Many thoughts to work through after a month in Korea taking thousands of photos of my art installation, “Entrenched Thought” along with street photography. Aside from the political tension, I was genuinely perturbed by Seoul’s rise to fame as the plastic surgery capital of the world and the street photography I shot looks at this question. Hope to post those another time.
Here I post a few photos of my project “Entrenched Thought” at the DMZ Art Festival this summer:
You can see more photos here:
Here is a bit of background and the basic idea of the project:
In 1989 I arrived in South Africa for a year to work for a community development organization and news magazine. Mandela was still in jail and the Iron Curtain was still in place. I had no idea what I was in for. I had completed two years of a graduate degree in Cross-cultural Studies and both my inner and outer world were about to be turned upside-down.
You can guess the history; at about the same time as I witnessed the release of Mandela from prison, attending the euphoric Cape Town celebrations, the iron curtain started coming down. However the personal satisfaction that locals felt was something I couldn’t quite get my head around. I needed to find a connection between my inner and outer worlds.
Having studied and lived abroad, borders and cultural conflicts have attempted to define and frustrate my life. In this way, thinking and dialoguing about how to deal with cultural and political differences has left its mark on my interior life and my vision of the world. My work as an artist became a need to create some kind of poetic construct; some mechanism to find out how to bring the inside to the outside; to make it meaningful to people very different from myself.
This bit of biography is key to my practice. When taking solitary objects, turning them inside-out, consumer packages or personal ephemera, I have a compulsion to build bridges between personal worlds with larger questions. The project, “Entrenched Thought”, the idea of digging a trench along the DMZ, with the help of South Korean soldiers and locals and buttressing the structure with books, newspapers and mud, rather than sandbags, is just as much about “Disentrenching” thought, opening up dialogue and sharing private stories and views as it is about entrenched regional political and military tension. Its a project about digging.
The DMZ history with respect to digging is well known. In the 1970′s the South Koreans discovered that the North had built tunnels under the two-kilometre wide zone that were large enough for an invading force to go through. While the iron curtain has come down, and presently we are seeing revolutions in the Middle East, Korea remains divided. In light of this, for the 11th time since 1999, the DMZ Art Festival is held with the aim to “pursue the constructive endeavour of peace.”
Having researched local history I will be working side by side with people, building friendships and making the project into a participatory installation; part performance, part sculpture, which will involve the local community as they celebrate the DMZ Art Festival. The extensive photographic documentation that I will make of the project will allow me to offer prints to participants and supporters as a reminder of potential new ideas.
I will be posting drawings and more details about the project and how you can get involved.
A few points.
• You can send old books to be used in the construction of the project.
Here is the address for sending a package of books which will be held for the project when I arrive there. I will be working on the project from May 24 until about June 6:
Seokjang-ri Art Museum
875 Seokjang-ri, Beakhak,
• You can recommend titles of books that you think should be in the construction, but the best way to recommend would be sending a copy of it to be included.
• You will be able to contribute though indiegogo.com billed as
“The world’s leading international funding platform” and similar to Kickstarter.
I am working on a short video to post there soon. I will update this link when ready.
• You can see about actually coming to Korea to work on the project with me and do some digging side-by-side.
This is the conversation I started on Twitter. I decided to ask you to comment here on the blog to keep a more focused record about “facemounting”: gluing plexiglass on the face of a photo.
Please leave helpful info, comments and links below, Thank you.
[Film spoiler alert]
Amended March 30, 2011.
I’ve since thought about this film a good deal and have decided most of MBW’s work is largely rubbish. As for Banksy and Shepard Fairey, the work has already lost its novelty for me. Although some of MBW’s works are clever derivative pieces, like the Campbell’s soup spray paint can, they are really nothing I should have bothered to blog about at length. The film however, I grant is well-done and significant. I did feel for MBW when seeing the film and as stated below, when I saw the film that evening, I felt people’s blog comments about MBW using the village idiot metaphor were rather cruel. His manic persistence to shoot film is probably something similar to what a lot of artists struggle with; the accumulation of ideas without the capacity to bring closure to a project. [That could be another blog post for discussion… how many projects have you left undone?]
Original post on May 13, 2010:
I have been reading comments on blogs that seem to think that Thierry Guetta’s work aka “Mr. Brainwash” is a pile of crap and that Guetta is some kind of village idiot whose work is merely copy-cat art. I disagree.
I was in the afterglow of this brilliantly entertaining “mock-doc” film [one writer called it “pseudo-documentary” which I don’t believe it to be… its just too genuine to be a wholly fabricated fake, however many short-cuts and shots from other non-Guetta media may have been used.] and I wondered what to think of Guetta and his artwork as I walked around the AMC Forum in Montreal; the former stomping groups of the Montreal Canadiens, with fans abuzz by tonight’s victory. I was simply, perhaps naively, charmed by Guetta’s obsessive focus and compulsive videotaping of street artists, and his subsequent street art work and debut.
The film left me feeling more fascinated by Guetta than Banksy, I suppose since I had already seen most of the Banksy work presented in the film and understand a bit about what seems to be Banksy’s educated background. Its the very unpredictability of that makes Guetta’s life and work seems so much more raw, contemporary, streetwise and real; regardless of his derivative appropriation. He just does the work because he has to, compelled to, without apparent forethought. [I don’t need to summarize the film, you can read the links to major publications below if you want that.] And frankly, after looking at more of Guetta’s work online, some of it is really quite brilliant, in dialogue with our own contemporary vapidity; he works in sincere gullibility with an overall wink at humorous genius.
Its true that Banksy’s approach to the Guetta he befriends is something of a send up of “Mr. Brainwash”, but in the end Guetta manages to produce artwork that people want, which people feel they understand using direct pop-cultural images simple enough for the street to get and be part of. His first opening show is constructed with Wizard-of-Oz-like artifice and Guetta manages to sell a million dollars worth of work in his first show with “…tons of work.”
For those who think Guetta just works off the backs of other artists who have spent years learning their craft, I see it differently. Guetta is a genius at getting his friends/accomplices to rally around him with which to market and manipulate images, however banal some may be. He seems to know how to “con” the public enough to give them images they want. Yes, he speaks and works compulsively and comes off as a village idiot, but don’t forget that the village idiot used to be considered someone with prophetic powers. His ingenuousness and indifference to what critics think is his strength. He is an outsider making it inside, a homespun everyman scanning through his Google images as his resource.
Give Guetta some credit. He had the focus and guts to follow Shepard Fairey, and all the others around with the camera, and then befriend Banksy, winning his trust. No small achievement in itself… he spent years observing and participating in the sociological process of street art, so in a way, he has paid his dues.
MBW aka Mr. Brainwash is there, he made it, and will leave his mark. I don’t think he will go away anytime soon. Its the guilelessness of it, and if anything, in the long run, its completely ironic that the film makes Banksy and others looks like snobs and asses for making Guetta seem somewhat like the village idiot…
“Mr. Brainwash is a force of nature. He’s a phenomenon. And I don’t mean that in a good way,” Banksy says of his former assistant as he prepares for his first exhibition in Los Angeles.
Banksy says of Mr. Guetta: “Maybe it means art is a bit of a joke.” Nonetheless, Thierry Guetta already knew how to take the clothing biz and make $5000 of “designer” clothes out of a $50 bundle of leftovers. Guetta is no idiot. He is full of contradictions, attention-deficient but focused on a overall vision. Credit where its due, as a naively impressionable genius, Guetta works raw, without all the baggage of art history to weigh him down. I’m looking forward to see what he can bring forward. Wink or no wink.
Opening last night in Montreal, this heady, Miles Davis adulating exhibition, “We Want Miles” is stuffed with everything from music scores, album covers and publicity photos to paintings by Basquiat and Miles Davis, along with a monumental sculpture of Miles by Niki de Saint Phalle. The excess of information, however, is offset by the fact that the
show is free [initial I thought it was free like the previous Yoko Ono – Lennon “Imagine” exhibit at MBAM] and makes for easy repeat visits. Those who want to read each blurb detailing the progression of Miles Davis’s life and career as a musician will have a chance. The house was packed with more Montreal and international musicians than I have ever seen at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. Spirits were high, a live trumpeter played and drinks and music were flowing.
While I snapped a few photos as posted below, I thought about how the curator might manage to tie in Miles’ career as a visual artist with his music.
Let me first highlight the display on a large viewing screen of what I think is the single most beautiful sequence shown at the exhibition, where music meets visual art, ie cinema. Miles Davis plays the sound track in this clip in what some have called the “loneliest trumpet solo ever played” … or at least the loneliest in cinema.
Its a sequence in which a character played by Jeanne Moreau looks for her lover in the streets of Paris. It is shown on a large screen along the wall of the exhibit as in the photo above. Below you can see the most of the clip shown in the exhibit and hear Miles’ haunting trumpet solo as part of the film score.
And the album cover for the Miles Davis soundtrack to the film, translated: “Elevator to the Gallows”
Cinema soundtracks aside, the work of visual artists comes up to highlight its relationship to Miles process from musical to paint. Much was made in the press releases about the Basquiat pictures which were inspired by the jazz greats and in turn inspired Miles to paint or draw nearly everyday during a particular period of later in Miles’ life; making time to do so even while on tour.
Below are the Basquiat pictures that refer to Jazz:
You can read the text references to Dizzy Gilespie and Charlie Parker in the official images of the Basquiat paintings below:
The following are paintings by Miles Davis on display:
While I appreciate Miles working through his creative process, his painting is largely derivative and not as compelling as the drama of his life itself, particularly his struggles with music production, drug addiction and difficult and at times abusive relationships. His struggles with heroin simply highlighted those tragedies.
Rita was touched by this photo and the look on Miles face. The tragedy of a generation of musicians [Charlie Parker was also addicted to heroin] whose lives where devastated by heroin and other drug use. The next photo shows Miles locking himself in at his parents place and going “cold turkey” to shake the biological addiction to the drugs.
A number of instruments on display were curious items; relics of the artist:
Flugalhorn in Wikipedia
I asked Erin Davis why there was not more visual artwork by Miles on display. He said much of it was sold and is now in private collections. Much that was on display was part of the Davis estate. He did say there are lithographs held by “Bag One Arts” which is the same business that represents Yoko One and John Lennon’s work. I couldn’t find any actual images of prints online. Erin did visit the exhibition when it was in Paris. He is presently writing music for a film score and appeared to be good spirits and content with the show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art.
While I was excited about the music, photos, video interviews and objects, I did feel that the whole relationship between the actual painting and drawing and what it meant to Miles in terms of his music, and that in terms of any relationship he had with Basquiat was poorly explored. Similar links could have made with his fashion and clothing. This may have been in part a question of availability of the artwork, but it did leave me feeling that the grasp Miles had on visual art was superficial at best, though I may be wrong. In part the sheer weight of his musical genius is so difficult to counterbalance with art from other disciplines. Miles would have needed create work in the visual arts that was downright stunning not to be eclipsed by the monumental achievement of his music. In which case, perhaps writing film scores by improvisation, watching as the film passes by [somewhat in the tradition of the pianists who improvised at silent movies] is the most intimate link Miles successfully formed between visual art and music.
Please leave comments below if you have anything you have to help me understand more about Miles or other musicians who work in the visual arts, particularly in terms of a strong relationship between the two in their creative process.
Story based on interview with Erin Davis in the Winnipeg Free Press – Birth of the cool: Miles Davis feted at Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Why this discussion of proof that… “Painting is Dead”
This past Thursday I was projected onto the wall of the Edward Winkelman Gallery for the month long hashtagclass [#class] show of talks and discussions about #class and art. [See http://hashtagclass.blogspot.com ] I felt somewhat like the #ARTdaddy version of wizard of Oz, my huge smokey mug projected into the ephemeral twittersphere, as we spoke about “Social Media and the Arts.”
I said that artists need to be real, and not just tell each other “Nice work” with a smile. Be real, they are just opinions. Give opinions without personal attack, and you can still smile.
So, while talking about community, giving forthright opinions by artists and critics, I mentioned that a friend of mine, Helen F Crawford thought that Jerry Saltz believes “Painting is Dead.” I tweeted this later: http://twitter.com/markpvenema/status/10758131025 which reads:
“Jerry Saltz offered $10000 to anyone who can prove painting is dead in response to my comment that a friend said he thought so.”
So I too would like to see more proof that “Painting is dead” … I will leave the rewards to Jerry, but I will post your proofs on my twitter page of 11k plus followers and later blog about it.
More proofs then? Or opinions to the contrary…
Please post your comments:
You and I are a galaxy
teetering on the edge of time
suns nesting in spiral branches
Cygnus fidgets around the perimeter