The Beardsley Limner
The Beardsley Limner was an itinerant artist who worked along the old Boston Post Road, in Connecticut and Massachusetts, from about 1785 to 1805. He executed some of the most striking naive portraits in New England, and was given the name The Beardsley Limner based on his handsome paintings of Elizabeth and Hezekiah Beardsley, c. 1785-1790.
Recently it has been argued that The Beardsley Limner and a Connecticut pastelist, Sarah Perkins, were one and the same. While some stylistic similarities exist between the two, there are sufficient differences to raise questions about this identification. To date no documentation of The Beardsley Limner's identity has been found in any of the sitters' records.
The Conant Limner
Approximately eleven portraits can be attributed to this unidentified painter. His identification as The Conant Limner is derived from the last name of four sitters who constitute the largest family group by his hand. The Conants lived in Sterling, Massachusetts, where several of this limner's works remain. Although likenesses by this hand have turned up in other regions of Massachusetts, all may have originated in the vicinity of Sterling, in Worcester County.
The Conant Limner is not known to have dated any works. From the sitters' attire, consistent in style, it appears that the portraits were painted within a limited span of years. The National Gallery likeness of Sophia Burpee Conant, datable to about 1813 on the basis of her biography, forms a reference point for dating the other portraits and the period in which the artist was active.
Schematic shadows, such as those cast by lace collars, and simplification of form suggest that the artist, in addition to portraiture, perhaps painted signs or other decorative pieces. The artist has sometimes been referred to as "The Merrimac Limner," based on the single example in a private collection said to have been acquired in the northern part of the state in Ipswich. The existence of the greater number of works from the central region of the state, however, suggests that the designation Merrimac Limner is inappropriate and may be misleading.
The Denison Limner
The identity of the artist who created the Denison family portraits has long eluded scholars. His sitters are all from Stonington, Connecticut, and their portraits are part of the tradition of Connecticut portraiture that flourished from c. 1790/1810.
One of the first to suggest an identity for The Denison Limner was Ralph Thomas of the New Haven Historical Society, who concluded in 1956 that the Denison portraits given to the National Gallery by Colonel and Mrs. Garbisch (1953.5.35, 1980.62.26-28) were painted by Joseph Steward. Steward was an artist, clergyman, and entrepreneur who was born in Worcester County, Massachusetts, in 1753. He studied for the ministry under the Reverend Doctor Levi Hart of Preston, Connecticut, and subsequently settled with his wife and children in the town of Hampton. By 1797 the family had moved to Hartford, where Steward established a museum of "natural curiosities and paintings," which he operated until his death in 1822. Among the works he exhibited were portraits of American historical and political figures, some painted by Steward himself.
The most persuasive argument for attributing the Denison works to Steward is their similarity to a pair of portraits assigned to Steward on the basis of a notice in the account book of one of the sitters. In September 1789, Mrs. Steward settled a bill with John Avery of Preston for "2 likenesses [pound sign] 5/4/0." The portraits in question, Mrs. John (Lucy Ayer) Avery and John Avery are very similar in appearance to the Denison portraits.
The Averys' home town in eastern Connecticut is less than fifteen miles north of Stonington. Another pair of portraits of Preston residents attributed to Steward--Wheeler Coit and Mrs. Wheeler (Sybil Tracy) Coit-- also shares many characteristics with the Denison portraits. The Coit and Avery pairs have similar dimensions.
These earlier works (c. 1789/1790) differ from Steward's slightly later portraits; these exhibit a more sophisticated technique. This substantial change of style over a short period of time in itself does not discount the possibility that Steward was the maker of both types, because rapid progress is not unheard of in the careers of naive painters. One of Steward's friends, the Reverend James Cogswell, recorded in 1790 that the artist "improves in ye art of painting," although he gave no evidence of specific training the artist had. Around 1791 or 1792, but almost certainly not before, Steward would have crossed paths with the important Connecticut portraitist Ralph Earl. In 1792 he may have taken some lessons from John Trumbull, whose work he later would often copy. These influences therefore could have greatly transformed Steward's style between 1789 and 1793. He seems to have been a highly adaptable and flexible artist. Throughout his career his approach varied, almost chameleonlike, depending upon his subject, the purpose of the portrait undertaken, and which artist he may have been copying or emulating.
It has also been suggested that the painter of the Denison group might be Captain Elisha Denison, since the portrait of his son shows the young boy holding a card which prominently displays his father's name. Because the sitters are all from the same family, this possibility cannot be discounted.
The Gansevoort Limner
The designation "Gansevoort Limner" was given to the unknown painter of a stylistically coherent group of portraits depicting members of the Gansevoort family. The majority of his sitters were children, and several of his portraits are inscribed in either Dutch or Latin.
Mary Black has identified The Gansevoort Limner as Pieter Vanderlyn, which some scholars accept. No signed portraits by Vanderlyn exist, however, and over the years controversy has continued over Vanderlyn's identity and oeuvre. Local tradition originally ascribed a number of The Gansevoort Limner portraits to Vanderlyn; descendants of the subjects believed him to be the creator of their family portraits, and the Kingston, New York, Senate House Historical Site owns several portraits that have been recorded as Vanderlyn's work. Confusion arose with the publication of articles ascribing a completely different series of works to Vanderlyn's hand. A group of portraits are now given to The Schuyler or Aetatis Suae Limner. Additional attributions were also made, all based on a "key picture," the portrait of Mrs. Petrus Vas, which John Vanderlyn, Pieter's grandson, reportedly represented to his biographer as a work by Pieter. However, these attributions are not documented and rest on uncertain, oral tradition.
Black first isolated a group of eighteen portraits by an artist identified only as The Gansevoort Limner. Later she published her conclusion that The Gansevoort Limner was Pieter Vanderlyn, based on the fact that a group of Kingston portraits by The Gansevoort Limner (including several from the Kingston Senate House Historical Site) were originally attributed by local tradition to Vanderlyn. She discovered a manuscript by Vanderlyn in handwriting that appeared to match seven of the eight inscriptions appearing on Gansevoort Limner paintings. This Kingston group and the National Gallery's portraits form a coherent stylistic group and are clearly by the same hand. Black disputed the attributions of the portrait of Mrs. Petrus Vas to Vanderlyn. Another family tradition held that a companion portrait of Dominie Petrus Vas was lost in the 1777 Kingston fire. Black speculated that the lost male portrait was the one painted by Vanderlyn, rather than the female one, engendering the string of mistaken attributions that followed. Black's discovery about Vanderlyn's signature is intriguing, but some scholars dispute the validity of attributions based on matching scripts, arguing that eighteenth-century handwriting was of a standard style.
Until further evidence comes to light, it cannot be said with complete certainty that The Gansevoort Limner is Pieter Vanderlyn. If this identification is correct, The Gansevoort Limner was born in Holland about 1687, coming to New York from Curaçao around 1718. He traveled frequently between Albany and Kingston until 1777, then moved to Shawangunk, New York. He died there in 1778.
Superstudio was an architecture firm, founded in 1966 in Florence, Italy by Adolfo Natalini and Cristiano Toraldo di Francia. Superstudio was a major part of the Radical architecture movement of the late 1960s. The founders had gone to school at the University of Florence with Archizoom Associati founder Andrea Branzi and first showed their work in the Superarchitettura show in 1966.
Natalini wrote in 1971 “...if design is merely an inducement to consume, then we must reject design; if architecture is merely the codifying of bourgeois model of ownership and society, then we must reject architecture; if architecture and town planning is merely the formalization of present unjust social divisions, then we must reject town planning and its cities...until all design activities are aimed towards meeting primary needs. Until then, design must disappear. We can live without architecture...”
Superstudio abandoned working as a collective in 1978, but its members continued to develop their ideas independently through their writings, via education, architectural practice and other design projects.
Twelve Ideal Cities - Twelve Cautionary Tales for Christmas
Utopian project, 1971
Architects: Superstudio (Alessandro Magris, Alessandro Poli, Piero Frassinelli, Cristiano Toraldo de Francia, Roberto Magris and Adolfo Natalini)
Superstudio evoke twelve visions of ideal cities, the supreme achievement of twenty thousand years of civilization, blood, sweat and tears; the final haven of Man possession of Truth, free from contradiction, equivocation and indecision; totally and forever replete with his perfection.
FIRST CITY - 2,000 -TON C ITY
Even and perfect, the city lies amid green lawns, sunny hills and wooded mountains, slim, tall sheets of continuous buildings intersect in a rigorous square mesh, one league apart. The buildings, or rather the single, uninterrupted building consists of a cubic cells 5 cubits each way; these cells are place one on top of another in a single vertical stack reaching a height of a third of a league above sea level, so that the relative height of the building varies in relation to the level of the ground on which it rises. Each cell has two external walls.
SECOND CITY - TEMPORAL COCHLEA-CITY
The city is an endless screw 4.5 km in diameter, completing one revolution a year. Its lower extremity, facing the centre of the earth, consists of an excavating apparatus (a kind of turbine with blades) that, in revolving, crushes rock, forcing all matter towards the centre of the cylinder and through a duct up to the ground. Above the turbines, the propulsion apparatus an atomic power centre set to last 10,000 years, and the automatic plant and electronic computers that control the city.
THIRD CITY - NEW YORK OF BRAINS
In the most charred, devastated and molten area of that grey space that once was New York, and, more precisely, where Central Park once was, at about 81st, there stands the city. When the others realized that the explosion had irrevocably contaminated all the inhabitants of New York, and that their bodies were rotting without recourse, it was decided to build the city. It is a cube, with a length, with and height of 180 ft, covered in quart tiles measuring 10 x 10 inches, in each of which there is a lens 9 inches in diameter. This covering condenses light onto the photo sensitive layer behind, which transforms it into energy necessary for the functioning of the city.
FOURTH CITY - SPACESHIP CITY
If a city can be considered a place where a group of men are born, live and die; if a city is a mother who looks after her children, furnishes them with all they require and decides how they shall be happy, if a city is all this, independent of its physical and demographical dimensions, then a spaceship, which for centuries has been following a precise route towards a planet thousands of light-years away, is also a city. This spaceship is a huge red wheel 50m in diameter. The central nucleus 8m diameter, contains a computer programmed at the time of departure, to guide the ship, the propulsion apparatus, and all the equipment necessary for the life of the spaceship and the crew.
The city is a dazzling sheet of crystal amidst woods and green hills, On nearing it, one realizes that it is made up of the covers of 10,044,900 crystalline sarcophagi, 185 cm high, 61 cm wide and 61 cm deep. The walls separating the sarcophagi are transparent; the bottom however is shiny white. Inside each sarcophagi lies an immobile individual, eyes closed, breathing conditioned air and fed by a bloodstream - in fact, the blood system is connected to a purifying and regenerative apparatus which, through toxin elimination prevents ageing. A series of electrodes applied to the cranium control a n external sensory apparatus of hemispherical form, diameter 30.5 cm; this hemisphere of silvery metal is capable of moving and remaining immobile in the air and on the ground thanks to a propulsion system which emits no gas and no noise, and has an unlimited life. One might think that the hundreds of thousands of hemispheres that continually crowd the air and are suspended over the city or its surroundings are moved by telekinesis.
SIXTH CITY - BARNUM JNR.'S MAGNIFICIENT AND FABULOUS CITY
The city lies beneath an enormous red and blue striped circus tent.
The tent, suspended by the traction between the aerostats and the thousands of cables anchoring its perimeter to the earth, has a diameter of 2 miles, 205 yards; at its centre stands an enormous cylinder with a diameter 1 mile and a height 100 yards, made of sheet metal nailed and painted silver; in this cylinder lies enclosed a city built of a scale five times smaller than reality; this is a city with about 2 million inhabitants; it has all the characteristics of a modern city, but also contains reproductions of all the major monuments of the world, from the Empire State Building to the Eiffel Tower, from the Coliseum (reconstructed in its original form) to Sunset Boulevard.
Here's how to visit this fabulous city: after arriving and parking buy a ticket - 50 cents for every minute of your visit to the city. Then pay a deposit for any eventual damage you might cause. This deposit is fixed at $1 for every minute of your visit, but may not, in any case be less than $900 (if you haven't got, you get a loan at the bank next to the ticket office by simply handing over your driving license and the papers of your car: this loan will cost you 5% of the total). At this point you receive the "key to the city".
SEVENTH CITY - CONTINUOUS PRODUCTION CONVEYOR BELT CITY
The city moves, unrolling like a majestic serpent, over new lands, taking its 8 million inhabitants on a ride through valleys and hills, from the mountains to the seashore, generation after generation the head of the city is the Grand Factory, four miles wide, like the city it continuously produces 100 yds high, the Grand Factory exploits the land and the underground materials of the territory it crosses, and from these marvelously extracts all that it requires for the construction of the city. The Grand Factory devours shreds of useless nature and unformed minerals at its front end and emits sections o f completely formed city, ready for use, from its back end.
EIGHTH CITY - CONICAL TERRACED CITY
The city rises in the midst of a great plain, surrounded by a canal 600 ft. wide. It is formed of 500 circular levels one above the other, each one of which has a diameter 32 ft. less than the one beneath. Each level is 8 ft. high, thus the total height is 4000 ft., while the diameter of the lowest level is 16,000 ft.
In the circumference wall of each level are doors 2 x 7 ft. At ground level there are 6,500 doors, each successive level has 13 doors less. The 500 th level has only 13 doors, and above this, at the center of the diameter terrace, rises a silvery metal cupola with a radius of 8ft.
NINTH CITY - THE "VILLE-MACHINE HABITEE"
The city is a machine, such a large machine that not even its inhabitants know its size, its pipelines, its rows of gear-mechanisms, conveyor belts, connecting-rods, stretch away out of sight whichever way one looks, in the din half-light, grey and foggy which fills the cavern it occupies, and whose walls have never been seen.
The inhabitants live in the machine, endlessly dragged along by conveyor belts, by chutes and pneumatic tubes from the time of birth to the time of death. The machine takes care of everything; along the innumerable routes which intersect, unite and divide according to the incomprehensible programming of the machine. The inhabitants find food and fear, sleep and joy, sex and hope.
TENTH CITY - THE CITY OF ORDER
The city has, apparently, nothing strange about it: it has streets, squares, gardens, new houses and old; it is in fact a city like any other. The only thing is that it has been governed by the same mayor for forty-five years. The reason for his long stay in office is simple: he had an exceptionally good idea. Instead of trying to suit the city to its inhabitants, like everyone else, he thought of suiting the inhabitants to their city. Now, 45 years later, things are starting to go really well; the citizens that jump the lights, damage city properly, complain about unpunctuality of the buses or the lack of water at the times it is most needed, etc are ever fewer.
ELEVENTH CITY - THE CITY OF SPLENDID HOUSES
The city has no connection with the countryside because it contains in itself everything that please its inhabitants. It is certainly the most beautiful city in the world, because all its inhabitants, at every moment of their existence, move towards the single goal of possessing the most beautiful house.
The city gives all its citizens the same starting points, that is, it grants every family nucleus the same amount of space for building a house. In fact, the city consists of a network of parallel roads 10m. wide, which form 6 sqm blocks, each of these 36 sqm blocks is occupied by a single family house.
TWELFTH CITY - CITY OF THE BOOK
The book that all citizens wear hanging on a chain round their necks is the spirit of the city. Lefthand pages lists the moral norms righthand pages, codes of behavior on which the citizen bases his life.
The city consists of a series of parallel buildings 10m. high, 30m. wide, and 10 km. long, with a distance of 3m. between them. Inside each building is a tunnel 10m. wide, 9m. high, and the length of the building.
Every 30m, smaller transverse tunnels (3x3 meters) join the longitudinal tunnels and the external streets between the buildings. The longitudinal tunnels are completely dark, but each citizen is equipped with infra-red visual devices which enable him to see perfectly in the dark.
from "The Double Edge of History", p. 40, (Springerin 3, no. 3, Fall 1997: 57-59, published in German)
The dangers of taking pleasure in the past and the benefits of remembering in order to reinvent are not clearly posted. There is the risk of peddling nostalgia, of getting lost and/or paralyzed in emotionally inflected territory in which re-creation of the past obscures and replaces (or displaces) the present. To aid critical understanding of past specificities, and their effect in the present, it seems more productive to consider loose continuums of production than to provide a form of periodization as punctuation.
How to balance multiple relations to history? Alternatives to traditional historiographic practices might trace spatial and temporal configurations of interconnected events, activities, and associations of ideas nested in cultural circumstances, and by design provide spaces for multiple meanings, conflicting imaginations, conflicting "facts," and partiality. Historiography might be approached akin to artistic methodologies, utilize juxtaposition and artistic license, render ambivalently rather than declaratively, and ultimately acknowledge, not only in principle but as part of a historicizing method itself, that historiography is a creative as well as an interpretive practice: that it is a form of production.
The list of group entities, alternative spaces, and organizations that have dissolved or closed their doors seems to signal distress and dysfunction for certain critical strategies, as well as the disintegration of nonprofit networks. Although some organizations that wanted to were unable to survive, many that are now gone were strategic and time-based by purpose (i.e., protest strategies are usually one step in processes advocating social change). Other endeavors have become institutionalized, incorporated into large entities, reconfigured, and so on. But facts always have multiple meanings. For a less bleak panorama, one should register the fact that critical alternative activities have altered accepted notions of possible functions and definitions of art.
page 77, From Julie Ault and Martin Beck, Outdoor Systems, indoor distribution, n.p. Ed. Julie Ault and Martin Beck. Berlin: Neue Gesellschaft fur bildende Kunst (nGbK), 2000. Exhibition catalogue.
OS, id was laid out as a series of overlapping arenas suggested by density and content, composed with preexisting as well as newly produced materials. For example, the arena entitled grid included a table designed in 1970 by the Italian collective Superstudio. On the table, plexiglass sign holders contained information about Superstudio's Supersurface project, one manifestation of which is the table's gridded laminate surface. The table was itself situated in front of an outdoor-size vinyl billboard showing a photograph we shot in 1999 of an uninhabited California desert landscape that nonetheless is marked by street signs at the intersection of Avenue D and 170th Street. This coordinate within the territory that has long since been mapped in anticipation of capitalist development was juxtaposed with a video monitor that continuously showed Superstudio's 1972 film Supersurface: An Alternative Model for Life on Earth. Also integrated within this arena were aerial photographs of sprawling suburban residential developments that were commissioned from a Los Angeles-based photographer. Finally, panels with images and texts on the adjacent walls provided information about Superstudio and their conceptual project 12 Ideal Cities.
In such ways, historical and contemporary elements could be read in varied forms and arrangements as a network of interconnected references to assist viewers in simultaneously making connections and grasping the contradictions between, for example the utopian underpinnings of Superstudio's grid project and the dystopian facts of suburban land development. Viewers could engage with the dialogue of images, objects, texts, and sound in an environment in which interpretation was neither predetermined nor prematurely foreclosed.
pp. 167, From "Case Reopened: Group Material." In Show and Tell: A Chronicle of Group Material. Ed. Julie Ault, p. 216. London: Four Corners Books, 2010.
Group Material should not be reduced to memory or record but can most constructively be articulated and elaborated by the dynamics between multiple bodies of information. Somewhere between the representation of lived experience of events and their contexts and the nonjudgmental multiplicity of the archive, historical representation gets complex and exciting. The history of history is fraught with what Derrida calls "an incessant tension between the archive and archaeology." He continues, "They will always be close the one to the other, resembling each other, hardly discernible in their coimplication, and yet radically incompatible, heterogeneous..." Perhaps imprint and memory are not mutually hostile, and the conflict between archive and memory is overestimated. What if we understand History and Memory as inseparable, accept their apparent coproductive roles, and refuse to regard this as a predicament?
pp. 185, From "Ever Ephemeral." In Ever Ephemeral: Remembering and Forgetting in the Archive. Malmo: Signal Center for Contemporary Art and Inter Arts Center, 2011. Exhibition handout.
It is difficult to identify where an association of ideas or interests begins, and it is just as complicated to pinpoint ending. Chronology is not much help. A chronology can start or end anywhere. It can extend in either direction indefinitely, depending on the scope of its frame(s) of reference. Storyline. Lifeline. Timeline. History. All open to reformulation. The linear appearance of chronology is deceptive, as is the perception that time flows from one direction to another. Physicists and philosophers widely agree that "the flow of time" is a creation of consciousness that we rely on for order.
Chronology and tense are inspected, analyzed, disarranged, and played with in Ever Ephemeral. A labyrinthine set of frictions that unfold in the archive is awakened here as well: between past tense and present tense, between remembering and forgetting, between completion and continuance, between the enduring and the ephemeral. The diffusion of Ever Ephemeral across two venues is meant to infuse its experience with recollection. A game of tag is set in motion as the exhibited constellation lays open innumerable relationships between archiving, memory, history, and narrative.
From Not only this, but "New language beckons us." Ed. Andrew Blackley. New York University Fales Library and Special Collections, New York, 2013. Exhibition vitrine text.
Gentrifying real-estate machinations go hand in hand with the growth, decay, migration, and conversion of NYC's art districts - SoHo, the East Village, Chelsea, Williamsburg, the Lower East Side, and so on. By the time [Martin Wong's] The Last Picture Show took place at the legendary Semaphore Gallery's final short-lived incarnation on Greene Street (1986-1987), director Barry Blinderman had closed both his original gallery on West Broadway (1980-1986) and Semaphore East (1984-1986) on Avenue B. Martin Wong had held a solo exhibition in each. Were his powerful storefront paintings also metaphors for yet another dying environment he held dear?
A series of places and the lived experiences in and around them. A context of concurrences. An era. Eras end constantly. Sometimes an era comes to an end because of a massive change, sometimes by degree, and sometimes inconspicuously. Now and then it happens with the death of a single person.
pp. 223, From preface to Tell it to My Heart: Collected by Julie Ault. Ed. Julie Ault, Martin Beck, Nikola Dietrich, Heinz Peter Knes, Rasmus Rohling, Jason Simon, Scott Cameron Weaver, Dahn Vo, and Amy Zion, p. 154. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2013. Exhibition catalog.
I must admit I feel a bit uneasy about the notion that the art I am fortunate enough to live with constitutes, potentially, the "Julie Ault collection." Accumulating artworks, artifacts, ephemera, books, and so on has been an organic process rather than the reflection of a conscious archiving instinct. Such constituents do, however, act as building blocks of identity, as well as the tracings of relationships and work contexts. Over time, the responsibility to protect the material traces of ideas, people, practices, and contexts, even as they shift or disappear, has clarified into an active motive. The works in "my collection" confront me continually, just as the artists they are made by do, and have in the past. They stand for relationships and for personal and public histories. And there is the pleasure of it all, the everyday delights and challenges of living among the voices of those I most respect and attend to.
pp. 229, From "Active Recollection: Marvin Taylor in Conversation with Julie Ault," New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2014. Exhibition handout for Afterlife: a constellation, Whitney Biennial, 2014.
Julie Ault: I regard you as the author of the Downtown Collection. I read the boilerplate description of what constitutes the collection, but I'm longing for a kind of director's cut about your intentions, purposes, and conceptual framing, and discussion of the implicit as well as explicit criteria you used to both formulate and shape the collection. Do you consider yourself the author of the collection?
Marvin Taylor: For me, it's been a project: how can we take a scene that was deeply invested in institutional critique and document that scene in an institution without letting the institution completely take over and do all the things that institutions do once they get hold of material that is on some way critical of their very existence? Most repositories would just bring the materials in, catalogue them in the traditional ways, and the collections' energies and spirit would die the death of cataloging, just like dried butterflies.
I chose note to do that. Instead, I chose to modify what archivists call the "documentary strategy" as much as possible. (Transgressive is a word many people don't like, but the materials we have ask constantly, "Why are you doing this?" "What structure is informing how this is done?") I guess I would like to be thought of as an author who questions his authorial intent while actually building the collection; to be very conscious of every step of the kind of decisions I am making and the implications of those decisions.
pp. 241, From "Questionnaire: Julie Ault." Frieze 163 (May 2014): p. 224.
What should stay the same?
A moratorium on gentrification would be good. The thorough gentrification of New York cannot be reversed; the extent of cultural demolition inflicted is disgraceful. We've been brainwashed to think nothing can stay the same, but that isn't really true. The collective and corporate expansionist mind-set that has infected society and so many institutions is profoundly destructive. Downsizing seems to me a more valuable agenda.
DON'T BE YOURSELF
pp. 191-194, From Draw it with Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment, pp. 88-89. New York: Paper Monument, 2012.
In 1991, in need of change and disillusioned with what I perceived to be the art world's shallow relationship to sociopolitical issues, I enrolled at Hunter College. I wanted to go back to school and believed that as a returning student I might get something deeper out of it than I did when I was a teenager. Also, I was beginning to teach on the merits of my art practice, but I lacked a college degree.
I had been working as an artist for over a decade and had no interest in studying art. Instead, I gravitated toward political science, fueled by the fantasy of transitioning into politics proper, where I imagined I would find a more rigorous context of ideas as well as a keener sense of cause and effect than the one I experienced as an artist engaged with social issues. My outlook entering school that year was ridiculously idealistic.
Director: Julie Dash
FORMAT: 35mm, color
Julie Dash’s 1991 masterpiece was her first feature, and the first American feature directed by an African American woman to receive a general theatrical release. It announced a formidable talent, and in the grandeur and intricacy of its formal construction and themes, powerfully emblematized its director’s purposeful commitment to cinema.
Abounding with surprise, the film transports us to a little-known setting to unfold a universal tale. The year is 1902, in the home of an extended family off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia where they maintain strong connections to African linguistic and cultural traditions. Here, many members of the Peazant family are on the verge of a planned migration to the U.S. mainland, where American modernity seems, vaguely, to offer a better life.
However, family members clash over the meaning of this move. Viola, who has lived up North and returned as a Christian convert, views the crossing as a step out of bankrupt African superstitions into a kind of light. Scandal-tinged “Yellow Mary,” returning to the family from a long self-exile, still asserts her independence but fears losing the touchstone of home. Nana Peazant, the aged matriarch, refuses to migrate and frets over the possibility of broken family ties and lost traditions. Eulah, young and with child, fears that the family’s plan represents a futile flight from intractable legacies of pain.
A brilliant cast enacts these negotiations with exceeding depth, befitting the weight of the decision the Peazants face: to embrace the land that other Africans once fled. Dash constructs their home as a rarefied world, possibly soon a “paradise lost,” through a masterful interplay of mise-en-scène, symbolic markers and magical realist gestures. All of this is graced by the luminous cinematography of A. Jaffa Fielder and John Barnes’ stunningly original score. Named to the National Film Registry in 2004 by the Library of Congress, Daughters of the Dust eloquently frames concerns that have preoccupied many independent filmmakers of Dash’s generation: the place of family and tradition in ameliorating historical wrongs, the hope of spiritual escape from a history of trauma, and the elusive possibility of finding deliverance together.
New, fully timed second answer print struck from original 35mm color internegative. Laboratory services provided by Janice Allen, Cinema Arts, Inc.
A. Jaffa Fielder
Cora Lee Day
Barbara O. Jones
WORDS: GABRIELLE RUCKER
THE PEOPLE WHO BROUGHT YOU SOME OF THE MOST POWERFUL MOVIES IN BLACK CINEMA ARE TEAMING UP TO PUSH THE DISCUSSION OF BLACKNESS FURTHER.
Elissa Blount-Moorhead has an impressive and ever-growing résumé. When she isn't tending to the demands of motherhood, the 45-year-old wife and mother of two, Mahsati “Sunny” (11) and Ziggy Sayeed (6), is a Brooklyn- (soon to be Baltimore-) based curator, lecturer and exhibition designer. Blount-Moorhead's experience and ideas on art, music, and the everchanging role of blackness have led her to explore race through a number of personal and professional curatorial projects. She just snagged a new position at the Contemporary Museum Baltimore’s curatorial advisory council; co-runs Tandem, an arts and social practice team, with Rylee Eterginoso; and entered a partnership with film studio TNEG.
Meeting in her spacious and well-lit brownstone apartment in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn just a few weeks before her move to Baltimore, Blount-Moorhead and mater mea talk about her most recent projects and furthering black cinema in a “post-blackness” era.
WHAT IS TNEG, AND HOW DID IT COME ABOUT?
TNEG is a film studio formed by my two partners, Arthur Jafa [cinematographer of Daughters of the Dust and Crooklyn] and Malik Sayeed [cinematographer and director of photography of He Got Game and Belly respectively] that is designed to create black independent film. The goal is to push what we understand to be new black cinema and to create not just new narratives and but also new aesthetics and technical parameters within black cinema.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST BEGIN WORKING WITH TNEG AND HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED?
Officially it has been almost a year now. AJ [Arthur Jafa] and I briefly connected almost a year ago in NY and then more concretely at his opening at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. Kara Walker curated an exceptional exhibition that included AJ and Khalil [Joseph]. I initially spoke with him about my documentary project and he started telling me more about his bigger ideas about a formidable black cinema. He and Malik have spent decades talking about what that would look/feel like, and the impact it would have on the film and the representations of the black image politically, aesthetically, technically. I was beyond intrigued. It was masterful.
[Eventually] the three of us were able to sit down together in L.A. and I felt like I had been reconnected to missing limbs. Intellectually and metaphysically, these are my brothers. I knew some of their work in film obviously, and AJ shared with me work I hadn't seen, like Deshotten [a short film created by AJ and Malik]. It blew me away. The audio was so present and haunting. It was like nothing I had experienced. I could see a deeper conceptual framework for TNEG as a film studio. I knew within hours of our discussion this team would create work, produce projects, and really support a radical cinema. They felt that my background in curation and institutional building was what they had been wanting/needing to get TNEG off the ground and concretize these ideas.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS TNEG HAS BEEN WORKING ON?
The documentary that TNEG has put out, Dreams Are Colder Than Death, was recently at the L.A. Film Festival and is going to the NY Film Festival in 2014. We’ve been basking a little bit in the success of Dreams Are Colder Than Death. We are in the process of of negotiating a distribution deal for that now. My film—working title Children of the Revolution—is on the TNEG slate and in the midst of being put together. We have also been focusing on a couple of scripts that are being developed and written.
WHY DO YOU THINK AVANT-GARDE BLACK CINEMA IS STILL SUCH A FRINGE GENRE?
I don’t know. Black people’s financial and executive role in image making and image representation is relatively new, so there’s not been as much work to understand or critique or compare. Also there’s just not been as many opportunities, [or] platforms really, so that’s a gap that TNEG is trying to close.
In critical mass I’m not sure that people understand black film as a black cinema—they understand one-off efforts, I think, but the larger context seems to be lost. In terms of it being on the fringe, I think all independent film is still on the fringe and that might have to deal with fiscal issues or distribution issues or a host of many other behind-the-scenes things.
I feel like independent film in general is becoming more well-regarded and more supported. If you just think back 20 years there was no IFC, or things like that. There are more alternative platforms now, like Netflix, that are now commissioning and financing work that will go directly through their channels—those are the ways you are able to provide an outlet for people and to hopefully allow filmmakers to create a voice that is not contingent on mainstream and Hollywood expectations.
WHERE DO YOU SEE BLACK CINEMA GOING OR WHERE DO YOU HOPE TO SEE IT GO?
I guess from a business standpoint ideally there would be more alternative revenue streams so that people are able to access tools and personnel, and resources to get work done in a faster way. [Hopefully], through places like TNEG, access to creative peers would also be available. From a creative standpoint, my dream is that it’s about MORE. A multiplicity of black aesthetic, of representation, of narrative that extends to rom-coms to horror. For me what’s most important is that it is not operating in the context of the white gaze. That it is something that is self-determined and is created in the context of everyday black normalcy.
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR MOVIE, CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION?
Essentially, the film looks at—and I am one of them, so it is very, very specific and personal—where children who grew up in alternative environments in the '60s and ‘70s have ended up today. “Alternative environments” include activists, artists, [Black] Panther kids or, you know, commune kids and people like that.
Obviously, it is a cathartic piece that I was obsessed with because of my upbringing. But the real interest for me is looking at it terms of where we are as a society. We were raised by the baby-boomer generation, and they were pioneers is a lot of ways. A lot of what they were doing in terms of parenting was new. They were the first generation using African names or trying a new health food, creating co-ops [and] communes. I mean, all of these things are things that obviously happened at different points in history, but for the black community in the ‘60s and ‘70s, a lot of these things were really untested. I’m really interested in what that creates in a child raised within those scenarios [and] curious about the consistencies among those children. People assume that they must be feral or crazy because they had such a nontraditional upbringing, but that’s quite the opposite in my experience. .
This film is not about the parents; they already get a lot of light. Everyone knows who Amiri Baraka is, but who is Ras Baraka and what is he really about in connection to that movement? Because that movement doesn’t exist anymore, but that spirit is still there. A lot of them are pioneers and tastemakers; they’re interesting, fearless people and intellectuals. They have a lot of similar threads, but in a context that is wholly different than when there was a critical mass of people trying to do it together. Whether they are movement people now—and most aren’t—they all carry this very interesting thread in terms of self-determination and audacity, but also some of the same maladies: you know, maladjustment, misfit syndrome. There are all of these things that happen when you grow up in a place where you are not the mainstream.
AS A “CHILD OF THE REVOLUTION” YOURSELF, HOW DOES THAT AFFECT YOUR PARENTING STYLE?
(Laughs) I’m still trying to figure that out! It’s funny, I started to do the film a few years before I started having kids. A lot of my friends were starting families and I was becoming aware that, “Oh God, I am responsible for the next generation,” even before I was directly responsible.
Having kids has made me really focus on just appreciating the laissez-faire parenting of the last generation. I’m raising kids now in a “helicopter generation.” It is the direct antithesis of what our parents were doing. Even though they were purposeful and intentional, they were also trusting and gave us a lot of space—I think that sort of comes along with the fact that they were more or less going with the flow. I see a lot of parents nowadays that are really tied to what their kids are doing, what they will be, what they know and what they don’t. My kids go to the store on their own; I know parents who can’t even fathom that, but it’s something I used to do all of the time.
I have a lot of conversations with other parents about letting our kids be contemporary. A lot of my friends who are sort of into controlling their kids experiences are giving them what we grew up with. I mean it’s good stuff—it’s Nina Simone, it’s Stevie Wonder—but at the same time are we extracting them from a contemporary experience? There was a point in my adolescence where I had to say to my dad, “OK, Sly [and the Family Stone] is your music, but I listen to hip-hop now.” I’m sure there were things I grew up with that could be considered as trivial or bubblegum but I was very possessive of them and my parents supported me. I try to let my kids live in their own space, within reason. I try to stay open, I try not to be critical, and I try not to be invested in the outcome. My kids are interesting people, but they are not me.
One of the things I think about most as a parent and even within my work, is the future of blackness. What is blackness nowadays? This “post-blackness” thing is not real for me. I think we are highly racialized right now. Post-Obama racism is intense, more intense than anything I have experience in my life. Growing up I was very much steeped in a global black community; I don’t know if that exists in the same way. I feel like I have to put my kids in blackness. Other than what happens in their house, I’m not sure there is still that critical mass that I felt growing up [for them].
HOW DOES YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A BLACK WOMAN AND A MOTHER INFORM YOUR THOUGHTS AND EXPERIENCES WITH CINEMA?
It’s funny, I actually took my kids to see Fruitvale [Station] and people were like, “Are you crazy?!” (Laughs) As a parent I am constantly thirsty for representation and it does not have to be beautiful. We don’t have to be coiffed and flawless. I’m really interested in those spaces that are less heralded, but more representative. I’m always concerned about polarization, because blackness is a myriad of experiences and beauty. I want my [kids] to have gobs and gobs of access to the multiplicity because then they can work it out. They’ll go through it and they’ll say, “Oh, this was a disturbing image,” or “Oh, this isn’t really representative of what I understand,” or “This really is [representative] of my experience,” and through their process of understanding, blackness becomes normal and ambitious.
There is a film, Mother of George, that represented what [Arthur Jafa] and I call this euphoric moment where you’re there and you see something that absolutely reflects a thought or an experience that you know to be real, that you know is inside of you and vibrating inside of your people. It is so seldom that that [feeling] happens to me and I think it should happen all the time. I think every day you should be able to have a euphoric cultural experience. That sort of stuff is what I think gives kids confidence and knowing and authority—it is a necessity. Blackness has a million stories and I want [my kids and I] to hear [and] see all of them.
Kahlil Joseph's Wildcat
Wildcat is a state of mind; an experiment inspired by the composition and performance of jazz music.
The characters that populate this world are actual – cowboys; and envisioned – angels.
The town they all inhabit is real – Grayson, Oklahoma.
Directed and Edited by – Kahlil Joseph
Cinematography by – Malik Hassan Sayeed
Produced by – Omid Fatemi, Paul Chang, Ebony Brown and Daniel Tarr
Original Music by – Flying Lotus
Additional Editing by - Luke Lynch
1st AC – Wayne Goring
2nd AC - Jon Jones
Steadicam by - Stephen Wymer
DIT - Jason Wietholter
Sound Operator - Jon Roman
Wardrobe – Ebony Brown
Production Assistant - Kevin Kisling
Titles - Osk Studio
Featuring – Lundon Torrence, Wildcat Ebony Brown, Elvert (Nooksie) Celestine
Special Thanks to – L. Onye Anyanwu, Daniel Song, Tamytrea Celestine, Oliver Williams, Wendell Williams, Veronica Armstead and the Armstead Family, Mayor Leon Armstead, C & W Rodeo Arena, The people and town of Grayson, Oklahoma
R.I.P. Aunt Janet Celestine.
Otto Prinz (1906–1980) was born in Hollabrunn, in Austria. He worked as a butcher for several years. When he was mobilised during the Second World War, he began to show signs of mental disturbance and was finally admitted to the psychiatric hospital at Klosterneuburg, near Vienna, in 1942. Otto Prinz believed he was invested with divine omnipotence and was destined to live the Passion. He kept away from the other patients but openly proclaimed his mystic beliefs. During his first years in the hospital, Prinz wrote poems, played the piano, and went for long walks. One day he started to draw, procuring his own art materials.
He set great store by his works, mostly landscapes with symmetrical buildings and flourishing vegetation. In several drawings he has depicted just the façade, reducing the building to a single flat surface with rows of rectangular windows. Otto Prinz quickly developed a highly personal style and technique: graphite pencil was his favourite medium and he smudged the pencil strokes to obtain a nuanced rendering close to modelling. The variations in tone contrast with the geometrical lines of the architectural motifs. Prinz thus articulates a tension between architecture and nature: the plants and animals sometimes seem to invade the constructions or, on the contrary, are hemmed in by fences, another recurrent motif in his work.
F. Kouw /
F. Kouw was born at the end of the nineteenth century. He was a patient in the Sainte-Anne hospital, in Paris, where his works were conserved by Dr Auguste Marie. The doctor was one of the first to collect and show art works by mental patients. A note jotted in the margin in 1912 says: "F. Kouw believed himself to be a great artist and a scholarly creator of a new kind of art.“
Kouw created landscapes by combining straight or curved lines and circles. These environments were usually symmetrical and seem to obey mysterious mathematical rules. Some landscapes have several points of view and show great inventiveness. He drew with graphite and coloured pencils and occasionally added watercolour. He sometimes also used the back of his drawings.
All images between 1900-1912.
Armand Schulthess was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. He attended commercial college before doing an apprenticeship in an import–export company. From 1923 to 1934 he was the proprietor of a firm making women’s clothes in Zurich, then Geneva. He subsequently worked in an office in the commercial division of the Swiss Federal Department of the Economy.
At the age of 50 he withdrew from the real world. He left his family and job and went to live at Auressio, in the Ticino, in a small house he had bought.
He embarked on the task of laying out his 18,000 m2 property with a network of paths, bridges, stairways and ladders. From the trees, by means of wire, he hung hundreds of metal plaques made from the tops or bases of food tins, which he coated with paint and inscribed with messages. The texts, written in five languages, combine knowledge relating to geology, astrology, psychoanalysis, literature and music, among other subjects.
Enclosure marshals bold new arguments about the nature of the conflict in Israel/Palestine. Gary Fields examines the dispossession of Palestinians from their land—and Israel’s rationale for seizing control of Palestinian land—in the contexts of a broad historical analysis of power and space and of an enduring discourse about land improvement. Focusing on the English enclosures (which eradicated access to common land across the English countryside), Amerindian dispossession in colonial America, and Palestinian land loss, Fields shows how exclusionary landscapes have emerged across time and geography. Evidence that the same moral, legal, and cartographic arguments were used by enclosers of land in very different historical environments challenges Israel’s current claim that it is uniquely beleaguered. This comparative framework also helps readers in the United States and the United Kingdom understand the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the context of their own histories.
From "This Land is Our Land" by Raja Shehadeh in The New York Review of Books (January 18, 2018)
Starting in the mid-nineteenth century, a series of legal developments in the Ottoman Empire - which ruled Palestine until 1917 - had enabled the growth of large land holdings. They included the promulgation of the Ottoman Land Code of 1858, which attempted to eliminate the musha system, whereby land was held in common, and required that the cultivator-turned-owner register his land with Treasury officials. Two things dissuaded him from doing so: the desire to avoid paying taxes on their land and the fact that the land registry was based in far away Beirut and Damascas.
* * *
I had seen the settlement master plan that the Jewish Regional Council in the West Bank had drawn up in cooperation with the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization. According to this plan, 80,000 Israeli Jews were to be settled in the West Bank by 1986 in the twenty-three settlements and twenty outposts. Ariel Sharon, then Israel's minister of defense, declared that "we are going to leave an entirely different map of the country that it will be impossible to ignore."
The custodian of absentee property had transferred Albina's [a client of the author] land to the Zionist agency with a long-term lease, because it was deemed to be state land. When I proved before an Israeli court that the land was privately owned by Albina, the judge decided that the transaction had been "in fact standard, strong and binding and this in spite of the fact that we concluded in our opinion that the ownership of the said land belongs to the appellant."
The Israeli judges based this oddly contradictory decision on Article 5 of Military Order 58, according to which "any transaction carried out in good faith between the Custodian of Absentee Property and any other person, concerning property which the Custodian believed when he entered into the transaction to be abandoned property, will not be void and will continue to be valid even if it were proved that the property was not at that time abandoned property." The presiding judge did not concern himself with the question of how the custodian could "in good faith" have believed that Albina's land was abandoned. The custodian had, after all, had access to the area's land registry, which was confiscated by the Israeli military immediately after the occupation. A circular fated November 14, 1979, restricted public access to land records. Such records are still restricted for most of the land in the West Bank that Israel controls.
24-compartment transparent plastic box with lid, 13 1/8 x 9 1/8 x 2 1/4 inches. Each compartment contains a unique rock with a printed card giving its location of origin. The rocks were all gathered in the mid-1970's from a worldwide network of colleagues of George Maciunas, who published the original edition at that time. Thus, each box represents a different geographical accumulation. Rocks from the original collection; reprinted Maciunas-designed label and cards; new box. (There is one at MoMA and ReFlux Edition authorized by the Robert Watts estate).
This Fluxus edition is one example of how the members of the geographically-dispersed Fluxus community could work to each other's mutual benefit. In the April, 1973 Fluxnewsletter, Maciunas sent out a call for assistance: "We need about 50 pebbles...from specific and well described locations (country, town vicinity, which beach or shore, which sea, lake or river). This is for a large Geography box by Bob Watts, which will contain pebbles from various parts of the world....All contributors will receive a box in return." In its emphasis on collective artistic production and worldwide geographic distribution, it is closely aligned with works like Mieko (Chieko) Shiomi's series of "Spatial Poems" (M26472-M26475). Where Shiomi's works existed as coordinated but ultimately ephemeral actions, gaining their physical form through the gathering of information, Watts' edition gathers physical matter itself. As is often the case, much of the work necessary to transform the object from a "box of rocks" into a "Flux Atlas" is performed by Maciunas' label design. The compartmentalization of the designation "a flux atlas by bob watts" on the label mirrors the structure of the box's interior. The label's graphic association with a premodern cartographic tradition both indicates that this atlas is founded on actual experience rather than on rational, scientific principles, and participates in the longstanding Fluxus appropriation of outmoded graphic idioms.
Monte Verità: "The place where our minds can reach up to the heavens..."
Harald Szeemann , April 1985
In the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth, the Ticino, republic and canton since 1803, became a gateway to the south and favourite destination of a group of unconventional loners who found in the region, with its southern atmosphere, fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of the utopia they were unable to cultivate in the north. The Ticino came to represent the antithesis of the urbanised, industrialized north, a sanctuary for all kinds if idealist. From 1900 onwards Mount Monescia above Ascona became a pole of attraction for those seeking an ‘'alternative'' life. These reformers who sought a third way between the capitalist and communist blocks, eventually found a home in the region of the north Italian lakes.
The founders came from all directions : Henry Oedenkoven from Antwerp, the pianist Ida Hofmann from Montenegro, the artist Gusto and the ex-officer Karl Gräser from Transylvania. United by a common ideal they settled on the ‘'Mount of Truth'' as they renamed Monte Monescia.
Draped in loose flowing garments and with long hair they worked in the gardens and fields, built spartan timber cabins and found relaxation in dancing and naked bathing, exposing their bodies to light, air, sun and water. Their diet excluded all animal foods and was based entirely on plants, vegetables and fruit. They workshipped nature, preaching its purity and interpreting it symbolically as the ultimate work of art: ‘'Parsifal's meadow'', ‘'The rock of Valkyrie'' and the ‘'Harrassprung'' were symbolic names which with time were adopted even by the local population of Ascona who had initially regarded the community with suspicion.
Their social organisation based on the co-operative system and through which they strove to achieve the emancipation of women, self-criticism, new ways of cultivating mind and spirit and the unity of body and soul, can at the best be described as a Christian-communist community. The intensity of the single ideals fused in this community was such that word of it soon spread across the whole of Europe and overseas, whilst gradually over the years the community itself became a sanatorium frequented by theosophists, reformers, anarchists, communists, socialdemocrats, psyco-analysts, followed by literary personalities, writers, poets, artists and finally emigrants of both world wars: Raphael Friedeberg, Prince Peter Kropotkin, Erich Mühsam who declared Ascona ‘'the Republic of the Homeless'', Otto Gross who planned a ‘'School for the liberation of humanity'', August Bebel, Karl Kautsky, Otto Braun, even perhaps Lenin and Trotzki, Hermann Hesse, Franziska Gräfin zu Reventlow, Else Lasker-Schüler, D.H Lawrence, Rudolf von Laban, Mary Wigman, Isadora Duncan, Hugo Ball, Hans Arp, Hans Richter, Marianne von Werefkin, Alexej von Jawlensky, Arthur Segal, El Lissitzky and many others.
After the departure of the founder for Brazil in 1920 there followed a brief bohemian period at the Monte Verità which lasted until the complex was purchased as a residence by the Baron von der Heydt, banker to the ex-Kaiser Willhelm II and one of the most important collectors of contemporary and non European art. The bohemian life continued in the village and in the Locarnese valleys from then on.
The Mount, now used as a Hotel and park, still maintains its almost magic power of attraction. Along with the proven magnetic anomalies of geological formations underlying Ascona, it is as if the mount preserves, hidden away out of sight, the sum of all the successful and unsuccessful attempts to breach the gap between the ‘'I'' and ‘'we'', and the striving towards an ideal creative society, thus making the Monte Verità a special scenic and climatic micro-paradise.
The Monte Verità is also however a well preserved testimony for the history of architecture. From Adam's hut to the Bauhaus. The ideology of the first settlers demanded spartan chalet-like timber dwellings with plenty of light and air and few comforts. Shortly after 1900 the following buildings began to spring up: Casa Selma (now museum), [...], Casa Andrea with its geometrical façade, the sunniest of the buildings (now converted), Casa Elena and the Casa del Tè - Tea House (now demolished) and the Casa dei Russi (hideout for Russian students after the 1905 revolution and now undergoing renovation). The Casa Centrale was built for the community and allowed for maximum natural light. Ying-Yang symbols were worked into windows and balconies. (In 1948 this building was demolished to make way for a restaurant and only the curving flight of steps remains).
Henry Oedenkoven built Casa Anatta as living quarters and reception rooms in the theosophist style with rounded corners everywhere, double timber walls, sliding doors, domed ceilings and huge windows with views of the landscape as supreme works of art, a large flat roof and sun-terrace.
In the mains rooms of this building Mary Wingman danced, Bebel, Kautsky and Martin Buber discussed, Ida Hofmann played Wagner and the community held its reunions. In 1926 the Baron von der Heydt converted Casa Anatta into a private residence and adorned it with his collection of African, Indian and Chinese art, now housed at Rietberg Museum, and a collection of Swiss carnival masks which is now in Washington. After the death of the Baron in 1964 the Casa Anatta, described by the architecture theorist Siegfried Giedion in 1929 as a perfect example of ‘'liberated living'', fell into disuse and dilapidation. In 1979 it was re-activated to house the Monte Verità exhibition and has been the History Museum of the Monte Verità since 1981. (Open to the public from April to October). In 1909 the Turinese architect Anselmo Secondo built the Villa Semiramis as a guest house and hotel. The Villa, clinging to the mountain side, presents many architectural characteristics of the Piedmont ‘'Jugendstil'' of which the triangular shutters are the most striking example. In 1970 work was carried out to remodernize the Villa, true to the original style, under the direction of the Ticinese architect Livio Vacchini. The arrival of the Baron on the Mount marked the advent of modern architecture in the Ticino The original contract for a hotel in the characteristically rational and functional Bauhaus style went to Mies van der Rohe and was executed by Emil Fahrenkamp, builder of the Shell Building in Berlin and later designer of the Rhein Steel Works. Like Casa Anatta, the Hotel is built against the rock face. The design both of the exterior and of the rooms is simple and clear-cut and the suites are furnished in the Bauhaus tradition. The reception rooms and the corridors are light and airy and the metalwork studied down to the smallest detail.Thanks to the construction of the Hotel, Bauhaus masters such as Gropius, Albers, Bayer, Breuer, Feiniger, Schlemmer, Schawinksy and Moholy-Nagy visited Ascona and the Monte Verità and there discovered what Ise Gropius was to put into words in 1978 ‘‘A place where our minds can reach up to the heavens...''.
I M U U R 2
DIMENSIONS: dimensions variable
MATERIALS: installation consisting of objects from the Martin Wong Collection
CREDIT LINE: T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2014
ACCESSION NUMBER: 2014.41.1-.1818
The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis has bought around 4,000 objects left behind by the late Chinese-American artist Martin Wong, the Art Newspaper reports. The vast collection of Chinese teaware, calligraphy, Disney figurines, and paintings by Wong was transformed by the Danish-Vietnamese artist Danh Vō into a large-scale installation titled I M U U R 2 for his solo show at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2013.
Wong died at the young age of 53 in 1999. When Vō got hold of the items, Wong’s elderly mother was on the verge of selling her deceased son’s belongings. The artist told the curator (and artnet News contributor) Lydia Yee, “Florence was actually talking about having garage sales because she didn’t know what to do with all this stuff.”
A curator convinced Vō that a posthumous collaboration with Wong would increase the prospect of an institution buying the collection, save it from destruction, and to help preserve Wong’s legacy. The plan worked out perfectly when the Walker Art Center agreed to buy the unique artwork last September.
The work goes on show at London’s Barbican Gallery in “Magnificent Obsessions: the Artist as Collector” from February 12, 2015.
Martin Wong is known for his paintings of gritty cityscapes, including New York's Chinatown and Lower East Side, and for championing graffiti a legitimate art form in the 1980's and 1990's. Wong was a respected and prolific painter in New York's downtown art scene in the 1980's. In addition, Wong cultivated both working and personal relationships with graffiti artists and enthusiasts.
Born Martin Victor Wong (although he sometimes playfully lists himself as "Martin Genghis Wong") in Portland, OR, on July 11, 1946, Wong was raised by his Chinese-American parents in San Francisco. He graduated from George Washington High School in 1964. Wong was involved in performance art in the 1970's, but focused almost exclusively on painting after moving to New York in the early 1980's.
In addition to his painting, Wong experimented with poetry and prose, much of which he recorded on long paper scrolls. Highly anecdotal and semi-autobiographical, Wong's writing features an exuberant and fanciful stream-of-consciousness style.
Fascinated by New York's renegade graffiti artists, Wong befriended such spray-can virtuosos as "Daze" (Chris Ellis), "Lee," "Laroc," and "LA2," among others. Wong forged a particularly strong and enduring friendship with Daze, and helped publicize his work, as well as the work of other graffiti artists, in exhibitions and through the Museum of American Graffiti. This grassroots institution was devised to showcase the vibrant panoply of contemporary graffiti art.
Wong's circle also included arts journalist Theresa Herron, Steve Hernandez, "Magic Sam," artist John Ahearn, "Lady" Joyce Ryan, Barry Blinderman, and Wendy Olsoff and Penny Pilkington of the PPOW gallery. Also significant in Wong's life were his mother, Mrs. Benjamin Wong Fie, and his "Aunt Nora" (a.k.a. Aunt Ellie), Eleanora Tam. In artistic terms, one of Wong's most significant relationships was that shared with poet and playwright Miguel Pinero, whom Wong met in 1982. Affectionately referred to by Wong as both "Mikey" and "Mickey," Pinero was considered "Loisaida's reigning outlaw poet" (Sweet Oblivion, 35). A some-time roommate of Wong's, Pinero collaborated with Wong on such paintings as "Attorney Street Handball Court" (1982-84) and "Little Got Rained On" (1983). Pinero's text was incorporated into the paintings such that Wong's imagery serves as evocative illustration. Pinero also appears not infrequently in Wong's paintings as subject - "Portrait of Pinero" (1982), "Penitentiary Fox" (1988), "La Vida" (1988) - where he is typically depicted reading or writing.
In the span of a decade, Wong achieved considerable recognition and success, with a formidable arsenal of solo and group exhibitions to his credit. Wong is most closely associated with downtown galleries Semaphore, Exit Art, and PPOW, but his work has also appeared at such venues as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, and the New York Historical Society. Wong died in 1999, after a protracted battle with AIDS.
Trying to understand where I grew up: Born in Los Angeles in 1937, conceptual artist Robert Kinmont spent his early years outside the small rural town of Bishop, California, before settling in Sonoma, his home of over 30 years. The artist’s approach and process have continuously been informed by his deep connection to the California landscape, evident in the recurrent use of natural elements such as wood, dirt, copper, and water. In the 1970s, Kinmont took a 30-year hiatus from his art practice to study Zen Buddhism and work as a carpenter.
Trying to understand where I grew up profiles his prolific art-making periods before and after this break, including some works exhibited for the first time. The exhibition also marks the first Bay Area solo presentation by the artist in over 45 years, providing a unique opportunity to view Kinmont’s evolution from early works of the late 1960s and ’70s to those following his reemergence in 2005. Through works in photography, sculpture, and video, Kinmont explores the interdependency between man and nature. Taken as a whole, the four elements Kinmont considers essential to his artistic language—the conceptual, structural, natural, and civic—remain common threads throughout the artist’s body of work.
Robert Kinmont (b. 1937, Los Angeles) currently lives in Northern California.
Between 1968 and 1981, he exhibited in galleries and institutions such as the San Francisco Museum of Art; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. and the 1968 “Sculpture Annual” at the Whitney Museum, New York. Between 1975 and 2004, Kinmont studied Buddhism and worked as a carpenter, returning to his artistic practice in 2005.
One-person exhibitions of his sculpture and photography took place at Alexander and Bonin in 2009 and 2011, and in 2010 his work was included in several group exhibitions such as “The Traveling Show”atFundación/Colección Jumex, Mexico City, and “The Moon is An Arrant Thief”at the David Roberts Foundation, London. In 2013, the artist’s work was included in “Plans for Escape: An Exhibition under Construction,” at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil in Sao Paulo.
In 2011, Kinmont’s work was included in “State of Mind,” a survey of new California art circa 1970 co-organized by the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and the Orange County Museum of Art. In 2012 his work was included in “Ends of the Earth: Art of the Land to 1974,”at the Geffen Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the exhibition subsequently traveled to Haus der Kunst, Munich. In 2014, Alexander and Bonin presented a solo exhibition of new sculpture, “trying to return home educated.” The following year, Kinmont had two solo exhibitions; “Jump” at RaebervonStenglin, Zurich and “Robert Kinmont: trying to understand where I grew up” at the di Rosa museum in Napa, CA. Also in 2015, his work was included in “Afterlife”, curated by Julie Ault, at Galerie Daniel Buchholz, New York. Kinmont’s photographic series 8 Natural Handstands,1969/2009 was included in “Sublime – The tremors of the world” at the Centre Pompidou-Metz in 2016. That same year, his work was included in “Full Moon,” the inaugural exhibition at Museum Voorlinden in Wassenaar, The Netherlands.
In May 2017, a solo exhibition of Kinmont’s work opened at Alexander and Bonin.
In the original project drawing by Johann Jakob Stehlin, the architect of the large, neo-classical sky-lit room on the first floor of the Kunsthalle Basel – the historical “Oberlichtsaal” – two chandeliers can be made out. An outline of the drawing now figures on the cover of the invitation card to the first major institutional exhibition by Danh Vo, entitled Where the Lions Are.
The exhibition title is a free translation of the Latin phrase Hic sunt leones, which Roman cartographers used to describe unknown territories, such as what is now Vietnam, the country where the artist was born. The title also reflects Vo’s artistic practice: it is both a comment on the interrelationship between Western and non-Western world and a re-appropriation of the title of a group exhibition curated by François Piron at the Para/Site Art Space in Hong Kong (2008), in which Vo participated.
With a history dating back as far as 1839, the Basler Kunstverein (Basel Art Association) brought together a group of innovative artists and patrons to initiate a new institution in Basel, which challenged the traditional role of the museum as a place where works of art are preserved, and instead sought to foster contemporary art practices in the spirit of their time. To raise funds for the construction of a new building, the Kunstverein benefited for several years from the revenue of running a ferryboat that brought people from one side of the river Rhine to the other. Kunsthalle Basel finally opened in 1872.
While the chandeliers of the Kunsthalle probably remained a concept that was not realised, they became part of history in another place: almost every newspaper article that reported the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973 at Hotel Majestic in Paris shows a photograph of the hotel’s ballroom with three large chandeliers above the table where the negotiations between North Vietnam, America and South Vietnam took place.
Danh Vo’s ongoing interest in the reasons for France’s involvement in Southeast Asia developed into a new body of work, which will be presented at Kunsthalle Basel. The artist draws on three different archives that link together important moments in the history of Vietnam: the role of the missionaries sent to Southeast Asia by the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris in the 19th century, the official ending of the Vietnam war negotiated in Paris, and elements of Vo’s biography.
Danh Vo combines objects, documents and artefacts against the background of the specific history of the exhibition space. Reminiscent of an archaeologist or a collector, the artist creates an enigmatic setting that investigates the different notions of personal and collective memory as well as the hope for “somewhere better than this place”. He challenges the viewer’s expectations of art and artists – and not least also emphasizes the institution’s role as it was once defined: a place from which to explore the unknown territories of contemporary art.
In a 1995 interview the Cuban-American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres discussed his spy-like approach to art-making, in which he infiltrates art’s rarefied spaces with visually pleasing but seemingly unremarkable objects that surreptitiously reference autobiographical elements and contemporary politics. A worthy heir to Gonzalez-Torres, Berlin-based Danh Vo deploys a comparably clandestine approach in “Where the Lions Are,” his spare but suggestive solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel.
Vo was four when his family fled Vietnam in 1979, in a boat his father built; they were rescued at sea by a Danish ship, eventually gaining asylum and settling in Copenhagen. Appropriating and re-presenting found artifacts, images and documents—from family mementos to objects he purchases online—Vo intimates narratives that weave together biographies (his and other peoples’) and broader collective histories, frequently addressing relations between Vietnam and the West. His displays function, to borrow a term from German philosopher Walter Benjamin, like “constellations:” loose aggregations of seemingly unrelated fragments that reveal the fluidity of historical truth; history is always a contingent set of relations between artifacts, and the viewer engages with them as an archaeologist or historian might.
Vo’s interventions in the light-filled galleries of the 19th-century Kunsthalle were intentionally inconspicuous, often mimicking elements of the building’s fin-de-siècle interior. In the first room, a large hanging chandelier blended in perfectly with the architecture. Lying flat in the back right corner were three carved stone tablets—detailed reliefs of the fronts of a television, washing machine and fridge—with a wooden crucifix atop the middle one, suggesting a cenotaph. The next room was empty save for its red and white wallpaper; the delicate and precise botanical drawings repeated on it were a subtle play on the baroque floral patterns one might expect. A loosely tied bundle of knotty branches sat in the back corner of the final room, adjacent to a well-worn wood-and-glass display case that held a faded black-and-white framed photograph of five solemn young white men in priestly habits and a tiny curio containing a lock of hair.
At the end of the exhibition the viewer found two wall-mounted brass plaques that served as the show’s map, checklist and wall text; the plaques provided a surfeit of information about the displayed objects, often elucidating the works’ banal yet cryptic titles. We learn, for instance, that the three tablets, collectively titled Tombstone for Nguyen Thi Ty (2009), commemorate Vo’s maternal grandmother: she was given the appliances by an immigrant relief program and the Catholic Church upon arrival in West Germany in 1982. We also learn that the chandelier once hung in the ballroom of the former Hotel Majestic in Paris, where the 1973 Peace Accords that formally ended the Vietnam War were signed, and that the botanical drawings are of plants discovered in Southern China and Tibet by Jean-Andre Soulie, a French missionary who was tortured and killed in 1905 in Batang by Tibetan monks. The photograph is of another group of Vietnam-bound French missionaries taken before their departure from Paris in 1852; the lock of hair belonged to one of their number, decapitated in Tonkin eleven years later. And the branches are from a tree that served as a landmark for the now-lost grave of Vo Trung Thanh (the artist’s brother, though the text does not mention this) in Vietnam, who was buried in a makeshift coffin built from American ammunition boxes.
The exhibition’s title suggests its conceptual terrain. From the Romans on, European cartographers used the phrase Hic sunt leones (“Here there are lions”) to designate unmapped regions, and the frontier has always inspired both fear and fascination, holding the promise of untold wealth and opportunity that inspired many a doomed colonial endeavor. The objects serve as repositories for episodes from the checkered history of colonialism in Southeast Asia. They align France’s earlier imperial pursuits with the Vietnam War, which directly impacted Vo’s family. They suggest that the well-intentioned and often life-risking missionaries who set out to convert and civilize natives might have inflicted a more insidious type of colonial violence, a gesture somewhat repeated in the charity offered to incoming refugees in contemporary Europe. But Vo allows for ambiguity: the wallpaper recognizes both Soulie’s invaluable contribution to botany and his appropriation of these native species (the plants are all named after him). And the other murdered missionary serves as a perverse analog for Vo’s lost brother. Given this preoccupation with death, the show seemed to question whether historical artifacts might function as secular relics of a sort—holding out the promise of direct access to a dead relative or to the past itself—and whether they ever truly give up history’s ghosts.
AM: Well, I think one of the most important things we can do, especially as humans in the arts, is to replace "for" with "with."
AM: Yeah, with. That's how things get fixed. I'm just the same as anybody else that would be coming to a show or event. Most of our problems are the same, so why don't I try to address your while you help address mine and we can jump a bit further?
My entry to art was through the lens of service. My father was an event slash school-portrait slash public-institution photographer. He worked to generate and preserve memories for people who were busy making them. For my show last fall at Knockdown Center in Queens, I included a makeshift photo studio. I was there almost every day. As visitors came by, I offered to take impromptu portraits of whoever needed to see themselves. I had a similar studio setup for two months in Harlem this summer. The goal was to make physical prints for people who haven't traditionally had access to formal photography services. That was more people than I anticipated.
CR: Could you speak to the kind of memory grabbing that you're doing?
AM: In 2015, I created an imaginary town called New Davonhaime. The name combines those of five cities in America with some of the highest Black-population densities, as determined by census data. I took letters and sound from each of these locations - New Orleans; Detroit, Birmingham [Alabama]; Jackson [Mississippi]; Savannah [Georgia] - and moved them around until I made something that sounded like a real place. "New" evokes people coming from somewhere who want to hold on to parts of that other place, but also want to make a version that's a little better.
I visited many of these five cities as I could in two and half weeks. I asked people, "What are your issues?" "What's wrong?" "This is what I'm doing - does this work?" Most responses were pretty simple: "I don't see enough of myself out there and the versions that I do see I'm not happy with. There are some things I like, and I would like to see more of those things."
CR: I've read that you didn't want this town to be thought of as a utopia. Because utopias are never realized, right?
AM: A utopia is a fantasy into which you dump all of your wishes and dreams which ultimately functions like a scapegoat. I wanted to envision something that could actually work. You don't work to make a utopia happen. You might work to make something based on a utopia, but you accept that whatever you come up with will be four or five steps behind. You have to acknowledge failure as part of the plan.
Currently, New Davonhaime's only brick-and-mortar offering is my store, Jimmy's Thrift of New Davonhaime.
Mucha's practice is one of collecting and re-constellating rather than of creating our of whole cloth. But if bricolage traditionally dramatizes materialist anarchy, entropy, or a fragile coherence wrested from the junk heap of consumer culture. Mucha's project (to invoke the work of philosopher Alva Noë) is, by contrast, one of organizing - of "bring out and exhibiting, disclosing and illuminating" the social matrices and technologies that structure our lives."