Artists Till Witwer and Netta Sadovsky discuss the art of creating, facilitating and executing a live action role-playing game--by artists, for artists. This isn’t your standard ogre-in-the-woods, dressing up as a knight with a sword in the middle of nowhere kind of LARP-ing, but rather a fully immersive investigation of the career-building workshop format. With alternately paralyzing, cathartic, and surprising outcomes, Witwer and Sadovsky are interested in discovering what stands between artists and “The Great Success Machine.”
Forrest Kirk is a figurative painter based in Los Angeles; as this episode releases, he has a sold-out show at Parrasch Heijnen gallery. In the Conversation, Kirk doesn’t back away from describing the pressure the art world has placed on Black creators to make “Black Art.” He also talks about his living room-studio setup; discusses collecting -- both as a collector and an artist being collected; his experience in the art world as a black man and a painter; and he lets us in on part of how he's risen to success in the art world within just four years.
Ayana Evans discusses her 7-year career as a fashion designer (between being a painter and a performance artist), her impressive endurance-based performances, being part of a community of performance artists who are all on the same playing field (unlike the hierarchical art worlds), her first experiment/performance, in which she walked around MoMA in her signature catsuit while a friend covertly filmed (mostly) white women taking pictures of her exploitatively, and her frustrations and struggles with justice for black artists and women of color at large.
Nomadic curator Kate Mothes of Young Space talks about the pros and cons of curating shows in pop-up spaces; how as a curator she's always wanted to be part of an artist's community, the bottleneck of younger artists trying to get their work out into the world, and how she's built Young Space into a major virtual gallery platform - especially on Instagram - that many galleries pay attention to, and sometimes even borrow from.
Joanne Greenbaum talks about her time in Berlin, being one of the few young artists of her time to have a full-time day job, showing up for friend’s art shows but intentionally not having an extensive art world network beyond that, being able to live off of her work, the exhausting parts of being an adjunct professor, the hellscape that is being a mid-career female artist, and her steadfast belief that not everything has been done, especially within Abstraction.
In part two, Brooklyn-based artist and activist William Powhida talks about the ivory tower syndrome that accompanies working at an ivy-league institution, his project Store-To-Own, which allows people to store his work in their home for free under contract, his exhibition After The Contemporary, which satirizes life after contemporary art, his ongoing critique of the art world and its service to and for the ultra wealthy, and the 'Dirtbag left,' which promotes left-wing politics through vulgarity and online attacks.
Brooklyn-based artist and co-host of the Explain Me podcast talks about the highs and lows of being the art world court jester (including alienating art world players along the way), what it’s like when your visibility as an artist dissipates, our various complicities in an art world that’s tied to tremendous wealth, and how activism, even in art, relies on activating the media to accomplish its objectives…
Central California artist and professor Elizabeth Folk discusses the pros and cons of online higher education during the boom of Zoom. Folk also touches on performance art, being able to access it virtually through Instagram Live, as well as performing a little piece live, here, on the podcast.
Danielle Baskin discusses how being an artist and app developer has, now more than ever, helped her create experiences and fulfill the needs of her patrons. Her latest projects include: a platform called ‘Quarantine Chat’ that pairs callers with random people all over the world, addressing facial recognition technology challenges via personalization, tarot readings and spells over the phone.
This episode of The Conversation we discuss the profile of artist Jordan Wolfson in the March 16 issue of The New Yorker magazine by Dana Goodyear, which in part follows a thread Deb and I talked about in a recent episode about social justice and censorship in contemporary art; because neither of us have actually experienced Wolfson’s work in person, we focus on the story arc of Wolfson’s career as portrayed in the piece, as well as the context in which the art has been received; in remarking on the way Wolfson’s work has been described as capturing certain sensibilities of the internet, Deb says that “so much of internet culture is like a different kind of internalized road rage;” Deb talks a bit about the Netflix movie Velvet Buzzsaw, in which Wolfson’s work is quoted; and we wrap things up by discussing the phenomenon of artists who are ‘cranking work out,’ including when they say ‘no’ when asked for greater production, when it makes sense to make that extra work for vital art fair opportunities, and being grateful for being on the ‘carousel’ (as Deb calls it) in the first place.
In this Covid-19 special of The Conversation, Deb Klowden Mann and I talk about:
Our respective experiences with the pandemic, including lots of cons but a few pros as well, and how she’s sheltering-in-place more strictly due to health vulnerabilities; Deb’s experience coming back from the Armory art fair in New York as a surgical-masked traveler, and bonding with another woman who was even more geared for the pandemic; our prescriptions for limiting/avoiding internet and especially TV news for health’s sake; our respective challenges with rent, especially Deb’s in light of her having not only a substantial commercial rent but payroll as well to maintain, all while sales having come to a halt; and some perspectives on moving through this new world as a community, and gracefully.
Brooklyn-based artist and adjunct professor Alex Strada talks about:
Why she makes specialized artist’s contracts even though her own work tends not to be object-oriented, which is a feminist-based approach to addressing inequities in the art market; her great admiration for Mark Dion, the artist and her former teacher who has always credited everyone that has worked for him; her various adjunct teaching gigs, at Columbia, Fordham, Cooper Union and Studio in a School; the socially engaged tendency of the work of her students, which she acknowledges comes out of her syllabi emphasizing diversity of all kinds; her film project “Save the Presidents:” how she and her collaborator were able to shoot these immense sculptural busts, which are eroding on a private field owned by the busts’ purveyor, how the screening of the film in Times Square, as part of the Midnight Moments project, was the most surreal experience of Strada’s life; and her life and citizenry as a native New Yorker who grew up in the West Village and still cherishes that neighborhood, but could never live there now – only Julianne Moore can, as she put it – and how the Chelsea gallery system, with rents so high, perpetuates an art world that has to play it safe in order to survive, and how we as individual artists need to fight for our opportunities and our space.
Bay Area co-director of Art+Action, head of AK Art Advisory and former Sotheby’s gatekeeper Amy Kisch talks about :
Her organizing work to bring awareness to the Census in the San Francisco Bay Area, through various partnerships with organizations and artists, as her favorite hybrid of art and social justice coming together; her time working at Sotheby’s auction house in New York, first in the proposals division, followed by running Sotheby’s Preferred, their VIP program for top clients, which put her in a sort of ‘bouncer’ role; why she thinks her friends who have stayed at Sotheby’s have chosen to do so, whereas for Amy, having come from a social work background, it just wasn’t going to be a long-term fit; differences she’s encountering living in the Bay Area compared with the much more market-centric New York, where there’s much more “drafting FOMO” guiding how people collect; her love for the Bay Area, and yet her significant awareness of both the housing crisis and the homeless crisis, which she calls ‘post-apocalyptic.'
Interim co-host Deb Klowden Mann, a gallerist based in Culver City, and I talk about:
Why I continue to do the show and the desire for and challenge of finding a permanent co-host; Gen-X, and how Gen-Xers and social media don’t mix well together; the Twitter storm that Deb got caught in after a high-profile individual came to her gallery and didn’t receive the glad-handing they thought they were entitled to; my ambition to make Hyperallergic’s “Least Powerful People in the Art World” list, and the relative power of a platform; Deb does a little business, with one of her colleagues, via text on air to give us a taste of a day in the life of a gallerist, and later she explains what it’s like working with a large roster of artists and how she and her team are engaged in addressing a range of needs depending on the artist; social justice today in terms of censorship; the difference between DJs who ‘curate’ music and curators who curate art; and L.A.’s mid-February art fair week, and what Deb’s activity (her gallery has a booth at Art Los Angeles Contemporary, aka ALAC) will look like, and what it’s like for her.
Painter and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo professor Sara Frantz talks about :
Photographing the landscape in Texas and in Iceland, and surprisingly what they have in common; her unusual marriage-divorce-remarriage scenario that coincided with her getting a teaching job at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; how she’s juggling motherhood (with a toddler and baby on the way shortly) in relation to the studio, and navigating doing schematics for her future work while keeping it fresh and not overly tight; the various ‘sketchy’ things she’s been told, as a woman and an artist, including that you shouldn’t have kids if you want to be taken seriously/have a real career…a male professor even told her she shouldn’t wear makeup for her oral review presentation; she also worried about becoming too visibly pregnant would scare away potential gallery relationships; how the painter Alice Neel was the example of the artist who was an absent parent; what it meant to her, and to her parents, when she came home with her first tattoo; and she talks about the kinds of students in grad school (at U. Texas) who didn’t pass their orals, and the kinds – like her – who did, because they had the grit that it takes to be an artist. .
Moving to L.A. from Chicago, to get away from the cold but also to tap into a broader art scene; the kind of art scene he’s building through the TSA L.A. (and some of the other galleries in the Bendix building downtown), one that’s more socialist-oriented in style and tone, compared with the commercial model, and how he feels more connected to this model as a ‘human being;’ the various logistics around TSA including membership dues, budget, how they recruit members and how he’s trying to grow the collective through international exchanges; how he’s learned as much about himself in the last 5 years being part of TSA LA than his whole life prior to that, thanks to self-reflection and learning to see things from others’ points of view; how important ‘appreciation’ is in his model of gallery/artist’s space; and the history and origins of his last name, which not only means ‘inexpensive’ in Italian, there’s also a story about horses for sale.
The Conversation is seeking a co-host for the podcast- to switch gears and tweak the format. It is also the perfect opportunity to talk with several past and current contributors to the show: multiple-time co-host Deb Klowden Mann, and producers Amanda Roth, Chris Ford, Andy Davis, Adam Veil and Megan Bickle.
We hear what they all think about the co-host idea and also a little about them and what they're up to.
L.A.-based painter Davyd Whaley Foundation director Nick Brown talks about :
Quitting all his teaching jobs in favor of bartending while in New York because he needed to be making significantly for the high cost of living; how he got his current day job as director of the Davyd Whaley Foundation, which gives artist’s grants in the Southern California region, and what the job entails; how his being involved in the jury process has made him more sympathetic to artists who apply, advocating for prospective grantees; how he’s found artists in L.A. to be more generous in sharing opportunities than he experienced while in New York, and how he really likes to making art world introductions; his career successes and struggles, and how he sees the Whaley grant for emerging artists as a way for them to get a boost of recognition and advances their career; how he’s maintaining his UCLA extension teaching job in addition to being the Foundation director because he loves teaching so much, despite its challenges; how he sells his work, both to collectors he’s been able to cultivate without a gallery, as well as small watercolors on Instagram; the story of when a collector rang him up out of the blue and bought $10k of his work at a moment when he was really hurting financially; and how he applied to New American Paintings two years in a row with the exact same work, getting in the 2nd time (because it was all about the viewer, he said--not the work).
ᐧCanadian but now Berlin-based artist and software engineer Sarah Friend talks about:
Living in Berlin as an ex-pat among an ex-pat community so large that it tends to keep her and others from properly integrating into a big German city, and yet the Ven diagram of her kind of people - artists and people in tech - is in full force there; her day-job projects vs. her own art projects, which sometimes have a little overlap (she’s working on a Universal Basic Income-based cryptocurrency called Circles as a recent paid gig, for example); how she got started in software engineering (on her own, self-taught, early-20s), born out of her disillusionment with the class realities of the art world vis-à-vis her fellow graduating art students, as well as needing paid work coming into the great recession job market, and becoming an Occupy-er; her Remembering Network, an interactive digital memorial to all the species that are reaching extinction; and the existential questions, in light of that piece but other works she makes as well: when does something become art, and when does it not? And the way she sometimes she’s her art-making as having an extra limb: it would be a phantom limb if it were somehow taken away.
Painter and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo professor Laura Krifka talks about:
How her work is at its core about seduction, built through scenarios of being seduced, and how she constructs each painting to both seduce, and, by revealing subtle (metaphorical) cracks in the foundation, she also plays with repulsion; the frank reactions she’s received from more non-Art World audiences about being a ‘weird lady’ for the things she paints; her process of working with models, whom she really enjoys collaborating with and often become friends, and the ‘violence’ that she feels she brings to their painted visages… she feels more comfortable using herself as a model for the more distorted and/or vulnerable characters; how she meets the tremendous adulation she’s been receiving for her fall 2019 show in Los Angeles with the steadfast belief that it won’t last…she always leaves the house expecting some sort of disaster (and yet on the flip side, she’s very grateful for everything she has--including a tenure-track professorship); how she’s always planned on having a side hustle, and still plans to even if her work completely blows up (let’s hold her to that).
Detroit-based artist, curator, Afrofuturist and former mayoral candidate Ingrid LaFleur talks about:
Running for mayor of Detroit- why she did and what she learned in the process; her platform of Universal Basic Income, combatting economic violence, and using block chain for a local currency; how and why she started using block chain—mainly to use as an alternative currency that she would like to see implemented into Detroit’s economy; and the Detroit art community: how it’s segregated, ideally the kind of acknowledgement she would like from the white male artists who move to the city (which is 85% African-American)…plus, she offers a thoughtful prescription to anyone (white artists in particular) who may be moving to the city, of how to do so mindfully and respectfully.
ᐧArtists’ rights and laws expert and PhD Candidate Lauren van Haaften-Schick talks about:
Her first big experience with the secondary market via the runaway auction sale of a work by an artist showing at Nicole Klagsbrun – where Lauren was working at the time – and how it set her on a course re-considering artists’ contracts, resale royalties and activism for artists’ rights; how many of the resale royalties going to artists in the U.K., where they actually have a law supporting artists this way, have been on the small side, supporting the premise that resale royalties don’t only benefit big-name artists in big auctions; the Scull Auction of 1973, which marked the first time that contemporary American art was sold in such a brazenly speculative way, and led to a famous encounter between Robert Scull and Robert Rauschenberg; how activism works in artists’ rights in terms of potential redistribution, and ‘smart’ contracts; how big-name artists in the past (Robert Mangold, Jenny Holzer, Hans Haacke) showed up at congressional hearings for artist’s royalties, whereas recent generations of big-name artists have been relatively absent; and the ‘Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement, Seth Siegelaub’s 1971 contract which has had a long-lasting effect in this realm of the art world, despite the lack of awareness of its existence.
Ann Schnake, an East Bay artist and the co-founder of the Oakland project space Dream Farm Commons, talks about:
Her background as a nurse practitioner before she more formally became an artist, working in very intense environments (emergency rooms in communities with turmoil) and how those experiences affected her generally and left her yearning to become involved in the ‘poetics’ of art; why she continues to choose to live in the Bay Area after living there the majority of her life (she’s proud of its diversity, for one: Alameda County is 2nd only to Queens, NY for having the most diversity in its population), and how Oakland has such a vital history as well as present by way of the people who were pushed out of the area financially but come back to visit; starting to organize art in the county health centers via a program called Arts Change; how going back to school – for an MFA at California College of the Arts – at an older-than-usual age informed her experience, which was very positive as far as what she was able to get out of it, though she couldn’t avoid ageism from many of the younger students, and which she’s experienced in the art world at large, which she theorizes is connected to younger artists’ m.o.’s to stake out formidable peer groups for most effective impact; how she came to found her space Dream Farm Commons, largely because she “always preferred starting my own things…as opposed to applying to somebody else’s,” and the intentions and trials of running the space, which include finding ways to keep the doors open and adapting to walk-in computer thieves.
Berlin-based Greek artist Valentina Karga talks about:
Her artwork (and project from Max Haiven’s Art After Money…book) Valentina and Pieter Invest in Themselves—the collaboration as well as its ramifications in her greater life as an artist, in terms of their precarity and ‘generating parallel economies;’ her workshop in Glasgow, which eventually led to her project “the Institute of Spontaneous Generation” (2016); her background in architecture, and how it relates to/informs are art projects; a recent project her art students (she’s a professor at HFBK in Hamburg) completed, in which they were instructed to make artworks for the future, and how what they came up with was work that was ‘super negative, like a Black Mirror episode…’ post-apocalyptic, in other words; her project Temple of Holy Shit, which was conducted in a public park as part of a design biennial in Brussels, and entailed turning the human waste of visitors to the park – combined with compost, and the process of anaerobic fermentation – into usable soil…and how the problem with using this process on a wider scale actually has much more to do with the taboos around human waste than the actual science itself; her perspectives about working in collectives or collaborative projects in relation to working on one’s own, and how learning to know oneself is ultimately a necessity in most productively working with others.
In a follow-up conversation I had with artist Cassie Thornton (of epis. 248), I share with her my interest in moving some of art-making into the socially engaged realm, in particular related to real estate development issues that I’ve begun to investigate. Cassie provides advice and strategy suggestions in addition to sharing some of her own experiences related to building development in the San Francisco Bay Area, including a writer whom she sees as invaluable resource, and an artist, the German Sibylle Peters, as an ideal role model. She describes art institutions as ideal access points – highways, even - to people in finance or real estate, particularly board members; and ultimately describes this type of (socially engaged) work as the opportunity to both make a difference and at the same time to create an ambitious practical – even grandiose – joke.