Sunday, November 15, 2015

Performa 2015 - free drinks, expensive books, The Lament of the Financial District, that kind of general rant

Exchange went something like this:
Artist Rainer Ganahl:
I decided to get rid of my books to express how we don't live forever, we need to let go of our material goods, we need to realize we're not going to read that book again.
Young man:
How much are you selling this one for?
The books are lying on the floor, as for a stoop sale. Good books. Art books, philosophy.
How much would you like to buy it for?
The young man turns it around in his hands. He's embarrassed. Haggling with the artist?
Young man:
I couldn't let it go for that. It's worth much more. What I do is I check on the Internet how much they go for. I think it should not go for less than $20, more like $30.
Older man:
So you are linking this to the existing market?
The books I don't sell, I will keep. I don't need to sell. You see, on the wall, that's the packaging.
Older man:
How about this one, how much?
Maybe $35? Let me check on the Internet. Some of these books are widely available, but others like this one are very hard to find, it took me a long time to unearth them in libraries. By the way, before I was able to buy art books, I used to buy postcards of art. They're $3 each. Look here. Ah, I found the book online. Let's see. $12.75! Well well. OK, how about $20?

As opposed to my poetic Eric the Hawker selling me his lovely keyring last week (read here), I could not perceive any artistic dimension to this sale by Rainer Ganahl beyond the initial concept. He could have chosen to put arbitrary prices on the books: white ones $10, green ones $25, black ones $1000. Or, as Ed Schmidt did in one of his shows, give them away for nothing. After this unpleasant experience, I was getting truly discouraged by Performa 2015. The abundance of free drinks this year is appreciable, and attracts a younger crowd, but that's the only improvement I could see in this edition of the festival.

On Friday night, went to the Erica Vogt event at Roulette, Artist Theater Program.
I did not understand. I felt like someone from mainstream American culture, fed on Hollywood movies, mass paperbacks, who would go to an avant-garde event and would think it's all nonsense: they would not have the tools to understand it, the references, the context. I don't know whether the show was nonsense or not. But if it has a sense, I didn't have the tools to understand it. I did enjoy aspects of it, such as the sounds, some of the readings, some of the projections. Hated the props. Loved the last scene, witty, where the artist came on stage, and all the performers sat at her feet. She asked:
What did you think of the imagery in the show?
The twelve of them all answered at the same time, with much earnestness and expressivity. Obviously the mangled chaos of words could not be grasped by the audience. Then the lights went out, and the scene was repeated by people in the audience discussing amongst themselves after the show. I turned to my friend, artist Ana Bilankov who know a thing of two about avant-garde work:
'What did you think'
She opened her eyes big, raised her eyebrows:

But. At last. Jesper Just. Saturday November 14. The exhilaration of seeing a brilliantly conceived show. Occupies the whole top floor of a skyscraper near the World Trade Center. We're inside the building, can't see outside apart for tiny shapes scraped out of  painted windows. And the show offers us interpretations of what we would see outside the windows. We watch from high up, on a video, the people who should be working in this space, but instead of sitting at desks are roaming the wilderness, in anguish.
The same live projection of the exterior of the building punctuate our route as we make our way in a labyrinth around the place. It takes a while before we realize that the beautiful bass sound track is being played live and we can see the player on the projected live stream, tiny, sitting lonely on the floor of our large office building. But what floor? Fleeting people get projected over a photo of the World Trade Center. In the next room, we realize these people are in front of a camera, and their image, or now ours, and is  projected onto the World Trade Center photo for the audience in the previous room. Then a woman takes her place in front of the camera and sings to the accompaniment of the bass player who is still going, who we know is there somewhere, but where? Her song is a poignant lament.

The poignancy in her song, and in the bass playing, the loneliness of the images, the anguish of the employees looking for something in the wild, all expressed so aptly what the architectural environment, and the work conditions in these financial districts do: kill the human soul.

Contributed by  - -  Arabella Hutter

Monday, November 9, 2015

Performa: deliciously fooled.

Performa is infusing New York City once again with its streak of wild creativity. Have only been to a few events. The anger workshop was a lot of talk, signing up release forms, and only 3 and half minutes of being angry. I need much more than that.Then 4 minutes of loving someone, a stranger, by hugging closely another participant to the session. An intriguing experience. Why should I love a complete stranger? But then anyone around me that I love is also there by contingence, out of the several billion people on Earth.I didn't review 8 billion people to choose my loved ones. That workshop took place within the tent of the Australian Embassy, with awesome activist/artist Richard Bell.

The Wyatt Kahn show Work was sweet. The painter's paintings became puppets who articulated their pride or protest at the artist and art scene. The setting, the Swedish Marionette theater in Central Park, is even sweeter, and the hip audience sitting on benches, hip to hip.

The Heather Gibson exhibit, Final Days, did not particularly grab my attention but maybe I was distracted and did not do it justice. And I was thirsty. Beer bottles and cans floated in a large bucket. I considered them. A guy was standing awkwardly next to the pail. Short, pale, glasses, 50. Holding a plastic bag close to his stomach.
- Are you looking for a beer? he says, with a British accent.
- No, water actually. 
 - I don't think there is water, just beer. Which one do you want?
 - Thanks, no, usually I love a beer, but I really need water right now.
- Are you enjoying the show?
- So so.
- I'm an artist too. Kind of a failed artist. I've had quite a few mishaps in my life. I used to be a prolific artist.
- Really? I say politely.
Is being prolific a good thing? I wonder.
- Yes. I wanted to open an art school in London, for people who can't afford art schools, and I put all my fortune in it. 
Hm, upper class guy, then, I guess.
- It failed, and I lost all my money. I decided to make small sculptures from all my mishaps, 
He pulls a keyring out of the plastic bag which I see now is full of them. It has a rectangular structure (pictured above).
- Here's the plan of the school, you see, it was a Victorian building. These are the trees.
- Aha.
He pulls another keyring which is a ballerina lying on her back, and another one that looks a bit like a game jack. Meanwhile my phone rings, I have to join a friend who's waiting for me up the block.
- This is a dolof, do you know what a dolof is? he asks. But maybe you have to go?
- I have a minute.
I'm intrigued.
- A dolof is something on the beach that holds it in place.
- You sell these key rings?
- Yes, he says, even more awkward.
- How much', I ask, 'because I haven't got all the time in the world.'
- $20 each.
A guy in his 30s approach while I'm on the phone.
- I said I would take 2 for $30, he butts in.
- No, says the little guy, that won't work.
- OK, I say, I'll take the school one. 
Because I think they look cool, and $20 is cheap to avoid having to say no to the small, awkward guy and hurt his feelings. 
I pull a bill out, we proceed with the exchange.
He says:
- My name is Ryan Gander.
- Nice meeting you. I'm Arabella. Bye.
2 days later, I find out in the Performa printed catalog that it is an act. Of course, you my reader had guessed, but that's easy from your armchair: I was deliciously fooled. Ryan Gander was performing. In fact, I saw him two days later at the Performa hub playing it out on a young man who was trying to buy 3 for $50. He looked so genuinely sad while performing. I thought, maybe he's sad he's so good at peddling off his goods. Maybe he's a bit sad because the act works only if the buyer does not know who he is, with the implication he's not as famous as he thought he was. Maybe he's a really good actor at playing the failed artist.

Contributed by -- Arabella Hutter