Archive for the historical notes Category

The Mountain Bar at Tif Sigfrids, with a performance by Gracie DeVito and company, August 7, 2014

Posted in historical notes, reviews and commentary, upcoming events on August 8, 2014 by Carol Cheh
Image courtesy Tif Sigfrids and Gracie DeVito

Image courtesy Tif Sigfrids and Gracie DeVito

Tif Sigrids, longtime fixture on the early Chinatown scene before she set up her current digs in Hollywood, is paying tribute to her (and our) past with a temporary installation of the Mountain Bar at her gallery. Founded by Jorge Pardo and Steve Hanson in 2003, the Mountain Bar was for many years a gathering spot for the then-hot Chinatown art scene. In 2009, Pardo created the upstairs bar that would become home to The Mountain School of Arts (a free school initiated by Eric Wesley and Piero Golia) as well as various presentations, talks, performances and film screenings. In 2012, the bar closed, and Pardo’s designs have been in storage ever since.

Now, Sigfrids has taken an actual section of the original upstairs bar and installed it on one side of her gallery, where she and various volunteers serve free beer and wine to guests. The beautiful, cinematic design of the bar is served really well by the small, clean space of the gallery, where both its aesthetic qualities and its cultural significance seem to resonate with an extra glow, bathing the entire space in its warm, charismatic light. Perhaps nostalgia and history have something to do with that.

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Outtakes from my interview with Marina Abramović

Posted in historical notes, interviews with tags , , , , on June 12, 2012 by Carol Cheh

Marina Abramović and filmmaker Matthew Akers.
Photo: David Smoler. Courtesy of HBO and Music Box Films.

So last week, I had the momentous opportunity to interview Marina Abramović via Skype for the LA Weekly. The edited interview, which contains all the juiciest bits where she dishes at length about the 2011 MOCA Gala, her long-running conflict with Yvonne Rainer, the “unoriginality” of Dawn Kasper’s Whitney Biennial installation, how she didn’t get paid “one penny” for her Seven Easy Pieces show, and how the underground is for “plants,” appeared today on the LA Weekly arts blog. As a special bonus for ART! readers, I am posting below the parts of the interview that didn’t make it into the final cut.

Can performance art really be taught?

I think yes, because I’ve been doing now 27 years, teaching a lot—in Germany, France, Japan, so many different countries. First of all, it’s the same as painting or sculpture, you can teach the painting but you can’t make the great painter. You have to have what I call charismatic state of being. Let’s start from the beginning. When a student comes and says “I want to be a performance artist,” I am first questioning if they are an artist at all—sometimes they just want to be a little famous or something stupid like that. Then, if you are really an artist, you have to find which real media is good for you.

Sometimes you think you are a performance artist but you actually can’t perform. So it’s not easy, but what I can teach people is how to condition the body and the mind to get to that state, and then it’s up to them to do the performance. There’s lots of techniques which I kind of mixed up. I can teach them how to reduce things, how to begin, how to document, which mistakes they should not make. Lots of things I learned, I can give this kind of advice. So yes, you can teach performance, but you can’t make someone great. It’s a genetic thing, you either have it or you don’t have it.

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Susan Mogul and Ilene Segalove, Pacific Standard Time focus weekend, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, December 3, 2011

Posted in historical notes, reviews and commentary with tags , , , on December 6, 2011 by Carol Cheh

Ilene Segalove, right, with her mom Elaine

The Orange County Museum of Art was abuzz with history this past Saturday. After an excellent tour of the State of Mind exhibition, in which curator Karen Moss neatly relayed the story of California conceptualism in just under 45 minutes, two special Pacific Standard Time programs dynamically connected history with the present day.

First, almost all of Ilene Segalove’s The Mom Tapes (1974–78) were screened in the museum’s auditorium; they were introduced by Segalove herself and followed by a Q&A with the artist and her mom, Elaine. The Mom Tapes are on view in the galleries as part of State of Mind, but it was great to be able to sit down and focus my attention on this body of work, created over a period of four years. The episodic tapes, which are really charming and funny, capture aspects of Segalove’s relationship to her mom as well as their upper-middle class family life in a posh Beverly Hills house—it’s a classic instance of the personal playing into a larger political concern of valuing women’s daily contributions.

Here’s a short snippet of Segalove’s introduction to The Mom Tapes:

“I always knew that real life was material for art. I always was kind of a spy in my own life. I would spend hours leaning against the door to my parents’ bedroom, overhearing their loud conversations. And sometimes I would turn them into cartoons and entertain my younger brother with illustrations of what they said, and how they said it. My brother later became a psychiatrist. I don’t know if there’s a connection, it’s possible.”

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Causing Problems: Punk and Performance in the Eighties (A Guest Post by Megan Hoetger)

Posted in guest blog posts, historical notes with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2011 by MHoetger

Geza X at The Masque. Photo: Michael Yampolsky.

I am not usually a nostalgic person. When people start to reminisce about the past I roll my eyes, thinking about how their “memory” of that time is being formed in the here and now―a combination of what he/she chose to remember (individual memory), what circulates in the media about that time (cultural memory), and what the individual’s brain is interpolating from those sources in the present (which usually, especially in the case of punk, is about recalling the better, purer days of yesteryear). It is not this process that causes me to roll my eyes, but the belief that these memories somehow constitute fact, that they are not the individual’s subjective response to a time and place from which they are now (whether they lived it through or not) separated, but, rather, a telling of how it was. This seeming refusal to acknowledge the active nature of memory is what I believe feeds the persistent return of a “having-been-thereness” approach to the field of performance itself.

That said, I must say that I do enjoy remembering punk. Coming of age in the post-grunge years amongst a group of individuals that had taken up a gutter punk lifestyle, traveling a kind of circuit throughout several of Los Angeles’s working class neighborhoods in the mid-1990s, my relation to punk was always already mediated by historical time. It is then not so much a nostalgia for “punk” that I have as much as an enjoyment in remembering the ethos of “causing problems,” which punk inspired in a youth generation tired of the utopian (and in my opinion latently essentialist) rhetoric of the hippie days, and which subsequently inspired me. “Causing problems” here refers to the energy of punk, which disrupted social space in its appropriation and re-signification of commodities, including objects and ideologies, for the purpose of violently exposing the seams―the breaks, ruptures, and failures―in a purportedly seamless dominant culture. The exemplary object being here, of course, the safety pin.

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Not the Same Old Song and Dance: Recent Encounters with Karen Adelman and Flora Wiegmann

Posted in essays on artists, historical notes, reviews and commentary on February 15, 2011 by Carol Cheh

Flora Wiegmann performing Wandering (Detail)
at Orange County Museum of Art

On Superbowl Sunday afternoon, February 6, I went to OCMA to catch a Sunday Salon on performative practices, which featured talks with California Biennial artists Micha Cárdenas, Carlee Fernandez, Flora Wiegmann, and David Wilson. I was most struck by Wiegmann’s talk, in which she discussed the evolution of her practice while standing in front of her filmed work, Wandering (Still). The artist comes from a dance background, graduating from Columbia College with a BA in Dance, and practiced as a member of several different dance companies. She eventually grew bored with the repertoire-based world of professional dance, however, and found herself increasingly drawn to the more experimental aspects of the visual arts.

In 2003, she and Drew Heitzler collaborated to open Champion Fine Art, a two-year series of artist-curated shows with spaces in Brooklyn and Culver City. Champion Fine Art ended the year I moved to LA (2005), but its legacy lives on, as I often hear about the great shows that were organized in the Culver City space, and what a great gathering spot it was for artists. At the Brooklyn space, Wiegmann and fellow dancer Felicia Ballos created the De-Installation Series, nine dances that responded to artworks installed in the gallery, on the eve of their de-installation. Most of the artworks would be removed for the performance, but on occasion, some would remain. This series, which has since been recreated for galleries in New York and France, pretty much marked the beginning of Wiegmann’s current practice, which in her own words, “usurps the practice of visual artists… to broaden the platform for dance by making works on film, site-specific dances, endurance pieces, and collaborative performance projects.”

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Bob and Bob: Two Wild and Crazy Guys

Posted in essays on artists, historical notes on August 29, 2010 by Carol Cheh

Bob and Bob, 1976.
All images courtesy of the artists.

For the last several months, I’ve been doing a bit of volunteer work for the research phase of Los Angeles Goes Live, LACE’s big Getty-funded project exploring the origins of Southern California performance art between the seminal years of 1970–83. In the process of conducting oral history interviews for the project, I was introduced to the work of several important artists from that period, including Dark Bob and Light Bob. Bob and Bob (not their real names, although they prefer to operate solely as such, even today) had an intense period of collaboration in the 1970s and 80s that produced numerous significant works, including drawings, paintings, videos, and performance pieces. In spite of the quality of their oeuvre, however, they remain largely unknown to the current generation of artists and art aficionados—one of those inequities of art history that is begging to be corrected.

As a duo, they adopted the persona of a couple of “idiots, innocents… just in from the Midwest,” all the better to freely stumble and bumble through the sprawling wilderness of this big city, pushing up against social boundaries and evincing a touching sense of earnest humanity along the way. They maintained their studio in Beverly Hills, of all places, and from that home base, they engaged in an ongoing series of spontaneous street actions that included sleeping or sunbathing in front of the Gucci store; barging into all doors marked “Private” or “Do Not Enter”; and dining in expensive restaurants only to discover that they had no money to pay the tab. One of these comedic actions, Rodeo Beach (1976), was the only work of Bob and Bob to be mentioned in the catalog for the Pompidou’s landmark 2006 survey, Los Angeles: Birth of an Art Capital 1955–1985 (it was not included in the actual exhibition).

Rodeo Beach, 1976

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Embodied Rituals: An Interview with Barbara T. Smith and Christen Sperry-Garcia

Posted in historical notes, interviews, upcoming events on August 5, 2010 by Carol Cheh

On Saturday, August 14 at 7:30pm, Barbara T. Smith and Christen Sperry-Garcia will present Chaos Confounded, a performance, feast, and benefit in honor of Highways Performance Space’s 21st anniversary. The event will combine Sperry-Garcia’s Maps, Nodes, and Networks, an interactive work based on the artist’s study of traffic patterns, with a multi-course, sit-down meal that will be presided over by both artists. The dinner, which will be a performance in itself, is the latest in a long line of work by Smith exploring food and ritual. Additional performances will also take place throughout the course of the evening.

This event is a great chance to experience signature works by a legend of performance art and an emerging Los Angeles artist, and support Highways, a seminal West Coast performance space, at the same time. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased here.

This past week, I sat down with Smith and Sperry-Garcia to talk about Chaos Confounded, and about their individual practices.

How did this collaboration between the two of you come about?

BTS: That was really fortuitous. I had been on the board of Highways, which, like all nonprofits, is very financially strapped. I was on the board for two years and decided that it was time for me to move on. At the same time, we were talking about how 18th Street Arts Center had just had a benefit dinner, which they charged $250 for, and it was very high-end, very gourmet, with an Artforum critic as a featured speaker, and it was quite successful. And so Leo [Garcia, Artistic Director of Highways] said, why can’t we do that? But we recognize that we don’t have the same donor base; the people who follow Highways are not, generally speaking, as affluent. So I said, what you could do is have some kind of affordable, not-so-fancy dinner, but at the same time bring in a decent amount of money, and have it be much more peasant-like, more fun, more in the body, you know? So this project became my last fling for them.

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