Issue #173
Into the Great Wide Open September 2, 2011

Shannon Ebner
Installation view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, July 15 – October 9, 2011
Photography by Brian Forrest

From the Editor

The ‘local’ has an increasing amount of cache these days. Applied to nearly everything in our lives from produce to politics, the local is, once again, the trusty antidote to Globalism-induced fatigue. Efforts at establishing a public sphere that crosses oceans and transcends boundaries of all sorts, while not a total failure, have not manifested themselves as the global Utopia oft touted by their proponents. Coupled with technology and Global Capitalism’s merciless efforts to push us ever closer together, it should come as no surprise that we look for comfort in our local communities and within familiar things. In reality, who can resist a little navel-gazing now and again?

Tunnel vision, coyly wrapped in nostalgia’s seductive blankets, is always looming just around the corner. The resulting Isolation and self-indulgence are Localism’s biggest potential drawbacks. Characteristics that, where art communities are concerned, can very quickly become realities. Parochial dangers aside, at risk is the ability to communicate across boundaries, geographic and intellectual, as well as maintaining the prowess to recognize the need to adapt, improve, and address problems within our local institutions.

No place can claim to avoid the pitfalls of Regionalism entirely; after all, art is inherently regional. By definition, the major art centers that bookend the U.S. are themselves regional places. We know what they’re up to, but they’re mostly oblivious to what’s happening outside of their own markets and the copious pages of art rag advertisements and reviews. To a degree, we all have that in common. 

The thing most worth thinking about is how we navigate these two ideas: first, active participation within our local communities, and second, an engagement with the larger ideas and realities in circulation. Heeding to translocalism’s established model, their relationship should be viewed as a symbiotic one, and represents a space in which we can make new inquiries, while avoiding the polarizing limitations that, when taken independently, Localism and Globalism represent.

With that in mind, pieces and projects from a few names familiar to our Texas readership (each ex-Texans, myself included) along with voices from our coasts, lead off our first issue back from hiatus. A new feature entitled ‘Long Reads,’ begins with an essay exploring the way Mexico City’s complex history and frenetic daily activity weave together to influence artists by independent writer and curator, Leslie Moody Castro. Throughout the coming months these longer pieces will rotate with interviews and writing from artists’. The new CEO and Director of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Dana Friis-Hansen, delves into this year’s Venice Biennale. In its global reach he finds a cacophonous mixture of nationalism, withdrawal and individualism that questions the ability of the Biennale to provide deeply thought-provoking experiences of art. Los Angeles artist Shannon Ebner’s project, and, per se and at LAXArt and The Hammer gets writer Catherine Wagley’s thoughtful attention. Ebner’s sculptural ampersand, linking solo exhibitions at each venue, locates viewers and reminds them that its locale is also part of something else. Savvy advice, regardless of place, no? Rice University PhD student Rachel Hooper gives us a look into The Spectacular Of The Vernacular, on tour from The Walker Art Center at The CAMH in Houston. The fifth summer in a row the CAMH has played host to an exhibition with the underlying themes of the ‘regional,’ ‘local,’ and ‘craft,’ these exhibitions give us something familiar presented in strikingly imaginative ways. From New York, curator and writer Sarah Demeuse takes stock of Harun Farocki’s Images Of War (at a Distance) and finds a blurring of the boundaries between war, technology and the games that place each at their center, a dissolution that ends up extending itself into the space of the installation itself. 

Our project space features Vedaland plans (so far), a project by Albany California based artist Will Rogan utilizing images created by altering magazine pages and whose title references magician Doug Henning’s transcendental meditation rooted theme park Veda Land. If Twitter hasn’t piqued your curiosity yet, our new endeavor seeks to gain your interest. Starting with this issue, Kurt Mueller, fresh off of a fruitful Artpace residency, will lead off @mbgETC, an extension of our project space that, for a month, gives an artist a chance to engage with social media via our feed: @mbgETC. You can follow these projects either on Twitter.com/mbgETC  or through …might be good itself.

You might have also noticed the larger image and format changes to our journal. Moving forward, email us anytime at info@fluentcollab.org to give us your feedback on this or any other of our new features. As Texas and the art world shakes off the cob webs from its annual summer slumber, I look to continue the pithy and thoughtful coverage of Texas’ many art communities established by my predecessors. I’m also looking to nudge the horizon ever so slightly, to look towards other places and broader ideas which, through a dialogue with, Texas has much to learn, and most certainly much to offer.

Welcome aboard.

Eric Zimmerman is an artist and Editor of …might be good.

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