A meticulous history of escape and vanity
I continue to be fascinated by alter egos, recently and for example Duchamp’s feminine perfume “Belle Haleine: Eau de Voilette”/“Beautiful Breath: Veil Water”, the re-photography work of American artist Sherrie Levine and continually the multiple identities staged in the photographs of Cindy Sherman; within this to extended cultural forms of identity theft and the habits of Appropriation, all of which are rooted in and central to my practice, taking on the identity, biography and feminine connotations and cultural production of the work of artists like Isa Genzken, imitating her documented nervous breakdown to devise a fictional scenario seeing her Appropriate the “lyrics” (recordings of the thoughts of the socially marginalized)  to  Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s music translating them into her complex, untidy and disquieting sculptural language, and to the filmmaker Catherine Sullivan, using a written reviews from her shows in Glasgow and New York and accompanied by a troupe of amateur actors to re-enact and remix her multi-screen film work, based on a Nigerian email scam, a trigger for plagiarism and theft, Triangle of Need, as though I were a DJ. I’m also fascinated by the complex. And evading a specific style to which I could and would always be identified with. But then I would always want to slip into something more comfortable, because I know how depleted and sometimes diminished I can get working as an artist, which I think many artists would agree with, and more so now. So this description about San Francisco is also a kind of confession about why I escape here and in general why I have punctuated my career so often with, sometimes extended, visits to this city. So I inhabit, or manifest a kind of alter ego here, indulge in and observe an array of activities and projects, and maintain a high count of diverse exhibition visits. It is, in its copious activities, an attempt for me to normalize, and in that respect, it is a kind of narcotic and a semblance of what life would be like to be someone else. I operate, ‘perform’ discretely here, but it represents a form within my practice: the opportunity to live and operate as someone else. It also has something to do with what Nicolas Bourriaud calls Artistic Delay, that makes claims about our active role, as artists, as actors in the creation, validation, representation and dissemination of our cultural outputs, and in a way being here becomes a way to Appropriate myself.

But for your consideration this is a description of the communities which form the San Francisco visual arts, an overview published in the archives of Shotgun magazine, which now forms part of the brilliantly composed online publication Art Practical: What Defines the Bay Area Visual Arts Community

To describe San Francisco will be for me a description of the very active engineers of my experiences here; most often these individuals are my friends, but nevertheless they have assisted in the ‘scripted’ narrative that that has facilitated or enabled my ‘screenplay’ here of denizen, transient, ghost, hallucination and authentic pseudonym:

David Cunningham Projects
Enter Slowly at The Lab, curated by David Cunningham features the work of European artists Anna Barham, Cath Campbell, Maud Cotter, Laura Gannon, Alexandra Navratil, and Linda Quinlan. Cunningham’s space, DCP, in Folsom Street is now closed, but during its short-lived (2007-2010) incarnation, it presented a sumptuous array of screening, performances and shows formed from Cunningham’s interest in the trajectories of vivid and immersive aesthetics bonded to conceptual variations on gender, queer and performative procedures best seen in his screenings of Kenneth Anger’s Magick Lantern Cycle, which includes the films Scorpio Rising, Invocation of My Demon Brother, and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, the psychedelic group show Jigsawmentallama, featuring Grant Worth, Sonja Nilsson, Ryan Trecartin, Jack Smith and Kalup Linzy, the video installation of selected works by Lukas Beyeler and the radical The Fall and Michael Clark themed group show, residency and performance re-enactments I Am Kurious Orange, guest curated by the independent curator and elegant operator, artist Anne Colvin. Enter Slowly for The Lab, situated in the Mission offers artists “preoccupied with the ways in which architecture, language and memory function as framing devices and filters deployed in the manipulation of perception and the construction of ‘meaning’”.

Ishan Clemenco, Afterlight and Leaving Colours Time
Clemenco’s current solo show Leaving Colours Time at Noma Gallery in Maiden Lane (a gallery sitting on a narrow street filled with expensive boutiques: Chanel, Hermès, Marc Jacobs, and YSL) is a considered, authorative, minimal installation, a hybrid inquiry on colour, sound and space: chalk lines, powdered residue and vivid colour gels evoke a process of fragile ‘instrumentation’. A former composer Clemenco lifts a sonic atmosphere onto pure iridescent surfaces, a notation on sound as architecture best seen on a transparent role with white and orange lines framing the clutter, offices, buildings and exteriors outside of this deliberate, serene mechanism. On the 8 January the gallery launched an accompanying 10 inch vinyl recording, pressed onto lurid yellow vinyl, feature two tracks: Afterlight and Untitled (typewriter) dedicated to the Danish composer and frequent Beuys collaborator Henning Christiansen and the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. Afterlight is a fragment of a cycle work using found pianos discovered in old churches, theatres and music rooms, where the instruments were found to have “atmospherically’ tuned themselves. The reverse side is a recording of an old typewriter engaged in a wordless communication. Together these works deliberate on the materials of their making and engagement: void technologies (vinyl, typewriters, clockwork film cameras and optical gels) reasserting their value, tuning themselves to the resonances (beyond the bulk and burden of the digital, simulated or saturated) of quiet seductiveness.

Karla Milosevich and Right Window Gallery
Right Window is part of a species of artist-run spaces in San Francisco and elsewhere that provides a platform for ingenuity, emergence, experimentation and assumes a flexible immediate and considered curatorial track. Occupying a space and window, to present 24 hour activities: video, performance, installations, it is run, with some fervor by a group of artists, curators, musicians and writers, a model in multi-tasking and self-empowerment: Dodie Bellamy, Katie Bush, Craig Goodman, Cliff Hengst, Scott Hewicker, Kevin Killian, John Koch, Cheryl Meeker, Karla Milosevich, Paula Pereira, Jocelyn Saidenburg, and Wayne Smith. I  have a particular affinity to Milosevich’s interests and forays  into the genre and phenomenon of ‘covers’ pop bands and the appeal of the pop video, the amateur video as artwork seen in her collaborative gendered alternative recreations of songs from The Fall, Scritti Politti, Kraftwerk and Siouxsie and the Banshees. The correspondence of pop and punk cultures framed by visual art DIY and DJ cultures and lo-fi aesthetics remains a tendency in my practice and one that I explored with a number of artists, including Milosevich, at my group show Heavy Influence at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop in 2009.  Meanwhile her recent series of Cyanotype videos, places video portraits of her friends and colleagues into the language of blueprints and altered chemically stimulated, photographic processes and manipulated perceptions. Screened at night they echo “another unusual characteristic of the cyanotype is its regenerative behaviour: prints that have faded due to prolonged exposure to light can often be significantly restored to their original tone by simply temporarily storing them in a dark environment.”. She uses this ‘characteristic’ and these technologies to regenerate through the screen her relationships to these individuals using the process as a restorative construct. They inhabit similar concerns to the blue-infused photography of Catherine Yass and the relationships, complexities and intricacies between the individual and a broader social, cultural map of the works of Gillian Wearing: “I’m always trying to find ways of discovering new things about people, and in the process discover more about myself.”

Christine: Green Fingers: Israel

Anne Colvin
Colvin, an Edinburgh-born US-based artist and independent curator best known for her gallery space Tart, which brought artists like Douglas Gordon, Duncan Campbell, Graham Fagen, Stephen Sutcliffe and Luke Fowler for the first time to the Bay Area, her contribution to No Soul for Sale, New York, and a sequence of events contiguous to her publication series Skank Bloc Bologna – inspired by Semina, a free-form journal published sporadically by artist Wallace Berman and his circle in California in the 1950s and 1960s – continues to push the envelope with a recent series of presentations at the Berkeley Art Museum’s L@te Friday Nights programme. Here she has presented, in a broad socially-minded circumstance, a reenactment of Jack Goldstein’s Two Fencers (1977) by Laura Glass and Keith Tsang, members of the Cal Fencing Club, The Greens, a Scritti Politti cover band with local artists Cliff Hengst, Scott Hewicker, Kota Uetsu, and Karla Milosevich, The Beast in Space—a 1980s Euro-sleaze space saga, unearthed in the basement of a condemned Bologna porn cinema and Fool Me, the voice issue of Fools in Print—a Scottish artist-run press edited by Lucy Keany and commissioned by New Media Scotland. Colvin summarizes: “I create experiences that draw on sources such as literature, music, and film. My video and photo-based work and hybrid curatorial projects explore psychological investigations in time and the deconstruction/construction of the image… Be prepared for outrageous outtakes, meditative moments, stunning sojourns, raucous rituals, earnest explorations, sonic surprises, and eccentric egos.”

Margaret Tedesco, 2nd Floor Projects
Similar to Alhena Katsof’s A. Vermin project artist and curator Tedesco presents exhibitions in a back-room in her apartment. She presents solo exhibitions and group shows accompanied by editions, prints, writing by a corresponding cultural producer. Recent shows include paintings by Bruno Fazzolari, photography by Daniel Minnick, drawing and collage by Matt Burroso and video by Nao Bustamante and editions by the likes of Larry Rinder.

SFMoMA and Yerba Buena
Currently at the Museum of Modern Art is The More Things Change which “draws from their collection to present a range of works made since 2000, offering a selective survey of the art of the last 10 years and a thematic and psychological portrait of the decade. Revealing the museum’s collection as a seismograph of shifts in contemporary culture, this continually evolving exhibition considers how the past persists in the present and how art engages with the world at large.” Collaboratively curated across the museum’s different departments, it is sequenced across themes of fragmentation, fragility, entropy, metamorphosis, and reconfiguration, its highlights include works by Rachel Harrison, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, and Pae White, elsewhere in the museum’s current survey of its 75-year histroy are gems by works by Tom Marioni, Marilyn Minter and an elegant sound piece by Bill Fontana. Across the street at Yerba Buena Centre for Arts is a show dominated by a “reversal the role of the audience from that of spectator to subject, exposing the dramatic mechanisms underlying public gatherings of people. By focusing the viewer’s attention on the characteristics and behaviors of individuals in a group environment – body language, facial expressions, attitudes, gestures and actions – the artists challenge our perceptions about participation in civic life.” Audience as Subject offers up mainly video work, the highlight being Stefan Constantinescu’s film, Troleibuzul 92 (2009), which features a man on a bus making several phone calls, which are threatening and abusive, in view of the other passengers, this fictional staged performance, entraps these passengers into an unwilling, uncomfortable “theatricalization” of a normally mundane journey. Alongside this show is an overview of Los Angeles-based Mexican artist Yoshua Okón‘s video installations which are “built on improvisational narratives created by the artist and his collaborators, mostly non-actors willing to participate in a game of social chance that may easily spiral out of control.” The best piece in this uneven show is Hipnostasis (2009), a collaboration with Raymond Pettibon which explores the subculture of old hippies and beach bums from Venice Beach in Southern California, it depicts individuals existing out-of-time, registered by 60s disillusionment, drug and alcohol dependency and a refusal or inability to function “appropriately”, these individuals sit on the rocks at the beach antagonistically anti-authoritarian, underscoring social collapse in the territory of accelerated superficiality.

I would also, finally, like to mention Jessica Silverman’s amazing space Silverman, the deft programming at Triple Base and Ratio 3, and to the writing at Stretcher and Art Practical.


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