Issue #175
Mystic Truths & Offbeat Revelations September 30, 2011

Nick Cave
Speak Louder
Buttons, wire, bugle beads, upholstery, and mannequin
Installed: 93 1/2 X 199 X 123 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY

From the Editor

Arts capacity to reveal a set of truths—or fictions for that matter—places it in a distinct position within the catchall bin we currently label ‘culture.’ Representing a space of potential, art provokes us to alter our preconceived ideas about the world by resisting easy interpretation and clear facts. If nothing else, art can problematize the very definition of the term ‘truth,’ while laying bare the processes through which truth is obfuscated, and falsities gain foothold. It would be a dubious and risky business to claim that every artwork contains an irrefutable truth; after all, art is a human endeavor, and as such is subject to the position and weaknesses of its maker. However, what it does do on a consistent basis is reveal something to us, and that ability is a place from which art can draw significant power, while posing a significant threat to the passive nature of the status quo.

Gender politics, sexual identity, West Coast Utopia and the ceaselessly rickety status of the original are just a few of the ideas the artists and writers for this issue seek to reveal. Writer S.E. Smith addresses Queer State(s), curated by Noah Simblist and David Wilburn, positioning the exhibition as a savvy look into artists’ efforts at destabilizing the preconceived truths and rigid definitions of gender and sexual identity. In Anna Craycroft’s exhibition, Drawn to Repeating Patterns, at Tracy Williams Ltd. writer and curator Sarah Demeuse finds work that reveals some critical elements of reality. From the West Coast, writer Catherine Wagley examines Sarah VanDerBeek’s city-specific exhibition at The Hammer in L.A.. The exhibition unveils VanDerBeek’s attempt at synthesizing her experience of Los Angeles and her portrayal is coolly accurate. Finally, from Houston, writer and Rice University PhD student Melissa Venator tackles ideas of failure and the cult of originality present in Seth Alverson’s current exhibition at Art Palace Gallery.* Our project space features New York artist Jani Benjamins, whose work, made from the erased pages of National Geographic magazines, breeches the uncertainties of communication and the ongoing process of interpretation. We’re also pleased to hand over @mbgETC to Houston artist Brian Piana for the month of October and hope you’ll follow him as he presents a series of changing vignettes over the course of the coming weeks.

Taped over my desk as I type this is an image of Bruce Nauman’s spiraling red and blue neon sign, The True Artist Helps The World By Revealing Mystic Truths. Let’s call it my talisman for this issue, not because it’s a truth per se, but rather that it represents a third space; one that exists outside of traditional either/or dichotomies and their militant insistence on choosing between one or the other. His phrase lies somewhere between the serious and the facetious and its ambiguity coupled with our experience is where we discover its truth. How mystic that is depends on you.

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

*In full disclosure, Art Palace Gallery represents Editor Eric Zimmerman’s work.

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Peter Briggs
Sep 30, 2011 | 8:14am

Zimmerman’s nudging of art ever more closely to religious temperament is discomforting. (I really hope that this idealist posture is not related to current political conservatism.) Art reveals nothing. It is physical residue of human behavior. It requires some person, some homo sapien, to massage her/his perceptions in some way, making some sense of what they perceive…not unlike solving myriads of other perceptions that we tend to "problematize". If works of art have any distinctiveness, it is our doing.

Eric Zimmerman
Sep 30, 2011 | 9:13am

I would agree that art is a residue of human behavior, and state clearly that it’s an endeavor subject to the makers position and weaknesses. No where did I claim that the things art reveals are, or need be, otherworldly. It reveals things about how we perceive, no? To claim that as a result art is unable to reveal anything to us beyond our materiality, represents an ultimately dim view of arts potential, one I just can’t subscribe to, regardless of how much of an idealist you want to label me.

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