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By marywp

Review: Trajal Harrell: Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church The Kitchen

On 16, Nov 2014 | In Uncategorized | By marywp

Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church is a performance in eight parts, or “sizes” presented over the course of a week at the Kitchen. Each unique event explores Harrell’s question, “What would have happened in 1963 if someone from the voguing ballroom scene in Harlem had come downtown to perform alongside the early postmoderns at Judson Church?” The series takes its title in part from the 1990 Jennie Livingston documentary, Paris is Burning which was largely responsible for introducing to a general audience the underground Vouging ball culture of working class gay black and latinos in Harlem in the 1970s and 80s. The contrast between the extravagant culture of fashion and celebrity with the elimination of spectacle from performance of the Judson Dance Theatre over the same time period a few miles downtown is Harrell’s unchartered field to explore.

The series beings with a brief performance, a introduction of sorts, XS. The intimate performance, limited to an audience of only 25 begins upon entering the theatre. Harrell introduces himself and shakes the hand of each viewer. Intimacy is established at the outset as Harell introduces himself and shakes the hand of each of the twenty five visitors allowed to view the performance at any one time. He invites his audience to take their seats on the black box theatre floor, encouraging them to be comfortable, to relax, to lie down. This simple instruction, is itself an homage to the evaporation of the proscenium stage, a core aspect to the work of the early postmodern dancers from which Harrell draws his inspiration. Once inside the theatre it is difficult to determine a moment at which the performance actually begins, as Harrell takes a seat on the floor near the small group and provides some background on the work. He also provides the audience with a cue, “when I make this sign, the performance is over.” Harrell makes a slated ‘T’ with his arms.

After explaining the thesis behind the work, “What would have happened in 1963 if someone from the voguing ballroom scene in Harlem had come downtown to perform alongside the early postmoderns at Judson Church” Harrell disappears behind a black curtain, and retrieves prepared reading packets containing a statement and selected reference texts as background. Integrating the didactic into the performance itself, Harrell encourages his audience to “take their time, to read.” Reading on the floor of the stage shared with the sole performer allow him to retreat from the gaze, to literally disappear behind the curtain without being missed. Filing the void of performance with text for which the view to actively engage displaces the artist with the materials of his work, allowing a more close, interpersonal connection when he re-appears , this time dressed in a red kimono carrying 4 red lights. As Harrell silently places the lights on the floor, a connection has been established.

As a study in intimacy, Harrell draws attention to the idea of ocularity, the idea of looking and being looked at. Harrell confesses to his nervousness of being watched, the original performances of XS, done for an audience of 50 was admittedly “disastrous”– 50 people equal 100 eyes. Even with the small group, one could feel Harrell’s nerves, even insecurity during some moments in the performance, one feels that he knows no more about the work’s eventual outcome than the audience. Yvonne Rainer, who articulated her conflicted feelings about being watched as a performer, developed a style in which she avoided eye contact with her audience, seeking to become an object in space rather than engaging with an emotional relationship with those watching her. The Vogue performers sought out the gaze of others, relying on a working-class Warholian celebrity worship. Harlem ball performances mimicked fashion runways in a quest for empowerment through visibly.

While constantly engaging with these disparate histories, the work refrains from falling into a revisionist history of dance in 1960s New York; Harrell instead applies a creativity, drawing on elements from both the expressionistic, pop enthused performance of Harlem vouging and the pedestrian movement of early postmodern dance as performed at Judson Church. The result could not have been performed by either set of dancers, instead Harrell muses on these differences and similarities. In providing reading for his audience, the performance becomes, as in reading, a personal dialogue with an existing history.

Harell’s series of costume changes (three in 30 minute performance) prevents the formation of a single character, or individual. Seeking visibility while simultaneously keeping the his individuality in flux, Harell dances against  the modest red lights, his choreography at once expressionistic and quotidian. As a song comes to an end, Harrel, makes the ‘T’ formation with his arms–the performance is over. As a model on a catwalk, Harrell turns and walks and walks slowly back, disappearing behind the curtain,  when he disappears and the theatre is silent the performance continues. “Go home and read it” Harell encouraged his audience upon handing out his printed matter. “That too is part of the piece.”



In Uncategorized

By marywp

Pseudo Empire: The Reading Club

On 29, Jun 2014 | In Uncategorized | By marywp

Pseudo Empire is excited to announce the start of our book club, a months opportunity to meet and discuss new and/or important texts in art, culture and visual studies. Anyone is welcome to join at any time, if you’ve read our current text, or would like a reason to get started on it, join us!

See below for details on our July meeting:

Author: Timothy Morton

Text: Hyperobjects

Summary: “ Global warming is perhaps the most dramatic example of what Timothy Morton calls “hyperobjects”—entities of such vast temporal and spatial dimensions that they defeat traditional ideas about what a thing is in the first place. Morton explains what hyperobjects are and their impact on how we think, how we coexist, and how we experience our politics, ethics, and art.  



Meeting #1 Tuesday, July 22, 2014
7pm Montana’s Trailhouse

445 Troutman St
BrooklynNY 11237
(just opposite side of gallery building on Troutman). 
Email with any questions, otherwise feel free to drop in!



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By marywp

Pseudo Empire obtains Fiscal Sponsorship

On 10, May 2014 | In Uncategorized | By marywp

We’re very happy to announce that Pseudo Empire has been accepted for fiscal sponsorship by Fractured Atlas. This means that we will have access to a much greater network of funding sources which will allow us to continue the development of community and artist-based programming.

We’re excited to go into our opening exhibition with this support for the future!



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By marywp


On 21, Apr 2014 | In Uncategorized | By marywp

Looking ahead through 2014 and into 2015 I’m very excited for what’s to come. In addition to working with some great artists located in our Bushwick neighborhood we have  several group shows and exhibitions showing work from artists across the nation and internationally, public art projects and opportunities for community dialogue.

Its a challenge to maintain this stream of programming without s self-sufficient income source. Entirely non-for profit and self – funded, we do not take any cut from sales made during exhibition.

Please consider contributing to our Kickstarter campaign to help fund the initial stages of Pseudo Empire and provide a strong base on which to grow and develop into the future.

Thank you sincerely for your support.

(and feel free to share with colleagues and friends!)



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By marywp

Nostalgic for a Purpose: Failure and EXPO 1 At MoMA PS1

On 21, Sep 2013 | In Uncategorized | By marywp

In 1971 John Baldessari swore he would “not make any more boring art,” stating in his trademark dry wit the unprofessed goal for “contemporary art” since at least, the mid-nineteenth century. Unfortunately, most of the art being produced today fails here, erring in its very eagerness to be “cutting edge.” Although art has been perennially recycling end-game anxieties since the existential crisis of the post-war years, perhaps never before has art (or life) been so directionless. Our response to having reached this a zenith-less end is not one of existential despair, but disinterested, futile whining.

As opposed to working towards solutions or finding an expression of this wall, the second decade of the new millennium has developed an increasingly debilitating case of nostalgia.[i] New Museum curator Lauren Conrad articulated the question of how to move forward “when we are all so obsessed with the past.”[ii] Our nostalgia for time past is evident in our eagerness to historicize periods still in the living memory of our college students—The New Museum’s NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star being a case in point. This exhibition did more than separate that moment of heightened political awareness in art, when art made headlines around NEA battles and identity politics, and created a marked awareness the changes in the art world within twenty years.[iii] Art makes news now not for its social relevance but rather in instances of orchestrated spectacle, the Los Angeles County Museum’s transportation of Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass over 105 miles of urban boulevards and the encyclopedic 51st Venice Biennale come to mind.

Olafur Eliasson. Your Waste of Time. 2013. Installation view of EXPO 1: New York at MoMA PS1. Photo: Matthew Septimus.

Olafur Eliasson. Your Waste of Time. 2013. Installation view of EXPO 1: New York at MoMA PS1. Photo: Matthew Septimus.

The reality is, that in the past decade there has been little in art, in contemporary culture to historicize, to recognize has being important in the grand scheme of history without directly appropriating art of the past.[iv] Conversations can only occur through historical metaphor, we require this veil of history to legitimize issues and images.[v] This obsession with the past acts as a guise for a shameful reality. In the very face of rapidly advancing technologies and the potential for the realization of social goals, we have come to terms with the realities of repeated failure.[vi] Since the mid-1990’s the ideals of artist activism have been de-constructed and re-visited for a non-utopian world, but since 2008, this “f-word” is no longer suggested or re-considered, it is a harsh and inescapable reality.

Failure in 2013 is perhaps most apparent in our failure to define ourselves, to create a narrative, support a cause, or certainly succeed in bringing it to fruition. Part of the problem lies in the fact that the interface for excessing art has consistently broken down from a critical forum to a vacuous cave of spectacle. Curator Paco Barragán has articulated how the art fair has replaced the exhibition, or more recently the biennale, as the venue through which contemporary art enters public discourse. Yet in the face of a near-universal expression of ennui towards the increasingly over-the-top fairs which keep artists, gallerists and curators hoping from one expensive international economic center to another, a new model has yet to serious challenge this model.[vii] Exhibitions, have, overall, remained happily buried in the past. Reasons for this are two-fold; one, the exhibition relies in large part on the institution as its host. The art institution, especially the most traditional form of the museum, has resisted revising the practice of exhibition production, display and subject matter. By repeating a tested formula, the museum of modern and contemporary art repeatedly limits itself to art that can operate within these constraints, the result being art that is increasingly historical in nature. Artists whose work has received critical and public attention in the past decade have done so almost entirely without being featured in a major museum exhibition (other than a biennial) or having been granted a solo show. Abraham Cruzvillegas, Maurizio Cattelan, Ai Wei Wei comply with the expectation of larger, more shocking projects only available for the week-long run of an art fair. This accepted temporality is far removed from the attitude with which artists in the 1970s approached their work with natural materials; Land artists world wide saw in the geological features potential for experimentation beyond the traditionally defined media of, for example, painting or sculpture, in addition to providing a space where one could work unhindered by the expectation of a saleable object.[viii] We should not be surprised that the earthworks’ ancestors at biennials and art fairs act as sites of spectacle, drawing the hovering crowds ever closer to the gallerists’ stalls.

It is not only Land Art that has manifested into a parody of its original potential. In an opinion piece published on, artist and writer Thomas Micchell mused on a recent example of Maya Lin sculpture revealed more about her inability to live up to her introductory success than an evolved practice.[ix] Any potential for art to activate significant change has been institutionally recognized as a fantasy, deconstructed and historicized as an erred judgment of times past. In the last decade, artists approach activism half-heartedly, Olafur Eliasson’s Waste of Your Time (2013), a dramatic installation at MoMA PS1 consists of blocks of 800-year-old glacial ice, cut from a Greenland ice floe and maintained in a frigid gallery in the converted schoolhouse. As Ken Johnson suggested, in his review of the exhibition in the New York Times, the significant resources expended to maintain the piece over the duration of a muggy New York summer undermine any of its power as a well-versed reminder of earth’s fragility. Eliasson’s title suggests an awareness of his action’s futility, and likewise society’s doomed attempts to intervene into global climate change.[x] Comparatively, Paul Kos’ installation of a 25-block of ice in The Sound of Ice Melting in the State of Mind exhibition concurrently at the Bronx Museum of Art, underscored the temporality of the medium, in keeping with the impermanent, bare-bones original exhibitions of west-coast conceptual artists in the early 1970s.[xi] Decades before the national discourse on global warming, Kos’ work has stood the proverbial test of time even in the face of its ticking time clock—the work can only exist as long as the ice is in the state of melting.[xii] Eliasson’s work refuses an honest personal experience—like much of the work being produced by the top artists who define the significant practices of the past decade, its drama and scale comes at the cost of distancing the viewer/visitor. The spectacle replaces that cognitive moment of realization. Preserved potentially for months, years, or even centuries or millennia (if we are to take the glacier’s age as in indicator of its resilience) in its frigid tomb, the work bespeaks not to the fragility and ephemerality of our planet but rather repeats an all-too familiar scenario—the specimen of nature preserved and displayed by humankind, and the unchanging constancy of our present condition.

Paul Kos, "The Sound of Ice Melting," 1970/2011, mixed media; - See more at:

Paul Kos, “The Sound of Ice Melting,” 1970/2011, mixed media.

Read more…

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By marywp


On 11, Sep 2013 | In Uncategorized | By marywp

There’s a lot going down in NYC thisThursday as the galleries all kick into the Fall season.

Some things to look forward to are:

Charles Gaines in Conversation at Paula Cooper

Kill two birds with one stone by seeing the gallery’s presentation of Sol Le Witt’s more contemporary (and colorful ) wall drawings in addition to the legendary conceptual artist Charles Gaines discuss his practice.

Thursday @ 7pm

In Red Hook, Elizabeth Orr will reveal her performative/documentative project at Recess Projects. Orr’s work has yet to break through on a large scale, but this latest piece especially promises to deal with multiple contemporary issues around performance and its representation.  The middling reception starts at 6.

Back in Chelsea,  303 Gallery will be hosting an exhibition of new Elad Lassry photographs. There won’t be a reception, but try and catch the exhibition in the day or on the weekend.

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By marywp

Must See for Week of 09/02

On 02, Sep 2013 | In Uncategorized | By marywp

This Friday MoMA PS1’s latest project, the cross-country, one-day art fair/festival and pop-up exhibition, Station to Station hits Brooklyn. The event has been sold out for a week already, and names like Ryan Trecartin, Urs Fischer, Yayoi Kusama, Nam June Paik and Raymond Pettibon (to name a few) will highlight what will be an interesting evening.

For a more “populist”event, the controversial former director of LA MOCA’s return to LA opens Thursday night. Calligraffiti at Lelia Heller Gallery promises to be half a hot Chelsea Mess and half and interesting exhibition.

Meanwhile, further uptown at Columbia University’s Wallah Gallery is a sure treat. Eleanor Antin’s Selves curated by Ph.d candidate Emily Liebert almost guarantees both a great review of a seminal project in feminist conceptual art. Opening reception Thursday 6-8pm.

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