Liliana Porter and The Square

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Liliana Porter The Square (1973)

During the time Liliana Porter collaborated with Luis Camnitzer they coined the phrase “arte boludo”, which translates as “dumbass art”. She said the following about it: “You pick things that mean nothing (which we know is impossible) and opt for the least mysterious elements in the world, even though in fact they end up being mysterious. Look for the most neutral, least expressive things: a little hook, a shadow, a tiny thread” (Porter in ‘An Argentine in New York: Identity Experiences’, in Katzenstein 2013). The term boludo is tongue-in-cheek, and self-deprecating. Porter uses comedy in much of her work, particularly in the miniatures. Camnitzer wrote in 2006 “‘the principal quality of a good arte boludo is the non-emission – or, at least, the minimum emission – of information. The work must have an undeniable presence, even aggressive at times, but it should not say anything” and that it “requires a formalist instinct that will help do away with the form; a conceptualism void of concept; and the skilled craftsmanship to self-erase to a carefully defined minimum” (Luis Camnitzer, ‘Hacía una Teoría del Arte Boludo’, Ramona, no.58, March 2006, p.74.)

 

The Square (1973) is a photo-etching, and the choice of that medium seems very deliberate. I had to look up the process. Photo-etching is a normal negative image that is then etched onto a metal plate. From the plate multiple copies of the image can be made using a printing press. This for me seems to speak specifically of breaking the chain of light that can be imagined in the normal production of a photograph. In a normal negative/positive print light hits an object (in this case, hand, paper, ink square), and is bounced then focussed through a lens onto light-sensitive film, making a negative through chemical interaction. Then in the darkroom, light is again passed through this negative, making an image chemically on light-sensitive paper. For me there is a consistency to this process, that imbues the final image with a kind of direct proximity to the original object, through the touch of light. It requires an element of self-delusion, but one that we all seem to do subconsciously – it’s what makes a traditional print feel “more real”, than say, a digital photograph. With Porter’s approach, a wall is placed between this transmission of light, the metal plate. For me this wall is Porters intervention in this mystical quality of the photograph. She has in essence removed the one thing that made it feel “more real”, emphasising it’s now mechanical representation. This fulfils the requirement of a “formalist instinct that will help do away with the form”. She has used form, to annihilate what is unique about the form.

 

By placing her hand in the frame Porter has also declared herself in the image. This again is demystifying in action. This is not an object that has come about in an almost alchemic way, but is the output of an artist’s hand, literally. Then we come to the squares themselves. We know that she cannot have drawn them with the hand shown, her other hand must have been involved. This then refers us out of the frame, both physically and temporarily. In doing so she brings into the experience of the image both the world beyond it, and time beyond it. No longer a magical moment in time then, these further formal decisions have again in effect taken away what is unique about “photography”. This is then inherently anti-formalist in stance.

 

Porter herself has stated her interest in what lies between the object, the representation, and the mind. I find this work starts to allow me into this space, this breaks the wall between the maker, and the object, unifying them and yet isolating them at the same time, this allows me to consider the square on many levels. The square physically overlaps the page and the hand of the artist. It must have been made – or performed perhaps – in order to have manifest, and as such takes us into the concept of the making of the object, both referencing the maker who is mainly outside of the frame, and the moments before the image was taken, both of which expand into infinite space and time with nothing to hold them there. We have escaped the representation. Further she then annihilates the magic of the medium by adopting a photo-etching process. The work is in series, with the square migrating around her hand, ending up fully drawn in her hand. It is narrative but tells no real story, only the story of a representation.

 

It is refreshing to still be able to find such layered concepts in what appears at first to be simple work. It is ultimately the most satisfying kind of work for me, not least because the square so fascinates me; I have 3 of them permanently tattooed on my arm.

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ICP/Bard Open Studio Fall 2018

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ICP/Bard Open Studio Fall 2018

Featuring art by ICP/Bard MFA students from Fall 2018 semester

Alex Remnick

Ali Deluccia

Andrea Martucci

Avijit Halder

Beverly Logan

Cheryl Mukherji

Claire Lee

Danny R. Peralta

Emily Chiavelli

Eugene Lee

Ewai

Freddie Rankin

Genevieve Fournier

Hana Zhang

Jeremy Brenner

Michael McFadden

Lauren Tauberfeld

Lily Mott

Pippa Hetherington

Ronnie Yang

Samantha Box

Tomo Morisama

Vera Saldivar de Lira

Yiming Zheng

 

Friday, December 14 ~ 6-9PM

24-20 Jackson Avenue, LIC, NYC ~ 3rd Fl

Art, snacks, wine and you.

7+G+E+M Train to Court Sq 23 St

 

Borderlens – internship for Borderlands

During June and July 2018 (summer break) I embarked on an internship for Borderlands Public Art Project (http://www.borderlands.co.za), which is an incubation project through the Africa Centre in Cape Town, South Africa (http://www.africacentre.net).

Borderlands uses artistic strategies to create encounters between segregated communities of the Cape South Peninsula. Their Youth Program over the last year has involved continual collaboration with the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Centre (http://desmondtutuhivfoundation.org.za/the-youth-centre).

Earlier this year I approached Borderlands for an internship opportunity and, together with the founders of the project, developed a concept in which we could bring what I have learned through the MFA program and combine it with their objectives using art as a catalyst for breaking barriers and building relationships between segregated areas. Later down the line, the team invited fellow MFA student, Michael McFadden, to co-host and contribute invaluably to the workshop. The organizational team of Borderlands has a strong background in performance, theater, and writing, much of their work so far has been performative—with their support we ran the first photography workshop and called it “Borderlens”. Iliso Labantu (http://www.ilisolabantu.org), a Cape Town-based photographic organization, kindly loaned us eight Canon G11 cameras, and we brought resources with us from New York (e.g. pre-treated cyanotype fabric sheets, film) and Borderlands provided necessary local resources (e.g. printing, paper, stationery, transport for the participants).

The workshop focused on creative photography and introduced visual critiquing as a tool for self-expression. With ten teenagers (13–18 years old) gathered from four vastly different demographic areas, we used the photographic medium (including digital and analog photography, photograms, zines, book-making, field trips, and visual storytelling) as a catalyst for discussion and debate in examining social obstacles and encouraging rapport among the participants.

Drawing inspiration from the artist collective Group Material from the late 1970s, we curated the material brought in by the teenagers—their photographs and ephemera—to reflect the issues around historically forced and current segregation, for a pop-up exhibition held at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation (a community center at the heart of all of the segregated communities). Family, friends, and community members were invited to the pop-up exhibition, and the participants had an opportunity to engage and talk about their experience and work.

We also drew heavily on “Photovoice”, a method essentially used in the fields of community development and public health. Whereas Photovoice is a qualitative method, we used its guidelines around photography bootcamps and ethics rather than for data analysis. The workshop was not so much skill-based as creative. We communicated to the teenagers that there is “no such thing as a bad image” and rather emphasized the story that the photo or image speaks to the individual, and as a collective—sparking a conversation in a facilitated and safe space.

Interestingly, segregation as a topic was only the tip of the iceberg. Issues around perception, gender, and education were raised. Bringing in carefully chosen research (using training I received from http://www.famsawc.org.za in 2016) together with Michael’s expertise in social work, we implemented some icebreakers and exercises that brought the group close, and very early on trust became evident. Relationships and friendships were developed. We started a Whatsapp group and the group has kept up communication, even now sending each other photos and carrying on discussions.

This said, there were some evident challenges around economic disparity and racial acuity. We invited a resident fine artist, Sally Berg, to sit in on an afternoon with the participants to give them a chance to talk through their work with an impartial adult/educator. The fact that all three adults involved were white (South African, American, and English) might have been an oversight on our behalf. Racial tension in South Africa is a sensitive progeny of Apartheid and post-Apartheid, and careful consideration around representation needs to be implemented. Although it wasn’t evident that any of the participants had a problem with it, it felt unbalanced in retrospect.

Although I have worked in the NGO sector, both as a photographer and a communication specialist, I have never had the opportunity to bring my skills together in a creative and educational way such as this workshop. It was a completely new and refreshing experience for me. Playing the role of an educationalist and facilitator was rewarding as well as thought-provoking. Something I would like to grow and nurture.

Here are some of the photos the participants took.  (For more images come and visit ICP stand at the NY Art Book Fair where there will be books on the project made by Pippa Hetherington and Michael McFadden).

 

 

A Collective Utterance

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Salome, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2015. Courtesy the artist.

A Collective Utterance
Naima Green

June 21 – August 30, 2018

Arsenal Gallery, Central Park
830 Fifth Avenue, Third Floor
New York, NY, 10029

Opening Reception: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 from 6-8pm
Artist Talk: Monday, June 25, 2018 from 6-8pm

A Collective Utterance is a solo exhibition of photographic work by the artist
Naima Green. Staged in NYC Park’s Arsenal Gallery and culled from her ongoing portrait series “Jewels from the Hinterland” (2013–present), the exhibition renders verdant alcoves and expansive greens throughout New York City, as well as select sites across the United States. With black and brown artists, writers, culture workers, and thinkers positioned centrally in each image, A Collective Utterance offers an exploration into the tender interiors of communities that populate and often buttress the creative life of a city, through the mapping of its’ outdoor spaces. 

Spanning sites such as Riverside Park, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Central Park, Green’s photographs present quiet, quotidian portraits––nuanced compositions that revel in her subjects’ subtle gestures, varied postures, and soft gazes. Documenting a community that is tight-knit yet sprawling in scope, Green’s project deeply engages with the historical and social role of the photographic portrait as a tool deployed to communicate, classify, or reinforce particular notions of subjectivity. Yet “Jewels from the Hinterland” destabilizes such structures, with photographic portraits that are as much a product of the subject’s agency, as they are of Green’s intent to portray their complexity. Through these insistently beautiful photographs, we access a kaleidoscope of consideration of what it means to find solace, comfort, and visibility within a community often relegated to the margins. 

As Green states, “A hinterland is an area beyond a city or district; by definition, it is always beyond the visible. In many ways, these photographs create an alternative present by envisioning urban green spaces as places of tenderness, beauty, and play for people of the African diaspora. I use these photographs as a way to assert and insert our presence in these landscapes. Beauty is an entry point––it might make us stop and look but it does not hold the story in its entirety. It is the first towards intervening in predominant narratives. Beauty serves as a way to create glitches and holes in preexisting frameworks of urban decay.” A project such as “Jewels from the Hinterland” takes on a particular type of urgency within the context of this sociocultural moment of seemingly interminable crisis, where the imaging of black and brown bodies is often deployed to a particular end. Whether portrayed in a mythical manner or as the sites of structural or physical trauma, black and brown bodies are ever in a state of being performed upon. But here, they are left to be. Collectively, these images attest to the tenderness and the strength, the beauty and the intricacy, that is present if only one were to spend time, and look and listen closely.

A Collective Utterance is organized by Oluremi C. Onabanjo.

 

— Towering

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It was summer. The sun was smothering and the air dry. I exited my apartment building with my camera in tow. I wasn’t really sure what I would capture this day, but I was destined to capture something. I decided to walk southbound on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Overwhelmed by the heat, I popped into the bodega just across the street to buy something cold and refreshing to drink. As I proceeded down the block, I approach the intersection at 132nd. To my left, I noticed a vacant lot surrounded by a fence with barbed blades running along the top. I found it peculiar that there was a fence with barbed blades which had nothing to protect. It was in stark contrast to everything that surrounded it. The lot was reminiscent of a prison yard with no prisoners, but maybe it’s to keep the prisoners out. The housing project buildings juxtapose the lot– towering.