Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Where do I begin?

While driving on the Severn Bridge on my way to Cardiff, Wales I felt the sun for the first time in days. I would be lying if I told you that the shock of the last week had worn off yet. I chose to drive myself from the airport to rehearsals for the ADP tour because I needed to clear my head. I didn’t consider that I had never driven on the wrong side of the road before. I flew into Manchester and a pair of very kind eyes seemed to size me up effortlessly. He gave me a map, explained everything he thought I would need to know in order to get to Wales and physically I got there without a hitch. I knew if I didn’t drive myself and talk through the last many days of hell, I would be useless to everybody and that’s not what I want. I had packed my bags before the art exhibition I was involved with. I had planned it perfectly or I would never have taken the job to be involved with the gallery in the first place. What I didn’t count on in a million years was this sense of failure that I would have to contend with after putting so much time and love into this visual art presentation. I had written my thoughts down the morning after the gala event. I need to post it so that I can move on…

The opening has left me tired and feeling empty. The night it-self was buzzing with excitement. Was it a success? The reaction has been explosive… positive and negative. I was taught as a child from my grandmother that this kind of reaction, when you are the gallery, is never a bad thing. There have been lines of people wanting to see what all the ruckus is about. So, from that standpoint, there is no reason to be down. What bothers me, when I can quiet my racing thoughts for half a second, is the way some of these artists and their works have been mis-understood. When I read all the critiques, I am left feeling as if I have failed some of these women artists. “Maybe just maybe” I think to myself, “if I had helped to present them in a different sequence, maybe then the literal mind would have been more open to the abstract.” Of all people, my friend Santa was the one who actually predicted to me on the night of the opening what some of the papers and the online reports would say about some of these women. At the time, I was horrified when I saw her giving this well-known little man a mental dressing down. Only our friend Isabel saw this and as I stood frozen and shocked, I think I saw Isabel smile calmly almost as if to say, ‘Let her go she knows what she’s on about.’ So I stayed out of the way. What I did not know in that frame of a second was what Santa had already ferreted out…. What the critique of this little man would be about the exhibition. And I say the word “little” not because of his looks but because of his heart. But it was Santa who realized first that this critic was going to slice the work of the sensitive, powerful art and only praise one or 2 women in the whole exhibition.

Because he writes for such an influential paper, this does matter…. in our world, unfortunately. I had personally called some of these women artists originally when their agents had been reserved about such a broad concept. I explained how I would personally be involved. Having had some success over the years with exhibitions they chose to trust me and eventually they agreed. The gallery is happy. Business is booming. I have heard nothing from the artists or their agents since the reviews have been published. I woke up to a bird tapping on my window. I took it to mean, ‘Clyde come outside.’ Am I running? Maybe. I keep getting texts from Kyle, which is thoughtful. But I have nothing to say, not right now. This is not about him so I have to work through it myself. I realize the response from the reviews is out of my control but I was so sure, so positive that these artists would be understood because of the way that I conceived their presentation. Wrong. All wrong. How did I get it so wrong?....... If I didn’t have to be in the U.K. imminently I would be jumping in my car and driving. Driving where? It wouldn’t matter. I just have to get out of here.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Performance Art

Because some of the artists that I felt we had to represent are performance artists, video
and stills from their Live Performance was collected and then presented as documentation
of the original event. This is a retrospective. Therefore, no performance artists in "real time"
have been included. There was a panel of a few of us arguing the pros and cons and frankly I
felt that to subject a performance artists to masses of people who would not be focused on their art
          form would be mixing still life and 3D.
The concept of this particular exhibition is "Visual Hall of Fame," if you will of the women form
           the historical period of the mid to late 20th century and the
           early 21st century.
But, and this an important but, the theme for this specific section of the exhibition was
designed around artists that create with the female body, their own or another woman's as the
           central material.
As I walked Kyle through the intoxicating maze of the Body of Woman, I saw him in a new light.
           He was humbled. He was entranced. He was disturbed.
First up was work represented by Valie Export… one of the early radical performance artists
that sent ideological shock waves through the patriarchal male-defined image of woman as object.
Whether inflicting pain, not as a masochistic act, but as "signs of history revealed in actions
           involving the body"…. or tattooing a garter on her thigh in
           1970 as a "sign of past enslavement," Valie Export was one
           of the liberators of the female body (a woman who my
           friend Santa calls a true originator).
We walked on. We stopped. There were moments of quiet as we stood in front of the paintings by
           Marlene Dumas specifically from the series Strippinggirls
           because there were no words as he drank in "Cleaning the
           Pole", "Cracking the Whip", and "Caressing the Pole."
From a representation of one of Vanessa Beecroft's live installations (Show.1998) to
           representations of Carolee Schneemann, Kyle was drawn to
           the inspiration that Schneemann has clearly had on Body
           Art as a medium. When we arrived at the powerful images
           of Hannah Wilke , "I- Object", there were tears as he had to
           sit and collect himself after having viewed Hannah's "Intra-
           Venus" series which documents the artists' real life battle            with cancer.
After Kyle's experience with Wilke's use of the genre, I dropped him smack dab into the Digi-
           universe of Natacha Merritt. Some people have referred to
           her work as pornography. My friend Isabel calmly
           remarked, 'Stay neutral Clyde or else you can't represent
           the artists equally.' Kyle cracked a smile, as I thought he
           would, when I pulled my hands from his eyes after I had
           gotten him in the perfect position to experience this artist.
           Guys always smile when they view Merritt's photographs.
           Women are on all sides of the fence on this one, that's one
           of the reasons I wanted to include her. This work causes
           debate amongst feminists who surprise themselves by their
           reaction to these intimate sexual details.
One performance that I daresay Santa will be more than happy to have missed would have to be
           when in 1994 the performance artist Elke Krystufek
           masturbated in front of guests, even her mother, at the
           opening of the group exhibition "JETZTZEIT." But the
           question asked by a few that were actually there is what
           resonates with me still. And that question is, 'Was I, the
           spectator, the voyeur in this piece, or was it I who was the
           object of desire for Krystufek?'
There is more to see than can be shown in a couple of hours so I decided to end the tour for Kyle
           with the power house duo of Shirin Neshat and Ghada
           Amer. It really is hard to follow the impact of them
           together. He grabbed my hand and asked, 'Will you show
           me more? I know there is more why stop?' I honestly
           responded, 'There's always more art Kyle. Come back on
           Saturday and if you really want to see more then you will
           want to make the effort to show up.' 'I'll be here by 8
           sharp,' was his declaration. I left him with, '9 sharp would
           be better.'