‘‘Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared?”
“The works bring our attention to creative time, its inclusion and effect on process and completion.”
Wangechi Mutu, “Exhuming Gluttony, Another Requiem” (2006-11). Installation View. Photo Credit: Erika Ede. Courtesy of Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain
The Pleasure of Slowness
Bertrand Delacroix Gallery
‘‘Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared?”
Milan Kundera posed this question in his novel Slowness. The exhibition presents explorations of this question through the creative practice of this selected group of artists. The works bring our attention to creative time, its inclusion and effect on process and completion. These artworks, once past the concept stage, conclusively exist at every stage from fabrication to viewer, and often the two phases intertwine. At times, this process takes place in the studio; in other instances, this occurs in the exhibition space on view while the work is in mutation, going through various stages toward a finishing point.
Marina Abramović is a performance artist who explores and pushes the boundaries of physical and mental potentials. While she addresses an array of concepts, her work is first and foremost about endurance: A test of endurance for the spectators as well as for the artist. Some of her performances reached completion only with audience intervention. She seeks the point at which an audience reaches the limits of its endurance in witnessing pain, rapture, fear, and a range of emotions, she then creates a point of rupture, radically highlighting the spectator’s own sense of time and breakpoint. In her performances she has slashed, whipped, choked, fainted, frozen her body on blocks of ice, drugged, and overall endangered her body and pulled through each challenge to move on to the next. The work presented in The Pleasure of Slowness addresses Abramović’s lifelong fascination with repetition of sound and movement.
With a particular interest in shipping companies, specifically FedEx, and their efficiency and capability of delivering objects around the world, Walead Beshty constructs glass vitrines that are the exact dimensions of a FedEx box, and he then places the glass boxes into a FedEx box and ships it to the exhibition site. The glass sculptures then show the wear and tear of their travels through space and time. The cracked surfaces are supposed to represent a record of the sculptures’ “hidden lives” as though the sculptures were an exposure of a photograph. The FedEx boxes the sculptures are delivered in then become the base for the artwork. Beshty then gives the sculptures titles that consist of a record of the journey the boxes took to arrive at their various venues.
Guglielmo Achille Cavellini’s artistic practice is grounded in Fluxus and Dada with a mail art component. He diverted from traditional methods into a more conceptual, collective, less market-driven practices. He was encouraged by the “do-it-yourself” aesthetic prevalent in the 60s and 70s, which valued simplicity over complexity. He was influenced by how art was being created around him and less by the galleries. He was convinced that art making was essentially a form of behavior and with this thought, “exhibition” became his most important work. He reversed the home gallery concept by mailing exhibitions at home catalogues to his massive mailing list of nearly 10,600 addresses, enabling recipients to view eight different exhibitions of his work over a fourteen-year period in their homes.
Cavellini was born in 1914 and died in 1990 in Brescia, Italy.
Impressive in scale and logistics, the primary purpose of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s works are to give the viewer a new experience in looking at familiar landscapes. Wrapping is only a part of the work when one look at the totality of the projects. The projects have two distinct phases: one that the artists call the “software” period, and the other that they call the “hardware” period. The software period is the moment when the project exists in the drawings, research and permits process. From there they move on to the hardware phase. Each project is unique; years in the planning disappear after their viewing period never to be installed again.
Joseph Cornelll created boxed and paper assemblages from his collection of found objects. Cornell collected source material for his work, which became artistic creations about his inner thoughts, desires, and imagination. Most days Cornell scavenged for relics in New York junk shops and flea markets. He sorted his purchases into categories and filed them in boxes along with his own mementos, creating his art boxes from this archive. People who visited his home said it felt very much like stepping right into his art. Inspiration for his boxes came in the form of women with whom he had fallen in love, exotic places, imagined adventures he never took, and childhood memories. He collected his inner thoughts, feelings, and fantasies in a diary. Over the course of his career, collecting, words and objects became an integral part of his art.
Quisqueya Henríquez,, a Cuban-born artist based in the Dominican Republic, is know for her sculptures, videos, sound art, constructions and photographs exploring cultural clichés of the Caribbean. Henríquez is inspired by situations from her daily life. Her works capture the sound, sight, taste, texture, and the general chaos of the city where she lives. El mundo de afuera (The World Outside), 2006, is a 46-minute video edited from hundreds of hours of footage shot from a camera set on a tripod on the balcony of the artist’s home in Santo Domingo. Of the work Henríquez explains: “I stood in my balcony for three years, filming everything that happened outside. I wanted to use the static situation of my private life to film whatever was happening outside.”
Nancy Hwang, Most of her works are created for a given situation. “Meet me at home” addresses the idea of the continuation of the work outside of the installation site into the private life of the artist. An unmarked red phone sits in the gallery space. When picked up, it automatically dials Hwang’s cell phone. If a good introductory conversation ensues, she asks if the gallery visitor would like to meet –at her place or theirs. When meeting at her home, she sometimes invites more than one visitor at the same time (if it’s ok with everyone involved). At time these meetings last hours, all depending on how much fun people are having. Sometimes they end up at a restaurant for dinner. Hence the work is not just about meeting the artist, but also people meeting each other in unscripted situations and continuing life-long friendships.
Nikki Lee explores the mutability of social identity as well as the immigrant’s desire to blend into a new culture. For the Ohio Project and in her work in generally, Lee immerses herself in a series of subcultures and ethnic groups: punks, schoolgirls, tourists, white yuppies, urban Hispanics, lesbians, club kids, drag queens, and senior citizens. She observes and adopts the dress, behavior, and body language of each for weeks or months at a time. After transforming her own appearance, Lee approaches members of the group, explains her project, and has a friend or passerby photograph her with a small automatic-focus camera. She infiltrates these groups so convincingly that at times it’s hard to distinguish her from the crowd.
In 2006, Wangechi Mutu collaborated with British architect David Adiave to transform the Upper East Side Salon 94 gallery space into a subterraneous dinner party-setting titled “Exhuming Gluttony: A Lover’s Requiem,” an installation that played on the notion of the banquet and feasting. In the center of the room, was an enormous wine-stained banquet table, made from a single wood slab supported by a forest of wooden legs cut at various lengths. In front of this crippled table a trophy sculpture made up of various animal pelts. A diaphanous curtain haunted by a tumorous image oversaw the space, where food, wine, and conversation would be flowing. The artist Created a succulent room filled with the tropes and smells of entitlement and over-consumption, Mutu used her weeping wine bottles and bullet-ridden walls to frame the uncomfortable romance between wealth and waste, affluence and mass poverty. Adiave’s structure enclosed the scene; the smell with the passing of time became more and more pungent.
A conceptual artist who uses visceral experiences to help others consider the poetical and practical ramifications of the human condition as social animals and corporeal beings, for this exhibition Elaine Tin Nyo presents Leaf Teat Curd Rind, 2011, a visual poem that presents the transfiguration of grass to a soft-ripened goat cheese. The process is chronicled in a slideshow atop a repurposed wine cellar where, during the course of the exhibition, fresh goat cheese made by the artist will ripen and develop a bloomy rind. The alchemy of digestion is considered at several stages: grass by goat, goat milk by rennet, curd by bacillus, cheese by human. The process, started in July with Tin Nyo visiting a goat farm to select the protagonist of the project, will culminate in October at the end of the exhibition.
Roxy Paine created the SCUMAK (Auto Sculpture Maker) in 1997. With that invention, an artwork by virtue, he proceeds to remove the artist’s hand in the creative process, replacing it with a computerized machine. Paine’s inventions range from elaborate contraptions to the deceptively simple, becomes the crux of his machine-based works. The Scumak melts plastic with pigments and periodically extrudes them onto a conveyor belt, creating a magma-like mountain shaped sculptures that are each unique. The extruded thermoplastic, alternately heated and cooled to achieve a specific height, at completion are sculptures with little trace of their mechanical origin. With these works, Paine poses questions relating to the perception of object, the experience of sensation and by extension, the nature of reality and artificiality.
A disturbing effect on the viewer is characteristic of Cindy Sherman’s entire oeuvre. But nowhere is this more apparent than in the photos belonging to the “disaster and fairy tales” series, taken between 1985 and 1989. It was the first time Sherman did not appear in all of the photographs. Strewn with prosthetic body parts, rotting food and other disgusting substances, the pictures are a repulsive still-life of decay. The relevance of the rotting food series to the concept of slowness is not only the amount of time that goes into the research, food selection, prepping, and eventually photographing and production; but also the concept of the work as an art piece from the minute that the food is set on the table, including the allotted time for the food to decay, 6 weeks, or 6 months, the slow process of decay gives life to a different art piece at every stage.
Of the theater photographic series Hiroshi Sugimoto explained, “I’m a habitual self-interlocutor. Around the time I started photographing at the Natural History Museum, one evening I had a near-hallucinatory vision. The question-and-answer session that led up to this vision went something like this: Suppose you shoot a whole movie in a single frame? And the answer: You get a shining screen. Immediately I sprang into action, experimenting toward realizing this vision. Dressed up as a tourist, I walked into a cheap cinema in the East Village with a large-format camera. As soon as the movie started, I fixed the shutter at a wide-open aperture, and two hours later when the movie finished, I clicked the shutter closed. That evening, I developed the film, and the vision exploded behind my eyes.”
Revisiting a childhood desire, in 2001 Miho Suzuki created her Hula Hoop video. “In 1958 the hula-hoop craze hit the US. The following year Japanese officials warned of the toy’s use in public. The warning posters were seen everywhere on the streets. The body movements it takes for one to sustain a hula-hoop were at one time considered dangerous and too sexual for a conservative society. Growing up in the late 70s in Japan, a hula-hoop was to me a good old American object I saw in movies. I neither owned one nor played with a hula-hoop. For over 6 months I carried a hula-hoop around and practiced to hula-hoop playfully, in various public spaces including the middle of Gran Central Station, just like American girls I saw in the old movies.”
Our experience of these works can be passive, proactive, or both. Viewing is, at times, a slow progression as our endurance is tested while we stand witness to a performance, installation, or a singular oeuvre. The time it takes to create these works is deliberate, remaining forever a part of the process and a part of the work.
*** This article was published by NY Arts Magazine, 2011. NY Arts Magazine is published by Abraham Lubelski. Sponsored by Broadway Gallery, NYC and World Art Media.