Sunday, January 29, 2006

10 Year Reunion

News of the infamous ten year reunion has recently arrived in my in-box, and I don't think I could be any less thankful. There has been a website developed for class of '96ers to log-on, fill out a few tidbits, and potentially submit ideas for the festivities to be held at the end of the summer. So far 19 of 321 have registered, some unlikely candidates I might add, and no ideas have been tossed about so far. Which is just as well.

But two reality checks have come to mind with this recent event. The first is acknowledging that ten years has gone by. the voice of Jeremy Piven is in the back of my head from Grosse Point Blank. "TEN YEARS! MAN!" To my knowledge none of my classmates has become an assassin, and I certainly don't have a fear of pens. But that isn't quite the point. Thirty is around the corner. Forty may be soon to follow. The last ten at times have seemed like long, but in retrospect have become the cliche blink of an eye. I hate cliches.

The other reality check is a question: am I where I want to be? The answer is yes and no. The no largely hinders onjob moreso than anything else. I'm not a full time artist or professor or graphic designer and I would like to be at least one of those within the next six months! But, more to the point, ten years is the second milestone of acknowledgement, the first occurring four years ago. Back then I was reading obituaries every Thursday night, to people who were visually impaired, over a radio service at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. If you ever are or have ever been 23, with two college degrees, stuck waiting tables while living back home with your parents - as I was - the least uplifting thing to read on a weekly basis is the obituary of every person who has died within a fifty mile radius of your home. But it certainly is motivational. I began to ask myself what I wanted my obit to read when I kicked off, and I certainly did not want my last words to include "would you like fries, chips or cole slaw?"

So four years later, another college degree, married, and working in the general field of interest that I wanted to be working in all along. Am I where I want to be? No. Am I on the right track? Yes. Does my obit read how I want it to? Not yet... unless I edit it just right.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Gallery Etiquette

Over the course of the last year I have the great honor of earning much gallery experience from the employment side. It began as a graduate student, whose many tasks involved gallery assistance at the now defunct Watkins Gallery at American University. From there the interests spilled into an internship at a local gallery, which then proceeded to earning the assistant gallery director position at The Chautauqua Center for the Visual Arts, and then a return to DC where I gained a job prepping and transporting art at a local DC gallery.

Having been to many, strolling through and looking at the art, talking to the occasional person (though rare since I'd rather dialogue with the art) I do not recall ever having leaned against a wall or been so out of my mind so as to scuff the wall with a bag. But, in all of my experiences, I am beginning to feel like the only one.

Work belongs on the wall - not your ass (unless it is a performance piece or unless your ass is the work... Note: that is not if you THINK your ass is a PIECE of work; there is a difference). Certainly I am getting too precious with the asylum-like nature of the white-walled gallery. And, I of course welcome a change from the aesthetic - variety is the spice of life. But variety should never come in the form of an unintended black streak smearing across the wall. This is a distraction from the elegance of the space and the nuances of the art in the space. There is an exception. For one installation I worked on the artist was wearing crisp new pairs of designer jeans throughout the installation. One afternoon the artist complained about the walls not being pristine enough to display the work. "The walls need to be painted," Then the artist became a bit annoyed when I said it was a result of hands placed on the wall by the artist and the artist's assistants during their installation. The response was akin to a child declaring "Nuh-unh!"

The overarching consideration is respect: self-respect, respect for the space of others, respect for the work of others. The preceding example of the artist is the exception since it is well known that touch-ups will be necessary after installation. And there are areas to lean on that are perfectly acceptable, like the brick walls outside the gallery. If you are a homo-sapien then you should be proud to be one and do your ancestry and heritage proud by standing as erect as you can for as long as you can in the confines of the gallery space without feeling compelled to drag your knuckles as you pillage the walls with a Louis Vitton hand bag. And certainly do not press your foot against the wall as you lean against it as if you are the modern-day James Dean.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Munich Review

Munich is only understated when called an important film. This is not a movie and possesses little in the Hollywood term of entertainment value. By entertainment value I stress that it is not escapist. In fact, it is the most difficult movie to watch, and that is not hyperbole.

Previous Spielberg engagements dealing with World War Two and the human drama that unfolded in the time of war - Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan - certainly had violent moments. But, in those great films the violence was bracketed by spaces of calm. Violence occurred like a crescendo and violence was typically a means to an end, an act committed with potential regret rarely visible except as a reaction. This is where Munich functions differently.

For nearly three hours the audience is gripped by the dilemma of morality. The main character, Avner, played by Eric Bana, is presented with the opportunity to avenge the deaths of 11 Israeli Olympic Athletes by assassinating the Palestinian men suspected of organizing the operation. With each instance of assassination, as the five Mossad mercenaries come face to face with their targets and interact with them, a realization occurs questioning the justification of the assassination about to take place. Most often this realization is expressed through the facial expression and hesitation of the assassin. At times the realization is recognized by the person or persons to be assassinated, the first instance in Rome when the suspected Palestinian stretches out his arm to calm and potentially prevent his assassination from taking place.

The history of Israeli and Palestinian conflict is long and complex, and is certainly not covered in this film. What is covered in this film is the higher morality: the cost of revenge. This is punctuated by a closing shot on the Twin Towers. The lingering shot on the resurrected buildings serve as a reminder that the conflicts of the past are not dissimilar from the conflicts of the present, and that more appropriate measures are necessary to find resolution.

As the Chinese saying goes, "Before you set out on revenge, you first dig two graves."'

The State of Art in DC, Blogs and Criticism

This evening I listened to Kojo Nnamdi’s show on WAMU, which featured Lenny Campello and Jack Rasmussen, both of whom have functioned as
superiors in my development in very indirect ways. Jack runs the Katzen
Museum in the Katzen Arts Center at American University, for which I have
installed walls, painted parts of the gallery space, transported artwork
and hung a show. He also is the custodian of a multimedia earthwork,
America’s Grave, which I collaborated on with colleague Randall Packer.
Lenny has been the publisher of a couple of my art reviews of work at
the Watkins Gallery, AU’s former gallery space, and a critique I would
like to formally abjure on the work of Tom Flynn at Osuna last May (partly because it was poorly written, partly because my opinion has changed).

The segment discussed the gallery environment in the greater DC area and
why the art scene is not as strong as it potentially could be. Kojo even
pointed out how DC has the most concentrated population of millionaires in
the nation, yet their patronage of the art travels north to Manhattan.

Lenny mentioned the blossoming theatre scene in the area, which has become
well established in the past couple of years, and how it could point to a
trend of rising arts awareness. However, Lenny also pointed to the Post’s
diminishing coverage of area arts; the style section has reduced arts
coverage to two per month for the 100+ exhibitions occurring regularly in
the area (mixed liberally between embassies, nonprofits, alternative
spaces, established galleries and so forth).

Perhaps that will be the focus of this, intermingled with my own
particular interests. With the blossoming awareness that is occurring, as
galleries move from Georgetown to Bethesda and Dupont/14th St (easily
accessible by Metro), the strength of the theatre scene, and this call for
something, the blogosphere appears the stronghold of DC criticism, though
shady and spotty at times. The potential is there for evolution, something
of a more dedicated nature than a blog because, let’s face it, a blog is
like an email: casual. It is why the blog is also a casualty. It caters to
the web geeks but also the artist web geeks who search them out. As
Barbara Rose once said to me of a piece I was kicking around, “the only
thing worse than art about art is art that jokes about art.” Somewhere in
there is a parallel between art criticism and the blog. Still, we must
venture forth!

Hello Blog

Wonderful! I have now entered the 21st Century. The "blog" is something a number of us joked about at the Vermont Studio Center in June of 2004; something about the whinning rants of the various blog publishers on-line. To what truth that exists is beyond me. With full awareness that words like blog, vlog, wiki, facebook'd, IM'd and such are entering our lexicon at tremendous rates, I thought it best to venture forth and try this thing out. After all, I just wiki'd for the first time last week.

I believe the responsibility of this blog will be to post worth-while criticism of DC metro area "art" happenings, contemporary media, and the like. The second, responsibility may possess some relationship to my daily existence, though mundane. Certainly I will not allow it to be an opportunity to point out this "slick new CD I acquired at Best Buy today," or to state how much it "jams!" Time is too valuable and I am not that important or narcisitic... I think.

E-Mail Post Test

This post is brought to you by the amazing technology that is e-mail. It
is utterly worthless except for my pure satisfaction that I can do this.
Next... podcasting (don't hold your breath).