The Anxiety of Photography.
The Anxiety of Photography by Matthew Thompson-photography survey at the Aspen Art Museum
The pervasive use of photography by Conceptual artists—and a generation later by artists of the so-called Pictures Generation—effectively ended any debate about the validity of photography operating legitimately within the sphere of contemporary art. Photography’s undefined, in-between status—as a medium, a tool, an object, a practice or, more often than not, some combination thereof—is still however, unresolved. The Anxiety of Photography examines the growing number of artists—some of whom self-identify as photographers, others for whom photography is central to their work—who embrace photography’s plasticity, having internalized an expanded collage aesthetic and digested various ideas of appropriation. Among the artists included in this volume are Liz Deschenes, Roe Ethridge, Matt Keegan, Annette Kelm, Elad Lassry, Anthony Pearson, Sara Greenberger Rafferty, Erin Shirreff, Sara VanDerBeek and Mark Wyse.
Breyer P-Orridge, Red Chair Posed, 2008 | p 15 / 16 | Dead Flowers, ed. Lia Gangitano | Published by Participant Inc. & VOXPOPULI
"I want to be with you" I said, to which my friend replied something to the effect of, "ewwwwwwwww!" We were talking about what you might say to someone you’re really into to express your longing. My friend took issue with the word "be." He thought it sounded too bodily, as if "being with" someone was parasitic and the phrase was too close to "I want to be you," like wanting to crawl inside someone’s skin sci-fi style. I assure you this is not what I meant. I think of "being" in terms of being on the same page, the same emotional space, getting lost in the love cloud, getting physical, hanging out, you know, the BROAD definition of intimacy. Still he might have been on to something…
Today on a field trip to Powell’s, the Resource Room Committee was in search of few specific things. One of them—Dead Flowers—is an anthology of writing from various artists and curators that documents an exhibition of the same name. Curator and Director of Participant Inc., Lia Gangitano says of the exhibition, “In an effort to understand a genealogy of influences reflective of the role of the non-commercial, non-institutional space I often look at to artists who seem to have inspired, or instigated their existence.” She goes on to explain that the exhibition, which features thirteen artists, was organized around the work of actor/director Timothy Carey and was made for VOXPOPULI, an independent artist-run space in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was drawn to the book because Charles Atlas, Paul Thek, and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge are all included, and it is no secret I have massive art crushes on all of them. You might say, I want to be with them… in an intimate curatorial way.
Genesis’ chapter links back to this concept of being, in h/er essay s/he runs through the beginnings of COUM Transmissions, an artist and performance collaborative that operated from 1969–1976. Founded in Hull, Yorkshire, by Genesis, COUM’s other members included Cosey Fanni Tutti, Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, and Chris Carter, who together went on to found the pioneering industrial band Throbbing Gristle in 1976. H/er retelling of their move from commune to commune and COUM’s move towards a development of a rigorous, yet morphing set of artistic ideals is nothing short of revolutionary.
Genesis credits the beginnings of COUM’s philosophy as coming from their creative lives within two major communes: Exploding Galaxy, which was founded by David Medella in 1967, and Hoho Funhouse which followed soon after. In one passage Medella is quoted as saying, “I felt a deep dissatisfaction towards all art, all art that derives solely from one single person, and is determined by one person’s ideas and wishes.” Madella had hoped that Exploding Galaxy would usher in a flexibility in art making, community, and perhaps a dynamic new culture that could mean anything and could include anyone.
Genesis goes on to talk about h/er belief that the origins of art come from magic, first through devotion and then through illustration and then finally manifesting as commodified objects and experiences. So too does s/he describe the evolution of COUM: first as ritualistic, then as performative, and finally as an accepted art world being, in constant need of retooling and examining. The influence of the institution had changed them as much as they were changing it.
“Everything about COUM is nothing, everything about COUM is false, and everything about COUM is true.”
The collective pushed against the institution using transgression to test the boundaries of comfort. Genesis looks back at this time as important and talks about the value in constantly “redesigning” oneself. The artist uses the pronoun “we” throughout h/er essay in reference to COUM, but also to refer to h/erself. After marrying Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge in 1993, Genesis and Lady Jaye began a project to become Breyer P-Orridge, a single pandrogynous entity. They became each other and are now one.
In the final words of the beautifully stirring afterword, Gangitano quotes Genesis as saying, “the most transgressive thing right now is intimacy”. She believes it is still true, as do I. Let’s just be together!
—Kristan Kennedy, Visual Art Curator, PICA
Three books from the PICA Resource Room recently played a starring role in Keith Hennessy’s performance Crotch: (all the Joseph Beuys references in the world cannot heal the pain, regret, cruelty, betrayal or trauma…). The performance kicked off PICA’s first Symposium Bodies, Identities and Alternative Economies which spans four days and traverses tons of territory between the two pillars of art and activism.
The night of the show we got a call from Hennessy requesting three books on Beuys to “perform” , we had never thought about books as dancers, so we relished the opportunity to see them animated on stage. We selected three heavy tomes from a shelf of MANY rare Beuys books including : Joseph Beuys, Das Wirtschaftswertprinzip, published by Edition Staek - Heidelberg, 1990 , Joseph Beuys Arena- where would I have got if I had been intelligent!, published by DIA in 1994 and Joseph Beuys published by Kunstaus Zurich 1993.
The books became more than props as they were handled by the audience and called into service by Hennessy to contextualize the sculptures and assemblages on stage. Later in the show the artist performed a lecture running through 200 years of art theory in 10 minutes. He started with the triad of Plato , Hegel and Butler and somewhere in between got to Beuys all the “ich’s” and wrapped it up with Anna Halprin, John Cage, Karen Finley and the all the rest. A “map” of this lecture was scrawled out on a giant plastic tarp, now on view at PICA, along with a selection of books about performance art, radical theater, queer cinema, experimental film and political art. - KK
From artist-in residence Alex Felton’s exhibition “As the World Churns.” Kristan Kennedy’s paintings draped over chairs, Alex Felton’s foot-rests.
From artist-in residence Alex Felton’s exhibition “As the World Churns.”
By Mo Ritter, from “As the World Churns,” exhibition by Alex Felton.
By Mo Ritter, from “As the World Churns,” exhibition by Alex Felton.
From Alex Felton’s exhibition, “As The World Churns.” PICA Resource Room Residency.