PSEUDO EMPIRE AN ALTERNATIVE EXHIBITION SPACE IN BUSHWICK Fri, 20 Mar 2015 03:51:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Review: Trajal Harrell: Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church The Kitchen Sun, 16 Nov 2014 21:26:20 +0000 Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church is a performance in eight […]

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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.”

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More Than Just A Piece of Sky: An Open Rehearsal Tue, 01 Jul 2014 02:13:39 +0000       On Saturday, June 28, Pseudo Empire presented an intimate performance by Marissa […]

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More Than Just A Piece of Sky, Marissa Perel, Jumatatu Poe and Lindsay Reuter, Chez Bushwick, June 28, 2014


On Saturday, June 28, Pseudo Empire presented an intimate performance by Marissa Perel,  More Than Just A Piece of Sky at Chez Bushwick, a dance studio and rehearsal space near our Troutman street location. The event was constructed as an open rehearsal for Perel’s ongoing performance project, More Than Just A Piece of Sky that will culminate in an exhibition and performance series at the Chocolate Factory in September. Over the duration of the performance, Perel performed alongside Jumatatu Poe and Lindsey Reuter, suggesting placements for their bodies, holding props, easily moving between performer and choreographer.

The core of the performance was loosley derived from the story of Yentl the Yeshiva Boy as directed by Barbra Streisand in the 1983 musical motion picture. Engaging with the characters of Yentl and Avigdor, the performers opened with a slow encircling, of each other, of their relationships to the space and to each other. Poe and Reuter, making their was to the bed, a white nucleus upon which much of the key moments of the evening, lay under the covers, their movements, and Perel’s and she turned them, pulling them eventually into a heap onto the floor  unfolded slowly, almost achingly, without a cloud of sensual chemistry. Pulling the bed up over them as a blanket, Poe and Reuter’s extended moment in hiding, froze the progress of the performance, what was happening under the bed, as Perel looked on.  Running through this early phrase of the performance was a text projected behind the performance and spoken to each other in different conversational settings. “If I am not for myself, who am I?”  Their relationship to each other remained constantly linked, as Perel fed her colleagues lines in a whisper, almost to remain inaudible by the audience, they repeated in turn, transforming the text into a dialogue, questioning and considering the speaker and the receiver. Perel settles their quizzical musings with the voice of Streisand; Papa Can You Hear Me is performed on a vintage 1980s record player.

More Than Just A Piece of Sky, Marissa Perel, Jumatatu Poe and Lindsay Reuter, Chez Bushwick, June 28, 2014


To end the first chapter (it feels somehow more appropriate to consider the different sections of the dance in terms of poetry or writing vs. performing arts), Perel and Reuter find themselves together on the bed, under the sheet–their relationship suddenly more intimate. Poe, who had begun the performance arm in arm with Reuter, finds himself alone, and explores this new relation in a solo to Bronski Beat’s 1980’s classic, Smalltown Boy. During his movement away from the pair, Reuter rises, proceeds to wrap the now undressed Perel in a tube of blue neon lighting and prompt depart. Now estranged from both partners, Perel is bound and retreats again under the sheets. 


The second chapter moves shiftily as Perel is joined by Poe, who tenderly lays his shirt over her body, the bed becomes a ledge on which they move, rest. As Retuter returns, moving slowly towards her Abigdor, Perel’s use of the bed as a shield, as a tool, uproots it from its objectood, becoming in may ways a metaphor for the shifting relationships and signs at play in the work.

2014-06-28 20.02.51

More Than Just A Piece of Sky, Marissa Perel, Jumatatu Poe and Lindsay Reuter, Chez Bushwick, June 28, 2014



Poe and Reuter join each other on the end again, they whisper and smile, sharing a secret. Reuter’s following duet with Perel, operating simultaneously with Poe self-portrait study in the room’s mirror. The silence of tis section enhances its beauty, Perel–still wrapped in the bed sheet clings to Reuter’s body, turning, until Perel lays cocoon-like upon the floor, at once helpless yet full of power and energy.

Marissa Perel and Lindsay Reuter, Chez Bushwick, June 28, 2014

More Than Just A Piece of Sky, Marissa Perel and Lindsay Reuter, Chez Bushwick, June 28, 2014


Once again Reuter joins Poe, seated together on a bench before the mirror. Looking ahead, at themselves, at each other, their arms perform a silent ritual, a ballet of silence, of exploration of understanding. The phrase reads as one of contemplation, of acceptance, Perel’s ghostly solo behind the pair, moving solely across the space, moving the folds of her sheet is, like their seated pair’s movements full of solemnity. Finally, Perel replaces Poe beside Reuter, either seated duet echoing the previous, the roles are reversed.


Jumatatu Poe and Lindsay Reuter, Chez Bushwick, June 28, 2014

Jumatatu Poe and Lindsay Reuter, Chez Bushwick, June 28, 2014


As night fell outside, Perel  once again began to recite texts projected behind the performers “If I remember myself, who am I?” The relationship of one to another of man and woman, of person to person and body to body are once again transferred and echoed, lines are fed and repeated, questions asked and repeated in turn. In the final exchange, a reversal and repeating of the lines “I’ll state  the premise. . . you’ll dispute.” This dialogue, echoing the teasing, witty arguing of Avigdor and Yentl in the film, surmised their relationship, the truths as perceived in that moment and the encounters moving from that as creating a series of fleeting realties and relationships.

In opening up and experimenting with an alternative version of the familiar narrative, Perel introduces an interpretation that suggests further middles and endings, exploring potential meanings and possibilities.


mary l. coyne


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Pseudo Empire: The Reading Club Sun, 29 Jun 2014 19:44:31 +0000 Pseudo Empire is excited to announce the start of our book club, a months opportunity […]

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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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Pseudo Empire obtains Fiscal Sponsorship Sat, 10 May 2014 02:21:16 +0000 We’re very happy to announce that Pseudo Empire has been accepted for fiscal sponsorship by […]

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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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Sustainability Mon, 21 Apr 2014 05:04:10 +0000 Looking ahead through 2014 and into 2015 I’m very excited for what’s to come. In […]

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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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Review: Jewels by JAR Sat, 28 Dec 2013 03:26:35 +0000 Jewels by JAR The Metropolitan Museum of Art November 20, 2013–March 9, 2014   Joel […]

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Jewels by JARjar-jewelry-retrospective-at-the-metropolitan-L-tsRA_K

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

November 20, 2013–March 9, 2014


Joel A. Rosenthal, now know by his pseudonym/initials, JAR, has been honored with an exhibition the Metropolitan Museum of Art this winter. The exhibition opened without much fanfare, as a project of the museum’s Modern and Contemporary department, under the leadership of curator Jane Adlin.


This past week, Robin Pogrebin, writing for the New York Times finally made public what had been discussed across tables in the museum community for weeks—that the Jewels by JAR exhibition treads dangerously away from the ethical standards of the museum exhibition.[1] In her December 27 review, Roberta Smith seconded her colleague’s opinion, bestowing on Jewels by JAR the dubious honor of being one of “the most superficial shows” she had ever seen.[2] Finding fault with the seemingly ostentatious display of wealth in a museum which publicly has sought to become more accessible to a wider community of New Yorkers is not the sole reason for the harsh critical outcry. The exhibition, apparently a curatorial take over by a living, designer, enjoying the height of his popularity suggests a weakness by the Met to appease individuals, or corporations, such as Rosenthal is exchange for renewed favor from those who matter most—the higher echelons of museum’s membership tiers and existing or would-be donors.


And yet Jewels for JAR does not come at much of a suprprise. Have we become that accustomed to the Met’s corporate sponsored exhibitions that they are little more than standard fare? With the exception of the Impressionist and Fashion exhibition in 2013, The Costume Institute has developed somewhat a reputation of becoming the museum’s income source. The Costume Gala, the museum’s annual fundraiser responsible for the lion’s share of press attention and celebrity generosity has developed an unofficial role as the museum’s fundraiser.



In 2005 the Museum presented Chanel, an exhibition supported the couture label; Savage Beauty, the Alexander McQueen retrospective that solidified the reputation and fundraising potential of the previously low-key Costume Institute was likewise funded in part by the House of McQueen. In each instance the Met has been called out by the press and museum critics, yet, unfortunately, the benefits continue to outweigh any shame.

In her essay contribution to the catalog for the 2012 Whitney Bienniale, Andrea Fraser acknowledged “most form of engagement have become so fraught with conflict . . . that they are almost unbearable.”[3] Fraser, who remains one of the more vocal critiques of museological structure, highlights the institutions’ seemingly inevitable conflicts of interest. As MMA director, Tom Campbell has admitted, running a museum, especially one with world-class collections and programming such as the Met, takes a significant amount of hours dedicated to development and long and short-term sustainability. Unfortunately, the exhibitions of interest to scholars and the well-informed members of the museum’s public are often those that promise little revenue. The Met Museum does not charge additional fees for entry into special exhibitions[4]

If we are to follow Smith’s argument, the Met, specifically, curator Jane Adlin, resigned their roles as orchestrators of an exhibition at one of the most powerful museum in the world to appease a subset of the development department. The exhibition has clearly been constructed with the eye of the wealthy collection, dark lighting, a dramatic installation and scant scholarship on the actual objects align the Met’s exhibition with a pre-auction presentation at Christie’s or a designer trunk show (donors and favored members of the museum were treated with a select sale prior to the exhibition’s opening). The exhibition catalog, where the curator typically has the liberty to delve deeper into a study of the objects dismisses this serious function entirely for a laudatory essay by London-based dealer Adrian Sassoon.

In 2012, a JAR brooch sold at auction for 4.3 million dollars, an astronomical cost for a living designer and his popularity with celebrities and collectors suggest that his stock will continue to rise.[5] By celebrating the work of a living, contemporary designer the Met attempted to revise, abet on a smaller scale the blockbuster popularity of But where the McQueen exhibition broke ground curatorially with Andrew Bolton’s presentation and display of garments and the universal embrace of costume as a contemporarily vibrant art form, Jewels for JAR, unknown to much of even the art world prior to the Times’ reports brings little positives to outweigh the its damage. When one balances the monetary cost of the bold exhibition design that transform the galleries into a oval-shaped jewel, and the critical blows taken to what had been a developing Modern and Contemporary department the smiles, or, even the generosity of the jewel’s owners seems a small, if glittery, reward.

[1] Robin Pogrebin “Jewelry Show at the Met Raises Questions” The New York Times December, 23, 2013.


[2] Robert Smith, “All that Glitters: And a Lot that Shines” The New York Times December 27, 2013.


[3] Andrea Fraser “There’s No Place Like Home/ L’1% C’est Moi Whitney Biennial 2012 (New York: The Whitney Museum of American Art), 33-42.

[4] In October 2013 the Bloomberg mayoral administration added an amendment to the museum’s lease with the city allowing for the introduction of additional charges to the “pay what you wish” admission for special exhibitions. Museum spokesman Harold Holzer denied any plans by the Met to institute extra fees for access to special exhibitions, it remains to be discovered it doing so is part of the museum’s long-term feasibility plan.



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Must See: Week of 10/07 Wed, 09 Oct 2013 03:51:44 +0000 Things have returned to a closer state of normalcy, but as always there are plenty […]

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Things have returned to a closer state of normalcy, but as always there are plenty of the things to catch!

Wednesday, October 9, 7-9pm

Opening Reception @ BRIC for Housewarming: Notion of Home from the Center of the Universe 

BRIC inaugurates a new gallery space with a strong show of Brooklyn-based artists. The show promises to be an interesting reply to the Sculpture Center’s Better Homes of this past spring. Sounds like a good time.

Thursday, October 10, The Nearness of Objects @ Sikkema Jenkins 6-8pm 

Terry Hagerty, a leser-known British painter presents a series of new work that converse with the infamous “Op Art” works that enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame in the New York Art World in 1965 around MOMA’s Responsive Eye exhibition. Since Massimilano Gioni’s Ghosts in the Machine last year, this previously shunned group of artists has enjoyed a much needed re-evaluatio, and Hagerty’s works are an interesting contemporary contribution to the assets of optical art.

Friday, October 11, 

There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4″33 @ MOMA

Its difficult to ever say one has had enough John Cage. Referenced among almost every artist of this generation’s list of inspirations, Cage’s compositional theories broke ground for all forms and media. 4″33, Cage’s infamous silent composition was originally performed at the Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock New York in August, 1962. The exhibition, essentially a showcase of an original score recently acquired by the museum, is well worth a look.

Friday, October 11, Llyn Foulkes @Andrea Rosen 

A postlogue to the major retrospective that recently closed at the New Museum,  Andrea Rosen presents a tightly curated show of the artist’s smaller, more hand-held art, The artist’s hand-painted postcards, copies of his more-famous compositions and constantly recycling and re-using imagery, themes and source material, its a must-see follow up on the museum show.

Saturday, October 12, 5:45-8:45

Robert Motherwell: Early Collages @ the Guggenheim 

Yes, the show has been open over a week but Saturday is pay what you wish night. I can’t think of a better way to start Saturday night than a heavy dose of high modernism at its very height. Motherwell promises to be everything we love, (and complain about) with the Guggenheim.

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Review: Allan McCollum Plaster Surrogates Colored and Organized by Andrea Zittel Fri, 27 Sep 2013 00:22:17 +0000 Allan McCollum Plaster Surrogates Colored and Organized by Andrea Zittel September 6- October 5, 2013 […]

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Allan McCollum

Plaster Surrogates Colored and Organized by Andrea Zittel

September 6- October 5, 2013

Petzel Gallery, New York

Allan McCollum in collaboration with Andrea Zittel Installation view 1 2013

Allan McCollum in collaboration with Andrea Zittel
Installation view 1

Allan McCollum and Andrea Zittel’s collaboration, their second at Petzel, continues the former’s practice of consistently approaching art production, display and study with the critical eye of one situated outside the art world—persistently questioning the motives, conventions and expectations surrounding the art object. By implementing a consciously exterior perspective, McCollum is able to look in and reveal the unique set of conventions termed the art world and questions the intrinsic value of the work of art.

Plaster Surrogates Colored and Organized by Andrea Zittel occupies a single gallery at Petzel, the color (a deep, warm grey) of which was chosen specifically by Zittel as a backdrop for the earth-toned pieces (she was also responsible for the selection of their tones).  Although the first Plaster Surrogates were produced by McCollum in 1982, as a further objectification of his Surrogate Paintings, the series at Petzel expands the artist’s production of the notably mass-produced art object with the introduction of a collaborator, who shared with the artist the role of administrative decision maker over a team of workshop assistants.

The Surrogates are created by creating plaster casts of framed canvases which are then entirely painted over with enamel paint, producing an object that looks like a painting, and by definition, is a painting, yet is decidedly not a painting as accepted by art world rules. By drawing heavily on the complex and at times paradoxical relationship between image and object, signified and signifier, McCollum, as did Jasper Johns, produced a system that mirrors the iconic function of art itself—to represent as a reflective image of the “real” outside it.

At heart, the Plaster Surrogates refute their existence as simple “things” by activating the multiple chains of signification and meaning between themselves and the viewer, an interaction at once expected of an art object, yet also true for all objects. McCollum’s practice is based on the simultaneous singularity yet transmutability of sign systems—an ongoing project is to have a unique shape created for every person on the planet, even as the artist acknowledges the importance of images’ ability to be communicable to as many viewers as possible without explanation. Yet the Surrogates ontological essence denies the presence of a depicted or suggested subject. As Hal Foster has emphasized in his seminal essay, “Subversive Signs” (1986), McCollum’s work leaves a vacuous space in the place of a subject.[1] By eliminating content from the frames, McCollum reduces then to vacant signs, signifying not something outside the frame but reflecting the cyclical end game of the commercial art world in which art objects are reduced to empty tokens of exchange—distinguishable from each other often by size or coloration than artistic value.

Although produced in context with the socially critical works that now define the “Pictures Generation” of the late 1970s-80s, McCollum’s Surrogates remain resoundingly significant today. Foster perceived the timeless quality of the work, noting that  “McCollum literalized the rules of art”.[2] Solemnly, the work’s subject is the definition of painting, and art itself through the production of mass-produced objects, a Duchampian prototype made afresh. With the Surrogates, McCollum forces a definition of art to lie within the object’s context and presentation, allowing him to “ just do just the minimum that is expected of an artist and no more.” In this way, the Surrogates are not art in and of themselves, but rather “stand-in” for the experience of looking at a framed painting on a wall. The experience duplicates that of “the real” by adhering to the proverbial rules of a painting—that it must be a framed canvas on a wall to which paint has been applied” but subverts this very definition by transforming each painting into a object, each an object within the greater installation which is itself the work.

Zittel’s purposeful play of color activates these relationships by at once combining the gallery into a single installation and by generating each plastic piece’s coloristic properties through its relationships with the others, with the background and to the visitor. In this way, Zittel’s addition to the Surrogates can be understood as one that imbues them with a painterly, as opposed to a curatorial perspective. Zittel’s life is an expansion of her own design—her homestead outside Yucca Tree National Park entitled A-Z West, her color-blocked, style-savy “uniforms” and fabric paintings rely on her acute sense of color relationships. By applying this sensibility to McCollum’s institutional critique practice, the project takes on a unique hand-made aspect. McCollum has described his Surrogates as “product of tiny gestures built up over time,” emphasizing an almost craft-like production while simultaneously relying heavily on a system of assembly-line production even as Zittel’s handmade, organically colored forms aesthetically oppose it.[3] Even this paradox itself seems mass-produced however, as it aligns with a dizzying array of new age spiritual lifestyle commodities from clothing, exercise programs, home décor and food that attempt to situate themselves pure and apart from the society of which they are an intrinsic part.

Allan McCollum and Andrea Zittel Collection of Eight Plaster Surrogates  Mold: 1982, Cast: 1993, Painted: 2013 Enamel on cast Hydrostone  Installed Dimensions: 9.5 x 55 inches; 24.1 x 139.7 cm

Allan McCollum and Andrea Zittel
Collection of Eight Plaster Surrogates
Mold: 1982, Cast: 1993, Painted: 2013
Enamel on cast Hydrostone
Installed Dimensions: 9.5 x 55 inches; 24.1 x 139.7 cm

By transferring his sense of authorship to Zittel, McCollum put his own system to the test—would the sign system of plastic Surrogates function differently when attributed to a different artist? Stepping back even further from “the minimal you can do and still be an artist” while retaining his claim over the project, McCollum allows for Zittel’s own aesthetic and practice to complicate the Surrogates. By overseeing color and compositional decisions, as well as overseeing the installation, Zittel’s own role overlapped the boundaries of curator and artist. McCollum’s heightened interest in display here takes the form in his willingness to relinquish these decisions to another.[4]

Context and presentation are brought to the fore, curatorial, display and artistic practices merged. Operating as a coy response to Jeff Koon’s double exhibitions at David Zwirner and Gagosian this past summer in Chelsea, McCollum re-considers how the mass-produced object can function in this hyper-commercialized Chelsea gallery culture.

[1] Hal Foster, “Subversive Signs” (1986), re-printed in Modern Art Culture: A Reader by Francis Frascina (Routledge: New York, 2009), 109-120.

[2] ibid.

[3] Allan McCollum “Allan McCollum” Art 21 (accessed September 17, 2013).

[4] Allan McCollum, interview with Paul Bernard originally published in Frog No. 10-11 (2011). (accessed September 21, 2013).

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Must See For Week of 09/23 Mon, 23 Sep 2013 01:36:34 +0000 Simon Leung ACTIONS! @ the Kitchen.  Simon Leung re-visit action-based practices through a performance that will touch […]

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Simon Leung ACTIONS! @ the Kitchen. 

Simon Leung re-visit action-based practices through a performance that will touch on the conversations surrounding the intersection of art, labor, community, and politics we’ve heard and had so often this past year or two. Saturday’s performance concludes with a live discussion among participants including Leung and Julia Bryan-Wilson, moderated by Tim Griffin which will be a real treat.

Friday 09/27 and 09/28 at 8pm.


Compared to last year’s mid-summer event, Photoville this year has been decidedly under the radar, having the misfortune to open the same weekend when everyone was catching up on gallery openings and networking (or just browsing) at Printed Matter’s New York Art Book Fair @ PS1. Still, I would recommend checking out Photoville, if nothing more to see how artists and curators have found ways to push the boundaries imposed by hanging an exhibition in a non-climate, poorly lit storage container. Having over a week to find the right time to drop by is also a bonus.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

through 09/29


Moma New Photography

Yes, the show did open Sep 14, but I for one haven’t had the chance to pop by yet. MOMA is open late Friday night (also free after 5pm) and there really aren’t any more excuse to bypass this.


Jan Dibbets @ Gladstone Gallery 

The gallery is presenting a series of Dibbet’s more recent color studies–close ups of brightly hued car hoods. Although not as conceptually intriguing as the Perspective Corrections and Horizons that make up his earlier practice, Dibbets remains an enigmatic, yet under-recognized artist.

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Nostalgic for a Purpose: Failure and EXPO 1 At MoMA PS1 Sat, 21 Sep 2013 04:10:28 +0000 In 1971 John Baldessari swore he would “not make any more boring art,” stating in […]

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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.

This reliability is inseparable from the feeling of boredom that permeates contemporary culture. Our expectation that the earth, the glaciers will always be there even in the face of evidence that suggests otherwise, that the ice at PS1 will remain unchanged (if abet slightly soiled by the hands of iPhone camera wielding visitors). In the face of repeated threats to our security and way of life, somehow we never quite believe the apocalypse is near, the unfounded fears of the Y2K scare initiated the practice of the use of fear propaganda and then the ultimate let down when reality did not live up to its dramatic prophesies. Over the past year alone, the United States as a nation aptly avoided a sequence of grazes with financial disaster, each hyped to the potential of the total annihilation of life as we know it and each resulting in nothing more than a late night on capital hill and the suggestion of future taxes increases. The endless cycle of fake panic and release can only be repeated so many times before itself becomes a rehearsed routine.

Acute boredom is a result of the “ghost in the machine” state of being birthed from the industrial revolution. Conflicted with the societally re-enforced goal of increased leisure time and the un-purposed time created by a minimization of working hours, the nineteenth century working class were introduced to states of being formerly suffered only by the ruling classes.[xiii] The sensations of having “nothing to do” initiated, among other things, the practice of tourist photography and the wide-spread popularity of publications such as National Geographic Magazine, expanding the minds and the possibilities for the first of a generation of armchair travelers. The level of mediation incurred by experiencing the world through a series of images from the relative safety and comfort of one’s home creates a direct precedent for the passive ingestion of thousands of images and bits of information scrolling downward on computer screens and electronic devices.

It should not be surprising that within this cyclical cycle of ennui that no single artist has emerged with a truly challenging voice. Duchamp’s ironic genius defined the onset of Conceptualism, yet appropriately there has been no parallel figure of our current time, no artist has stepped forward to seriously challenge the laws of the art world, those that do rely on historical tropes of Institutional Critique or attempt to negotiate a mediation between conceptualism and a re-focused attention to aesthetics, beauty another outmoded stylistic language.

An awareness of the mundane nature of contemporary experience has been an intrinsic aspect of artists’ work since the early 1960s, forming a foundation for the criticality associated with Pop art.[xiv] In these first decades the mass-produced aesthetic of the American supermarket culture became the avant-garde in that it provided a new visual language for art—one that had yet to be used. An acceptance, even an embracing of the everyday, pedestrian and inconsequential moments marked the work of early Conceptual artists, such as William Wegman and Yvonne Rainer’s practices, challenged the status of their media by an inclusion of the most mundane and dry actions as art. Although Fountain relied entirely on the apparent indistinguishably between art and the mass-produced object, highlighting, among other things, a aspect of intrinsic sameness to all objects. Yet honest surprise, the a psychological response upon which Duchamp relied in order to enact what were the first works of Conceptual art almost a century ago, is an emotion too often enacted through emoticons to hold any aspect of honesty.[xv] Klaus Biesenbach’s EXPO 1 at once challenges and underscores this aspect of experience, from Meg Webster’s Pool (1998-2013) to Random International’s Rain Room (2013), it tries to challenge expectations of the museum exhibition experience and increase the level of participatory engagement. The experience of the exhibition relies more on the immersive installations of Art Basel, Documenta or biennales. Like the tiresome routines experienced at these international art fairs, the wonderment implied is suppressed, the rain, trapped in the dark room in midtown seems removed from the joyful spontaneity of getting caught in an natural rainstorm (unrealistic expectations built up after hour 8-hour-long wait times do not aid in detaching the experience from spectacle). Formally striking, the work as a whole carries a sobering message of the futility. Adrián Villar Rojas’s La inocencia de los animales (The Innocence of Animals) monolithic installation at once ancient and futuristic imagines a pre/post human world, but instead of machines, or the utopias of an advance society, the work is presented in the visual language a civilization in ruins. The massive of forms of concrete and clay, instead of inspiring, as do the sites of Mediterranean antiquity act as a macabre indication of the ultimate fate of our own ways of life and a reminder of our inability to surpass the achievements of the ancients.

While ready to recognize the limits of Institutional Critique (and eager to historicize the movement), the art world has little to show for its history of forwarding activism. Repeatedly, the history of the art world over the past 20 years reads as a series of potentialities never fully acted upon and the slow realization that nothing had inherently changed for the better. The Internet has provided the art world with the extra-institutional structure it had sought, only, once gained it has lost its desirability. The potential attainment of this kind of liberation has been recognized by a comparative few, including Eva and Franco Mattes/ Darko Maver.[xvi] For more common are signs of nostalgia for the old days of aesthetic censorship by the museum and gallery system.[xvii] Museums’ reluctance to reformat their operations on an unlimited digital model, although frustrating cannot be entirely surprising; museums have historically traditional and stalwartly represented resistance to change. It is the attitude of artists, who have adapted to work within the format of the grandiose art fair and biennale (the 55th Venice Biennale and Art Basel 2013, in addition to showing many of the same artists have been compared in their size, scope and grandiose construction. Massimiliano Gioni’s “Encyclopedic Palace” theme for the Venice Biennale, outside of reviving the historical wunderkammen origins of the museum itself, seems to attempt to achieve it all, encapsulating the universe within the collection/exhibition, grossly overcomplicating for, as opposed to coming to terms with human limitations and failures.

The conundrum of this inescapable cycle of failure is that it a successful meditation on our times, must, if it is to accurately reflect its subject is impossible. This paradox results in exhibition that “attempt” “try” and “suggest” but remain outside the limits of achieving is a unique paradox. A strange type of insecurity is bred—are the exhibitions and art we critique succeeding in ways we fail to recognized, i.e. are we simply projecting our own failures on the art world as a whole? A situation where success in defining the zeitgeist must ultimately reflect its failure, an exhibition of an artwork, if it was to function within contemporary society would not accurately function for its viewers if it provided a overly melodramatic, political or aesthetic argument. This conundrum is often avoided as separate from the constant of historical retrospectives, revisionist histories and re-installations, exhibitions of solely contemporary work rarely exist. Museums, even galleries feel far more comfortable hosting retrospectives and re-writing historical narratives than developing programing to interrogate unique issues of the current age.

The first season of Mad Men ends with Don Draper making the now famous pitch for the Kodak Carousel—an object significantly antiquated in the face of the digital camera and the myriad of photo sharing systems. His professionally brilliant move to inject a rare moment of personal sentiment to his work resonates with Kodak—and the with television viewer. Audiences have projected themselves onto another layer to of the pitch, the projection screen (re-purposed with Netflix screenings), like the record turntable and the Instagram vintage-feel photo filters provide a delightfully pre-technological touch to our lives. The Draper character, itself a layered metaphor of contemporary identity through the lens of the 1960s can succeeds in examining the 2010’s, often bringing to the fore the brutal social stagnation since the period depicted in the fictional show.

In 1940, Walter Benjamin in the face of the threatening rise of National Socialism in Germany penned On the Concept of History, a series of paragraphs that express some of the writers most poetic musings on his contemporary society. Benjamin’s study of Paul Klee’s whimsical Angelus Novus is a reading of the figure as the “angel of history” face “turned towards the past,” a “storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.” In 2009, Feedforward: The Angel of History was presented at LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial, Gijón, Spain. The exhibition, conceived as a series of workshops and organized into themes on the legacy of the 20th century and the global political and social forces that drives us forward. This helplessness, this inability to face forward into the future and see anything other than the failure and horrors of times past has not changed. This past spring, Jean Baurillard’s The Angel of History at the Palais des Beaux-Arts examines the nature of ruin and debris.[xviii] Like the ever-growing mound debris accumulating by Benjamin’s the storm of progress, Baudrillard confirms that we, cannot see a hopeful future beyond our present state. Denied our utopias, one can do nothing but look to the past and try to find value in its ruins even as they remind us of our failures.

[i] I refer to Fydor Dostoevsky’s analogy of the wall as that which subdues without further attempt the common man. Notes from Underground, trans. Boris Jakim (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans, 2009).

[ii] Kevin McGarry “Timely: Avant Guardian,” New York Times Magazine Culture section. October 4, 2012.

[iii] The 1993 Whitney Biennial headed by freshman museum director David Ross divided the art world—at once “the biennial with a conscious” and a display of “non-art” the exhibition, from a contemporary perspective is striking in its impact on the larger community outside the close-knit art world. See Roberta Smith “At the Whitney, A Biennial with a Social Conscious,” The New York Times March 5, 1993; Arthur C. Danto “The 1992 Whitney Biennial” The Nation Art Section, April 19, 1993.

[iv] Although there is nothing inherently wrong with quoting, selecting, dialoguing with historical images, the practice of doing so solely limits the potential of any give artist. My point here is that artists must refer to the past in order to accurately provide an glimpse into the Zeitgest of the work’s creation.

[v] The popularity of the TV series Mad Men, and trend in home furnishings, fashion and even digital phenomenon such as Instagram photo filters are some of the more obvious examples of popular culture’s fascination with times past.

[vi] Thomas Mitcchell articulated a recognition of this sense of societal failure in his Single Point Perspective opinion column on See Thomas Mitcchell, “Single Ponte Perspective: Entropy Now,” Hyperallergic. July 6, 2013. (accessed July 6, 2013).

[vii] Paco Barragán, The Art Fair Age; Pamela M. Lee Forgetting the Art World (Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT Press 2012), 8-17.

[viii] Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974 organized by Phillip Kaiser and Miwon Kwon for MOCA, Los Angeles provides an ideal comparison to the “crowd-pleasing” goals of many more contemporary temporary interventions. That Ends of the Earth was one of the few scholarly exhibitions presented by MOCA since 2010, the strength of its thesis and the continued importance and power of the work it contextualized provides another sobering example of the inability of contemporary work to live up to the idealism and the intelligence of the past.

[ix] Mitcchell, “Single Ponte Perspective: Entropy Now”

[x] Kos’ work was originally exhibited at the Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco for the exhibition Sound Sculptures (1970). It is unclear if the original ice blocks were replaced as needed in San Francisco.

[xi] State of Mind: California Conceptualism circa 1970, a Getty-funded exhibition was originally presented in 2011 at the Orange County Museum of Art as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time initiative.

[xii] Museum staff do replace the ice upon its liquidation in State of Mind.

[xiii] Patricia Meyer Spacks has established that the workd “boredom” only entered English vernacular in the mid-nineteenth century. See Boredom(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). On the value of leisure time see Michel Foucault Of Other Spaces on leisure time as an incentive applied towards the lower classes in nineteenth-century Britain.

[xiv] Jasper John’s application of a quotian symbolic language, (flags, numbers, house paint) marked the tuning point in

[xv] Arthur Danto has recently re-affirmed Duchamp’s status as the first Conceptual artist, see What is Art. For Danto, Duchamp’s ready-made was the first work to successfully detach art entirely from the discourse of aesthetics, forcing, instead a new definition with which we are still grappling to fully articulate today.

[xvi] See Domenico Quaranta, Mauriio Cattelan et al., Eva & Franco Mattes: 0100101110101101.ORG.

[xvii] Boris Groys described this “nostalgia” in his essay “Art Workers: Between Utopia and the Archive,” e-flux 45 May 2013

[xviii] The Angel of History April 25-July 7, 2013. Press release

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