Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


From Rebecca Miller, Blackbird Space:

You are cordially invited to a reading and reception for the Orgasm Zine, written by Dodie Bellamy's prose workshop and designed by Rebecca Miller.

Friday, February 9, 8 p.m. Free
Dog Eared Books 900 Valencia St. (@ 20th)
San Francisco, CA 94110(415) 282-1901

Zines will be for sale.

Contributors:Dodie Bellamy, David Christensen, Drew Cushing, Judith Jordan, Kevin Killian, Anne McGuire, Rebecca Miller, Michael Nicoloff, Laura Wasserman, Emily Wilson.

Monday, February 5, 2007


Hi. It’s bittersweet to be unfinishing! My place . . . has become part of my daily routine now; I always check the blog even if I don’t contribute to it, and the whole constellation of experiences I’ve had with this show make it feel like permanent part of my life.

As Anne has pointed out, My place . . . has catalyzed new connections among people who’ve been delighted to meet each other and might not have otherwise. We’ve been communicating by any means necessary, using whatever technologies are at hand: whether face to face in the gallery and offsite; online via email and the TART Journal; by phone; by reading each others’ writings and viewing each others’ work on video or as printed images. We’ve discovered unexpected mutualities of interests, exchanged ideas, pursued lines of inquiry that took us to new places, even explored possibilities for collaboration.

Something wonderful was started here. I believe this network will continue with a life of its own, if only in the altered consciousnesses of each of us who’ve become enmeshed in the connective tendrils of Anne Colvin’s far-reaching web. I feel honored to have been one of the two people Anne chose to help germinate the piece.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Last Thursday I showed up at Mills College for a My place field trip to see Take 2: Women Revisiting Art History, a group exhibition at the Mills College Art Museum of work by nine contemporary women artists, organized by SFMoMA curator Janet Bishop. While the field trip didn’t quite pan out as planned and serendipitously turned into something else better than imagined (more about this later), the show -- up through March 15 -- was definitely worth the trek to Mills’ Oakland campus. The pieces, all from SFMoMA’s collection and Bay Area collectors, are scrupulously chosen and sensitively installed in Mills’ glorious gallery space (the skylit ceiling is a work of art in itself), and their quality is uniformly high. There’s an excellent, not too expensive ($20) catalogue of the exhibition with good reproductions.

My favorites were the two compelling videos by the English artist Sam Taylor-Wood: One’s based on a Chardin still life, the other is an updated meditation on a generic 19th C. French cafĂ© scene. You should see them if you haven’t already.

Janine Antoni’s body-based conceptual work here is almost too sensually seductive and infused with autobiographical content and personal emotion for me although some pieces (e.g. Umbilical, 2000) reflect a mischievous sense of humor and Dadaist sensibility, and possess a formal rigor and visceral imagery, that rescue them from bathos. I’m generally a fan of Antoni’s work, btw.

It was also heartening to see works by Kara Walker and Stephanie Syjuco that I had championed early on and included in exhibitions I organized. Two of the Walker black paper cutouts were in Shadow Play, 1996, at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art; Syjuco‘s wonderful Comparative Morphology prints were in LifeLike, 2001, at New Langton Arts.

Take 2 is definitely about a revisionist art history in which contemporary female artists co-opt the master’s tools to remodel and enlarge the master’s house, if not dismantle it. So it’s interesting that Janet Bishop doesn’t actually mention the word "feminism" in her otherwise informed and informative catalogue essay.

Instead, she writes:
The works in Take 2 . . . present and represent acts of aesthetic renewal; they write and rewrite art history as they engage issues as varied as self, gender, race, mortality, and religion, often with both humor and gravitas. While work that is substantially about the adaptation of existing material is hardly the purview of women alone . . . it is perhaps productive to consider this topic with regard to women, particularly in light of the disproportionately miniscule place within art history that they occupy, not to mention their anonymity within non-fine art traditions, since these situations are in turn part of the context within which they operate.

The art of elegant, eloquent circumlocution may be a pre-requisite skill for an institutional curator. Feminism is obviously still the F-word in those circles (although why at Mills?). Similarly, none of the works in this exhibition -- apart, maybe, from Taylor-Woods’ A Little Death, 2002 and Walker’s exquisitely brutal Untitled, 1998 -- are going to shock or really challenge any mainstream sensibilities. Beautiful as the exhibition is, and superb as many of the pieces included in it are, to me it’s oddly inert, lacking in vitality. That’s partly because we’ve seen most of these works exhibited before, if not contextualized in this particular way. Still, it’s a decorous display, polite, careful to avoid offense. A show like this should be an explosion!

That’s what I think. If you’ve seen Take 2, what’s your take?


PS: Janet Bishop is speaking with one of the Take 2 artists at Mills next Wednesday, Feb. 7. @ 7 pm in Danforth Lecture Hall in the Art Building. It’s free.

Sunday, February 4, 2007


Yesterday was the closing day of “Evidence”, a group exhibition at CCA’s PLAySPACE Gallery of work by Emily Green, Robin Johnston, Celia Manley, Carrie Minikel, Elizabeth Mooney, and Carly Troncale, six female second-year MFA students at CCA. These women work in a variety of mediums, producing art that (to quote the press release), “demonstrates evidence of something not physically present in the work itself, for instance a higher power, a machine, human emotion, nature's involvement, or words spoken and dissolved”. There is no feminist rhetoric or theory postulated in the language around this show, yet I couldn’t help looking at the exhibition with an eye coated by the issues that “My place…” has conjured– these artists are all female, after all. Looking at the evidentiary traces of work, movement, and thought among these pieces made me wonder whether there is something inextricably female about the sort of attention to detail that these works exemplify.

This work is largely about the leftover details of activities as mundane as cleaning the gallery floor; one work is a simple arrangement of items found in the gallery, ranging from staples to a scrap of paper that reads “back in 5 minutes” to a neatly arranged pile of swept-up dirt. These artists share in common a meticulousness, an almost obsessive quality that I find poignantly relatable– is this a girl thing? I don’t have the answer, and I’m not ready to make claims about what’s “inherently female”, but I do notice that women seem to be particularly prone to save the traces and byproducts of activities and memories– snapshots, old ID badges, Playbills, dried flowers from a special occasion. We seem to want to hold onto memories in a way that is very tactile; it is not enough to have experienced something; we want to collect little reminders of those experiences. And this is where women artists come in.

From time to time, something fairly mundane and commonplace re-hits me; one of those moments that recurs often for me is the realization that artists produce so much stuff. Making stuff is the business of art– of course, much art challenges and defies this notion, but at the base level, it’s true. The art world, if there is such a thing, revolves around stuff. That is exactly what this show seems to celebrate– the ability of artists to save and “make use” of everything. The kind of special affinity toward objects that many women artists show is, perhaps, what sets them apart from male artists. Again, I shy away from blanket statements, but these are the kind of theories that started brewing when I looked at the work in “Evidence”. In this show, the attention paid to the evidence of activities and experiences unseen and, ultimately, impossible to relay gives us a very tangible sense of who these artists are and the how they think. Process is very much unfurled and left out for us to see, and in this sense, I think feminism creeps into this show even if it wasn’t meant to; there is a kindness and an openness in these artists’ willingness not to hide anything that, I’d hope, is a female quality, if not a human quality. - Jessica Brier

Saturday, February 3, 2007


Oliver watching The One Minute Film Festival video.
Tricia and Schel reading some of Moyra's press reviews.

10 - degrees

"In the U.S. ... we could make some choices: No we don't want to live in a world with a 10-degree Fahrenheit increase."

Linda Mearns, National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

South Park

Jordan Essoe explores the links between Moyra's two books.

Patricia Maloney jots down a book reference.

Lee Pembleton asks Moyra about her life.

Sorry we missed you Beate, next time.