This week in and around the gallery, two artists from Machine Project will be performing: Ezra Buchla and Corey Fogel. Last week, Corey poked his head into my office and asked about Jennifer Levonian, an artist whose work we had on view in The Vault. I explained that I saw her work in Philadelphia and then requested that she send us a couple of videos for inclusion in The Vault, but that I had no extensive contact with her.
Corey then explained that Jennifer had once created an entire animation using Corey as her subject. They had met at a residency program. Jennifer used Corey's image and Corey created many of the sounds for the animation. The art world is often a very small and funny place. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you that video, Buffalo Milk Yogurt:
Here's the latest on the Smithsonian's censorship of David Wojnarowicz's video "A Fire in My Belly".
Smithsonian Institution's Governing Board Seeks Changes After Video Flap at Portrait Gallery Associated Press, 2/1/11
By: Brett Zongker
WASHINGTON (AP).- The Smithsonian Institution's governing board on Monday called for changes in how potentially objectionable exhibits are handled while also standing behind the head of the museum complex amid accusations of censorship. http://bit.ly/fqxogq
SPACES will screen "A Fire in My Belly" through February 13th (the date through which it should have remained on view at the National Portrait Gallery) in The Vault.
Plush, bulls and erie machine sounds are gone from the gallery…now to prep for the next exhibition and believe it or not, the next benefit.
February 11 - April 01, 2011
Machine Project <http://www.spacesgallery.org/artists/machine-project> : Camp Cleveland will invade SPACES with a troop of artists from Los Angeles who will brave the Cleveland cold and bring their West Coast styles to the North Coast. Machine Project is known for their thoughtful and off-kilter approaches to art experiences. During the run of the exhibition MP has scheduled over 15 interactive events, lectures and workshops.
And Elizabeth Dunfee <http://www.spacesgallery.org/artists/elizabeth-dunfee> is our next SPACELab artist. Based in Akron, her current work explodes off the wall with microscopic cell imagery, showing what happens when we tamper with natural elements and infuse them with toxic and synthetic elements.
And then there is the benefit. What can I say?…. details to follow.
So right now the crew and I are working on prepping the gallery and couches for MP, shipping fun creatures and working out the logistics of the LA invasion (11 artists--yes, 11).
Want to help and hang out with a lot of cool artists? Contact me, and you too can be part of the crew.
Here is a taste of Machine Projects' Corey Fogel. Corey will be performing at SPACES Feb 15-21, 2011. See you at SPACES!
Elizabeth Dunfee, Manic Growth (work in progress), 2011, digital image
In the Life produced a brief documentary about the censorship of the Wojnarowicz video form the National Portrait Gallery's exhibition Hide/Seek. The video is included below for your consideration.
Recently, Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough has stepped forward to talk about the controversy surrounding the piece and its subsequent removal from the exhibition (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/18/AR2011011806129.html). Up to this point, the Smithsonian has remained tight-lipped about their decision, thereby creating an information vacuum. Most of the news and information about the issue have been coming from the viewpoint of the protesters.
At the heart of censorship is a refute of dialog. It is a removal of one viewpoint, so that viewpoint cannot be expressed. By removing Wojnarowicz's work, the Smithsonian censored themselves once. By then not speaking about it, they willfully censored themselves a second time. In the remaining information vacuum, what is left is often only dogma and sound bites—from both sides.
The In the Life documentary is a good example of what happens when a dialog is shut down. It is a one-sided presentation. It is perhaps more level-headed than the protests that resulted in the pulling of the video, but it is still heavily biased and makes no concessions for the Smithsonian.
What seems to be missing form most all the coverage and statements made by individuals and organizations regarding the Wojnarowicz/Smithsonian issue is actual dialog. There has been a lot of posturing, a lot of accusations, and a lot of lines drawn in the sand, but acknowledgment of difficulties, collegial attitudes, and a healthy back-and-forth have been missing. Censorship negates a back-and-forth exchange, and therefore teaches intolerance.
I commend PPOW Gallery for getting the video out into the public in a very egalitarian and open way to allow people to see the work and make decisions for themselves about the merit of the work. They gracefully have been able to navigate this political storm to shine more light on Wojnarowicz's key issues and keep a dialog open.
At least the Smithsonian's Clough stated, "We needed to spend more time letting our friends know where this was going. I regret that." Hopefully, moving forward, that lesson learned is applied and the Smithsonian (And other organizations) don't censor themselves twice.
I am, perhaps unfortunately, thinking about the upshot of the media attention recently garnered by The National Portrait Gallery for its censorship of the David Wojnarowicz film A Fire in my Belly. And, on the heels of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I am thinking about freedom.
It seems clear, once again, that the civil rights so passionately fought for just a few decades ago can not be taken for granted. Conversations about what is truly our collective history--the Stonewall riots, the presence of HIV and AIDS, the politics of diversity--remain relevant and desperately needed. While I would never wish for the kind of censorship we've all been witness to, I have to be thankful that more people will be exposed to, and reminded of, the work of artists like David Wojnarowicz and the forum for dialogue and understanding that it provides.
Here's a link to Untitled (Burning Man), the first piece of Wojnarowicz's that I was privileged to see, during my first years at Oberlin College: http://bit.ly/ew1Rmc. I can recall being startled by its power, and humbled by its messages. Having a visual language when we think about these issues is so important.
If you're interested in other issues of censorship, check out the National Coalition Against Censorship: http://www.ncac.org/
Manager, SPACES World Artists Program
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