Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Outside In

This is one way to picture a mighty, massive California oak tree. It's an impression.

Another way is to take multiple scans using some sort of mapping software, then process the data in Dreamworks to create a light display, like a sprinkling of luminescence, tracing the tree's contours, turning and spinning, creating an animated picture that is at one and the same time on the surface and on the inside.

In Between the Outside-In is the title of Pae White's show at New Langton Arts, SF. The work was created during a residency in the California foothills sponsored by For-Site a foundation dedicated to encouraging new art about place. Pae White's installations typically engage in an architectural, design-based kind of way with the site of exhibition.

Like this, Morceau Accrochant, thread and paper, 2004. Gentle, colorful suspensions, grid-like and light-weight.

Similarly this, Suncloud, 2008, described as “a waterfall on pause." hmmm...

This earlier work, (2003) chandeliers in terra cotta, called foggy, sespe, chamois, lowered down and claimed space in the center of the place.

The show in New Langton included three pieces. Two were self-contained enclosures, rectangular glass and metal rooms upon which her Dreamworks animations were projected, reflected, refracted—swirling in and upon themselves.

The looping tree animation begins and ends with a topographical impression of the immense oak made from points of yellowish light. Your gaze travels in, in between the sight lines. At the same time, the form, contained in chains of light, moves over. In and around, while over and around—a morphing, swirling circuit—at once a fly-over and a deep dive. It is quite extraordinary going into the space of the tree, density of wood and bark transparent and the movement exhilarating. This is quantum physics made live.

Scintillation of light is how astrophysicists describe the tremulous motion that makes the twinkling of stars. This from the Latin, scintillea, sparks of light, which have been understood, well, from way back, in Jewish mysticism and Manichean Gnosticism, as soul sparks. "Fiery sparks of the soul of this world," the alchemist Khunrath describes them. "The light of nature sprinkled in and throughout the structures of the great world into all the fruits of the elements everywhere." mmm... oh yes. The digital revolution is making plain what sages have known intuitively and scientists theoretically. Everything is light.

Following on the tree, White took another scan, this of a wild raspberry bush, and similarly manipulated the data to produce a different effect—the image begins coalesced and then its bits expand out into an array of particle light, a dissipation, and then the sparks return back into form.

Behind the structural aspect of her work—whether establishing space with chandeliers or creating relational space with bits of color, or projecting form and space with light, image, reflection—is a concept of space that folds in on itself. "A world can be as small as your fingertip and can be endless..." she says in an interview about her work in the 2009 Venice Biennale. In Venice she manipulates the space of the site; in these animations, she manipulates the impression of a living form and the space it takes up.

The last piece in the show came out of an encounter with another being living in the Sierra foothills, collector Joseph Meade. White replicates the landscape of his home with pieces of his extensive collection of ceramic ware: hills and valleys formed from vases and pots, pools and meadows in low, flat bowls. It describes place and relationship, but is maybe not more than a curiosity. This thing of making a maguette out of non-ordinary materials has some kind of attraction. In any case, it's been done here, and before. In this case, I'd rather be in the place than the sculptural description of it.

The free-standing animation-rooms I could hang out in forever. Trance-inducing light-movies take my cake and bake it.

images courtesy of
Las Pilitas Nursery
Tate Museum
Francesca Kaufmann Gallery, Milan
Xavier Hufkens Gallery, Brussels
Gravel & Gold blog.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Okay. Stop the Music. I know that this blog is in a sorry state. The hits are way down because we are not posting very often. I have looked at this blog, and have not felt like writing anything about art recently. This world totally, totally, totally fucking sucks and I am very disheartened. Why do I want to even talk about art when George Bush and his fascist minions are turning our country into an armed camp of shit bozos? (10.26.07)

I picked this quote up off a wonderfully cantankerous blog that has sadly run out of juice. Anonymous Female Artist (A.K.A. Militant Art Bitch)'s last post was on 11.3.08... which is all too bad because wild n wooly acerbic opinion that wends its way in and around the male-dominated (art) world is always a pick-me-up, or kick-in-the-nuts, depending.

Any way. She was tired of what she was seeing then, and I'm tired now.

In fact, the month of May, I saw nothing I wanted to write home about.

Now it could be me. I may be suffering a little burn out. Perhaps I need a vacation.

Or it may be the culture. After the election, which was just a relief, there's been this pervasive feeling of exhaustion. Understandable, what with the collapse of the economic system and pending doom of the waters, air, fish, wildlife... that there'd be a breakdown in mood.

Perhaps it is just time for everyone to take a break, lean on our collective shovels and brooms, take a breather. Recess is indicated by the recession after all.

Recession, depression. Gotta go down before you can go up.

Strike Out

Evidently there is a movement on for a(nother) three-year Art Strike. Originally the brainstorm of Auto-Destructive artist, Gustav Metzger, the idea is to bring down the system by giving it nothing on which to feed. There was not much effect in 1974, and I'm not sure anyone will get on board now—except out of the moral fatigue that plagues us all. And then there is John Perraeult's question: How much fresh air can the art world stand?

Well, we all know fresh air is good for you. Hence the need for recess in school. And the Clean Air Act. What I'm hoping is that the galleries and art institutes are stretching their legs, running around the courtyard, smoking behind the dumpster, and generally shaking the tension out of their little art systems, because clearly we need some change.


Well, I did see something interesting yesterday. A screening of Susan Mogul's Driving Men, a film in which she interviews significant men in her life while they drive her around.

Driving man.

Mogul came into her own in LA in the 70s, a feminist performance artist working out issues of identity, community, sexuality and romance, often in front of the camera, always with a wry wit. In fact, one of her men (in the film) says she was a different kind of feminist because she can laugh.

In 1973 she made Dressing Up a short video where she disrobes and redresses while talking about shopping with her mother all the while chewing CornNuts. It was included in the Getty's outstanding show of California Video Art last year, all grainy and crackling and crunchy.

In her very subjective, very intimate work, stand-up comedy and art marry and live happily ever after.

1985-87 Mogul performed News From Home in which she dressed like her mother, read letters from her mother, did what seems inevitable, became her mother.

This still is from Take Off, 1974, a film about getting off.

In Driving Men Mogul is mostly off camera, behind the camera. The persons of the film however are reflecting impressions of her, so it is still all about her, this woman, woman with a camera, woman investigating larger issues of culture through the particularity of herself. In Driving Men she reveals herself through these men—lovers, brothers, her father, her friends—building her life story through these relational signposts, like bumpers in a pin ball game.

Driving Men leans a little more towards documentary, you know, film film, complete with scripted narration, as opposed to art film. Many of her more recent films are like this, 1st person documentary. And it is a kind of un-aesthetic, utilitarian style of filmmaking that progressed out of video as documentation of performance work. A style that appears to be video documenting life unvarnished, in the moment. It's a look. Of course these works are varnished, massaged, edited. This is not complaint, just description, a way of placing it within a field of overlapping borders. I was glad to see it. Always glad to see a smart, feisty woman, unabashed, unashamed, sensitive and aware. And funny to boot.

Video clips stream on her website.
The screening was courtesy of Jewish Film Festival at Yerba Buena.