Friday the 13 : i.thou [ final cut ] online release

Aloha! It’s Friday the 13th! Just 13 weeks remain in 2017. I’m releasing my vaguely illegal, dangerous, feminist film online today.

Welcome to the house of illusion. Our images of each other can make prisons. Open a side door into the collective unconscious. Nothing is as it seems, is it. . .

i.thou - still

i.thou, final cut (still) – 2008-2013

I built i.thou [ final cut ] over a five year period, wrapping it up in December of 2013. David Finkelstein reviewed this work at FilmThreat before that site disappeared. He describes the work by writing ““i.thou” doesn’t exactly tell a story, but it distills the atmosphere of dozens of stories drawn from films, generally stories where a woman is trapped in the (male dominated) institution of a mental hospital, a lab, or a prison, where she struggles equally against her captors and her own, internalized sense of being “sick” or “wrong.” ”

As you watch the coda consider the stories nested into the entire work – each female character re-presented here [ Beatrix/The Bride, Nikita, Dorothy (audio only), Ripley, Kieslowski’s Julie from Blue & more ] were created by male directors who proceeded to “put them through it”, for our entertainment. Ripley destroys the nursery in which she was made [ Alien: Resurrection ] – –

I have been told that the work is “too much” – too long / the wrong length to screen in festivals. The repurposed content too big of a risk for copyright liability [ even as Richard Prince & Girl Talk take that strategy all the way to the bank ]. Too experimental [ we figured out datamoshing in the ‘oughts – this is new media, right? new forms! ]

The work presents a ‘dead girl’ in a shot extended from her original 45 seconds of screen time to several minutes. Remember, the dead girl is not a character, but the memory of her become the character. Media makes memory for us these days. This work fits somewhere in both the preceding statements.

Wear headphones for best viewing experience!

viewing notes :
– the work has three movements and a coda; visual and loops are used/considered symphonically as classical music would, in motifs
– there are ‘pauses’ in the film where the screen goes completely black, between movements
– the opening of the third movement includes complete silence
– all melting, artefacting, ‘failed video’ looks are intentional

I would love to hear your thoughts about i.thou [ final cut ]. Rose McGowan and many other women were sacrificed on the altar of this form, filmed entertainment. That is a part of this, too.

Thanks for being here. All of this madness is a part of all of us. With this art we visit it for a few minutes, and then put it down.

Jessica

on performing [ send and receive ]

I sat in a gallery, at a table, in a turret. This was semiprivate space. At Northern Illinois University, the gallery is in a building like a castle. The turret room has arrowslot windows. It felt well-defended. I had daisies, the signifier for the piece. I wore grey. I waited.

performance installation send and receive

send and receive installation

I had invited audience members to come to the gallery, to tell me a story about guns. My request inverted the art object’s signal flow. The audience usually comes to a museum to get something. Now they were asked to give something.

His father taught him how to shoot. What the gun actually does. How to respect it, what code of conduct was related to it.

I am no therapist. I listen when people tell me their experiences. I can be present for their narratives.

Beyond that personal skill, this work is the fruit of working directly with audience for years. I have hosted experimental art-video shows. I used to guard art in museum-spaces from drunk people. I guided museum tours.

This work is a long look at audience relationship with the mediated story [ the artwork itself / the stories in news and entertainment media ] and its authority.

My studio space [ a computer ] means I sometimes make art in public spaces, like coffeeshops. Making ungun I was working with decayed images of guns. The visible screen became an invitation to strangers to interrupt, to ask “Hey what are you doing? That looks cool.” To tell me about guns. About being American with guns.

It meant staying alive, to carry three guns through Bosnia-Herzegovina as a UN-authorized peacekeeper, discovering countless bodies in fields, barns, knee-deep in pits, bodies made by guns. 

Guns are surrounded by cocoon of silence spun, paradoxically, of fear and bombastic noise. They are intimately connected to issues of authority. Who has the right to tell a story about guns – a story that easily can, illusively, be corrupted, become, paranoidly, the story about –

How could she raise her sons and keep guns out of their hands?

 

send and receive performance installation at Northern Illinois University

send and receive [ turret space ]

I spent four hours in the gallery listening to the space, to the visitors. Very few people accepted my invitation.  That inversion of audience relation to public art space needs a different introduction, perhaps.

I listened to the gallery sounds, to the floor creaks, the oops its time for me to leave hustle footsteps, to the fear. Staff at NIU are most afraid of the young white men with baby faces. That’s what NIU’s mass shooter looked like.

She left the day he brought a gun home. Things were bad enough and she knew the statistics.

Good art encourages the audience to examine their own experience. Art about guns doubles the authority of the mediated story – doubles the illusion that truth is outside of onesself – for the audience.

This is tricksy, working with potentially painful or trauma-sourced content. What is only a signifier for the artist can evoke intense memory for audience members. Memory of lived experience powerful enough that it denies the artwork. It also can challenge the audience member’s ability to manage that memory.

The reality, for people who have survived gun violence personally, or whose daily lives are affected by navigating spaces shaped by that violence – the audience needs to retain that authority over their own difficulty. Ceding that authority to the art doesn’t work.

So – instead of censoring published media, give space for the audience’s voice. Give them a space other than they have to avoid the signal of information coming from the artwork in order to be OK.

I was thanked by members of the NIU community who could not look at UNLOADED.  It was the language of gesture, ameliorating the re-traumatization that can be provided by published media.

 

send and receive performance installation

send and receive [ daisies ]

untitled antonio roberts video

Antonio Roberts made this. I think it describes the emotional mirroring overload of micro reactions I have skimming the internet when sh*t really hits the fan and so many people are scrambling && colliding && making sense of && pointing at *why this happened* and *what must be done*

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153223284537143

‘guns & consequences’ cancelled by bomb threat at NIU campus last night

Guns And Consequences was a spoken word event I organized in conjunction with the exhibition UNLOADED, which is on view at Northern Illinois University’s Art Gallery through October 24. Sponsored by the Center for Black Studies, the event was scheduled for October 8, 2015. It was cancelled by an all-campus bomb threat.

Yesterday I travelled from Milwaukee to Chicago and from Chicago to DeKalb. Josephine Burke, the musuem director who had programmed the show, picked me up at the Elburn Metra station. Elburn’s like a big taxi stand with adjacent parking lot, in the middle of cornfields.

Jo apologized for being late, she’d gotten caught behind a harvester on her drive to the station, its bits and pieces of corn and hay or whatever scattering across the road. I asked how the show UNLOADED had been received. She talked about how some people had seen the show, some of the talks had been very well attended, and how some of the campus who live with PTSD from the 2008 shooting incident could not walk into the show yet.

She mentioned offhand how she designed the installation, how she pulled walls from the gallery so visitors could find the exit if they had a panic attack. Then she realized that “a person could walk in and strafe the whole show.”

There it is, that fear that comes up, again. While designing fliers to support my own appearances – the artist talk for ungun, the flier announcing the performance-basd installation where I listen to visitors tell me their stories about guns – the tension slick with fear. Make sure the send and receive flier is deeply inclusive. I want to hear their experiences. All of their experiences. I am not collecting stories to make an argument. This is art, not argument.

Later I was setting up cameras to document spoken word performances by Nikki Patin , Tara Betts, Reginald Eldridge, Billy Tuggle, Mojdeh Stoakley. A three-camera shoot, for once! With good tripods. Art people know what I mean, the luxury of time to set up documentation, to pick your shots. I was goofing with Reggie, who was going to use this amazing AV setup to do something with images and words together. The trustee’s boardroom includes a remote like a garage door opener that lifts a screen out of the furniture . . . And the security guard came in and asked us to leave, all the buildings are being evacuated.

Nikki arrived at the room as the security guard mentioned “bomb threat”. Really? Really? Later when we’re all huddled under a little cement hutch-thing we joked about how a group that’s majority brown people go to a mostly-white college campus to talk about gun violence and there’s a bomb threat.

Stephen, the gallery manager, snapped photos with his iPhone, risking water damage – the sky had opened up as well with a pounding rain. And as we puzzled it out, as we thought about Jo’s statement that NIU closed some smaller campuses over the summer and it’s probably someone who lost a job – the threat was directed at all the buildings on the NIU campus, it’s not about us – I thought about the white guy who called in bomb threats almost once a week to my high school. This was fall of my Senior Year. Is it bad that I remember his name? Or compassionate? He had so much hatred. He would smile and fake his niceness but the poison was there, controlling 1,000 high school kids from a distance, with his phone.

Eventually the bus bringing Billy Tuggle and one audience member from the Metra mades it. And Mojdeh drove in. She talked about the strangeness of driving to a place every car was fleeing from.

I had to get back into the building to collect my suitcase; Jo needed to lock up the camera equipment. I did the fastest teardown I could. Jo inadvertently alerted security to us being in the building by pulling down a shade in the window.

We were asked to leave again, this time by a gentle Hispanic security guard who said “We chose not to hit the alarms. That would be too much.” Instead they walked through every floor of every building. This is what you do when you have a bomb threat on a college campus that survived a thing.

I thanked him for that, profusely; the evacuation was triggering enough. He said, “I’m just glad I found you in there before the dogs came through. They wouldn’t have liked finding you.” He had a long night ahead. Bomb-sniffing dogs had to visit every building on campus.

new work [ oldschool : newmedia ]

selfie [ oldschool / newmedia ]

The negatives I’m using for this process were shot & processed long before computers became part of my process – –

When I met animation processes, it was, at first, printmaking and scanning and hand-manipulation. Then hand-altered 16mm film. I’ve particularly missed that, the bleach and salt and razorblades and rubber gloves and stamps, glue, glitter and tape.

I figured out how to do that again, recently.

motoi yamamoto’s salt installations

motoi-yamamoto

 

poetics of annihilation : motoi yamamoto’s salt installations

“In Japan, [salt] is indispensable in the death culture… In the beginning, I was interested in the fact that salt is used in funerals or in its subtle transparency. But gradually, I came to a point where the salt in my work might have been a part of some creature and supported their lives. Now I believe that salt enfolds the memory of lives.” Motoi Yamamoto

andy baio explains what’s actually happening with digital appropriation, remix culture, & creativity

Andy Baio’s amazing talk about appropriation and digital remix culture. Well-researched, he tells so much truth about creativity and creative process, the problem of copyright and the myth of the solo genius-artist.

Portland/CreativeMornings – Andy Baio from CreativeMornings/Portland on Vimeo.

artist statement : we are all doors (2013)

Artist statement : we are all doors (2013) 6:40 : digital video for gallery projection.

Meditation : The body as container for consciousness. The act of dreaming our compass as we navigate inner space. How do we occupy our bodies?

Source images for the work made available to the artist by creative commons copyright support, a language of consent for content-sharing on the internet. Crowdsourcing implies, how does the royal we support the individual? How do we dream together? How does sharing support the creative mind?

 

 

 

Video dedicated to Aaron Swartz (Nov 8, 1986 – Jan 11, 2013) who assisted in establishing the creative commons in spirit and legal reality. Links posted at http://station-number-six.com/swartz.html connects source content provided by over a hundred and fifty photographers and videographers.

http://creativecommons.org explains what this artists statement (and work of art) cannot, about their approach to facilitating the movement and exchange of created content.

Poetry written and performed by the artist, recomposed and expanded slightly for the soundtrack. Audio mixed in Logic 9, video composited in FCP X, prepared for DVD with Compressor 4, authored for DVD in DVDSP.

Ultimately, the work will reside on the internet. Until then, I’ll be submitting it to screenings and gallery shows.

Jessica Fenlon

 

run run run : rashid johnson’s fugitive body

Happenstance and a work meeting downtown got me near enough the Museum of Contemporary Art to stop in today. Glad I did, as Rashid Johnson’s show Message to our Folks gave me plenty to consider. Here’s one axis of thought about the work.

The installation-driven work gave me elements of a marred home interior. Flooring, a gallery of wall photos, “oriental” rugs, furniture installation. Fire-branded wood flooring; rugs and furniture defaced in clean, intent gestures. Spray paint has as much intentionality on one rug as the crosshairs machine sewn into a carpet in a separate room.

My personal sense of home is the residence I make in my own body. I find Johnson’s defaced house imagery incredibly compelling.The argument of any cultural hatred (misogyny, racism, homophobia, xenophobia) is, truly, the negative cultural projections written on the body of its targets.

 

 

rashid johnson : single work, installation view

 

Smashed mirrors provide a broken self-image. Who gets seven years bad luck for making this work? No, the bad luck is having poor mirrors, messages that do not reflect the truth of who you are or what your potential might be in this world.  Mirrors reflect the body, physicality, the [perceived] object in which a person lives. A culture providing a broken self-image – and then you live with that . . .

 

 

run run run

Run run run. Don’t let them catch you out late, don’t let them catch you walking by yourself, carry yourself shoulders back, wear jeans, the tighter the better, they can’t rip them off easy. Run run run. Rape culture trains women to live in fear of being caught by strangers. How do you carry your keys as you approach the locked door of your apartment? How do you vary your walk home, to not make yourself a target? How do you make sure you don’t make eye contact, but know who’s staring at you on the train?

Run run run. Remembering walking through Bloomfield in Pittsburgh with a friend, stopping to dig in my purse for something and he said “Not here, you’re making yourself a target” and I hissed at him “I am not, I know where everyone is standing on this street”. The crosshairs machine-stitched into the carpeting – its written in the lining of the room, in the wallpaper of your mind, in the carpeting of the psyche. Of course I think of Trayvon Martin, but I also think of Johnny Gammage, who died “driving while black”. And I think of all the targets that hate culture puts on anyone’s back, for any visible, physical reason at all.

Run run run. Hm, frying pan or fire? What humans do not size up, categorize, sort, by appearance, by status, by the metadata attached to the person? Where is the predator who has created the broken mirrors upon which to cut one’s self image?

Run run run.  How has your house been defaced by cultural programming?

For a sense of the whole show, check out artnet’s full photo essay over here. (link takes you to another RUN piece inside the show). Rashid Johnson’s Message To Our Folks is at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, through August 5 2012.

I feel like ‘little miss obvious’ writing about this, the work speaks so clearly to me. Would love thoughts from others about it.

refreshing the the poetics of annihilation

Sometimes the mistake comes from seeing it all the way through to the end, without having begun.

The ease of overplanning facilitated by computers kills work the cradle. Once the imagination knows what the trip is going to be like, it doesn’t want to take it.

The drafting process is the first third of the path to having the work exist outside the mind/body. Editing is the second third. The audience meets the work, ‘publication’. The last third.

Each stage has its own demands, its own peculiar kind of sweat.

 

I live in a culture steeped in violence. There is violence in the work. Or there is consideration of recovering from violence, contending with it. I have made work that is psychologically or spiritually violent, yet I sit on it. Right now, I do not want to inflict it on an audience.

I am an American. Like other Americans I walk around with the blood of indiginous people on my feet, with the blood of slaves on my feet, with the blood of domestic violence on my feet. History soaked our nation’s birth with blood. We consume images and stories soaked with violence.

We can create peace. How do we create peace from a violent fabric? How does the transformation happen? Does it start with forgiving the past we have inherited, in order to simply let it drop, in order to make something new?

The poetics of annihilation are my name for looking at the violent stories of the 20th century, looking at our inheritance, and figuring out what to do with those stories. There is so much: the US government infecting african-americans with siphilus. The German government killing millions of civilians. The US dropping atomic bombs on Japan. The hundreds of millions of acts of war that individuals perpetrated at the behest of their governments.

How do we choose to witness this? We have our methods of recording, our films, our books, our internet. How can we face the weight of that violent fabric woven by those who went before us, and move forward without re-making that?

How can we, the talking monkeys, see, but not do?

sparks

Its funny, the whole concept of failure is related to judgement coming from outside of the self, some consequence of rejection come from the other. And when it comes down to it, the evaluation of our work is not left to us. Even its value socially. Even this capitalist-materialist notion of social status or competition between artist is an incorrect notion of failure.

That’s not the function of art, it does not compete; rather, it speaks. Good art has voice.

We have to let go and trust that the spark that the universe has placed in our chest is fuelled by the process of making. Trust that the work will find its way into the right other person’s hands and coax more fire into their spirit, too.

Milton Glaser on Creativity and the Fear of Failure

how do we tell ourselves about war as it happens?

Windows on the War at the Art Institute of Chicago

During World War II they made posters. The exhibit includes display of stencils used to make one image, since most of these posters were made using spray paint and stencils in a modified printmaking technique. Each country used painterly images to talk about enduring the process of making war, giving faces of sorts to enemy leaders, and create images to tell the story of discovering the atrocities perpetuated in the Germans’ Holocaust.

windows on the war : gallery view

The Art Institute of Chicago currently displays an enormous selection of these posters from its own collection. Of course I thought about how we talk about war now. I thought about the lack of created images representing the struggle with America’s wars abroad. I thought about how the more publicized American artists fiddle with ‘beautiful decoration’, cleverness, and technology. I thought about how young artists crucify themselves on the pursuit of fame in the castrated visual language of the academy. I thought about how digital media will not survive in the way these works on paper have survived. I thought about how each poster did not have an ‘artist’s signature’ yet somehow ‘credit’ was given the artist, or the group of artists, responsible for the work on view.

Then, I thought about the work.

I am interested in the artists’ choices as they created visual language of the evils unfolding somewhere else.

ben shahn poster describing nazi brutality

Wall text accompanying the 1942 image by Ben Shahn, published as an offset lithograph by the Office of War Information, US Government Printing Office:

This is one of only two designs by Ben Shahn printed for the Office of War Information. Inspired by the destruction of Lidice, Czechoslovakia, an industrial village razed by the Nazis in retaliation for the 1942 shooting of Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich, Shahn portrayed a cornered man cloaked in a hood, fists clenched against a high brick wall.

This design prompted critics to ask what kind of “realism” could best communicate to the American people – the storybook folk realism of Norman Rockwell, or the chilling documentary realism of Shahn.

nikolai denisovskii : straining in vain

Nikolai Denisovskii’s stencil poster, one of an edition of 650. Russian.

From the wall text : Despite the fact that Germany’s human resources are exhausted, the Fascists keep announcing new “super-total” mobilizations.

Plucked clean from all ends,
There sits the blood-drinking vulture.
But no matter how hard the killer tries,
He cannot get his chicks to hatch.

Against an ominous sky, a Nazi bird of prey with Hitler’s features sits on the skulls of slain German soldiers as if they are eggs from which it is possible to hatch new recruits. The text by the young satirical poet Mikhail Vershinin displays an admirable economy of means, underscoring all the ironies of the image in just four brief lines.

a statesman for contemporary germany

Nikolai Denisovskii’s stencil poster, one of an edition of 1,000. Russian.

From the wall text : The Lublin camp, with its calculated and fearsomely methodical technique of exterminating people, again strongly underscores the STATE-SPONSORED nature of the German organization of mass murder and torture. From the newspaper, Krasnaia zvezda.

In this chilling poster, the soldier being honored symbolizes all of the occupying German forces along the Eastern front, which were Hitler’s willing executioners. This poster coincided with the Red Army’s first encounter with a Nazi extermination camp – Majdanek – on July 24, 1944.

~

The wall text describing what it was like to discover the concentration camps broke my heart. I have read anecdotes of American GIs suffering post traumatic stress responses (sleep disturbances and more) years after they discovered what they discovered freeing those camps. The Russian stories are in its own category.

For images from the Art Institute, click through here.