EMV: Kristy, you’ve been an artist primarily working in the sculptural realm. Ever since you won the Artist Foundation Grant [correct me on the title/specifics], seems like you’ve been getting steady shows and making stronger work. Why are so many objects gilded? I know Glasstire posted a nice photograph of the gilded dog bone, but they didn’t let you explain yourself. Want to do that here?
KP: Yes, in 2007 I was the first recipient of the Chez Bernard grant for underrepresented artists. This is a grant made possible by Mr. James Lifshutz on behalf of his father Bernard Lifshutz for the Artist Foundation of San Antonio. The foundation itself is the brainchild of Betty Ward and Patricia Pratchett. You know I have to say here, that the opportunity I was provided by this group of people/artists/patrons really helped a dream come to fruition. I mean I got to have my hand in every part of making that show happen. It was pretty damn close to…here’s some money, find a place, make some work, and let us know what you need, to set it up the way you imagine it. That kind of freedom and support was something I had never experienced befor. It was empowering. I would encourage any artist to check out the A.F. website and learn more.
I’ve worked for the past 4 years as an assistant to art conservator, Anne Zanikos. My duties at work are primarily frame restoration and conservation of polychrome wood objects and so it was here that I was introduced to gilding. Somewhere along the way using gold leaf in my artwork became inevitable. I had seen what it could do for a surface but also, the preparation involved before an object is gilded is quite meticulous and labor intensive. This process forced me to be disciplined, and really learn the craft in order to be rewarded in the end with this beautiful glowing object. The whole tactile experience presented itself as an invitation. In contrast, using the material in my sculpture I bring my understanding of the craft but sometimes allow myself to be more free or loose in the handling…in hope for some poetry along the way. I guess it would be good to note here that gold being “arguably” one of the most precious commodities in the world really serves its purpose when using it in juxtaposition with an everyday, overlooked or forgotten object.
EMV: Being based in San Antonio, do you find it difficult to gain curatorial and critical attention outside of this South Texas sphere?
EMV: Do you consider yourself a feminist artist? What does that mean in 2008 anyway, with the porno Martha Rosler image as the catalog cover for all things documented as feminist art [WACK: Art and the Feminist Revolution]?
KP: I hope that everyone who hears this name goes and looks it up – HARMONY HAMMOND. Now that’s a feminist artist.
EMV: So, tell me about “Tiny Acts of Immeasurable Benefit” and how you came up with this new body of work.
KP: I have been thinking about making this body of work for a couple of years. After “Bitchen [Pell's art installation at Artpace in 2007],” I thought I had solved my problem of how to frame my work- kind of to work as a story teller and flesh it out with artifacts and documentation. But sometimes I just get a small idea- kind of a flash image and want to make a piece that breaks my heart- and I am interested in describing a culture of acceptance and cooperation. So, that’s what these pieces are. Sure, there is bitterness, too, but that is because we are looking at the pieces through our own eyes. We project the irony on them. They don’t point out any sort of contradiction within themselves (except for the prints). Sure, maybe I will make sort-of-narrative shows like “Bitchen” in the future…
EMV: I saw you walking around La Tuna inside a mirrored box. it’s a playful and striking piece that seems half architecture and half Dadaist costume. Why did you make this piece and how is it connected to your ongoing work?
KP: I have been interested in the re-emergence of the Islamic headscarf by second generation Americans and Europeans as a way of asserting a religious identity, especially since a lot of their moms don’t wear them. How much of it is simply rebelling against parents, a new identity, or is it the same impetus that makes teens still wear the black trenchcoat after Columbine (oooooh an arab, scary)? I know it is also a profound religious resurgence for many, but I’m sure there is a mixture going on- then I extended it to the burqa. And thought, what if I made a burqa that had the opposite effect from wearing one would in San Antonio today- one that actually made the woman wearing it become a reflection of everything- so that it fits in everywhere and everyone loves the wearer because it reflects the viewer? But i didnt make a flowing burqa because thats diadactic and not funny. So i made a box, then it looked like a disco-ball-duck-blind-confessional, so i called it “Blind for Everything.” Then it had a sort of cool wordplay, you know: blind, camouflage, another piece about how we build ourselves by making choices out of what we see (like Mick , like “Bitchen”).
EMV: How has your vision changed, if at all, since your residency at Artpace?
KP: I have made the same work since I was a kid- about how I see myself and how class and background combine with the sort of dreamy role-modeling we can create from literature, TV, magazines and religion. To me, the most typical thing an American can say is “I’m not your typical american,” to think you are not a type, to think you built yourself out of dust , to see yourself as a Horatio Alger of coolness, artistic integrity, wealth, musical tastes, fashion. I haven’t had the budget I had at Artpace so I have to put some of my more expensive projects on hold till i can save up.
I know it’s short notice, but we are toasting our late friend in front of his house in King William. Uninhibited dancing in San Antonio will never be the same.
407 Wickes. (Blue house on the right side if you’re coming from S. Alamo.)
A Man of Words
His case inspires interest
But little sympathy; it is smaller
Than at first appeared. Does the first nettle
Make any difference as what grows
Becomes a skit? Three sides enclosed,
The fourth open to a wash of the weather,
Exits and entrances, gestures theatrically meant
To punctuate like doubled-over weeds as
The garden fills up with snow?
Ah, but this would have been another, quite other
Entertainment, not the metallic taste
In my mouth as I look away, density black as gunpowder
In the angles where the grass writing goes on,
Rose-red in unexpected places like the pressure
Of fingers on a book suddenly snapped shut.
Those tangled versions of the truth are
Combed out, the snarls ripped out
And spread around. Behind the mask
Is still a continental appreciation
Of what is fine, rarely appears and when it does is already
Dying on the breeze that brought it to the threshold
Of speech. The story worn out from telling.
All diaries are alike, clear and cold, with
The outlook for continued cold. They are placed
Horizontal, parallel to the earth,
Like the unencumbering dead. Just time to reread this
And the past slips through your fingers, wishing you were there.
– John Ashbery (from Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror)
I saw Werner Herzog’s new movie, Encounters at the End of the World, last night. I’ll just say briefly that this is one of the funniest movies I’ve caught in a while, despite the fact that it’s a documentary about Antarctica. Herzog displays his usual keen eye, sense of levity with weighty subjects, and managed to pull off another great soundtrack (Henry Kaiser plays much of the music, and also did the underwater cinematography).
For those of you in San Anto, today is the last day it shows at the Bijou, so try to check it if you can.
There’s been some grumbling lately about the “fake fireworks” at the Olympics in Beijing. Here’s how the story goes: the people responsible for planning the fireworks developed a display that would outline 29 footprints in fireworks from Tiananmen Square to the Bird’s Nest stadium. Due to the grandiose nature of this display, no single person would be able to see it all — not even from a helicopter. So the special effects team spent a year developing a CGI version of the footprints, made to look as if a helicopter were flying along the route filming it live (including a shaky camera and digitally generated Beijing smog). This video was inserted into the “live” broadcast stream sent to TV networks worldwide, and shown within the stadium itself. No disclaimer was ammended to the video, so audiences thought they were watching “actual” fireworks. When the truth was revealed, many viewers became upset at the deception.
There are so many implications to this I don’t think I can really unpack it all here, but I’ll give it a try. To begin with, we have the notion of authenticity. This July article from the New York Times helps explain the the gap between Chinese and Western relationships with authenticity. (Most of the relevant discussion comes on the last page of the article, e.g.: “it is common practice [to] substitute copies of famous works of art in museums when the originals are unavailable.”) The fireworks actually happened, but to give an impression of the true scope of the display, some cinematic sleight-of-hand was necessary. Here’s a video someone shot of the footprints from the ground — not so impressive. The idea here was not to embellish reality, but to give viewers some sense of a reality they couldn’t fully experience. A disclaimer would in some sense rob viewers of the experience as well: perhaps ironically, the closest a viewer could get to experiencing the full display was to watch a CGI version of it thinking it was authentic. But, for a Westerner, that won’t do. If our experience of a thing must be partial in order for it to be real, so be it, even if that “reality” is only through the TV screen. We’d rather watch a video of part of the display, and then read about how it stretched across Beijing, than to see a simulation of the whole thing.
I’m sure it would be possible to go on for a few thousand more words on the ideas of authenticity that this brings to the fore (sprinkling in some appropriate snippets of Baudrillard, of course), but let’s move on. What was the point of this display? In the West, Tiananmen Square is largely associated with the Tiananmen Square Massacre, but its history is a comprised of a long string of political and military conflicts. Symbolically, it can be seen as the seat of political power in China, stretching back to the Ming Dynasty. These footprints, walking from the site of battles, protests, massacres, and Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, to the site of the Olympics, represent China’s lurching entry into the capitalist global economy.
China is stuck in a precarious position with the West: it constantly signals that it wants to engage as political equal with the US and the EU, but cannot bring itself to uphold even the inconsistently enforced standards of human rights cherished by the West. As noted in the Sky News article linked above, the architect who designed the Bird’s Nest stadium recently wrote on his blog about the Beijing Olympics:
He was directly critical of China’s ruling communist party, characterising the ceremony as “a showcase of the reincarnation of the Marxist imperialism; the ultimate paragon of an all embracing culture of fascist totalitarianism; an encyclopaedia that encompasses total defeat in intellectual spirit.”
Perhaps the Chinese relationship with authenticity is indicative of a deeper disconnect between the Chinese and Western understanding of the world. Even in its symbolization of a movement towards Western values, China has managed to offend.
UPDATE: Oh yeah, and then there’s this.
UPDATE: Man on Wire will be showing at the Bijou at Crossroads. Apparently, there is just a delay in screenings of good movies in San Antonio. Also, The McNay will be showing some awesome films this fall. I’ll keep you posted!
Thanks for sending me the photo, Beto!
I’m honored to be able to offer a recording of Crevice’s Infinity Asylum performance on this blog. This is a truly beautiful recording by one of the few groups in Texas to successfully bridge the music and art worlds. Infinity Asylum was part of an installation / performance at the Friedrich Building, a 500,000 square foot space on the east side of San Antonio, originally built to produce air conditioners. Tucked away in little nooks and crannies of the building were a number of installations (artists included: Dwayne Bohuslav, Christopher Biasiolli, Nate Cassie, Rae Culbert, and Jack Robbins). As visitors explored the space, Crevice played this “peaceful, hypnotic, cyclical music” (to quote from the original press release), which fell in and out of earshot. Many of the vocals you hear in the recording are samples of people talking about the installations, thus folding audience reaction into the performance. It was recorded on July 11, 2003.
Performers on this recording: Jeff DeCuir (guitar, processors), Jessica Barnett DeCuir (harmonica, percussion), John Navarro (theremin, processors), Bryan Stanchak (synth, bass), Stephen Reyna (guitar/e-bow).
Russia and Georgia are at war; the Olympics start; John Edwards confesses his affair; but the biggest news this week for those of us in San Anto: serrano chiles are back!
Tonight at One9Zero6 Gallery, Denver-based artist Kelly Pierce shows new prints (see below). Pierce culls imagery from his huge collection of Japanese and American comic books and magazines, manipulates them with various reproduction techniques, ending up with highly expressive prints full of pop imagery and forgotten cultural artifacts. “Hello Walls” is still showing next door at FL!GHT, and Lone Star Studios has a group show with live music. Should be a pretty decent Second Saturday.
Hey! Congrats to local artist/musician Ken Little for getting into the Texas Biennial ’09. He’s the only artist from San Antonio to be selected by the Corresponding Editor for Art In America, Michael Duncan. The other artists include: Stevie Nicks-lover Jill Pangallo, Ryah Christensen, Bill Davenport, Sasha Dela, Colin McIntyre and the coolest name on the list, Buster Graybill. It will be interesting to see how each artist takes the local Austin park landscape into consideration for their public art projects. The jury is still out on the list of Individual and Group Exhibitions for the Biennial, but we’ll keep you posted. Executive Director Xochi Solis said they pushed the deadline back to Sept. 1st.