motoi yamamoto’s salt installations



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

transition : from analog to digital // Tony Balko

Last night I got to surprise an artist-colleague, someone I haven’t seen since he left Pittsburgh in the oughts. In the 412, Tony did projected video work. Sometimes he edited together film-like things, sometimes he improvised with multiple 8 or 16mm projectors. Much of it, for me, was threshold-recognition work, immersive stuff playing with the viewers perceptual equipment (i.e. our eyesight & optical processing system). Yes, fear of seizure could be part of the experience, and fear of flashbacks, if acid or mushrooms were ever one’s particular trip. Always I found an engaging sense of wonder in Tony’s work, wonder at playing with the illusions underneath all projected film.



Balko packed the equipment for this installation into the pedestal supporting the piece. He created the software that manages the dilating, color-shifting projection using Processing.

I really enjoy watching Tony’s work make the shift to digital instrument creation. In Pittsburgh, I got to audience some of his collaborative video projection work. That content was created with existing video editing software, and was projected with live music performances with bands like Centipede Est. I also got to experience some of the pieces he made with analog projectors. Good stuff.

The leap to Processing deepens the instrumental improvisation. By building software, Tony creates the instrument projecting the work. His prior 8mm/16mm stuff worked, for me, as instrument/improvisation. The software made with Processing allows the art to respond to input during the show, a major departure from edited-together ‘finished films’ built on existing editing platforms.

Concerns with image flicker rate and abstraction unfolding over time certainly remain . . .



Check the flickr set, including video.




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.

womanhouse : forget remember forget remember …

Laura E Davis Really fascinating book review. This really worries me. I see that children are so encouraged to behave within set gender roles, it’s almost like feminism never happened.

Jessica Fenlon Every generation, it is forgotten. Have you ever had a look at Womanhouse?

Laura E Davis Do you mean this:

I had not heard of it, but what an incredible project.

linen closet

WOMANHOUSE : linen closet : 1972

Laura E Davis Oh man, there is a documentary about it. I can’t seem to find it anywhere though. boo.

Jessica Fenlon It is erased – like the work itself. The house used for the installation work was torn down in the end; it was slated for destruction, that’s how the artists got access to it to begin with. And there are no images on Wikipedia.

WOMANHOUSE : Lipstick installation in the bathroom : 1972

WOMANHOUSE : Lipstick installation in the bathroom : 1972

In art history, women’s work tends to be erased because it is left out.  The same seems to be true of some gains made by each generation of feminists. Simple human ignorance, each generation is born into it.

WOMANHOUSE : Bridal Staircase : 1972

WOMANHOUSE : Bridal Staircase : 1972

History makes the metaphor. This symbol-set presenting Female-Body-As-House-Inhabited-By-Her-Personhood was physically demolished.  In art historical memory, erased.

I went on an archeological dig through the Internet. I know this content well, having presented and re-presented it to art school peers and students over the years, a treasure of a work never taught to them by others.

WOMANHOUSE : nurturant kitchen : 1972

WOMANHOUSE : nurturant kitchen : 1972

This particular reconstruction is definitely incomplete. Some images I poached from a blog claiming ‘feminist art history perseverence forever!’. This blog ceased publication after four posts, three years ago.

Art is a language of gestures. How a culture tends to the object-relics related to those gestures tells us about the dominant cultural beliefs of that culture … or at least, what the curators of those cultural beliefs want us to think is permitted.

WOMANHOUSE : f.w. seated in her crocheted 'womb room' : 1972

WOMANHOUSE : f.w. seated in her crocheted 'womb room' : 1972

1972 : Womanhouse is the product of tremendous amount of consciousness-raising in a feminist art education setting. I dare you to discover more about this seminal work of art, work that created environmental installation art.

My assignment to you: find the answers to the following questions. No, you can’t use Wikipedia.

Who “taught” this group of young artists? What school housed the program? Where did you find the art historical documentation about it? Which artists created the specific works I’ve included in this post? What other titles were given to these smaller installations, and by whom? How many installations were in the house? How many performance pieces? What now-famous artists saw this work as audience members?

For extra credit : Why do you think a work of art that lays the foundation for an entire genre can be ignored, overlooked, forgotten?

photos : the Post-Apocalyptic Movie Theater – Gooski’s 7.24.2010

The first three stills sketch out the setup.

The remaining six were taken during the course of the screening – work by Matt Wellins, Ben Hernstrom, and myself are represented in these six stills.

The installation is projected in the natural space. The back wall of Gooski’s back room has a reflective quality, visible electrical outlets, and some graffiti.

The PostApocalyptic Movie Theater created a beautiful environment to inhabit. There were some threatening moments, as in Mr. Hernstrom’s datamoshed stuff, but the show was really about beauty. I screened mostly atmospheric works that captured particular moments and moods here in Pittsburgh, punctuated with pure abstraction (Wellins) and narrative humor (Files, from the 2006 Braddock Film Frenzy! film production challenge weekend).

Attentive, small audience, as I have become accustomed to for this experimental work. Thanks so much to Susan Constanse for the invitation to create the work. Thanks ever so much to Billy Wright for being the essential chauffeur – the work couldn’t have happened without his assistance.