THE SUMMATIVE SESSION
OCTOBER 4, 2011 7PM
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
BHFQU Open Critique 4/29 Lu Magnus
Lu Magnus, a gallery i was unaware of on the Lower East Side, opens on the ground floor of the street. you go down quite a number of steps until you wind up on the ground floor of the gallery. from the floor you look up and see the entrance and dozen or so stairs leading up to it, which almost functions like a balcony. a very unique space for a gallery with high ceilings of probably over 25 feet, it paradoxically cross-breeds the sunken below-ground feeling of a cavern with the airy impossibly high-ceiling spaciousness of a cathedral (sorry hope that doesn't sound like a real estate agent soundbyte). sure i have been in art spaces with comparably high ceilings, but they are more often than not derelict lofts, raw spaces, with that mossy Bushwick-Gowanus-y-concrete floor-exposed -radiator-DIY-wall- utter lack of lushness that this space seems to have.
by the time i walk into BHFQU a pretty involved discussion has been going on for awhile. at first i don’t realize that the discussion is about the present show that is up—i assume we are just using the space because it is so large and convenient for a large gathering of people. at BHFQU i have this unconscious reflex that i have to block out whatever is on the walls of the space we are using, because whatever we are talking about is not going to have to do with whatever is on the walls. there is this subterranean barely conscious assumption at the far corners of my mind that the gallery we are using is the “establishment” or the institution, and the discourse we are having is below the radar and of a more unique ilk than the type of discourse we would be having were we officially tied with whatever institution we are squatting. unique how? less heterogeneous, less complicit with gallery or commercial interests—less sterile, less glib, less safe, less manufactured. maybe this is a romanticization: the itinerant guerilla counter-institutional artist creating a hybrid space of temporarily hijacking/transforming/catalyzing/activating an institutional space outside of the purview of institutional speech.
of course this is nothing new—THAW (Theaters Against War), a network of over 400 Off-Broadway theaters whose stated mission was to protest the Iraq war in the mid-2000’s, operated in such a vein for 4 years, holding monthly or bi-monthly performances at (somewhat prestigious) donated off-Broadway theaters on “Dark Night”—Monday night, the one night the theater community is closed and theaters were not being used. more recently, Nils Norman and Michael Cataldi’s University of Trash in 2009 was a 3 month long squatting of Sculpture Center whereby an installation made entirely of recycled trash in the Sculpture Center housed over 200 talks, lectures and performance— uncurated by either the artists or Sculpture Center. what is different about the last 2 projects and BHFQU is BHFQU is the only one where i feel there is a connection between its itinerant meta-institutional status and the type of discourse/dialogue that happens, whereas in the last two examples the non-institutional status of the project and the type of work produced within its confines don’t seem to inform one another.
i don't know if i am explaining this clearly, but it seems an important point. at University of Trash they had this prefabricated installation, and then they just plopped all these talks and classes in this installation that despite being sprawling and messy, ironically basically functioned as a pre-made container—but the one did not catalyze (or inform) the other. the making of this trash installation was a “finished piece” that was in no way activated, or transformed, or in active dialogue with the classes/talks that happened within it. to use the metaphor of figure/ground, the trash installation was the “ground” and the classes were the “figure” --there was still hierarchy between these two. whereas with BHFQU i feel like the act of squatting IS the art project and of a continuous piece with the dialogue that follows, not two separate things. i feel like the act of squatting/creating an experimental school and the actual discussion that happens seem like they are more on an equal footing in BHFQU--not the first one invented and polished into a product to then house the second.
so i walk in to this cave-cathedral, whirl around 180 degrees, stretching my neck to look everywhere thinking, “where is the art? where is the art?” trying to find where the slide projection is, which is the usual format we use. then after a few minutes i ask Ari sitting next to me, “wait are we here to talk about the actual art on the walls?” he says yes.
because i have come in the middle of a pretty involved discussion and it takes me like 5 minutes to figure out where the art is, i can’t completely follow exactly what is being discussed. there is a lot of talk about the architecture of the space and how that influences the work. my impression is the discourse about the architecture and how it influences the creation of this work is more radical than the intentions of the actual work itself or its relationship to the architecture of the space. consisting of 4 or 5 pieces (largely drawings or painting) which seem to be of a set with a color scheme of teal, moss green, orange, and maroon, the largest piece is on the far wall. framed almost as if by a television screen border of splintered triangular fragment pieces, within this rough border (almost conjuring up the entrance of the type of cave you might find in a Star Wars movie) is a looping stop-animation of two overturned cars in the seeming aftermath of a crash or explosion and shards from the explosion strewn about. when i walk in Fawad seems to be talking about issues of emigration to the US, his childhood and Libya (were he was born) and the mining of themes of violence in his work, talking about “catharsis” and a “fractured world”.
as the discussion of how the work engages the gallery continues, a girl sitting on the ground interrupts and says, “i think this work is less a collaboration with architecture. this is not a participatory project. these may be personal preferences of yours” (meaning he may have a partiality to works of such a nature, but the work itself is not a participatory activist art piece in collaboration with the architecture). i can’t remember if this is in response to this comment, but Fawad then says, “we have to go through whatever microcosm or channel pushes our work. we have to grow our work—whether in a garden in Kansas or a gallery on Hester Street.”
Fawad handles the discussion well and has an open, warm manner about him, as if he is used to having these types of talks (unlike others i have seen at critiques, not at BHFQU but just in general, who can seem haughty, impersonal, sullen, or as if they were at the executioner’s when publicly receiving critiques). i personally at critiques can seem overwhelmed or like i am just taking it in, and very rarely respond to what is being said. on the contrary Fawad seems in very control of the critique, not like it’s being “done” to him, but like he is leading it. although he’s not so in control as to seem overbearing; he walks this fine line between seeming very personable but not so personable as to seem slick or insincere. (maybe a more succinct way to state this is to say he has charisma, which is being able to take control of a situation without seeming like you are controlling it).
a man sitting in the far corner with a beard mentions Josh Smith and the Unmonumental show in relation to the work. one of the unresolved tensions of Fawad’s work is that between abstraction and figuration, as the subject matter of his work often relates to car crashes. some of his work is clearly representational (cars, billboards, street signs), but then dissolves at the parameters into almost graphic-art type squiggles and intricately woven scenes of a fractured abstraction. he talks about his work trying to represent “the infinitesimal moment before an explosion”. Fawad references “graphic novelty” and indeed these works hover between a comic strip quotidian off-handed loquaciousness (particularly because of the pre-designed “matchy-match” color scheme) and the more self-important, erudite or ambitious realm, or legacy, of “abstraction.” at one point he says,"what’s your American Landscape?” the million dollar question of the work is “how does one represent (or impart) chaos?”do you work in a representational mode and actually try to visually "portray" chaos, despite the fact that the underlying visual scheme is not chaotic at all, but fairly constricted, in some sense even schematic?
Posted by New M. Home at 8:33 PM