For the final episode of 2016, we bring back the May, 2012 conversation with Eric Yahnker, followed by a portion of our follow-up conversation recorded Dec. 23rd, in which we talk about Eric's approach to the incoming regime vis-a-vis his work, and how he and his work fit into the greater scheme of things in terms of culture and activism.
Here is the description of that original conversation from 2012:
Eric talks about his elegant slapstick sensibility, vis-a-vis his cultural Judaism; working for South Park; his business acumen roots courtesy of his Amway-selling parents; and his background in animation and journalism/political cartooning.
Los Angeles-based artist Claire Colette talks about:
Leaving San Francisco (the Mission neighborhood) after 10 years by essentially being priced out; her various perceptions about SF, including the fact that she still has friends who live there and goes back to visit and insists that not everything is over--that it will take a lot to beat the arts community there--it's not just going to go away; how she has supported herself, including thru grad school, bartending as well as working at art galleries and non-profits, and the pros and cons to each job; her grad school education (Mills College in Oakland), which she chose with intent, and her undergrad, the for-profit Art Institute of Los Angeles, which she chose on her own naively because she didn't know enough about the school/quality art institutions generally, until she got there, and wound up making the most of it despite its critical limitations (including rounding out her education by taking more classes before going to grad school); the benefits of what more "sophisticated" schooling has been for her, having also taken classes at the SF Art Institute; her bartending, both in SF and L.A., how she prefers to work at bars that are more connected to artists/the art scene so she can be herself, the difference between bars during the week vs. over the weekend (which applies to 'every bar ever'), and the pros and cons of it (pays well, but it's a service job), and how ultimately neither bartending nor gallery work appears to be sustainable long-term (of course, a classic dilemma for most artists); how she believes that every artist should work in a gallery for at least six months, to see how it's run on the other side; how she's managed to sell her work both through shows and directly to collectors out of her studio, esp. out of grad school, even more recently--having been in L.A. for just two years; her arrival at abstraction, which is sourced from thought experiments and is rooted in everything from the existentialist philosophy and religion of her Catholic French early-upbringing, to science fiction, specifically Ursula Le Guin; and how she's come to realize that, even having worked in activism, that her artwork in poetics and thought experiments through abstraction is still very important to her--she recognizes the futility in each, and yet that there needs to be room for each as well (we both acknowledge that it – activism, abstraction and the market, anti-capitalism, art as object – is, as a whole, problematic), and that the solution is not to stop painting/making art.
Adriane Herman, Maine-based artist and Associate Professor at Maine College of Art talks about:
Living and working in Maine – Portland in particular – and what the school and scene are like there, and what grads tend to do after they're out of school; the housing crisis in Portland, and where artists are moving; how she's lived all over the Midwest and Northeast, and how she came to move from the idyllic art community of Kansas City to Portland, and the pros and cons of each of those places and lifestyles; how an art critic in Kansas City reached out to her and the gallery she was involved with to ask what was coming next, giving an idea of the intimacy and openness of the art community—she also attempts to sell us Kansas City as a great art community that grads should consider moving to; how in Kansas City the community came to her, essentially, whereas in Maine she's had to be much more proactive to find and cultivate it…in Kansas City, she feels like she's "surfing synchronicity"; reciprocity in the art world, and how she tries to activate it, including engagement while ignoring hierarchies; getting Hrag Vartanian of Hyperallergic to her studio; her artwork and thoughts around letting go (both of events and of stuff), purging and downsizing, including the parishioners at a church in Kansas City she inspired to let go of some of their stuff, all while willing admitting to being a "Do as I say, not as I Do" person; she shares one of her personal 'letting go' stories—the humiliation and humbling in being rejected for a professorial job promotion, which floored her, but was able to recover from in part because it led her to apply for and win an extensive residency back in Kansas City; and she offers that her sharing and willing to be vulnerable in this conversation will lead others listening to write in about their own experiences- fingers crossed!
Los Angeles-based artist Hilary Pecis talks about:
Her exodus from San Francisco to L.A. in 2013, when many other artists and creative types left SF because of its skyrocketing, prohibitive cost of living; the 'perfect storm' (even though she doesn't like that term) that led to the massive change the city has gone thru that led to so much exodus,; her gradual welcoming of the more home-bound lifestyle of L.A. as compared with her and her husband's life in SF, when they ate out and went to bars often, a lifestyle that had them out of their apt. much of the time; Mt. Shasta, where her dad and stepmom live and she visits regularly, which is also home to Lemuria, an occult-associated 'lost continent' whose legend is kept alive in the area and prompts visits from spiritual questers; her role as a registrar at a major Los Angeles gallery: what it entails (logistics of shipping, storage, condition reports and client communique re: artworks) and its biggest challenges, including when works arrive damaged; one complicated scenario that had to do with assessing blame -- for a painting with a puncture through the canvas -- among the person sending the work, the shipping company, and Hilary's gallery…a scenario that's still unresolved since around the time she started at the gallery three years ago; how 80% of her job is arranging artworks' shipping to clients, and the irony that no matter how expensive the artwork they've purchased, they don't want to pay for shipping at all, so wind up going cheap as possible (FedExing a $100,000 painting, for example); her stress-relievers for work (audiobooks and running); the complex sentiment of an artist's 'entitlement' when working in an environment that is so supportive of its artists; the conversations she has with her husband (a full-time artist) and how they inform her perspective as an artist in relation to having what she refers to as a "real grown-up job;" the dramatic change she experienced at Art Basel Miami between 2007, her first time, to 2009, post-crash; her current, work-related dynamic with Art Basel, and the significant sums her gallery has at stake in the fair since it's such an immense financial commitment to participate on that level; and her studio time, including the pros and cons of having an in-home studio, and how her son Apollo may not have become her perfect studio assistant yet, but occasionally his own (Lego) projects can allow her a couple extra hours of studio time.
Art historian and art tour guide Lauren Kaplan talks about:
Her start in giving tour guides at venues from the Met and the Guggenheim to galleries around Chelsea; the pros of giving tours at the Met- open and flexible access, liberal policies towards guides, and cons- some of the other tour leaders aren't properly educated and give misinformation to their groups, which Lauren says isn't her problem though it obviously doesn't make it an ideal context for her business; how she organizes her largest tours, which can be up to 40 people, by dividing the group in half and leading a tour for each half while the other looks around on their own; a particularly memorable encounter with a star actor while doing a slightly compromised tour at The Frick Museum; how small tours (families of four) are more conversational that big tours (30-40) which are more lecture-based; teaching people on her tours to feel comfortable not knowing what they're looking at, and how she regularly takes Chelsea gallery tour groups to shows she knows they won't like or get (and sometimes that she doesn't like), which invariably lead to the most interesting conversations; some of her memorable gallery show tours, including Thomas Schutte, Terence Koh and Carrie Mae Weems; the "ven diagram of people" living in brownstone Brooklyn and commuting to the museums on the Upper East Side, and she compares the two neighborhoods in ways you might find surprising; how she came to learn who the core demographic for her tours is (hint: she's a modernist); and she shares some memorable anecdotes from her tours featuring both kids and adults.
London-based artist and PhD candidate John Walter talks about:
From the U.K, his romanticized version of the U.S. vis-à-vis New York and its high-'80s art boom; and he tries to reconcile the work of some of his early heroes, particularly Julian Schnabel, vs. their oversized egos and macho bluster, while dismissing most of his countrymen (Freud, Auerbach, etc.) for being 'bad' for the wrong reasons; his PhD thesis, relating to HIV/AIDS in relation to visual art and 'maximalism,' and as manifested through his interactive installation Alien Sex Club, which looked at the social aspects of 'cruising' in both analog (gay bath houses, cruise mazes) and digital (Grindr, etc.) forms, through his maximal aesthetic applications; his former apartment Tandoori Cottage, which took on a maximal aesthetic along the lines of some of his work, and how it was something of an experiment in collapsing the divide between work and life; his PhD program, which was in architecture, and which allowed him to produce Alien Sex Club as well as a book of symbiotic writings, and how getting the PhD has been part of his need to diversify to get by as an artist, an artist as "nomadic jester"; how after returning from Skowhegan in 2012 he was completely broke, had to swallow his pride and take a job at a book shop as part of that recovery, a big wake-up call that led him to the PhD program, part of his new era of strategic decision-making; the flat he and his partner bought in London to get out of market rent; how he's leveraged grant opportunities to help support himself largely by accessing subject matter outside of visual art (mainly virology); his being an 'interloper' in virology, as part of his Alien Sex Club project and his Capsid project, which forces him to acquire a whole new knowledge-base in science; how he takes a very often dry sensibility (virology, science-as-art) and makes it 'wet' for an art audience; how despite making a lot of 'gear' (artworks), the commercial galleries he's worked with haven't worked for him, and how he's taken the reins for his work as opposed to waiting for his work to be 'ordained'…and so the market will come later; that galleries tend to trade on the artist's credentials, rather than their own credentials; the logistics of running his studio/office space, which is just five minutes from his flat, by wearing multiple hats in the same space; how he uses 'telly' (TV) as a way to switch off his brain; and we discuss art openings and forming relationships in the art world, in the context of the 'hospitality' component of his many installations/performances, promoting a form of welcoming interaction that tends to run counter to what actually goes on at an opening, and how he advocates finding ways into the community through folks that you 'get on with.'
In the 2nd half of our conversation with Los Angeles-based provocateur Mat Gleason of Coagula and Coagula Curatorial, he talks about:
The benefits of having interns, and people he didn't hire because he knew they'd graduate too quickly to even have them start; how he 'punches up, not down,' meaning going attacking bigger fish, not smaller ones (MFA shows); why gallery staff at the desk act the way they do, and how Mat trains his staff to act towards visitors, while Deb argues that it's a service to their community, but that visitors have misconceptions about what gallery staff are doing (not just greeting), and Mat refers to the 'bozos' and 'yahoos' who come into the gallery and how inappropriately they act; he talks about his litmus for leverage (at openings/parties), the 'Peter Frank' point; the obscurity of artists in relation to celebrities (and which Mat put in context of the pyramidal hierarchy); speaking of celebrities, Mat shares a great anecdote eavesdropping on Loni Anderson talking to Burt Reynolds at an art opening (at maybe Ace gallery); his most recent episode of getting in trouble for writing in a recent Coagula issue, and how he needs to report significant episodes even though now that he's known he's more likely to be heard from by his subjects; who he's against in the art world, in particular those who are pretentious, social 'practicers,' people who speak to you as a child, and academia; how he taught at Claremont Graduate School not having a college degree himself, to many students' chagrin, and yet years later students told him how much he told them how it is in the art world; how he realized he was a Foucault-ian after years railing against him; the controversy around the Kelley Walker show at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, which Mat has very strong opinions about, including his analysis of the repercussions of the botched artist talk, his hope for change in a private club-culture art world as well as his vehement disapproval of the artist and curator in question; and lastly we discuss the gentrification scenario in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, particularly the area where galleries have moved into commercial spaces (around Mission and Anderson Streets)…Mat, having been a lifelong Angeleno and having friends who have galleries in the neighborhood, offers various provocative but thoughtful angles on the situation, including that the protesters won't go after the government entities that have brought on the gentrification –that would be biting the hand that feeds them – or big businesses like Warner Bros., which is moving into a big building nearby, so they go after galleries, the easiest target, and how the protesters started getting media attention by doing so, what Mat calls 'gold' for their cause.
Mat Gleason, Los Angeles-based creator of the infamous zine Coagula, and owner of Chinatown gallery Coagula Curatorial, speaks in quintessentially outspoken fashion about:
How people in the art world are so committed to being neutral, and unwilling to speak their mind frankly out of a fear of going on the record and being tied to that position; his position not to be jaded manifesting as, "if I'm going to trash something, I'm going to trash it…"; how Coagula started as a "punk zine for the art world," in 1992, and which became his entry into the art world; how as he became more enmeshed in the art world over time, he found himself having to be more careful about whom he trashed in print (or otherwise); how he and his friends decided to try and loot MOCA during the L.A. riots; one of his most illustrious and hated writers for Coagula, Charlie Finch, based in New York, who was(is) the ultimate character; the lawsuit for libel against Coagula, one year into its run, that he had to face and endure, from a former employee of Threadwaxing Space who Coagula had written about regarding alleged embezzlement (though 'alleged' was missing from the article), taking eight years to go to trial…though it cost him 30K in legal fees, he got a lot of media attention for Coagula out of it; why he decided to fight the lawsuit, which helped him decide that Coagula was his most important and successful endeavor after numerous failures, and that he needed to fight for it; how and why he started his gallery Coagula Curatorial (print was dead, information was free…); how there really isn't any purity in the art world, and every relationship worth its mettle is a conflict of interest to some degree; how to sign artists to your program who aren't flakes (and what the definition of "flake" is in L.A. vs. New York); and how if his interns were in his place of running a gallery, "they would never hire me…"
Manhattan-based collector and real estate attorney Stacey Fabrikant talks about:
The work she's done as an attorney, working pro bono for several years - when she was married -with artists, galleries and non-profit art organizations (including non-art ones) on contracts of various types (she now has barter rates, start-up rates and non-profit rates among others so people can work with her), and the satisfaction she got from the thank-yous in lieu of payments; her work ranging from assisting artists in rent stabilized situations settle for buyouts from developers, to artists in contract disputes with galleries; contract scenarios that artists are faced with, and their tendency not to spend money on a lawyer for negotiating, rushing into signing; what she wants artists to understand about the contracts they're signing, if she works with them; the rather counterintuitive reality, from her experience in real estate, that there are numerous artists setting up group studios in Manhattan, or as little as about $2/square foot, while she worries that in Brooklyn, in the buildings and neighborhoods where artists are inhabiting spaces, the developers are right on their heels, meaning the artists only get a year or two before they're forced out and have to move deeper and further out; her history as a collector, from her roots via what her mom collected (racy David Salle and Robert Morris pieces) to her first pieces 20-odd years ago, starting with a Sugimoto photo and an Alan McCollum surrogate, through her connection with the artist scene in New Haven and the artists that she's supported there (and who come stay with her when they're in town), and local artists, some of whom she'd like to support in even greater depth were it possible; how she's educated herself about art (she didn't study art history) through multiple trips through Chelsea (at one time she was doing galleries there 3-4 days/week) seeing the work and talking to the artists and/or gallerists, and how she's found the Lower East Side gallery community even more approachable and relaxed; how highly she prioritizes her own collection, to the extent that for her new place she's about to move into, she doesn't care about the furniture- it's all about being able to curate and re-curate her collection throughout the space; how much she loves to show off her collection, particularly to get into the backstories of the work, and also as a way to gradually infuse a level of appreciation into her otherwise art-skeptical friends; how her ex-husband laughed at our complained about all the art she bought when they were together, but since the split has caught the bug and is becoming a pretty obsessive collector himself; how she'll go to art fairs, and enjoy them, but won't buy there so as not to get caught up in the frenzy; and how she'll always be the collector who will remain happy with a given artist's piece and grateful that they're still alive, which she believes is important to a lot of artists, and that's what makes it fun for her.
David Prince, artist, girls private school teacher and owner of Adjunct Positions gallery in Highland Park talks about:
Teaching at a private school in Pasadena, which gives him financial stability, an art community of teachers and even some facilities he can access if needed; the impressive tools the school has, including C & C and 3D printing; how the school, while having expensive tuition (though fairly normal by private school standards), is progressive in its teaching the students to be aware of and even take part in social issues; how he counsels students getting undergrad educations to study something other than art, even if they're going to become artists, because that background in a non-art education will make them more rounded in the long run; Snapchat, which along with Instagram is the social media of choice for his students, and why he himself likes it as the anti-social media app, free of the pretensions of the curated, manufactured image we use on other platforms; his 2 ½-year stint in NY after grad school at Art Institute of Chicago…he left New York through a combination of his business partner (in a furniture biz) left town, he lost his loft in Williamsburg to condos, and he got a residency out of town; how when he and his sister were looking for a house to buy, he had in mind one with a street-facing garage so he could start a space, which became his Adjunct Positions gallery; the open-ended approach of the gallery, including splitting install costs with artists, which they know going in, showing work throughout the house (the living room, the patio) in addition to the garage-gallery, and the exhibitions not being about showing 'a body of work' but a more conceptual bent, and including work that's been produced specifically for the show; how he focuses on local artists to both support a local community as well as to grow his own network; the scarcity of opportunities in the art world, and how almost all the Adjunct Positions artist are involved in some kind of hustle; how the conversation among younger artists has shifted to include more practical questions, especially how to make a living (while being an artist); how David is more interested in showing artists than in showing "work," which comes through meeting artists, doing studio visits with them and starting conversations that evolve into a collaborative process; and among other fellow high school art teachers, he appreciates that he has something of a dream job, while speculating that education will be one of the last casualties of the zombie robot apocalypse.
Brooklyn-based artist and gallerist Ryan Wallace talks about:
Living and working in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and how it's changed over the 17 years he's been there, and the precarious rental situation he's in with his apartment building's future, and a rapidly rising studio rent; how is exhibition is doing (open for another several days at the time we spoke) at Susan Inglett Gallery- about half sold; art that rises quickly in popularity with certain movements, and the many casualties that result amid just a few artists that stick around; the 'art fund' collectors who are looking for the quick score, and how their stock-based buying affects the good collectors, and how collecting is not a get-rich-quick scheme; the gallery in East Hampton that he co-owns with Hilary Schaffner- their program, their schedule (full-time during June-July-August, tapered to appointment only in the winter), his role in the gallery (he goes into a different mode at art fairs), how much that he had to put up to get the gallery up and running initially (about 17k), etc.; how he wound up in the Hamptons in the first place, and decided to set up shop there; the difference for Ryan being a dealer at the gallery in East Hampton, where it's low pressure, very educational about the work, and so on, whereas at the fairs it's all about commerce, which has taught him that you can't tailor work to fit the market, because 'commerce and work cross on their own agenda;' how some local collectors who have come to 50% of their shows in East Hampton haven't bought a piece until they were in their booth at a fair; the one time representing at a fair was soul-crushing, when he had to do it alone (which was only at one fair so far); and we have a spirited debate about potential conflicts of interest, as an artist and/or a gallerist, including how Ryan, being an outsider for so long, is now pro-nepotism because he wants to support the artist friends in the scene he's built around his gallery, and how it's a case-by-case basis in which, as a business, you ultimately make decisions; and yet how as an artist and a gallerist, he tries to stay away from cross-pollinating directly; and we talk about the Hamptons vs. Montauk, the latter of which has had problems with entitlement mixed with 'vacation behavior' which has led to a level of revelry that has had the locals up in arms.
Deborah Fisher, New York-based artist and co-founder/executive director of A Blade of Grass talks about:
Her project Cityspeaks, which started as an Instagram account and has become her way of making art during downtimes—waiting for the elevator, while commuting, etc.—since those limited parameters are what she can afford time-wise with her demanding arts administrator job; how it also started by asking herself the question: "what's the riskiest thing I can do," since as an arts administrator, she saw herself as never being taking seriously as an artist by the art world again…so how am I going to take advantage of that freedom?; how A Blade of Grass happened to her while she was being an artist; the 'scarcity art world,' in which artists do anything they want except value their work, because that 'value' comes from gatekeepers and stakeholders, which leads to a huge crisis in worth and validation all the time; how to be an "un-artist," as described by one of her great influences, Allan Kaprow; how her conversations with her employer, Shelly Rubin of the Rubin Foundation, who had a lot of questions about contemporary art, led to conversations about context, and how art is integrated into everyday life, and ultimately that led to the creation of A Blade of Grass; ABOG's mission for its fellows, in a sense, as 'rehearsing for the revolution;' the realities of participating in change, and how even when accepting funding from less-than-ideal entities, grantees can engage in conversations with them about their objectives, and in so doing, ideally move the needle at least a little bit in the right direction; the analogy between politicians selling message thru stories and artists (or art and ideas people like Deborah) selling projects through their own story concepts; how the sexiness of socially-engaged art is its "selling tomorrow," something especially appealing to people how get invited to art fairs but feel excluded by the art world….and what if the conversation around cultural production was making the world a better place?; how the types of artists ABOG works with are collaborative, even cultural stakeholders; and how, while on a retreat at a Zen monastery with an alternative approach, she transitioned from "me" to "we," honoring what she came to realize was her social contract, just as she was transitioning from being a traditional artist to becoming an arts administrator and an artist who doesn't make things but sees things, as encapsulated in her Cityspeaks project.
Manhattan-based art writer and budding curator Emily Colucci talks about:
Her place on Avenue C in the East Village, and how she's managed to live in a Manhattan that's now cheaper in many cases than Brooklyn; the C Squat next door to her place, which has existed since the '70s and the city allowed them to permanently inhabit if they brought it up to code (which they did), and which also runs the Museum of Unclaimed Urban Space, which does walking tours of former squats and community gardens and non-profit art spaces in the neighborhood; the heydays of St. Marks Place and the East Village, and how each generation looks down on newer generations' scenes as not having the same level of artistic relevance; her cultural blog Filthy Dreams, which she founded as a place for "minorities who don't even fit into our own minorities," inspired by John Waters' quote, and for the queer and LGBT communities; writing about (and taking down) James Franco's show at Pace gallery, which was his attempted version of re-creating Cindy Sherman's iconic Untitled Film Stills series…why Pace had the show in the first place, what Cindy Sherman's reaction to it was, plus Emily brings Filthy Dreams' take on Franco's history of appropriating Queer culture while simultaneously publicly declaring that he's not gay; her curatorial projects, including a past show Nightlife as Activism (which was about nightclubs, activism and AIDS), and an upcoming show on Disco's legacy, and the two years of work that goes into each show, including relying on oral histories from eras where many of its notable participants have passed away; how exhibitions, unlike articles on art, can actually make a tiny difference in exposing people to things and even changing minds; how it's terrifying at times being a freelance writer, but because she's allergic to office work, she wouldn't trade it for anything, and she always has Filthy Dreams to write for when the other gigs aren't happening, and how even though she knows there are more readers, she always assumes there are two people reading her blog: her mom and her best friend (though she did get to experience what it's like for your article to get some serious attention, after her piece on James Franco was picked up by Live Journal).
Brooklyn-based artist and activist Ann Lewis talks about:
Her recent move to Greenpoint from Bushwick, where she was kicked out of her live/work loft when the building was bought by two hedge-fund entities; the realities of living in an ever-increasingly expensive New York City, gentrification, and Ann's experience with it both as a tenant – including negotiating with the owners for a modest settlement that helped with her move out – and as an activist (she was actually protesting at an anti-gentrification rally at the time she received a 30-day-notice warning under her loft door); her concern that New York, Brooklyn in particular, will just continue developing into a mass of suburban sprawl, with nothing that can be done from the ground to stop it, leaving only the hope of the bubble bursting; a deconstruction of New York City government's complicity in maintaining a corrupt system that fosters unbridled development, to a large extent a system put in place during Bloomberg's administration; how, with artists being the canaries in the coal mine, we can learn from the past problems of neighborhoods being unstably gentrified by moving into homeowner-dense neighborhoods and collectively investing in them for the very long-term, in hopes of diverting the gentrification train; how she feels we're seeing change coming out of social activism very quickly now, through social media and greater attention being paid to issues, and how there's been a big increase in the # of artistically minded people being more regularly engaged in social and political issues via FB and beyond; how her activist work started with street art (stencils) because she felt so strongly about certain issues (Abu Gharib, mass incarceration, etc.) that she needed to start having conversations with anyone who would listen; one of her performance pieces, a protest piece from 2014, in which she spent a month wearing a prison-issue orange jump suit in public, engaging with both strangers and people she knew in conversations about mass incarceration; how when she pushes herself out of her comfort zone, which she does in her performances, learning new things and providing ever more meaningful experiences for those experiencing her pieces; her maze wall paintings, which include subliminal messages contained within them; and she entertains the potential of Detroit as a future home and artist community, should living and working in New York become untenable, though we hope it won't.
Jessica Lynne, Brooklyn-based art critic, co-creator and editor of Arts.Black talks about:
Her home neighborhood of Crown Heights, which has an interesting history of race tensions and more recently of gentrification, both of which she's aware of, and in her specific section which has many older residents – including those born-and-raised in Crown Heights – she's always saying 'hello' to her neighbors, and how her Southern roots (she's from Virginia) prepared her to be both respectful of her neighbors and take pride in her neighborhood; her coming into being as an 'art critic,' embracing the challenge of filling the void of black art critics initially by latching onto bell hooks as a model, and then by establishing her art journal Arts.Black, which she co-created with friend Taylor Renee Aldridge; how she started having so much more fun on the internet by taking advantage of its open-source nature, transitioning from lurking around certain peers she admired to becoming collaborators and even intimate friends with some of them, a route of connection that social media is now routinely providing; her extremely close friendship with her Arts.Black partner Taylor Renee Aldridge, despite Aldridge living in Detroit, and the way they maintain an intimate connection despite the distance through multiple communication platforms (Lynne's favorite emoji is the eye roll); the Black Art Incubator project, which she co-organized with Aldridge along with Jessica Bell Brown and Kimberly Drew, and which took place at Recess Arts in SoHo during July and August of '16, it offered several invaluable workshops (including 'Art + Money') and was free and open to the public; and ways that Lynne and Aldridge are working on various ways to bring Arts.Black some income, including Patreon (they're also currently among the finalists of Knight Arts Challenge Detroit).
Australia-based Social Activist, nomad and technoevangelist Fee Plumley talks about:
Her strange relationship to place, how wherever she is she's home; the difference in the funding models for the arts in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia; the Tyrany of Distance in Australia, and how difficult it is to bring audiences to your work in remote areas, which are common throughout the country; how she defines herself as an artist, in the context of a non-traditional artistic life that has involved theater set design, designing early mobile phone applications and interactive performances; what her definition of being an artist is, from creating mobile platforms for aps to guided meditation, and how she views her engineering, platform-based work as an exploration of the creative process; how she is admittedly a nomad who has "dropped out": she's not an artist trying to build personal wealth and not trying to become part of the hierarchy of the arts/technology world, but enjoy her relationship to this (Australia) lovely country and the planet in general, meet diverse people in diverse places, etc.; the realities of being a bus-traveling nomad, in terms of food (whether it's generously given to her, or dumpster diving), being both independent, and yet dependent on infrastructures to survive, and the question of safety, which she beautifully articulates in reading a piece from her blog; "how everything in my world at the moment is about how can creative processes and technology contribute towards constructive social change;" how she finds that nomadacy relies on technology, especially for finding relatively safe camp-out spots for homeJames (her bus); her tech consulting for grassroots causes and the people that lead them, which she doesn't want to charge for, because not only do they not have money to pay her but she also doesn't believe in the capitalist system; the "Commons" model (particularly active in Norway), in which the land is accessible to the public, something Fee takes advantage of when possibly, but so rarely is; her ongoing project "Hammocktime," which involves guiding participants through meditations sessions on a hammock, set up wherever, though ideally between two trees, and how it's a project exemplary of the type of art she makes, which are big projects that are very process driven, which she dubs "the traveling minstrel of interactive immersion/social change arts practice*;" (*her word) and lastly, she reads from her profound opus to life on the road, "5 things I learned from living life as a solo, bus-dwelling, nomadic woman."
London-based artist and critic Sherman Sam talks about:
His circuitous geographic history, from Singapore to Parsons in Paris to Otis College of Art in Los Angeles, to Oxford to do a history of art degree, finally to London, where he's been since the late-'90s, and which he moved to because it was the biggest art world he could move to at the time because that's where he knew the most people; Singapore, where he's from and still goes back to visit family once or twice a year- it's laws around gum and drug dealing, its rather modest size (for a country), that it's one of the fastest growing in the world, and how it's probably not the ideal place for creative types; characteristics of South Asian (in particular Singaporean) art, which he sees as identity politics-based and morally concerned to the exclusion of object (art) concerns; we talk extensively about Artforum, which he writes reviews for (and is still baffled that he's able to); how when he writes a review he believes the only people who will read are the artist, the artist's parents and the artist's dealer, and the next person who's going to write a review of that artist's work; how to test how good a writer you are: by reading it on public transport; how he fell into art criticism accidentally, but feels that all voices – professional writers, historians, curators, artists, fans – should be heard, because there's so much out there that it needs it; how he was reviewed in Artforum himself, before he began writing for them; how he goes and sees shows in person because he doesn't trust what he sees online, and that can mean eating up a whole day to see something way across town; how what he does as a critic, by bringing attention to artists and shows, is akin to being a 'social worker;' how he favors following galleries' programs over the course of a year over art fairs, and how he favors art fairs over biennials, because he doesn't trust curators, who, he says, have an agenda; and how when it comes to his own sensibility, he favors the intuitive in art, and he sees the small abstract paintings he makes as being anti-corporate, in opposition to the neo-Expressionist work being collected by large corporations, which were going on when he first started making abstractions.
Artspace editor-in-chief Andrew Goldstein talks about:
His work as e-i-c of Artspace and, since the publisher Phaidon purchased Artspace, his additional role as chief digital content office of both Phaidon and Artspace; how Artspace emerged within months of both Paddle 8 (online auction house) and Artsy (discovery platform), with the emergence of a high luxury commerce space, and how this ecommerce model is in its toddler-hood in terms of growth; and how the art market is lagging behind the audience growth in art; the landscape of Artspace and how its editorial content is the primary source for bringing users to the site; how the big perk of his job is the opportunity to go around the world to art fairs and biennials, being on the ground so he can stay on top of what's happening in contemporary art; the difference between being a collector going to an art fair (hint: everyone treats you like it's your birthday) and being a writer at an art fair (when it becomes a trade show); how he convers art fairs, which is like a starting gun going off as soon as you get there, and so he needs to cover, cover, cover, maximizing every single second without really getting a chance to breathe…it was more the "you can sleep when you're dead" approach when he first started out on the scene; the merits of Belgian collector Alain Servais, who Goldstein describes as an art advisor and a collector combined; how he sees the same people at art fairs over and over and over again, and yet such a large profusion of them that it's hard to keep straight who many of them are…there are the friends, the sources, the dealers and artist you respect and admire, and then the people you don't know who they are, but they say hello to him and he says: "hello, nice to see you again;" the art "market" (small) vs. the art "audience" (immense); how his approach to covering art fairs is to actually cover the art itself, by really diving in and wrestling with each given work (as compared with most coverage which talks about who's buying what and for how much, etc.); how for many collectors, it's about the works they buy and what association(s) it gives them access to, including a certain social milieu, as compared with the exceptional collectors who are passionate and uniquely quirky in their own ways; and we talk about his interview with Stefan Simchowitz, the often provocative collector and art world interventionist, who Andrew describes as having a totally worked-out worldview, his business built around addressing the industry's inefficiencies, and what the fall-out from Andrew's article was (hint: it was an interesting phenomenon).
New York artist Lauren Seiden talks about:
Living in Chelsea-adjacent Manhattan, where she's lived in the same studio apt. for 14 years, and how she managed to land the place; how she found her earlier studio several years ago on the Lower East Side through a NYFA ad, which included studio mates who formed a vital art community for her up to this day; how she starting working in galleries at 18, via an internship program through her school; her most recent gallery job at 303 Gallery, where she learned the most, including representing yourself professionally, to question a gallery when they expect you to pay for shipping, and to have a consignment form in place to insure you get paid when work sells; how the more she was working on her own art, the less she wanted to work at a gallery, a frustration she spoke with her then-boyfriend about often (he was an artist who had made a living from his work for 13 years, and would tell her to just quit); how she took the risk to leave the gallery and just make her art, with the help of some sales and a grant, which lasted her a year; how her biggest fear was that when she left the gallery, she wouldn't have that same urgency to get herself in the studio as when she did have the job, which turned out not to be an issue; how other artists in her community (both intimate colleagues and friends of friends) are making a living mainly from their work, whether via institutional support, living outside of New York via residencies, grants, and/or teaching; how artists who are making a significant income from their work are putting money back into that work, whether it's materials and/or a bigger studio, etc.; and she talks elegantly about having humility and perspective as an artist, recognizing that it's a long game, and that you compare yourself to your own work, not to the trends that are ultimately not relevant.
In Part II of II, Nato Thompson:
begins by answering the question of when he became "radicalized"…answer? one being the alt globalization movement that began during the WTO protests in Seattle in November, 1999, and the other living in a collective/cooperative in Berkeley, which enlightened him to self-empowerment, an entirely different way of living; taking the Creative Time Summit to the Venice Biennale, which Democracy Now's Amy Goodman came along to cover, where she was able to interview artists Emily Jacir and Mariam Ghani, an example of Nato connecting the 'activist left' with the 'art left' (far left-wing artists); the realities of social and cultural capital, as far as how it's gained (being with the right people, telling the right jokes, dropping respected names, etc.) and how by calling it out, as he does in the book, it has to be addressed as opposed to just taken for granted; how he grew up broke and always had anxiety about rich people and these New York City kids who went to fancy private schools and how it's taken time to work through that anxiety, which to some extent is still there; how those living in a social bubble (the bubble of rich people) lack perspective on much of what's going on with people around them; how board members of museums tend towards supporting work that has an air of glamor, as opposed to activist-based, the latter which you wouldn't see at Miami Basel; the influence of former director and creator of Creative Time Anne Pasternak, who set up a system that allows for a flexible board with more open-mindedness toward selections; how certain think tanks, which rely on public perception, and which claim objectivity but are really just covert lobbying arms, are vulnerable to attack (especially ones without plans of defense) my outside forces in challenging that ultimate lack of objectivity; the critical left community of the art world, which both tends to hate the art world and yet knows how to navigate power well enough to get into important exhibitions (Documenta, etc.); how great it is that pluralism is reaching a critical mass, thus diluting the contemporary canon in the process; "if what makes things historically relevant has something to do with where the conversation is at, then the art market is a gigantic bubble"; the impact of social media (Instagram) in terms of becoming prominent new sources; and the events on the docket for this year's Creative Time Summit coming up in October in Washington, D.C.
In Part I of II, Nato Thompson, Creative Time artistic director, and author of Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the 21st Century, talks about:
Being on the radio (the Leonard Lopate Show) with Vito Acconci; living in Philadelphia, a city he loves (and can afford to own a home in), commuting to NYC from there, and how and why he left New York as a residence 6 years prior; also, how he gets perspective on the art world/the arts by living outside of it, in a very scalable, civic-oriented community; as a child, living with his parents in the dorms at CalArts, where his father was in grad school as a painter (memories include the entirely naked pool, and playing D & D with then-undergrad actor Don Cheadle); his book touring for Seeing Power, including a Facebook chat w/New York Cultural Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl; the reality that the market portion of the art world produces luxury goods for the ruling class, and how for even experienced visitors to art fairs, "it's hard not to be hypnotized/repulsed" by it, and how it's a hard thing to overcome to be sympathetic to the arts; the urgency of certain activism, as best exemplified right now (as we spoke) by Black Lives Matter, and how things have changed in the political arena even since Nato's book came out—including the fact that you can't have Bernie Sanders' candidacy without Occupy Wall Street; the 'crucible' of gentrification, and how it forces us to think about equity in all sorts of areas; two shows he curated while working at MASS MoCA, Becoming Animal and The Interventionists, and the complex and even confusing takeaways from those shows in terms of audience-artist relationships, as in, what does a typical museum-goer want to see/experience? Who are the people (demographics) going to see shows?, and how people in the art world underestimate art audiences; how, after being raised in a greenhouse of an advertising-based culture, we are naturally paranoiac of cultural material, to the point where people's paranoia becomes their truth; the differences between the small scale, community-based projects and communities of his young adulthood and the large scale works he works on with Creative Time (including Kara Walker's A Subtlety, which had an attendance of 135,000 people; the Creative Time Summit, which is art and social justice-based, and includes smaller-scale roundtables; the importance of DIY, and making things/making things happen instead of waiting around for other people to make them happen.
Feuer/Mesler gallery director and partner Lauren Marinaro talks about:
The evolution of Zach Feuer's gallery over the eight years she's been working with him, to the point now where they've closed their Hudson, New York gallery, and merged with Joel Mesler of Untitled gallery to form Feuer/Mesler on Grand Street; growing into and evolving with Zach Feuer's gallery, starting as a gallery assistant fill-in in the summer of 2008 and how after the market crash started taking affect in the art world, she was able to stay on because she was the least costly employee; interacting with the more random population of visitors to the gallery, some of whom are genuinely curious, and others who are outright aggressive in their questioning, and how to handle them; artists who want the gallery to place ads for them in Artforum- the pros and cons of doing it, and whether it's ultimately a good business move or not; what happened to Zach Feuer's gallery when Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012, and how ultimately, considering the circumstances and what other galleries went through, things turned out relatively well; the evolution of the gallery over the years up to their current, non-white-cube space on the Lower East Side, and how impactful the Instagram-era has become to the gallery and art world; and Feuer's solid record representing women artists as part of its program.
Jessica Backus of Artsy talks about:
Her past and current jobs at Artsy- formerly leading up the Art Genome Project, which catalogs artists and art works to control data on the site; and her current job leading up a team of approximately 20 gallery liaisons; how Artsy's gallery sales model works (galleries pay a monthly fee to be listed on the site but don't have a percentage taken out of their sales); and Artsy's mission as "the art world online," with three businesses in one: a media business (their magazine), a listings business (with galleries), and an auction business; her earlier job with the gallery Peres Projects in Berlin, which she took after having studied the East German Leipzig schools while living there; her oddly impactful exposure to art history through her class with Rosalind Krauss, along with my and a fellow student's version of encountering her class; her work with the comp. literature giant Gayatri Spivak at Columbia, and her gradual departure out of academia into art…Backus boils it down to a dichotomy between whether one sees things as conveying text or as conveying something visual, performative, etc.; working for Peres Projects in Berlin over the course of the art bubble around 2006 (when she arranged for helicopters for Peres and his artists in Mikonos, because all the water taxis were booked), through the financial collapse and coming out on the other side when all the glitz and glamour were suddenly gauche; her transitions from Peres to grad school in art history and then on to a job at Phillips auction house, where she wound up in 'Special Projects', putting together a curatorial program; and how her work managing gallery liaisons for Artsy is analogous to being a choreographer, where her role is to find the movement and the vision in moving together amongst all the diversity.
Art, fashion and pop culture writer and art history lecturer William J. Simmons talks about:
Why he repurposes Instagram memes for Tweets, one of which led to our initial connection; how he studied initially under the October magazine people (a journal of particularly arcane art content), and how he came to realize that there has to be a way to combine the important advances theory has made with a populist theory of how people actually interact with art; how his editors at general interest-based outlets including Flaunt, Interview and W magazines have things to say that are equally if not more insightful than the people at Artforum; how he told a guy he was on a first date with that his goal was to be the editor-in-chief of Vogue and also the e-i-c of October; how he saves up to go to biennials and art fairs as opposed to taking third-party funds to pay his tickets; his role in bringing a substantive role to the conversation through his writing, whether it's artists or pop cultural figures (he did an interview with Jessica Chastain, among other big names); what goes on at the high-powered art magazines, including half the time hating what they're writing about; how artists don't have privileged access to the meaning of their own work; admitting that he writes about canonical artists, because he feels he can do better there than writing about non-canonical artists, and because it's a way of getting into the larger conversation through his writing; his seminal artist interview experiences, including with Sue de Beer and Jack Pierson; and we have a hearty – impassioned while civil – debate over whether artists (including particularly Marilyn Minter, Deb Kass and Laurie Simmons) shape the larger culture and the world, as opposed to the influence and effects of their work being confined to art and the art world; the exchange also includes calling into question certain sexist tendencies towards successful women artists vs. men artists, being an activist through art and otherwise, and ultimately ends on a light-hearted yet very pointedly pro-feminist agenda.
Highland Park-based art and culture writer Alicia Eler talks about:
Her home in Highland Park, where's she a tenant of the owners of the artist-run Adjunct Positions, and so never far from an opening and artists, and where she's become a kind of permanent 'writer-in-residence'; her various experiences with stand-up comedy, as a culture writer and as a would-be standup; the performance artist Jibz Cameron, aka Dynasty Handbag; the distinctions and (limited) cross-overs between the art and entertainment worlds, particularly being in Los Angeles, with crossover examples including comedians/actors Maria Bamford and Kate Berlant; her take on the reality show 'Work of Art: the Next Great Artist,' which featured two of her friends (who both came in 2nd), Peregrine Honig and Young Sun Han; the difference between the bars to entry for the art world and the comedy world, and their respective pros and cons; her stand-up experiences, including figuring out that she needed to write herself as the hero of her story in order not to bomb; and her experience diving deep into Tinder, the dating and hook-up app, which she played a lot like a video game, detaching from the expectations of having any kind of actual in-real-life results, though just before canceling her account she met someone whom she's still dating.