5, 2015

What Is Good Art? Rule Nr. 7

Because it is Easter today, I show you a German Easter bunny in this VLOG! I ate it afterwards, and it really tasted delicious.