Sunday, September 30, 2007

Not a Cornfield publication

A somewhat mysterious package arrived in the mail recently, addressed to someone with a name close to mine if spelled quite creatively. Upon opening the elegant package I discovered a two volume boxed set of books documenting the Lauren Bon-spearheaded Not A Cornfield project, which transformed a historic downtown tract of land in L.A. over the course of a growing cycle from May 2005 - April 2006. The two volumes extend the project in the form of an elaborate archive. One volume consists of images shot over the course of the project documenting the massive effort to turn a brownfield into an earthwork in the form of an agricultural cycle of corn planting and harvest. The aerial photography included in the collection gives a sense of the scale of this monumental project. The slightly thicker second volume is a timeline of the project and a collection of essays that contextualize the site historically and aim to position the artwork culturally. Divided into five sections that mirror the sequence of the project - brown, green, gold, blue and clear - the "text" volume navigates through the complex terrain of an ecologically-minded, politically charged site-based project in an urban context. Of particuar interest are Michael Dear's assessment of the site in the historical (non)memory of the city, Michael Ned Holte's discussion of the work in relation to other site-based projects and especially in relation to Agnes Denes' "Wheatfield: A Confrontation," and Christine Wertheim's response to the charge that the project should not be considered art. Wertheim employs Duchamp to remind us that what constitutes art after modernity is no longer a matter of categorical inclusivity or exclusivity. I think the legacy of Duchamp is an interesting lens through which to view the project, but not in exactly the way Wertheim proposes. The lasting relevance of the Duchampian readymade is the potential for an artistic project (or act or gesture) to point to the context in which we are viewing the work. The fact that Fountain was deemed too offensive for the exhibition to which it was submitted is precisely why the work had resonance. If Not A Cornfield is read in a Duchampian light, it seems less important that we think of the project as art or non-art. Rather we might focus on the context out of which the project emerged. The context of this project proposed innumerable challenges: the logistical dynamics of a project of this scale, negotiations with the city, relations with a community of activists who worked for years to get the site designated as park land, the inevitable class and racial questions that emerge when doing public projects in an urban context, and the fact that the artist is a trustee to the Annenberg Foundation. This last challenge, which Bon herself reckons with in a forthright manner in the publication, is perhaps the most curious. It is not very often that we are forced to consider the challenges of an artist who, with the help of her family foundation, can receive funding in the millions of dollars to produce a civic-minded public project. While the fact that she herself is a trustee on the board of the foundation funding the project does not diminish the project, it gives the project a very specific valence. The discussion of the question of art or non-art might be more productively directed towards this unique set of circumstances and the very particular challenges that accompany this arrangement. That is to say, the question "Can we consider a corn field art?" is less interesting than "How is this project possible here and now?" Personally, I think one of the ways for Bon to confront the challenge of her position with the foundation would have been to refuse to take authorial credit for the project. This would have allowed the project to question the relation between artistic production and authorial subjectivity.
One of the most interesting aspects of Not a Cornfield was the vast and disparate groups that Bon brought together through a programming series at the site during the run of the project. I remember an evening watching films organized by the Echo Park Film Center and then dancing to cumbias by Very Be Careful amisdt corn stalks and stunning downtown views. Maybe Bon's strength as an artist has more in common with Warhol than Duchamp: She seems to be a master at bringing interesting people together to work on a project that bears her name. Although when I asked her, at one of the symposia at the edge of the cornfield, if she felt an affinity for Warhol during the Factory years, she seemed less than pleased.


Rakett & the open archive

The Curating Degree Zero Archive arrives in Bergen, Norway. Housed in a truck developed by the organization Rakett, the archive presents books, videos, documents and other materials related to public art and critical art practices. During the next few weeks it will be parked in various locations in the city of Bergen, positioning the truck and archive to converse with given historical locations in the city. Screenings of selected videoworks and artists presentations will also take place in the truck, along with cooking actions. More information:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Archinect interviews Nils Norman

I stumbled across this interview today and it seems to illuminate some of the challenges of working between art, architecture and urban design.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Just Spaces at LACE

Just Space(s)
September 26 – November 18, 2007
LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions)
Organized by Ava Bromberg and Nicholas Brown

OPENING RECEPTION: Wednesday, September 26, 7-9pm



Everyday we confront spaces that don't work - from our neighborhoods and parks, to our prisons, pipelines and borders. In this exhibition and programming series, artists, scholars and activists reveal how these spaces function - and dysfunction - making way for thought and action to create just societies and spaces.

The projects in this exhibition reflect the renewed recognition that space matters to cutting edge activist practices and to artists and scholars whose work pursues similar goals of social justice. A spatial frame offers new insights into understanding not only how injustices are produced, but also how spatial consciousness can advance the pursuit of social justice, informing concrete claims and the practices that make these claims visible. Understanding that space - like justice - is never simply handed out or given, that both are socially produced, differentiated, experienced and contested on constantly shifting social, political, economic, and geographical terrains, means that justice - if it is to be concretely achieved, experienced, and reproduced - must be engaged on spatial as well as social terms.

By transforming LACE, in part, into an active learning environment, Just Space(s) seeks to provide visitors with tools to consider alternatives to reactionary and essentializing political discourse that tends to dominate and frame our conceptions of justice - and constrain our abilities to imagine and implement it. The exhibition presents some of the most innovative and efficacious contemporary artistic, activist, and scholarly work engaging social and spatial analyses. In addition, a library/infoshop and symposia and event series extend the scope and scale of the main exhibition. Taken in whole or in part, Just Space(s) aims not merely to show what is unjust about our world, but to inspire visitors to consider what the active production of just space(s) might look like. It asks a crucial question: How do we move from injustice to justice exactly where we stand - in our neighborhoods and our institutions, at the level of the body, the home, the street corner, the city, the region, the network, the supranational trade agreement and every space within, between, and beyond? While much theorizing about - and active experimentation with - the role and potential of a spatial justice framework remains undone, this exhibition and its public programming contribute to the articulation of a powerful concept/tool that links critical theory and ethical practice.


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Experiments in vocal poet3

Selected by a city council grant program of the current year,
it will take place in Rio de Janeiro (MAC - NiterĂ³i) and Curiti-
ba, dates to be confirmed, as an alive event, action props in
the domain of sound art that is besides many other (re)sour-
ces planning to launch the concept of mpoet3, phonetic transmissions with the use of tools ranging from simple microphones to the almighty presence of the microship, as well as sound systems of different kinds, embodying to the verbivoco utterings new audiopossibilities of understanding media. Live broadcasting antipogroms programs will be held in the presentation of the various participants, with an accent in the particular investigation character of their propositions. Achievements as radioart, sound poetry, phantastic sound architectures, visual sonority, nonsensical emissions, etc.will be played along the activities, but the very concern/contend is to what extend this supports can modify the perceptions in sinergetic proceedings.
This apparently exquisite scenary will be, of course, occupied mostly by cultural producers and searchers of the two involved brazilian centers, but also by special guests from abroad that have been doing expressive interferences in the use of really innovative and throbbing action strategies.

Alex Hamburger

more at