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October 11, 2015

Metabolism: Cristin Richard, Detroit Design Festival, 25-Sep-2015

by Jim Welke

Metabolism / Cristin Richard photo: Bruno Vanzieleghem

Metabolism / Cristin Richard
photo: Bruno Vanzieleghem

Invited to participate in Detroit Design Festival 2015 (September 22-26, 2015), Detroit artist Cristin Richard presented her one night installation, Metabolism, in the c.1927 Detroit Savings Bank building at 5001 Grand River (near Warren; formerly occupied by Kunsthalle). In addition, she collaborated with Simone Else to create delicate bondage implements overlaid with intestines shown in the bank vault. (More about that follows.)

Metabolism comprised the main attraction for this ambitious, moody, soulful, one-night show. The installation consisted of a video projected large–twelve feet or so high–on the rear wall of the bank building main floor. As you entered the darkened room, illuminated only by the projected imagery of the video, you found yourself confronted by a languid, nubile siren (Emilee Burnadette Austin) tearing diaphanous bits of yellow, green, and ochre colored pig intestine from her otherwise nude body. In accompaniment you heard an eerie, raspy soundtrack by Detroit musician/composer Nate Czarling (info on him here & here) that emits scratched phonograph record sounds mixed with a repeating strings riff, alongside a Morse-code-like percussion on a cowbell-ish device.

Metabolism (intro) by TT Moross
The repetition, phonograph-record-skip-like, over and over, hypnotizes the listener, draws them into a receptive, passive, yet enervated state while the girl on the screen peels off the detritus of civilization–her clothing–clothing shattered, extraneous and superfluous. Ms. Richard constructed that clothing, as translucent and feathery as bits of sloughed sunburned skin, from the flotsam of mass-slaughter in our invisible industrial abattoirs. But you might not know this yet–that the enigmatic being on the screen peels off bits of animal offal–as you observe, transfixed, submerged in the cabin pressure of Mr. Czarling’s audio ecosystem. You watch: peel-peel-peel. You hear: skip-skip-skip. And then your eyes adjust to your tenebrous surroundings, someone else occupies the room: a girl, youthful, and naked but for wisps of that translucent intestinal fabric settled on the landscape of her lithe body, dead and laid out in a coffin. At least, she’s dead to you. You feel disoriented, in another country, a strange land with strange customs.

Metabolism / Cristin Richard photo: Bruno Vanzieleghem

Metabolism / Cristin Richard photo: Bruno Vanzieleghem

Richard, on her website, describes her work this way:

…It transforms and regenerates in poetic and unpredictable ways.  In the majority of her work, she reconstructs animal intestines into tangible objects. Playing on the ambiguity, created by the presence of this material, she develops metaphors loaded with complexities.

…With the idea of fashion as sculpture, Cristin Richard blurs the line between fine art and fashion.  She believes that fashion allows one to create a second skin.  It provides an escape that is rooted in the truth to one’s own identity.

Yoko Ono expressed thoughts on feminism, fashion, and subjugation of women when she created her performance “Cut Piece” in 1964 (excerpt here). While distinctly different in form and intent–Ono performed the piece, with audience participation–Richard’s work does follow from it in the sense that it puts the female form on a stage, not for entertainment as we have done at the expense of women for centuries, but more so as trial evidence. And then Richard brings in the added dilemma of our obsession in Western Civilization with mass-marketed, mechanistic consumerism, in this case our often callous consumption of animals bred, raised, and killed solely for us to devour in a frenzy of overfed fast-food surfeit. Cristin Richard, in “Metabolism” seems to ask that we run the film of our existence in reverse; in fact, that we imagine a reversion to a more primal past when clothing served more for protection against cold and predators. The animals we pursued then sometimes pursued us. And consumed us. Animals provoked us to respect them as physical and intellectual forces. Most pre-historic and modern aboriginal cultures harbor reverence for animals they hunt. They recognize in them spirits to honor. And they squander very little of the animals they fell. They never take them for granted, and they never hunt beyond the needs of subsistence. To do so would imperil the existence of both them and their prey.

But we, in our mechanized, me-first civilization stray from our ancestral roots. We treat animals as lifeless commodities and rather than public reverence we hide away from view the animals we kill in “meat processing plants.” We deny these living, breathing beings the honor they deserve while we dump their flesh wrapped in plastic in supermarket refrigerator bins or Styrofoam take-away packages.

Richard seems to want to slap us upside the head for our arrogance and hubris; to remind us that we share much in common with the animals we consume, that we consume too much, and that we need to peel away, layer by layer, the excesses of our culture. One solution is to regress like Ms. Austin in the video toward innocent disavowal of unneeded attire, toward a less self-absorbed, self-conscious perspective. But between the observer and the projected video, that enigmatic corpse lies in state. Is the video projected here like those melancholy videos created by suicide bombers prior to self-destruction?

Is the girl in the casket the girl in the video? Did she shed her corporeal connection to civilization at the expense of her life? Is Richard telling us that our modern, cultivated entanglements–our overly elaborate food, clothing, shelter, and transportation–imperil us even if we back away from them? Have our material entanglements embedded themselves in our psyches so deeply that to eschew them is the equivalent of suicide? Is it really impossible to get back to the Garden and a place of simplicity and authenticity?

That, at least, is what this writer saw projected on the screen and lying in the casket in that old bank building. Once you removed yourself from the enveloping video with funeral casket and soundscape that Richard and Czarling parachute you into, you moved into a room that housed the Detroit Savings Bank vault. This room presented a soundtrack different from the track in the lobby: Metabolism II. (VAULT) by TT Moross

photo: Jim Welke

Metabolism / Cristin Richard & Simone Else
photo: Jim Welke

Arrayed on two tables in this unventilated crypt-like room Richard and fellow artist Simone Else present their collaborative effort: a collection of everyday, and not so everyday objects, that when observed collectively suggest sexual bondage, or at least sex with a spicy flavor. But these objects take on a more complex meaning, here in this savings bank vault. (Savings bank vault, epicenter of white bread American delusions of permanent security!) What might otherwise offhandedly be construed as sex toys, here appear wrapped ever so delicately, precisely, and carefully in a patina of that same animal intestine that decorates the dead and living women in the grand but decrepit bank lobby. Again, you may not know at first that what decorates, surrounds, and subsumes these objects is in fact that same pellucid membrane adorning those women in the funereal lobby. But you read the text that accompanies the show, and you learn and consider this.

Metabolism / Cristin Richard & Simone Else photo: Jim Welke

Metabolism / Cristin Richard & Simone Else
photo: Jim Welke

Else and Richard might suggest with their work here that those things we consume, those beings that we presume to dominate, in fact dominate us. That we become embedded in our excesses, and by allowing that to happen, we allow ourselves to be altered, controlled by our appetites that ultimately circle back and consume us, like the self-consuming snake, or ouroboros, of which Carl Jung suggests:

This ‘feed-back’ process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the Ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia which [...] unquestionably stems from man’s unconscious.

The self-consuming snake implies renewal, or a nagging desire for it; but a renewal preceded by self-destruction. So following this paradigm, we have a future: a future that does not include us.

Overall, the narrative of Richard’s “Metabolism”–lobby and vault–might be a cautionary tale, a looking outward by this artist who seems to see peril on the horizon of our human political and cultural landscape. Like most hegemonic civilizations, our global, interconnected, technology-empowered, overfed society, with so many pushed to the margins by relentless poverty, will likely founder as our Sumerian, Egyptian, Mayan, Aztec, Chinese, Greek and Roman predecessors did.

At a more basic level, as most top of the food chain mammals go, one million years seems to be about the limit before extinction unceremoniously knocks them from the tree of life. We humans, at least as a genus, are these days at about 2.5 million years–a bit past our prime. Then again, humans anatomically and behaviorally identical to us have been around for only about 200,000 years. So statistically, we may have a while to go. Still, there’s nothing to say we moderns don’t break out of the rut of tradition and statistics and extinct ourselves much sooner than our mammalian brethren.

So, if you cast your interpretive net wide, as this writer does, you see that the work shown in the old Detroit Savings Bank by Ms. Richard and her able collaborators, Else, Czarling, and Austin, takes on, if not kicks out, the very underpinnings of modern consumerist society. For that, the artist deserves an extra accolade: she looks inward first, but then outward at the cultural milieu that created her. Rather than being self-absorbed, she presents socially aware work. She offers an indictment of us all for blithely perpetuating the self-destructive world we live in. A slick attorney could submit numerous defenses to this indictment–it’s not a conviction after all–but Ms. Richard demands reflection followed by answers from all of us. And that takes courage on both a personal and professional level.

We might slip through on the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, but unless greater society pays more attention to the evidence that such insightful artists and scientists present, and then change our self-destructive ways, the art and science may survive, locked away in vaults, but we humans will not.

Metabolism / Cristin Richard & Simone Else photo: Bruno Vanzieleghem

Metabolism / Cristin Richard & Simone Else
photo: Bruno Vanzieleghem

 

Metabolism / Cristin Richard & Simone Else photo: Bruno Vanzieleghem

Metabolism / Cristin Richard & Simone Else
photo: Bruno Vanzieleghem

Metabolism: Cristin Richard, Detroit Design Festival, 25-Sep-2015

 

Please have a look at our site, artifizz.org,
and check out our other reviews.

And don’t forget to like our facebook page

 

September 4, 2014

Gao Brothers DISSIDENTS ABROAD at Detroit MONA

By Jim Welke

Gao Brothers DISSIDENTS ABROAD at Detroit MONA
Opens: 13-September-2014
Reception with the artists: 6-10pm
Midtown MONA, Suite C
4130 Cass Avenue Detroit MI 48201

MONA FUNDRAISER, Friday, September 12
Meet the Artists @ Fundraising Reception: 6-9pm
$50 Donation – Support MONA programming for the coming year… meet the Gao Brothers… with wine and hors d’oeuvres… and a  chance at a signed exhibition catalog.

 

For those of us who witnessed the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 from a dozen time zones away–give or take–and with information incoming via the fledgling cable news service, CNN, the scenes at hand compelled interest and enervated at the same time. Beginning in April 1989, the events un-spooled in slow motion, with commercial interruptions and misinformation forwarded and corrected as reporters fed us raw data followed up by fact checking. At first, the motivation for the mass protests at the heart of the Chinese power center eluded reporters, and with facts out of reach, they offered on-air speculation–a new concept suggestive of Hunter S. Thompson’s Gonzo Journalism. Reporters lived the story they reported; myopia and biases induced by the flow of real-time impressions colored it. Such coverage violated every code of broadcast journalism nurtured by guys like Edward R Murrow, Walter Cronkite, and during the Tiananmen Uprising, Bernard Shaw at CNN. Tiananmen revealed not only the depth of opposition to oppression by the Chinese government, but revealed too the fallibility of that government; that any government could be shaken off balance. According to a story on CNN’s site by Mike Chinoy, the Beijing bureau chief at the time, “How covering June 4 Tiananmen Square crackdown kicked off ‘CNN Effect’,” the students and activists in Beijing tore away the veil of diplomatic subterfuge that once sheltered every government from direct exposure to daylight:

The protests generated unparalleled international coverage, and became a defining moment in the Information Age. It was the first time a popular uprising in an authoritarian state was broadcast live across the globe.

According to Bernard Shaw, who anchored CNN’s live round-the-clock coverage from Beijing for much of the crisis: “You could say that that was the beginning of the ‘CNN effect’” — the idea, which became widespread after Tiananmen Square, that the immediacy of live TV news available 24 hours a day played a crucial role in influencing the behavior of key players during major crises.

Prior to the birth of the Tiananmen protest in April 1989, and its sudden demise at the hands of troops on 4 June, the Gao Brothers, Zhen and Qiang, born 1956 and 1962, began their ongoing critique of government-induced social injustice with their debut in a group show at the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) called “China/Avante-Garde.” The show opened on 5 February 1989 after “three months of intense preparation” and meticulous vetting by Communist Party apparatchiks. A wiki page on the ArtSpeakChina.org site describes it:

The historical import of the event, clearly perceived by the participants, did not just derive from the nature of the works on display but also from the association of such extreme art with that museum. The China Art Gallery–a Sinified socialist-style building managed by the Chinese Artists Association and, at the time, only a few steps from the Ministry of Culture–functions as China’s national museum of modern art. For the first time ever, authorities were allowing a prominent exhibition that openly broke with the fundamental principles of artistic creation laid down since the beginning of the People’s Republic.

The exhibition assembled many of the artists who had been a significant driving force behind art in China since 1985. By allowing the artists and their works to cross the threshold of the most important official art hall in the country, the exhibition conferred on these artists a kind of officialdom. The show’s alternate title, “No U-Turn” was reflected by the “No U-Turn” traffic signs hung as banners and emblazoned on floor mats.

 

85 movement-uturn

 photo: artzinechina.com

Three hours after “No U-Turn” (as the artists called it) opened, government bureaucrats shut it down. And then it re-opened. And then it was shut down again. And re-opened. And shut down.

Needless to say, the conversation between party functionaries and bilious, long-stifled artists percolates with vigorous intensity at times. But the show marked the culmination of the “85 New Wave Movement” and offered an alternative to the ubiquitous Social Realism fostered and infused with propaganda by the Communist Party. According to ArtSpeakChina.org:

Between 1985 and 1990, a group of over one thousand young Chinese artists living in an environment without galleries, museums, or any systematic support for art and with unprecedented enthusiasm and passion, led a globally influential artistic movement. It marked the end of a monolithic artistic model in China, achieving unprecedented individualism and opening a path for Chinese art to march toward internationalization and contemporaneity.

Most groups from the urban areas were in favour of a conceptual approach, regardless of the kind of media employed. The two major conceptual approaches adopted were Rationalistic Painting, represented by the artworks and writings of the Northern Artists Group from Harbin, the Red Brigade from Nanjing, and the Pond Society from Hangzhou; and the Zen-Dada-like conceptual art, epitomized by the Xiamen Dada Group from Fujian and the Red Humour from Hangzhou. On the contrary, art groups located in the northwest and southwest–areas still overwhelmingly based on traditional peasant lifestyle and home of most of the ethnic minorities–were interested in a frank expression of their intuitive feelings and favoured “primitive” themes. The term “currents of life” was used to define their approach. Among these groups, the most influential was the Southwest Art Research Group, consisting of artists mostly from Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.

Raised in Jinan in Shandong province, Zhen attended the Shandong Academy of Fine Arts. Qiang attended Qufu Normal University. Geographically the brothers originated near the midpoint between Hangzhou to the south and Beijing to the north, between the focal points of prevailing art philosophies. During their formative years perhaps their position at this fulcrum alleviated pressure on them to blend in with either end of the geographic and philosophical spectrum. Wherever their coordinates on the sketch of the Chinese art milieu, their debut in Beijing propelled their careers and further affixed these men in collaborative symbiosis. Now, they live and work in Beijing, with studios in the retired military industrial center, the 798 Art Zone, part of the larger Dashanzi Art District.

Their art suggests a worldly, outward sensibility as opposed to inward self-regard. Often they address social injustice. They seem troubled by the inevitable alienation that infects swarms of naïve migrants from small towns and farms to swelling urban metropolises in China and elsewhere. But their work also suggests a wry, ironic view of human existential angst and ennui. The gentle humor in their work often seems overlooked. Their work might be wisely circumspect, but witty all the same. They seem to say that laughter follows inevitable tears like moon and stars follow a thunderstorm.

The brothers also venture into the unknown with exploration of nearly every available medium. They turn out fiberglass and bronze sculpture with equally deft precision. Their reflective chrome sculptures pull the viewer in with self-made reflections, while bronze suggests solemnity and gravity. They do printing and photography. Their photographs often affix human forms in unforgiving, even merciless un-human surroundings. Their map of China comprised of clippings of a beehive populated with humans scaled to fit the cells of the honeycomb invites uncomfortable insights and comparisons. They paint. And they write books.

Frequently, the brothers bring nude human forms into their work. This challenges established law as well as established sensibilities. The nudes do not recline demurely. They drop into landscapes that would naturally proscribe nudity. Subjects find themselves naked in concrete clefts or cavernous halls or shoehorned into wooden compartments. These images shake us up; shatter our complacency. They force us to ponder our imponderable insignificance in a universe if not infinite in time and dimension, then close enough to provoke acute angst. And that’s our lot, our reason for being with our opposable thumbs, self-awareness, and free will: to create in the face of engulfing nothingness and laugh at the spectacle of it. The brothers do this.

Compare the spirit and philosophy that leads the Gao Brothers to such varied art-making to the spirit and philosophy of early adventurers who set out it in fragile sailing ships on journeys of discovery motivated by far more worthy goals than material gain: they sought knowledge, enlightenment, and the opportunity to change the world for the better. Usually none of those things resulted, but the inspiration the rest of us derive from these efforts are reward and justification enough for at least tempered admiration. The difference is that artists set out on adventures that generally do no permanent damage like that done by men in sailing ships. Admiration for artists need not be tempered by guilt. They toss gifts at our feet. How we profit from art is up to us.

GaoBrothers--Midnight Mass

Midnight Mass, 1989

(from debut group show, China/Avante-Garde)

photo: artworldnow.com

Gao-Brothers-Road-to-Dawn-n°1-2001-93x150cm-ed.5-sur-10

Gao Brothers, Road to Dawn n°1, 2001, 93x150cm, ed.5 of 10

photo: Galerie Albert Benamou

Gao-Brothers-Beyond-Zebra-Crassing-2000-83x100-5-sur-10

Gao Brothers, Beyond Zebra Crassing, 2000, 83×100, ed.5 of 10

photo: Galerie Albert Benamou

GaoBrothers_Ghost-Image-The-Raft-of-the-Medusa-Tiananmen-Square-Protests-of-1989.-oil-on-canvas.-300x400cm-560x420

Ghost Image – The Raft of the Medusa & Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989. Oil on canvas, 300x400cm, 2011

photo: guernicamag.com

For a while, the brothers embraced Mao Zedong as muse. Their father died while briefly detained by Mao’s party apparatus during the Cultural Revolution. Undoubtedly this, along with the awareness that millions of others suffered similar humiliation, torture, impoverishment, and death at the hands of double-speaking minions of Mao Zedong affected their worldview. Art offered the Gao Brothers an eloquent voice; a means to comment, even criticize, while maintaining plausible deniability–as American government fixers call it–of outright dissent. Their images and sculptures of Mao depict him either in maudlin caricature, or straight on in compromising positions. In either case, the figures speak of a fragile man with an iron will who saw the world in only two shades, and fellow citizens as either acolyte or enemy. They imply a warning of caution when choosing leaders since no matter their charisma, they remain troubled humans subject to petty human appetites.

GaoBrothers--Miss-Mao-No.2--570x420

Miss Mao No.2. Painted fiberglass sculpture, 210x128x125cm, 2006

photo: guernicamag.com

GaoBrothers--The-Execution-of-Christ-.2009-594x420

The Execution of Christ. Bronze sculpture, life-size, 2009

photo: guernicamag.com

The “Execution of Christ,” in bronze, a departure from previous fiberglass, was originally intended to feature Lin Zhao (b.1932-d.1968), a persistent and persecuted Chinese activist who converted to Christianity and was later executed after repeated refusals to disavow her dissent. The Gao Brothers chose instead to portray Christ. They did so to make the sculpture more accessible, or as they put it in an interview (http://kcur.org/post/interview-artists-gao-brothers-part-2), “If we used Lin Zhao, people would be more puzzled, and the work would require more explanation.” This implies a certain savvy, not necessarily commercial, but an awareness of their audience both in China and over the border China. The sculpture also reveals the brothers’ art historical roots: the poses closely parallel Edouard Manet’s “The Execution of Emperor Maximilian.” That painting depicts Maximilian, a puppet installed as emperor of Mexico by Napoleon III, as he is executed in 1867 by forces loyal to the deposed president who presided over an incipient democratic republic. In a way, the painting is the inverse of the Gao Brothers’ sculpture in that it depicts the meek taking control of the establishment, not the other way around. Similar to the single abstaining sergeant off to the side in Manet’s picture, one of the seven Mao figures in the sculpture installation holds his rifle in abeyance–he does not fire at Christ (yet nor does he prevent his other manifestations from firing).

Manet--800px-Edouard_Manet_022

The Execution of Emperor Maximilian, Edouard Manet, 1867-1869

Numerous exhibitions have honored the Gao Brothers since 1989, most recently at the Kemper Museum in Kansas City Missouri, and at the Hua Gallery in London. The Hua Gallery show presented new work by the brothers, almost exclusively photography. With one exception: a bit of their memorable performance art. The tradition of such performances began with a group embrace in their hometown of Jinan:

On 10th September 2000 we brought more than 150 volunteers, mostly strangers, to the suburbs of Jinan. Getting them to embrace was really difficult; in China, hugging is not a common habit, it is generally considered as a western custom or an intimate action between lovers.

At midnight in the square some policemen started to suspect us and came over to investigate, but we explained what we were doing and we invited them to get involved and eventually they took part in it. Fortunately they understood us clearly, in Beijing this would be unimaginable. It seems that regardless of one’s profession everybody can communicate with each other. As long as one does not consider himself a machine or a tool, art is open to people. …

Their performance work evokes the indisputable intention to shatter artificial boundaries, and evaporate the sense of alienation that plagues modern humans detached from former tight familial kinship and clans. The performances also appear to be fun, warm, enlightening moments for the participants. They literally embrace their audience, and become happenings in the truest sense. That’s a bonus of art we so often forget. It’s not all blood and guts. Sometimes art just wants to be happy. The brothers work hard to bring the happy along with enlightenment and we passive observers should be grateful–and less passive.

 

Read our interview with the Gao Brothers here.

Please have a look at our site, artifizz.org, and check out our other reviews.

And don’t forget to like our facebook page

 

Gao Brothers Interview

By Jim Welke
Gao Brothers Interview: An interview via email with Beijing contemporary artists, the Gao Brothers in August 2014
Gao Brothers / Mao's Guilt

The Gao Brothers and Mao’s Guilt (2009)

Q: At what point did your interest in art develop? At what point did you commit yourselves to art-making as your primary life endeavor?
A: Our interest in art has developed since our boyhood. But we began to commit ourselves to art-making as our primary life endeavor when our students days were over.
Q: At art school, did you focus mainly on theory or craft? What were your primary media?
A: At art school, Gao Zhen focus mainly on craft,his primary media was ink and wash painting. Gao Qiang focused mainly on theory at university.
Q: Government policy aside, are artists honored and admired in China, or are they compelled to live on the margins of society? Is there a strong urban/rural divide between popular perceptions of artists?
A: Usually artists are honored and admired in China if they are successful, if they are not successful, they are compelled to live on the margins of society. There is not a strong urban/rural divide between popular perceptions of artists. but usually artists are urban.
Q: The government in your country appears to (to an outsider from a society oppressed by class divisions and despair) impose many constraints on the goals and aspirations of its citizens. If that is true, do you think those constraints might inspire more thoughtful, more expressive art with broader appeal than might be the case in less restricted but possibly more complacent and individualistic societies? A poet whose name I forget once said that the restrictions of writing in rhyme and meter force a more thoughtful and precise use of artistry. Could the pressures of a society have the same effect?
A: We don’t think those constraints might inspire more thoughtful, more expressive art with broader appeal.The government of Mao’s times in China imposed much more constraints on the goals and aspirations of its citizens,but those constraints never inspire more thoughtful, more expressive art, actually,those constraits killed any thoughtful and expressive art. We prefer a society with less pressures and restrictions.
Q: As political ideals in China become diluted by the inevitable materialism that follows consumerist aspirations, do you fear that people will forget past tragedies and let the spiritual aspects of their existence atrophy? Do you fear political apathy more than political oppression? Do you think art can be be the primary antidote for spiritual and political apathy?
A: Yes, it is terrible to forget past tragedies…  We think political apathy is from political oppression, it is as terrible as political oppression.  You can say art can be be the primary antidote for spiritual and political apathy.we agree.
Q: Do you think that the generation of artists that follow will continue to look outward for inspiration, as you seem to have done, or will they become more introspective, solipsistic, and selfish?
A: We are not sure. it depends on what an artist wants to do, to be.
Q: As your commercial success grows, do you worry that you may feel compelled to soften or blur the messages in your work to insure continued appeal amongst collectors? Are most of your collectors in China, or abroad? Have you ever encountered collectors who turn away from your art out of fear that they might be somehow punished for their support of you?
A: As our commercial success grows, we can do bigger work, we have never feel compelled to soften or blur the messages in our work to insure continued appeal amongst collectors. we seldom think of collectors when we are working on art. Most of our collectors are abroad. Many of our works are not able to be exhibited in China because of censorship. Many collectors and curators turn away from our art out of fear in China.
Q: Which do you think is worse, imprisonment for expression of your views, as might happen under a totalitarian regime, or the utter invisibility and obscurity talented artists and activists often find themselves condemned to in other societies? Is the disinterest in politically motivated art and activism that ensues as byproduct of materialism a more dangerous form of oppression (i.e. the bread and circuses of Rome)?
A: It is hard to say. all forms of oppression are absolutely terrible. If we say one of them is more terrible,it will make others seem less terrible.But actually they may be same terrible.
Q: You have said (http://kcur.org/post/interview-artists-gao-brothers-part-2) that you originally intended Lin Zhao, the political activist executed for her persistent pursuit of her goals to the point of writing in her own blood in prison, to be the subject of your “Execution of Christ.” You said, “If we used Lin Zhao, people would be more puzzled, and the work would require more explanation.” Did you mean Chinese people would be more puzzled, or people abroad? Did changing the subject to Christ also change the message, or simply broaden it? Do you often find yourself choosing subjects for your work that might be too obscure, and subsequently make changes to make the work more accessible?
A: When we said people would be more puzzled,we meaned all of people, Chinese people and people abroad. Considering Lin Zhao is a Christian, we think changing the subject to Christ didn’t change the message,but simply broaden it.
Actually,we don’t often find ourself choosing subjects for our work that might be too obscure, and subsequently make changes to make the work more accessible.
Q: In in interview for an IFA Gallery exhibition at Art Basel (http://www.ifa-gallery.com/exhibitions/artbaselhk13/interviews/gaobrothers.html), you said, “If a a system is bereft of a legitimate foundation, and is marred by countless misdeeds, it doesn’t matter if the system dreams of Communism, or Reform, or anything else, it can only become a nightmare of the people. …the artist has a responsibility to express it, dream or nightmare.” This could apply to many political systems around the globe. Do you think art is the best hope everywhere for replacing dishonest political systems with more fair systems? Or are violent revolutions inevitable in some places?
A: We don’t know if art is the best hope…  We believe revolutions are inevitable in some places, but revolutions don’t have to be violent. We prefer the Colour Revolutions.
Q: As you grow older, do you ever find that cynicism battles your better angel idealism and wins? What do you do to preserve a hopeful tone, or at least avoid a despairing tone in your work?
A: Cynicism has been battling our better angel idealism, but seldom wins. We don’t try to preserve a hopeful tone, or avoid a despairing tone in our work. We just try to be honest, follow our heart to be ourselves.
Q: Do you brothers ever argue to the point of turning your backs on one another for a time, or do you remain consistently warm, even empathetic, to one another? Has either one of you ever destroyed one of your works of art?
A: We never argue to the point of turning our backs on one another. Yes,we remain consistently warm and empathetic to one another. Neither of us ever destroyed one of our works of art.

Catch the Gao Brothers in Detroit, and visit their exhibition:

Gao Brothers DISSIDENTS ABROAD at Detroit MONA
Opens: 13-September-2014
Reception with the artists: 6-10pm
Midtown MONA, Suite C
4130 Cass Avenue Detroit MI 48201

MONA FUNDRAISER, Friday, September 12
Meet the Artists @ Fundraising Reception: 6-9pm
$50 Donation – Support MONA programming for the coming year… meet the Gao Brothers… with wine and hors d’oeuvres… and a  chance at a signed exhibition catalog.

 

Please have a look at our site, artifizz.org, and check out our other reviews.

And don’t forget to like our facebook page

July 30, 2013

muslin.charcoal.brick.sticks.rope.paint @ Butter Projects

by Jim Welke

muslin.charcoal.brick.sticks.rope.paint -- project concept by Alison Wong

muslin.charcoal.brick.sticks.rope.paint — project concept by Alison Wong

Not every gallery group show springs from a gallery operator’s urge to shower accolades on the artists invited. Sometimes the gallery takes a little more capricious approach when formulating a show. As evidence, consider muslin.charcoal.brick.sticks.rope.paint at Butter Projects in Royal Oak MI (opened 26-July, runs thru 30-Aug-2013).

Alison Wong, the director and co-founder of Butter Projects (recently joined by her partner, John Charnota, who will develop additional programming: workshops, publications, and other one-offs), premised this show on the requirement that the artists create works using only the materials indicated in the title of the show. Further, Ms. Wong apportioned those materials equally to each artist. So, participants were faced with the challenge of creating an artwork in a limited period, using a limited set of media.

The artists are: Laura Beyer, Brittany Campbell, Andy Krieger, Sarah Lapinksi, Ash Nowak, and Bailey Scieszka.

The outcome proved engaging. Participants created artwork that reflected their predilections, but all of the works shared the provided common elements: muslin, charcoal (roughly 1/2” thick, 6” sticks), brick (red, with three perforations), sticks (plain, old Michigan branches — maple, oak, whatever), rope (that cheesy yellow nylon, about 3/8”), paint (kind of a grayish, cornflower blue).

To see the ensuing creations felt sort of like watching a bunch of recruits go through induction into the military. All the distinguishing characteristics they show up with are stripped away, and from the other end of the tunnel emerges the same crew, but with more in common than vice versa. That’s a complicated way of saying the artists imbued these works with their personalities, but the materials also imposed themselves on the artists. Factor in the stakes — at least a bit of the artists’ credibility and reputation — along with some inevitable competitiveness, and out of the sausage machine comes some rare specimens.

On one wall of the gallery, near the back, near the administrative/wine-and-cheese-cube section, there hangs a sheet of white sheetrock with samples of the apportioned materials affixed in orderly rows and columns like you might see products proudly arrayed in the lobby of a widget factory. This board represents the starting point for the artists, their mission if they choose to accept it. And their mission was not a nice, linear, point-A-to-point-B kind of assignment, like build a picnic table or leisure suit from these materials. All they got were the materials and no other guidance. Take the stuff and go. And don’t come back until you’ve got something you’re willing to hang on the wall (or stand on the floor) and point to it, and say to the world, “That’s my creation.”

Yes. I do think it took courage for these artists to accept this mission. Not art school, classroom, what-happens-in-Vegas-stays-in-Vegas courage, but real world, no one forgets, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-courage.

But for visitors to the gallery the experience was all fun and games, either from now thru the end of August, or at the opening, which was probably the most fun because all the artists where there, and at openings you get to toss out ill-considered observations and the poor folks who struggled to lay gifts at your feet must politely listen and respond enthusiastically. That takes courage, too.

Fun and games with an edge might describe it more accurately. Art never comes devoid of an edge. At least not art worth mentioning. If it lacks edge, then it might be pure craft — even high-quality, worth-owning craft — but not art. So as the visitor moves through the gallery, she observes the works created from these six not entirely complementary materials and wonders what she’s looking at. Is it as simple as it seems?

If you enter through the front door (as you should), a creation by Laura Byer titled Curtain might be the first thing you see. She calls it a window treatment, which sounds too pedestrian for what she did to the windows. She applied bushels of sticks, some painted, some au naturel, all bound into loose, cable and wing-like constructs. Some sticks wrapped in muslin, some loosely bound by muslin so that the muslin becomes sort of a tendon that pulls the bones together. Nylon rope, stripped into its constituent fibers, formed the more structural ligaments along the vertical, supporting columns of sticks. The final element, bricks, formed a foundation line along the bottom of the windows, which the whole affair framed with dramatic effect. Looking through the gallery windows framed with this “treatment,” you feel yourself transported backward into a pre-industrial world of thatch and twine, bones and sinew, rough-hewn existence where you became what you made with your hands. Nothing else, beyond your natural unsympathetic surroundings existed. Curtain doesn’t dress up a window, it creates one — a big one.

Curtain / Laura Byer

Curtain / Laura Byer

Curtain / Laura Byer

Curtain / Laura Byer

Next, on your right, you might spot a smaller-scaled installation, Signals, Shorthand, and other Alerts, by Ash Nowak: a series of three banner-like swaths of muslin, about the size of place mats, suspended from sticks threaded through sleeves sewn in the top — sewn with strands of yellow nylon rope fiber. The sticks, in turn, were attached to the wall by lengths of that yellow rope tied to each end of the stick, and elevated in the center to form a triangle. On the muslin, near the bottom, are marks made with the requisite charcoal stick; marks applied as obtuse-angled hatch marks that take on the appearance of a field of grain, perhaps. Or, the evaporating surface of a fermenting corn mash if you’re into bourbon, which this writer is. Together, the banners, each similarly marked, form a triptych that somehow calms the viewer’s mind (this viewer at least) with its constancy, balance, and gentle assertion.

 

Signals, Shorthand, and other Alerts / Ash Nowak

Signals, Shorthand, and other Alerts / Ash Nowak

Signals, Shorthand, and other Alerts / Ash Nowak

Signals, Shorthand, and other Alerts / Ash Nowak

Moving counter-clockwise, the next object one encounters will be a mixed-media sculpture/installation that should dispel some of the calm found in the previous work. Brick Face Rope Lips, created by Bailey Scieszka, captures an enervating presence. Comprised of a suit of clothing constructed of linen (muslin, with poetic license), the pants adorned with words scrawled on them in charcoal, the jacket painted with a brick-like pattern of muslin-beige and that grayish, cornflower blue. Enshrouded by the jacket, forming the trunk of a headless being, a video monitor plays an endless loop showing a masked, brick-patterned face with lips of yellow rope against a brick-ish background field similar in color and pattern to that painted on the jacket. One hand of a person — a spirit — holds the mask in place, while the other continuously reapplies lip-gloss to the rope lips. Headphones continuously emit a musical beat — a slowed down version of the early 90′s group Ace of Base “all that she wants” (see video). The effect, after donning the headphones, feels sort of disturbing in a voyeuristic way. You can’t be sure what to make of this creature, neither alive nor dead. Zombie-like perhaps. But the sculpture snares you with its disarming, rag-tag uniform, technological spectacle, and ritual-like lip-gloss application to a lifeless mask. You feel sort of ripped out of the moment, whatever moment you were in, and dropped on a remote island where the native non-human beings do strange things for unknown but important reasons.

Brick Face Rope Lips / Bailey Scieszka

Brick Face Rope Lips / Bailey Scieszka

Brick Face Rope Lips / Bailey Scieszka

Brick Face Rope Lips / Bailey Scieszka

Next, you will encounter Cornfields Smell Better In Sunshine, an installation by Brittany Campbell with a more direct application of video — at least in the sense we usually think of video: to present an evolving story or documentary. Here, a flat monitor dominates a dividing wall of the gallery. Elements of the project, and constituents of the video — sticks, charcoal, a brick — surround the monitor, protruding mysteriously from the wall as though transposed there by a quantum anomaly. Cornstalks painted blue, with roots wrapped in muslin and bound with yellow rope, spread out into the gallery and extend the field of this work beyond that one wall where they overtake the room like overfed GMO crops gone astray. In the video, we see hands resting on crossed legs that incrementally carve a point onto a charcoal stick; cut to the hand tracing a delicate outline on a bicep, followed by a series of cuts to bucolic outdoor scenes: the rope as a jump rope, the corn as it is painted blue, a sun-dappled patch of lush grass, a face seen through one of those brick perforations as fingertips apply charcoal to the inner surface, sticks laid down and set alight, sticks propped vertically and set alight (to create charcoal). Here, another ritual, more familiar than that in the previous work, but equally enigmatic — perhaps more enigmatic in its deeper complexity and longer series of unexplained events. You don’t know what you are witnessing, but you know it holds significance for the participant, like a prelude to tragic journey, or the beginning of a momentous, irreversible act.

 

Cornfields Smell Better In Sunshine / Brittany Campbell

Cornfields Smell Better In Sunshine / Brittany Campbell

Cornfields Smell Better In Sunshine / Brittany Campbell

Cornfields Smell Better In Sunshine / Brittany Campbell

Cornfields Smell Better In Sunshine / Brittany Campbell

Cornfields Smell Better In Sunshine / Brittany Campbell

Cornfields Smell Better In Sunshine / Brittany Campbell

Cornfields Smell Better In Sunshine / Brittany Campbell

Next a work by Sarah Lapinski, You Have to Earn the Yes, suspended from ductwork near the ceiling via diaphanous threads, a ladder made of that yellow rope binding together rungs of sticks. Hovering there in space, suspended by all but invisible threads, this ladder does not appear to be for the here and now, for flesh and blood beings of ponderous substance. Children perhaps could ascend it if it were securely suspended. But it’s not. It hangs there, provoking you to wonder if it’s purely a representation of a ladder; a ladder as symbol for some other act or force; a ladder to Heaven or from Hell. Given the latter option, one feels a bit deflated at finding oneself already down here. Given the former, one feels a bit discouraged by the impossibility of safe ascent. Either way you lose. C’est la vie, mes copains. But, on the wall just behind the ladder you find a sort of shrine to hope: a collection of muslin swatches, about the size of handkerchiefs folded in half, pinned to the wall. Adjacent, another bit reads, “Put on this hook.” And adjacent to that, a hook for pieces from the first set, but inscribed with charcoal by gallery visitors. On the right side, you only read the top leaf, unless you’re particularly assertive and lift each one to reveal those underneath. But that would be an infraction. As you pencil in your words with the earthy charcoal stick (coloring your fingers with carbon black) you add a line to a poem or a prayer in progress for which you might not know the preceding lines and certainly don’t know the following. This work presents endless collaborative possibility — at least until the swatches run out. Then one faces a decision: replenish the blanks, or do laundry and wash away the past. Either way, the ladder waits, so write well.

You Have to Earn the Yes / Sarah Lapinski

You Have to Earn the Yes / Sarah Lapinski

You Have to Earn the Yes / Sarah Lapinski

You Have to Earn the Yes / Sarah Lapinski

You Have to Earn the Yes / Sarah Lapinski

You Have to Earn the Yes / Sarah Lapinski

Finally, you come to an installation by Andy Krieger, Mad at the Moon, comprised of a painting on a concave, conic-section of arcing wood overstretched with canvas. A blue moon emerges from a forest of inky, charcoal black branches interlocked as a screen penetrable only by light (and dark). Like a provocative sentinel, a column topped with a miniature catapult (trebuchet, if you’re into Medieval French, we’re told) and a pile of brick fragments stands before the painting. The catapult, constructed of sticks and rope, aims at the center of that gorgeous, ominous werewolf moon. The execution of these constituent elements is so sublime, the moon and trees rendered so lush, you take it all for granted. “Mad At The Moon,” you are invited to launch brick shards into the lunar surface. “Of course,” you say to yourself as you wind up and let fly.

During the run of the exhibition the gallery is open on Friday from 1-5, Saturday 1-3, and by appointment. Closing reception on August 30th at 7pm — get out and see the show, it’s worth it.

 

Andy Krieger, Mad at the Moon

Andy Krieger, Mad at the Moon

Andy Krieger, Mad at the Moon

Andy Krieger, Mad at the Moon

 

Andy Krieger, Mad at the Moon

Andy Krieger, Mad at the Moon

Alison Wong getting it together...

Alison Wong getting it together…

 

May 27, 2013

HPOP Pops In Hamtramck

by Jim Welke

activities in the green space getting underway...

activities in the green space getting underway…

HPOP, a pop up art fest in downtown Hamtramck (south of Caniff on Joseph Campau) burst into existence Memorial Day weekend starting on Saturday afternoon and running through Monday evening. As described by the main sponsor, Interstate Arts:

HPOP activates Hamtramck’s main business corridor along Joseph Campau street with pop-up art galleries, events, activities and spectacle, drawing guests to explore all Hamtramck has to offer while inspiring locals to re-envision what is possible in our underutilized spaces.

Industrial Post and the City of Hamtramck also sponsored HPOP.

HPOP organizers include: Jason Friedmann, Christina Galasso, Sara Lapinski, George Rahme and Shoshanna Utchenik. But longtime resident, musician, and composer James Cornish, along with many others, contributed immeasurable time and energy.

Shoshanna Utchenik said the initial plan was to create gallery spaces inside vacant shops along Joseph Campau. She and others repeatedly met with property owners, but ultimately the owners resisted opening vacant spaces to streams of visitors due to liability and other concerns. In the end, HPOP organizers secured permission from property owners to install artworks in shop windows where passersby could view them. While this reduced the number of works to show, it did not dilute the goal of offering an expanded vision for underutilized space, and bringing art to Hamtramck residents and visitors in a venue more accessible than a traditional gallery or museum setting.

In addition to the visual art in shop windows, HPOP also offered live music and dance performances in the green space and the square across the street. One performance that I witnessed was danced by Kristi Faulkner and Oihana Elizalde of Kristi Faulkner Dance. Lamarre and Dancers also  performed earlier in the day.

I attended HPOP on Saturday, and I think the organizers exceeded their own expectations, whether they realize it or not. While it is easy to dismiss such efforts as quixotic, what I saw on Saturday countered any such notion. The streets of Hamtramck, a pedestrian friendly town with lots of small shops frequented by residents, bustled with parents leading kids by the hand, teenagers roaming around, and elderly men and women who move slowly, but show keen interest in goings on. All slowed and many stopped to ponder the paintings, photographs, fashion, sculpture, and crafts offered in the windows by HPOP. The hungry found great offerings from Native Kitchen’s health-conscious, “eclectic and alternative cuisine.”

I could be wrong but my guess is most of these pedestrians did not set out with the intention of seeing art. Surely they did not expect to witness it in vacant shop windows, and if they walked past a gallery on the way to the grocery store, most kept walking.

But on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday pedestrians brushed up against art they otherwise would never have seen. And the thing about art, especially art encountered unexpectedly and without preconceptions, is that you can not encounter it without incurring an impression. It’s sort of like two atoms ripping through the vacuum of space. They pass one another, they remain intact, but each is minutely altered by the exchange of energy that occurs. In the case of HPOP, the residents saw new art; their train of thought diverged from whatever they happened to be preoccupied with prior, and they saw new possibilities — for themselves and their families, for their town, for the whole planet.

That might sound like hyperbole, but consider the insidious effects of the perpetual media onslaught these pedestrians are subjected to daily. Often we absorb such background noise almost unconsciously, but I think no one would dispute how persuasive that noise can be: it alters buying habits, bends political views, and affects self-esteem by binding one’s position in the social fabric. Hence we have advertising and biased political coverage (propaganda to some) with proven and measurable efficacy.

In the case of art encountered on the street, the viewer does not raise the same defenses as they do to familiar and suspect media sources. Most approach art during these encounters with an open mind. If you think that might not be true, stand next to a public artwork and ask people what they think. Most will openly share their impression, perhaps a bit tentatively, even self-consciously, but they will give fair consideration to the object before them. And I think residents and visitors to the stretch of Joseph Campau brightened by HPOP over Memorial Day weekend did exactly that. Many times during my visit, I watched passersby slow, point to the pictures in the windows, musicians in the green space next to Lo and Behold Records, or dancers in the park, and then turn to their companions with a smile and a few words. Some lingered for a while, some moved on, but all took notice.

To me, to the organizers of HPOP, and especially to the artists — the other atom brushed by that collision — these moments mean that perceptions were altered and lives were changed. Cynics might dispute this, but I think if you ask people who actually saw the art and gave it at least a few seconds of open-minded, un-jaded consideration you will see that HPOP favorably modified the impromptu attendee’s perception of art, and most importantly, favorably modified their perception of the city where they encountered it.

With Detroit facing the possibility of artworks from its prize museum and cultural mainstay, the Detroit Institute of Arts, put up for auction, events such as HPOP generate optimism for a town’s future, which means residents will be less willing to part with key cultural assets to meet short term financial shortfalls. Public events like HPOP dampen despair along with willingness to countenance desperate and craven measures by politicians ready to throw residents’ interests under the bus (which will probably come late) in favor of influential creditors. At the same time as they boost optimism and civic self-esteem, events such as HPOP instill residents with the sense that artists create art for them, and that residents share with everyone the capacity to appreciate and benefit from art through an incrementally expanded view of the world and its inhabitants.

So, bravo for the organizers and artists (visual and performance) who made HPOP happen, and others who make events like HPOP happen elsewhere. And cheers for the folks passing by who take the time to appreciate the gifts laid before them.

The artists included:

James Cornish

Stephen Garrett Dewyer

Holliday Martindale

Rebekka Parker

Christopher Schneider

Andy Thompson

In parallel with HPOP, Andy Thompson, a local artist and art instructor at several universities and colleges (including College for Creative Studies, Oakland University, University of Michigan), curated 1° of Separation at Public Pool Artspace (3309 Caniff). The show featured work by numerous artists taught over the years by Mr. Thompson — hence the name. The show was engaging and diverse. See photos of that show on the artifizz facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/artifizz

(Sorry for the un-attributed artworks in the photos — my bad — any help with the names will be much appreciated.)

inflatable sculpture in shop window (artist unknown)

inflatable sculpture in shop window Sean Hages and Chelsea Depner

fashion designs (artist unknown)

fashion design, LaTsyrc by CrystalNicole Purifoy

painting in shop window (artist unknown)

painting in shop window (artist unknown)

photo in a shop window by Chris Schneider

photo in a shop window by Chris Schneider

June 19, 2012

The Flight Show

The Performance Laboratory
at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit

The Flight Show — 15-June-2012

On one of those warm June evenings in Detroit when the breeze riffles your shirt like a caress, I attended “The Flight Show” at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID), 5141 Rosa Parks Boulevard
Detroit, MI 48208, (313) 899-2243, http://www.thecaid.org/.

One installment in an ongoing bi-monthly series (third Friday, every other month), “The Flight Show” presented five short acts — two indoors, and three out.

Opening the show, “Fannie Tupae and (Donald),” by Nick Bitonti & Bridget Michael, offered a send up of everyone’s idea of the most dismal, downright funereal nightclub act imaginable. The act opens with Donald, the morose piano player stuffing the barrel of a pistol into his mouth as Fannie Tupae, a vigorously painted lady in a long, white evening gown and heels introduces herself with a drunken sailor’s assessment of the theatre. The act drifts further into the explicit details of Fannie & Donald’s dysfunctional partnership — they put the fun in dysfunctional! The act ends with a surprise that surprises because it goes exactly where you anticipate they will not have the balls to go. They do. It does. It was a blast.

“They Look When I Enter,” choreographed by Ryan Myers-Johnson, with music by David Johnson, and danced by Ms. Myers-Johnson and Karla Williams, presents a short modern dance piece accompanied by Mr. Johnson drumming. The dance begins with both dancers down near the floor, intersecting and repelling one another like orbiting, charged atomic particles. Gradually, as the drum pace accelarates they ascend to upright positions, but still circle warily. Finally, the piece ends when the dancers embrace, but separate once more. To me, the movement suggested a slow evolution of two beings’ recognition of one another, recognition of common traits and need for companionship, and finally recognition of their persistent isolation, even in the midst of others.

After the dance, the show took a brief intermission and the MC and co-curator, Emilia Javanica, asked us to migrate through a side door beside the stage into the garden, where beer and wine were thoughtfully provided along with a donation bucket for those willing and able to make a contribution. Once everyone was out, David Johnson took up his guitar and performed classical pieces. He played beside an artificial fireplace comprised of fake cardboard brickwork with yellow and orange crepe paper, lighted from behind, billowing in place of real fire (the fireplace would feature in a subsequent act). He played softly and skillfully, and his music became a backdrop for mingled introductions and conversations in the garden. The sun angled through treetops in an adjacent lot and the lush garden surrounded us like a cocoon. Mr. Johnson’s masterful guitar work further enhanced the sense of transport to an idyllic oasis somewhere far away.

When Mr. Johnson finished playing, Laura Pazuchowski and her performance, “Butterfly and Spaceship” were introduced. The monologue Ms. Pazuchowski delivered presented the plight of a butterfly seemingly befriended, but then confounded and possibly destroyed by a spaceship of extraterrestrial origins. Her words stream as though directly from butterfly thoughts as the butterfly puzzles over the plight of the spaceship, come to Earth in search of fuel — butterfly fuel — and the inner turmoil of the butterfly as it moves from an innocent and welcoming encounter to one of fear and betrayal. Unexpectedly moving, given the form of the protagonist and antagonist, the butterfly’s calamity provokes anthropomorphic empathy and convinces us that even the strangest pairings of creatures can be stand-ins for humanity, or equally likely, share humanity’s dilemmas.

Adhering to the ancient premise: always leave ‘em laughing, “An Excerpt from the 1969 Ken Russel film ‘Women In Love’,” by Bridget Michael and Carrie Morris, offered the perfect closing act. Everyone laughed at this one, performed by two women who played the roles of two men in Russel’s film, who in turn played the roles of two characters drawn from the D.H. Lawrence novel, “Women In Love.” The novel created a big sensation when published, with its splashy representation of sexuality in all its forms. Russel’s movie made a big splash too, debuting male genitals onscreen, along with several other angles on scandalous nudity. Michael and Morris, keeping with tradition, trotted out a comical, modernly ironic rendition of a drawing room scene between Rupert and Gerald, whose discussion of their very, very close friendship culminates when the men wrestle — sort of — in the nude — sort of. The men, played by two women don’t forget, strip down and go to town with stylized grapples, and stylish… well, Michael and Morris got balls in this act too.

The Performance Laboratory, curated by Carrie Morris and Emilia Javanica, delivers the goods and graciously delivers a good time. An eclectic and engaging crowd showed up, a testament to the show business networking talents of Ms. Morris and Ms. Javanica, who pull the thing off with a minimal budget (donations accepted!). Show up for the next show, and drop a tenner in the jar… or whatever you can spare. This crowd deserves it.

By Jim Welke