July 18, 2014
July 18, 2014
Artists We Like
July 12 – August 14, 2014
Sun Valley, ID
Grasshoppers is a children’s book created by Los Angeles-based artist Alexandra Grant in collaboration with the Polk County Historical Society (PCHS) in Osceola, Nebraska. Invited to be the Historical Society’s first Artist-in-Residence and to work with every 5th grader in Polk County, Alexandra suggested creating a book based on a local story. PCHS’s Patricia Larson suggested adapting her grandmother Belle Davis Hotchkiss’s story about the grasshopper infestation of 1874 (from an annal of local history, “Osceola 1871 -1971”). Florence Grant, a historian at Yale’s Center for British Art, and Alexandra’s sister, condensed the story.
Over the period from October 4-8, 2013, Alexandra, Florence, Patricia and other PCHS volunteers worked with almost every 5th grader in the county and others to collaboratively illustrate the Grasshoppers story. The book was published in June 2014, with the participation of 145 people on the drawings and covers, with 19 original illustrations.
Alexandra has developed a long-term relationship with Polk County and the Historical Society since she returned a stolen tombstone to a local cemetery in 2011. Grasshoppers is part of her commitment to exploring the role contemporary art can play in remembering and reimagining local history.
The Polk County Historical Society will host a book launch and open house on Sunday, June 29th from 2-4pm at the Museum in Osceola, Nebraska. The address is State and Beebe Streets in Osceola.
POSTSCRIPT: WRITING AFTER CONCEPTUAL ART
The Power Plant, Toronto, Canada
June 21 – September 2, 2013
Postscript: Writing After Conceptual Art at the Broad Museum at Michigan State University
March 21 – September 21, 2014
This exhibition brings together a wide selection of paintings, sculptures, installation art, and works on paper that explore the ways we read, see, hear, and process language. For generations, artists and writers have referenced or appropriated existing texts in their work, using the language of others as the basis for original expressions of their own. By recontextualizing their sources, these new creations offer fresh ways of understanding the original texts, often dramatically altering their meaning. Although working with preexisting material might be considered limiting, this presentation reveals that such repurposing and adaptation can generate remarkably varied works of art.
As the first exhibition to examine Conceptual writing, a cross-disciplinary field focused on recontextualized and repurposed language, Postscript investigates the roots of a parallel movement in art from the 1960s and 1970s and presents contemporary examples of text-based art practices. Many of the works on view borrow self-consciously from Conceptual art of the 1960s, taking an approach that is less about self-expression and more about selection and arrangement. The inclusion of publications by noted conceptual artists Carl Andre, Marcel Broodthaers, Dan Graham, Sol LeWitt, and Andy Warhol alongside contemporary works of art highlights these connections. Ultimately, Postscript demonstrates how work created across decades and artistic disciplines can be derived from the same idea, yet produce wildly different results.
Artists and writers featured in the exhibition include: Mark Amerika & Chad Mossholder, Carl Andre, Fiona Banner, Erica Baum, Derek Beaulieu, Caroline Bergvall, Jen Bervin, Jimbo Blachly & Lytle Shaw, Christian Bök, Marcel Broodthaers, Pavel Büchler, Luis Camnitzer, Ricardo Cuevas, Tim Davis & Robert Fitterman, Mónica de la Torre, Craig Dworkin, Tim Etchells, Ryan Gander, Michelle Gay, Kenneth Goldsmith, Dan Graham, Alexandra Grant, James Hoff, Seth Kim-Cohen, Sol LeWitt, Glenn Ligon, Tan Lin, Gareth Long, Michael Maranda, Helen Mirra, Jonathan Monk, Simon Morris, João Onofre, Michalis Pichler, Paolo Piscitelli, Vanessa Place, Kristina Lee Podesva, Seth Price, Kay Rosen, Joe Scanlan, Dexter Sinister, Frances Stark, Joel Swanson, Nick Thurston, Triple Canopy, Andy Warhol, Darren Wershler, and Eric Zboya.
Postscript: Writing After Conceptual Art is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and curated by Nora Burnett Abrams and Andrea Andersson. The presentation of Postscript: Writing After Conceptual Art at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at MSU is made possible by the Broad MSU’s general exhibitions fund.
Image: babel, (after Michael Joyce’s “Was,” 2006), 2006, mixed media on paper, 80″ x 264″. Photo credit: Brian Forrest.
LOVE: Creativity, Connection, Community at Montalvo Arts Center
February 28 – June 8, 2014
Less than 50 years ago, “the Summer of Love” was more than a pop culture fad: it aspired to bring about a major social and political shift in America. Today, however, we face a near total lack of public debate about love as the basis of connection, understanding, and acceptance in our culture and our communities. Technological innovation makes it possible for us to be better informed about each other’s lives and feelings than any other time in human history. But is it deepening our connections with others? Or do cell phones, e-mail, and social media strip nuance from our communication and leave us lonelier than before?
L O V E, Montalvo’s latest exhibition, considers the challenges of extending ourselves to commune and connect with others, with an installation of video, drawings, sculpture, and other works. Featured artists include Elisheva Biernoff, Double Zero, Alexandra Grant, Jon Meyer, Omar Mismar, Fiamma Montezemolo, Stephanie Taylor, and Allison Wiese. Through installation, sound work, video, drawing, and outdoor sculpture, participating artists explore the bonds of friendship; the important role of empathy in our lives; the intersection between desire and new technologies; and the complex relationships between love, belonging, identity and community.
CONNECTING IN THE 21ST CENTURY
A panel discussion
Friday, April 25, 2014, 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Image: Alexandra Grant, I see my self in you, 2013, coated glass tubing, argon gas, transformer and mirror, 51″ x 16″ x 2″. Photo credit: The Lapis Press.
Century of the Self at Lora Reynolds Gallery
January 18 – March 15, 2014
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 18, 2014, 6-8pm
Lora Reynolds is pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by Alexandra Grant, Century of the Self, organized by independent curator Sarah C. Bancroft.
Alexandra Grant uses language, literature, and exchanges with writers as the basis for her paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Grant explores philosophical concepts of identity in her new text-based body of work, Century of the Self. The presentation of this series at Lora Reynolds Gallery is comprised of vibrantly colored paintings, works on paper, and a floor installation made from recycled plastic. Grant’s intimate as well as heroically scaled artworks, combined with poignant textual detail, delve into questions about how we define ourselves, who the ‘Other’ is, and the origins of the interior voices that fill our unconscious and shape our identities.
Grant is known as a ‘radical collaborator’—it is collaboration that shapes what she does outside of the studio as much as within it. Grant has worked with writers as diverse as professor, author, and hypertext pioneer Michael Joyce; actor Keanu Reeves; and French feminist writer, philosopher, and playwright Hélène Cixous.
Inspired by Adam Curtis’s BBC Four documentary of the same name, Grant’s textual references in Century of the Self are drawn from literary sources including Sophocles’s tragic play and character Antigone; work by the writer, poet, and activist Audre Lorde; seminal psychological texts by Sigmund Freud and his followers; and cultural movements that probed the unconscious mind, including Surrealism and Feminism. Grant does not claim to have found the ‘Self,’ rather she maps—through collage, Rorschach patterns, and textual quotations—what is a constant search.
Alexandra Grant’s Century of the Self is an ongoing project that has taken a number of different forms. It was produced as a line of ready-to-wear clothing in collaboration with the brand Clover Canyon; presented as a billboard project on top of LAXART in Los Angeles; and exhibited as part of Los Angeles Nomadic Division’s (LAND) exhibition, Painting in Place. Recent works from the series were included in the group exhibition Drawn to Language at University of Southern California’s Fisher Museum of Art in fall of 2013. The exhibition at Lora Reynolds Gallery includes four new paintings—fresh from the artist’s studio—and several works recently exhibited at the Fisher Museum.
Grant’s first solo museum exhibition was in 2007 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Grant has participated in numerous other major exhibitions, including the 2010 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art; The Artist’s Museum at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Human Nature: Contemporary Art from the Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Drawing Surrealism, also at LACMA. Her work has also been included in group exhibitions at the Contemporary Museum (Baltimore), the Center for Contemporary Art (Tel Aviv), and other institutions in the United States and abroad.
Born in 1973 in Fairview Park, Ohio, Grant lives and works in Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Swarthmore College (BA, 1995) and California College of the Arts (MFA, 2000). She has taught at CalArts, Cal State Northridge, and Art Center College of Design, and has received grants/awards from the California Community Foundation, the Durfee Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation.
Sarah C. Bancroft is an Austin-based independent curator and writer and serves as assistant director of curatorial affairs at the art initiative Fluent~Collaborative and its exhibition venue testsite. Prior to her move to Texas in 2013, Bancroft held curatorial positions at the Orange County Museum of Art from 2008 to 2013 and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York) from 2000 to 2005. In addition to her critically acclaimed traveling exhibition Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series (2012), Bancroft curated Two Schools of Cool (2011) and organized the 2010 California Biennial at OCMA. One of the projects she curated in 2009 was Video Work by Gao Shiquang and Chen Qiulin at OCMA as part of the Ancient Paths, Modern Voices China Festival produced by Carnegie Hall and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. At the Guggenheim, she co-curated James Rosenquist: A Retrospective (2003). Bancroft received her MA in the history of art from the Courtauld Institute of Art (London). Her area of specialization is modern and contemporary art from the 1950s to present. She is a bike commuter, an urban hiker, and lives in Austin with her husband David.
Top: Self and Other and Century of the Self (2) and (3), 2013.
Bottom: Site/Self (projections) and Self (I was born to love not to hate), 2012.
Photo credit: Colin Doyle.
“The One I Did Yesterday Was A Failure But the One I Will Do Tomorrow Will Be Good”
at the Impermanent Collection, http://theimpermanentcollection.com/
December 14, 2013 – January 11, 2014
Opening December 14, 2013, 2-5pm
Drawing from Alexandra Grant’s collaborative project Forêt Intérieure/Interior Forest, 2013
‘If Freud had been asked to name his secret(ive) book,’ wrote Hélène Cixous, ‘he would not have hesitated: it would have beenThe Jungle Book.’ These words are re-written, crowded by many others from Cixous’s 2009 essay ‘Philippines’, on a tree made from papier-mâché in the exhibition space of a former sports centre in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Ouen. There are nine such trees in the room, made of diverse materials, the work of diverse hands, making the space itself into a kind of jungle.
Amongst essays by Thomas Babington Macauley and the Austrian classicist Theodor Gomperz, Freud selected Rudyard Kipling’s book of stories, The Jungle Book (1894), in a list of ten recommended books upon the request of the publisher Hugo Heller in 1906. It was a book he described as ‘a good friend’. Its theme of the feral child is clearly very close to Freud’s concerns in those texts exploring the cases of the ‘Rat Man’ and the ‘Wolf Man’, which have become so central, particularly to recent (post-Deleuzian) Freud reception.
According to Cixous, we all have such treasured books, which need not be great works of literature but remain very personal to us throughout our lives. They form the kernel of all our subsequent reading. For Cixous herself, that book is George du Maurier’sPeter Ibbetson (1891). But Cixous’s own ‘Philippines’ is the kernel from which Alexandra Grant’s present exhibition, called ‘Forêt Inérieure / Interior Forest’, has sprouted. Having grown from a text concerned deeply with dreams, memories and the unconscious, it is perhaps appropriate that all the trees in Grant’s ‘forest’ seem to have developed not from the ground up, but from the ceiling.
Upon entering the exhibition space there is something almost repulsive about the works therein. There is a sort of unkempt ugliness to it – a frightening profusion of thoughts and ideas. The show repels in the way a dark forest might repel those who have always lived in the clearing. But there is little darkness here. The walls are covered in a kaleidoscopic stream of thoughts-as-images, drawn, painted and collaged from photographs, cigarette packets and wallpaper, in every imaginable colour from great wads of day-glo pink to carefully crosshatched greyscale.
Within this splurge certain images recur: keys, crowns, ghosts, trees, animals, landscapes; sometimes very detailed, otherwise hastily scrawled and then scribbled out or drawn over. Amongst the images, there are words, mostly plucked from Cixous’s text, written in many different hands and several different languages. And there are references to numerous other art works, from the comic phantasmagoric style of Raymond Pettibon, to the brightly coloured geometries of mid-20th-century formalism, and, most explicitly, to Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde (1866), here rendered in the manner of a newspaper cartoon complete with shocked Victorian onlookers.
Exploring this seemingly endless chain of references, I found myself increasingly drawn into the work. It became something very personal, very intimate, full of small revelations and private jokes. In all its disorder, it became an experience of exploring the ‘secret book’ of someone else’s unconscious. But it is an unconscious collectively written, the result in part of several open public drawing sessions held throughout the lifespan of the exhibition, and the intervention of a number of other invited artists, including Constance Ouvrieu, Tina Linville and Annelie McKenzie. This kind of ‘radical collaboration’ has been an aspect of Grant’s work since her first solo show in 2007 (as, indeed, have the ideas of Cixous). It gives her exhibitions something of the quality of telepathy as discussed by Cixous in Philippines, or of philosophy itself as a series of letters between friends, as discussed by Jacques Derrida.
Derrida’s ghost, as delirious and cartoonish as one of Pac Man’s nemeses, is amongst the images on the wall here, and Derrida is one of several theorists discussed in Cixous’s book. But one philosopher Cixous does not mention in ‘Philippines’, but whose ideas seem nonetheless to haunt Grant’s forest, is Avital Ronell. Ronell’s The Telephone Book (1989) sought to replace the notion of an author with the image of an ‘operator’, like a telephone switchboard operator or, as in a line Ronell quotes from a glossary of schizophrenia, ‘A human being with a type of head formation which permits him to explore and influence the mentality of others.’
It is to Ronell’s work that my thoughts turned upon seeing the wax-crayon image of a console, labelled ‘Hub 40000’, on one wall of the exhibition. This white box extrudes a tangle of black wires leading variously to a human finger, an eye, a telephone receiver, a pair of ears, a set of Nintendo control pads and a brain whose spinal column sprouts leaves. From the phone’s earpiece spreads a muddle of words: ‘Hello it’s me / Allo! C’est Moi! / Ta voix entre’. It is with this ‘voice between’ that Grant’s work calls to us; between words and images, art and philosophy, dreams and reality, between, finally, two close friends.
14 November 2013
Hélène Cixous, December 2012. Photo: Kevin Kane.
by Hélène Cixous
Introduction and translation by Alexandra Grant
Published in X-TRA Contemporary Art Quarterly, Fall 2013, Volume 16, Number 1
Hélène Cixous’s “Notre Spectacle” (Our Performance) is a short text originally written for the program of Le Dernier Caravansérail (Odyssées) (The Last Caravan Stop [Odysseys]), a play written collectively by the French philosopher Cixous and the Théâtre du Soleil in Paris in 2003. Cixous is a long-term collaborator of the Théâtre du Soleil and its director, Ariane Mnouchkine. Since the early 1980s, she has written works for and with them, including L’Histoire terrible mais inachevée de Norodom Sihanouk, roi du Cambodge (The Terrible But Unfinished Story of Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia) in 1985 and Tambours sur la digue (Drums on the Dam) in 1999. In these plays, as in Le Dernier Caravansérail, Cixous and the Théâtre du Soleil are committed to political story-telling through episodic, large-scale spectacles with large casts that place the audience member squarely in the middle of the day-to-day experiences of those under the stresses of colonialism, persecution, and/or statelessness. What is impressive about the Théâtre du Soleil is their ability to entertain and marvel their audience while maintaining an empathic, non-exploitative, and non-didactic relation to the subjects of their work. No easy balance.
As a collective, the Théâtre du Soleil has never produced a manifesto. But its egalitarian principles and its radical commitment to collaboration radiate through Cixous’s text. Structured as a series of questions, “Notre Spectacle” demands both ethical reflection and action from artists collaborating with someone other than themselves: across the boundaries of difference, language, and power.
Questions of ethics in practice continue to be vital to artists, as many of us are working in collaborative or collective ways, either openly in the sphere of participatory artwork or “social practice” or privately in the space of our own studios with large-scale production teams whose identities are not disclosed in benefit of a central author. Collaboration itself is not a new phenomenon, but the terms under which collaborative work is accomplished are reframed by every generation in philosophical, legal, and financial terms. What is unusual and relevant about Cixous is that she is the rare theorist who also practices successfully as an artist and these practices are marked both by her ethics and her action-oriented stance.
Théâtre du Soleil, Le Dernier Caravansérail (Odyssées): Origines et destins, “Sur la route de l’Australie,” Duccio Bellugi, Sébastien Brottet-Michel, Sava Lolov, Delphine Cottu, Serge Nicolaï, Vincent Mangado, and Dominique Jambert, 2003. © Michèle Laurent.
Le Dernier Caravansérail gathers the stories of escape and unimaginable danger faced by migrants from the world over—Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, Serbia—in search of better lives elsewhere. These “elsewheres,” such as Australia, France, and Great Britain, often materialize as places of great misfortune, as those seeking a better life often end up in political no-man’s lands, such as refugee camps and prisons. The stories presented in Le Dernier Caravansérail are based on interviews conducted by Cixous and other members of the Théâtre du Soleil with refugees across the world. Some are the stories of those living at the theater itself, which serves as a safe-haven and a place of employment and community.
Le Dernier Caravansérail was originally presented as a two-part, six-hour play, with a break halfway through for a meal cooked and served by the actors—including some of the very same migrants whose stories the audience was watching. With forty-two scenes and at least twenty-seven actors, the play drew the audience into experiences that they may have only encountered on the news.
In “Notre Spectacle,” Cixous asks, “How can you get as close as possible to the other without taking their place?” This is not a rhetorical question but one that interrogates the role and responsibilities of a writer representing the stories of powerless and displaced people. For this reason, her phrase “Comment ne pas,” which begins the first three lines, resists easy translation. The phrase can be translated in a multiplicity of ways: How is it possible not to…? How can we not…? How can you not…? How not to…? How to not…?
Théâtre du Soleil, Le Dernier Caravansérail (Odyssées): Origines et destins, “Dernier assaut (Les voies),” Delphine Cottu and Sarkaw Gorany, 2003. © Michèle Laurent.
“Comment ne pas” combines a moment of hesitation with a call to more considered speech or action. In a lecture delivered in 1986 at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, called “Comment ne pas parler,” Jacques Derrida asked: “Comment ne pas parler de soi? Mais aussi bien: comment le faire sans se laisser inventer par l’autre? Ou sans inventer l’autre?”* (“How not to talk about oneself? And also, how to do it without letting oneself to be invented by the other? Or without inventing the other?”) An aspect of both Cixous’s and Derrida’s philosophical project is to question the invisible authority of language and in so doing show how differences in power are subtly enacted through dialog and creative collaboration. When someone says “Let’s” they’re not asking permission; they’re giving an imperative veiled under the guise of “we.” In contrast, “Comment ne pas…” invites us to question the we-ness (or nous-ness) of collaboration, of “our performance,” to be empathic with the refugee figures without taking their place. The difficulties of translating Cixous speak to the very difficulties that she is addressing in her work. Cixous asks, “How to not translate? That is to say: how to avoid translating? We must translate.”
Comment ne pas…
Comment ne pas remplacer la parole de ta bouche par ma parole même de bonne volonté?
Comment ne pas remplacer ta langue étrangère par notre langue française?
Comment garder ta langue étrangère sans manquer de politesse et d’hospitalité à l’égard du public, notre hôte dans le théâtre?
Comment, sans se comprendre en mots, se comprendre quand même en cœur?
Comment ne pas s’approprier l’angoisse des autres en faisant du théâtre?
Comment ne pas pécher par illusion de compréhension et par crainte d’incompréhension?
Comment se mettre aussi près que possible de la place de l’autre sans la prendre?
Comment ne pas traduire? C’est-à-dire: comment ne pas traduire? Il faut bien traduire.
Comment ne pas se laisser séduire par la meute des bons sentiments?
Comment ne pas en rajouter? Ni d’un côté ni de l’autre.
Comment se glisser entre la bonne conscience et la mauvaise conscience, les siamoises?
Comment tout dire sans un mot?
Comment devenir humain c’est-à-dire jamais assez ni trop?
Comment ne jamais renoncer à l’absolu que l’on n’atteindra jamais?
Comment être l’acteur d’un personnage et non son maître?
Comment se laisser être un refuge pour l’étranger?
Comment ne jouer aucun rôle?
Et si on n’y arrive pas? C’est la question du réfugié en son voyage.
How not to…
How not to replace the words from your lips by my words spoken in good will?
How not to replace your foreign language by our French language?
How do we keep your foreign language foreign without neglecting the politeness and hospitality due our audience, our host in the theater?
How, without understanding each other in words, do we still understand each others’ hearts?
How not to appropriate the anguish of others in order to create theater?
How not to sin by illusion of understanding or fear of misunderstanding?
How can you place your self as close as possible to the other without taking their space?
How not to translate? That is to say: how to avoid translating? We must translate.
How not to be seduced by good intentions?
How to not lay it on thick? Not on one side or the other.
How to slip between good conscience and guilty conscience, those Siamese twins?
How to say everything without uttering a single word?
How to become human, that is, never enough or not too much?
How not to give up on reaching for the ideal that we may never attain?
How to be the actor of a person and not her master?
How to be a refuge for a stranger?
How not to play a role?
And what if we never arrive? That is the question of the refugee on her journey.
Hélène Cixous is an Algerian-born French writer whose work spans many disciplines from poetry to playwriting, literary criticism to philosophy. Charged with founding Paris VIII University in 1968 (with a faculty that included her peers Michel Foucault, Felix Guattari, and Gilles Deleuze), she also established the first women’s studies program in Europe. She is the author of more than 40 books, over 100 essays and 15 plays, and, in the United States, is perhaps best known for works that analyze and take issue with traditional Western notions of femininity and gender.
Alexandra Grant is a text-based artist who uses language and networks of words as the basis for her work in painting, drawing, and sculpture. She has explored ideas of translation, identity, and dis/location not only in drawings, painting, and sculpture, but also in conversation with other artists and writers, such as her long-term collaborator, hypertext author Michael Joyce, and the philosopher Hélène Cixous. Her recent project with Cixous, Forêt Intérieure/Interior Forest, was a participatory exhibition at 18th Street Arts Center, in Santa Monica, California, and Mains d’Oeuvres, in Saint Ouen, France, in response to Cixous’s book Philippines.
© 2013 X-TRA Contemporary Art Quarterly