Saturday, 30 November 2013

Renée Jeanne Falconetti

Renée Jeanne Falconetti (July 21, 1892 – December 12, 1946), sometimes credited as Maria Falconetti, Marie Falconetti, Renée Maria Falconetti, or, simply, Falconetti, was a French stage and film actress, notable for her role as Joan of Arc in Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1928 silent film, La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc. 

Born in Pantin, Seine-Saint-Denis, Falconetti became a stage actress in Paris in 1918. By the time Dreyer watched her act in an amateur theater and selected her as his leading lady in his upcoming production La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, she was already a celebrated stage artiste, and had appeared in one film, La Comtesse de Somerive (1917), directed by Georges Denola and Jean Kemm. Falconetti was 35 years old when she played the role of 19-year-old Joan of Arc in La Passion. Her portrayal is widely considered one of the most astonishing performances ever committed to film, and it would remain her final cinematic role.

Many writers have claimed that Falconetti's performance was the result of extreme cruelty at the hands of Dreyer, a notoriously demanding director who pushed her to the brink of emotional collapse. For example, film critic Roger Ebert writes,
For Falconetti, the performance was an ordeal. Legends from the set tell of Dreyer forcing her to kneel painfully on stone and then wipe all expression from her face – so that the viewer would read suppressed or inner pain. He filmed the same shots again and again, hoping that in the editing room he could find exactly the right nuance in her facial expression.
However, in their biography of Dreyer, Jean and Dale Drum say that these stories are based only on rumour and that "there is no evidence that Dreyer could be called a sadist". They quote onlookers who described Dreyer's working relationship with Falconetti: initially in the production process, "Dreyer and Falconetti would watch the rushes of a single scene together, seven or eight times, until Dreyer could pick out a little bit, maybe a few feet, where the effect was what they wanted, and when they reshot the scene, she could play it without the least inhibition. Just those few feet of film had inspired her." Later, Falconetti became able to play scenes only from Dreyer's explanations, without the need even for rehearsal.

'Jesus!' The last word we hear from her or read from her in The Passion of Joan of Arc, her last word to the world of today as she leaves the big screen and re-enters the nocturnal shadows of the past. Stepping from a dreamhouse in flames down into mortality; stepping from the present into the past. An unforgettable sight. An unforgettable scene.

Before and after Dreyer she was a stage comedienne. As far away from what we remember her for as night is from day. But from her mid-20s she could be found on the stage in Paris. By the time Dreyer witnessed her on stage she had a kind of fame - the kind I mean is the one found from word of mouth, from the printed word, the types of communiction that existed before mass media and the TV camera shrunk our world. Thus some would know her from an article and/or picture in a newspaper, from voices in the corner coming from that magical box of tricks called the radio, from a friend telling you about seeing her last night in a play and raving about her. A figure with a natural distance from her admirers. In other words she still retained a level of mystery, an impenetrability that has served her icon well.

She was 35 when she made the film; Joan of Arc was 19. Yet this was a masterstroke. Her face is young enough to convey the innocence of Joan but old enough to depict Death lurking in every shadow, in every word her inquisitors torment her with. Her eyes know it is there; that soon it will have her but it is her innocence that makes her stronger than the strongest of her tormentors. For she believes in her beliefs and there is no-one among her who conveys that strength.

Every emotion, every thought, is etched in her face and amplified by the camera. I haven't seen one performance on screen that is half as strong, half as moving or half as beautiful. The terrors of Joan of Arc, the terrors of a Saint, are captured forever on film. Who can not be moved by what she went through? Those with hearts of stone, I guess.
Paul Page

You cannot know the history of silent film unless you know the face of Renee Maria Falconetti. In a medium without words, where the filmmakers believed that the camera captured the essence of characters through their faces, to see Falconetti in Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc” (1928) is to look into eyes that will never leave you.

Falconetti (as she is always called) made only this single movie. "It may be the finest performance ever recorded on film,” wrote Pauline Kael. She was an actress in Paris when she was seen on the stage of a little boulevard theater by Carl Theodor Dreyer (1889-1968), the Dane who was one of the greatest early directors. It was a light comedy, he recalled, but there was something in her face that struck him: "There was a soul behind that facade.” He did screen tests without makeup, and found what he sought, a woman who embodied simplicity, character and suffering.

Perhaps it helps that Falconetti never made another movie (she died in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1946). We do not have her face in other roles to compare with her face here, and the movie seems to exist outside time (the French director Jean Cocteau famously said it played like "an historical document from an era in which the cinema didn't exist”).
Roger Ebert

One article I’m especially proud of appeared a little over 50 years ago -  in December of 1962. It was published in Pageant magazine (long since gone), and was about an obscure actress named Falconetti, who had played in a 1927 silent film, “The Passion of Joan of Arc,” directed by the Danish master Carl Dreyer.

My article began: “This is the story of an actress you probably never heard of, probably never saw, and probably will never get to see.”  Yet she is worth remembering “because she gave one of the greatest performances in the history of motion pictures - perhaps the very greatest.”

When I asked the New School instructor about her, he said: She was a mystery. No one knows anything about her.

At the time I was working for Pageant magazine, a small, low-circulation magazine, and I asked the editor, Howard Cohn, if I could write an article about this magnificent but mysterious actress, Maria Falconetti. He said yes - if I could find out where she came from and what happened to her.

I did library research. I corresponded with movie critics. I exchanged letters with Carl Dreyer, the director, in Denmark. Dreyer wrote that he had seen her in Paris, on the stage, and knew she would be right for the part. But, along with everyone else, he knew almost nothing about her.

What made my research frustrating was that there was plenty of information about another actress, Renée Falconetti, a good-looking young woman, the youngest actress ever to have joined the Comedie francaise. She had died some years ago, in South America. The theater division of the New York Public Library had a thick folder of material on Renée, but almost nothing on Maria.

I was ready to give up.

In desperation, I consulted a Paris phone book and wrote to all the Falconettis in Paris…. Did they know anything about the actress Maria Falconetti?

Months went by. And a letter from Paris finally arrived. From Helene Falconetti, a lawyer who said she was the daughter of the Falconetti who had starred in “The Passion of Joan of Arc.”

She began her letter by asking, why did I refer to her mother as Maria? When her name was Renée?

I stared at the letter. It took a while for me to comprehend. There was no Maria Falconetti. There was only Renée Falconetti….

I wrote and published my article…. And the New York Public Library theater division (after giving me a little trouble) finally combined its folders on Renée and Maria Falconetti.

Today, if you look up “Falconetti” in Wikipedia, you will see that the first footnote credits me as the source that Falconetti’s true name was not Maria Falconetti, but Renée Jeanne Falconetti.

And if you want to see an astonishing performance by an actress in an utterly amazing film, see “The Passion of Joan of Arc” as soon as you can.
Warren Boroson 

Friday, 29 November 2013

Yuck 'n Yum winter 2013 launch

On Saturday December 14th be sure you’re at the Hannah Maclure Centre from 7pm. Because that’s when Yuck ‘n Yum will launch its LAST EVER issue, and you really don’t want to miss it! There’ll be all the usual goodness you’ve come to expect from our launches: food, drink, music and zines of course come as standard. But as this time is extra special, we’re inviting back some of our illustrious guests who’ve thrilled the zinester crowds through the ages. You can relive those special moments with Yuck ‘n Yum and as always, the final issue will be available to take home for free! We can also promise a few super special Christmassy surprises to say thank you for being such a lovely audience over the years. Yuck 'n Yum looks forward to seeing you there at the LAST EVER zine launch...

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

K8 Hardy - Position Series

Position Series #20, 2009

K8 Hardy (USA, b. 1977) is a New York based artist represented by Reena Spaulings Fine Art in New York, and Balice Hertling in Paris.

Hardy is a founding member of the queer feminist journal and artist collective LTTR, and has directed music videos for groups including Le Tigre, Lesbians on Ecstasy, and Men. Her work is included in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and has been exhibited and performed internationally at venues including, MoMA PS1 (New York NY), Artists Space (New York, NY), The Tate Modern (London, UK) and Galerie Sonja Junkers (Munich, Germany) among many others.

Hardy works through performance art without allegiance to any particular medium. She mines pop culture for material and eschews craft based virtuosity in photography, sculpture, and video. Hardy believes in the power of flamboyant and bold gestures, and in conversations of play, which constitute her endeavors toward total expression.

Position Series is a group of photographs which employ the tropes of self-portraiture and abstract photography.

 Position Series #30, 2009

At Galerie Sonja Junkers, K8 Hardy showed work from her ‘Position Series’ (2010), photographs resembling fashion snapshots in which the artist (or occasionally her sister) performs various social and cultural archetypes. We see her, for instance, holding a yoga pose; kneeling on a stool in garter belts, mimicking a cat; or swinging from a lamp post in bright red tights and a neon orange wig. From the stuff of other people’s closets, multiple personas are conjured, and all of them – or none of them – are K8 Hardy. Because the artist manipulates the images in the developing process, some photographs feature cuts or splits, and/or negative shadows of the artist’s body in different postures blocking the light during exposure. It appears as if the female form were haunting this masquerade of identities, reminding us that, while there is no innocent viewer, Hardy’s looks aren’t innocent either.
Manuela Ammer

 Position Series #28, 2009

Ariana Reines This strange combination of intimacy and extroversion is your work’s power. In contrast with the Internet’s extreme openness, there’s a self-selecting privacy to making a zine on paper. I’m thinking of the limited circulation of your classic Fashionfashion zine from the ’90s, for example, or Frank Peter John Dick, your gorgeous new book of collages—if I had my way it’d be distributed to every teenager in existence as suicide prevention propaganda.

K8 Hardy Thank you. When I made my first zine, LTTR, there weren’t blogs everywhere, so it didn’t seem like its production was about privacy at all. I haven’t made a zine in years. I do currently feel inhibited on social media. I could tell you why I want to protect myself, but I don’t want it in print. That sounds a little bit paranoid, but—

AR I have a similar feeling. Wait, I just interrupted you. We’re both scorpios, which means we are both private to the point of paranoia and extremely extroverted. A huge part of your photographs’ power comes from the polarity between a performative intensity and something mysterious and secret that seems to be the origin of it all.

KH Yeah, maybe so. Part of the power of the photographs is about control, about deciding exactly when to reveal something. I have a tendency to open myself up and reveal myself in my work. You know, you’re a writer, so you’re sharing yourself with people in your writing. It’s a generous act and sometimes you have to protect yourself.

AR Technologically there are multiple ways to exteriorize what you’ve made. But then, according to Paul Virilio, the more devices we have, the more prostheses, the more our bodies become immobilized. I go through phases of feeling utterly paralyzed by all of the ways that I could turn whatever’s passing through me into a transmittable—if immaterial—thing.

KH Hmm, yes. Prostheses and defecation.

K8 Hardy, May 20th 2012 Whitney Biennial

With her earlier efforts, like the self-published ‘zine fashionfashion, or a Lady Gaga performance-parody as the character Lazy BlahBlah, K8 Hardy demonstrates how conspicuous consumption wears thin when compared against personal, inventive and individual refinement. Fashion can be bought, as they say, but style one must possess; toppling established cultural hierarchies, Hardy creates inclusive spaces for individual expression.

Position Series blends aspects of photography and performance in ways that loosen the constraints on both genres. Hardy’s project isn’t about perfect photographs; a camera flash reflects in a piece of Plexiglass one figure holds up, occasional images are grainy or blurry, and torn prints collaged together appear punky and experimental. Hardy’s action extends into the darkroom, where she made photograms by throwing a lace bra onto paper to be exposed. She’s also laid under the photographic enlarger while flipping the bird, burning an evocative silhouette on top of other printed imagery. Messing with the master narrative of photography as a skill-based practice, Hardy injects the field with performative energy. She provides evidence of how still images signal action, showing us what performance looks like when it’s taken to the street.

When Hardy toys with static notions of authenticity by single-handedly becoming a myriad of individuals, she shows us how accustomed we are to judging experiences based on common patterns; of dropping things into pigeonholes. With Position Series, the proliferation of characterizations that Hardy enacts—coupled with the fluid way these individuals butt up against and slide around one another—shows us just how much fun it can be to resist singular and static identities. The broader implications of this strategy offer a primer on resistance tactics, making either/or paradigms obsolete. Be any of them. Be all of them.
Dean Daderko

Monday, 25 November 2013


Bought a few items:

Lisa Barnard - Chateau Despair (Gost Books), £14.99

Maurice Lever - Marquis De Sade: A Biography (Flamingo), £0.99

Charlemagne Palestine + Z'ev ‎– Rubhitbangklanghear 2CD (Sub Rosa), £10.44

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Lil' Louis - Video Clash

Lil Louis is the stage name used by Chicago-born house-music producer and DJ Louis Sims. He scored a number of hits on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in the 1980s and 1990s, three of which hit #1.

One of the most popular Chicago house producers during the late '80s thanks to his massive club hit "French Kiss," Lil' Louis was also the only Chicago producer to successfully deal with the major labels; he released two albums for Epic, and only left the label at his own instigation. Born in Chicago, Louis was the son of guitarist Bobby Sims, who recorded for Chess and appeared with the psychedelic-soul unit Rotary Connection. He grew up with nine siblings and played both drums and bass as a child, then began DJing in the mid-'70s (he earned his nickname after appearances at the club River's Edge while still in middle school). By the end of the decade he had his own club, the Future, where he began working on his editing techniques, thanks to a cassette deck and later a reel-to-reel recorder.
John Bush

Rees Urban: Not a lot of people are familiar with the controversy of "Video Clash" that was released by Lil' Louis as well as the same formula follow-ups like Tyree's "Acid Crash" and Mike Dunn's "Magic Feet". Could you give us the story from your point of view?

Marshall Jefferson: Tyree and Mike Dunn were and still are good friends. I was in my living room with some friends and I did "Video Clash" right there in front of them. Lil' Louis was one of them. I did a lot of songs then that were played in the clubs and never came out. At that time I was giving all my rough demos to Ron Hardy and since he was there, Lil' Louis called dibs on the new hot tune. He also told me not to give it to Ron Hardy. I had a lot of other songs playing in the clubs and I started concentrating more on my major label groups like Ten City, CeCe Rogers and Kym Mazelle and kind of left all my instrumental tracks behind. A lot of them are still being played. Anyway, Mike and Tyree, knowing this, put out their versions. Lil' Louis came to me infuriated. He said the original version should come out, but I didn't want people to think I copied off Tyree and Mike. He asked if he could put it out on his label for me and I said yes. The only problem was that when the record came out, it didn't have my name anywhere on it. That was Lil' Louis' first record.

RU: Will the "real deal" ever see the light of day?

MJ: Nope, I lost the tape. I could remake it. I still remember the keyboards I used, but I don't know if I can duplicate that raw sound because it was done in my living room on cheap equipment.

Every treasure hides its own secrets. Sometimes, these secrets may be astonishing as the treasure itself. Reputed among the most amazing tunes released by Lil' Louis ever, "Video Clash" has quite a story - and few, very few know its true extension.

The first time I heard about "Video Clash" story was on an interview I made with Tyree where he said that he did his "Video Crash" classic because he had heard that Lil' Louis released the original version of "Video Clash" which was produced by Marshall Jefferson, so he, Tyree Cooper, wanted to do one that was better than Lil'Louis one, so he did "Video Crash". Mike Dunn did something similar based on the same concept of "Video Clash" and made "Magic Feet".

The natural reaction was hearing Marshall Jefferson's statement about the original of "Video Clash" in order to elucidate the matter. "Video clash I did in my living room while Lil' Louis was there. Kym Mazelle, Sterling Void, and four others were there. Kym Mazelle started singing "Fuck it, I don't even wanna sing!" over the track, and we were basically just having a jam session. Lil Louis lived really close to me; Fast Eddie was my next door neighbour - and he always complained that Ron Hardy got all my tracks first."

Marshall continued: "Well, he (Lil' Louis) was right there when I recorded "Video Clash" and he insisted that I give him a copy. At that time Lil Louis had the biggest parties in Chicago, where more than five thousand kids would regularly show up, so I gave him a copy to play. He took it home, took off Kym's vocals and edited it. Somehow, that piece of shit became his biggest record."

The other music that spread from "Video Clash" concept was explained by Marshall Jefferson as well: "Soon after, Mike Dunn did a ripoff of it called "Magic Feet", and Tyree Cooper did another ripoff ("Video Crash", and Tyree's testimonial about its history was almost the same of Marshall's), and at least five other ripoffs were circulating and I (Marshall) didn't want to put my version out because I didn't want people to think I ripped off somebody else, so I was ready to push it to the side and forget it."

What made him change his mind is his explanation about Lil Louis' arguments: "He (Lil' Louis) seemed extremely upset that the other versions came out, and asked me to put out the "original version" because he said people needed to hear it. I said no at first, then he said he would put it out for me and after lots of urging I just said - "Go ahead".

The producer of "Video Clash", Marshall Jefferson - the same man behind several other quintessential House tunes, reasoned about when the "Video Clash" was released: "When the record finally came out, my name was nowhere on it. Never received any money for it either. Recently, I asked for the rights to the song back and Lil' Louis gave me back the rights without a fight, so that was cool. There's very little money if any for it now, but at least I have the rights for justice's sake" - said the one who claims to be "Video Clash"'s true creator.  

Friday, 22 November 2013

Walter Van Beirendonck - Wild & Lethal Trash

Walter Van Beirendonck (Brecht, Belgium, 4 February 1957) is a Belgian fashion designer. He graduated in 1980 from the Royal Arts Academy in Antwerp. Together with Dirk Van Saene, Dries van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Marina Yee (graduated in 1981) and Dirk Bikkembergs (graduated in 1982) they became known as the Antwerp Six.

Since 1983, he issues his own collections. They are inspired by the visual arts, literature, nature and ethnic influences. His unusual color combinations and a strong graphic influence are characteristic for his collections.

From 1993 to 1999, Van Beirendonck worked under the label W. & L.T. (Wild & Lethal Trash – or ‘Walt’ as it was known), staging elaborate fashion shows which often resembled huge warehouse parties more than anything else, featuring clothes with a distinctly futuristic vibe: ‘talking’ voice boxes, flashing lights, and holographic appliqués were common additions to the garments, many of which were constructed from high-tech synthetic materials. If brands like Boy London and BodyMap were espousing the vibe in a rough-and-ready way in London, while the likes of Moschino and Castelbajac were interpreting it with couture refinement in Milan and Paris respectively, Van Beirendonck occupied a unique position, blending high-end with ‘trash’ and cutting-edge with elements of mainstream pop culture. WVB’s work frequently blurs the boundaries between fashion and art (indeed, the designer has collaborated with the Austrian artist Erwin Wurm on several collections), and his ‘anti-fashion’ approach always provides an interesting meta-view of the haute couture world.
Peter, Hapsical

Ever since I laid my eyes on a very colorful editorial from Pigeons and Peacocks early last year, I'd been obsessing with all the W&LT clothes they used for styling. I researched it online but found no clothing shop that stocks it. I later found out that W&LT, or Wild And Lethal Trash, only existed during the 90's. It was created by the forever avant-garde designer Walter Van Beirendonck (former member of the Antwerp Six) who is known for his ultra-colorful designs.

One of his most known works was when he styled for U2's Popmart tour. Those who lived the glory of the 90's would never forget his iconic BLOW-UP muscle-jackets.

I researched online why a very different and creative brand like W&LT would close down during the period where his aesthetic for fashion was in. From an interview he said that the company's backer, Mustang, tried to get involved with the brand's image. He later on decided to step out of it. That's what happens when the corporate fucks with creativity.

I have so much respect for Walter Van Beirendonck as a designer. From an interview, he was asked who he is as a designer and how he described his designs. He said:

"Despite the fact that the first impression you get when looking at my collections is of color and fun, I do invest a lot of energy and research in the stories I want to tell, the statements I want to make, and the messages I want to communicate. So there is always a second (more loaded) layer in the collection. This makes me a designer with a recognizable signature, one who is ready to push the boundaries. I am not afraid to do it my way."

I think his style caters to a specific crowd or to a specific period of time. From all the colors and the prints that exploded in Fashion weeks last year and this year, his fashion designs are now in trend again. It's just the right time for his works to be celebrated again. Just recently, Antwerp Fashion Museum opened an exhibit for his timeless clothes (before, during, and after W&LT). It covered 30 years of his works. Amazing! I really wish I saw the gallery in person.
Paul Highness

Dream The World Awake, RMIT Melbourne 2012 

Dazed Digital: Just a few years after gradating, you launched the infamous 90s label Wild & Lethal Trash. What was the idea behind that?

Walter Van Bierendonck: The jeans company Mustang approached me when street fashion first started to establish itself, and I went to see the company with my portfolio. They were amazed by the street fashion look that I showed them and gave me the opportunity to create a youth line inside the company. It started as a streetwear project and ended as a high-end designer line.

DD: What was its appeal?

WVB: I think it was the right feeling and the right product at the right moment. That period was about experimenting and looking towards the future in a bright way and it fitted really well into that generation. Eventually Wild & Lethal Trash became a victim of the 'Prada Sport period' - the end of the 90s when everything became dark again. Then the style was totally minimal, nylon and black, and the company behind W< wanted me to move in that direction. Eventually, I stepped out of the company and left everything behind me. It was a decision about whether to take the money or go for creativity. 

Where to begin? I've been struggling to find the words on how truly amazing this retrospective exhibition of Walter Van Beirendonck's archive is since I saw it at the media preview early last week. As I previously mentioned I took over 500 photos that day and since then I've gone back a few times to take the images you see in the gifs in this post, but also to soak it all in and hopefully gather my thoughts. As you can see above, from the moment you walk in it's a visual feast of colour and movement (albeit a lot smoother than in my gif haha) and features pieces dating back from Van Beirendonck s graduate collection in 1980 through to today, a career spanning more than three decades. For those who don't know Walter Van Beirendonck is one of the famed Antwerp Six, a group of influential avant garde fashion designers who graduated from Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts between 1980-1981 (the Antwerp Six also includes the likes of Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten). He is known for his spectacular fashion shows under the W.&L.T. label (Wild & Lethal Trash) which have featured everything from models line dancing to a collection of soft toys sitting front row with celebrities and editors relegated to the back row, as a sort of fuck you to the fashion system. Whilst in town Walter Van Beirendonck gave a series of talks with Chris Dercon, director of London's Tate Modern, and one thing that stood out for me from that was the idea that fashion is not art but rather industrial design ‘Fashion is not art, fashion can use art and art can use fashion but fashion is not art,’ said Dercon. ‘I think that fashion is one of the most important expressions of industrial design.’ Beirendonck agreed. Of course fashion can be creative and artistic, you'd only have to look at this exhibition to see that, but nearly all of the pieces in the exhibition were sold commercially and as such they have a primary function which makes them design. If only all designers were as brave and daring as Walter Van Beirendonck, who works within the commercial restraints of fashion but pushes the boundaries - what a different world it would be.
Fashion Hayley

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Alex Bag - Untitled Fall '95

Alex Bag (born 1969) in New York City is an artist working primarily in video. She currently resides in Glen Ridge, New Jersey.

A performance video on art school, Fall '95 documents the fictionalized life of the New York City art school School of Visual Arts student, played by Bag herself. Taking the form of a video diary, Bag's character addresses the camera directly, expressing her thoughts on life and art, which mature significantly over the course of eight semesters. Interspersed between these entries are clips commenting on a variety of topics including male aggression, mockingly portrayed by toys, and video art from the 1970s.

The work that made Bag’s name was “Fall ’95”, from the same year. The DIY confessional film depicts Bag as an art student recording the growing pains of the art school experience directly into a VHS camera. Interspersed with the student protagonist’s development and thoughts, Bag added small segments like scenes glimpsed from a changing remote control. They ranged from a lo-fi toy soap opera about bunny murder to fake chatline sex ads, to a comedic take on dated video art.

Bag is the queen of pop metamorphosis, a mantle she may steal from Cindy Sherman. Like Sherman, she has used herself as a medium, twisting the process of performance to suit her sense of satire. In her films she personifies a cast of over-the-top characters, advertising clichés and Hollywood divas. The whole of audio-visual archive culture is hers to be reused and reworked. She highlights the ideological mechanisms that we suck up unawares. Her work is an ode to trash TV and its melting, ever-changing sense of meaning and identity. “Shapeshifting is a hobby that I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone with a fractured psyche,” Bag says. “It’s a relatively healthy outlet to drain perpetual pain, disappointment and yearning into.”
Apart from Bag’s deft performances and transformations, what makes “Fall ’95” so enjoyable to watch is how it highlights the stupidity, hypocrisy and motivations of the art world itself.
Francesca Gavin

In her Fall ‘95 (1995) tape, exhibited at the 303 Gallery in New York, Bag portrayed a student at the School of Visual Arts, checking in to report on her progress in each of eight semesters. In other bits she plays a phone sex siren in a cable TV ad, a girl scout and her mom, a McDonalds’ customer and a McDonalds’ counter person, assorted mourners of River Phoenix, the hostess of a rock commentary cable show (‘Rock Insights, the show that pontificates on the social and extreme nuances of rock music’), the hostess of a fashion talk show raving on in generic mid-Euro accent on the genius of Azzedine Alaia (‘small man, big ideas’), and a honky arrhythmic Salt’n'Pepa.

Alex Bag is truly versatile. She’s a woman of a thousand makeovers, like the Cindy Sherman of shtick, or a rarefied Carol Burnett. She gets all the microscopic nuances just right, the coif is high comedy, the lipstick and eyebrows are art. The rip in her T-shirt is art - finally grunge I can relate to. And the language, the diction and the accents and the phrasing are all dripping with mouth-watering verisimilitude. She’s fine art because she targets tastefully and destroys mercifully and elaborately things way outside the orthodox hit list. Way. She’s a cool scourge of the neo-banal. And it’s a feel-good kind of scourge. She’s bad. She’s Bag.
Glenn O'Brien

In 1995, as Matthew Barney became famous for his opulent, surrealist film epic, video artist Alex Bag rose to stardom as a kind of anti-Cremaster, creating no-budget video art with little more than cheap wigs, bedsheet backdrops, appropriated television clips, and stuffed animals. In Untitled Fall ’95, Bag played a student at SVA, reporting on each semester in a satirical video diary, which she punctuated with sketches that featured warring toys, a fake phone-sex commercial, and Björk explaining how a TV works. Now, Bag’s first monograph has finally been published, as her work is absorbed into art-school curricula and newly pirated excerpts are posted online. The book contains stills, photographs, reproductions of her notebook pages, essays by critics, and scripts for the videos. Reading these screenplays shifts the focus from the brilliance of Bag’s performances and her purposefully makeshift art direction to the strength of her writing. Her pitch-perfect use of vernacular speech and mastery of plot and character become clearer, underscoring what’s long been known—she is a comic genius, and one of the art world’s coolest harridans. Bag’s punk-inflected institutional critique was leveled against novel targets like the sexual politics of art school and the alienated labor of a professionalized art scene, and she depicted these insider subjects with the damning detritus of mass media and advertising culture. In one of Untitled Fall ’95’s interludes, a Ronald McDonald doll’s brutish come-on to a Hello Kitty toy is followed by Ronald proposing a marketing partnership—it’s the perfect introduction to the penultimate installment, about a summer job for a Williamsburg artist. She notes that she’s “never heard of him before, but apparently he’s like an overlord of this pathetic scene out there,” and almost two decades later it’s still funny, even on paper. Bag’s post-Pop, pre-YouTube tour de force has become a prescient cult classic for a new generation.
Johanna Fateman

Sunday, 17 November 2013

John McCracken - Planks

 Red Plank, 1967

John Harvey McCracken (December 9, 1934 – April 8, 2011) was a contemporary artist who lived and worked in Santa Fe, New Mexico and New York.

In 1966, McCracken generated his signature sculptural form: the plank, a narrow, monochromatic, rectangular board format that leans at an angle against the wall (the site of painting) while simultaneously entering into the three-dimensional realm and physical space of the viewer. He conceived the plank idea in a period when artists across the stylistic spectrum were combining aspects of painting and sculpture in their work and many were experimenting with sleek, impersonal surfaces. As the artist noted, "I see the plank as existing between two worlds, the floor representing the physical world of standing objects, trees, cars, buildings, [and] human bodies, ... and the wall representing the world of the imagination, illusionist painting space, [and] human mental space." The sculptures consist of plywood forms coated with fiberglass and layers of polyester resin.

Think Pink, 1967

The geometric forms McCracken employed were typically built from straight lines: cubes, rectangular slabs and rods, stepped or quadrilateral pyramids, post-and-lintel structures and, most memorably, tall planks that lean against the wall. Usually, the form is painted in sprayed lacquer, which does not reveal the artist’s hand. An industrial look is belied by sensuous color.

His palette included bubble-gum pink, lemon yellow, deep sapphire and ebony, usually applied as a monochrome. Sometimes an application of multiple colors marbleizes or runs down the sculpture’s surface, like a molten lava flow. He also made objects of softly stained wood or, in recent years, highly polished bronze and reflective stainless steel.

Embracing formal impurity at a time when purity was highly prized, the works embody perceptual and philosophical conundrums. The colored planks stand on the floor like sculptures; rely on the wall for support like paintings; and, bridging both floor and wall, define architectural space. Their shape is resolutely linear, but the point at which the line assumes the dimensional properties of a shape is indefinable.
Christopher Knight

XIN, 1987

Experiencing New York art through magazines, in 1963, Californian John McCracken cut a notch in his sign-oriented abstract paintings on Masonite and began to inch his way from Newman toward Smith. He began to paint on blocks of wood, and in 1966 made his first lacquer-covered ‘plank’, an eight-feet tall blue and red board that linked the wall to the floor and seemed to wed West Coast colour with the severe, literal and systematic East Coast Minimal works he had read about.

Since then, McCracken has incrementally extended blocks, slabs and planks into a variety of wedges and polyhedral solids that recall the reductivism of New York Minimalism, Bay Area Zen, as well as the iconic, almost religious ‘presence’ (a McCracken word) of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. There is something solid yet evanescent about his sculptures, such that a room of them, now in varied chromatic hues, bears the stamp not only of something ‘higher’ but also of something man-made; something that looks at earth and sky and then beyond into primary forms, colour and light. They emanate both simplicity and complexity, and are imbued with the physical qualities of revelation and concealment - all requirements of religious mystery. Of course, there is no moral, no directive and no dicta guiding them - nothing to tinge them with moral imperatives, and no programmatic explanatory principle. And, they make you feel good.
Jeff Rian

Galaxy, 2008

Dike Blair: I've noticed that there is a surprising confluence of responses to the work-most people tune into its metaphysics.

John McCracken: I find it interesting that that does occur. It helps me know that my thoughts about the work aren't just laid on top of it-that's something I try to avoid. It seems silly to superimpose words on work. It seems natural to me that these things are applied to the work as that's what I try to put in it. I've always been interested in metaphysics-so I guess one also does a self portrait of one's body of ideas. My own work has puzzled me-especially as it relates to the plank. I kept coming back to making planks and I kept wondering if I was being habitual or obsessive or responding to demand, or if there was more to this plank form than I consciously realized. I wondered if they were a life form from somewhere that was channeling through me and it didn't make any difference if I understood them or not. It worried me a bit-I believe in being intuitive but not being unconscious. I started to realize that these were figurative things that are both in the world and out of it. Because it leans at an angle, when you put a plank in a room, it kind of screws things up-it can be a little disturbing, but I found I liked that. When you set things vertically they go with everything but when you set them at an angle then you have something that shifts away from our reality. It's partly in the world and partly out of the world. It's like a visit.

DB: The pieces always look as if they were installed by something other than human hands.

JM: I do try to make things that look like they come from somewhere else-from a UFO or a futuristic environment or another dimension. That things exist in more than one dimension at one time is something that's more than a fascination for me, it's relevant to the human world. I think that humans exist in more than one dimension at once.

DB: You've described a trance state where you have out-of-body visions that inspire the work-could you expand on that?

JM: That kind of thing-out-of-body experience and expanded seeing and all that-are, to my mind, attributes of advanced consciousness. It's in an environment, inhabited by beings of advanced consciousness and capabilities, where I try to imagine my works. I try to go to a place like that in my mind to make my works and then bring them back. I also think of my works as representations of that idea. I'm after a physical object that appears to be nonphysical, hallucinatory or holographic. Otherworldly, in other words. I want something that suggests the coexistence of more than one dimension or world at any given moment. So the work can exist physically, in our situation, or be imaginary in a dimension where imagination is real. 

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Here Bianca @ GENERATOR projects 15.11.13 - pictures

To the Generator last night for Here Bianca, a solo show of work by the sculptor Lauren Gault. I took a few photos and here they are:

The name of the show is Here Bianca

'Here Bianca' features made and found objects, elemental materials and process based works, all of which are selected for their specific histories and component properties.
The new works reference divining, archaeology, and theories around the 'vessel' as object.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

AGK 09.11.13 pictures redux

A bumper haul of photos taken by the YNY team at last Saturday's AGK, this time on superior cameras with much improved tech specs:

Andrew holds forth

The judging panel (L-R: Gayle, Donna, Graham, your correspondent)

Assorted punters

Alex's video for Leland's Greatest Hits

Angel in character

A collective named Vince

Lewis takes the floor

Paul on the mic

Morgan and Becca in sync

DJ RHL in the mix

Theresa throws some shapes

Rachel Maclean's winning video from the inaugural AGK