Nancy Rubins, Monochrome for Paris, 2013, stainless steel and aluminum, 40 x 50 x 40’. Photo: Erich Koyama.
Just steps from the Seine, a tangled mass of aluminum rowboats, kayaks, and canoes arches across a typically busy courtyard on l’Université Paris Diderot’s campus. Echoing the steely gray Parisian skies under which it was unveiled this spring, Nancy Rubins’s largest public project in France is also her first permanent commission for the capital. While directing the crane-maneuvered installation, Rubins spoke about how Monochrome for Paris, 2013, came to be.
ALMOST FOUR YEARS AGO, I was approached by the city of Paris through curators tasked with commissioning public sculptures to honor the city’s new tramline. With these kinds of projects, there are always many ideas about how the art should be approached. It was important for me not to let the work get diluted by all the different cooks in the kitchen; this piece in particular can be built in umpteen million configurations to yield to the situation. But, ultimately, it needs to relate to the environment it will live in.
It was a fortunate accident that I ended up at Paris Diderot University and not along the tram route; it’s far more beautiful and I like the university atmosphere. Physically, the location is better because the boats can cantilever over the outdoor walkways, which are really the corridors to and from the classrooms. Students, professors, and other people involved in the university walk through there every day. When I first saw the site, I knew immediately that I wanted to make a cascading form over the plaza, but when we started to install, it became a bit more improvisational. We had to situate it against markers like a tree or a door and think about how the shape would be viewed from a particular angle.
Initially, the city of Paris wanted me to use French boats for the sculpture, but I realized that there were no aluminum boats produced in France. In the end, the boats came from Northern California and some from Canada. They are so beautifully worn, the surface and its resulting patina. Though the sculpture is close to the Seine, that’s not really what’s important in terms of the work and the site. It’s much more about the architecture of the plaza than the river environment. One could even put this sculpture in the middle of the desert because it’s not really about boats; it’s only about using them.
I often get asked how many boats make up the sculptures. From my point of view, asking this is like trying to embrace and perceive a Cézanne landscape by analyzing how many strokes of paint are in the painting, providing some finite yet no real understanding of the actual work of art. I’m always thinking about macro things, how something micro like molecules can make up crystals in the way they grow. I’m a person who handles large things comfortably, and that quality can lend itself well to these public commissions. Still, I don’t really think of myself as a “public art artist.” These are more just my giant sculptures.
View of “Linda Mary Montano: Always Creative.” (Photo: Eric Swanson)
Linda Mary Montano is perhaps best known for her endurance-based performances. She sang for seven hours in a scissor lift; wore monochromatic garments for fourteen years; was blindfolded for a week; and spent a year bound by a length of rope to the artist Tehching Hsieh during his ART/LIFE: ONE YEAR PERFORMANCE, 1983–84. Montano’s art, which borrows from her life, has been dedicated to living with patience and empathy. Her current retrospective of videos, installations, drawings, and performances, titled “Linda Mary Montano: Always Creative,” is on view at SITE Santa Fe until May 19, 2013.
IT WOULD TAKE pages to remember and unravel my past traumas: near death from anorexia, PTSD, the Catholic Church’s failings . . . but needless to say, my art cured and continues to heal my life.
Janet Dees of SITE Santa Fe perused my personal archives in Kingston and Saugerties, New York, and then sat for hours at the Video Data Bank in Chicago, viewing their archive of my work and later choosing ten videos that articulate themes of persona, endurance, death, spiritual seeking, collaboration, and humorous impersonation.
For the SITE show, I also made a new version of a past video titled Hi!, which was installed, years ago, in the Broadway-facing window of the old New Museum building. There it was: my face, hanging from the ceiling at eye level. Across from my face was a chair for the visitor to sit in and watch this tableau. They came in, sat down at the table, and had a faux conversation with me. I repeated greetings such as, “Hi, you look so good!,” and “Your hair is fab!” I waited for their answers that were to match my happy greetings and the communicated “care” for and about them—a comment on both the need for happiness and the inanities of small talk.
In the Santa Fe version, the monitor is fitted with a glamorous wig. My face and voice are inviting, welcoming the visitor to what I call the “art/life counseling room.” The piece is a parody of social graces and a comment on my own inability to consistently smile, be open, and respond with generosity. To take this idea a step further, I held four live sessions during the exhibition, offering one-on-one counseling in the room, twice face-to-face and twice by Skype, resurrecting my seven-year-long practice, from 1984 to 1991, where I came to the New Museum once a month and counseled people in another window installation.
To make the gallery even more accessible at SITE, I hung my 100 Chicken Paintings banner-like around the edges of the room. All four walls are painted in chalkboard paint. There’s colored chalk for visitors to draw their dreams, write manifestos, leave messages, and erase whatever was in the way of their creative vision. Play Art.
I’m in my seventies. I’ve been there, done that, garnered years and years of good attention from viewers who have given me energy, breathed life back into me, and woken me up. So this show is a chance for me to encourage, teach, inspire, and give back. I’ve made sure that the viewer might feel empowered to interact and play creator on the sacred walls of the museum. There aren’t any “do not touch” signs here. SITE also published an interactive workbook, You Too Are a Performance Artist. It chronicles forty-five performances and offers suggestions for the reader to reinvent my journey to fit their needs. This is my message: Creation is our human right and we all are exactly that, creators!
Gratitude to all of my inspirational and encouraging teachers and may our life always be art.
Theater pathfinder and MacArthur “genius” Richard Foreman has played many roles over the past five decades, diligently writing, directing, and designing his numerous plays, operas, films, and videos. This year his Ontological-Hysteric Theater, a touchstone for several generations of artists, celebrates its forty-fifth anniversary.
Foreman was born in 1937 in New York City. He received a BA from Brown University and an MFA in playwriting from the Yale School of Drama. In 1993, Brown presented him with an honorary doctorate. Foreman’s latest work, the chamber play Old Fashioned Prostitutes (A True Romance), marks his return to theater after a brief retirement during which he focused on filmmaking. The play continues his interest in building an abstract and minimal “web of language” and, characteristically, features a small cast (Alenka Kraigher, Stephanie Hayes, Nicolas Norena, Rocco Sisto, and David Skeist). The work begins preview performances at the Public Theater in New York on April 30 and will run through June 2, 2013.
Interview with Richard Foreman.
Michelangelo Frammartino, Alberi (Trees), 2013, HD video, color, sound, 28 minutes.
Michelangelo Frammartino’s Alberi (Trees) is a twenty-eight-minute rumination on ancient rituals performed by villagers in Italy’s Basilicata region. The piece builds from his 2010 film Le quattro volte, which meditates on the eternally cyclical, transformative nature of experience—in both a physical and spiritual sense. Alberi is on view at MoMA PS1 until April 27, 2013.
MY IDEA OF FREEDOM is connected to the television shows and films I watched when I was young. I grew up in Italy in the 1970s, when commercial TV began to invade everyone’s home. It was made to seduce people, to guide them in a specific ideological way, which was all intimately connected to power and maintaining control over the greater public consciousness. Much of my practice emerges as a reaction to this enforced passivity of viewership. When the audience can actively participate in constructing their visual experience, the connection between the image and the viewer becomes stronger. For this, one needs the freedom to interpret and enter the image at will, and so when I started working on Alberi, I began looking for ways to make images interactive—attempts to create participatory experience that result in freedom of viewership.
I have found that one of the ways to do this is through the loop—Alberi is a never-ending installation, meaning that you can enter and exit when you want. It is the viewer that drives and controls the beginning and decides what is the final cut. In this sense, this work is also a tribute to cinema. In Italy it was normal for us to go to the movies and enter a showing anytime we wanted. So the first time I saw a movie, I saw it from the middle, watching first the second half of it, and coming to the film’s beginning only after having seen its end . . . and when I reached my own starting point in the middle of the film again, the pleasure was so great that I couldn’t help making another round. So my first experience with a film was like a loop.
Alberi is inspired by an ancient ritual of the Basilicata region based on the myth of a treelike man called Romito, who rejected the idea of migration and planted roots in his own land. When I discovered the character of Romito, I understood it was still very connected to the cultural identity of this region, even though the ritual was no longer enacted. The Romito myth now exists only in the memory of the people, but it is deeply part of their mentality. It symbolizes a land surrounded by woods (the ancient name of the region, Lucania, is thought to come from a word for sacred wood) and refers to a fusion between humans and vegetation.
I knew, therefore, that I was shooting something that was inside the people. However, filming the ritual ended up changing it. Making fiction gave life to a new reality, and so there is a strange connection between our work and that ancient tradition. I dressed nearly one hundred people like trees to perform the ritual; they enacted a procession through the surrounding forest, culminating at the village square, which was literally turned into a forest.
For the construction of this installation, I focused heavily on sound, which here is connected to the idea of freedom I mentioned earlier. Also, the sound is interactive: It comes from many different sources, and it invites the viewer to move, to walk around, to discover something maybe unexpected.
Left: Lucy McKenzie, exhibition poster for “Something They Have to Live With,” 2013. Right: View of “Something They Have to Live With,” 2013. (Photo: Gert-Jan van Rooij)
Lucy McKenzie is a Brussels-based Scottish artist. In 2008, with designers Beca Lipscombe and Bernie Reid, she launched Atelier E.B., a company that works on fashion and design projects with a particular emphasis on applied arts and artisan techniques. McKenzie’s first exhibition in Amsterdam is currently on view at the Stedelijk Museum until September 22, 2013. Along with the show, Atelier E.B. will have a temporary showroom at Magazijn in Amsterdam from May 15 to 18.
THE STEDELIJK SHOW BEGAN with my impressions of visiting three different sites at the end of 2012: the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain; Adolf Loos’s Villa Müller in Prague; and an exhibition of Sol LeWitt’s wall paintings at M Museum Leuven. I knew I wanted to investigate the Villa Müller and Alhambra a little more after I realized that these two places share several things in common: They’re archetypal, ideal representations of perfection in interior design; they’re UNESCO-protected places; and in both, women are present but also hidden from the outside world. In the Villa Müller, for instance, there is a boudoir with a small window that looks down into the main space so that the lady of the house could watch but not be seen.
I taught myself how to devise and paint some of the patterns I saw in the Alhambra. If you want to understand patterns you just have to make them, and the paintings in this show are big studies of how those patterns work. My initial interest in the Alhambra came from reading Owen Jones, one of the founders of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He was the first Western designer and architect to give the palace any kind of importance. He had the elaborate texts rendered on its architecture translated to English, and he realized that these are like speech bubbles. It’s the building talking directly to you.
With the Villa Müller, only seven people at a time could visit, so you could feel very clearly how it would have been to live there. I created a scale model of that structure, using fake marble in a sculptural way—to explore what it is about those volumes and their spatial harmony that is so satisfying to be around, as well as go against Loos’s driving principle of using only natural materials for surface decoration.
But the show is about opposing ideas, not chic architecture; there is a counterbalance of themes that are direct and personal. Quodlibet XXVI (Self Portrait) deals head-on with appropriation—or rather a whole cycle of appropriation. In it the viewer can read that not only do I appropriate, but also that artists have tried to appropriate images of me (particularly those taken by Richard Kern). And there are mannequins on view; idealized skeletons underneath clothes. I want to show the direct connection between architectural interiors and the body, to what is always under clothing, as well as reflect on what is private and what is public, real and idealized.
The Ost End Girls Collection showroom will be open in May. It’s like being in a very square band, touring different cities: Amsterdam, Brussels, London. We’ll come to New York in the fall and we’ll have a shop with the Artist’s Institute on the Lower East Side. We don’t do normal retail because shops put on too much markup and we want the clothes to be as cheap as possible. Also, we’re interested in alternative economic models and different ways to distribute and to present our designs.
Guadalajara, Mexico–based architects Magui Peredo and Salvador Macías of Estudio Macías Peredo recently won a competition for the Pabellón Eco 2013 at the Museo Experimental El Eco in Mexico City. The spatial and aesthetic configuration of the winning entry not only expands the concept of what a pavilion could be, but also reevaluates the function of the museum’s courtyard. Here Peredo and Macías speak about their intentions for this work and their interest in architectural integration. The pavilion is on view until May 26, 2013.
WE’VE ULTIMATELY UNDERSTOOD this proposal as the placement of another diagonal in the museum’s courtyard. The effect that this new slanted flooring, which steadily rises from El Eco’s floor-to-ceiling back window to meet the higher level of the abutting street, has on the exterior space is clear: The courtyard ceases to be static and restricted and instead houses an active plane, one that can be traversed throughout, connecting what is happening on the inside of the museum to what is occurring on the outside. From the street, the slope becomes a forum that looks straight into the museum’s main gallery, where the latest installation of Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas can be seen—another structural intervention that transforms the otherwise pristine interior into a chaotic construction site.
One night, when we initially began drafting our concept for the exterior, we noticed that the courtyard was quite crowded with visitors. We began to realize that the work could not hinder the events that took place there. The visitor had to become an integral part of the project, able to cross it and engage it in different ways. Earlier chosen projects dealt with the space’s topography, its roof and its walls, and as such seemed to close it off in a circle that encompassed the vertical and horizontal limits of the courtyard. We’ve tried to open it up to show the museum as a public space, transforming what was already there. It literally gives rise to another way of understanding the museum in situ.
Artist Mathias Goeritz, the founder of El Eco, once described architecture as emotional, and as a spatial experiment that attempts to discover emotions one can move in. In essence, that is what we’ve tried to do. Our approach to this project disregarded the construction of volume, as most pavilions aim to create. We wondered if we could make the lines between the street and the museum vanish, to go beyond the limits of volume. For Goeritz, a critical aspect of the museum was its diagonal walls and distorted flooring. We appropriated the original terra-cotta grid of the courtyard, and even the trees, activities, and the visitors themselves, to create a dynamic and dissolved window between two worlds. The pavilion never became an exercise in composition; for us, it simply became one of reflection.
Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.