As shock, grief, and anger worked its way through me over this event I took my time to write out my thoughts and feelings over it before really discussing it publicly.
Friday, November 13th, 2015: Attacks in Paris. Over 300 deaths and injuries, such as possibly debilitating ones like bullets in the legs. Many people, including those who have bad mouthed France, and especially Paris, to me colorize their Facebook pages in the colors of the French flag or the peace symbol with Eiffel Tower graphic in support. I refrain because I don’t want to be misunderstood as simply jumping on the bandwagon or not caring about attacks elsewhere in the world. I hope those who though ill of Paris before have had a change of heart after seeing how well they stuck together. My thoughts below are in my constant defense of the City of Light. Have you seen a sunset there or on a train from Paris to the SE coast? It is indescribably lovely. The pink light on centuries old carved stone, the river, the twinkling tower on the hour, the fairy tale chateaus and hills dotted with sheep. Then there is the food! Don’t get me started. Paris & France are not better than anywhere else, but unique in a marvelous way.
Saturday, November 14th, 2015: I’m not going to hide the fact that I resent people trying to make us feel guilty for our grief over Friday’s attacks in Paris or worse yet acting like the people who were killed had it coming to them because their governments are corrupt. I had seen it mentioned in the news just as I had seen the attacks in the Kenyan university in April and the almost constant attacks in the Middle East. I read all of them and cried but know not what to do, so have to quickly separate myself from it. What would you have us do, stare into the face of terrorism every day? Have it effect our entire life when we have no control over it? I’m not going to apologize for not wanting to be in pain every day. So, if two other people hadn’t brought it up that night in more detail I probably would have moved on with my life and not given it more of my energy, despite the fact that I have been to Paris several times, spent enough time there to feel I know it well, and spent a lot of time practicing speaking French.
However, as details were revealed, on top of feeling like a dear friend has been hurt and a large number of people injured or killed while they were in her arms, I am seeing the effect of this on music. I spend a great deal of time in concert halls and venues. Not only has the entire city been shut down for days, but many musicians have lost their livelihood by having their shows canceled there. If you know nothing about Paris, you should at least know that creativity has thrived there for decades. A vast list of talented people flock to, are accepted, and thrive there…Nina Simone, Salvador Dali, Coco Chanel, Albert Camus, Brassaï, Marcel Duchamp, Josephine Baker, Vincent Van Gogh, Daguerre, The Lumière Brothers, Les Nubians, Birdy Nam Nam…If these names mean nothing to you perhaps this is why you can’t understand how tragic this feels. I am an artist, so it hits me hard.
A man made a song as an emotional response and way to cope with this situation and people are commenting on his Soundcloud page that he is trying to cash in and/or get attention in the wake of this tragedy (despite him not selling the song). Seriously?! If you have no understanding of the need to express yourself artistically, please find an outlet. Art is not a crime and neither is a party or being fabulous. This sound artist was trying to heal himself with his artform and thankfully many responses were positive, including from a 10th arrondisement resident who said it was therapeutic while dealing with the aftermath. Others angrily wanted to know why he didn’t write a song for the people who died in Beirut or Baghdad…
Have you ever been to Paris? Yes, many of us in the west know a great deal more about it than those two cities because we have been there. I have been welcomed there on several occasions and had an amazing time. No, I don’t buy into the, “Everyone is rude in Paris,” line because I have never had anyone be rude to me there. It’s a big city. Just because you spent a lot of money on your vacation to get there, doesn’t mean everyone is going to want to be your best friend once you arrive. If someone bumps into you in the sidewalk because you were standing in the middle of foot traffic looking at your map expecting them to say, “excuse me” is ridiculous (True story). Trust me, if someone in Paris, New York, or Miami wants to get rude with you, it will be blatantly clear.
Like most major cities, Paris is very multicultural, meaning it welcomes people around the world to represent it. Pulling out the, “You’re only upset about this because white people got hurt,” card is extremely insensitive, two-dimensional, and well, I hate to say it, but racist. The musician I wrote about in the previous paragraph is black. I implore people with this sentiment to check the list they have made so far of people who died in that concert hall and soccer arena, then think a little harder before jumping to spread more hatred in this world. Unless one has personally found a remedy to the situation in Syria, or anywhere else there is bloodshed, they are not morally superior to those who feel more personal grief for a place they are familiar with than a place they are not. If someone has a peaceful solution, I wish they would share it with us. I am sure there are millions of people who would join to enact it. Many of us pray for peace in this world and act as consciously as we can to be sensitive to other people’s plights. We wait for our current leaders try to undo the mess the ones before them have made. We wait for them to make the best decisions and when it’s not working, we must wait some more until they try something different. We must voice our opinions and hope they listen to reason. We must keep peace and tolerance on an individual and local level. It has a domino effect. We must find assertive ways to try to change the minds of people who are racist and aggressive.
In the meanwhile, please don’t tell others they shouldn’t be upset or supportive of the people, in a place we feel an affinity for, after vicious bloodshed. How would it feel if my friend’s home and your family’s home were bombed and I told you that people shouldn’t be upset about your home because that would mean they don’t care about my friend’s home being bombed? That doesn’t even make sense! Peaceful people don’t want anyone in the world to suffer and there are many of us out there. I daresay we are the majority, despite what fear mongerers would like to believe and have you do the same. The anti-muslim sentiments need to stop as well. No one wants to feel like an outsider or be harassed because of their upbringing. I can’t believe that on this day someone smeared pages torn from the Koran with feces on the walls of a mosque in a suburb of my city. The interview on the radio was with a Muslim man who is American born and a member of that house of worship. He was beside himself with trying to figure out how to explain this obscenity to his children.
Sunday, November 22nd, 2015: Oh and here’s a good one…victim blaming. I read someone post about how the empires have colonized the rest of the world for centuries and now the European colonizers are “getting theirs”. Then as an after thought, a statement of sympathy for the people of Paris and those who died. Pardon me? How is it that any of the people who were harmed responsible for history? Talk about opportunism! Then there are politicians saying they brought it on themselves because they were listening to death metal. Apparently they have never heard of primal scream therapy or had a healthy thrashing about to release anger without hurting anyone.
Here’s the thing that needs to be said over and over, whoever is responsible for these atrocities can not be allowed to make us live in fear or turn against each other. United we stand, divided we fall. This is a fact, not a nationalistic cliché.
Monday, November 23rd, 2015: I think I can finally put this to rest after watching this Parisian man discuss the attacks with his young son in such a brave and kind way. Bon courage mes amis. Je t’aime toujours, peu importe ce que quelqu’un dit ou fait.
All images copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Reid
The Transart Institute for Creative Research is a low residency school offering three Summer residencies in Berlin, two Winter residencies in New York City, and virtual meetups in between. My studies started in Berlin during this three-week residency, which was incredibly fast-paced, challenging, and rewarding. Workshops took place at Uferstudios in the Wedding district. The school is interdisciplinary, but more topical than technique based. It is expected that technique is already honed or can be self-guided. This allows the students to choose courses that they feel will help them expand the content of their praxis. PhD and MFA students attended the workshops together and work in a wide range of mediums, so that dancers, painters, sculptors, photographers, and others can grow from watching each others’ processes. At the bottom of this post, I have given an overview of the workshops I attended. I am primarily a photography and film maker, but I took classes on expanding the definition of sculpture, nature in the city, and film. My studio advisors was a performance artist / film maker. My research advisor was a photography curator / writer.
The classes typically ran from 9AM-6 PM, then students and staff reconvened at 7:00 for an hour and half presentation session. For these, the student body split into two rooms where three students gave a 15-minute overview of their work and goals for their studies, followed by a ten minute Q&A Session. In addition, each Friday morning, practicing professional artists and curators from around the world would give a 7-minute presentation of their work (Pecha Kucha). Afterwards, groups of eight students would go with one of the presenters to get feedback on their project plan.
On the weekends, gallery and studio tours, and vernissages of student exhibits around Berlin took place. To learn more about those events, see my other posts:
Michael Bowdidge’s, The World as Sculpture, course for MFA and Certificate students
Our instructor also teaches at the University of Glasgow. Inspired by the book The World as Sculpture: The Changing Status of Sculpture from the Renaissance to the Present Day by James Hall, Mr. Bowdidge exposed our class to methods of making our work more sculptural. The course was exciting and felt very productive. By default, we received a thorough survey of the history of sculpture. Not only did the professor bring examples for each discussion, but asked us to also bring images and physical work to enhance the conversation. The following examples of some of the reading assignments and activities we did in the four day course.
1) Discuss reading assignment : Sculpture and the sculptural by Erik Koed
2) Work with a partner to combine two objects together in as many ways possible. Photograph the different iterations. Several minutes into the exercise, classmate and dancer, Jeca Rodriguez suggested giving a theme to the juxtapositions such as to make one the oppressor and the other the oppressed. My partner Claire Elizabeth Barratt, also a dancer, and I came up with over 20 ways to combine her hand with my umbrella.
3) Bring an example of artwork that is not sculpture but has something sculptural about it. I brought the links to Gabriel Dawe’s string installations:
4) Select an artwork from the previous class discussion and make a piece inspired by it that is in some way sculptural.
Classmate Nethery Wylie shared Laleh Mehran’s installation Entropic Order http://www.lalehmehran.com/Entropic-Order, in which a programmed machine moves around a track on the ceiling, all the while, dragging a pendulum with it to draw traditional Islamic patterns in black “sand” on the floor. A motion detector senses people entering the room and moving about, which disrupts the action of the pendulum so that the perfection of its efforts is thwarted. Straight lines become wavy, shaky, and distorted. Therefore, this artwork functions as a way to comment on the futility of attempting to enforce a dogma, religious or not, because once human interaction comes into play, the static nature of “rules” is replaced by dynamic forces. It also reflects the instability of the Middle East.
I chose to do an exercise that was both subtractive and additive at the same time. I imagined adding spices commonly used in Persian cooking – paprika, cinnamon, and cumin to “draw” outlines to the negative space in the designs. Then using a piece of paper covered with double sided sticky graphics film to do a “rubbing”. What would hopefully remain on the adhesive tape would be an impression of the design from its sand and spices. The red and brown hues represent spilled blood of those who suffered within a turbulent and violent landscape. By transferring the image onto the graphics tape, the new image can also represent those who have migrated to flee the regime. They are only able to take a fraction of their culture with them. I have made sculptural work by using additive (spices), subtractive (taking away with the tape), and replicatative (a copy of the original design) steps. It was not unlike forming a sand mandala, and the same ideas of displacement and lost culture expressed in my response to her could be said for Tibetans and Native Americans who make sand drawings that are wiped away after their completion.
DAY TWO: Additive processes. Discussions of Modeling vs. Assembling.
1) Bring a sculptural artwork you have made but feel is not quite complete, then discuss how to make it more sculptural using modeling. I had previously made a set mixed CDs for a Leo friend in Los Angeles. I titled the compilations, The Moon and a Lantern for more mellow tracks and The Sun and a Lion for more upbeat tracks. The compilation titles were named specifically after the cover art illustrations I drew for them, using scribbled circles for the heavenly orbs and the origami folding line pattern for the object not seen in the drawing, but referenced in the title (lantern and lion). To see those images, visit: https://haikuflash.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Other-Illustration-and-Mixed-Media/G0000xdw0IFgWFaE/I0000qtO9L770Cqw/C00000PRsirHYLFo
Along the same lines, I created this illustration created for a world music compilation I also selected the songs for. I infer three-dimensionality by layering origami fold lines for a pine tree on top of the world map image. In response to the exercise, I stated that to make it more sculptural, I would fold (model) the illustration into its intended shape. The pine tree can then be set upon the circular song list that normally lies under the CD, to transform from packaging design to sculptural artwork.
2) Assemblage is a term used by curator William Seitz for a MOMA show in 1961, called “That Art of Assemblage”, featured works by Duchamp, Schwitters, Cornell and others who combined things like trinkets, household objects, newspaper clippings, and train tickets to create compositions, combined with or without traditional mediums like paint. Seitz felt the term was more descriptive than “collage” for that particular body of work.
Reading assignment: Assemblage by George Marcus and Erkan Saka.
Summary: Assemblage as a way to talk about chaos of modern world despite the daily structure which most of us live by. There are many possible ways to approach investigation into realms beyond clearly defined boundaries. Discourse on temporary societies, a self-reflective description of an object, or a stage in a process are all examples of how assemblage can be used to explain intangible concepts. The ability to materialize such abstract ideas has had an influence on areas outside of art such as anthropological research. Marcus and Saka credit the success of the integration of post-structuralist ideas into social sciences to analytically detailed writings by theorists Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. This essay goes on to quote several social scientists who discuss how their work has been influenced by the theories of Deleuze and Guattari.
Finally, the writing expresses urgency that assemblage be handled carefully as to not become too structural or it runs the risk of losing it’s ephemeral quality. It is noted that during our current phase of globalization and rapid technological advancements, which are creating new behaviors in society, assemblage has a great deal of material to refer to and in a unique way from its original use in the early to mid 20th century.
3) Create an artwork based on Guattari and Deleuze’s philosophy, sometimes called “assemblage theory”. In layman’s terms this process refers to the laying out, arranging, and piecing together of components. In theoretical terms these are called or coding, stratification, and territorialization. Many conceptual artists develop their works by decoding, then recoding / deterritorializing, then reterritorializing these relationships, so that the stratification of the subjects in the assemblage is likely to change. So there is an analysis of the aspects (coding) of each component in a relationship and how those aspects create categorization (territorializing) of the subjects, which in turn cause them to be organized (stratified) in such a way. The goal of a contemporary artist working inside this loosely knit framework is essentially to recontextualize the subjects and present them in a new way that opens up discussion about the previously coding, territory, and stratification of the subjects. By causing the audience to think about the new assemblage of components, it opens up the reality that what we thought to be static has other possible states of being and/or meaning.
For this exercise, I thought about the process of making and consuming coffee. The goal of coffee drinkers is to be more awake and sharp thinking. Therefore, I coffee stained a square piece of paper, making it reminiscent of an unbleached coffee filter, and folded it into a crystal/diamond shape. Further discussion was spurred regarding the fortune made by coffee moguls who do not practice fair trade and how the diamond is not “clear”. It is brown, or “muddy” representing the possible side effects of drinking coffee vs. other types of beverages such as matcha tea, herbal supplements, or physical practices which render us more alert such as yoga, improving our diets, or simply getting more sleep. It also speaks to sugar addiction, which is often the main reason people drink coffee – to get their dose of sugar and milk.
4) In the vein of Allan Kaprow’s 1967 installation “Yard”, which was a room of tires for people to interact with by jumping through, sitting on, standing on, or even throwing them, the class did a performative installation. First we each passed a piece of paper around that we had written one word that reminded us of the Transart summer residency, and then passed it to the person next to us until everyone had written their word on our paper. We chanted the following list in rounds during the performance: succinct, iconoclast, join, concepts, humid, tsunami, pleasure, becoming, awake, microcosm, fluid, flux, coffee, turnip, tinted, sprudel. To view the performance, visit: https://vimeo.com/106896282
DAY THREE: Subtractive processes. Carving, deleting (what this means in the digital vs. analog world), erasing
1) Inspired by Rauschenberg’s “Erased de Kooning” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGRNQER16Do), bring an artwork you have made and are willing to allow a fellow student to practice a subtractive technique on. After receiving each artwork, we parted for about 45 mins. then reconvened for our destructive surprise.
I built a diorama landscape study and my partner was the dancer, Jeca Rodriguez, who is originally from Puerto Rico. She turned my diorama into a performance! She was really nervous to do her idea, but I assured her whatever she wanted to do was okay. She took the assemblage outside and mangled it something fierce to make it look like her home after a hurricane. Then she had everyone take turns, like the community on her island, to try to repair a little bit at a time. It was really touching and even brought a tear to my eye.
Photos below taken by Michael Bowdidge.
The piece I was given to deconstruct was a silk scarf by artist, Dana Zurzolo, who silkscreens guns into clothing as a way to prompt conversations about guns in America. There are magazines and catalogues about guns with cover photos clearly intending to make them look “sexy”. I cutout machine gun spray shapes resembling those found in comic books, drew hearts, blood, and tears in glitter pens, then also cutout bullet holes in the heart. Because this clothing was meant to appeal to a woman, just as hot chicks with guns are supposed to make women feel empowered, or appeal to the violent urges of machismo in either sex, I changed the text about a school shooting that was printed on the scarf to read as if the atrocity was made by a woman. The text was also changed to draw attention to the language of guns and their reference to female body parts.
2) Inspired by John Cage’s 4”33, bring ‘nothing’ to class, but in a meaningful way that can be justified with regard to size / quantity / duration. The best example was someone shining a projector’s light on the screen with no image or text.
DAY FOUR: Replicative processes. Copying, casting, copying, sampling
1) Replicate something in the nearby surroundings.
2) Replicate another artist’s work without directly copying it. Taking a que from Lawrence Yuxweluptun’s painting below, I sketched a still from a scene in a short film I am making. In the video, my friend Laura is dancing in front of a graffiti wall, but in the drawing, I started to draw the graffiti on her body.
3) Reading: The Precession of Simulacra by Baudrillard, which gave the four phases of abstracting an original object as the reflection of a basic reality, the masking and/or perversion of a reality, the masking of the absence of a basic reality, and the absence of any relation to reality.
4) Work from an image/sound/clip/movement and find ways to replicate it which allow you to traverse or reference the four phases of simulacra. The scan of the image I created will not translate well here. There are aspects of the piece that are dependent on moving around it and reflective light that have to be experience in person.
Caroline Koebel’s, Wild Urbanity, course for MFA and Certificate students
Inspired by her sighting of wild foxes in Berlin, Ms. Koebel designed a course around combing art with nature in the city.
1) discussion of Joseph Bueys hare and wolf performances
2) viewing of the film “A Rabbit in Berlin”
3) readings from Darwin, da Vinci, and the thoroughly enjoyable The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature by David George Haskell
4) Tour of the archives of the Naturkundmuseum. Here are some of the horrifying and fascinating remnants from the days of when humans had no qualms with capturing vast numbers of animals for research. Seeing Charles Darwin’s signature in one of his journals; blown glass sculptures of medusozoa and other small flowery looking sea creatures; rooms of skulls, skeletons, horns, and taxidermied animals, in cardboard boxes, some with holes cut in the side so that stiff legs of a fast running feline can poke through; plastic bags of bats; weight lifting a fossilized dinosaur bone that must have been about 20 lbs. although only 1.5 ft; a 4 ft long narwhal tooth; a glass room displaying fish, snakes, and foxes preserved in jars of alcohol.
5) lectures by scientists who study the wild boar and fox population in Berlin. FUN FACTS! Some of the boars have been seen waiting at the traffic lights, for cars to stop, before crossing the street. They are notoriously difficult for hunters to find in the woods as well, but because the critters like to dig up people’s lawns for bugs, many have been shot down.
6) an excursion in the city to create work in response to nature found there. I’m a fan of all corvids, so admired these beautiful, monochromatic Hooded Crows since I arrived in Berlin.
Anna Faroqhi’s, Double Lens, film essay workshop for MFA and Certificate students
We weren’t sure if this class were going to be able to take place. Originally, the instructor was scheduled to be Harun Farocki, the prolific German filmmaker known for experimental documentary short films. Our course was cancelled when it was revealed that he had passed away. Then after a week or so delay, we were informed that his daughter, Anna who is also a filmmaker, would be teaching us in his stead. She informed us that The Hamburger Bahnhof Museum happened to have several of Harun’s politically charged films, Serious Games, Inextinguishable Fire, The Creators of the Shopping Worlds, and Workers Leaving the Factory, installed into an exhibition. Several of us went to view it as a way to learn more about him and to pay our respects.
2) Screening and discussion of several historial film essays: “Ghosts for Breakfast” by Hanz Richter; “11 Variations on Rain” by Joris Ivens; “Night and Fog” by Alain Resnais; “Les Mains Négatives” by Marguerite Duras; and “Serious Games” by Harun Farocki, the instructor’s recently deceased father.
3) Each student was given a line from the German Expressionist poet, Jakob van Hoddis, to film a 30 second to three minute clip to be edited together. Some lines are missing from the film or slightly altered to suit the artists. My line was, “Into the tender green of the trees”, which starts at 10:22 here: https://vimeo.com/106867894
In the Morning
A strong wind sprang upwards,
Opens the bloody gates of iron heaven,
Beats on the towers.
Brightly ringing loud and sinuous over the brazen plane of the city.
The sooty morning sun. Thundering trains on dams.
Golden angel-ploughs plow through the clouds.
Strong wind over the pale city.
Steamboats and cranes awaken by the dirty, flowing stream.
The bells of the weathered cathedral beat sullenly.
You see many women and girls going to work.
In the pale light. Wild from the night. Their skirts flutter.
Limbs made for love.
Into the machine and tedious labor.
Look into the tender light.
Into the tender green of the trees.
Listen! The sparrow is crying out.
And outside, in the wild fields,
larks are singing.
Selected works from Mila Kunst Intermezzo #1
Selected works from Mila Kunst Intermezzo #3
Selected works from
Lindner Project Space
July 27, 2014
Selected works from Lindner Project Space
August 9th, 2014
a beautiful dance performance with a rocking chair about motherhood by Jeca Rodriguez
amongst other objects, book artist and Columbia College professor, Miriam Schaer displayed throughout the gallery, baby clothes embroidered with stinging quotes such as, “Your child is the best art work you have ever made. You don’t need to make any other art,” and “Your not having children is the biggest disappointment of our life. These clothes were put on baby dolls and photographed for her book, “The Presence of Their Absence”. To see more of her work, visit: http://miriamschaer.com/
a haunting performance, “The Maternal Line” by Valerie Walkerdine which is about learning to speak with ghosts by allowing them to have a way to speak, even if they do not exist, their memory still exists within us. Her work posits how art can help us what is being transmitted to us. How can we feel with the other as the womb conveys sound? She often uses threes in her work, for example a performance will begin with 1) a lost spirit not at peace, 2) entering the underworld as a half-being, 3) release. Her opening to this performance was to slowly walk through the gallery towards the winding staircase leading to the basement, all the while singing solemn atavistic sounds similar to Lisa Gerrard from Dead Can Dance. When she reaches the ground floor, a projection of close ups of dancers moving around on the ground is screened behind her. Suddenly, the image is flipped to look like they are crawling around on the ceiling. Valerie sings and shouts eerily as if in turmoil. A new scene forms and the focus is on a torso shot of a young woman in a red leotard being pushed back and forth between other dancers in black. They gradually work her into a frenzy until Valerie screams and pleads for it to STOP! STOP! The scene fades away into white with a blurred figure dancing there. Now in a white leotard, Valerie dances in front of the screen, which creates strange juxtapositions between her brightly illuminated limbs and her silhouette. The mood lifts as she boisterously sings, a song about her Chiquita being sweeta, singing to her burro and how people will think her a fool. She stated that she uses songs that are important to her mother and grandmother in her works, so maybe this playful song was one of their favorites.
photo collages created by Deborah Dudley ~
All images copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Reid
We didn’t see the entire museum, but instead spent a good deal of time in the upstairs film installation room and the following exhibition:
The End of the 20th Century. The Best Is Yet to Come. A Dialogue with the Marx Collection (part of the museum’s permanent collection from Erich Marx)
Warhol of Joseph Beuys with diamond dust
Landscape of Beuys’s basalt sculptures
a giant Mao painting against Mao wallpaper in a room of violent images – Elvis with guns, electric chairs, knives, a car accident death, pointy-toed spiked-heeled pumps
A film room 1920 William Kentridge from South Africa “Journey to the Moon” brought back to mind the films that inspired me to begin film making in the early 90’s. Special effects in the pre-digital era required a great deal of experimentation and imagination. Almost a century later, they are still effective as poetic storytelling devices. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPf63b6Glz8
A variety of Rauschenberg’s works such as Pink Door, Mule Deer, and collage prints described by John Cage as looking at several TV screens, on different channels, simultaneously
A Cy Twombly room featured several works including “The School of Fontainebleau” and “I am Thyrsis of Etna”, but my favorite of his works being shown was, “Empire of Flora” with its exciting treatment and colors of flowers. It has the sense of playing in a garden, getting ones hands dirty, pulling weeds, bumblebees, blooms and water streaming from a hose.
This wing ended in an Anselm Kiefer gallery where the astounding “Lilith amroten Meer” commanded serious attention but only after visiting his less weighty work “Ways of Worldly Wisdom: Armenius’s Battle” on the side wall.
Rachel Whitereed – Untitled with Thomas Struth – San Zaccharia time lapse photograph
The last exhibition we visited was the reason we came to the museum that day. Our film teacher, Anna Faroqhi, had to bow out of instructing our film workshop because her father, the film essayist, Harun Farocki, had died during the residency just a couple of days before the class was scheduled. We wanted to honor his memory by going to see his exhibition. The Hamburger Banhof was showing several of his works at the time, so instead of class we went to see some of his projects. On either side of the viewing room entrance two small monitors, and a viewing bench with headphones, invited visitors to relax and take in the show. However, the first essay was “Inextinguishable Fire”, a disquieting reenactment of the development of napalm at the Dow Chemical Plant and the atrocities committed by its use. **WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK. It gets a gory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JBbgWSBTdA
That foyer lead to a large room with four screens staggered throughout and showing the shorts from his, “Serious Games” series. These films explore different phases of soldier training from video game simulation, a live action simulation which took place in a small fabricated village with actors pretending to be the inhabitants, the creation of the video games, and post traumatic distress therapy. I found the post traumatic distress therapy to be useful in developing a conversation to have with my teenage brother should he still be considering joining the military.
Upon exiting, a compilation segments of at least three of films could be filmed on the other monitor. of his 1995 film “Interface” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsA5E5qIgm4 , which gives a first hand look at how the artist worked in his editing room while comparing and contrasting film and video; “Workers Leaving the Factory in Eleven Decades” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPGSmvtmaWY, which touches on the historical uses of the factory as a control mechanism for the population; and “zwischen zwei Kriegen” (between two wars), which can be ordered along with his other works at the online video data bank http://www.vdb.org/artists/harun-farocki. I urge you to take some time to familiarize yourself with the catalogue of this prolific artist and eloquent, insightful writer.
During the Transart Institute MFA Summer Residency in Berlin, we were given insight into the art world there by going on a gallery and studio tour on July 26th. The tour was organized by the school’s Initiatives Coordinator, kate hers RHEE. This was an excellent way to begin the program. Most Berlin galleries set up at the major art fairs such as Cologne, Miami, Basel, and Hong Kong. All images copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Reid.
Gallery Stop 1: Esther Schipper
Exhibit: “Paper Work” featuring works by Ceal Floyer and Karin Sander created with office supplies. The former artist created a series of gradated circular ink blots make by pressing grey pens onto the center of blotting paper sheets until the pens are out of ink. Whereas the latter artist utilizes objects such as a hole punch, clips, or tabs on A4 paper to design patterns.
Gallery Stop 2: Kühlhaus Berlin.
This is an approximately 18,000 sq feet historical building that was a cooling station before refrigerators were readily available. The courtyard in the photo below, with the whale hovering in the air, used to be a market and train station where people could come and buy foods that had been kept fresh in the kühlhaus. Several people recently purchased the warehouse for cultural activities and are remodeling the building to code, for example, by building cement stairs vs. wooden ones. The Berlin Art Prize, an annual art competition between local contemporary artists, was held at the Kühlhaus earlier this year.
However, the four-story exhibition on display while we were there was of student works from the school of high art, Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee in the GDR (German Democratic Republic), or East Germany. It was explained that arts funding is highly competitive since the conjoining of East and West Germany because now there are two major art schools in Berlin, the other being Akademie der Künste, in the West, which has a history going back to the 1600’s. None of the works had labels, therefore I am unable to provide the names of the artists whose works are shown here, except for a sculptural installation in front of the building which is the result of a performance given by Elena Kaludova. Elena wore a t-shirt with the slogan “STOP BORING ART!” printed on the back so that it could be read as she drilled holes through the wooden sign. The sign had the words “BORING ART” carved out of it. The artist drilled through most of the letters until only the “O” and “R” were left intact.
Gallery Stop 3: Schwarz Contemporary run by Ann Schwarz
This exhibit was of works by several artists represented by the gallery.
Postcard of outdoor installation, 2200 K, by Monika Goetz
photograph of paper by Holger Neihaus
painting by Fee Kleiss (left) and photo of paper by Holger Neihaus (right)
delicate “stencil” paintings on white kite fabric by Henrik Eiben
Gallery Stop 4: Wentrup Galerie by Jan Wentrup
The gallery currently represents 13 artists. Works by several of those artists were on display.
Main gallery – Axel Geis’s photo realistic chandeliers painted from different angles on highly glossed canvases. The viewer stands in the middle where the light fixture would normally be so that the subject and object are reversed. How strange to be scrutinized by a light fixture! This is an excellent example of “assemblage” mentioned in the World as Scuplture Workshop section of my post here: https://haikuflash.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/course-sampler-transart-institute-mfa-and-certificate-summer-residency-2014/
Gregor Hildebrandt creates many of his artworks from cassette tapes. In some cases, as with this piece, he glues the tape to a canvas and before peeling the audio tape back off again, he applies pressure through footsteps, scratching, etcetera, so that the emulsion stays on the canvas where he has effected it. Those works are named after the music that was recorded on the tape. This one is titled “Neues vom Trickser (Toco) IV” by the band Tocotronic.
Another piece by Gregor Hildebrandt. In this work, he cut a print of a still frame from the movie “Eyes Wide Shut” into small rectangles that fit inside of cassette case spines then displayed them in a wall organizer.
Peles Empire are two female artists, Katharina Stöver from Germany and Barbara Wolff from Romania who both currently work in London. The goal of their collaborative team is to copy the rooms of the Peles Castle in Romania and present it in the new ways. The castle already consists of copied, mismatched styles from Baroque to Art Deco. The artists are then creating copies of copies to a microscopic level. The replicative nature of their work can then be described as sculptural as discussed in my World as Sculpture Workshop blog linked above. Here, a photograph of marble is used as a paper mâché landscape onto a cement sheet.
another angle of the Peles Empire slab
Here photographic images of Peles Castle are used as wallpaper on cement sheets. Layers appear to be torn away to reveal another texture and/or image underneath.
HB 55 (Herzbergstrasse 55) Räume der kunst (rooms of art). This historical set of buildings used to be a margarine factory.
1) Aleks Slota was our tour guide and has a studio here. He explained that he uses a megaphone to recite speeches that were written but never read, out of his studio window. One example was the speech written in case the U.S. astronauts never returned from their first trip to the moon.
2) Art photographer, Ivonne Thein, makes commentary on the fashion world and beauty, sometimes through jarring imagery. http://www.ivonnethein.com/
from Ivonne Thein’s Thirty-two Kilos series
from Ivonne Thein’s Thirty-two Kilos series
video of a woman dressing into and undressing from a flesh colored body suit
A hidden camera behind the black box on the wall displays a live action, out of focus video of the person standing in front of it, thus rendering them indistinguishably.
postcard from Ivonne Thein’s Proforma series which appears to be human bodies seamlessly joined with mannequin heads or possibly just their faces. This is the most subtle and effective commentary on airbrushing / Photoshopping models that I’ve seen to date.
Her work was one of the primary inspirations for my first post-graduation project, Dissolve, here: https://haikuflash.wordpress.com/2016/07/15/a-collection-of-photography-on-the-theme-imperceptible-self/
3) Louise Gibson is a sculptress from Scotland currently working in Berlin at a studio near a scrapyard. She recycles discarded clothing and electronics by embedding them in resin castings, then when dry, she cuts them into shapes. She also melts, morphs, and varnishes large appliances and building materials into blobs of color and sheen (see bottom shelf in image below).
In my mind, the Enchanted Forest will forever be the heart and soul of Austin, a secret landscape in the middle of South Austin where artists, musicians, dancers, teachers, and mind explorers from all over the world have come to commune for over a decade. I remembered entering the forest in the fall of 2005, in response to their spray-painted-sign-on-a-sheet calling for help with the annual Haunted Trail event. Halloween is my favorite holiday and I’d been itching to be an actor in a haunted house for years. I’m always the one in the front of my line, blocking and dodging demons so my screaming friends can get by, so I figured I’d be good at scaring people, too.
I’d just moved to South Lamar and the Enchanted Forest, Zilker, Flipnotics, and my workplace, the Dougherty Art School were all within an easy bike ride away. My rent was $399 including giant community gardens in the courtyards. So, I rolled over there on my imitation BMX from the junkyard and took them up on their friendly invitation. The volunteers had convened inside a patio and I recognized some people I knew. Baruzula, a legendary Austin fire spinner, textile, and body artist and Johnny Slug, another well known character in town, who was a DJ at my favorite early 90’s industrial and electronic music club, Ohms. Hurricane Katrina had just brought many refugees to Austin and several street performers and musicians from New Orleans were staying at the forest in tents. I imagine this made the environment even more circus-like and stimulating than it already was. Plus, a Cajun cook was ready and willing to prepare delicious food for everyone!
For the next few weeks we prepared to freak people out. The event ran for a few weekends and I got to be four different characters. Some of the highlights were as follows. Imagine walking through a pitch black tunnel in the Forest at night, someone may or may not jump out at you, but either way you rush to get back into the moonlight. When you emerge, a path leads you to stepping stones over the stream towards a shack where a country woman is rocking herself on the porch. As you get closer, you see shelves of apothecary jars containing formaldehyde and creepy looking things, bones, claws, and innards. She stands up and you can see it is a man disguised in a straw bonnet and dress, sharpening two large knife blades together, beckoning you, blood curdling wailing and pleas for help come from behind the shack. As he/she walks towards you with the knives and you scurry down the path, from the direction you are heading, a shirtless man with piercings and scarification covering his chest and a white haired, twisted faced mask starts his chainsaw chases you shrieking down the path…You stroll along and catch your breath as you walk upon an alter attached to a tree in the middle of the path. A shelf is nailed to the tree to hold voodoo baby dolls, dead roses, and other manner of eerie accoutréments. The two trees flanking the alter tree hold two scarecrows. Beyond the trees is another wooden shack. Reluctantly you creep towards the building as the path goes through the entrance door and out the exit door, which you can see from where you stand. Suddenly a deep growling voice calls you by name and demands to know, “What are you doing here?!!!” You hear, “Get off of my property!” as one of the scarecrows leaps from the tree and continues to angrily berate you as it edges you into the dark tiny house. A bathtub full of blood awaits and a reanimated corpse of a girl emerges. You jump to the other side of the room and slink towards the exit as she beseeches you with outstretched dripping bloody arms and hands to come closer and bring her favorite toy with you. She cries like a dead-eyed doll as you leave without appeasing her. You soon encounter a John Wayne Gacy look-alike in a black light illuminated tent spray painted with fluorescent obscenities. You block out what happens inside and emerge feeling as if your consciousness has just blacked out temporarily. You almost forget you are on a haunted trail until you come upon a skeletal witch doctor with shrunken heads, toadstools, and a steamy cauldron that she wants you to stir. She seems harmless enough so you allow her to coax you into assisting her. She tells you story but never finishes because in mid-sentence the cauldron tips over to reveal a heathen man grabbing at your ankles to pull you into his pit of despair. They both cackle and curse as you get away by running across a metal bridge passing over the creek. When you are halfway across, a troll bangs on the underside of it with a hammer, which almost give you a heart attack! Just as you cross over, a human sized raven jumps out from behind a tree, croaking menacingly at you for waking it up. It practically pushed you out of it’s territory and you see the exit is near, but one last dreamy surprise awaits you before you make it to the end…A stilt-walker in large billed bird mask tries to envelop you in its shroud so you can never leave.
It was the best haunted production I’ve ever seen and it was a total blast. I never knew I could do those things with my voice. I scared myself a little as I played a tortured girl behind the shack, the scarecrow, undead girl in the tub, and raven.
Halloween parties were hosted for days. Shows consisted of fire, hula hoop, and Butoh style dancing. A suspension ritual from a high tree was undertaken by the Cajun cook. Vaudeville musicians and jugglers in black and white stripes made us laugh. DJs spun as we danced under the stars in our costumes…til the next event…
Art Outside, the festival now held in Apache Pass, Texas was started right there at the Enchanted Forest on Oltorf. In the spring, the spooky took a backseat the fresh ideas and collaborative efforts of artists all over town. Installations, bands, and food sampling were sprinkled throughout the woods for guests to enjoy in the dappled sunlight. At night, mysterious Baruzaland shadow puppet shows were presented on a giant screen with live instrumental accompaniment. Afterwards a lively dance party broke out as, The Emeralds, a rambunctious surf punk outfit who were visiting from Japan, rocked the stage.
I only experienced the Forest for a short while, but those were my favorite months in Austin. The Enchanted Forest was the last bastion of free spirits in our beloved town before it became what I see it as now, a pretty big city. Shortly after my time in the Forest, I ran off to Paris with one of the French NOLA refugees and then to live in Asia for three years. When I returned to Austin, it was shockingly different than it had been in the past 15 years I had lived here. It took me a very long time to find a full time job, despite knowing people all over town, and rent prices were unfathomable to me. I considered going back overseas, but my family of friends are here and I didn’t want to lose touch with my home for any longer than I already had. I made the decision to tough it out because although it’s getting more crowded and expensive, the arts are still alive here. Culture and nature are still valued. It just doesn’t feel as loose and free-spirited…especially now that the Enchanted Forest must close its gates. We fear for the trees and the water there. We are sad that the wildflowers will lose yet another patch of soil to grow as it wills. The birds will still be able to perch in the heritage oaks though. It would be illegal for the new owners to cut down hundreds of years old trees in Austin. (See https://www.austintreeexperts.com/blog/austin-heritage-tree-ordinanace/)
Since I returned from my sojourn, friends of the Forest, including myself, met with city officials, trade members, and community spokespeople, to try to come up with a plan to continue hosting events without getting fined by the city for code violations of this or that sort. The expense of readying it was too much and the property taxes got too high. The most generous proprietor, Albert tried to find a non-profit or community organization to purchase the land, but none could pay a price to sustain him and his family. He has grandchildren now and is planning to start a small farm just a short drive out of town. Eventually he agreed to sell it to developers, who could afford to pay the price he needed for his next chapter. So despite the loss, we are happy that his lovely family’s future is still bright.
And so it goes…I spent the evening of the last Enchanted Forest Easter in this gem of a green space. To allow the forest creatures to convene in the forest one last time, the Forest family threw a big Easter party. I didn’t arrive until nearly sundown, as bunnies are wont to do, but I could tell from the crushed cascarones and confetti strewn about everywhere, that it had been a huge success. Rowdy children wanted to smash watermelon rabbits as if they were pumpkins. Adults lolled around on a bright AstroTurf blanket pleased with the perfect temperature and absence of mosquitoes. I said goodbye to old friend wishing it a positive future as I wandered through with Himalayan protection incense, ring
Now the hardest part comes. Even those who don’t live in the Forest, but are sensitive to its presence, will have a grieving period as bulldozers and concrete take it over. For those who do live there, it must be agonizing. I see in their eyes that they are still trying to release it, some with more ease than others. We have to get used to the fact that Austin will never be the same as it was pre-2006. Many of the people, such as artists, craftspeople, restaurant workers, and gardeners, who made this city appealing to the people who moved here in the past 1-5 years, are getting pushed further and further away from the center. Rents are just too high now. Wages are not getting higher congruently. Many jobs for artists are now being done with free labor known as the unpaid internship. We are not able to make a living in our fields as easily as we were able to before. However, there is a lot of talk lately by the city and grassroots organizations about getting more affordable housing for artists and musicians, initiating rent control, and putting regulations on unpaid internships because what will Austin become if we can’t live here anymore?
This is a call to all who value community, culture, art, music, poetry, nature, health, and good food to be sure you are nurturing those treasures as often as possible. Teach people, who are not familiar with their value, to open themselves up. Welcome them. Show them there is a way to be free. Let the spirit of the Enchanted Forest infiltrate the city, so that the healing powers of creativity and authenticity rule the great city of Austin, Texas y’all!
…at Butler Park and the Dougherty Art School.
To see the student’s shadow puppet shows, visit:
Gloria’s Salvadorian restaurant in the Domain hosts a salsa night every Saturday with a fantastic band (La Mona Loca Orquestra) and DJ C. Devast8. For Halloween weekend, they held a costume contest with $1000 prize for a male and female winner. The costumes were as great as the prize. If you’re interested in trying it out, but don’t know how to salsa yet, there’s a dance instructor at 10:30.