Do Me At Work

Jammie Nicholas Interview (feat. Tom Clark)

Jammie Nicholas is an artist and curator based in London, UK. He is the co-founder and curator of Supralimen and Offsite Projects Curator for Arcadia_Missa and associate editor of How to Sleep Faster. His upcoming projects include the solo exhibition, Surplus Perfume: For the Home at Public House Projects in June and Artist Commision for Art Licks Magazine Issue 8 for which he will be doing a scratch and sniff card to accompany a reading of the magazine.

Sam Korman:  We could start with your most recent activity. You’ve just done a fair bit of travel. In October, you came to Portland, where we met and you’ve just recently returned from Sweden. What were the purposes of those trips and what are some of the things that you found exciting in those places?

Jammie Nicholas:  Well, I came to Portland because I am looking into continuing my studies on an MA/MFA and for about a year now I have been watching the activities of the PSU MFA Art and Social Practice course. From afar, it seemed like a course that would be right up my alley, from it basis in social relations, non-studio based practices, the theoretical structure/references/bibliographies and the peripheral program of lectures, conferences etc. So I came to sit in on the course for a week, meet the tutors, students and Portland itself. I say from afar, as I am based in London, United Kingdom, so it would be a large decision for the duration of the course (3 years).

SK:  Half way around the world.

JN:  Ha yeah, I have never been that far that way. It was so close to being perfect for me that is was totally wrong. It was really disappointing, as I now need to find another reason to go to Portland for a longer period of time.

SK:  At first, I was pretty critical of the Social Practice program, but now I am thinking a lot more about practice. Lately, some of its less stated philosophy surrounding the nature of practice in general has had me excited. I just read a text by Thierry de Duve, "When Form Has Become Attitude—And Beyond," which takes its name from the famous Harald Szeeman show in the 60s that gave some of the first institutional accreditation to conceptual art practice. de Duve sites this as a significant moment when art school became less about the Bauhaus notion of creative methodology or the academic apprenticeship and talent model—that all of the sudden it became important to observe a critical attitude and that is what art school transitioned into teaching a critical practice and artists became culture workers.

JN:  I personally think that in relation to that specific course, I had a Euro/US mis-definition of the notion of social practice. Or perhaps I just misunderstood its “definition.” My practice as both artist and curator is based very much in the idea of a social. That is to say the idea of collaboration, social behaviors, interrelations and the validity of multiple voices and opinions. I work closely with Tom Clark, who has done a lot of research into the archives of the University we studied at (Central Saint Martins) and subsequently the development of notions of art teaching/education in the UK and Europe. I don’t know of the text exactly but yeah I agree with the notions of transitional shift for artists to become culture workers, or at least the possibility of it. There are still artists who are hermits.

SK:  I can think of several artist friends that fit the latter description (and yet, weed seems to facilitate both types of production!).

JN:  It now just makes me sleepy.

SK:  The strange thing about both de Duve’s article and the Social Practice department was that in the end, they both proffered an ethical solution for art practice on the one hand and art school for the other. And this is where they lost me. As if do-goodery was the only solution.

JN:  That is where I began to get lost, or more frustrated too.

SK:  And that is also where it becomes more hermetic, more dogmatic and closes down the range of options possible for art practice.

JN:  Exactly. I was sitting in on one part of the course “The History of Art and Social Practice” and that week for some reason was the class on ideas of “The Gift.” I have done a lot of research and writing on ideas of the gift and I think that there is so much potential for creative practices with it. But often the possibilities seemed to be trimmed to the easiest and most pseudo hippy option.

SK:  The notion that gifts are positive or reciprocal was taken for granted. Unlike, let’s say, Jimmy Kimmel’s recent YouTube craze wherein he solicited parents to give their children early Christmas presents that were bad presents, like a half eaten sandwich or a toaster oven. The kids freak out. One eight year-old even told Kimmel to suck his balls.

Just as an example of calling this practice into question while still observing some of the ritual—and exploitation, as well.

JN:  I attended a lecture by Mark Leckey and Tom McCarthy, and one thing was the idea of the Liliputh, which is apart of a Greek mythology and denotes a giant creature that is made up of hundreds of smaller creatures. The interrelations of the smaller creatures and their role in the larger is inherent in all.

SK:  An example of this might be your How To Carve Totem Poles project, which was staged in various media and through various forms and sites of interaction.Can you describe the project and its origins a little?

JN:  How To Carve Totem Poles came as an extension of the work that Tom and I do with Supralimen. Initially it came from a proposal to an open application that we completed (but did not receive) that was addressing the notion of “focus” in curation. We then subsequently were asked to do it at Arcadia_Missa (before I started working there). It began as a question of a physical manifestation of an online cascading blog space. It came to be more in the development and realization of the cascading blog space through multiple versions of the curation and the relations between visitors and the artists, extending from a standardized display module (initially for cube televisions but then unrestricted to a module for any media). We invited a friend who is an architect, Alex Sprogis and we began to develop what became the template for a triangular infinitely stackable structure.

The artist’s involved were allowed complete freedom within each module (three 60cm cubes), with each work a new commission or an adapted work and we were allowed complete freedom to arrange the totem in any order, as many times as we liked over the exhibition period. The idea with the totem is that it can be produced anywhere by anyone for whatever reason. The blueprint for one face of the module is available on Alex Sprogis’s website. So, in essence it can exist with out the initiators, which it now has done in a completely different format. The supports for the modules are arms (like a shelf) and they have been utilized in a friend, Charity’s new gallery, Art Against Knives in East London. Alex Sprogis designed the interior of the gallery. 

SK: It is possible for the project to continue without you or in spite of you?

JN: We would like to be able to produce another version of the exhibition somewhere completely separate to London; all that we would need is a router and some wood. Hence a general idea of the totem of the people of the Pacific Northwest, with hundreds of totems, each the same and different, each with their own meaning, utilizing standard symbols of iconography to denote multiple meanings.

SK:  We talked previously about polyphony, or the notion of multiple and concurrent voices. This is a perfect example of it, and though you’ve made it extremely easy to distribute, what are some of the limits to this kind of practice?

JN:  The ease of distribution is a symptom of the hyper-contemporary and connected world (Seth Price’s Dispersion is a well known example). Polyphony as a creative process cannot exist without the understanding of notions of the gift (Bataille’s reading of Potlatch) and visa versa. I suppose the limits are what we spoke about in relation to the MFA/SP course, where there is a narrowed trimming of the possibilities, the potential of an event or action. Everyone is guilty of it, so yeah I there are a myriad of limitation, but also a myriad of potentials.

SK:  We return to practice and how one may institute it. It has as much actual potential or realized potential as implied potential. It’s a structure on which to be built.

JN: The Totem Pole is nothing but a structure on which to be built, or perhaps not. I am unsure whether there are any realized potentials in something that may be considered polyphonic. As a fully finalized idea, it may never allow for other potentials. Anthony Huberman’s essay, “I (not love) Information” is an interesting text on the ideas of potential and finalization in terms of information and ignorance and definition.

I have read a little about where you have moved to and the Chinati, and on first impression it seemed to me to be acting as a retirement home for the works there.

 SK:  Well, yes and no. I have had similar feelings about this place being something of an art resort—both for the art and for those that conduct the institution. But I feel a bit differently, because it is also very much about a different kind of viewership, one that unfolds over time and becomes a sort of personal discourse that is allowed to expand out from the initial encounter.

JN:  I don’t know whether this is a just a condition of the era and method of the works’ production, but there are examples of it everywhere. It seems to be an egotistical reluctance, or perhaps fear, on the behalf of the artist, uber-authorial, not to allow a dissemination of their work. (I am probably being too narrow minded).

SK:  The permanence of this place, for Judd, was in direct opposition to a museum and gallery system that he compared to the entertainment industry, wherein works of art were shipped around and damaged both physically and theoretically by inclusion in sites that were not necessarily appropriate for the work. In this case, he saw the context as completely integral to any sense of experience of the work—after all, that is what he sought with his “specific objects.”

JN:  I think that it is a very important decision that he had made. What do you think of the idea of it becoming more a place of pilgrimage? I mean in the sense of perhaps the Mona Lisa or Spiral Jetty, where not many have seen them but understand their image initially.

SK:  As opposed to accepting this condition of art and making work about it, like, let’s say Walead Beshty’s boxes, he decided to create a gesamtkunstwerk, wherein he created art and architecture that expanded the experience of his sculpture out into the fucking huge and desolate desert. I have my issues with it as well, but it is quite remarkable to be here. Though at times it feels like the cult of Judd. In a way, it is a somewhat traditional view of American individualism, I think. Makes you feel like a man.

It’s definitely affected the town immensely. Housing prices are inflated, because it’s an international housing market now. There’s boutiques that sell $350 shirts, shit like that that just expands the cultural tourism market and is turning it into another Park City, UT (Sundance Film Festival) or Santa Fe, NM. But, as far as the work is concerned, it’s pretty remarkable.

JN:  So is the town something that Judd has built or is it the artworks?

SK:  Hard to say. I think it all comes back to Judd, really.

JN:  Will this ever happen?

SK:  Ha, hilarious!!!

JN:  It was in my childhood park.

SK:  It is definitely possible, though I don’t know where you would go. Mexico is only an hour away.

JN:  Marfa is definitely somewhere I would like to go…

SK:  The point of Chinati now is a different type of economy, which has everything to do with preservation and the preservation of his vision.

JN:  …to experience the lingering essence of Judd.

SK:  Ha! I think that people here are here in part to preserve that vision and though there’s an organic grocery and a hip youth culture, I think that in part, it is to preserve the image of this place while Judd was still working. He owned so much of the town that it really was an incredible laboratory for him. And, in a sense, he developed a personal methodology or a practice that involved furniture, architecture, landscape, gardening, art, events, site, etc. Perhaps his brand of practice could only live here.

 JN:  Perhaps he organized his studio as a town. I do prefer it to this.

 SK:  I suppose it is a more modernist view of practice that does not involve so much the social but rather is more grounded in the mediums themselves. But I’ve read several attempts to link Judd, his furniture specifically, to Relational Aesthetics. The move from viewers to users. Judd expanded his art practice into a social dimension, because he created something with use value and considered that as such. Some of the writers that I read related it to Andrea Zittel and Liam Gillick, whereby they create something that employs a modernist language into design or certain living or office environments to reconsider the social or “relational” ways this language can be employed and critiqued, which is very much involved in a kind of self-critique or practice that Judd involved himself in here.

JN:  For me, I feel that a link to the social could stem from memory, or, at the very least, experience. A consideration of what the experience might involve and how the audience experiences both it and what they might believe “the artist wants us to feel.” Ideas of use-value, function and exchange-value are very interesting.

SK:  Judd is very explicit in his separation of the furniture from his art. For him, art has a value unto itself, in a particular negation or rather, uselessness, whereas furniture has a use value and it must be immediately perceivable, as such. (He says “as such” all the time in his writing.)

JN:  Perhaps we now have a more blurred line between what is a part of a creative practice and what is a creative process.

SK:  Definitely. It’s what seems to be involved in your curatorial practice, because as you curate, you share the voice with you artists or participants.

JN: Linking to the idea of teaching/education/pedagogy in the Circular Facts book I showed you, the text by Huberman speaks about the idea of didactic and information sharing. There is a continual shift, which might need to he pushed harder, between “I know these things and you will listen” and “I know this, you know that, let’s share.”

SK:  Diminishing the hierarchy. It also seems to be linked to the economy with which you conduct the Arcadia_Missa space.

JN:  I am unsure. An inherent hierarchy will still exist through (social) obligation and volume of dispersion. Trust is probably a better term. A hierarchy of trust perhaps. At Arcadia_Missa there are a number of us, who collaboratively construct the development of the program. At the moment there are five of us. We are currently beginning to develop a couple of projects that will extend into a broader network of interested individuals, one of which is going to be a form of library where it acts like a middle man between the text, the interested person and the person who owns the book.

SK: But, in a way, it is a self-sustained art economy where production and distribution are linked through studio and gallery space. Not such a new model, but you are doing different things than have traditionally been done with spaces like this, yeah?

JN:  It will (hopefully) allow for more information and discussion around ideas and concepts. So you can talk in the library.

SK:  Hahahahaha.

JN:  I think that we are doing something different, I am not exactly sure what it is, which is important. We are in continual dialogue with each other, the artists, writers and contributors that will be, have and are involved in projects.

SK:  I was thinking also about the model of a really awesome band. I am also reminded of The Minutemen, how internally they were linked with the relationship of D. Boon and Mike Watt and then to see D. Boon play and kids in a basement freaking out. There was no hierarchy within the band and then it becomes a reciprocal relationship with the audience wherein both benefit from the experience…

JN:  Exactly.

SK:  …or, videos of Minor Threat in basements where Ian MacKaye can somehow get lost in the crowd and he is ostensibly the leader, though that is not the point.

JN:  I am listening to !!! and they had a similar formation and method.

SK:  I think what is also important to consider is the duration of these kinds of groups or organizations. Minor Threat was only a band for a couple years. Not long at all.

JN:  Yes. The gallery I used to co-run lasted a year or so, but we are still asked when we will do another show.

SK:  Ha!

JN:  We might be we have no idea.

SK:  Like, When’s your next album coming out? Well, I guess I should get going in a minute, but one last question.

JN:  Yes yes.

SK:  One of the ways in which you define the Arcadia_Missa project is:

We do not, of course, want this to be merely the production of time-based capital to be floated onto the art-futures market, but to instate the terms of our own economy, production and consumption: where actual value becomes unavoidably apparent. Can you elaborate on that? How would you define “actual value?”

JN:  I’ll ask Tom. Tom, Can you extrapolate on the quote from the editorial, especially on the notions of time-based capital in creative processes and the definition of what you describe as a revealed actual value?

Tom Clark:  I think that an idea of actual value, or a more apparent making process is important in a time when we are all investing time into an identity-image; especially in the creative industries where uniqueness is our bartering power as more often than not freelancing workers. In the same way the Arts and Crafts Movement wanted to make the creative process more evident, or the modernists want to instate a value in material or actual form, I think collaboration is another way to make the normally invisible (think how you can’t see into factories) process of work and creation of value visible to those around you.

JN:  A removal of smoke-filled back offices and cabinet rooms.

TC: Yeah as well as removing this mystical creation of value that comes from behind a public facing frontage—a brand, or the public image of something.

JN:  A revealing of the mystical sacred value (or to use gaming terminology, mana) that social relations impart on objects, so a collaboration between not only the initiators of constructed situations/exhibitions/brands but a transparent collaboration between directors, authors, producers, workers, consumers, users, gamers and viewers?

TC:  What does mana mean?

JNMana and in gaming the little blue bar that lets you do magic.

TC:  I see.  It’s easier to begin describing how it might work in practice at the level of the latter lot: viewers, because viewers might be more open to being invited into the process of culture, but less interested in collaborating in the work at Coke’s bottling plant or in a sandwich factory. However I think it is important to begin on a path that engenders respect for those who work there—by extension we can appreciate the value of the products, and then things hopefully become less throw away. This is ever more important in a cloud computing age when consumption and productivity are kind of unbounded.



Ry Rocklen Interview

Ry Rocklen is an artist and educator working in Los Angeles, CA. His work is represented by Untitled and has been exhibited as part of the Whitney Biennial of American Art (2008). Rocklen has two installations currently on view in Marfa, TX as part of Nothing Beside Remains, presented by Los Angeles Nomadic Division and curated by Shamim Momin.

Sam Korman:  Hey. Ry.

Ry Rocklen:  Hey, Sam.

SK:  How’s it going? Are you in LA?

RR:  All is well. Yes, I am in Los Angeles, Los Feliz to be more specific.

SK:  I’ve only ever been to Venice and Hollywood and each for a day on my way somewhere else. I have absolutely no geographic sense of that place. I feel a little like a philistine, because of it. Same with New York. Oh well.

RR:  It is my goal to one day live in a city other than Los Angeles, as I have lived here my whole life. Before I leave however there are still many parts I the city I have yet to visit. How are you doing out in Marfa?

SK:  Pretty well. Trying to stay busy. It’s fun to walk by your piece in the storefront. Sometimes I forget it’s an art piece and think that it is just some weird holdover from and out-of-business trophy store. It’s a nice little switch up. Oh, and the sunsets and moons have been unbelievable.

RR:  I was just scrolling through a host of friends who are online and available to chat. It is different than calling someone on the phone since I can tell they are already available to chat.

SK:  Maybe we could start with the work you’ve done in Texas, in Marfa and Austin.

RR:  Absolutely, Texas is a wonderful place to begin.

SK:  Have you displayed work outside of a gallery setting before Nothing Beside Remains?

RR:  It has been a while since I showed in a non-gallery setting. The last time was in 2008 when Shamim organized the Station show, which took place in a unfinished Crate and Barrel store in Miami. The walls were still raw cinderblock and the floor was bare concrete and gravel.

SK:  It changes your work a lot. Second to None, like I mentioned above, reads as an artwork, but what seems to change is the deliberateness of the placement in the storefront. It seems totally appropriate to your work, with the double-sided sculptures. (I have an ongoing joke with a friend where we text each other images of things that look like Cady Noland sculptures we see on the street).

RR:  That sounds fun. Did you set up a blog for that? Having Second to None in the storefront was a really pleasant surprise. I really like how the sculpture is still viewable even when the storefront is closed. I like how people can look in through the window at the sculpture sitting in the dark of the empty space.

SK:  What changes with the work between the open and closed hours?

RR:  I have the feeling there is something more romantic about the sculpture when the storefront is closed, as there is a sense of longing as one stares through the glass. When people are able to enter they can get close to the sculpture and read the little placards on the trophies and see all the little figures and how the piece is put together, and for what it loses in its mysteriousness it gains in its complexity.

SK:  The other piece in the show, Search For Ironed Curtain, has a similar perspective shift. In that case, it’s very much a site-specific piece, but the site is Marfa itself. How far can a piece go before it is just an object in the world? (I deliberately withheld a description of the piece, because it’s a nice decision one has to make while walking around town or looking out from the viewing tower at the court house: did I see it? what did I see?)

RR:  I have been wondering if I could do Search for Ironed Curtain somewhere other than Marfa and I am unsure because of how perfect Marfa is for the piece. The courthouse tower is spectacular and then the town is small enough that you can see it in its entirety from the tower. The actual material of the piece will eventually become an artifact, and I was thinking if I were to recreate the piece in a different location, it might no longer be a curtain.

SK:  A friend of mine said that there is something creepy about curtains.

RR:  I concur. I have done a few curtain sculptures and am attracted to them partly because they soak up the histories of the people they keep in the dark. If the walls have eyes curtains have noses. I am always simultaneously curious and disturbed by the sight of curtains drawn during the day. Especially when you can tell they have been drawn for a long long time. The most disturbing of all curtains in my estimation is Aluminum Foil.

SK:  I have never seen that, but I have never really lived somewhere with a lot of sun—or weed growing operations or meth labs, at least in one’s living rooms (or maybe I am oblivious to all the meth being made under my nose all these years). Do you consider yourself a studio-based artist? I ask, because the work in Marfa seems to reverse your working process of bringing vernacular objects into the studio and reworking them. Here, they bring the studio work into the vernacular space.

RR:  The studio is a base of operation. In my most successful works I take something I find and turn it into a sculpture, and through this shift the next time the viewer sees a similar object out in the world that object becomes a conduit for my sculpture. Through alteration of one ubiquitous object I hope to activate many. The Search For Ironed Curtain operates similarly as it is a ploy to get people to visit the courthouse turret and look carefully at the town of Marfa, as a curtain in one window can energize the rest.

SK:  While we are talking, I am listening to The Minutemen, and the song, "The World According To Nouns" came on. Despite its political overtones, the song is really amazing, because, in the end, the last line is, “can these words refine the truth?” This seems pertinent to your working practice in a certain way. The world according to objects.

RR:  Thank you for sharing Sam, what a great song! We are connected by our objects and furniture. In some ways, we are ruled by them. For a long time we didn’t have a kitchen table in our apartment because we didn’t think we could find one that would fit. It was dispiriting because without one we ate our dinner and breakfast on the couch. One day on the radio I heard about a book called The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik. He was saying how the kitchen table is the most important piece of furniture in the house. Hearing this helped motivate us to finally get a table that worked in our little kitchen and it has really changed the way we live. I am writing from this table now!

SK:  Wow! When I was looking at images of your work today, especially the two-sided sculptures, it made me think about how I just moved. In another interview, you mentioned that you want to treat surfaces like objects, and when I moved, I had to divorce myself from the meaning I ascribed to all the drawings and photographs that I didn’t want or couldn’t take with me anymore and throw them out like objects. Could you define some of your installations as some kind of hoarding? Hoarding of objects? Hoarding of narratives? Though punctuated with some kind of humor.

RR:  Absolutely, I am attracted to many of the objects I use because of the accumulation of information within them. For the installation at the Visual Art Center of U.T., Austin, the floor was covered in carpet tiles, which was made with found carpet mounted on wood. The carpet had a past life, which could be seen through the stains and general wear and tear of its surface. The carpet was enriched and activated by its past life, giving it an intensity new carpet would not have. Some have talked about my work as portraiture and at the time I thought that description was a stretch, but more recently I can see how this is true. My installations can be seen as portraits of a people as a whole, as it is made from stuff people once had but are now getting rid of. The installations as a whole present a kind of averaging of an American sensibility.

SK:  I should probably get going, I have to work early tomorrow, but one last question (perhaps a pertinent one, since I need to go to sleep), with ZZZ’s, what was the attraction to sleep? I like the idea of the averaging of an American sensibility and they seem related.

RR:  The attraction to sleep works on a few different levels.  The first being beds are probably the most common piece of furniture in any American home. I come across a lot of them and as a result they have found there way into the work. Secondly sleep is an incredibly mysterious state of being. It is during sleep we people are most likely to have a vision of the future, communicate with the dead, and visit places they we never been.


Katie Geha Interview

Katie Geha is a PhD candidate in art history at the University of Texas, Austin. She is a former curator at the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University. Geha recently curated, Pun Value, for the Blanton Museum of Art and is the director of SOFA Gallery in Austin.

Sam Korman:  You currently run SOFA Gallery, which I had the privilege to visit while I was in Austin. You’ve also recently curated a show on Lee Lozano for the Blanton Museum at the University of Texas. How do you navigate curating on such different scales?

Katie Geha:  The show at the Blanton is really small. Just 4 works so it’s almost the same scale as a show at SOFA. However, if we want to think about scale more metaphorically, well…the difference is huge. The Blanton is an established art institution with track lighting and wall-text and installers. Also … Lozano isn’t alive and I see most of my SOFA projects as being very artist run. I mean, we work together and I’m always curating and guiding, but it feels like a real collaboration. Whereas I see the Lozano show as much more of me doing archival research and putting together a show that highlighted the works the Blanton owns. So, while they are both small sized shows, the way I worked on each was different.

SK:  And when you write a wall text or a press release for the Blanton, what kinds of things do you need to include/exclude compared with writing a press release for your gallery? What are you competing with in both?

KG:  When I write something for SOFA it mostly comes out of my conversation with the artists. As well, I see it as an opportunity for a young artist to have a nice blurb. For the Blanton I had to be much more aware of the (ugh, I hate this term but am going to use it) “educated non-specialist.” Which meant I just needed to be absolutely clear as possible (this is a good thing) and couldn’t be very poetic with my language. I also had an editor for those write-ups and she was great to work with. In all my writing I try to be as jargon free as possible. But I also like to have fun with language and create a mood.

SK:  Yeah, it’s the fun part. But, when I look at the Lozano show, and “Drop Out Piece” was in it if I remember correctly, it seems like that show could have been exhibited very appropriately at SOFA.

KG:  That would of been great! I would have loved to live with those works, but I also think Lozano has been on the fringes enough.

SK:  Yikes, living with that huge drill!

KG:  Right?! She should be in the Blanton and every museum.

SK:  That’s true, but how do you “pay respect” to what she did, to dropping out, to the life as art in a larger institution? You lose some the intimacy or immediacy that her work possessed now and then. I might also compare it to the Hyde Park Apartments show you held at SOFA. A small space with the ability to navigate its immediate social and artistic environment.

KG:  I see what you’re saying, but Lozano is a tricky character. As much as she may have “dropped out,” she was also very much “dropped in,” in that she had a solo show at the Whitney, and exhibited at Virginia Dwan and hung out at Max’s Kansas City. She knew how to network and, like anyone who works hard on their art, wanted some form of recognition. Also, I think people make too much of her dropping out, as if it’s just this huge deal to leave New York—god forbid.

SK:  That was the first time that I saw any of the paintings in person. Really, I had only been familiar with the notebooks.

KG:  She was really an amazing painter. Very much a “painter’s painter.” So, the Blanton show was great because I did work on such a small scale, which allowed me to focus the research I’ve been doing for the past five years. And it tied me to objects, as well. I had to start with these 4 works that are vastly different: a tool painting, a later painting, a drawing of the later painting, and an art-life piece. Having these restrictions or this “scale” made for a type of case study of Lozano’s art and life.

SK:  So for SOFA, who are you looking at or how are you finding artists? What type of work or restrictions do you set for yourself in programming it? And, how many of them are your own (i.e. limited space, etc)?

KG:  It’s really loose. Basically, I try to do 4-5 shows a year. I want to make sure that I alternate between Austin or Texas area artists and artists outside of the state. I want to work with people whom I’d like to hang out with in my living room. That’s a big thing. In terms of finding artists, I just look around at art a lot and often times they are friends or friends of friends. And sometimes they’re strangers, too, but mostly it’s just if I feel like I would collaborate well with the artist, then I want to do it. As far as restrictions … it often has to do with money and space, but those restrictions are usually what make it more fun. I feel pretty strongly that an art exhibition doesn’t have to be big and doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. I’m big into editing.

SK:  And it’s almost all solo shows.

KG:  Yes. The space is small and I feel like it is easier/more conducive to good work to create shows with just one person. Also it’s great to allow artists to have solo shows.

SK:  Yeah, for real. I suppose then, you become an editor or collaborator more, rather than having a greater authorial role, which gets relegated to the gallery as a whole.

KG:  I’m pretty opinionated when it comes to the shows and I think the artists I work with expect that or maybe appreciate it. I’m definitely not a space that just allows an artist to hang what he or she wants. I mean, I’m into the process; I want make the artist dinner and talk about it and argue about ideas a little bit. I don’t try to be a pain in the ass …

I just want to be a little rigorous and also to have fun, to make a new friend, that kind of thing.

SK:  Small spaces are all about those relationships. It also seems that the work you show typically relates to someone’s practice or is a part not often exhibited, like Hyde Park or Renee Lotenero, photos and sketches respectively, rather than films or sculptures, respectively.

KG:  Those relationships are really important to me. I like to think the shows can: 1) relate to the space. My gallery is my living room. No getting around that, so let’s not pretend it’s a white cube. 2) If an artist is a bit more established (as in the case with Lotenero) I try to encourage the artist to show work they might not show in their more proper gallery. It’s very necessary to me that the exhibitions are experimental or not all the way finished. I want to be a step in something larger. I think this worked particularly well with the Barry Stone exhibit this past year. Stone mounted an entirely new body of work and then developed that further and exhibited an incredibly tight and museum worthy show at Art Palace in Houston this fall. I’m not really excited/interested in things that are finished or framed. I like it messy.

SK:  It was really neat while I was there.

KG:  It was empty!

SK:  Ha, I know.

KG:  But I made you a sandwich.

SK:  That was amazing.

KG:  And that’s pretty much the one main rule of SOFA: I will cook you something.

SK:  That rules. A very good grilled cheese and sliced apple on the side.

KG:  I burned it, though! Oh well.

SK:  It was still good. Hard to ruin a grilled cheese.

As you mentioned with the Barry Stone show, he was able to show new work that expanded into another show in Houston. What do you think the role of small, DIY-ish spaces is in relation to larger spaces (i.e. commercial galleries, museums, etc.) in communities like Austin?

KG:  When I worked at the Ulrich Museum of Art in Wichita, a lot of people complained that we didn’t show enough Wichita artists. But I felt like it needed to be a space where students (it was a university museum) could see work that they couldn’t see in the community (i.e. these kids couldn’t go to NYC or LA), so why not bring that art to them? The role of SOFA and other small spaces (why do I dislike the term “DIY” so much …) is to show artists in the community, to build that community up, to allow artists to experiment, to work towards something, to collaborate. I mean, when I have a show by an Austin artist, the attendance is almost double than when I show someone from outside of Texas. It’s about you know, community, but, most importantly, it’s not just about affirming that art group, it’s about challenging it (I hope) and creating discussions. It sounds corny, I know … I see the larger institutions as bringing in art from other areas (they have the money to do so). And of course showing Texas artists, too. But I do feel that with SOFA I’ve decided to engage a small group of like-minded people and, at the end of the day, I try not to think too hard about it.

It’s important that SOFA remain a side project

SK:  I was reading this essay and it talked about the relationship of conceptualism to art education and it made me think about something you said about wanting to work for a gallery or museum with ties to education or the university. UT seems like an awesome example of different ways to navigate that, both the Blanton and Visual Art Center. What is your attraction to that kind of gallery setting?

KG:  I think a gallery that is solely based on the market for its survival is just less appealing to me. That’s what I love about the VAC. Students walk by it, through it on a daily basis. Classes are held there. Students get to see real live art and not just projected on a screen. Not to sound drippy, but I think that experience is really profound and I want to be part of it, promote it, share in it. See . . drippy!

SK:  Nah, that’s real talk. I love the Internet and probably see more art there, or have seen more art there than I have in my lifetime, but there is nothing like that encounter—drip drip.

KG:  And I guess that experience just appeals to me way more than selling a work of art to a rich person.

SK:  Something Jan Verwoert said this morning when I interviewed him is that he had a conversation with Vito Acconci once and he asked Acconci about the rise of interdisciplinarity and Acconci responded that he was a poet at the time, but he was hanging out with dancers and performers and painters and that he saw all of that work and decided that he could do it as well and extend his poetry practice into other forms.

KG:  Perhaps an art form does not need to be determined by its media.

SK:  Sure. By what methods do you envision a space like VAC working toward that kind of student or community development? In the article I mentioned by Theirry de Duve, he brought up the new painting or conceptualism of the 80s, where there was an influx of conceptual posturing, rather than a dialog or extension of theory into art.

KG:  Right. Are you thinking that academia or art in an academic setting is somehow not part of the actual art world?

SK:  In a way. Yes. I think that it is a strange position, partly because I see some projects like this, where, under the auspices of the university, these artists or curators develop academic programs as though they are art pieces and then extend only a temporary experience to their graduate students to participate. But then, that might only be a very personally grounded skepticism toward the university setting.

KG:  Sure, I think it’s healthy to be skeptical of the university system, but maybe it would be better if galleries created programming that was more about learning instead of looking cool? Or that the gallery experience could be less of reaffirming a class situation and more about creating an experience? Though, I know that the university itself is a major division of class … not trying to say otherwise. But just personally not as excited about the kunsthalle or gallery. I’m excited about learning environments, turning kids on. I think the art world is full of posturing and I wouldn’t say this is excluded from universities. I guess I just think there’s a little more sincerity with the university museum. More purpose, perhaps?

SK: It does extend to the larger community, as well.

KG:  Right.

SK:  Where does the Blanton fit into this as a collecting institution? Does it only function as an experience of art history?

KG:  I think it could be … but maybe more like a lab. Not only to experience art but to practice the act of looking at art, or practice the act of experiencing art. Most of the “labs” that I taught in art history classes at UT when I was a TA were held in the Blanton and this was the first time a lot a lot of kids had ever even been to a museum. Lots of people just don’t grow up with it.

SK:  Is the curator at this type of institution an educator, a facilitator, or what?

KG:  When I was the curator at the university museum in Wichita, I think I thought a lot about what I wanted to show. I mean, a curator is someone who mounts exhibitions, but I also considered, you know … who would be experiencing it (i.e., there’s a huge ceramics dept at Wichita State), so that was a consideration. Mostly, though, I just tried to bring in art that I thought was important for these kids, who rarely ever travel outside of Kansas to see it. So, for instance, in a painting exhibition I showed Amy Sillman and Dana Schutz and Mequitta Ahuja and Joanne Greenbaum, because at the time, I thought these artists had the best things to say about contemporary painting. So if these students were to see the show, in a way, I think I was hoping the painters at that school would stop imitating Picasso…

SK:  Ha!

KG:  …and start imitating art that was contemporarily relevant. Not to say that Picasso isn’t relevant … it’s just to say that to paint like him is to bow out of a dialogue. I wanted to do away with anachronism in art.

SK:  You learn how to speak a new language with exposure to this stuff.

KG:  And how are you to speak that new language if you’re not exposed to it? I mean, at heart, I think I’ll always be an educator, but I think of that term broadly.

SK:  Like sharing? Scheming?

KG:  At heart I’m a schemer. Ha.

SK:  I suppose what is involved in a university gallery, then, is a certain kind of generosity that hopefully the classes or instructors are grounded in as well.

KG:  Yes. And it’s collaborative, too. There’re students but there’s also faculty. If it’s done right, I just see it as this hub of activity that includes all kinds of people. I know it seems all ivory tower-y and whatnot, but …I mean, I’m getting my PhD. This might just be the world I feel I fit in most. I hope this interview gets me a job. Ha!

SK:  Ha!

KG:  And this is not to say you need to be in school, or anyone else does. I walk out on a college campus and I just … I don’t know. I totally fetishize it. I feel at home at land grant institutions.

Hugh Scott-Douglas Interview

Hugh Scott-Douglas is an artist, curator, and publisher in Toronto, ON. His work has been shown nationally and internationally, including his most recent exhibition, Electrum with Ben Schumacher at Reference Gallery in Richmond, VA. He runs Tomorrow and Yesterday, a gallery and publishing project respectively. 

Sam Korman:  Hey dude.

Hugh Scott-Douglas:  How are you?

SK:  I’m pretty well. It’s nice to be able to do this thing outside. I am across the street from this really ugly sculpture. It’s a big ugly brushed steel modernist cubic sculpture, but underneath are these awesome ledges that I like to skate.

HSD:  Haha. I love that. These kids organize a skate party on the street in front of my studio/house called, Slappy Sundays. I have definitely made a few paintings while listening to rolling wheels. They came at night and painted all the curbs with some sort of high gloss paint, then built some concrete ramps, because they are only hitting slappies. No ollies. I live and work in this totally wild part of Toronto. Super industrial. And next door to a chocolate factory, where they make all the Kit Kat bars. So it always smells like chocolate.

SK:  Oh man, that must be intoxicating.

HSD:  I don’t even know if I know where you are in the world…NY, Portland?

Somewhere else?

SK:  Portland, but I am actually from Buffalo, NY, so I have spent a lot of time in Toronto. I used to go up there once a month to go skateboarding.

HSD:  Oh word. I go to buffalo to check out the Albright [Knox].

SK:  That place is the best!

HSD:  I guess it would be from Buffalo that you know Jacob K?

SK:  Yeah, we used to skate together. I helped him stretch his first series of chrome paintings.

HSD:  That’s hilarious. So many people I know in the art game skateboarded and did graffiti. Are you an artist? Or just curator?

SK:  I would ask you the same question—though it was your art output that I first found out about.

HSD:  I am an artist first, but I love working on curatorial projects. I run Tomorrow with two other artists from Toronto, and then curate shows on the side when I have the time. I don’t think they exist totally independently of each other at all. With Chopped & Screwed, I think the curatorial premise almost over shadowed the work, which might in fact be the mark of a “poorly” curated show by most standards. 

SK:  I don’t think there’s the same division anymore. It is definitely a problematic position to curate a group show. What do you think is the purpose of a contemporary group show? I think it’s a good lead in to your various projects, wearing various hats, so to speak.

HSD:  Group shows are tough in general. I mean firstly, you want to ensure that you are satisfying a diverse aesthetic field. But then having said that, there are strong examples of people working against that model, too, like Bob Nickas with Red. Second, it’s good to stay true. I tend to want to work with people who are basically working with similar ideas that I am interested in. This gets tricky too, because you can get a certain redundancy, a redundancy perpetuated by a sort of singular perspective.

SK:  A lot of the time, curating is an excuse for me to talk with people I am interested in, but then when I only pick work that I am explicitly interested in, you’re right, it leads to a particular redundancy and makes all the work in the show seem repetitive and mundane.

HSD:  But if you do it right, you can work it like a choir.

SK:  It’s true, to harmonize.

HSD:  All these voices, with the same lyrics, but different tones. And I don’t know if I have done a show like that yet. I don’t even know how many group shows like that I have seen…

SK:  I like the term exhibition maker more than I like curator. That’s what Harald Szeeman called himself and it lends a lot of agency to the job of organizing a show, group or solo. The exhibition maker doesn’t necessarily represent an institution, but rather a particular vision or conceit for the show and maybe should more appropriately be listed with the artists than as the auteur.

HSD:  I dig that. I tend to lean towards prop master. 

SK:  With Chopped & Screwed, why move the works? And who moved the works? And was the site important at all? It seems interesting to me, because it addresses some of the issues with a traveling show or the nature of the site, because it changes the way you view the work.

HSD:  With that project, I was really into the idea, as I mentioned before, of acting as a sort of prop master. So, the first stage of the project was to devise an exhibition strategy that would give rise to an opportunity to be involved in the show, without actually having work in it. From that, it just became a question of context, and the realities of an exhibition scenario.

There are four walls that can show work in that gallery, so I picked four artists to make wall works, four artists to show sculpture, which offset the wall works and four artists to write texts. The show was set to be open for four weeks, at four days a week, so four came up a lot. But then I started thinking a lot about how to break up the rotation, and then the chopped and screwed idea sort of made sense. That coupled with the fact that all the artists in that show are sort of re-evaluating reified forms and materials. Sort of reifying them in the same way the vocals get a new life in a chopped and screwed remix.

SK:  Like some kind of 4:4 musical notations. The hip-hop reference seems interesting to me, but with garage band, anyone can chop or screw a song and, like you said, it overshadows the work in a certain way. But, at the same time, as the chopped and screwed versions of songs come up when you search them on YouTube, they participate in the same arena and context as the original work.

HSD:  With that show especially, a lot of the themes are things that I am actively thinking about in the studio.

SK:  In what way?

HSD:  My practice approaches painting by acknowledging, embracing and interrupting the established networks that are built on the foundations of authorship, production, reception, display and architectural container. I think there was a lot if not all of that in Chopped & Screwed.

SK:  At this point, I’ve only seen your work online and primarily on your website, which I like a lot. The Wikipedia backdrops on the cyanotype paintings, especially the first one on lighting, addresses this a lot.

HSD:  That intro page isn’t arbitrary. I am working with this body of work which all finds itself organized in some way along the light spectrum, with different light sources acting as the catalyst in the formation of an image.

SK:  Varying opacities, it seems like, as well.

HSD:  I have been talking about is as though light becomes like my “paint” and the conduit that harnesses that light holds it as this sort of permanent shadow, the shadow of a specific set of contingent events. In all these processes, they begin with algorithm formed vectors and then art is dropped into these strange environments.

SK:  Treating the painting as a stage upon which something occurs.

HSD:  The painting as stage. Although, it’s a dressed stage ready for opening night. The performers haven’t arrived yet.

SK:  Ha!

HSD:  With the cyanotypes, the attraction to it as an output was its history, the way in which architects and engineers were using it as a way to make what we now call “blue prints.” So, the work is meant to perpetuate this sort or promissory attitude, where the suggestion is that the image is still to come.

SK:  As though the primary vehicle for what was to come was the idea, and the images that lead up to it are relevant as would be the building if it ever gets built. The promise of urbanity or organization or narrative, but a deliberate withholding.

HSD:  Exactly, the motifs are selected for the way in which they both organize and disorganize the space that is defined by the paintings’ stretcher bars. The op motifs are quite mechanical, all based on primary shapes spaced at even intervals, but then they are also producing a sort of retinal burn. At least they do when the motifs are effective. 

SK:  That’s what I like about all of the op art work from the 50s. A lot of it had to do with a strange spiritualism, but it still affects in the eyes some kind of crisis of perception or some kind of afterimage. Perception as retinal damage.

HSD:  There is also a blankness or resistance to a concrete image that appears in that, as well.

SK: But, as opposed to the modernist promise of a utopian architecture or the utopian city, this work withholds that promise of a better life. Or, of better business.

HSD:  This work becomes too much a victim of its own circumstance to be utopian. There are so many steps involved in its production, that it becomes a really unpredictable procedure. There is also this amazing post-narrative that establishes itself. You can identify, for example, how long it was set out in the sun for based on its chroma, etc.

SK:  How much of this work sees the light of day? Is there a problem with it being successful, of making the promise come true?

HSD:  Haha. I make a lot of work…but I guess your question is more geared towards a conversation of success. Like anything that comes from a studio, there is always the chance that something might not sit right when all is said and done. But, an important part of this work is that there is a pretty strong amount of variation across all of it. Here are the works for the upcoming collaborative show I am doing with Ben Schumacher in Richmond, VA. Across those 8 paintings there is really a huge amount of variation

SK:  So, online, there’s a historical narrative of some kind of architectural theater, but what if you positioned these paintings within an office lobby?

HSD:  I would look at the type of office that it was.

SK:  I have seen Pater Halley’s in office lobbies in New York and it is a strange feeling, like they are furnishing the panopticon that they critique.

HSD:  Hahaha.

SK:  Just a hypothetical, really.

HSD:  I have seen that uptown, too.

HSD:  I would be making the work with the “cube” in mind, so their position there would probably highlight how they would be out of their intended context. It’s weird for me to think about making office lobby paintings now for some reason. Ha.

SK:  Maybe we can talk about something else, like Yesterday.

HSD:  We actually just released our first book last night! Its a novel by J. Abelow

SK:  Cool. What was the impetus for starting the publishing wing of your gallery?

HSD:  It’s definitely intended to give artists an opportunity to publish a book, which is not such an easy thing to do.

SK:  No, definitely not.

HSD:  It ties back into the thing I say to pretty much every artist when we start talking about a show with them, which is we want to let you do that project that you gallery won’t let you do, either because it’s not saleable, or your dealer isn’t hot on the work. We are totally not for profit, so we can do that with it.

SK:  Wow, do you have one of those Canadian government funding grants?

HSD:  Nope. We do it all out of pocket. It’s important for us to keep it that way.

SK:  Yeah, somehow that always seems best, even though it can suck when you’re hungry.

HSD:  Yeah, hahaha. It can be hard between rent on the apartment, rent on the studio, and rent on the gallery. Not to mention shipping work from all over the place, artist dinners, books, beers—yeash. $$$, ha.

SK:  Yet, you are doing an independent thing and engendering people with that same independence.

HSD:  Absolutely, it seems more sincere somehow. It also makes it easier to work with some more established artist, who might have galleries not so keen on sharing the commission. Ha.

SK:  I think that is really really important, because, like we said earlier, it makes for a greater freedom or agency within production and hopefully for consumption, as well.

HSD:  But instead, all the galleries of the artists we are working with have been really awesome and supportive.

SK:  Showing someone you have faith in their ideas is incredibly important. 

Israel Lund: Isrol Lund, An Interview

Israel Lund is an MFA candidate at Mason Gross School of Arts. He has shown at Ditch Projects, Springfield, OR; Galerie de l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Art de Nancy, Nancy, France; and 12Mall Gallery, Paris, France. His books, Some But Not All of My Clothes and Thrasher Fanzine (co ed. Sam Korman) were published by Publication Studio and his work has appeared in Clark Magazine and the forthcoming issue of Weekday. israellund.tumblr.com

Sam Korman:  First question: when did you start your tumblr and why?

Israel Lund:  Let me check the archive of my tumblr, I’m not even sure. It’s says July of 2008!! Damn, so much longer than I thought!

SK:  3 years. tumblr was started in 2007, so you were in on the dawning, though I think flickr had already existed for a while at that time. 

IL:  I guess I started it because I have some attraction to images. I was keeping this book thing that had a bunch of images in it, basically 1 per page, like an analog blog, and so when I found out about tumblr, it made a lot more sense to just keep it there. 

SK:  Where did the material come from for the original book, the physical one?

IL:  From magazines, books, and some print outs from the internet. I love images, but I also like the physicality of the container. That’s just as important to me. Unfortunately for that book though, it got thrown to the wayside after I started my tumblr. 

SK:  And that’s almost all appropriated or found content? 

IL:  Yeah, the tumblr is about 99% found content, although more of my stuff is showing up there recently. And although it is found content, I’m very invested in the images either conceptually or formally, so it isn’t just a blog that presents random images. I try to create a link through each image I post, and therefore a broader overarching narrative arises, and it is essentially one that parallels my own work and the things I’m thinking about while I make work. I’m kind of trying to explain my work through the images of other people’s work.

SK:  That’s rad: a loosely formed narrative based more on associative qualities rather than an imposed…or at least, strict linearity. And, because it’s on the web, when someone doesn’t like something or doesn’t get it, they can skip it, or not “like” it, but it provides enough ease of access that viewers can return to it frequently. I look at it all the time and recently went back through the pages. I couldn’t find the beginning, because I started to feel full of images, and my eyes started hurting. That’s a constant problem for me when I am doing a lot of computer work: it makes my eyes hurt. No painting ever made my eyes hurt—except op art paintings. 

IL:  Yeah, exactly. And if they don’t “get it” in terms of having a narrative they can always just look at the singular image. That’s cool too. And also, I don’t expect everyone (or anyone I guess) to be able to follow my loose associations between images every time. Some connections are based on esoteric, personal interpretations of what I’m posting, or the mechanisms that I know the artists are using that aren’t overtly apparent in what gets posted. 

SK:  It seems the concept is more in the medium than in any of the content employed. 

IL:  I’d actually say it’s about half and half, if not more on the image! Of course the structure of tumblr is great for providing a platform for these types of associations to occur. You do mean tumblr as the medium, right?

SK:  Yeah. 

IL:  And not the medium that is depicted in the images…

SK:  I think about both the nature of the light from the screen and the web-based medium of tumblr, as well. Hard and soft technology.

IL:  Haha, okay, then yes, it’s an at least equal 33.3 split between the platform, the image, and what the image is depicting. At least! Haha. 

SK:  I think maybe the clearest statement of what you are doing comes from the posts of open books, scanned book pages, someone’s hand holding an open book, a folded page, etc. It dematerializes the book into information when it seems like such a pillar of thought. The book posts are my favorite and talk about the type of reading you have of images, as well. Can you talk about the book stuff for the tumblr? 

IL:  Yeah, I love those images so much! They function the same for me as install shots of art shows do. You have the work, the context, and now this thing, i.e. the JPEG that contains all these levels and types of information. It starts to get murky when a piece gets posted, and then following that a spread of a book, with a picture of the same piece that was just posted. You have all this information to deal with, and then there’s that tension between image and object that I love. 

What is being addressed? The piece? The image? The context? The dissemination point? All of it?? I love recursive mechanisms, so I try to employ them in the things I post. 

SK:  Digital Blinky Palermo’s. 

IL:  Basically the breakdown of image information. I’m not thoroughly familiar with his work, can you explain that?        

SK:  A lot of his work, his abstractions, were very much about abstracting the surface with paint and then abstracting the painting with object-hood and dematerializing object-hood through the abstraction, etc. They are basically monochromes, but, I read an Artforum review of them once and the writer said that Palermo created things that were both successful paintings and successful objects, which, perhaps is not exactly what you are doing, but not far off. I think you’re working more toward intractability, a more uncontrollable product, less static than the reviewer’s reading of Palermo perhaps. The measure of “success” is different in your work and you seem to be more interested in finding the failures in the ways we understand images. 

IL:  That’s true then, there does seem to be some overlap in our thinking, and yes I am interested in the failure of images, or more specifically, the potential of images, which would include their failure, but I also can’t escape the feeling that JPEGs exist as objects to me, despite other people saying differently. And although the format of tumblr is conducive to seeing them simply as images, I think divorced from their context and authors, they become objects in this weird way. Maybe much to the chagrin of the image-makers who I took them from. Oops! 

SK:  No apologies. Boohoo. 

IL:  I’m not sorry. Those are my images now. Although I do try to set click through links to people’s websites or articles about them to create a bigger net of information and association.

SK:  True. But, it still seems that the images are free in many ways, free from context, free from cost, free from authorship. What do you think your role is in that relationship? Do you think you author your blog? Are you more of a guide? Where do you think you fit in, especially as people repost your images? 

IL:  Well, like I said, I do try to create an overarching narrative, and since each image is posted in conjunction with the image before and after, I do think I’m the author. But at the same time, I’m fine with them being separated from the context of the tumblr. Images are fun like that. And even if you don’t follow, or don’t want to follow the narrative that I say I’m creating, you can obviously see that I post a lot of the same kind of imagery. Like the book spreads for example. The images that I post usually reflect ideas and events that are happening in my own life as well, so maybe it’s like a time stamp in that way? 

And I do feel like my tumblr is an extension of my working practice, one that both informs ideas that I work with, as well as reflecting them. So I am maybe a little more invested in it than others. But at the same time, realize it’s just a blog. 

SK:  Definitely. It makes me think about the Joy Division logo from the cover of Unknown Pleasures, which I have seen reworked every which way. Sometimes, you find a weird bootleg version at a thrift store and it’s distorted on the t shirt. Recently, Arabic script replaces the words joy division (I don’t know what the Arabic says). And, the original logo itself is appropriated. It is some kind of reading of the waves emitted from a dying star, which seems appropriate to be reworked in this way. 

But, like the blog, it’s just an old band, an old t shirt and we must constantly admit that we are a bunch of nerds. Like the [Steven] Parrino quote: “Art of this kind is more cult than culture.” 

IL:  Ha! Yeah I like the “Jah Division” reworked image that has the Rasta colors behind the Joy Division logo.  

SK:  Awesome. It’s kind of amazing how people will latch onto something like that and rework it in so many different ways. In an interview with Matt Keegan, Milton Glaston talks about the enduring nature of some of his logos. I think, in the end, he sort of admits that he doesn’t know why they’ve lasted so long, but his work has come to define NYC in a graphic way for the last 50 years. I<3NY, that was him. 

I was thinking about the idea of an enduring image. For Glaston and I<3NY and New York Magazine and the Bob Dylan cover, the images had to appear on products, but then they were stolen, or, just became public property in a way. Glaston marvels at how Canal Street is all I<3NY everywhere and he had no more control over his creation. Awed, but not scared. And, I wonder, even with digital reworking or the “impoverished image,” there still seems to be a haunting presence, that of the enduring image. (Garfield or Bart Simpson or the Joy Division logos are some other examples I can think of) 

IL Well, I think there needs to be a distinction made between logos and images. They’re not exactly the same and they function almost completely different. I definitely am not thinking about the images I post as being logos by any means. 

Of course impoverished images have a history of becoming logos, but that is different as well. 

SK I think it’s an important distinction to make, but, I suppose where they overlap is in an iconography of a time, a place, a generation, music, etc.

And, in a sense, you are doing the opposite or deconstructing this stuff. Making the Internet the time and place, but with an iconoclastic sensibility. 

IL Yeah, although the images I’m using are not that wide of a scope. I think I stay within the realm of art, so I’m skeptical to think that any of those images could become icons in any capacity. 

I feel like I’m utilizing these images for my own purposes, so maybe in that sense it feels a little iconoclastic. Like I said, these images are mine now, more or less. 

SK Where does this function as an archive and where does it not? 

IL Well, there’s a little archive button at the top of the page. It functions by clicking it with the mouse. ;p

SK: Shit, I never used that ever.

IL You should. It’s rad. 

SK Yeah it is. Damn. Can you format your page so that it looks just like that all the time? Maybe I wouldn’t want that.

IL I’m not sure; I’m no computer programmer. I think there’s probably a template out there. You can also view it like that on tumblr Mosaic.

SK Do you think tumblr drove you into painting? Or, at least, motivated some of your ideas about painting? 

IL Haha! No. I think it made me think about painting though, and made me think about abstraction in a different way. It made me wonder about the state of images and objects and their dissemination. Which makes me wonder about the primacy of those things, and how they function in conjunction with each other. And I also wouldn’t categorize myself as a painter by any means. 

SK Well, with the steal tube sculptures, I have seen you display those several different ways: someone made an image of them in a snowy desert, there was an animated GIF of it in different positions on your flickr, with tennis ball, sans tennis ball—they’re quite mutable. As with most of your work, there’s a little more intentionality than just exploring randomness or the construction of a form over an absurd number or permutations. With you, there’s a joke, there’s something on the sly, while also being compact and not opposed to the multiplicity of possible outcomes from something like the tubes. I guess what I am asking is how do you see the primacy of the object or the image, primarily in your work? It seems like you use humor or deferment a lot—even with the tumblr, it is an endless stream, constantly updated. 

IL Humor is just something that seeps in (or out maybe?), but I’m not sure about which one takes precedence over the other in my work, if they do at all. I like to think there isn’t an internal hierarchy with that stuff, but I’m not sure if that is true or not. I mean, I’m not sure which takes precedence, the image or the object.

I like to play with both of those things as a way of generating new images or objects. I ask myself a lot what a sculptural version of an image would look like, and vice versa. It’s actually really formally motivated. 

SK There’s something awesome about pitting the two against one another. It’s like setting two images next to each other. Inevitably we want to see a narrative and juxtaposition can be one of the funniest things ever. Or how cardboard cutouts of people are super strange. I have been scared by those in a dark room. 

IL Ha! It has enough information to be one thing, but isn’t exactly what it says it is either. Cool! 

SK That line is hilarious that you sent me. Do you think that’s why people get tattoos? 

IL Which line? 

SK “Artists have a hard time…” [actual line lost, because neither of us could remember it during the editorial process].

IL Totally!! 

SK Especially [mutual friend]’s cinder block tattoo. I feel like that dude wanted to make himself an image and an object with that one. 

And your On Kawara tat. And [second mutual friend]’s camp fire tat. Even my rectangle. When I flex my sweet muscles it changes shape and feels like an object. 

IL Or little Pete’s Petunia tattoo? Just kidding. 

SK Ha! Maybe the best example is Popeye’s tattoo of the battle ship. When he eats his canned spinach, steam shoots out of his tattoo boat. 

IL Or maybe Japanese men and their pillow girlfriends? 

SK: Pillow girlfriends! Images are really affecting, it’s amazing, and they seep in. It’s really amazing and a little scary, because they are so ubiquitous. And I think Cady Noland spoiled us a bit, too 

IL Yeah just refer to her if you’re questioning the effectiveness of images.

ROBIN JUAN, artist, curator and founder of HUNGRY MAN GALLERY

“I make so many photographs that don’t work out and I’m like, well fuck.”

1. How would you define the role of a gallery within a larger community setting?

a. I could give you the Party line about supporting emerging artists and the importance of a strong arts community, and the role of  a gallery is to do that but it also is a business. And sometimes you have to care about making money more than anything else. That sacrifice is hard. But that’s how you survive. I don’t know how some galleries are successful and that’s all that the owners do, unless you’re independently wealthy, how can you depend on someone purchasing a luxury commodity for your own livelihood. I can get it in the long run perspective of owning a gallery, like any other business, but for younger people I just don’t get how financially it works without just totally living off of business credit. And that’s super dangerous, you can end up owing tons of money on a business that’s completely broke. The banks see that a lot, at least that’s what our business rep told us. On the other hand, we do everything out of pocket cash and that’s not really pleasant either. 

b. Being an artist and doing the gallery has consumed my life. Kirsten, Pari, and I all work “real jobs.” Which is necessary, obviously, but you can quickly become someone you barely recognize. Maybe that’s being an adult. Maybe that’s having responsibility.  I started the gallery as an experiment because I cared about artists and wanted it to be professional but also have a community environment– in between an apartment gallery and a commercial space, which works best now because in San Francisco we have a commercial space and Chicago is run out of a commercial/residential storefront.

2. Considering that you don’t have return on gallery, what motivates you to keep it going?

a. It’s the small things that validate what you’re doing. Like, a review here or there, or a profile on the gallery. It just shows that people are interested in what we or our artists are doing. We got invited to participate in the new Fountain LA fair at the end of September. It just means were doing something special, achieving our goals to a certain capacity.

b. What are your goals?

                             i.     To expand, but I guess that can mean different things. In Chicago its always been about supporting the local artists and in San Francisco it has been about creating a viable arts community with the support of larger cities. You don’t really hear about San Francisco as a community on its own. People in SF complain about the same thing  as they do in Chicago– everyone moves to NY or LA,  and it’s because “no one will take you seriously if you’re making art in San Francisco. There’s not enough cultural context to bring inspiration or light into young artists work.” Or “there’s not enough of people making ‘new’ work.” A lot of people are making work that already fits into a genre that has been around for a long time. *cough* Mission School *cough* The idea that you can’t make “important” work unless you live in NY in LA. I don’t know who decided that, and I don’t think it should be true or is true. And with the Internet everyone and everything is so easily accessible, there’s no excuse.

3. How would you define important work, or work that people take seriously, what do you think it is that make people take work seriously?

a. You know what I DON’T KNOW, people take work seriously that’s shown in galleries or recognized by museums.  I feel like there’s this hierarchy: Content, Aesthetic relevance, and some art historical context. The rest is all about marketing; What galleries do you show in, Who are your friends, who have you shown with in the past, where did you get your degree ? All these things matter and are all factors in a greater conversation about what makes art important and what allows it to be shown in certain places.

4. This sounds a lot like the institutional theory of the art world, how do feel as a gallery having authority in producing art?

a. It makes me uncomfortable truthfully –I don’t think I should have any authority ever. Yeah, I think I have a good grasp on what I am doing and who we are showing. But then sometimes, I’m like holy crap, I’m 24 years old. This is just the beginning. If this is what I am doing now what am I going to be doing at 30? I have no idea.

5. How do you feel when its evident an artist is courting you, the gallery?

a. Like sexually?! I don’t think I’ve ever been courted in anyway (just kidding) – it is like dating, it really is. You know that scene in the movie (chick flick reference) “He’s Just not that into you”? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gGXylVz6KI) Yeah that kinda feels like my life juggling artists.  Seems like Drew Barrymore only has one, just imagine having like 5-10 going at once. It could make you crazy. 

b. And then sometimes the courting is unwarranted, naturally. We get emails sometimes and it’s obvious they didn’t look at our programming.  We even get walk ins that don’t seem to understand. Yeah, it can be really frustrating. It’s like why would you go in for a job interview at a company you know nothing about? You always have to do your homework. Find out what kind of flowers the girl likes, at the very least.

                             i.     Do you reply to them?

1. Yea I don’t reply, I don’t know what to say, its almost better to not reply. I’m just really careful.

6. Do you foresee a long future to this project?

a. I think we’ve just started to become legitimate and this has been going on for three years so maybe just see how everything goes. It would be great if this could be all that I do cause I would actually have time to work on my own work. But that depends on a lot. I think we keep on developing as time goes by and the people who work together change. We are always moving forward together, and from my perspective, it seems that our programming and vision is a lot stronger than when we first started. And obviously we have been on a big learning curve in the last year or so. So who knows what is going to happen. We’re just going to keep moving forward and adapting, hoping for the best, just like everyone else I guess. 

Ashby Lee Collinson Interview

Ashby Lee Collinson is a video and performing artist who has lived variously in Seattle, New York, Joshua Tree, and Portland, OR. Her work has appeared on Experimental ½ Hour, a biweekly public access television program produced in Portland and in the windows of PDXContemporary. Collinson has also appeared on the IFC channel’s Portlandia and is currently working on the third installment of her project, Princess Dies for the 2011 Time Based Art Festival, co-starring her father.

Sam Korman:  You wanna do this interview now? I’m just doing some Internet geek stuff.

Ashby Lee Collinson:  I think I can. I just need to finish this email and take a tinkle.

SK:  Ok cool. Let me know when you are finished.

ALC:  Or make a tinkle, rather. Or foster a tinkle. Imbue a tinkle.

SK:  Manifest a tinkle. 

ALC:  Conjure a tinkle.

SK:  Ha! Dinkle a tinkle.

ALC:  ”The secret” a tinkle. “The secret: The tinkle”

SK:  Whoa, you’re next show!!


SK:  Or a weirdo European art movie.

ALC:  I make spiritual television

SK:  Television is already spiritual.

ALC:  Spiritual like the best bootleg Bart cornholio you’ve ever seen.

SK:  Shit.

ALC:  It’s a goal at least.

SK:  Yeah, hard to match such a devious combo. Look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvgakwdsywQ Have you ever used one of these [Buddha Boards]? Speaking of spiritual.

ALC:  Shit. I better stop before I begin.

SK:  Ok, take care of your “the secret” and come back.

ALC:  Oh Joy! There was a secret within my secret. This song helped: http://45h87733c0771n50n.tumblr.com/post/9343963782/take-wing-by-milan-pilar

SK:  A precious stone?

ALC:  That, my brother, is a secret.

SK:  Ah ha. I have got some questions, because the other day you told me that you were stoked on the interview, because no one ever asks you, Why?

ALC:  Truth

SK:  Why do you think that is?

ALC:  I assume nobody cares; they just want to watch stuff.I’m accused of thinking too much though, so I have no concept.

SK:  By whom?

ALC:  All of my close friends and also my family.

SK:  But you’ve collaborated with your mom twice this year. She still tells you you think too much?

ALC:  Oh she doesn’t count. Collaborating with my mom doesn’t include talking. It’s more like a dare.

SK:  Why did you decide to include her in your video Princess Dies—The Crowning (2011)?

ALC:  There are many answers to that question.

SK:  Ok Zen master.

ALC:  A light torture for her own good. I wanted to make her sit through me wrestle a 7 foot beach ball, and have to sit there while I got slimed for 20 minutes. I asked her to write an introduction, depicting who she thought I was. If she truly wanted to accept my art, she should embody it somehow herself.

SK:  Why did you choose the late, Princess Di as your subject for the video? Do you feel like you are playing her as a character? Is it homage? I recently read that she was escorted out of a John Mcenroe tennis match at Wimbledon, because the Royal Family did not want her to hear his offensive court talk.

ALC:  Princess Di is the subject of the video due to her paradox. She embodied such an intense raw death drive that was squelched and also broadened by her role in the Monarchy. She was so graceful, yet so gnarly. She’s been an example in my journey towards whatever it means to be a woman. I truly don’t understand the constructs of reality. I have felt that I play her in my own paradox being a highly physical person interacting with virtual society. The first Princess Dies was a study in her being consumed by her simulacra and reaching her goal to be everywhere with anyone in need at once; dead. Without boundaries. She had a hopeful view of anarchy that is endlessly inspiring to my contrarian nature.

SK:  How much of the goo made it into your mouth?

ALC:  It was like treacle. More of it went into my nose. It was extremely difficult trying to breathe. The smell of sugar to this day sickens me.

SK:  Yick. This seems like a perfect project for Experimental 1/2 Hour and you mentioned above that you make spiritual television. Can you describe what that might mean or how that might manifest or affect people? Rather, viewers…or worshippers…

ALC:  Yikes. How about “stoners”…I guess my goal for the show is to express my consciousness outside of the boundaries of my own constructs—through experimentation. I’m really inspired by that one scientist that took LSD in order to “get down” with DNA. In so doing he discovered the nature of repetition and created the Genome Project. I’m just trying to blow my own mind so that people start to figure out how they can blow their own? Or maybe they can hear the thing my higher consciousness is trying to say that my hipster consciousness won’t let me? Maybe it’s more of a transhumanist television show than spiritual.

SK:  You also appeared in an episode of Portlandia,  which lampoons both the hipster and new age spirituality of Portland. You played the role of a member of a free-range organic chicken farm cult. Was this coincidence or choice? Has this made it into your artwork, as well?

SK:  And do you see any comedy in your work?

ALC:  I was approached for that project because I had been in a Levi’s commercial directed by a mama of mine, M Blash, and they needed a girl with long hair. I’m readily open to making fun of myself and parody my own overblown sense of spirituality, so it has worked out nicely. I learned a ton working with Portlandia and it definitely has affected my artwork. I had a bit of a freak-out recently about it, and called my Dad in hysterics. He immediately set me straight “Did I raise you on Caddyshack or WHAT? Are you saying Rodney Dangerfield was not an artist?” I immediately felt better. And ultimately I can think a whole lot less about stuff because maybe I’m just goofing around with some heady crap and letting myself play so I can move on and live without my head up my ass.

SK:  I’m gleaning that you play your own muse in a lot of ways.

ALC:  I was so freaked out making my own art for so long I functioned as other people’s muse. So now I’m processing it in this manner. I hope I get past it and explore ideas other than my own consciousness. Narcissism is so drab.

SK:  I read this John Kelsey article [“Stop Painting Painting” Artforum 2005] recently and it might apply here: “The dandy makes himself static and detached, and his endless de-centering of his own identity is the means by which he makes the world around him start to lose its grip.” It seems like there’s a functional role in some of that narcissism.


SK:  At least for an artistic identity.

ALC:  It’s alchemical.

SK:  BRB, I have to “the secret” and get my power cord.

ALC:  I have to go to the river now.

SK:  One last question.

ALC:  Ok.

SK:  You were the muse for an entire body of work by Storm Tharp. Playing your own muse, which you’ve outlined above, possesses its own generative value. How do you think it relates when you are someone else’s muse?

And one last one, just because. Why Ashby? Do you have anything coming up that you would like me to mention?

ALC:  Watching Storm look me deep in the eyes, expose my highest paradox, and destroy my face in a fluid and graceful manner was absolutely transformative for me. The experience liberated me. You’ll have to ask him why he chose me. I can only thank my lucky stars that he could tell how badly I needed it. It was the only way I could start to understand my own grace.

I’m working on a new episode of Princess Dies for TBA! This time with an introduction by my DADDY!!!

SK:  YEEEEAAAAHHHH. Thanks, Ashby!! Have fun at the river!!!

ALC:  Thanks Sam! I’m so tired now! Thank you for asking, Why?