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.
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:
This is a dilemma for “artists” behind the lines: How can we help?
I hardly have time to give my little girls enough attention and hugs during the day. We do have our own priorities, we tell ourselves.
Some of us hardly have the stomach to see the photos… but we cannot avert our eyes from suffering. We can’t just sit here and pray. [For those who do, any bit helps, don’t stop praying.] We can’t just wait until Obama comes in with guns blazing and throws down the food packages.
This is one of those “now” things.
Here is where artists have to do something we were born to do:
B e . C r e a t i v e .
We need to stretch our limitations by thinking of completely innovative and constructive solutions to create some minor and major miracles.
Below is an open forum to post to. I want your suggestions about how artists can support Haiti in this time of desperation.
Please tweet this link, facebook it, email it, so we can as many concrete and creative solutions and proposals as possible.
Feel free to make multiple posts, I will try to review tomorrow afternoon.
Be a blessing to the people of Haiti.
Pope Encourages Artists to Embrace Beauty
ArtInfo.com, November 23, 2009
Pope urges ‘quest for beauty’ as Vatican hosts artists from around world
New York Times via DallasNews.com, November 22, 2009
Pope in landmark meeting with artists in Sistine Chapel
AFP, November 21, 2009
World leading Bach pianist, Angela Hewitt, made comments.
262 Contemporary Artists Accept Invitation for Meeting with Pope in Sistine Chapel
CNS, November 6, 2009
RomeReports.com on Pope’s Art Summit
RomeReport.com video clip [1:15], November 6, 2009
Pope to meet with contemporary artists in the Sistine Chapel
Romereports.com video clip [1:48], November 6, 2009
The Pope’s Art Summit at the Vatican was on November 21st. I looked up coverage and response I could find in the press. I posted links below…. and follow-up above. This story has particular interest to me See my background and bio.], as I am passionately interested in the engagement of Art and Faith. These questions must be concrete and practical as well as academic.
The Pope’s Art Summit is not something only a well-known “leading 250 artists” could have the most to contribute to. Unfortunately, there are many voices that go relatively unheard. However, “Art” has its politicsas does the churchand my hope is that the select group of artists had something of benefit to say. I have not yet heard their responses.
Coverage by the BBC on the story [below] is superficial at best. However their mention of the work by Maurizio Cattelan, “the ninth hour” [image here below], does highlight an important point: artwork which some may perceive as offensive, may or may not mean the intention of the artist is to offend.
The artist’s intention, in my view, is neither as important nor as ultimately valuable as the dialogue that this work creates. It considers basic theological questions: Are the forces of the heavens, such as meteorites, under the control of an all-powerful God? If so, is there such a thing as divine retribution? What is the actual authority of the Pope? What is the Pope’s relationship to God?
I would be hard pressed to find any leader of the church; catholic, protestant or otherwise, not interested in having people ask these questions. Its exactly what the church should encourage to raise questions to possible answers that the spiritually hungry might be seeking.
If there was any question on the table at the upcoming summit that is of greatest importance, it should NOT be: “How can we create great devotional art today?” Rather it should be, “How can the great contemporary art simulate great devotion today?” I am not talking about devotion to the love of art, rather, I am suggesting devotion to the God of love, and the art of loving God.
Bill Viola to make Vatican meeting
Sept. 17, 2009
Earlier this month, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI had invited top cultural figures to the Sistine Chapel on Nov. 21, 2009, for a dialogue on the relationship between faith and art. Though theater impresario Robert Wilson, deconstructivist architect Daniel Libeskind and Bono, the pop singer, had reportedly agreed to attend, one artist who had declined was Bill Viola, whose video works are celebrated for their air of intense spirituality. Now, Viola says he has rearranged his schedule and will be at the meeting after all. “The connection between contemporary art and contemporary spirituality is an urgent and extremely important one,” Viola said in a prepared statement. “In these times of instability and conflict there is growing recognition by both secular and religious institutions that peace and understanding will not be possible without the universal language and common vision that only art can provide. Artists of all cultures and traditions have a vital role to play in envisioning this new future and inspiring the creative dialogue necessary for its success.”
Pope organises Vatican art summit
Monday, 14 September 2009
David Hannah BBC
The Pope has announced plans to hold a summit later this year with around 500 international artists.
The move is believed to be an attempt by the Vatican to mend relations with the contemporary art world.
It’s being seen as an overture by the Vatican to mend relations with the contemporary art world after Pope Benedict XVI condemned a sculpture by German artist Martin Kippenberger of a crucified green frog.
Blog Reaction to superficial BBC coverage:
Pope organises Vatican art summit – BBC gets it wrong
Bill Viola says no to the Pope
Sept. 10, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI has announced an ambitious initiative to try to restore the “special historical relationship between faith and art,” inviting 500 artists, actors, writers and musicians to a special culture summit. The soiree, described by the Catholic News Service (CNS) as “the first of many initiatives aimed at bridging the gap that has developed between spirituality and artistic expression over the last century or so,” is to take place in the Sistine Chapel, Nov. 21, 2009, beneath Michelangelo’s famous frescoes — the better to remind artists of the great art inspired by faith. The list of invited artists will not be revealed until shortly before the event, but names confirmed include U2 frontman Bono, Freedom Tower architect Daniel Libeskind, film composer Ennio Morricone and theater director Bob Wilson.
For the Vatican, this outreach effort seems not to be an academic question, but rather a recognition of the shoddy state of contemporary devotional art. At the Sept. 10 announcement of the culture summit, CNS said that Antonio Paolucci, head of the Vatican Museums, equated contemporary religious art with “bad taste.” “Nowadays,” Paolucci said, “many people live in the dreary outskirts of cities, in ugly houses. They go to church and it’s uglier still!” Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi was, if possible, even more blunt, stating that modern churches “do not offer beauty, but rather ugliness.”
One invitee who will apparently not be participating in this new Renaissance is video-art maestro Bill Viola, who CNS reports “was asked but has already said he won’t be able to attend.” According to a source at James Cohan Gallery, which represents the artist, more than just a scheduling conflict is involved. “Bill Viola doesn’t agree with many of the policies put forth by the Vatican and the Catholic Church and this is his reason for declining to participate.”
Viola would otherwise seem to be a great fit. He is currently in Europe for the opening of a solo exhibition titled “Intimate Works” at the De Pont Museum in the Netherlands, which includes such spiritual-themed works as Observance, which explicitly attempts to synthesize “the devotional painting of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.”
Pope to meet artists in Sistine Chapel
to rekindle faith-art dialogue
By Sarah Delaney, Sep-10-2009
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has invited hundreds of artists to meet with him in the Vatican in an attempt to rekindle the special historical relationship between faith and art.
More than 500 personalities from the worlds of art, theater, literature and music have been asked to gather with the pope under the legendary Michelangelo frescoes in the Sistine Chapel Nov. 21.
Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the meeting was to be the first of many initiatives aimed at bridging the gap that has developed between spirituality and artistic expression over the last century or so.
At a news conference at the Vatican Sept. 10, Archbishop Ravasi said that separation could best be seen in the art and architecture of many modern churches, which he said “do not offer beauty, but rather ugliness.”
He said the church hoped that dialogue could help artists regain the “transcendence” that once inspired the 16th-century painter and sculptor Michelangelo, his contemporaries and countless other artists of religious works over the centuries.
The guest list for the papal encounter is comprised of people who have made their mark in visual arts, architecture, literature, poetry, music and performing arts, including theater, dance, cinema and television.
Most of the list will be disclosed shortly before the event, but a few names of the invited were mentioned at the news conference: Italian film score composer Ennio Morricone, avant-garde theater director Bob Wilson, architect Daniel Libeskind, and Bono, the lead singer of the group U2. American video artist Bill Viola was asked but has already said he won’t be able to attend.
Archbishop Ravasi said the meeting was conceived as a continuation of earlier papal rapprochements with contemporary culture. Forty-five years ago Pope Paul VI had a similar encounter with artists in the Sistine Chapel and some years later opened the Collection of Modern Religious Art within the Vatican Museums complex. And ten years ago Pope John Paul II wrote his “Letter to Artists,” in which he complimented their work and urged a greater cooperation between the church and the arts.
Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, said at the news conference that contemporary religious art has been diminished by “bad taste.” In medieval times, he said, the faithful lived poor and colorless lives, but found brilliant colors and “a glimpse of heaven” by going to churches filled with wonderful works of art.
“Nowadays,” he said, “many people live in the dreary outskirts of cities, in ugly houses. They go to church and it’s uglier still!”
Paolucci said that throughout history the Catholic Church had taken great risks in its patronage of new forms of art, and that the art inspired by the Christian faith had produced much of the world’s greatest art.
Over the last century, however, artistic excellence and faith have separated and it’s the job of people of culture to try to mend the rift, he said. The church, he said, must show the courage it showed in the past in confronting contemporary art.
Archbishop Ravasi said that choosing the artists for the Vatican event was the most difficult part, but that they were selected on the basis of their reputation and awards they had received. The day before meeting with the pope in the Sistine Chapel, the artists will get a special tour of the contemporary art collection at the Vatican Museums.