Martin Rev is a New York–based musician and the instrumentalist in Suicide, one of the most celebrated electronic protopunk bands. His debut solo album, Martin Rev, which he recorded in 1980, has been recently rereleased for the first time on vinyl through Superior Viaduct. Here he speaks about what it feels like to have it reissued, his ongoing work with Suicide, and his recent collaborations with French artist Divine Enfant.
I’M BASICALLY A ROCK ’N’ ROLL BORN AND BRED PERSON. But in 1970, when I started Suicide with Alan Vega, minimalism was the general atmosphere; Stockhausen and German electronics were, as we used to say, “in the air.” There wasn’t much precedent for electronic American rock. In my music, I started simplifying things more and more, trying to find out what we were really looking for: our own electronic sound.
I discovered electronics in the Museum of Living Artists, a cooperative gallery loft on Waverly Place and Broadway, where I used to rehearse at night. I ended up doing two shows there and that’s how I first met Alan. He was experimenting with the feedback of tape recorders with visual artist Paul Liebgott, who was himself experimenting with feedback on guitar. Electronics were just what was most available to us. Alan and I kept on running into each other too. It was like we were the last two ships out at sea. If we didn’t do something about it, the opportunity would have sailed us by.
So I brought a keyboard that I had down to the museum one night and started experimenting with these little electro-harmonic boxes, putting them in different series with an amplifier, to create music. These boxes became a minimalist drum kit by way of their electricity, which is still around today. People have since asked me if the Europeans who were really into electronics at the time influenced me—bands like Can, Tangerine Dream, and Klaus Schulze. But they were more tech-oriented, robotic even, which was interesting in its own way. We were coming from another place. Alan, in echoing Iggy Pop’s performances, would instigate audience anticipation by also expressing anger in a kind of living theater, its illusion being something we both embraced in our performances. In retrospect, it’s like we wanted to make electronic music seem more human. Our first album, Suicide, was released in 1977. The critics at the time were pretty baffled when I released my solo album because it was so soon after the first record and right around the time when Suicide’s The Second Album was on its way.
Now, I’m kind of accustomed to rereleases in general. But what makes the reissuing of Martin Rev interesting to me is the response it will generate by posted reviews on the Internet, something this work hasn’t seen before, a completely different type of feedback. Recently, I’ve been creating music videos with the visual artist Divine Enfant. We shoot the video first, then she adds a track I’ve already worked on. They’re incredible LED experiences that remind me of the solo performances by choreographer Murray Louis. We’ve posted quite a few of these videos on YouTube. The more I do them, the more I realize they could look great as a gallery installation. I could do a live performance with Divine’s projections.
Left: View of “Taft Green: A Knot That Is the Name,” Los Angeles Museum of Art, 2013. Right: Alice Könitz’s balsa wood model of LAMOA.
On the empty pavement beside her studio in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, artist Alice Könitz runs a small open-air museum—what she calls a kind of “wunderkammer”—constructed from sturdy timbers and sliding panels. Known as the Los Angeles Museum of Art, the space hosted its inaugural exhibition in December 2012, featuring a sculpture by Taft Green. A project by Stephanie Taylor will open at the space on March 9 and will remain on view until April 29.
BUILDING A MUSEUM IN YOUR YARD raises questions of institutional value. I didn’t intend my museum—the Los Angeles Museum of Art, aka LAMOA—to be a critique, but considering the museum crisis in LA right now I suppose it could be perceived that way. Nevertheless, even though it may be a mimicry, I take my museum very seriously as an exhibition space, and the people who show there are artists I greatly respect. I try to get as close as possible to my idea of a legitimate institution, within the given circumstances. For example, the museum has two tiny collections: one of artwork people have given me and another of altered dried fruit. The idea that it is a museum and not a project space or a gallery matters to me. A “museum” has a certain gravity to it. It has a very slow time frame; it’s kind of a sedentary thing.
One of the advantages of LAMOA is that it is tiny and doesn’t need to fulfill any expectations. Of course, it is more private than public. I have a blog about it, and though theoretically anyone can visit during open hours, so far most that have come by are people that I know. It might be different if the museum were in a storefront. In 2006 I hosted a project in Koreatown called “24 Hour Donut Shop,” which was a private space that I declared public, inspired by the donut store’s claim to be open and accessible at all times. I installed a sculpture by the shopwindow and received guests whom I had invited. In contrast, LAMOA is a public institution in my private yard. I’m fascinated by the organization of public and private space, as they are separated by a vast area of gray. It’s interesting, for instance, that you can’t just camp in any public place, a regulation perhaps set up to protect the public but one that assumes a certain public, which raises questions about whose benefit is served by such regulations. Most American museums are funded both by the government and by private trusts—one of their duties is to serve the public. I believe that privately funded museums have obligations to serve the public as well. LAMOA exists on an entirely different economic scale; everything about it is voluntary, driven by the noncommercial, if private, interest of a small group of artists. It’s not an answer to the problems that our big museums have, but it is an alternative.
LA already has a number of small-scale museums, like the Museum of Jurassic Technology, CLUI, and the Wende Museum; I am sure there are many museums that I have never heard of as well. Starting LAMOA had something to do with not completely accepting what’s already here. Like these small museums, LAMOA directly addresses microcosmic points of view. But each of these institutions is centered on one person’s vision, whereas LAMOA offers a specific yet open space for artists to deal with an exhibition situation. The artist community ends up shaping what the institution really is.
Today Is the Day inaugural fundraising gala and art auction benefit at the Jane Ballroom, New York, November 27, 2012. Photo: Michelle Wang.
Noritoshi Hirakawa is a New York–based Japanese artist, filmmaker, and producer. Last year he spearheaded the formation of the Today Is the Day Foundation, a nonprofit based in Hiroshima, which has begun working on diverse art projects. The foundation held a gala in November 2012 to benefit children impacted by the disaster in Fukushima. Here Hirakawa discusses the impetus behind the project and some of its goals.
FOR A LONG TIME, maybe a decade now, I’ve been meeting with people related to the Fluxus and Conceptual art movements. Fluxus had a vision of how to change society. In a somewhat similar vein, Conceptual artists in the late 1960s protested the war in Vietnam. Artists involved with both of these movements hoped that the world would change for the better. But that didn’t really happen. Today art is not functioning as art—now, however, it seems like commercial success is the only reason for artistic creation.
That’s one of the reasons why I decided to pursue this project. I believe that change has to come from inside. I think it is very important to create an environment, a natural place for emotion to come out. It’s like a language—but it’s more than that. When language doesn’t convey a message or is misunderstood, consciousness is not transformed. People today are searching for a new system completely detached from contemporary systems. We’re in the middle of a big transition toward a different direction. It’s a great time to have a new discourse because people are interested in evolving their consciousness.
Today Is the Day is an organization like Fluxus in that we are focused on sharing. We’re working on several presentations right now—preparing workshops and speeches. We’re looking to embark on a collaborative project with the Marina Abramović Institute. Yesterday I met a composer from Hiroshima. He was very interested in the foundation, so he wanted to meet me. Each individual has the ability to contribute to Today Is the Day in his own capacity. Someone else has asked us to design a new concept for the future of a community in Japan.
Right now we are living in the poorest form of society; in the last thousand years we’ve become mechanical components, just functioning for creating money. We’re living for money. Of course money is now a requirement for living, but we weren’t born for that. We’re the worst civilization that has existed, perhaps, in the last ten thousand years. But this is life now: We are struggling with money, supposedly where happiness comes from. This is an illusion. It is important to know that our current beliefs will model our future reality. We have the ability to choose what comes next.
Allyson Vieira is a New York–based sculptor. Between installing her work at MetroTech Center in Brooklyn for “Configurations,” which is on view until September 16, and prepping for a solo show in New York at Laurel Gitlen from February 22 to March 24, as well as a joint show with Stephen Ellis this summer at Non Objectif Sud in Tulette, France, and then a solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel in September, Vieira recently took time off to travel to Greece for research. Here she talks about her fascination with the Hellenic architectural and sculptural legacy, and how it informs her practice.
THERE ARE TENSIONS between material and form and between labor and form that excite me. I’m not talking about labor in a politicized way, but something more along the lines of labor as skilled, manual work—maybe cutting off material from a mountainside, the accumulating and forming of materials. Some recent pieces, a series called “Clad,” are made from the detritus of my studio—the stuff that gets chipped off of other pieces, the sweepings off the floor. I mix plaster into a conglomerate with this junk material, pour a thick layer of it on top of a stud and drywall form, and then I work that surface after it cures with chisels, a rasp, a grinder, whatever. They’re made in order, and they’re numbered sequentially. So all that detritus from Clad I goes into a scrap bucket and then gets mixed with the next batch to make Clad II, and so on and so forth. Each piece includes the scraps of the one before it, along with whatever else I was making in the studio. It kind of becomes an irrational index of what was going on in there at the time.
One of the newer “Clad” pieces contains concrete chunks I brought back from the garage where we finished the “Weight Bearing” pieces for MetroTech. Those pieces start as accumulations of construction materials into blocks suitable for carving a figural sculpture. The ones at MetroTech are made of mortared cinder blocks; other ones are made of stacks of drywall screwed together to create a solid block. I love it when you go to Lowe’s and see those drywall stacks that go up to the ceiling. It’s like going to Carrara. I kid—sort of. Millions of years from now, what’s the rock that’s made from the layers of materials we accumulated on the surface of the earth going to be like?
With the “Weight Bearing” pieces I’m trying for something pretty simple: to create works that simultaneously feel like vertical blocks—which can read as figural, whether there’s a figure carved into it or not—and also have a sense of contrapposto which I hope infuses these pieces with a kind of dynamic tension. And hips. This kind of talk about figuration probably sounds like I’m a reactionary or something. But it’s exciting stuff and people have loved it for thousands of years, so why not? Just because we have the Internet doesn’t mean we can’t be thinking about form sometimes too. I used a Sawzall to carve the drywall “Weight Bearing” sculptures. I like being limited by tools: I could only cut so deep, and only at certain angles. I didn’t know how any of it was going to work out when I started because I hadn’t done it before. And then there are the marks of the tool. If I use too many different tools on one piece, those marks get obscured.
That’s one of the things I love about Greece, where I end up going every couple years at this point. It’s like sculpture porn over there. You get to see up underneath pieces and between blocks, to see the weird ways that they’re clamped in and braced, the backsides, the rough parts. Everything you’re not supposed to see. It’s completely different than seeing that stuff in American and western European museums. On site, it’s all cracked open and you can see its gooey insides. It’s dirty and real. When I was just there, I watched masons fluting the Parthenon’s restored columns with grinders. Their workmanship is astonishing. And the intelligence with which the Greeks have been pursuing the recent bout of restoration—the new marble is carved to perfectly match the old fragments like insane three-dimensional puzzle pieces, but they make it visibly obvious that the restored parts are restored, and everything they do is completely reversible—really feels right. It’s not Disney World; they’re not trying to fool you. It’s a contemporary project that feels as deeply invested in the present as in the past. When you watch them, there’s an uncanny sense of temporal displacement and simultaneity—objects persist through multiple slices of time, actions replay but are not replicated, materials and sites are reutilized and changed.
It’s cool to feel like you’re part of a humanist tradition that extends that far back. I’m not saying I’m the inheritor of Phidias or anything, I’m just one of a bunch of schmoes who have decided to do this with their lives. The long view of humans building things from Paleolithic times up to the present is just really interesting. You get to see all of that laid out before you when you’re there.
Glenda Leon, Wasted Time, 2013, hourglass, sand, 78 3/4 x 94 1/2 x 94 1/2".
Glenda Leon is a Cuban artist based in Havana and Madrid. Her conceptual works span a range of media including drawing, video, and installation. Leon currently has a solo exhibition at the Chateau Des Adhemar in Montélimar, France, which is on view until March 24, and she will also exhibit her new work, on behalf of Magnan Metz Gallery, in Solo Projects at ARCO Madrid, which runs February 13–17. Leon, along with two other artists, will represent Cuba in the 2013 Venice Biennale.
BEFORE I WAS A VISUAL ARTIST, I was a dancer. Cuba is a country of dance—it’s everywhere here: in the streets, in restaurants and bars, performance halls and schools—and from the time that I was a little girl, I studied dance, hoping to become a choreographer. I realize now that this passion for dance actually came from sound; I had an enormous need to express with my body what I was listening to. I believe that music is actually a superior art and that it can take us, like no other medium, to a higher level of existence.
Sound is an element I play with aesthetically. I like the space where sound and the visual merge—where sound is not yet music and where the visual takes on another dimension. Every object contains a potential sound, and as an artist I look for ways to shape sound visually. I am interested in the abstract quality of sound and its connection to that part of us that we can’t verbalize.
In the past, for instance, I created a series of music boxes, “Interpreted World,” where the names of gods of different denominations are spelled out in braille; I have translated the braille into notes on a score and each music box plays the resulting sound. In much of my work, especially the pieces that I’m presenting at ARCO, I want to get at the interstice of sound and time. Time passes as quickly as sound passes, but the visual is static. I suppose I try to freeze sound and time through visual representation—to get at the interstice between sound and silence, between the instant and eternity—sound being the absence of silence.
Until recently in Cuba, artists were one of the few groups of people that were allowed to travel freely and live abroad. And while living abroad I have realized the wide spectrum of possibilities that exist artistically, the different sorts of artwork that can be produced. It’s much easier to do certain technical things outside of Cuba; fabrication is practically impossible to do in Cuba and supplies are quite hard to come by. But what I like about being in Cuba is the easiness of life there. Art, at least for me, aims at taking one to a higher state of being, but that shouldn’t, or doesn’t need to, come out of tribulation—that’s perhaps why much of my work uses sound to get at silence, a concept of inner silence.
Silence is where one can find balance—there is so much talking, so much wasted time. One of the pieces I am showing at ARCO Madrid, Wasted Time, is a mountain of sand with an hourglass peeking over the top. It’s sort of a pessimistic work, as it gestures at lost time—it’s as if at each point the hourglass has been turned over, sand has slipped through the glass, collecting into this enormous pile. But don’t mistake my work for being escapist—it’s not—I want to pay attention to the real root of how transformation and solutions occur. There’s already enough noise in the world, don’t you think?
Mike Nelson, M6 (detail), 2013, tires, dimensions variable.
Mike Nelson is a London-based artist well known for his labyrinthine architectural installations that produce unique but impermanent spaces. He represented Britain in the 2011 Venice Biennale and has been nominated for the Turner Prize twice. His fourth exhibition at London’s Matt’s Gallery is on view from February 13—April 14. Here he speaks about the show as well as a new commission, M6, which is on view at Eastside Projects in Birmingham, England, until March 9.
LINEAR NARRATIVE HAS NOT always been important to me, but illustrating the sense of meaning and space beyond what is actually presented in a show is. As a child I was taught that if we want to see a figure moving in the distance as darkness falls, we should look to the side of him to see the movement more clearly. This idea resonates with the way I work: I try to draw the viewer in to focus on one thing in order to understand another. I hope that this way of working is becoming more pertinent in relation to our media-saturated lives. The constant mediation through technology that we face everyday leaves very little time or space for the unknown––no time to imagine or wonder what might be or have been. So few people have the desire or the patience any more to engage with work in this way.
When I was a student at Reading University I was very interested in the experience of eastern cultures, in particular those of the Islamic world. I made work retracing the lineage of designs, such as those from the Arts and Crafts movement, back to their eastern influences. I often found a rebounding dialogue between them. This was the beginning of my interest in the construction of identity and “otherness”, as well as an understanding of my position in that—not only as a European, but also more specifically as a British person.
To a degree all of my works are ritualistic and votive. Even M6, which I just completed at the beginning of January, conjures these terms. The structure and materials for that work were both minimal and the process was quite mechanical, but it invoked a sense of human ritual and devotion. Arranged upon a cast concrete slab, the detritus of the blown out tires from an M6 were arranged in such a way as to invoke the rituals that led to their alchemy reminiscent of tribal objects or anthropological in nature. The work at Matt’s Gallery will be far more eclectic, both in terms of material and imagery––the structures I’ve been known for building are architecturally absent in this show. This is not the first time I’ve worked in this manner, but it’s unusual in terms of my history at Matt’s Gallery. The work is experimental––flipping it’s emphasis from absence to presence on a basic level, and focusing on the creation of objects of a figurative nature from an array of different materials––many from the remnants of past construction. The overall sense is a tomb-like chamber in chaos, out of which emerges effigies––half-built like the gods of a deranged ego, their suggested forms animating the piles of material around them while attempting to evoke the histories of sculptures past.
Years ago, budgetary limitations enabled me to realize a work such 2000’s The Coral Reef: The first in a series of works consisting of many rooms and adjoining corridors that attempted to equate spatial structure to literary narrative or structure. That work invited you to become lost in the substrata of society and their belief systems, among a series of receptacles that only led to one another. The financial restraints required me to fully utilize all of the time and spatial access given to me by Matt’s—something no other institution would have supported for an artist of my age. I’m reversing that situation now, because it seems absurd to try and raise a budget that could be provided by a museum at this time economically. I’m using the budgetary restraint as a positive and generative force to make a show that works within that criteria and experiment.
Working under the moniker Women, designers Neil Doshi and Scott Barry are in the first phase of a five-year design initiative that sets out to inhabit a different location and set of working conditions each year. Currently underway in Yucca Valley, California, their first year, titled “Connections,” will culminate in two structures integrated into the terrain’s large rock formations and natural environs, remaining after completion as a design residency and library.
ONE OF OUR INITIAL IDEAS was to base our studio on a certain finiteness—the notion that we would only operate for one hundred projects. The idea for a five-year design studio that reconstitutes and remodels itself each year within a specific geographic and economic context then grew out of this. Around that same time, we were in Joshua Tree one weekend, visiting artist Andrea Zittel’s High Desert Test Sites and wandering through the hills of Yucca Valley looking for an Earthwork installation, when we eventually got lost. We happened upon the property that’s now the site of “Connections”— the first-year phase of the cycle. The desert seemed far enough from Los Angeles and resonated well with the studio ideas of potential, duration, and disorientation. The project has an intentional precariousness to it––we don’t own the land on which we’re building, we’re integrating the project into an existing community, and we’re learning how to build a house as it’s being built.
After we finish construction on “Connections,” we plan on living there for the remaining half of the year and using it as a site of production. In parallel we will be finishing the interiors and producing objects for our day-to-day lives, such as furniture, utensils, textiles, and so on. We came up with the idea to eventually turn the structures into a residency and library after we got more ambitious with our building plans. Our initial thought was to make the structures more temporary than permanent, more shanty than house. But now we want the spaces to continue on as sites of production when we leave, so we’re aiming to develop one of the structures into a library and the other into a design-based residency program.
Moreover, we’re interested in expanding notions surrounding our practice by treating each of five years as a separate point of inquiry. The first phase’s questions, for example, being: How do we survive out here? What and how do we build? Who do we work for? The project is industrial office park meets Zen garden meets the renter’s class. (A friend told us, “There’s a saying that the world is split between owners and renters.”) Although the idea of a “plan” might seem rigid, ours was conceived with a sort of looseness and operates as an outline, meaning that the practice is almost entirely shaped by exterior forces, with no heavy ideological guidelines. We’re setting up a situation and then dealing with it. If anything, we’re more interested in what happened after the countercultural movement of the 1960s collapsed—what happened after the utopian bubble popped.
Self-professed rebel Karole Armitage leaped into fame when she worked with Madonna on the pop star’s music video for “Vogue” in 1990. Born in 1954 in Wisconsin, Armitage was exposed to ballet at an early age and went on to dance for George Balanchine in the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genčve in Switzerland at nineteen. Armitage later joined the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1976, and began to work with dancer-choreographer Michael Clark and artist Charles Atlas in 1983. Armitage’s first prominent choreographic piece, however, the bombastic Drastic-classicism from 1981, established her signature fusion style, showcasing balletic line with a postmodernist improvised bent. Dancers wore black leather pointe shoes and ripped up warmers while splaying their legs in erotic frenzy as a rock band simultaneously performed on stage. The piece won her the moniker “punk ballerina,” a nod to her incorporation of subculture within her technical compositions.
Armitage later choreographed standout works such as Wild Thing, 1988, with a Jimi Hendrix score, and The Watteau Duets, 1985, a pas de deux set to fierce, atonal timpani. She and her New York–based company, Armitage Gone! Dance, return to New York Live Arts this month with Mechanics of the Dance Machine, a labyrinthine performance in black, red, and white light, which plays at NYLA January 31–February 2 and February 5–7.
Here the drastic-classicist speaks about the inner workings of her latest work and about the frenetic energy required when changing step.
Interview with Karole Armitage.