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Another "Greater New York" (2000) alum: Nina Katchadourian
Nina Katchadourian at Debs & Co., New York, NY
by Tom Moody
("Author's cut" of a review originally published in Artforum, Summer 1999)
Nina Katchadourian's recent work, documented in photographs and videotapes, consists of trivial or inept "repairs" to flora and fauna, suggesting the efforts of a clueless amateur field biologist. In Renovated Mushroom (Tip-Top Tire Rubber Patch Kit) (all works 1998), the naturally occurring cracks on mushroom surfaces have been fixed with multicolored tire patches, converting the caps into ridiculous-looking polka-dotted tuffets; in Transplant, a plant's missing leaves have been replaced with membranous insect wings, restoring its symmetry but turning it into a part-animal, part-vegetable monstrosity. Combining the callous experimentation of H. G. Wells's Dr. Moreau with the suburban puttering of Martha Stewart, these projects also send up Andy Goldsworthy's intricate arrangements of rocks and leaves in arcadian settings, which use shamanistic ritual as a pretext for lush photographic set-ups.
Especially reminiscent of Goldsworthy was the "Mended Spiderweb" series, for which Katchadourian sought to restore incomplete areas of large outdoor webs (these were often not the result of any damage but simply gaps in the overall pattern left by the spiders for their own mysterious reasons). Using tweezers and glue, she introduced individual strands of starched bright red thread into a web. The resulting crisscrosses of thick red lines loosely continue the web's pattern, but the photographs make clear that what began as links between interrupted strands often took on lives of their own, seeming to float in the air as "drawings"--semi-abstract, Paul Klee-like pictograms. Mended Spiderweb #8 (Fish-Shaped Patch) really does look like a fish, and certain breaks in the web's network of strands were obviously left "unmended" so that these contours might be retained. Mended Spiderweb #19 (Laundry Line), with its glowing arc of hieroglyphics spanning two webs, features more instances of selective repair. Hovering in gossamer filaments, these thread works are a fragile pas de deux of human and natural effort, so compelling they almost don't need their tongue-in-cheek backstory of "web repair."
Whether one sees them as ironic gestures or exquisite drawings in their own right, the works in this series are tactless invasions of the spider's domain, a fact that Katchadourian readily admits in an accompanying catalogue essay. "I often caused further damage," she writes, "when the tweezers got tangled in the web or when my hands brushed up against it by accident." And while we normally don't know how nature feels about human attempts to "help" it, Katchadourian got immediate feedback. The morning after she made her first patch, she found the threads lying on the ground and realized to her surprise that the spider had pitched them out of the web during the night, like a body rejecting a transplant. This continued to happen with subsequent "repair" jobs, and she eventually succeeded in capturing the rejection process on tape. In the ten-minute video GIFT/GIFT, the viewer watches in amusement as a spider scurries around its web, removing threads as quickly as the artist inserts them. If one sees Katchadourian's project as a kind of New Age-y drawing, then the arachnids become happy collaborators in a cycle of creating and wiping the slate clean; if you take the work ironically, they're environmental "victims" who don't need the help, thanks. It all depends on how you spin it.
Above: Nina Katchadourian, Mended Spiderweb #8 (Fish-Shaped Patch) (detail), 1998, C-print, 20" X 20"
"The Elect Tribe" [mp3 removed].
A catchy Korg drum-and-bass melody interpreted in a dark, psychedelified electro fashion with enthusiastic drumming by a friend's nephew.
Still Emerging After All These Years
With MOMA/PS1's "Greater New York, the Return" we are once again faced with that slippery concept of when an artist "emerges," which leads to oddities such as Scott Grodesky emerging twice in the pages in Artforum, in 1992 and then 12 years later. Why are we faced with this issue? Because "emergence since 2000" and "working in the New York area" are the only stated themes for the show. Important, career launching exhibitions used to have core ideas, reflected in titles such as "Primary Structures," Douglas Crimp's "Pictures," and "The Intrasubjectives"--OK, the latter isn't exactly on anyone's lips but the show included the major AbEx'ers. But since all the powerhouse academics have fled the artworld after using it as a seedbed for pet sociological theories in the '80s and '90s and ultimately killing the soil, and quirky individualism at the curatorial level isn't tolerated in the US anymore for a variety of political reasons, what we get are full time functionaries working in teams, and the only thing they can all agree on is geography and the date.
Yet arguably they botched even the latter, since one could make a strong case that all of the following GNY2005 artists emerged in the '90s and not the 2000-2005 period: Michelle Segre (Elizabeth Koury project room in '93 and Roberta Smith-reviewed two-person show at Lauren Wittels in '96), Randy Wray (solo at Kagan Martos in '96), Meredith Danluck (Andrew Kreps '97), Jason Fox (Feature '99 and group shows starting in '90), Robert Melee (Kreps '98, White Columns White Room '95), Wade Guyton (Kreps project room '99--yes, this one's a squeaker). Corey McCorkle, Steve Mumford, and Sue de Beer were also showing quite a bit in the late '90s. Whether or not the artists had solos or project rooms, all of the above were in group shows and many were written about in not very obscure publications such as Artforum and the New York Times. The upshot of all this isn't that it's unfair for curators to stretch an artist's period of emergence (and I know and/or have written about many of these artists and am happy they're still emerging) but that emergence as a criterion for a major museum exhibit is stupid and should be retired.
"Greater New York" alum: Jesse Bransford
Continuing an impromptu, on and off series highlighting artists from "Greater New York" (2000), in the "subversive just-past" spirit of this press report. Above, a 2001 image by Jesse Bransford titled Hero; below, an anamorphic drawing from his show last year at Feature. In the '90s Bransford mixed Patrick Stewart, Marshall Herff Applewhite, and various Excelsior and/or Constitution-class Federation starships in with his dense layerings of medieval imagery and cabalistic diagrams, and the pop culture element was missed in the 2004 exhibit, which was technically polished and almost willfully mature. This mirror piece, however, is a tour de force: if you gotta grow up (a stretch in this culture, I know) this is the way to go.
"Greater New York 2005" to Revisit Previous Group of Artists
The Museum of Modern Art's alternative space, PS1 in Queens, announced today that "Greater New York 2005" will consist entirely of artists from the 2000 exhibition "Greater New York." "We wanted to see what all our artists were doing five years later," said PS1 director Alanna Heiss, "and frankly we're sick of this 'fresh young talent' paradigm." She says she fears that New York is "becoming like LA, where the scene is centered around artists still in grad school" and protested the "increasing infantilization trend" of the rival 2004 Whitney Biennial. At an impromptu press conference, she read the following quote from a 1987 Dan Graham essay as further justification for the Museum's somewhat unexpected and daring project:
According to [Walter] Benjamin, "progress," the 19th-century scientific and ultimately capitalist myth, is expressed in commodities, fashion goods which "produce a sense of eternal newness." This makes progress a mythical goal, never to be reached, for there is always the new and it is always superseded by the next new. For Benjamin, then, progress is actually a state of stasis. And yet it is this very stasis that makes the recovery of the just-past potentially subversive.Below, images by "Greater New York" artist Michael Phelan, then and now:
Michael Phelan, from the "Driftwood and Dried Arrangements" series shown in "Greater New York" (2000)
Michael Phelan, from the "Bears" series, to be shown in "Greater New York" (2005)
I'm wondering if there is some immutable law that the size of political demonstrations increases with the distance from the reporting country. A New York Times headline today announces that "Hundreds of Thousands of Lebanese Rally Against Syria"--apparently affirming the White House propaganda that the US slaughter of Iraqis somehow caused democracy to bust out all over the Middle East. Yet when hundreds of thousands rallied in Washington and New York against Bush's planned aggression, it was reported as "tens of thousands." Also missing from the headline, but included in the body of the article, was the fact that the week before in Lebanon, a "pro-Syrian march ... also filled the downtown with hundreds of thousands of mostly Shiite demonstrators." Yet when hundreds of thousands rallied in Washington and New York for Bush's planned aggression--oh, wait, there were no such demonstrations.
UPDATE (as I'm writing this). Since it might be less than clear from the opposed nature of the huge Lebanese demonstrations that the most recent protest is a victory for Bush, the Times just changed its headline to the more helpful "Rally Against Syria Appears to Be Largest Yet in Lebanon." O-kay.
From MTAA: PS1’s website redesign sucks
How does PS1’s web site bite? Let me count the ways… rudely.Originally from MTAA Reference Resource, ReBlogged by francis on Mar 12, 2005 at 04:02 PM, Apologetic disclaimer removed by tom.
1. Splash page (need I say more?)
2. Cheese ball flash animation announcing GNY2005 [Greater New York is a kind of Whitney Biennial for New York artists, held at PS1 in Queens, the Museum of Modern Art's "alternative space." This is the second; the first, a perceived "career launcher," took place in 2000. --tm]
3. Evil pop-up from cheese ball flash animation announcing GNY2005
4. The artist list in the stupid pop-up from the cheese ball flash animation doesn’t do anything! Yes you can rollover an artist’s name and it lights up, but a click does… nothing!
5. The exhibition section just has the stinking press release? How about some friendly copy (and larger text). PLUS, the navigation of stinking press release is too small and too confusing (the page you’re on should be highlighted not the page you’re not on, duh!).
6. Why is there a ‘press’ section when the exhibition section already has the press release? Oh, I see, so you could put a really big dumb graphic that says ‘Press, Greater New York 2005’, which clicks off to MOMA’s site.
7. At least make the friggin’ top-left logo clickable back to the homepage for chrissakes! This has been web-site navigation convention from before the turn of the century!
8. It don’t validate. (snigger, snigger) And it’s so f’d up, it would be hard to figure out where to start.
9. Change your meta-tags now! NOW! NOW! NOW! (It’s a shame to see the free and open-source Mambo put to such wicked uses.)
Ahhhh. That felt good.
More imagery lifted (or re-lifted) from http://castlezzt.net, which Michael Bell-Smith found and which Paul Slocum describes as an "amazing mile long webzine thing" with the caveat that it's "probably not good for weak of computer or slow of internet." Go experience it yourself, it definitely poses a challenge to Abe Linkoln's complex net art diagram in the browser-busting department and is chockablock with interesting found (?) and concocted (?) imagery. (And did I mention that it's also juvenile and incoherent?) Rather than trying to recreate the experience here, I've just plucked out a couple of nuggets from the original maximalist context. Some nice new animations have recently been posted.