From the Editor

by Claire Ruud

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      Stephen Vitiello, First Vertical, 2008

      Graphic score, ink jet, 11 x 17 inches

      Courtesy The Project

      During a short visit to Houston last week, I stopped by CAMH to see curator Toby Kamps’s exhibition, The Old, Weird America, and then popped over to DiverseWorks to visit artist Stephen Vitiello’s installation, Four Color Sound. I was hoping a visit to The Old, Weird America would provide insight into Kamps’s conceptual framework for the exhibition—an exploration of American folk aesthetics and American history in contemporary art. As Scott Webel points out in his review in this issue, the premise of the exhibition depends upon an artificial separation between “contemporary” and “folk.” What criteria, I wanted to know, does Kamps use to distinguish between “contemporary artists exploring folk” and “contemporary folk artists.” Disappointingly, after visiting the exhibition, I've come to the conclusion that Kamps has somewhat complacently accepted the art market’s designations for “contemporary” and “folk” artists. Most of the artists included in the show are represented by important galleries and discussed in the pages of popular contemporary art publications. In other words, Kamps’s exhibition is rather predictable.

      Despite a lack of discussion of the issues raised by the exhibition’s premise in either the wall text or the exhibition brochure, The Old, Weird America is worth seeing on account of one brilliant curatorial decision: on either side of the entrance to the gallery, Kamps built two darkened rooms, one of which exhibits Kara Walker’s video, 8 Possible Beginnings or: The Creation of African-America, A Moving Picture by Kara E. Walker (2005), and the other of which shows Jeremy Blake’s Winchester (2002). Walker’s shadow puppets, through which she tells dark narratives about slaves, masters, sex and violence, are not only dreadfully compelling in and of themselves, but also primed me to apprehend ghostly silhouettes and conjure up perverse histories within Blake’s digital animation. In his review, Scott evokes these and other apparitions that haunt—to use his term—the exhibition.

      Haunting seems to be a recurring theme this week. At DiverseWorks, Stephen Vitiello’s Four Color Sound, which closes tomorrow, enveloped a large gallery in smoky, colored light, and surround-sound. Created by ten speakers evenly distributed around all four walls, the sound invited cirucumambulation or motionless meditation along the central axis of the room. Vitiello described the effect to me as that of a haunting: “I like the idea of creating a sound mix in the space so that the sound can haunt the room. I do a lot of location recordings and those sounds then haunt me a bit. I lie in bed and still hear frogs or birds or people even after I've left the original location.” If you can’t make it to DiverseWorks tomorrow, you can listen to excerpts of Vitiello’s other work online. Don’t miss, of course, the NPR piece on the recordings he made of the World Trade Center in 1999, but my personal favorites are Listening to Donald Judd, made in Marfa in 2002, and Cinematic with Crashing Roof, presented at the Kitchen in 2004.

      Here at Fluent~Collaborative, we are haunted by our own ghost, as testsite 08.3, a collaboration between Cliff Hengst and Larry Rinder, takes shape within our walls. Cliff is in the midst of creating a site-specific installation that invokes the spectre of Denton Welch, an early 20th century English writer whose journals and novels provided one fulcrum for the collaboration.

      Looking ahead, our next issue of ...might be good will include an interview with artist duo Mauricio Dias and Walter Riedweg, who are currently featured in a solo show at Kunstneres Hus in Oslo, as well as a review of BankART’s recent project, Get across Route 16!, in Yokohama. Closer to home, the issue will also feature an interview with Max Neuhaus, who recently created a new sound work, Sound Line, in conjunction with his solo exhibition at the Menil Collection and a review of Francesca Gabbiani at lora reynolds, which opens this weekend and promises to be stunning.

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