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The Museum of Non Participation

15 Nov

The Museum of Non Participation confronts (non) participation and the socio-political in art works. ‘Non Participation’ is not a negation, it is a threshold—a political plastic that expands and contracts, that is both unstable and malleable. This is an international neoliberal life condition, frequently (un) consciously exercised in the excess of one’s own society, often gained at the expense of another’s nameless plight elsewhere. Whilst locally it can be witnessed, for example, in the moment urgent social issues are both recognized and simultaneously ignored or rejected. It is also a structure including, in the UK, the filtering of government and corporate policies and agendas through the arts and arts funding.

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Museums interrelate hierarchy and exclusion, social critique and (post) colonization. So The Museum of Non Participation embeds its institutional critique in its very title — yet it releases itself from being an actual museum. Instead it travels as a place, a slogan, a banner, a performance, a newspaper, a film, an intervention, an occupation— sitautions that enable this museum to “act.” Thus the Museum of Non Participation does not disavow art objects, but it is driven to dislodge them from their central position within the field of art. To choose to look past the art object to the etymology of “object,” from the Latin obicere, meaning to present, or oppose, cast or throw in the way of.

This Museum explores obicere through multiple, ephemeral processes: artworks as well as events and actions that neither the founding artists nor museums possess through sole authorship. In a similar vein, The Museum of Non Participation approaches “collecting” as not merely assembling objects, but as an act that assembles and ushers forth action and agency and does so through disruption. It asks how withdrawal can be made visible? how can ‘non participation’ be active and critical?

The Museum of Non Participation is one aspect of Karen Mirza and Brad Butler’s wider artistic practice, an investigation of the terms and conditions of images, objects, collaboration, dialogue and the social.

Join Performa 13 presentation of the Museum

Meschac Gaba: Museum of Contemporary African Art

2 Nov

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Meschac Gaba has claimed that the Museum of Contemporary African Art is ‘not a model… it’s only a question.’ It is temporary and mutable, a conceptual space more than a physical one, a provocation to the Western art establishment not only to attend to contemporary African art, but to question why the boundaries existed in the first place.

Before leaving the Rijksakademie in 1997 Gaba presented the first part of his project, the Draft Room. Prefiguring many of the conceptual concerns and the aesthetic approach that Gaba would develop in later rooms, the Draft Room contained an unusual assortment of handmade, found and altered objects. There were several works made from decommissioned banknotes, as well as heaps of ceramic foods that reflected his astonishment at the excessive overproduction in Europe.

Over the next five years further rooms would appear, one by one, in exhibitions and museums internationally. Some rooms, such as the Library, Museum Restaurant and Museum Shop, are familiar elements of most contemporary Western art museums. However, by placing these traditionally subsidiary activities at the heart of his project, Gaba calls into question the nature and function of the museum and our relationship to it. By supplementing these sections with others, such as the Humanist Space, Marriage Room, Game Room and Music Room, Gaba’s museum is a space not only for the contemplation of objects, but for sociability, study and play in which the boundaries between everyday life and art, and observation and participation are blurred.

The Art and Religion Room brings together religious artefacts and everyday objects arranged side by side on a large, cross-shaped wooden structure. Referencing the long relationship between art and religion across cultures, this room also mimics contemporary Benin, where Gaba explains most people are poly-religious: ‘Catholics brought Christianity, but for my ancestors Catholicism and Voodoo are not different… You will see sculptures of angels, of Jesus Christ and Mami Wata all in the same house.’

While Gaba broaches many serious questions in his Museum of Contemporary African Art, his approach is in equal parts sincere and playful. On 6 October 2000, invited guests and ordinary visitors to the Stedelijk Museumin Amsterdam witnessed the marriage of Meschac Gaba to Alexandra van Dongen. Well-wishers brought presents, which, together with the bride’s wedding dress, veil, shoes and handbag, their marriage certificate, guest book and wedding photographs and video, feature in the Marriage Room. Here art and life are indistinguishable and the relationship between viewer, art object and artist is reappraised.

The desire, in the artist’s words, ‘to share my fantasy’ continues throughout many of the twelve rooms. In the Salon visitors are invited to play the Adji computer game, an adaptation of the traditional African game Awélé. In the Architecture Room the public can build their own imaginary museum using wooden blocks, and in the Game Room gallery goers are able to play with sliding puzzle tables, reconfiguring the flags of Chad, Angola, Algeria, Senegal, Seychelles and Morocco.

While interactivity is a crucial part of this project, collaboration is equally so. Other artists have contributed objects to the Museum Shop, and have prepared and hosted dinners in the Museum Restaurant; the role of curators is enshrined in the Library with a ‘curators’ table’, and in the Architecture Room there is a ladder with colourful plexiglass treads inscribed with the names of the institutions and organisers who have presented Gaba’s project.

When the last-completed section, the Humanist Space, was first presented in 2002 at Documenta 11 in Kassel, visitors could use the gold bicycles to navigate the city. It was a fitting culmination to the Museum of Contemporary African Art, extending its reach out of the museum and into the street.

Kerryn Greenberg

The Stein Salon Was The First Museum of Modern Art

2 Nov

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By JAMES R. MELLOW

“I always wanted to be historical,” Gertrude Stein announced shortly before her death, “from almost a baby on, I felt that way about it. . .” And, for the better part of her life, she was. In the beginning, in the early nineteen-hundreds, she shared the honors with her brother Leo. The Stein ménage in Paris (a ménage à trois consisting of Gertrude, Leo, and Gertrude’s lifetime companion Alice B. Toklas) was a Mecca for the modern- minded. The principal attraction was the collection of Cézanne oils and watercolors, the early pictures by Matisse and Picasso, the paintings by Renoir, Manet, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec, which she and Leo had had the funds and the foresight to buy. The walls of their atelier were hung to the ceiling with now-famous paintings, the double doors of the dining room were lined with Picasso sketches. In the early decades of the century, hundreds of visitors flocked to the display of vanguard art: many came to scoff, but several went away converted. It was a brilliant scene–and a historic one. For all intents and purposes, Leo and Gertrude Stein had inaugurated, at 27 Rue de Fleurus, the first museum of modern art.

The remains of the pioneer collection–a cache of 38 paintings, drawings and collages by Pablo Picasso and nine works by his colleague, the Cubist painter Juan Gris–are in the process of being sold by the heirs of the Stein estate for a reported $6.5-million. The buyer has not yet been announced, but it is believed that a trustee–or a syndicate of trustees–of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, has been actively engaged in the secret negotiations. Although spokesmen for the museum have refused to comment, the names most often mentioned in connection with the sale are William S. Paley, president of the museum; David and Nelson Rockefeller, chairman and member of the board, respectively; and John Hay Whitney, the board’s vice chairman. The disposition of the collection after the sale is not known, but it is expected that the museum will mount an exhibition that will bring together the purchased works and many of the major paintings once owned by the Steins that have since passed into other private and public collections. The exhibition would be fitting–and perhaps final–tribute to a salon that made history. Viewers in the United States would have an opportunity not only to see the once- controversial pictures, but to catch a glimpse of the Stein salon as it existed during its most brilliant period.

On a typical Saturday evening, 60 years ago, one would have found Gertrude Stein at her post in the atelier, garbed in brown corduroy, sitting in a high-backed Renaissance chair, her legs dangling, next to the big cast-iron stove that heated the chilly room. A few feet away, one could hear Leo expounding to a group of visitors, his views on modern art. Among the crowd of Hungarian painters, French intellectuals, English aristocrats and German students, one might pick out the figures of Picasso and his mistress, Fernande Olivier (Picasso looking like an intense young bootblack; Fernande, almond-eyed and attractive). The man with the reddish beard and spectacles, looking like a German professor, would be Matisse. Next to him might be the poet Guillaume Apollinaire and his clinging friend, the painter Marie Laurencin. The tall figure would be that of Georges Braque, whose superior stature among the smaller cubists made him the official hanger- of-pictures in the atelier. In the American contingent, the familiars would be the painters Patrick Henry Bruce and Alfred Maurer, both of them early advocates of the modernist vision and both, at the same time, followers of Matisse. It was Alfred, as Gertrude recalled, who held up lighted matches so visitors could see that the Cézannes were, indeed, finished paintings because they were framed.

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Read also about Salon de Fleurus

Second House

27 May

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SECOND HOUSE is perfectly camouflaged in its surroundings—at first glance, it appears to be an utterly ordinary single story ranch house. Yet when approaching it from the long hillside driveway, the overgrown grass strategically obscures the identity of who or what lies within. Like so many other domestic buildings in the area, SECOND HOUSE looks kind of decrepit or unfinished (passersby must wonder: did the owner run out of money and abandon construction?). Its façade is missing—only a thin, silvery skin made of insulation panels covers the exterior. An abandoned 1973 Dodge Barracuda is parked out back, quietly rusting in the tall grass; an inside-out tire planter adorns the completely unlandscaped front yard. The inside seems as unfinished as the outside. The walls and ceilings are partially painted, leaving the spackled drywall joints visible in many spots. Plywood sheets cover the floors. Exposed fluorescent tubes provide an even, cold light in the five rooms of the house. While the rawness of the interior décor suggests an uninhabited space, SECOND HOUSE is far from empty. The objects and images sheltered within its walls mirror the landscape outside: it’s pure Americana (that has been “stolen,” cropped, and edited by Richard Prince).

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More links:

Richard Prince’s page

Parket 72 – 2005

Guggenheim Museum to acquire RICHARD PRINCE’S SECOND HOUSE, 2005

Lightning Devastates Guggenheim-Acquired “Second House” by Richard Prince

Shoe Obsession

28 Feb

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Christian Louboutin’s “Fetish Ballerine” pump. The shoe is on display at the “Shoe Obsession” exhibit at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology Museum in New York. The exhibition, showing off 153 specimens

More about the show

Imelda Marcos

From “Playing With Dead Things: On the Uncanny” by Mike Kelley

3 Jan

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In 1993 and 2004 Mike Kelley presented an exhibition titled The Uncanny, consisting of sculptures, objects and images that he found “creepy”, with “an ‘uncanny’ aura about them”. The majority were life-sized polychrome models of the human body in whole or part. This accorded with ‘scary’ experiences of my own involving figurative sculptures, particularly one winter in my early teens when I was repeatedly surprised and slightly unnerved by a deshevelled Guy Fawkes that we had propped in a living room chair awaiting the evening’s bonfire. Kelley’s exhibition centred on Sigmund Freud’s essay The Uncanny (1919), which draws on Ernst Jentsch’s The Psychology of the Uncanny (1906), in which the uncanny is exemplified by “doubts whether an apparently animate being is really alive; or conversely, whether a lifeless object might not be in fact animate”3. It is this ambiguity that I have attempted to give my own sculptures in Attic Basement Garage, which this essay accompanies.

“It is important to me, first of all, that the objects displayed maintain their physical presence, that they hold their own power in relation to the viewer. I decided, therefore, to exclude miniatures–smaller than life-size statues, dolls, toys, figurines, and the like–from the exhibition. Generally, I believe that small figurative objects invite the viewer to project onto them. By this, I mean that the viewer gets lost in these objects, and that in the process of projecting mental scenarios onto them they lose sense of themselves physically. The experience of playing with dolls is a case in point. The doll becomes simply an object to provoke daydreams, and its objecthood fades into the background. Once the fantasy is operating, it could be replaced by any other object. On the other hand, I am interested in objects with which the viewer empathizes in a human way–though only as long as the viewer, and the object viewed, maintain their sense of being there physically.”

(p. 75)

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“The disposability of the venerated substitute has modern correlatives […] Then there are whole classes of figures designed specifically to be destroyed in use: car-crash dummies, the effigies of hated political figures hung and burned at demonstrations, the mannequins that people the perimeters of nuclear test sites, and the electrified human decoys recently used in India to shock man-eating tigers into losing their taste for human flesh. In a way, all these figures ask to be mistreated. The iconoclast, the one who feels compelled to destroy images, knows: statues invite violence. Like the vampire, they desire a violent death to relieve them of the viewer-projected pathos of their pseudo-life.”

(p. 90)

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Mike Kelley

3 Jan

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Born in a Detroit suburb to a maintenance worker and a Ford Motor Company cook, Kelley suffered all his life from agoraphobia, yet he made his first works on the stage. While an undergrad at the University of Michigan in 1973, he played drums with the influential noise-rock group Destroy All Monsters, which he cofounded with the artist-musician Jim Shaw, among others. At the California ­Institute of the Arts in the seventies, where his teachers included Baldessari and Laurie Anderson, Kelley became an incandescent performance artist who “drove himself into these frenzied states,” recalls the video artist Tony Oursler, Kelley’s then roommate. “He would babble faster than anyone could think.” Riffing off absurdist scripts, he could charge a room with the simplest of props: “transforming himself,” recalls Oursler, “with only a bucket full of water with a whoopee cushion inside it or a cardboard tube stuffed with tin foil and a microphone.”

Fellow Los Angeles artist Paul McCarthy, who became equally transfixed by ­Kelley’s stage presence during a performance festival in the early eighties, soon struck up a collaboration with him on a series of psychobiographic videos. Their first was Family Tyranny (1987), about an abusive father-son relationship. “We knew we had similar interests in family, architecture, low-culture objects, and this thing of costumes and pretend,” says McCarthy, who along with Kelley was a breakout star of MOCA’s seminal 1992 survey “Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s.”

McCarthy remembers how his hours-long conversations with Kelley would often lead to unlikely projects. “It was a lot of laughing, making jokes, and then all of a sudden we’d see something and go, ‘That’s an idea. We should do it.’ Then it’s like, ‘Should we really do it?’ And then we’re remaking Vito Acconci performances [with models portraying porn stars] in a house in Beverly Hills like it’s a commune, like a joke.”

Kelley was in the midst of a new project when he killed himself at age 57, leaving no note…

Mike Kelley, Kandors, Kandor 13

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