MBG Issue #176: Have Gun Will Travel

Issue # 176

Have Gun Will Travel

October 14, 2011

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Cao Fei, Shadow Life (film still), 2011, Single channel color video with sound, 10 minutes. Courtesy of the artist and Lombard Freid Projects, NY. (detail)

from the editor

For all practical purposes I set out with this issue looking to make a series of observations regarding what’s labeled the Texas art scene. Think Darwin aboard a virtual HMS Beagle, taking notes, collecting specimens and shaping them into a coherent set of postulations whose parts evidence larger themes while providing a map for future endeavors. But alas, that ship has sailed, and sunk, many times before and with little practical effect; the grand panacea for Texas’ art world woes is an elusive if not an altogether hallucinatory species. We can easily list the basic characteristics of this beast, but when it comes to witnessing these qualities at work and in practice we’re left staring longingly into our binoculars, or are we?

Cozily nestled in the digital age I tend to think of each of Texas’ cities as parts of a whole that together represent what people think of when they hear the phrase ‘Texas art scene.’ This is not to ignore the many differences between places, only that when you put the pieces of each cities art communities together you’re presented with a dynamic and coherent picture that communicates the diversity of Texas’ art communities in a manner that is far less muddled than each city manages individually. Other places get this. A group of galleries and museums in Seattle and Portland—not even in the same state—have a full-page ad in this month’s Artforum letting us know what’s on tap for the coming season. From a practical standpoint this is beyond a clear and effective strategy.

Distances, while not an excuse for the lack of cooperation on the part of art cities, are in Texas, by and large fairly immense. With Southwest Airlines more skilled at blocking beneficial high-speed rail between Texas cities than Republican representatives legislation it takes some effort, and a car, to make the necessary pilgrimages to other places in order to see art. For a road-trip junkie this is a positive. For better or worse, it also acts as a form of preservation by maintaining regional distinctions across the state, none of which are sacrificed by seeing the bigger picture on occasion. To claim that any one region or city has a monopoly on the art world power ladder or is poised to be the lone center would be silly. Hegemony of this sort went the way of VHS, giving way to interconnectedness that while not without its problems, has certainly opened up the playing field to arts workers of all stripes.

Clear evidence can be found in each of Texas’ cities, who play host to international and local artists alike. To get you primed for that art viewing road trip our Project Space features artist Justin Boyd’s venture, Shotgun Series: Drifting Mix. Boyd presents us with the meditative view recognizable to those for whom the car window is a familiar frame through which to view the landscape. In San Antonio Artpace is currently host to Canadian duo Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, whose sound and video works receive writer Wendy Atwell’s pen. The Visual Art Center in Austin has an exceptional group of exhibitions currently on view (see the Queerstate(s) review from our last issue) and Ph.D. candidate and writer Katie Geha walks through Mika Tajima’s project with her while discussing the idea of passive refusal à la the iconic film Slacker and the detached observer embodied by the flâneur. John Sparagana actively addresses politics in his current exhibition at Bryan Miller Gallery in Houston. Writer and UT Arlington Assistant Professor Benjamin Lima finds dynamism in Sparagana’s rich pool of references that meld Kazimir Malevich and last springs protests in Tahrir Square just to name a few. Chinese artist Cao Fei’s heady Shadow Life, on view at Arthouse in Austin, is the subject of Ph.D. candidate and writer Kate Green’s thoughtful review. Finally, Hills Snyder places us squarely in the family station wagon and heads back to San Antonio for a look at Kelly O’Connor’s recent exhibition at David Shelton Gallery.

While I’m happily prone to speculation outside the rigid diktats of practicality I also like seeing things actually happen. Concrete actions (Wall Street Protests et al.) provide ballast for the fireside chats and bar side grousing over the state of affairs from which none of us is immune. This issue represents only a small sliver of the things currently happening within Texas and while not in the quantity of bigger cities, is no less diverse or engaging. Calls for stronger financial support, better programming, smooth mergers and stronger institutions are not going away, nor are they hot news. These specters haunt every art community and finding a solution to catching one is as elusive in the Lonestar state as it is anywhere else. Here’s to the continued search, and a healthy dose of hands-on doing while we’re at it.

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

Want to contribute? Fluent~Collaborative is seeking an Editorial Intern to assist in the production of …might be good. See our Opportunities section for more information.


Mika Tajima

By Katie Geha

Mika Tajima, The Architect’s Garden (installation view). Courtesy of the artist. Photo credit: Sandy Carson.

New York based artist, Mika Tajima came to Austin in September to install her exhibition The Architect’s Garden at the Visual Arts Center. I toured the gallery with her after it opened. In this interview, Tajima discusses objects and the performances they dictate, facades as modes of determination, and Richard Linklater’s iconic Austin film, Slacker.

Katie Geha [KG]: Can you discuss some of the general ideas behind this project?

Mika Tajima [MT]: When I started thinking about my installation at the Visual Arts Center, I had just come off a collaborative project with Charles Atlas and New Humans in London. I really think about that project leading into this one.

The London project investigated the politics of walking as well as film production as performance. The result of that show was the footage that we amassed over the exhibition period. So the video that is projected at the Visual Arts Center is a montage made up of the various types of walking which links it back to this show in thinking about how spaces are shaped for human interaction, motion and behavior. Because the gallery is in a University setting and nestled in-between classrooms, I wanted to think about it as a transitory space, where students are flowing in and out of or passing in front of the large windows that look into the gallery. I think about the “performance” in this space more as a type of detour, an accidental activity that was not intended. I wanted this project to be site specific so I was also thinking about refusal and the idea of the slacker as a mode of self-determined, passive refusal.

KG: It’s similar to the way people create a pathway just by continually walking through it.

MT: Yes, exactly.

KG: How do the objects in the space relate to the performative aspects of your practice? Are they backdrops? Props?

MT: The performance aspect is contingent on the visual work. They are demonstrations of what these spaces can be. It is set up like the way that an architect creates the garden or space, but allows for performative slippages. Maybe people will be sleeping under the stairwell, or kids are going to smoke pot behind the bushes. I always start with the objects as a skeleton, so that they’re shaping any kind of activity, whatever that might be—film or making music or walking through a space.

KG: So what about the objects in this space? Why scaffolding?

MT: I’m interested in the tension between the structure, the support, and the surface—what is in service of another part or what becomes secondary to the other. I was thinking about it in relation to film scenery—that there are a lot of dimensional images that create the scenery but it turns out that these are just surfaces and there is this entire architecture holding these trompe-l’oeil backdrops. Like in a Jacques Tati film, there appear to be huge buildings but when the camera pans around, you see that they are just large pictures pasted onto structures. This all led me to scaffolding—a symbol of a site in development or a temporary skin for a modern ruin: things that are half-built.

KG: What about the paintings?

MT: For the Plexiglas paintings, I was thinking about painting registering as décor, as sinking into the background, or as just another tool for the architect. In a way, they are not paintings at all, they are just shells of a painting, or, a painting encased in a clear form. I’ve installed them in a grid pattern on the wall to create the visual logic of a showroom and titled the series Furniture Art, which references Eric Satie’s Furniture Music. I was thinking about ambient music and how it sinks into the background and I liked the idea of aural décor in relation to visual or workspace décor.

I’d call this a painting show, albeit a kind of weird version of it as the objects are constantly trying to skirt this normative understanding of painting. Some of the paintings are signboards (they’re not on the wall and post information of other events or information), and these others look like paintings but they’re actually Plexiglas.

KG: You reference a lot of film in your work—Godard or Linklater. How does film relate to your sculptural practice?

MT: I like the metaphor of film and the process of making a film. The film-making process is demonstrating different possibilities of spaces and objects. The film Slacker, for instance, is defined by its use of Austin as a very specific visual backdrop, creating a new psychogeography of the city.

KG: Film is also projected onto another surface, a flat thing. And I think you might like flat things.

MT: I do, I do. I also like how there are all these things that reveal their structures. In the video, you see the backdrop but you also see the structure that holds it up. So it’s constantly revealing the surface of things.

KG: How does Slacker relate to this installation specifically?

MT: The film is really used in this installation as an idea rather than as a formal visual element. My hope is that the work in the installation is constantly presenting itself in a circuitous way; that there is never just one possibility or singular space. I was also considering the mode of the slacker as being part of the legacy of the French Situationists or the early 20th century flâneur—this idea of a passive refusal that relates to the monochrome; a major theme in the exhibition that represents another form of refusal. Maybe the monochrome is painting’s response to Slacker, which I think is really very funny.

Katie Geha is a Ph.D. candidate in art history at the University of Texas at Austin.


Cao Fei
Arthouse, Austin
Through October 30

By Kate Green

Cao Fei, Shadow Life (film still), 2011, Single channel color video with sound, 10 minutes. Courtesy of the artist and Lombard Freid Projects, NY.

In Cao Fei’s captivating new film Shadow Life, the ancient Chinese art of shadow puppetry is used to reflect on universal issues of redemption and destruction. The subtlety of this approach may initially seem like a departure from the color and spectacle of the young Chinese artist’s (b. 1978 Guangzhou, lives Beijing) previous projects. Countless international biennials have featured Cao’s dramatic photographs of Chinese youth dressed up and role-playing as anime characters (COSPlayers Series, 2004), her installations involving factory workers enacting dreams—ballerina, rock star—amidst industrial monotony (Whose Utopia, 2007), and her work with the online virtual world Second Life, through which she created an avatar and a thriving metropolis.

Cao’s recent film Shadow Life—on view this fall at Arthouse—capitalizes upon the stark rather than the spectacular. Like her earlier work it spins the everyday into the surreal and depends less on words than on images and music to create scenarios that are rooted in Asian culture and resonate far beyond. The new film clocks in at only ten minutes, but is composed of three distinct pieces that are terrific, and therefore shorter than you might wish them to be. The first piece, titled A Rock, beguiles with a folk tale about a blind man who mistakes a rock for gold, which is later offered to a bodhisattva in return for the restoration of his sight. Accompanied by a beautiful score, the story is told through inky shadows cast by highly skilled puppeteers. Though related work by Kara Walker or William Kentridge might at first come to mind, Cao’s language is distinct. The puppeteers’ hands, as well as other body parts and forms, fluidly generate beings and objects that morph into one another: an elephant becomes a bird which turns into the old man, etc. In the last frame, we see through the blind man’s eyes as he regains sight. As his pupils widen, so does the world before him.

The second piece, titled The Dictator, is set to the unmistakable and disturbing march of a German World War II song. Because of the familiar allusion, this may be the most memorable piece of the three to Western audiences. Armies of fluttering fingers become malleable masses in front of a figure who could be Hitler, or maybe Mao. This slippage is furthered at the piece’s conclusion where, perhaps heavy-handedly, Cao includes several bellicose quotes that could come from either. Regardless, the work effectively dips into the dangers of blind allegiance.

The final piece strikes a note that is hopeful, but no less profound. Titled Transmigration, a term that can refer to the philosophy of reincarnation, this work is the most visually complex. In it, forms are layered to create an enchanting landscape that, at one point, is populated by a sea of temples which disintegrate as soon as they appear. While classical Chinese music rises and falls, people become animals, forests and more. As life forms die out, others spring forth from the earth anew.

Though Western audiences might not catch all of the references in Shadow Life, viewers will no doubt find themselves sitting in the dark as I did: hoping that Cao Fei’s heady reflections on the cycles of life might continue, if only a little bit longer.

Kate Green is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in art history from the University of Texas at Austin, with a dissertation focusing on Vito Acconci’s performative work from the early 1970s. She has written art criticism for publications such as Artforum.com, ArtPapers and Modern Painters.

Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller
Artpace, San Antonio
Through December 31

By Wendy Atwell

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, I can’t remember (world turning), 2010, Telephone, iPod, 2:55 minutes. Courtesy of the artists and Luhring Augustine, New York. Photo credit: Todd Johnson.

Strange and intriguing narratives are available for the viewer to piece together at ArtPace’s Hudson Showroom. Videos and sound-based sculptures by Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller embody the eerie awareness of the unconscious working behind the scenes; the non-linear sense of time; and a brooding sense of mortality and the greater unknown.

The content does not seem to address the viewer directly but is overheard or watched, placing the viewer in the role of voyeur. Inside the maquette of a movie theater, Muriel Lake Incident (1999), the audience becomes a witness, overhearing mysterious conversations and events. Many questions arise. In Hill Climbing, what causes the walker to move with such struggle and determination? As opposed to seamless, perfected filming, the video’s roughness directs attention to the filmmaker’s presence, placing the spectator in the shoes of whoever holds the camera.

Five black vintage phones on pedestals are rigged with invisible iPods so that when the receiver is picked up, the quiet voice of (purportedly) Cardiff is describing a different dream for each phone. This feels like eavesdropping. With the rustling of sheets and the movement of the recording device, there’s an exposure and bareness to the experience. Cardiff’s low, intimate voice is hushed from sleep. She yawns as she tries to recollect her dreams, many only partially recalled. “It was a long dream,” she says, or, “there’s lots of other parts I don’t remember.” These non-linear elements feel uncannily familiar for their universal qualities. People are going to the bathroom, or are naked; Cardiff feels or witnesses embarrassment, violence and shame. In the dream In a Convent, Cardiff recalls being with “all of these women with their rules,” about how many people can sit at a table. She leaves and she comes back to discover George has hit one of the women. “George, how could you have hit her?” she says, and in her voice one can hear the emotion still raw from the dream. Next she remembers they were walking down a street and they are behind the woman he hit, and her “bum is hanging out of the dress.”

The unconscious jumbles together events and details and renders them as fresh experiences overnight. But this blending of different experiences extends beyond content into the media itself. The artists juxtapose these devices from two different centuries with poetic precision. Listening to the old black phones feels otherworldly, as if one is hearing information from some parallel world that jumps across the time-space continuum, immune to its logic. After all, in cinema the black phone is culturally fixed as a dramatic site where life-altering information gets exchanged.

In Night Canoeing (2004), projected onto a wall in the back gallery, the audience joins the two artists in a boat at night. Someone paddles while the other shines a white beam of light through the mist, illuminating flying bugs, fallen logs, moss and green grass along the shoreline. Lily pads float on murky water. The viewer hears whispered comments like “there’s people here,” and “what do you want to do?” The experience feels almost unbearable. Combined with the limited scope of vision the paddling is exhausting in its repetition. The searching light never finds a specific focus; aimlessly roaming over dead branches and pea-greenish yellow water. What are they looking for? The light illuminates the mist so that it appears as if ghost after ghost is wisping away into the night.

The canoeing may serve as a metaphor for Cardiff and Miller’s larger concerns, as their work seems to call into question what our senses allow us to take in, what we think we know. Their work makes one feel small and naïve, like the feeling of looking at the stars at night. Cardiff and Bures Miller cleverly use these fragmented sounds, images and narratives to create illusion. In contrast to the idea of a fictional narrative made from moving images or text, in their work, the sounds, images and snippets of information prompt the viewer to build one’s own narrative and meaning with the hope of revelation. Overlaying all of the paddling I thought I heard a tap-tap-tapping, like the sound of a pen writing, making meaning as a defense against the unknown.

Wendy Atwell received her M.A. in Art History and Criticism from The University of Texas at San Antonio. She is the author of The River Spectacular: Light, Color, Sound and Craft on the San Antonio River.

Kelly O'Connor
David Shelton Gallery, San Antonio
Closed October 8

By Hills Snyder

Kelly O'Connor, Launch Pad, 2011, Collage of found paper and images, 26 ½ x 41 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Erewhon is almost nowhere backwards, I’m fond of saying, and you can get there in a station wagon. Families, those complex tangles of darkness and cheer, have been doing it for decades, ever since Dad got the keys. So here we go. We’re out of the woods, stepping into the light, but are we there yet?

Seduced at an early age by four-door wanderlust via multiple trips to Disney Land, Yellowstone National Park and other points West, O’Connor launches her good natured critique of America (same thing as Utopia, right?) from recent experiments in spaces outside the frame in 2009 and 2010. From these dual expansions of her endeavor she has derived beams of light made of yarn; replicated calcification; the hexagonal structure of wasp nests; and of course, those lovely, lovely drips (nothing to do with Gorky). Post Utopia extends these experiments by bringing them back inside the frame and with multi-colored radial vectors painted directly on the numerous windows that line the space.

But the hexagons are key. They can be found in water, radiolaria, soccer balls and some geodesic domes. Start looking for them, and they’re all over the place, even where you can’t see them. Eco-inversions of “the grid” that art theorists love to talk about, they are microcosms in Post Utopia, offered as art on a tray, appetizers made with wasp nests garnered from the dusty shelves of natural history museums on eBay, each with some cavities filled with attractive little extrusions of Sculpey painted with nail polish. Eye candy easily devoured.

A few wasp nests hang upside-down from the ceiling, mimicking their original orientation. Brilliantly lit by David Shelton with floor mounted lights shooting their high-watt beams straight up, they appear as tiny versions of the World Tree, but the inversion suspends any notion of support. The trees emerge from shadowy black holes, rather than the milky ways of myth. Despite the dystopic meanings that emerge from such a reading, these cosmological vignettes are transporting.

The hexagonal grid also serves as a kind of surface in other works such as Launch Pad, an image of the NASA transporter used to move an Apollo moon rocket from assembly site to launch pad. The tessellated hex-pattern serves to flatten the perspective of the image and perhaps lighten its implied loadeven sans rocket as it is shown, the transporter weighs five and half million pounds, about the same weight as “the grid,” which may need to relax a bit and feel the curves of the planet, now that O’Connor has brought it to earth. Launch Pad can be overlooked simply because there are so many inviting images everywhere you turn, yet it’s this piece that is the way in to everything else and in its own subtle way reclaims a corner of Utopia for a future hopefully more partnered with feminine influence than this world has been for centuries.

Some works function like inset maps referencing more complex pieces. Old Faithful, for example, features Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, calling out to a lost Toto or perhaps a just as lost Judy Garland. She beseeches hopefully, her back turned to the most famous geyser in North America, seeming to miss an important signal. Colored hexes interact with the upward spray and give the image a 1950s Tomorrow Land look, as if Dr. Irwin Moon might step into the scene speaking of Our Friend The Molecule. A couple of pink and blue hexes align most cleverly with the geyser. Cut from water-stained cardboard, the stains trace the outline of Old Faithful. True to form.

But this “inset” Dorothy also calls out to other Dorothy’s across the room in the keystone work, Portrait of the artist’s room as a child. This work features the travertine terraces of Mammoth Falls in Yellowstone, which O’Connor visited as a seven-year-old. Seen in an image lifted from a vintage postcard, these calcified cliffs serve now, and not without wonder, as the primary topography of Post Utopia. Like most other works in the exhibition, this piece is populated with characters from film and television, including three more Dorothy’s. One looks into open space with Toto under her arm, nervously contented, waving to someone below, perhaps the sleep walking hallucination of herself that hovers above a cracked maelstrom of uncertainty. The third Dorothy, barely distinguishable from the landscape, knows the storm is coming.

Just up the slope, Carol Ann “they’re here” Freeling, from The Poltergeist, kneels before a spinning vortex rising out of the earth before her. It replaces the television screen familiar from the movie as the portal of entry from the other world, but no contact seems to be forthcoming. Above, Shirley Temple, the only character in the tableau that meets your gaze, bobs incongruously from a caldera, while Willy Wonka stands calmly on the lip of another, seeming to control the action like a puppet master. Or perhaps he’s just another bored bystander, blithely flying Apollo rocket drag chutes.

Or maybe it’s all just a collage. Plastic detergent bottles and cosmetic containers are littered about, but mainly eddy in the lower left corner of the composition. Here stands Veruca Salt next to a candy urn finial from the foyer of Wonka’s chocolate factory, both equated by scale and proximity to a bottle of dish soap. Clown heads top a couple of bottles too. One has an almost comedia dell’arte look while the other, a Ringling white face, is topped with some filigree, the image of a lion and a unicorn nifty-lifted from an album cover with O’Connor’s X-ACTO. But this carnivalesque suggestion offers only the slightest hint of subversion. Mostly this work is plain old fun. Notice I didn’t say just.

(And Kelly: go to Giant’s Causeway as soon as you can.)

Hills Snyder lives in San Antonio. More of his writing can be found here.

John Sparagana
Bryan Miller Gallery, Houston
Through October 22

By Benjamin Lima

John Sparagana, GD #3: Cairo, Tahrir Square Protest, Morris Louis "Unfurled Series: Beta Ro" (1959-60), Hélio Oiticica, "Metesquema" (1958), 2011, Sliced and mixed archival inkjet prints, acrylic on paper, 59 x 88 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Bryan Miller Gallery.

In John Sparagana’s recent work, photographic prints become a kind of textile: cut to ribbons, multiplied then woven back together in a shimmering, engrossing fabric. The source images are legible, but stretched out by the process creating a kind of interference in our view of the images, as though we were seeing them through a window screen, or perhaps a very thin film of water. Most of the source images depict crowds of people; four in particular show those gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as part of last spring’s protests against President Hosni Mubarak.

At Bryan Miller Gallery, two series of these works, all from this year, are on view. A group of five smaller works is generated from magazine pages that are fatigued then cut apart and reassembled on paper. Also, three larger works, identified with GD in the title, are made from sliced and reconstructed archival inkjet prints overlaid with painted (oil pastel or acrylic) quotes from Kazimir Malevich, Morris Louis and Hélio Oiticica.

The works made from magazine pages utilize a technique of fatiguing the glossy pages, generating a more matte surface, before the mixing procedure begins. In each of these pieces, most of the surface shows the results of this distressing, which yields a faded and indistinct image; but at the same time, a small section of each surface is brighter and clearer, drawing our attention to a small section of the crowd. The effect is like a camera lens focused on a selected target. In a paranoid interpretation of Untitled (Tahrir Square Crowd), we could imagine this as the point of view from operatives of the Mubarak regime conducting surveillance on persons of interest.

The works in the GD series align several types of meaning, overlaying them on one another. Two of these meanings deployed by Sparagana explore the phenomenon of multiplicity: first, the strips of image woven together like threads into cloth, and second, the individuals who swarm together in the depicted crowds. The third is less obvious but should not be neglected: the symbolic associations of the modernist paintings that Sparagana juxtaposes with the mixed photos. Malevich’s Suprematist paintings are icons of the Russian Revolution, and in particular, of the avant-garde dream of a utopian future that would entail the individual’s joyous absorption into a larger collective[1]. In fact, the photographs of the Tahrir Square crowds look like just such an instance of the people coming together in mass for a political revolution: a happier parallel to the Russia of 1917. Meanwhile, Oiticica’s Metaesquemas belonged to the Neoconcretist movement which emphasized a sense of vitality in the experience of art. Oiticica’s quadrilateral forms seem to jostle together, to pulse and move on the surface of the picture. As used by Sparagana, this kind of rippling, pulsing motion has a definite parallel to the experience of being in the midst of a great crowd of people—the delirious ecstasy of a rave or a political rally. Altogether, both of these modernist painters refer to elements of experience that closely relate to the subject matter of the source photographs.

Sparagana’s rich work allows one to dwell on both their reference to social reality—the experience of multiplicity in the events of Tahrir Square—and on their formal complexity—the integration of multiple media and kinds of surface. That richness makes their references more than mere quotations, but elements of an active, dynamic dialogue.

Benjamin Lima is assistant professor of art history at the University of Texas at Arlington.

[1] Malevich wrote: “‘Collectivism’ is one of the paths marked out on the road map which leads to the ‘world-man,’ but perhaps it is still no more than one of the necessary crossings on the main highway, restraining the millions of egos; it offers no more than an instantaneous convergence of forces, on their way to perfecting the image of ‘being’; in it each ego preserves its individual force, but if we want to attain perfection, the self must be annihilated – just as religious fanatics annihilate themselves in the face of the divine, so the modern saint must annihilate himself in the face of the ‘collective’…” Quoted in T. J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (Yale University Press, 2001), p. 226.

project space

Justin Boyd - Shotgun Series: Drifting Mix

(Please be patient. The video is approximately twenty-minutes long and will take time to load fully before playing.)

My current Artpace piece continues my exploration of the American Landscape so I thought it might be interesting to show another angle from which I have explored that topic. This footage was compiled over the years 2005-2006. My goal when shooting the video is to pair the landscape with a song. I do this while I am driving, then when I have a lot of footage paired with songs, I go into the footage and pick which songs I want to use and make a mix tape out of them. By doing this, the music provides a continuous thread while the video jumps from location to location. Hopefully ...mbg readers will enjoy a brief road trip mix tape with me.

mbgETC: Brian Piana

Brian Piana is a visual artist who largely uses the Internet as source material. He earned his MS in Visualization Sciences from Texas A&M University and his MFA in Photography/Digital Media from the University of Houston. Piana’s work has been exhibited in art spaces nationally, including at FotoFest, Lawndale Art Center in Houston, Maryland Institute College of Art and Rhizome.org. He was the Glasstire Virtual Resident for 2009, and he managed the Brooklyn Museum's 1stfans Twitter feed as the featured artist in July, 2010. Piana lives in Houston and is a Professor in Art and Visual Communication at San Jacinto College. He is also co-director of Skydive Art Space.

An extension of might be good’s project space, @mbgETC, provides artists with a chance to engage with Twitter as an online platform for intervention and experimentation. Participants are given a month for the realization of their projects and can be followed online at Twitter.com/mbgETC or in the feed located within each issues table of contents.

...mbg recommends

Jimmie Durham
The Artist’s Institute, New York
August 24, 2011 – January 15, 2012

Lost in the monthly turnover at galleries and arts institutions is often the ability to look, in an in-depth way, at a particular artist’s work. The Artist’s Institute, located in a small basement-level space in the Lower East Side provides an alternative to the art world’s trend seeking attention deficit disordered hustle and bustle. Dividing the year into two seasons, the space, directed by the amiable Anthony Huberman and affiliated with Hunter College presents a series of works by a single artist over the allotted six-months. Jimmie Durham is the current season’s offering and doesn’t disappoint. Durham’s rejection of Western ideas of understanding, linearity and logic provide starting points for a program of videos (at the time of writing) that are shrewd, joyful, humorous and steeped with a melancholy that gives them welcomed poignancy in our age of economic and political narrow-mindedness. Time, Durham and The Artist’s Institute seem to suggest, helps cultivate an open mind.

100 Notes – 100 Thoughts, dOCUMENTA (13) Publications.

100 Notes – 100 Thoughts
dOCUMENTA (13) Publications
Edited by Bettina Funcke

While dOCUMENTA (13) doesn’t officially open until June 2012, its ambitious publication project is already showing up on shelves and coffee tables around the world. The title says it all. A series of 100 paperback notebooks featuring authors ranging from Alexander Kluge to Emily Jacir & Susan Buck–Morss, dOCUMENTA (13)’s group of colorful notebooks is an extension of the exhibition’s themes and is likely to become an indispensable resource. Poet and UbuWeb founder Kenneth Goldsmith’s contribution, (Notebook no. 017) in the form of a letter to series editor Bettina Funcke, makes for a particularly enjoyable read. You’d be remiss not to pick up thisand the others that make up the initial release of seventeen ten-dollar notebooksthat collect conversations, collaborations, essays and facsimiles of artists’ notebooks. After all, who can resist a smart and good-looking publication?

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

Announcements: exhibitions

Austin Openings

something happened here
Opening Reception: Friday, October 14, 7-9pm

Champion is pleased to announce something happened here, curated by Jennie Lamensdorf. The two-person exhibition of painting, photography, and sculpture, features works by New York artists Yadir Quintana and Matthew Schenning.

Gael Stack
Holly Johnson Gallery
Opening Reception: Saturday, October 15, 6-8pm

Gael Stack's new drawings continue to explore the ephemeral nature of memory and the past's implacable hold on the present. Her work incorporates fragments of words and images, often layered over one another to create a visual language with which she has made duration visible.

Hanne Lippard
Opens Sunday, October 16

Hanne Lippard’s video Beige utilizes the simplicity of the still image and an understated narrative to explore the color beige and its context within the artist’s own life, her perception of society, and ultimately, the universe. Although the video starts by focusing on the color, it soon becomes part of a larger discussion as the artist draws upon her past life experiences.

Ragnar Kjartansson
Opens Saturday, November 5

Ragnar Kjartansson’s work ranges from the use of traditional media such as painting, drawing, and video to the explorative practice of durational performance, for which he is primarily known. Throughout his practice, the concepts of theatricality, repetition, and identity serve as ever-recurring themes as he taps into nostalgic imagery from bygone eras of theatre, television, music, and art.

Mai Yamashita and Naoto Kobayashi
Opens Monday, November 7

To produce Infinity, video art duo Yamashita and Kobayashi jogged for eight days in the pattern of an infinity sign until their footsteps inscribed the symbol in the flattened grass. Descended from artists who experiment with combinations of endurance and Land Art, such as Richard Long, Yamashita and Kobayashi employ nature as both the subject and medium of their work.

Austin on View

Art Across the Americas
Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection Library of University of Texas at Austin
Through October 30

Some of the Peruvian artists in this year's Austin exhibition will include Nelly Mayhua Mendoza, Doris Guiterrez, Emma Alcarraz Guia, Yolanda Velásquez Reinoso, Joe Marquez, Elsa Pulgar-Vidal, Cristina Duenas Pachas, and Del Nino Ladron. Nelly Mayhua Mendoza will be traveling from Peru to attend the reception. Felix Sampaio, a sculptor from Brazil will also be exhibiting and visiting Austin. Some of the local Austin artists include Catherine Small, Bill Oakey, Leslie Kell, Patricia Lyle, Paul McGuire, Dixie Rhoades, Connie Schaertl, Barbara Timko, Beverly Adams, John Bielss, Karen Burges, Beverly Cobb, Jill Alo, Lloyd Cuninngham, Tita Griesbach, Betty Jameson, Alonso Rey-Sanchez, and Marla Ripperda. Work by Marisa Boullosa, from Mexico, will also be exhibited.

Cao Fei
Through October 30

Beijing-based artist Cao Fei's practice is based in video, photography, performance, installation, and internet-based art. She explores Chinese popular culture, while focusing on youth subcultures. Shadow Life, Cao's most recent video, is an adaptation of traditional Chinese shadow puppetry. Puppeteers typically created the shadow puppets by manipulating small, two-dimensional figures cut from paper or leather behind a silk screen with rear illumination. During the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 CE), performances known as "large shadow shows" featured actors hidden behind the screen instead of puppets. The intricate hand puppets animating Shadow Life merge these traditional art forms to tell a distinctly contemporary story of modern China.

Dameon Lester, Jessica McCambly, & L. Renee Nunez
grayduck Gallery
Through October 30

Pattern Plan showcases artists Dameon Lester, Jessica McCambly, and L. Renee Nunez as they explore humankind's relationship with nature. Using repetition, negative space, and movement, these mixed media artists speak to both our detachment and captivation with the world around us.

Sarah Buckius
Through November 6

Sarah Buckius' work combines aspects of photography, video, performance, and installation, employing her body to express and explore tension, anxiety, pattern, and interpersonal relationships. Her work often uses technology to transform the solitary moving body into something infinite and remote. Buckius' video trapped inside pixels transforms the artist's moving body into a collage of innumerable animated permutations. By digitally manipulating her image and tiling herself over and over again on the screen, Buckius converts her movements into a kaleidoscope of patterns-a single moving piece part of something much larger than herself, but with no apparent progression or move toward meaning. Her actions are sharp, jerky, and robotic-creating a feeling of unease and conveying how it may feel to be reduced to being a piece of an infinite, flat, digital landscape.

Renée Lotenero
Through November 12

LA sculptor Renée Lotenero created an assignment for herself: draw one sketch per day. Lotenero has always sketched, especially during idle moments while traveling (she exhibited 204 of these small drawings at SOFA in 2009). For Three Hundred and Sixty-Five, Lotenero decided that no matter the circumstances of her day, whether she was traveling or in the studio, busy with family or work, she would create one small drawing.

Margaret Meehan
Women and Their Work
Through November 12

With images of Victoriana, pugilism, medical anomalies and barren landscapes, Margaret Meehan's work proposes a choreographed fight outside the circled square. The drawings, photographs and installations are derived from 19th c. cabinet cards. Here the innocent collide with the monstrous, evoking race, gender, and empathy for otherness. Interested in real and mythical monsters, she combines the man made with the freak of nature. Victims become aggressors and the feral becomes rarefied. White is emptied of purity and black is not in the dominion of abject mystery – instead both are transformed in a moment of spectacle filled with violence and beauty.

The Anxiety of Photography
Arthouse & Austin Museum of Art
Through December 30

Many of the works in The Anxiety of Photography reflect on the changing nature of our relationship to the materiality of images, as artists produce photographic prints from hand-painted negatives, violently collide framed pictures, arrange photographs and objects in uncanny still lives, or otherwise destabilize the photographic object. “They use the confusion that photographs can produce to create a more careful state of looking, a more open dive into pictures.”

Storied Past
Blanton Museum of Art
Through December 31

Storied Past explores the expressive and technical range of French drawing through preliminary sketches, compositional studies, figure studies, and finished drawings from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Drawn primarily from the museum's renowned Suida-Manning Collection, the exhibition includes works by Jacques Callot, François Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Théodore Rousseau, Jean-Louis Forain, and Théophile Alexandre Steinlen.

El Anatsui
Blanton Museum of Art
Through January 22, 2012

When I Last Wrote to You about Africa is a major retrospective of internationally renowned artist El Anatsui organized by the Museum for African Art in New York City. On view September 25, 2011 – January 22, 2012, the exhibition spans four decades and includes approximately 60 works drawn from public and private collections internationally.

Austin Closings

Koki Tanaka
Through October 16

Koki Tanaka's work contemplates the seemingly mundane range of choices and outcomes involved in the everyday. Examining objects and the connections they have with society, the world of art, and each other, Tanaka's work finds moments of beauty and interactivity in a landscape that seems otherwise devoid of interaction. Tanaka's piece Buckets and Balls uses combinations of ordinary objects to explore the concept of the 'decisive moment,' that instant between success and failure, popularized in the early 1950s by the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. The banality of the props - ladders, chairs, wooden planks - and the repetitive nature of the actions being staged - a yellow ball continuously tossed at a blue bucket - somehow converge in a narrative of suspense, excitement, and relief.

Mostly 2+
Domy Books
Through October 20

Mostly 2+ is exactly that. The show is mostly Jim Houser and I (Tim Kerr) plus Merrilee Challiss, Chrissy Piper and maybe, just maybe, Dan Higgs. That’s pretty much it. No esoteric statements, just friends being friends to each other. Seems like it should happen A LOT more like that. Come if you can because who knows, You might just find out something about your own self by what you might see and/or who you might talk to at the show. Will there be music? ... Well, there is ALWAYS music

San Antonio on View

Loyd Walsh and Georganne Dean
Sala Diaz
Through October 30

This project is tenth in a series of two artist exhibitions built on the idea of duplex as exemplified by the double room layout of the gallery space, which is also half of a duplex. The curator’s strategy for the Duplex Series is based on the notion of "easy does it" as noted on an index card discovered inside a tattered copy of The Joy of Cooking, which was found on the street outside the gallery. The concept as outlined on the card is to carefully select artists that will likely produce intriguing combinations, then stand back and see what happens.

Clare Little
Three Walls
Through October 30

Little spent her formative years in Las Vegas, Nevada, where the desert landscape blends into an ever changing skyline. It is a place where architectural construction/destruction mirrors the earth’s regenerative nature: decomposition and growth. This relationship between the tame and the feral has become her focus of exploration. Little strives to explore the majestic within the domestic by constructing animal imagery via construction materials, floral embellishments that recall entropy, and household furniture that reconfigure interior domestic space into fantastical woodland landscapes.

Michele Monseau
Unit B
Through November 5

elephant in the room is about reverence, melancholy, celebration, and feedback loops. The mind and the spirit come up with ways to fill empty space when any living creature is deprived of the natural feeding of its soul. Rhythm is primal, and comfort. Repetition is circular.

Chuck Ramirez
Blue Star Contemporary Art Center
Through November 6

Chuck Ramirez was an artist and designer who lived and worked in San Antonio, Texas. Ramirez, who died unexpectedly in November 2010, left a void in the contemporary art world, but also a legacy of artwork with an aesthetic both Minimal and Baroque. His large-scale photographic portraits and installations of banal objects are humorous, yet poignant, metaphors for the transient nature of consumer culture and the frailty of life.

Paul Jacoulet
San Antonio Museum of Art
Through November 6

Paul Jacoulet was the first foreigner to master printmaking in the Japanese tradition. The artist was born in France but spent most of his life in Japan. Eight Jacoulet prints showing scenes of Oceania comprise the first print rotation in the Asian Art Special Exhibitions Gallery, followed by eight prints depicting Korea.

Houston Openings

Barry Stone
Art Palace
Opening reception: October 15, 6-8pm

Darkside of the Rainbow, Barry Stone's first solo show at Art Palace, takes its title from the common practice of playing the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's Darkside of the Moon (1973) album synchronously. Just as the superimposition of film and album suggests new associations emerging from the juxtaposition of seemingly incongruous elements, so too do Stone's groupings of photographs, drawings, collage and paintings.

Houston on View

Krista Brinbaum
Box 13
Through November 5

New Growth uses artificial plants to reference the forms that living plants take around the Houston area. Inspirational forms range from the manicured to the overgrown. When Krista Brinbaum moved to Houston, she was struck by the carefully shaped plants and hedges fitting neatly inside fences or trimmed to enhance a brick wall. Meanwhile, posts and buildings in neglected areas sprout wild green hair-dos.

Lisa Choinacky
Box 13
Through November 5

All of existence can be understood as a relationship. Alan Watts posited that our physical world is a system of inseparable things where everything exists with everything else. In this system of metasystems, each relationship aggregates with many, giving form to the universe. And within this pattern, even the most seemingly disparate of elements ultimately reveal themselves to be conjoined and interwoven. Is it coincidence that the world is made up of undividable opposites? Lisa Choinacky seeks to examine how this relates to that.

Jed Foronda & Emily Link
Box 13
Through November 5

False Face High is a series of new work from Jed Foronda and Emily Link. Through installation, sculpture and 2D works, Foronda and Link articulate shared cultural apprehensions in tandem.

Monica Vidal
Box 13
Through November 5

Temple Hive is the second in Monica Vidal's series of large scale forms whose purpose is to distort the relationship between body and sculpture. The first, Tumor Hive, represented the enormous emotional impact of an excised lump of cells gone amok. Temple Hive is inspired by the idiosyncrasies of Vidal's youth as they linger into hypothetical adulthood. She was then, as she is now, obsessed with escape, for both body and mind.

Anton Ginzburg
Blaffer Art Museum
Through November 27

At the Back of the North Wind is an exhibition of new works by Anton Ginzburg, which will be open to the public from June 3 to November 27, 2011 during the 54th Venice Biennale at the Palazzo Bollani. Curated by Matthew J.W. Drutt, the exhibition has been chosen as an official participant of La Biennale di Venezia's Collateral Program. The exhibition of new works will feature a video installation that documents the artist's search for Hyperborea, a mythical northern territory. Large-scale sculptures, site-specific bas reliefs, photography, paintings, and a series of works on paper that document artist's travels and discoveries will also be displayed throughout the two floors of the palazzo.

Spirit of Modernism
Museum of Fine Arts Houston
Through January 29, 2012

The Spirit of Modernism pays tribute to the entrepreneurial spirit of businessman and art collector John R. Eckel, Jr. The friendship between John Eckel and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, lasted only five years before his untimely death in 2009. His art collection, now known as the John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation Gift, lives on at the MFAH as an enduring legacy comprising 75 examples of Modernist American painting and sculpture, photography, and contemporary arts and design. This exhibition highlights the gifts in two locations on the museum’s campus: the Beck Building (Hevrdejs Gallery) and the Law Building (Alice Pratt Brown Gallery and Garden).

Houston Closings

John Sparagana
Bryan Miller Gallery
Closing October 29

See Ben Lima's review here.

Helen Altman
Moody Gallery
Through October 15

The work featured in Half-Life includes a wall installation of torch drawings, tree paintings in acrylic on paper, moving blankets, and burnt dictionary pages that illustrate an array of animals. Also on view is a wall painting of a beaver dam with flicker flame bulbs, as well as snow globes with cast plastic forms of the World Trade Center Towers, and cast plastic goldfish in water.

Dallas on View

Aaron Parazzette
Dallas Contemporary
Through December 4

For Aaron Parazette's exhibition at Dallas Contemporary, he will exhibit a combination of new and recent paintings along with a large-scale, site-specific wall painting. Parazette employs the formula of formalist painting through text imagery. For Parazette, his work is painting meeting both the past and future abstraction.

Dallas Closings

New Variations
Talley Dunn Gallery
Through October 22

New Variations will feature art in various media, including paintings, drawings, sculpture, photographs, and installation-based work. Ranging in scale from the intimate to the monumental,the exhibition will highlight new and recent work by all of the gallery's artists.

El Paso on View

Regina Silveira
Rubin Center
Through December 10

Regina Silveira is one of the most prominent Brazilian artists working today, and is renowned for her explorations of architectural space through geometric constructs. Silveira created Gone Wild Reversed for this exhibition and states, “by using the tracks of absent animals, the reaction I want to provoke is the degree of amazement of the unexpected, which can take you to an imaginary realm... Footprints and tracks have constituted a significant part of the indexical imagery whose meaning I have been investigating over the past few years. Their accumulation particularly interests me for its allegorical potential to allude to a ‘ghost’ event that took place and left a mark.”

New York Closings

Ian Pedigo
Klaus von Nichtssangend
Through October 16

Ian Pedigo continues to make sculptures imbued with artifactual significance. This is revealed through a process of peeling layers, creating visually formal relationships and conceptual congruence. The works begin with found images and objects that are added upon, altered, and edited in a process that echoes ritualistic practices. The results are forms woven from threads of banal occurrences and everyday life; evidence lying dormant in the dross surrounding us.

Announcements: events

Texas Events

Texas Contemporary Art Fair
Texas Contemporary Art Fair, Houston, Texas
October 20-23

artMRKT Productions, a newly formed Brooklyn-based organizer of modern and contemporary art fairs, announces Houston as the host city for its inaugural Texas Contemporary art fair taking place October 20 – 23, 2011 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Texas Contemporary will present 50 contemporary art dealers from around the world, including a section showcasing special projects and pieces that focus on energy and sustainability by Texas-based artists featured in solo booths.

Fluent~Collaborative is a proud cultural partner of Texas Contemporary. For Fluent~Collaborative supporters and ...mbg readers: Click here for your complimentary one-day pass to the fair!

Austin Events

B Scene at the Blanton
Blanton Museum of Art
Friday, October 14, 6 - 10PM

Join us for B scene and celebrate the opening of El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa. Feel the Afrobeat - enjoy an evening filled with the fusion of jazz, funk, psychedelic, and African rhythms with performances by Hard Proof (9PM) and the Ephraim Owens Quartet (7PM). Mingle with friends and other art lovers and enjoy music throughout the night by el john Selector (Thievery Corporation), tours, free snacks, and a cash bar.

Jon Rafman
UT Fine Arts Building
Monday, October 24, 5–6 pm, ART 1.102

Jon Rafman, who lives and works in Montreal, often acts as a cyberspace anthropologist, performing exploratory ventures into areas of the Internet such as social media and web mapping sites. Rafman represents automated, “neutral” documentations of our world via Google Maps and conducts guided tours of Second Life, providing sociological glimpses at varied online subcultures.

Arthouse Rooftop Architecture Film Series
Wednesday, October 26, 7:30pm

Arthouse at the Jones Center presents the Texas Premiere of How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? on Wednesday, October 26 at 7:30pm. The film traces the rise of one of the world's premier architects, Norman Foster, and his unending quest to improve the quality of life through design.

Linda Connor
B. Hollyman Gallery
October 30, 5-7pm

In collaboration with Austin Center for Photography, B. Hollyman Gallery is hosting a one night exhibit and reception with ACP Icon Linda Connor on Friday, September 30. At 6pm, Connor will speak about an assortment of recent works on display in the gallery. Connor's work takes us on a journey to places near and far. For over 25 years, she has traveled to India, Mexico, Thailand, Ireland, Peru, Nepal, Egypt, Hawaii and the American Southwest, capturing the spiritual and sacred essence of people, place, custom, and landscape with her 8x10 view camera.

Talking Art with Carlos Rosales-Silva
November 2, 6pm

Talking Art is a forum for visitors to engage more deeply with Arthouse exhibitions by attending and participating in gallery talks led by exhibiting artists and other experts in contemporary art and culture. All talks are free and open to the public. Carlos Rosales-Silva is an artist living an working in Austin, Texas. He is a member of the Okay Mountain collective.

San Antonio Events

Jane Greenwood
McNay Museum of Art
Thursday, November 10, 6:30 pm

Lecture with Jane Greenwood. Educated at London's School of Arts and Crafts, Jane Greenwood moved to New York City in 1963 where she began her career as a costume designer. A professor of drama at Yale University since 1976, she has received 17 nominations for the Tony Award in costume design and was honored with the 1998 Irene Sharaff Award for Lifetime Achievement in costume design from the Theatre Development Fund.

Houston Events

24th Annual Dia De Los Muertos
Lawndale Art Center
October 17- November 6

Lawndale Art Center is pleased to present its 24th Annual Día de los Muertos programs, a celebration of the art, music and practices of Mexico. This program supports area artists and students by offering them an opportunity to show their works to diverse audiences in a museum quality setting. Over the years additional programming has been developed to educate audiences and encourage dialogue in celebration of Mexican-American heritage in our region. Día de los Muertos programs and exhibitions at Lawndale Art Center promote cultural awareness of Mexican folk art practices associated with this celebration of family, life and community.

Announcements: opportunities

Call for Artists

2012 Hunting Art Prize
Hunting Art Prize
Deadline: November 30

The Hunting Art Prize, which is sponsored by the international oil services company Hunting PLC, is a prestigious annual competition open to established artists, talented newcomers, and promising amateurs. Its $50,000 award is historically the most generous annual award in North America for painting and drawing, and has helped to build the reputations, raise the profiles, and support the careers of distinguished artists.

Art City Austin
Austin Art Alliance
Deadline: November 7

All applications must be submitted via our online application system at www.zapplication.org. New users to ZAPP must complete the free ZAPP registration. Once logged in, search for Art City Austin 2012 under "participating shows." All applications must be completed with $35 jury fee paid in full by November 7, 2011. Artists must include 5 images of their work which will be uploaded and submitted here.

Fellowship Opportunities

Kress Summer Fellowship in Museum Education
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Deadline: November 1

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute offers a summer fellowship for a senior museum educator who might benefit from contact with the resources of the Clark library, as well as the diverse international community of Clark visiting scholars. The fellowship is intended for an ambitious and imaginative educator whose project explores critically the relationship of scholarship to the public understanding of art, or who seeks to explore new avenues and innovations in museum education, understood in its broadest sense. This project could involve, for example, work on conveying the ideas of a complex thematic exhibition to a wide public; making fresh and challenging scholarship in the history of art accessible to museum-goers; investigating the underlying critical commitments of exhibitions or collections; exploring and challenging the assumptions of museum education itself. This is a six-week fellowship during July and August and comes with an office, accommodation, travel expenses, but no stipend. For more information, visit our website.

Internship Opportunities


Fluent~Collaborative is seeking an Editorial Intern for assistance with the production of our online publication, …might be good. If interested, please send a letter of interest, writing sample and a current resumé to eng@fluentcollab.org with the subject line: “Fluent Internship”. Please note that this is an unpaid internship.

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