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Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

VSK PROJECT ARIEL GOLDBERG: LETTERS TO ROBERT GOBER AND EHREN TOOL

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2012 at 12:26 am

Ariel Goldberg and "Newspaper" (1992) by Robert Gober

 

 

July 7, 2011

 

Dear Robert Gober:

There is a psychic connection between your sculpture of your fake newspapers and the relatively recent flurry of people taking pictures in museums. To visit a museum is something to report on, or to make available to see, for that unknown audience of memory. The impulse seems linked to imitating a newspaper spread. When I see someone posing next to a piece of art, or, their bodies just in front of it, not inside the photo, I see that picture getting discarded. I don’t know how it is that when people are taking so many pictures I still feel that pictures don’t exist.

I thought about staging performers to be photographing in the galleries leading up to your piece. But I cringe at even directing someone to take a picture. I think I need to be directing people in not taking a picture. But are these opposites? The planted photographers would look attached to me, they would probably have been my friends, and I realized I wouldn’t want to be attached to fake photographers. Like, if I was dating and everyone was a photographer, the fake photographer would not be my type. I would rather imagine staring at people photographing. Cameras, at least deactivated on the bodies of people in the museum, happen frequently enough that I wouldn’t have to stage it. And anyway, I still have my whole life to watch people take pictures.

I don’t blame people for photographing; I don’t know if they can help it. Vilém Flusser writes in his book Towards a Philosophy of Photography:

 

Cameras demand that their owners (the ones who are hooked on them) keep on taking snaps, that they produce more and more redundant images. This photo-mania involving the eternal recurrence of the same (or of something very similar) leads eventually to the point where people taking snaps feel they have gone blind…They are not ‘in charge of’ taking photographs, they are consumed by the greed of their camera, they have become an extension to the button of their camera…A permanent flow of unconsciously created images is the result.

 

Officially allowing photography was a watershed decision before the 2007 Frieda Kahlo show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where your “Newspapers” are in the permanent collection. At the information desk I learn that this coincided with the increasing technology of cell phone cameras. Guards couldn’t tell the difference between when people were taking notes on their phone and taking a picture. Meanwhile, visitors were actually complaining they couldn’t take pictures in the museum, maybe because it was like a violation to their personal experience, like a threat to their memory. The leading defense was, if the museum could sell reproductions of a piece, why couldn’t visitors pose next to it, for their noncommercial uses? Not allowing photography got linked with the sinister motive to capitalize off a restricted picture only being accessible through a postcard, a book, or a t-shirt. What became clear in this struggle for the right to photograph in a museum is how it is the taking of a photo that offers the intended memory. This is a transfer or a gestural reinforcement from something you could hold. It’s like multiple lenders. The photo is an event.

When I went to a talk the other night, the announcements began with saying you cannot take people’s pictures without the express permission of the person being photographed. I wonder how often people might ask a painting, a sculpture, a photograph permission, and how this might seem crazy. Then the next night, I was sitting in the audience at a cabaret style performance and all I could see was the screen of the person in front of me taking photos of the burlesque act. This could have been the friend of the performer, they could have had permission, but I suspected it was the free reign technique.

I have stood guard at “Newspapers,” communicating with the sculpture so to speak, which deters, but also attracts visitors because they think I am a docent. Someone even asked me if I was the artist. They were joking. I ended up talking about how “Newspapers” is really a performance of negligence. And I’m not trying to say people don’t look at art, because that wouldn’t be fair, they are in the museum because in some form, they care about art. People come here to look at art, right?

I’m just curious about what discourages “Newspapers” from being looked at. I’ve been watching how most people don’t read the surface of these stacks, and how what you would read feels a little bit like a puzzle to solve. Stopping to solve a puzzle doesn’t go with conveyer belt flow of moving through galleries, even if it is easy, like a travel size puzzle sold in a toy store, one that loses its pieces in between car seats. Also, “Newspapers” is one of the only pieces on the ground in this permanent collection exhibition, and it’s bunched like waste, good-looking garbage, but still associated with what is ready to be brought to the people who sell trash.

Reading the wall text, I see it’s on archival paper, that they are constructed to be like newspapers, but ones that don’t yellow. When my eyes jump over the twine, I see the headlines are twisted, combined, and selected. “Protestor thrusts a fetus at Clinton,” “Student killed after objecting to racial slur,” “Bush is sent forth as Champion of family Values,” “Judge Dismisses Case Against Men Holding Hands,” “Vatican condones discrimination against homosexuals.” What that means is the Vatican intended to scrutinize laws intended to protect gays and to oppose them if they promote public acceptance of gay behavior. When I search the New York Times archive I find they have changed homosexual to gay in the headline, but not in the text’s body.

It’s not a subtle world you’ve created at all, once you bend over. Weddings look absurd, all the pots, and rings, and dresses: the gift is presented as a road sign, like an attraction up against this hit parade of who gets a shit taken on them.

I also have stood at other sides of this gallery to watch people interact with “Newspapers.” It’s very uncomfortable to stand still in a gallery longer than a few minutes without a uniform saying my job is to stand here, which is perhaps emblematic of how uncomfortable it is to be an artist, with the rare occasion of time, to do their work. It’s weird to come do my work inside a museum; I am even more aware of the ambient social doubt that a non-canonized, person making art is necessary. So the discomfort is really suspicion. Anyway, if I circled the gallery, and the new people coming in did not know that I was on a loop, that would be maybe less uncomfortable. The incognito artist is, in other words, just a performance artist.

What also feels uncomfortable is listening to people turning on their cameras, the path of beeps to turn a flash off make cameras like portable video games. It’s strange, the limitations on behavior. How just saying no flash, or not on this floor but on those floors, is a reminder of this limp control. Photography has become akin with a sort of lawlessness– it’s like the power you might feel when jaywalking. I wonder if there is, a connection with outdated laws, or the reality of living gay versus the laws about being gay, and how someone photographing, might be exerting this strong desire, one they cannot help, and don’t think is wrong. This isn’t a comparison, but a sort of collision between your piece and the photographic acts.

Anyway, I am writing to let you know that no one really photographs your “Newspapers.” I’ve been visiting your piece for about a month now, once a week, sometimes more, depending how lost I am about what to say, and I’ve seen no one photograph it. It’s in the corner of a room, the middle of the second floor, so those factors might lend to a moment of fatigue. The location of your piece is similar to hitting the gooey bottom of a body of water.

Also, “Newspapers” is right next to René Magritte’s painting of a comb, Ibuprofen, a bed, a feather, and clouds as wallpaper, to indicate a dream. “Personal Values” is the title, which goes nicely with the singeing “family values” codeword in one of your Newspapers’ headlines. In fact, that’s the only curatorial logic I can detect here. To say “Newspaper” is next to a surrealist painting is a way of saying that your piece is often treated in the periphery. Because surrealism, you know, is famous, recognizable, comforting, explanations of the movement make it to high school curriculums.

I don’t think this twisted reality of you being the model for a Saks Fifth Avenue wedding dress is a 1992 version of dream state surrealism. It’s just a prize coined by a hidden layer, for curators, friends, historians, people who bought the audio tour, for artists. It’s an act of withheld information, something akin to a hunt. In all the writing about your work, the “Newspaper” pieces are mentioned the least, maintaining that same periphery the general population of SFMOMA exerts on to it. “Newspapers” is therefore a very successful insistence on what it means to be overlooked. However public a newspaper might be, on a stand, or a screen, reading the news is an intensely personal process. You might as well be getting yourself in the news if you are making fake newspapers, right? Your face is the imaged bride, on the page with the news, as a testament to this. It’s like a where’s Gober when you didn’t know you were being given a where’s Gober.

Only recently I began to understand the desire to be taking pictures in a museum. I had given an assignment of going to this museum and writing about a piece of art, interpreting it. Somehow the assignment that I modified from another teacher had this requirement to take a photo of the thing students would write about, and I didn’t take that requirement out. It was an oversight, or an experiment. I’m not sure which. Anyway, I was helping two students with editing drafts of their essays, and one of them began to reminisce about the first time he saw a Salvador Dali painting at this museum. How that was a really special experience for him because he grew up on the reproductions. His classmate asked, did you take a picture of it? I seized on this question with inexhaustible fascination. My brain was on fire.

Why take a picture of a painting? His explanation took some detours. He had to go to Las Vegas for his sister’s wedding. There was a Manet or Van Gough show there, I don’t remember which. He expressed his need to see this show, and this strong desire was also an announcement to his family of being an artist. This show felt like the opportunity to meet a celebrity, one that you could stare at and they wouldn’t flinch or blink. Objects can be celebrities. The weekend was too busy with ceremony for him to go. He felt deeply deprived and disappointed.

His answer to my persistent question, can it still be a sacred experience without taking a picture, was, I take pictures of everything, everything interesting. To prove this, he scrolled through the photos in his phone. He showed me a photo that I had even showed him, taken from the computer screen I had wheeled into class one day. Actually that photo was of the Vija Celmins drawing right near your “Newspapers” piece that looks like a photo but when you get up close you see it’s a very meticulous graphite drawing. He keeps this picture to make conversation, to ask his friends to guess if it’s a photo or a drawing, and everyone says photo, and then he says no! It’s a drawing!

Why am I so confused about people taking photos–why do I care, right, how does it hurt me? What is difficult for me is to reconfigure my relationship to the camera. I don’t see a camera as something that can help me see someone else’s art better, or for extended or injected time. Or maybe this is my issue with this never-ending conflict, or subsidiary framework, where photography often becomes this bland tool for painting unless it imitates the bigness of painting. It’s some history hang over. I mean, I have no problem documenting art with photography–art that needs documentation that is. And ultimately everything needs a reproduction. So the question might be about when we start employing ourselves to be the reproducers.

My relationship to a camera is not about saving the first time I see something. It is more about the continual times I see something, or the impossibility for there be a precious moment, just a painfully ordinary one. Or entering a place of delay and darkness. To me photography is just an accumulation; it’s versions of people accumulating. Or photography has almost completely shifted for me from mechanical tools to word tools, and that I continue to argue with that idea also.

Anyway, we are at a battleground of what gets called mundane or not. I cannot avoid it here, love and death. I am standing in front of your work, Robert Gober, and people are watching me. They are listening. The museum has hired me to give a talk here. It’s part of a live influx of writers to coincide with the Gertrude Stein Family collection show upstairs. The Stein show costs more money at the door, so the permanent collection feels like a discount. Upstairs, the paintings are shipped from Europe, displayed behind glass, a type of glass you can see your own reflection in if you try to see the texture of the paint. They have extra guards in that show, and photography is absolutely not allowed. But that doesn’t mean people haven’t been taking pictures.

I went to see the Gertrude Stein PBS style biography show across the street, at the Jewish Museum. It leaves out readings of her work, practically denigrating her more experimental works as unreadable because it decidedly focuses on the visual Gertrude, the surface. I found the Félix González-Torrez photo of Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein’s grave under the subject heading of “legacy” in the show. I heard the curator talk about this photo, saying it’s cross gendered queer bonding, creating ties to the past, creating hope for the future, whatever that means. Talk about utopia can be such a bummer sometimes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about subtlety these days. About how in June all the alternative spaces’ art shows have queer in the title and clap their hands, literally, holding applause signs, promoting the work of who is going to say this is queer. And it seems to be the only place for art made by queers this month, the megaphone.

Anyway, the photo of what is maybe Stein and Toklas’ grave or maybe is just a camera pointing at flowers, is “Untitled.” González-Torrez subtitles the “grave” giving an estimate of its location in place, name. There is a concept neatly delivered, or the piece readily contextualized. So it isn’t untitled, that’s sort of a joke. Meanwhile, your “Newspapers,” aren’t really newspapers, so there’s the joke. The hope, maybe I should say. You title them “Newspaper,” single, but I’ve actually been re-titling your piece in the plural, just to make my sentences sound better.

On the wall intersecting “Untitled” is a Tammy Rae Carland photo of Félix González-Torrez’s grave. It’s basically a replica, with different color flowers. I don’t know if he was even buried in Oakland. Referent on referent–like phyllo uncooked. I had to iterate my attachment to these pictures by standing longer than I did in front of anything else; they sort of cradled me. Maybe it was the corner.

I had seen the Stein Toklas grave photo before, but only as a slide in a lecture, on an old type of projector, one that shuts you up in a room in the dark and hums. Then I had seen it in books. Instead of taking a photograph of this picture, to commemorate my first time seeing it, I composed a text message, saying right now I stand in front of the González-Torrez grave picture that I know is one of your favorite pictures. I sent the message to the person who showed me the grave photo for the first time, when I was listening to her slide lecture.

I think about newspapers as inescapable reproductions, emanating a disavowal of the real thing. What could we demand, with the situation of someone looking at a photo under the condition it is not a flat thing? “Newspapers” might as well be a grave. It makes me think about the right to determine graves, where they are, if the experience of mourning is so displaced over time. And how much grief is stored up in photos, waiting for us, like an invitation. What is a grave in a time when deaths are unacknowledged? Can newspapers be a grave? Can a reproduced portrait of David Wojnarowicz be another grave, and for who, for the artist who died of AIDS or all the not so famous people? Fake Newspapers are a kind of exhumed gravestone, one that sunk underground because it’s made of the vulnerable. The “Newspapers” are a lot less pretty than framed flowers; unless you have a newspaper fetish, which I kind of do, because it’s my only sense of home.

 

 

__

 

 

Dear  Ehren Tool:

“Each Image must be in a chain of images, for if it were not in a tradition, it would not be decipherable. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily always work.” (Vilém Flusser, Into the Universe of Technical Images)

 

To decipher an overlap in positions can’t be comfortable.
Peace is for pussies: this is a quote.
You cannot tell if this is professional because of the bathing suit lines.
Pride risks an invasion of style: looking at patriotism can make you feel less patriotic.
Artillery drops like deer pellets in rotation.

The excuse of an accident.
There is the professional here too, in a spectrum of salutes.
Implants from the care package or the screen.
The portrait studio of badges and pins.
You can fill in the blank of who they are when they do smile.

The official portrait’s meaning is in how it repeats.
We start to recognize them.
They may be dead.
Every picture is of someone that may be dead.
Most people bring their own camera.

This could be considered a placeholder camera.
They are hugging with heads down.
They don’t discuss a plan but recover from one.
That flag is upside down and bedazzled with skulls instead of stars.
Agitation lines indicate what’s shaken is being thrown.

The head does not look attached to the body.
People are scrambling.
Caretakers to the wounded are captured from a movie.
The way a dummy can scare you.
A label too small to read.

This keeps on happening.
This is hungry for a victory.
A commemorative keychain or poster or a t-shirt reapplied here.
Iconic shock leaks permission.
They are aligned full frontal, legs spread slightly wider than hips.

A flag hangs sideways in the backdrop to fulfill the military fetish.
Reverse the pledge of allegiance.
Uniform covers body except for unzipped fly.
The president gives a press conference.
The cue is replaced with a halt.

 

 

__

 

 

Dear  Ehren Tool:

I’ve captioned your cups, but I will never feel ready to write about your cups. They disarm readiness, or characterize readiness as an apparition. The cue is replaced with a halt. What results is tumbling into many descriptive lists where I’ve become this person trying to organize or talk to the pictures on the cups.

 

 

All the damaged cups Ehren Tool gave Ariel Goldberg in 2010

 

 

I’ve studied the cups as if round history books. I’ve stored them in different ways in closets, tables, and basements. I’ve thought about when their backside faces the wall, hiding images on them. How even the most minor choice to see one image and not another is enacting the perpetual selection, and abbreviation of a glut to reckon with. The week I decided to photograph the cups, I was stacking them, to make variations of high short rows or long low rows. I was figuring out my favorites and making those images visible for the surface of a photo. At night I’d fall asleep facing the cups. I was living with them at all times in that room, as a peripheral headspace. I’ve taken over 300 pictures of the cups in all sorts of positions.

What I’ve arrived at is how a photograph of the cups doesn’t let you hold a cup, or drink from it. The cups you gave me live in a state of fragility, containing hairline cracks that are small enough to miss. The cups were never precious; you even threw one to the ground in your studio when we met to make this clear. It wasn’t quite like the burning of a letter. When the cup is broken, images on them still work. Not only do the pictures still remain readable, they feel even more relevant with fractures or missing parts. Of course they could get more damaged, more unsee-able but they are suspended. Perverse, banal, or recognizable images are only in the context of something broken.

Images feel at home on broken surfaces. Pictures do or don’t remain. By holding pictures on a cup, a hand is holding multiple unoriginal pictures at the same time. The photos are being rounded and hidden. In order to hold the cup, your hand must cover a picture or pieces of pictures. This contact of a palm or the fingers over a picture compares to holding the edges of a print, to see a framed photo, or glance at a screen. The hand to the photo on a cup is both a silencer and amplifier to a picture. We are actively and inactively remembering and forgetting images all the time. We are carrying images all the time. Photos are watching us take them in.

 

 

__

 

 

More about Ariel Goldberg’s work is here and Ehren Tool’s here.  A dialogue between Ariel Goldberg and Ohad Ben Shimon is on VerySmallKitchen here.

 

 

 

 

NEW VSK CHAPBOOK: EDITORIAL by NICK-E MELVILLE

In Uncategorized on March 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm

 

 

 

 

The latest VSK chapbook is nick-e melville’s EDITORIAL, which is available for online consumption and PDF dowload here. EDITORIAL begins:

 

 

ti
ded
ded

fiend kills girlfriend’s mum
over wedding snu

lax

it’s good to pay
for careless drivers

                             over
              steam
first de playwright JB Priestley.
              poet Samuel
Taylor Coleridge

80 Lap
Mixed Lots

RIP

sentencing backlash
as riot moth
is set free

oil stopped

David Mellor famously
warned that the British
press was now “inking
in the loon”.

South Africa
selected art up to 2012
the Big word
Andy Devl

like a nit
George’s plan isn’t quite
stacking up

 

 

EDITORIAL began as an installation of the day’s newspapers at the Totalkunst Gallery, Edinburgh 20/21 August 2011, the concluding installation of I AM NOT A POET.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tippex and marker pens were available, and a score invited “tippex the papers and correct the news.” As the notes to this chapbook explain:

 

 

words made from tippex deletions.

words in brackets are words added in tippex by participants
words in bold are words added by participants with black marker, one provided or their own.
words in red are words added by participant(s) in red marker.
words in square brackets describe images made by tippex.

each variation comes from a separate notational revolution round the gallery.

 

 

 

EDITORIAL will be launched as part of Evergreen at X Mark’s the Bökship on 30th March  2012.

 

 

A u u with no and thos’

our guid heap

venture
seeing
eering
Go:

outrage as Tussaud’s
defends its right
to say Heil Hitler

Last minute sale
Bank Bargains!

Honeymoon horror
Killer was White

a moral bound
the pup that won
Cilla’s ear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

nick-e melville’s work is also part of VerySmallKitchen’s I AM NOT A POET ASSEMBLING.

Other tippex works by nick-e were part of THETEXTISTHETEXT (co-curated with Gerry Smith), an online version of which is on VerySmallKitchen here.

See a recent interview and reading at The Other Room here.

 

 

the man who spent
£15,000 to shed pounds

park boss heck
over light sides

fat spread as city’s tin walls join the strike
tens of 1000s of port
celebrated
man who relishes a fight
everything it touches
turns to ash

the new capital
one world
mastercard will
pay you back hands

charge the bank

 

 

 

Continue reading here.

 

 

VSK RESIDENCY: OHAD BEN SHIMON AND ARIEL GOLDBERG: A CORRESPONDENCE

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Ariel Goldberg, Part of the epistolary novel, and performance "The Photographer," March, 2012

 

 

The following is an edited version of a correspondence which took place by email between 24 February and 15 March 2012, between Ohad Ben Shimon and Ariel Goldberg.

Ohad emailed Ariel as a follow up to their inclusion in Ugly Duckling Presse’s Emergency Index publication, proposing a dialogue, one of whose public forms would be as a blog post on VerySmallKitchen.

Transcript edited by VerySmallKitchen 18/03/12. The full unedited exchange can be seen here.

 

 

 

OHAD: I was quite happy to view and read your thoughts regarding the intersection of photography with performance and text. It’s nice for me to take photography as a starting point as I was also educated in art school in photography and kind of drifted away from it. I’m more into connecting writing/performance to painting nowadays. But eventually i guess all roads cross.

ARIEL: I started in photography school also, turned to writing as the more practical and versatile tool, but always still deep in photography. Actually I argue my writing is photography. Photography is in such rapid change, I think language is at this moment of really entering the game. Like caption revenge or something.

 

 

Photo: Ohad Ben Shimon

 

 

OHAD: Your writing might very well be (is) photography, I get that. Presence/absence etc. What is the object of writing/photography? I also used to identify myself as a photographer without a camera for people who didn’t get the picture. It should go on from there to new and yet unknown territories.

ARIEL: Just subbed for a class of 18 year old photo students and I felt like why make supremacy out of photography. It seems like these photographers, and they were very young ones, who knows what they will become, had no hunger for reading/writing as maybe a better lens when the world is over-saturated image wise.

 

 

 

 

Ariel Goldberg, slide lecture, AND NOW festival, 2011, based on photgraphs of parents Ellie and Ira Goldberg.

 

 

 

Past explaining things, settling into writing as a primary medium may be where I have always been heading. Perhaps there is some idea of not wanting to give up one for the other. Preferably the unknown, as you say.

I have a prompt for this emergency index release party to make a piece “from” something else in the anthology. I’m curious about the medium, if there can be one, of “performance lecture.” Is this a thing? I feel like it is a buzz word right now in the arts crossing over to writing. I’m interested in how a faux-expert operates. As a real expert, tonally.

 

 

 

OHAD: Can we free photography from its contemporary heavy chains of disgust? Can we acquire the sense of innocence that once inhabited this medium? Without getting all sentimental about it or perhaps to exaggerate this sentimentality to an absurd point…

The lecture-performance format deals with a certain academic authority to my understanding. This authority is perhaps the same sovereign authority that the photographic medium has dealt with throughout history.

Predominantly I think a lecture-performance is a way to designate an exchange between an artist and an audience which is neither an academic (lecture) exchange nor a performance in the normal sense of the term. So it’s an interesting case of a double negation. Like the double negation of writing slipping into art. It’s neither writing, nor art. Neither-nor.

 

 

Ariel Goldberg, Directed self-portrait, as a bridesmaid, in New Jersey, 2011

 

 

Who is telling what to who? Who is listening? Who’s in the picture? Who’s not? Who’s smart? Who’s stupid? Who’s infantile? I sound like Heide Klum in Project Runway. What if we could break all the cameras in the world in one given moment and then glue them all back together to form one uber-camera? What would we see?

I’ve had another talk with a friend last week, also contemplating what you say regarding the realisation that writing is/should be your primary medium. But what the hell is a writer? Is it someone who publishes books? Goes to readings? Is reviewed about? I really don’t know.

For me writing lately comes down to silence. There is a silence when I write. I transform that silence into a certain visible trace in the form of words. Maybe it’s similar to the way a camera brings a certain darkness into light?

 

 

 

ARIEL: I am thinking today about caption errors. About how this seems to be the most dramatic twist, some affirmation of the way blind faith in the surface of an image distorts our experiences (of what?).

I read the news constantly, more so now maybe because I started getting a New York Times weekend edition. So the papers just pile up and it feels like I am a worker, like Bartleby the Scrivener, getting through the stories.

Do you read the news? Are broken cameras caption errors? There are so many cameras going into the garbage heap everyday, it is the most rapidly evolving and consumer cycling technology it seems, if cell phones are included in the pile of cameras. I like to stare at those bins at thrift stores of film cameras. But I don’t want to accumulate them.

If we took this, cameras broken then gluing it back together, and thought about what we would see- light leaks? Literal. We would see the people in the military taking the horrific pictures of the dead bodies their commands are responsible for. This sort of footage of carnage is under constant raps, but so much of it is flowing through the memory cards of the U.S. military.

I’ll tell you what a writer is, in the sense of how it feels in my daily life: I wake up in the morning and I must write. The thing I am making, are pieces of paper with writing on them. Other stuff grows from that point but I guess it’s a crude estimation of my production that I say I am more of a writer.

I must write or I go crazy. It is really actually a compulsion. I must write down the things that seem crucial to observe, minutia in photography, inside my many little systems for collecting then finessing this observation into a piece of writing to redistribute back to the world.

 

 

Ariel Goldberg, SFMOMA 2011: "On July 7, I led a group of people up to Robert Gober’s Newspaper piece, discussing, theorizing, and reciting the photographic acts that happen throughout the museum. Evan Kennedy helped by narrating the script up to the piece..."

 

 

But it is a struggle. And there is a lot of silence in it. Yes, I agree silence is crucial, something to seek, to cultivate. I guess mostly, a writer is a reader. I guess I identify with the procedures for arriving at subjects or projects like that of a writer, but also that of a photographer, a photographer who doesn’t use film but uses language, because it is much freer. In the economic sense, I think it is important to differentiate between photography and writing.

You write “the lecture-performance format deals with a certain academic authority to my understanding. this authority is perhaps the same sovereign authority that the photographic medium has dealt with throughout history. who is telling what to who?”

For a while I was obsessed with writing the imagined voice of the subject of photographs, as these sort of dredged captions. Then I was also writing the voice of the photographer- who sounded kind of like an asshole. I think with citizen journalism, anyone who is there with any type of camera and catches a crucial picture to document something considered news or history, the sovereign power of photography is changing.

Perhaps more people doing “performance lectures” is just a result of the spread of academia into the arts, which it seems everyone bemoans at every opportunity they get. Bash the M.F.A. or the B.F.A.

 

 

 

OHAD: What motivates me? Kinship. Maybe that’s why I contacted you. I sensed a certain kinship. which is strange. I mean we are total strangers.

I saw Rabih Mroué in Utrecht. I liked his approach. I also sat behind him just before and after his performance in the audience. I thought of talking to him and congratulating him for an interesting performance. But then I thought to myself. Wait. You are Israeli. He is Lebanese. I felt like anything I would say would be disrespectful. Maybe something I did or said would be interpreted by him as offensive. I felt guilt. I rather remain silent and appreciate him from a distance. And so I did.

There is a bit of an element of fooling around in a child-like way in your (and mine) writing/performances. Maybe that foolishness is our way to maintain the innocence we once experienced as related to photography? Maybe photography is a funny medium. A fun-ny medium.

 

 

 

ARIEL: I’ve spent some more time with your performances, or the documentation of them, The Mirror Stage in particular, and then when two people come together, giving a reading, and the interview with Chris Clarke.

 

 

Ohad Ben Shimon, The Mirror Stage at The Second Act, Amsterdam, 2011

 

 

I have this urge to ask a long string of questions and observations which you can choose to answer or not.

I was curious about the image in your the documentation of the mirror stage- how it only shows one image, and the whole performance cycles through many many images. Did you choose that still for the picture on the screen?

 

 

 

 

Is there hierarchy or can there be of “good pictures” when you are showing them as a mass? Are favorites possible? Is a “good” picture becoming obsolete when there are just necessary or de-facto pictures?

Do you bring a little kit for your performances or are they built from whatever equipment that is there? That lamp, and the desk. I have this urge to use no technology- have no tek needs that is, for upcoming
performances. Or if there is a photo or a text people need to see they hold it.

I was interested in Chris Clarke’s question about integrating “your pictures” after doing performance talks/ readings without images and how you said you experienced a “distrust with photography”.

 

 

 

 

 

Photos by Ohad Ben Shimon. From Top: Mitzpe Ramon; Tel Aviv 2009; Dad at the Dead Sea; The Love Parade Berlin.

 

 

…and The Mirror Stage is reflective we are striving for a unity a feeling with the audience taking these fragments- there is something about vulnerability. What do you think about vulnerability? Is diary a misnomer? I have been thinking about handing people work, literally,
the page that i first write about something on (and I edit a ton when it transfers into type on the computer). The holding of a piece of writing as performance.

Do you know Stephen Ratcliffe, the American poet’s work? I think it would interest you. How it all begins with a date, as numbers, he writes from the same place, mostly, everyday, a sort of same sounding poem.

Can we make an analogy of anything to photography? Is it that far and wide? Do you prefer to sit than stand while reading to an audience? How much of that do you premeditate?

Do you edit the diary? Really? How many languages do you speak? Forgive me, I am very verbose by nature. I cannot seem to edit this down. I want it to be real/rawe.

Perhaps the reason I am so interested in correspondence, and interviews or other topics for criticism is that I must have something to bounce the photography focus off from or else I’ll get bored with it. I might. I might stop the obsession but it is alive and well now. I am not done. I am not discovering but collecting. Maybe afraid of losing to cope with real losing. Talk about psychology! For motivating procedures for making.

I like getting glimpses of the big time difference between us. How your bed time, or meal time, with when I am reading. Correspondence, even over the internet, guarantees some delay, like the delay I think I am most attached to in photography.

 

 

OHAD: I also like the delay very much. The more ‘serious’ photos I take I store the film for about half a year until I’m in Tel Aviv again and I develop them in my favorite lab. It’s the only lab I develop film.

So the status of my analogue photography is always tied to this lab, in which the owner died from cancer about 2-3 years ago and since then his son has taken over. They have nice punk concerts there on Friday afternoons. I once took my father and brother and we had a nice time. We drank arak. Do you know arak? It’s this kind of anis.

Thanks a lot for your reflections about my works. It felt like I had a solo show, you know this specific attention to specific works and details. You don’t imagine that you can actually have a solo show online, depending on the attention of the viewer.

In The Mirror Stage performance there was no real hierarchy… and I was never a kind of fanatic digital photography producer of images. I guess I’m kind of choosing to exaggerate the medium to see where it will break. Breaking the medium by overusing it.

 

 

 

Ohad Ben Shimon & Veniamin Kazachenko, Self Portrait As Van Gogh Sitting On The Chair In His Famous Painting - The Bedroom, 2012.

 

 

 

The camera I used for that performance actually did break. I was with a new friend I just met in Amsterdam. She went on the roof of her apartment. Then she asked for the camera to take a picture of us hanging around the balcony. Then it dropped and never opened again.

Did I mourn it? I still have another one with me. I never buy cameras. I somehow manage to receive them from someone who doesn’t need them. So it’s like a ready made. I treat the cameras I use as ready made.

Today is the International Women’s Day and I was wondering how being a woman is related to your text/performances.. I’m sure it’s quite significant.

It’s nice to discover that our approaches are the same in a kind androgynous way. I mean to say all this technology and monotony and the rest are kind of a-sexual. Until now I only met a few guys who were doing this kind of pseudo news reporter lecture-performance things.

I feel now like I felt with Rabih in a way that because I’m not a woman I might say something wrong in a non p.c manner. Is that a pressure to perform? Ok enough about this guilt-trip thing. So how does being a woman relate to your technique of performance?

No, I don’t have a kit. I try to have only the pieces of paper. I find the rest on site or someone arranges it. I actually want to stop using photographs also. In 2010 I made a performance without images (my pen died). I think conceptually that was stronger.

I like how you take out pieces of my performances. Like you are actually photographing it/me/my voice/the text. I understand you do that often, create a kind of mash from your own writing with the writing of behaving of others. a kind of self dissolving in others, others self-dissolving in you. Authorship issues, etc. But also a kind of fusion. Not necessarily with people but also with inanimate things. Do you want to become a camera? Are you a camera? Wasn’t Warhol busy with this as well?

I don’t usually edit the diary. I manage to fool some people that I speak about 7 languages but in fact I only speak about 2 and a half. Hebrew, English and ok level of Dutch.

 

 

ARIEL: I find the morning writing time to be crucial and something to protect. That numbness, a perfect fit for untimed stares out the window, is in some way a judgement or clutter free state, one where obligations or logistics can get suspended, if the time is of course predetermined as protected.

 

 

Ariel Goldberg, Potential Implications of Photography on the Surface of Clothing, 2011

 

 

I find the establishment of quiet in the morning, allows me to remember my dreams, and even if the smallest conversation happens, like oh no the alarm didn’t go off, there will be a ticket on the car because it is parked in a metered spot, I then cannot focus all morning.

Sometimes even the first ten steps from the bed is a period of time the dream goes away. I find if I don’t have a chunk of time to write with coffee in the morning, about nothing, it is always just the journal then, that my mood is very strange and fractured for the rest of the day.

Sometimes when I am holding the camera I get so satisfied by that feeling of the echo of a camera, the insides of the machine clicking and turning reverberating into my palm, that I then take more, a little string of pictures.

One night recently I set up my slide projector in the studio and shot film pictures of the slides because I wanted to finish the roll of film but also didn’t have time to scan them- it turned out the digital ones I took that night were much better, of course, because it was dark and the border and empty space needed to be excised.

I forgot really that the shadow coming in from the window and then edge of my projection screen would just be black in the exposure. I forgot when i was setting up the shot that what I saw through the viewfinder was not what I would see as the picture. That my eye wasn’t the camera.

It’s so great you ask about the being a woman thing. I actually don’t identify as a woman. I identify as a feminist who is queer. I identify as a little butch dyke. Your questions about it, and the awareness of your questions coming from a male perspective I find really provoking and touching.

 

 

 

OHAD: Travel. Motion. An important component of writing somehow. At least for me. The displacement of the physical body always begs the wandering of the creative ‘spirit’/drive. Maybe it’s no coincidence that the word ‘drive’ is used both in a libidinal sense and in creative forces.

We drive somewhere. We go. We cross. We map and are mapped. We at times conquer something or somewhere or sometime. Some times it has bad consequences (in the form of a national drive) but most often in a personal sense it has good consequences.

 

 

 

More about Ariel’s work here and Ohad’s here.  Ohad’s VerySmallKitchen residency posts can be seen here.

 

 

 

CORRIDOR8 PREVIEW: RE-READING BREAKTHROUGH FICTIONEERS

In Uncategorized on March 8, 2012 at 12:01 am

 

 

The new issue of Corridor8 includes a supplement of new work expanding out from the 1973 anthology Breakthrough Fictioneers, edited by Richard Kostelanetz and published by Something Else press. As a preview of this new issue (designed by the Sheffield based collective dust), VerySmallKitchen offers a gathering of materials:

 

(1) Roger Luckhurst’s introductory essay “Re-Reading Breakthrough Fictioneers”; (2) extracts of the Richard Kostelanetz introduction to Breakthrough Fictioneers, proposing anthology as polemic; (3) a scan from Corridor8 writer Michael Butterworth of his contribution to New Worlds #199 March 1970 (illustration by Allan Stephanson), which was later published in BF, minus illustration.

Finally, (4) A sample of note cards, collected in RK’s On Innovative Performance, to be read by Rachel Lois Clapham as part of a presentation at the Portable Reading Room (see below) which, says RLC, “explores Kostelanetz as chief chronicler, enthusiast and performance Neanderthal.”

The Corridor8 project appears alongside Michael Butterworth’s interview with Richard Kostelanetz for soanyway.org, which has itself been expanded into a special issue of Derek Horton and Lisa Stansbie’s online magazine.

All of these projects and Richard Kostelanetz’s work more broadly is part of a round table event co-organised by VerySmallKitchen at the Portable Reading Room in Leeds City Art Gallery, March 10th, 2012, 1.00-3.00pm, with David Berridge (VerySmallKitchen), Michael Butterworth (Corridor8), Rachel Lois Clapham (Open Dialogues) and Derek Horton (soanyway.org).

 

 

(A) Re-Reading Breakthrough Fictioneers

 

 

This text can also be read as a PDF here.

 

 

(b) Breakthrough Fictioneers

 

 

RICHARD KOSTELANETZ: The polemical aim of this anthology is nothing less than a drastic enlargement of our sense of fictional possibility; for the individual selections were made with one elementary criterion in mind – their distance, as hypothetical positions, beyond what we have often read before. No particular deductions about fiction’s future exclusively shaped my choices – not even  this needlessly conservative conclusion I drew four years ago: “ What will, I think, primarily distinguish fiction of the future from the other arts will be an emphasis upon words as such, selected and arranged out of evident taste for language, a measure of human significance, a sense of potential linguistic articulations, and an awareness of the viable traditions of literature.” As the ensuing variety of stylistic alternatives would suggest, however, there exists not one but several possible futures for fiction and language is not necessarily prerequisite. (xiv-xv)

 

 

The Wild Pansy Press Portable Reading Room

 

 

These innovative works [by Barth, Nabokov, Borges, Barthelme and Crumb, amongst others] suggest  that “fiction” can be most generally defined as a frame filled with a circumscribed world of cohesively self-relating activity. This fictional material may be primarily human, naturalistic, or stylistic, which is to say that fiction may predominantly deal with people, or things, or merely a certain linguistic style and/or formal device; but within fictional art is usually some kind of movement from one point to another. In these respects of diversity and change within an acknowledged frame does fiction particularly differ from poetry, which emphasizes concise, static, generally formalized statement. Fictions tend towards fullness, while poetry is spare, fictions encompass , whilst poetry concentrates; fictions go, while poetry stops.

Fictions thus favour sequential forms (and yet remain distinct from film), as the difference between the material on one page and its successors (and predecessors) often generates the work’s internal event. For instance, a single page of Raymond Federman’s richly inventive  Double or Nothing (1971) might succeed, in isolation, as a graphic picture or “word-image,” where visualizations of various kinds complement the marvelous language; but Federman’s frames in sequence, abetted by sustained preoccupations, begin to weave a fictional action not evident in one alone. More specifically, just as one page can facilely follow from another, so can it drastically contradict its predecessors – an esthetic interface also possible in the similarly edited arts of film and video-tape, but not in live performance, whether on stage or television, or in a lecture. That is, the act of turning pages, which is condusive to sequence, can introduce non-sequential material that is nonetheless artistically related, and in this respect can the interfacial forms of certain fictions resemble this entire anthology. On the other hand, even within a single page can sometimes be compressed a world of artistic activity that is ultimately more fictional than poetic, as well as yet more reduced than Beckett’s Nouvelles textes pour rien (1958), to mention one prior milestone of literary minimalism.

What is new in contemporary art often deals inventively with the essentials of the medium; in fiction’s case, the possibilities of language and narrative form, as well as the potentialities of both a rectangular printed page and the rhythmic process of turning pages; and “freedom” in any art means the uncompromised opportunity to use or fill these basic materials without restraint – without deference, to be more specific, to either literary conventions or worldly realities. Therefore, just as some new fictions depend upon unfamiliar linguistic signs, others eschew language completely in the telling of stories (thereby echoing Tristan Tzara’s declaration for a Dada literature: “ No More Words”). Once the old-fashioned, extraneous, needlessly restrictive criteria for  “fiction” are phased out, it becomes readily clear that many alternatives are possible, which is to say that the fictional medium’s components can still be artistically deployed in innumerable unprecedented ways. The “novel” may be dead, along with other historically mortal forms; but fictionalizing, as a creative impulse, is not.  (xv-xvi)

 

 

As freedoms are asserted, so must restrictions be acknowledged. All of the following sections emulate at least one of the components of classic fiction – expository language, characters (which need not be human), evocative artifice, narrative, etc., as even the totally visual contributions reflect typically fictional concerns; and most of them express significances that would surely be familiar to open-minded connoisseurs of imaginative literature. The most obvious formal limitation stems from the practical publishing convention of printed rectangular pages of uniform size, bound in a fixed sequence and limited in color to blacks, whites and occasional greys – limitations which regretfully forced the exclusions of several “fictions” I should otherwise have wanted to include.” (xix)

New York, New York

May 14, 1972

 

 

from “Introduction” by Richard Kostelanetz, Breakthrough Fictioneers: An Anthology (Something Else Press, Barton, 1973).

 

 

(c)TERMINAL by Michael Butterworth

 

 

 

 

(d) Three Notecards by Richard Kostelanetz

 

 

Extracted from Rachel Lois Clapham “Writing AVANT GARDE PERFORMANCE”, forthcoming at Soanyway. SOURCE: RIchard Kostelanetz On Innovative Performance(s): Three Decades of Recollections on Alternative Theater (McFarland & Company, 1994).

 

 

A.

 

Philip Glass and Robert Wilson
Einstein on the beach (Brooklyn Academy of Music). It was an authentic reproduction, and it was spectacular. What struck me most was how classic it had become and how it would always be a classic. Even though Lucinda Child’s choreography replaces Andy de Groat’s, it is not sufficiently distinguished to change anything. (My recollection is that Andy de Groat depended mostly upon spinning, whereas this is mostly circular movement.) One stylistic mark of the work is repetition, down to Linda Child’s monologue, another is the slow pace. Both these qualities now strike me as terribly dated. Samuel M. Johnson, an elderly black man eight years ago, now seems more infirm than before, but his concluding monologue, delivered from a locomotive cab, struck me as especially brilliant. Some of Wilson’s moves seem even more derivative, such as the pseudo-mysterious rectangle that appears from time to time, reminding me of 2001. The so-called knee plays seem ever more inconsequential. Toward the end Philip’s music appears to get bored with its own style, as each of the instrumentalists takes solos that strike me as terribly UnGlassian. I’d like to see it again, nonetheless. (December 1984).

 

 

B.

 

David Jacobs
 Wah Ching Box Works Assyrian Fair, Baby (Allan D’Arcangelo’s studio).  Though Allan Kaprow invited me, with a scrawled ‘Do come!’ on an announcement, I was surprised to find so few people attending. An innocent middle-aged lady from Life’s Modern Living Department was there, along with her photographer boyfriend. She said that David Bourdon had told her to call him if the performance turned out to be good. Like other examples recently, it reminded me of how snotty and unadventurous the established mixed-means practitioners (and their admirers) are about auditing others who work in this medium, others who are not their intimate friends. Jacobs worked with sculptural materials pumped by air-some belch regularly, others bounce in place, some occasionally let off noises. He skilfully introduced his anthropomorphic figures one at a time. With coherence both visual and aural, I liked what I saw, however thinking that these machines would be more effective in an environmental situation, with the sculptures surrounding the spectators, instead of sitting before us. The noises were too loud for my taste. (December 1, 1967)

 

 

C.

 

Vito Acconci 
Claims (private loft, 93 Grand Street). I’d not seen any of Vito’s new performance pieces-at least not since the deep breathing at N.Y.U a year and one-half ago, which I liked more in contextual retrospect than I did then. Always ‘experimenting with himself’ so to speak, he sets up a situation hazardous, initially to himself, whose results compromise the piece. For example, he had the Post Office forward his mail to the Museum of Modern Art, where he had to go and pick it up. Or he does the same exercise (such as jumping on and off a stool) for a fixed period of time every day. Or he burns the hair off his chest. The term ‘body art’ might be appropriate, because what happens to his body is now the content. ‘Conceptual Art’ is really a more accurate epithet. For Claims Vito sat at the bottom of a stairway with a collection of long poles. Blindfolded, he assigned himself the job of protecting his territory – the bottom of the stairway- from intruders. A close-circuit camera was trained on him, and the results were immediately broadcast ‘live’ on a TV monitor upstairs, as well as recorded on videotape. Thus, his voice could be heard not only through the door leading downstairs but also over the electronic playback system. He did this for a full four hours, constantly mumbling to himself that he had to protect his territory; but nothing else ‘happened’ or changed in the course of the performance. The audience never numbered more than a dozen people, most of whom were (like me) his friends. (September 1971)

 

 

___

 

 

 

 

Other attempts to think through the legacy and contemporary presence of RK’s work include The Richard Kostelanetz Bookstore at Kunstverein in Amsterdam.

The Corridor8 Breakthrough Fictioneers supplement will include work by Anna Barham, Pavel Büchler, Ben Jeans Houghton, Richard Kostelanetz, Roger Luckhurst, Carol Mavor, Charlotte Morgan, David Osbaldeston and Imogen Stidworthy.

 

 

 

VSK RESIDENCY OHAD BEN SHIMON (5): 25 FEBRUARY 2012 and PARIS DIARY

In Uncategorized on March 3, 2012 at 1:54 pm

 

_

 

“I’ve thought of you so often these past few days, and also occasionally about the time long ago when, as you will remember, you visited me in The Hague and we walked along Trekweg to Rijswijk and drank milk at the mill there. It may be that this influenced me somewhat when I did these drawings, in which I have tried as naively as possible to draw things exactly as I saw them.”

 

From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Place/Date: The Hague, Saturday, 3 June 1882

 

 

 

25.2.12 (Amsterdam)

 

 

I’m sitting on a bench in the Museumplein in Amsterdam.

I’m facing the Van Gogh Museum.

A big banner on one of the facades of the museum says:

‘The Bedroom has returned’.

Under the big bold black letters is a reproduction of the bedroom painting by Vincent Van Gogh.

It is only lately that I feel attracted to Van Gogh and his work.

It is the figure of Van Gogh as the romantic artist that fascinates me the most.

The portrayal of his struggle encapsulated in a world that could not or did not want to understand him is what strikes me.

In the letters to his brother Theo I could detect a certain sensitivity of the everyday and banal elements of reality.

Van Gogh trusted his vision, he immersed himself in it and held onto it as his only ally. By being immersed in this reality he could perhaps transcend his own existence and become one with this reality.

The erasure of all external factors is a charming idea. It gives the feeling that only him alone equipped with his vision of the world was the world.

The bedroom in this context was a place of refuge for Van Gogh in which he could put this vision of the world to rest.

Where did The Bedroom (painting) return from?
Where did it travel to?

 

 

 

 

The ‘re-turning’ of The Bedroom (painting) also designates a primary return of the painting to its metaphorical bedroom – The Van Gogh Museum.

 

 

Work In Progress: Self Portrait as Van Gogh Sitting On His Chair In His Famous Painting - The Bedroom, Ohad Ben Shimon & Veniamin Kazachenko, 2012

 

 

The painting now, embodied with Van Gogh’s aura can go back to sleep.

It is a curious incident in which a content of a painting dictates its contextual reception.

The Bedroom (painting) rests in its bedroom (museum) and the visitors of the museum acquire the position of witnessing an artifact with a human quality – fatigue.

The painting continues to hibernate in an eternal winter sleep and the museum maintains its status as the all containing reservoir of art.

I see two birds passing.

Then a sound of two planes roaming the skies.

It is the end of the winter.

Nature will soon awake to a glorious yellow-blue spring.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

16.2.12 (Paris)

 

Photo: Daillier Fabien

 

 

_

 

“Shit!”

“What?”

“I forgot my camera. Do you have the key? Open the door! I need to get my camera”.

“I don’t have the key.”

“Does Lev have the key?”

“No. Nobody has the key.”

“Shit!”

“Come on! We gotta hurry, the train leaves in half an hour”.

It’s 5 thirty in the morning.

We’re in Amsterdam. We are on our way to Paris.

 

-

 

“Bonjour. Can I see your tickets?”

We show our tickets.

“This is not your cabinet”.

Lev has already drunk a beer and is searching for his second one.

“If you guys want to sit near a big table you can sit in the cafeteria cabinet”.

We go sit in the cafeteria cabinet.

Ben goes to look for beer. It’s 6 fifteen in the morning.

“There is no beer here” he says as he comes back from the cafe lady behind the counter. Ben takes out a deck of Russian cards and we play some Russian card game in which there are no winners, only losers.

The train stops at Rotterdam.

We consider stepping out for a smoke but by the time we have made our minds to get up of our seats, the conductor lady says that the train is leaving.

We leave.

We stop in Antwerp.

“Should we try and have a smoke now?”

“Yeah”

We go to get coffee.

In line before us is one of those ladies with small change. She keeps counting her change. It takes her about 10 minutes.

By the time we get our coffees and try to go step outside the conductor informs us that it is too late to get out.

The train leaves. The next stop is Brussels. We will try to have our cigarette smoke there.

We stop in Brussels.

We smoke.
We get on the train.
We move.

We continue moving for a bit, then we fall asleep and wake up in Paris.

Ben and Lev leave the train while I stop by the toilet to take a piss.

I piss and get off the train.

As I walk on the platform towards the escalators I see Ben and Lev from a distance with 2 police guys that are asking them all sorts of questions and showing them some badges.

As I approach them I hear the police guy saying to Lev that he needs to check his bags.

I conclude quickly that its some kind of drug inspection.

I remember hearing something early in the morning that Lev has some white powder present that he got from someone for someone else. Not knowing exactly what Lev is carrying with him I decide to continue walking without making any eye contact with them.

I try to observe what’s going on from the other side of the platform but the parking trains block the sight.

I try to come up with a plan of what to do as I imagine Lev and Ben being arrested for smuggling drugs into Paris from Amsterdam.

I walk out of the station trying not to be noticed and go search for an ATM machine to take out money so that I can pay for a hostel for the night.

As I don’t have a mobile phone nobody can reach me and I can’t be tracked by the police.

I get out some money from a machine and ask a guy for the directions to Centre Pompidou which is near where our exhibition will take place. The guy points me in the direction and says it’s quite far.

I decide to go back to the station one more time before I depart towards Centre Pompidou. I reach the crossroad and try to be out of sight of the police. I see Ben waiting outside the station by himself without any bags. I signal to him to come meet me down the road as I’m afraid the police will connect me with Ben and Lev.

Ben meets me at the end of the road and says “It’s over”.

I ask him if Lev is arrested. He says yes and that they took all their bags.

After we walk for a bit more I suddenly see Lev sitting in a cafeteria with the bags.

It appeared to be that Ben was just fooling around and that eventually nobody got arrested.

He said that indeed the police, whom were customs officials, opened Lev’s bag and found a small bag with white powder in it and asked him what it was. Lev said to them that it’s a small present from a friend and that he is an Artist coming to Paris for an exhibition and that the white powder is just plaster powder for a sculpture he is going to make.

 

 

17.2.12

 

I’m in some kind of youth hostel near Montmartre. I’m already 33 years old and I’m still sitting around 18 year olds fighting for a second round of breakfast consisting of bad coffee, small croissants and artificial orange juice.

Ben is upstairs showering and Lev is downstairs having breakfast. I’m sitting in the entrance of the hostel watching different young people pass by.

2 guys next to me are speaking Spanish. Some Japanese girl is touching her iPhone and some other Spanish guy is writing “Fuck” on a chalkboard wall that is here for the visitors of the hostel to write stuff on. Then he writes “Room 203, I’m waiting”.

I store my big black bag in the luggage storage room. I hope we will be able to come back today to pick it up. I roll myself a cigarette and go outside for a smoke.

 

 

18.2.12

 

I’m outside of an art shop sitting on some metal fence thing smoking and writing.

Ben is inside shopping for paper and oil.

Afterwards we will have something quick to eat and go back to the exhibition space to meet up with the others.

Tuesday night is the opening of our show in Espace des Blancs-Manteaux around the corner of the Centre Pompidou.

My feet are hurting from too much walking.

A guy is standing about 10 meters from me with a grey jacket and watching the traffic go by.

I go check in on Ben inside.

There are many people inside the large art shop.

Ben is checking the acrylic department.

He says “I’m so stupid, why didn’t I take some French speaking person with me?”

I go outside of the art shop and sit on the sidewalk.

A car parks.

A French couple talk some French and walk.

An old lady is walking her cat with a yellow leash.

I’m hungry.
I’m tired.
I’m in Paris.

 

-

 

Dinner was had. Chinese.

Ben is drilling.

Lev is searching for something on the internet.

We are inside the huge exhibition space.

It’s 22:00 o’clock.

Rain is raining outside.

Part of the exhibitors have already put up their stuff on the white panels.

There is nobody besides us here now.

I was told the space used to be a mental institute before and after that a meat market.

“Hey, how did Ceel use to say ‘Record’ in French?” Lev asks and then answers to himself “Ah yes, Register, Register.”

“…but he’s exhibiting in the Biennial,” Ben says.

“Which Biennial?” I ask.

“I don’t know. What’s a biennial?” Ben asks.

Now we move the table closer to the electricity so we can have some music on the laptop.

Lev needs my pen to write down ‘Magneto-scope’. I use my other pen.

It’s Saturday night.

“I’m not going to buy a fucking Magneto-scope (the french term for a VHS Player) for 40 euros”, says Lev.

Ben continues drilling.

 

 

 

19.2.12

 

It’s a beautiful sunny Sunday morning.

Paris is waking up.

I bought a juice from the supermarket that says it has 12 fruits and 10 vitamins in it.

I’m opening it.

It makes the sound of a juice bottle being opened.

I drink the 12 fruits and 10 vitamins.

I search for my tobacco in my pocket and realize that I must have forgotten it somewhere.

I drink some more of the vitamins.

The Parisians seem to be minding their own business. They walk by me with baguettes and dogs.

A guy on a skateboard rolls down the sunny street.

The shop’s name sign in front of me says “Look”.

The birds are birding.

I like mornings in Paris.

A lady walks by with flowers.

Then some more people walk by.

A young puddle dog sniffs some poop on the sidewalk and then pisses on it.

A guy runs.

A car cars.

I go back to the hostel to see if the others are already awake and showered.

 

-

 

 

I’m back in the hostel.

I’m waiting for Ben and Lev to come down.

Above the reception desk are 3 clocks.

The left clock says 2 o’clock and “Los Angeles” under it.

The middle clock says 11:00 o’clock and “Paris” under it.

And the right clock says 7 o’clock and “Tokyo” under it.

A CCTV camera connected to a small monitor on a fridge displays various video shots of us in the interiors of the hostel.

 

 

20.2.12

 

 

I’m tired.

The radio is playing classical music.

I’m going to sleep.

 

 

21.2.12

 

I’m standing on a sunny corner of Paris.

Tonight is the opening of our exhibition “Donner du temps au temps” which translates into “Giving time to time”.

Me and Ben will do a dialogue-painting-performance during the 3 days of the exhibition in which he will work on his painting whilst I talk on a microphone and have a reflective dialogue with him in front of the public.

He started already by painting a big black hole on the 6 x 2.5 m paper.

Lev is working on his installation upstairs.

Yesterday we were interviewed about our work and how it is related to the theme of time and why we chose to work in-situ.

I’m starting to get hungry.

For the last 3 days we had falafel and shawarma.

 

 

22.2.12

 

I’m standing on a sunny corner of Paris outside our exhibition space in the Jewish quarter.

Last night was our opening. Many people came.

Ben was painting whilst I was talking to him with a microphone so that the audience could hear our dialogue.

At first the painting started with a black hole and throughout the time/evening and our talk it included also a black swan.

The idea was that it would combine somehow two distinct points of view simultaneously. The macro level or cosmic elements of the universe and the down to earth, everyday, micro level of the human animal. Ben was the cosmic one, I was the everyday.

Towards the end of the event a guy approached our installation and asked if it is possible to have it in smaller scale. While I was performing with Ben I asked the guy out loud with the microphone how big he wanted it. He made a gesture with his hands of something like 100 x 80 cm. I asked Ben with the microphone if he could do it in that size. He said yes whilst he continued working on the painting.

At some point Ben finished and talked to the guy who identified himself as Monsieur Daniel. When I asked him what does he do for a living he said it’s not important.

He continued to give Ben complements of how much of a genius he is and he expressed many prospects about Ben becoming famous and warned him of being around the wrong people.

The girls that were responsible for the selling of the works in the exhibition took Monsieur Daniel aside and wrote down his phone number.

 

-

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Dallier Fabien

 

_

 

 

We’re at Notre Dam.

The tourists flood the square in front of the Notre Dam. A young American girl is wearing a hat next to me with the price sticker still on it saying 17.90 euros. I wonder if she knows it’s still there. She seems to be having a casual talk with a guy who appears to be Thai. She asks him if he went to the top yet. He says no. She asks if it’s because he’s afraid of heights. He says no and gives some explanation.

The American girl has an American accent. The Thai looking guy has an Arab accent for some strange reason.

Various other tourists pose in front of the Notre Dam and take pictures of themselves as tourists standing in front of the Notre Dam.

 

-

 

I’m back in the installation-performance-painting-dialogue.

I’m seated on a chair.

The microphone is next to me.

I’ve eaten a cold lasagne for 5 euros.

The painting has taken a new form. After I came back from the walk Ben was busy making fine details of the painting.

Ben and me started talking while the audience were watching us paint and talk. At some point we reached the conclusion that the painting has reached a certain stage and that now it was becoming static from the significance it had received as a work of art with a certain value. We tried to think what should be the next step. One of the visitors asked if the painting has a title. We replied that it doesn’t have a title.

At some point Ben opened a tube of silicon and started smearing it on the painting together with some black paint. Then he made some more scribbles with some yellow and red crayons. It was becoming less of a painting and more of a child’ drawing. Then Ben took some more oil and acrylic paint and started erasing the black hole. It became one big black mess of nothing.

Ben continued obliterating the painting until it became a big messy cloud of paint. The black swan managed to survive and remained in its place without damage.

I said to Ben and to the audience that I feel much more relieved now. A certain weight was removed from the painting.

I remarked that it’s a bit like in Buddhism. It is a process that changes all the time. Yesterday night it was still a painting with a black hole and black swan. Now it has changed. It has transformed into something else. It doesn’t matter that it can’t be named now. Only that it existed for a certain moment and in a way died at a certain moment.

It became lighter this way.

I asked Ben if he felt relieved also. He said sure. He smeared some more paint around and then we went to get some USB sticks and wine.

A few visitors pass by the different art works in the exhibition that are installed in an art fair fashion.

They walk.
They stop.
They look.
Then they move onto the next booth.
They scratch their heads.

They look at the sign that is suppose to explain what this is about.

Then they look back at the work and move on.

 

 

23.2.12

 

It’s 6:25 in the morning.

We’re in Gare du Nord metro station

The train is leaving.
We are on it.
We drink coffee.
The rain rains outside.

 

-

 

We stop in Brussels.
We smoke a cigarette.

When we come back from the smoke we see that some old guys have taken our seats which we took from them.

Ben and Lev go over the documentation images of the exhibition.

The girl sitting next to me is sleeping.

She has a purple shirt, dark black pants, dark shoes and dark earrings.

She has one leg crossed over the other.

She moves her legs a bit in her sleep. Her black scarf is hanging on the hanger next to her. He face is facing the window. She has a dark coat worn backwards on her keeping her warm.

 

-

 

It’s 8:30 in the morning

I try to have a little nap but can’t manage to fall asleep. The old guys that took our seats that we took from them are talking a mixture of French, Flemish and Dutch.

Mist is covering the fields outside.

The train stops in Antwerp.

The sleeping girl next to me moves a bit. Then she wakes up and checks her iPhone. It says 8:36. Then she goes back to sleep.

The ticket lady walks up and down the cabinet.

Some Belgian people outside are riding their bikes.

The voice of a male conductor comes out of the speakers and apologizes for a delay of 10 minutes in 3 different languages.

The trains stops at Rotterdam.

Ben says “Come on, let’s get off. This is our stop”.

I stop and get off the train

 

 

 

 

 

Notes

 

The following exchange took place by email from 28th February – 1st March 2012.

 

VERYSMALLKITCHEN: Do you ongoingly keep diaries like this or does it require the focus of a particular event or commission?

 

OHAD: My diary writings have been an ongoing project/format of mine since a residency I was invited to visit in Hoyerswerda, Germany in 2008. Back then it was meant to document the last days of a group of artist that were inhabiting an old abandoned apartment block that was destined to be demolished when the residency terminated.

Since 2008 I have occasionally written these diaries (to be performed in a kind of Lecture-Performance format) on travel (extra-territorial motion tends to surface these concerns) whilst participating in Exhibitions, Festivals and Conferences across Europe. They are usually part of and apart from the actual experience taking place. I see my position in these encounters as a cross between a pseudo-journalist/art critic and a group psychologist.

This is the first time that a diary like this is not filtered primarily through my voice in a live performance in front of a live audience.

 

 

 

 

VERYSMALLKITCHEN: What is the absence this writing gives shape to? Looking at the texts you sent me, writing constructs this absence whilst also providing commentary, evidence, naturalistic detail, anecdote…

 

OHAD: Perhaps the absence you correctly describe is an absence of this diaristic voice…

 

VERYSMALLKITCHEN: I’m thinking how Maurice Blanchot begins his discussion on Recourse to the “Journal” in “The Essential Solitude”:

 

It is perhaps striking that from the moment the work becomes the search for art, from the moment it becomes literature, the writer increasingly feels the need to maintain a relation to himself. His feeling is one of extreme repugnance at losing his grasp upon himself in the interests of that neutral force, formless and bereft of any destiny, which is behind everything that gets written. This repugnance, or apprehension, is revealed by the concern, characteristics of so many authors, to compose what they call their “journal.” Such a preoccupation is far removed from the complacent attitudes usually described as Romantic. The journal is not essentially confessional; it is not one’s own story. It is a memorial. What must the writer remember? Himself: who he is when he isn’t writing, when he lives daily life, when he is alive and true, not dying and bereft of truth. But the tool he uses in order to recollect himself is, strangely, the very element of forgetfulness: writing.  That is why, however, the truth of the journal lies not in the interesting, literary remarks to be found there, but in the insignificant details which attach it to daily reality. The journal represents the series of reference points which a writer establishes in order to keep track of himself when he begins to suspect the dangerous metamorphosis to which he is exposed.  (The Space of Literature, 29)

 

 

OHAD: In the performance together with Veniamin Kazechenko, we mainly had an internal dialogue between ourselves and to a small extent between us and the audience. Yet it felt predominantly different than the kind of monologue I’m used to.

Still, as you suggest, the performance does fill in an absence of a sort. Yet I’m not sure it is in direct relation to the text. Or maybe, the diary could be thought of as an account between a 1st and 3rd person, in comparison to the performance which was more of an account between a 1st and 2nd person.

 

VERYSMALLKITCHEN: You also offer a narrative of an artist’s life. I recently read YEAR from Komplot in Brussels, which in its contents and design consciously constructs a narrative of a contemporary artist’s lifestyle and personality as part of its presentation of the work…

 

OHAD: The narrative of an artist’s life is something that indeed interests me in the last few years. I’m aware of the Bildungsroman and the Künstlerroman genres which are two forms that interest me, yet I’m still puzzled as regards to what kind of coming of age my texts could be referring to or point at.

There is a point in the diary text from Paris where I’m writing about me being 33 years old sitting in a youth hostel of 18 year olds’ fighting for a second round of free coffee. I mean, this kind of coming of age never seems to come. Maybe it is an account of these days in which adulthood is postponed to an indefinite future.

 

VERYSMALLKITCHEN:  In the first part of this post you work with/ from the narratives-become-myths of Van Gogh -

 

OHAD: To be honest I’m still trying to discover what part of this myth enchants me the most. It probably has something to do with the discrepancy between the artist’s own subjective perception of reality and the public personification and portrayal of the artist by society/culture.

I’m also interested in a kind of testimonial level or witness experience coming from the artist usually in contradiction to the accounts of the artist by society. What I mean to say is that I trust artists more in their historical accounts. Something in the figure of the artist lends itself to a kind of historical validity or accountability which perhaps the myth of the artist tries to de or re-construct.

 

VERYSMALLKITCHEN: My initial thought for how to publish this post was the Van Gogh piece, then the diary beginning 21.2.12 and ending with 23.2.12 “It’s 6:25 in the morning”…. maybe starting with 19.2.12 but also maybe good in the blog post itself to keep a focus around the performance? The whole diary could be available as a PDF.

 

OHAD: I’m quite puzzled as how to deal with it. For me usually the diary texts are in a way a kind of round artistic gesture in the sense that I start writing at a specific time (and place) and I end in a specific time (and place – on location in front of an audience).

In that sense it is a performative kind of writing. It’s hard for me to carve out pieces from it. Yet I’m aware it’s quite long for a blog post. So I leave it up to you to decide how to handle it. Maybe have 2 posts (part a / part b?). And I have this nice piece of text from Gertrude Stein which i read on the train today:

 

Once upon a time I met myself and ran.
Once upon a time nobody saw how I ran.
Once upon a time something can
Once upon a time nobody sees
But I I do as I please
Run around the world just as I please.
I Willie.

 

(Gertrude Stein, Willie and his singing, From The world is round.)

 

OHAD: I love the first sentence! Once upon a time I met myself and ran – beautiful!

 

*

 

More about Ohad’s work is here. See also post one, post two, post three and post four.

 

 

 

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