David Shrigley Really Good (Fourth Plinth)
London, UK: Arts Council, 2016
29 cm. high
Edition of 3000 signed and numbered copies.
“I guess this is a work about making the world a better place or it purports to actually make the world a better place. Obviously, this is a ridiculous proposition, but I think it’s a good proposition. Artworks on their own are inanimate objects so they can’t make the world a better place. It is us, so I guess we have to ask ourselves how we can do this.”
If you've been watching season five of Arrested Development, you may be wondering about Portia de Rossi. Despite her character being central to the plot of the season's arc (Lindsay Bluth is running for public office), she appears in only a handful of episodes, and almost always via an obvious green screen. Or under a blanket, even.
When series four debuted on Netflix in 2013, it was met with much criticism over the excessive use of green screen, and the fact that the characters were rarely all seen together, depriving audiences of the chemistry of their interplay. The writers and producers had tried to turn the limitations of the production from a liability into an advantage. The cast - all with increased profiles since the original three seasons - had conflicting schedules and so the season was written as a series of episodes (of varying lengths) each focusing on a single character. The confused timelines would eventually resolve themselves, and reward binge watchers. A joke would be set up early in the season, and pay off many episodes later (such as Tobias' license plate heralding his "new start" being revealed to read "ANUSTART").
The experiment was generally considered a failure and a few weeks prior to the release of season five, creator Mitch Hurowitz remixed the season as a kind of mea culpa. The episodes were recut in a more chronological order, and efforts were made to feature as much of the cast as possible in each episode. The remixed series was then presented as canon, and Netflix has made the originals more difficult to find on the site (under the "Trailers and More" section).
So why revert back to green screen for de Rossi's character?
The actress recently announced that she was retiring from acting in order to pursue "a business venture". It turns out that that business venture is the publication of artists' editions.
de Rossi, reportedly an art lover and collector, announced that she wishes to “cut out the middleman, democratize art, and empower the artist.” Her new company, General Public, aims to use the new technology of 3D printing to offer "paintings" that capture the texture and brushwork of the original, in unlimited editions. The Synograph™, a state-of-the-art scanner and printer, will be used to create works that will be priced between five hundred and five-thousand dollars.
The "democratization" (a key phrase in the early days of artists' multiples and editions) seems to be the elimination of the gallery. The gallerist - someone who develops long-term relationships with an artist and nurtures and supports their practice - is viewed as the "middleman" to be "cut out". The romanticization of the artist often results in the gallerist portrayed as the exploitative capitalist, despite having to pay rent, renovations, salaries, printing and mailing costs, food and alcohol at the opening, and countless other expenses associated with operating a commercial gallery.
de Rossi's "empowerment" of the artist would, presumably, lie in the royalty rate. Gallerists typically take 50% of the sales price, which is on the lower side of fair given their costs (and the fact that unlike the artists they represent they rarely qualify for grants, can't accept teaching positions, or jobs on installation crews, etc. etc.).
General Public takes 95%. The artist gets a royalty of just five per cent. Less if the work is sold through wholesalers. At an average price of a thousand dollars, artists will earn fifty dollars, at most, for each 'unit' sold. Unless very, very lucky, it seems unlikely that artists will earn enough to pay back the return shipping costs of sending their painting to General Public to be scanned.
I'm sure de Rossi (and her wife, Ellen DeGeneres) have access to some very wealthy friends, and maybe some of them will be introduced to contemporary art this way. But I suspect they are less a client base than a funding model.
I'm reminded of Neil Young's Pono Player, the already-abandoned high-definition alternative to the iPod/iPhone. The company failed to find a consumer base to fleece, but met their kickstarter goal in an afternoon. All on the back of having a superstar musician involved.
Whether a TV star has much pull as a musical icon, and whether there is an audience for high-resolution reproductions of paintings remains to be seen, but I'm guessing that if Jeffrey Tambor's scandals don't prevent Arrested Development from returning for a sixth season, de Rossi will be more available than ever to participate.
Jasia Reichardt [ed] Between Poetry and Painting
London, UK: Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1965
84 pp., 20 x 20.5 cm., spiral-bound
Edition size unknown
An exhibition catalogue for a show curated by Jasia Reichardt and held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK, from October 22, 1965 to November 27, 1965. The purview is work at the confluence of poetry and painting, with a particular emphasis on visual poetry and adjacent forms.
Exhibiting artists include: Pierre Albert-Birot, Nanni Balestrini, Thomas Bayrle/Bernhard Jäger, Claus Bremer, Henri Chopin, Bob Cobbing, Kenelm Cox, Klaus-Peter Dienst, Rolf-Gunter Dienst, Reinhard Döhl, Tom Edmonds, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Barry Flanagan, John Furnival, Heinz Gappmayr, Pierre Garnier, PA Gette, Eugen Gomringer, Raoul Hausmann, Bernard Heidsieck, Joseph Hirsal, Dom Sylvester Houédard, Ernst Jandl, Thomas Kabdebo, Jiří Kolar, Ferdinand Kriwet, John Latham, Roberto Altmann, Isidore Isou, Maurice Lemaítre, Gio Minola, Roland Sabatier, Jacques Spacagna, Hansjörg Mayer, Franz Mon, Edwin Morgan, Ronaldo Azeredo, Augusto de Campos, Haroldo de Campos, Décio Pignatari, Pedro Xisto, Ladislav Novak, Antonio Porta/Romano Ragazzi, Josua Reichert, Dieter Rot, Gerhard Rühm, John Sharkey and Hans Staudacher.
Mike Kelley Platos’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile and The Peristaltic Airwaves
Compound Annex, 2012
2 CD set, 55:36 and 38:19
Edition size unknown
Originally released on cassette in 1987 by High Performance Magazine, the remastering, texts and artwork on this 2 CD reissue were approved by Mike Kelley prior to his suicide in January 2012.
Recorded live at Artists Space, New York, December 5, 1986
With: Sonic Youth (Thurston Moore, Lee Renaldo, Kim Gordon, Steve Shelley); Molly Cleator; and Adam Rudolf on the didgeridoo.
Assisted by Tony Oursler, Mary Jones, and Jennifer Bolande.
Recorded by Carole Parkinson.
Performed live on KPFK Radio September 30, 1986
With: Jack Skelley and Nic Greene, guitars; Dave Childs, drums; and Nancy Evans, voice and horn.
Co-produced by High Performance magazine and Jacki Apple for Soundings on KPFK Pacifica Radio with assistance from KPFK and the National/State/Country Partnership.
Executive producer of Soundings - Jacki Apple; Sound engineer - John Glass.
Available for £13.95 from Donlon's Books for here.
Taryn Simon An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar
Gottingen, Germany: Steidl, 2007
152 pp., 26.2 x 34.5 cm., clothbound
Edition size unknown
Taryn Simon documents places and objects that are typically inaccessible or unknown to a public audience. After what one can only imagine is painstaking negotitations, she visits hidden, forbidden, under-the-radar and the generally inaccessible sites and distills them into a single image.
Her large format photographs (printed on the page in very small reproductions, for some reason) capture things most people have never seen: the AIDs virus in a vile, 48 hours worth of items confiscated by customs agents, containers of radioactive nuclear waste, the CIA’s art collection, the Imperial Office of the KKK, the operating theatre during a Palestinian woman's hymenoplasty (the 'restoration' of her virginity), a simulated city in Kentucky used to conduct battlefield training exercises, the cave of a hibernating bear, and over fifty other oddities.
“I am always immensely grateful to people who do impossible things on my behalf and bring back the picture. It means I don’t have to do it, but at least I know what it looks like.”
Liz Magor Four Notable Bakers
Toronto, Canada: Self-published, 1983
 pp., 18 x 23 cm., softcover
Edition Size Unknown
"Magor's artist's book juxtaposes images from professionnal baking manuals, with a variety of images which refer to the body and social practice, including hairstyles, tatoos and the wearing of uniforms."
From the AGO Library and Archives Unshelved event, last Wednesday [see previous posts].
Chloe Dewe Mathews Shot at Dawn
Madrid, Spain: Ivorypress, 2014
Edition size unknown
A macabre pun, Shot at Dawn records the sites of the executions of British, French and Belgian soldiers during the first World War. The result of two years research, the book features images of forests, fields, a town hall, a primary school, an abattoir, a cemetary, and other now mostly serene locations where soldiers were executed by firing squad. They were not the victims of enemy combatants, but were killed by their fellow soldiers, as punishment for cowardice or desertion.
Suffering from shell shock, the soldiers felt unable to continue fighting and fled. Senior military commanders believed that if such behaviour was not harshly punished, the discipline and morale of the entire army might collapse. The disgraced soldiers were charged with “fleeing in the face of the enemy”. It is unlikely that they received a fair trial or an adequate defence. Many were minors. The cause of death was rarely shared with the relatives of the deceased.
Dewe Mathews' photographs are seasonally accurate and were taken as close as possible to the precise time of day at which the executions occurred, typically around dawn.
"Initially, I was wary of taking on a project about the first world war as I have no personal connection with it, but, from a documentary photography perspective, I was drawn to the idea of arriving somewhere 100 years afterwards. It's almost the opposite of war photography. So, instead of the photographer bearing witness, it is the landscape that has witnessed the event and I who am having to go into that landscape in the hope of finding anything tangibly connected to the event. It was almost like having to find a new language or way of seeing."
"I had studied the first world war at school and knew about the terrible suffering and slaughter, but I had never heard about the executions and so I was really shocked. It seemed incredible to me that young men who had signed up to fight for their country and who were sent out to the trenches and exposed to this unimaginable horror, should be executed by their own men because something went wrong in their heads or they simply couldn't do it any more. From today's perspective and our understanding of soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan with post-traumatic shock, it just seems brutally unjust."
- Chloe Dewe Mathews, interviewed by Sean O'Hagan, The Guardian
From the Unshelved event at the AGO Library and Archives on Wednesday (see previous posts).