Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Douglas Gordon | Through a Looking Glass

Douglas Gordon
Through a Looking Glass
New York City, USA: Gagosian Gallery, 1999
31 x 22.5 cm (folded
Edition size unknown

A massive poster as exhibition catalogue issued in conjunction with the 1999 Gagosian Gallery’s presentation of Gordon's "Through a Looking Glass" - "two large-scale video projections which quote from Martin Scorcese's "Taxi Driver.” The publication includes the six page screenplay "Adventure" by filmmaker Hal Hartley - comprised of e-mail correspondence between him and Douglas Gordon, an essay by film critic Amy Taubin, and a diptych of images of Robert De Niro from "Taxi Driver”.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Ian Murray | The Top Song


Ian Murray
The Top Song
Toronto, Canada: Shorewood Packaging, 1973
12” vinyl record
Edition of 250 numbered copies

I just read an article about angry composers (timed to coincide with the Succession finale tonight) upset with the “Skip Intro” feature on Netflix. They argue that TV opening credit theme music sets the tone, settles you down and guides you in. Watching downloaded  TV on a laptop, I invariably forward past the intro after the first episode.1 Apparently I am not alone. According to Netflix, the “Skip intro” button is now pressed 136 million times a day, saving users a cumulative 130 years. 

A decade ago, the radio station QuickHitz drew headlines for announcing that they would edit every song they played, in-house, to under two minutes. In the age of the dwindling attention span, the station aimed to play 24 songs an hour, twice the industry standard. A few months later, the station backtracked after considerable blowback, with most of the outrage coming from the industry and artists themselves, rather than the listener - many of whom had been skipping past the ends of songs on iPods since the beginning of the century. 

Ian Murray’s The Top Song explored the short attention span involved when consuming media, fifty years ago. The work responded to the practice of the time where radio disc jockeys decided the fate of a song in ten seconds. The liner notes to the LP explain: 

"When you have over three hundred 45's coming in a week, you don't have ime to listen to them all, or even half of them. Generally a disc jockey will play about ten seconds, and he can usually tell if it is a good song or not"

An early super-cut, "The Top Song" consists of the top hundred songs from the previous decade, all truncated to their opening ten seconds. Topping this, the b-side is a 17 minute live recording called "Keeping on Top of the Top Song”. Drummer Tim Cohoon was commissioned to play along with The Top Song, which he had not previously heard. 

The work was first performed at the Dalhousie University Student Union Auditorium in Halifax on November 22, 1970, and was broadcast on Dalhousie University Radio. 

The LP followed three years later and a decade after that, in 1984, Arno Niewenhuysen performed "On Top of The Top Song" in Amsterdam. Four years later, in 1988, a 3:15 excerpt of Niewenhuysen's performance appeared on Tellus #21 - Audio by Visual Artists, alongside works by Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, George Brecht, Terry Fox, Joan Jonas, Marcel Duchamp, Richard Prince and others. 

In 2010, the work was performed again as part of the traveling exhibition Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada 1965 - 1980. 

The above copy is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, in NYC. The liner notes describe the simple and effective premise: 

"A professional drummer was contracted to play along with a prerecorded tape. (He hadn't previously heard). He was told only that the tape went through a number of changes and that he should play continuously along with the music, always searching for a point of reference (allowing him to play without changing his rhythm)."

1. A rare exception is Sharon Horgan’s Bad Sisters, which featured a PJ Harvey cover of Leonard Cohen’s "Who By Fire", which I was happy to revisit weekly. 

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Carolee Schneemann | Body Politics

Carolee Schneemann
Body Politics 
London, UK: Barbican, 2022
352 pp., 8.62 x 11.00", hardcover
Edition size unknown

A catalogue for last year's exhibition of the same name, held at the Barbican in London. The weighty volume traces Schneemann’s prolific six-decade output, up until her death in 2019. 

The title is available from the publisher, here, for £30.00.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Institutions by Artists Volume 2

[Jeff Khonsary and Antonia Pinter, editors]
Institutions by Artists Volume 2

Vancouver, Canada: Fillip, 2021
335 pp., 11.2 × 18.71 cm., softcover
Edition size unknown

‘Institutions by Artists’ was a three-day conference held in Vancouver in mid-October of 2012 (see below image). The event brought together over fifty speakers from around the world, to address the subject of Artist-Run Centres, and the role of artists, curators, writers and administrators in the shaping of institutions. 

Institutions by Artists: Volume One presented a collection of texts from this event, addressing centres in Amman, Brisbane, Vancouver, Zurich, Tokyo, and Barcelona. The title featured contributions from AA Bronson, Barnaby Drabble, Makan Space, Pelin Tan, Vector Association, Anton Vidokle, Keith Wallace, Pan Wendt and others. 

Almost a decade later, the follow-up Institutions by Artists Volume Two, continues the work of unpacking artists’ relationships to—and creation of— institutions that "regulate, demarcate, and codify contemporary artistic practice." Volume Two looks at centres in Vancouver, London (Ontario), East Los Angeles, Scotland, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Also included are transcripts of two debates held during the 2012 Institutions by Artists Convention, which asked: “Is there space for art outside the market and the state?” and “Should artists professionalize?”

The title features contributions by Ken Becker, Matei Bejenaru, Tania Bruguera, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Dana Claxton, Christopher Cozier, Jeff Derksen, Sean Dockray, Dirk Fleischmann, Sam Gould, Candice Hopkins, Jesi Khadivi, Deirdre Logue, Sarah Lowndes, Jaleh Mansoor, Philip Monk, Post Brothers & Chris Fitzpatrick, Christopher Régimbal, Gregory Sholette, Slavs and Tatars, Claire Tancons and Tania Willard. 

Institutions by Artists: Volume Two is available from Struts Bookstore, here, for $25.00 CDN. 

Cornelia Lauf

Curator, Art Historian and Publisher Cornelia Lauf turns 62 today. 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Jackson Mac Low | 22 Light Poems

Jackson Mac Low
22 Light Poems
Los Angeles, USA: Black Sparrow Press, 1968
84 pp., 23.5 x 16 cm., softcover
Edition of 750 

Mac Low began the Light Poems series in early June of 1962, as a chart listing 280 names of kinds of light. Publication of the volume was troubled by the poet's roof caving in and the subsequent misplacing of the light chart. 

Another setback followed: 

"Then Sunday morning – I know you won’t believe it but the painting rack over the bed fell on us at 7 AM & we both nearly got killed. I got a terrible hitna head from the heavy shelf that had overhung the bed or from one of the stretchers – dunno which – & several bad bruises & cuts on my arms and legs. Iris got away with a cut elbow. So I wasn’t in any shape to do proofreading until about the middle of the week."

The book was eventually released in October of 1968, by the Black Sparrow Press in Los Angeles. In addition to the 22 poems, the volume contains six pages of notes on the artist's methodology. 

The Light Poems continued over the ensuing years, written intermittently, with the final being the “60th Light Poem: In Memoriam Robert Duncan, 8–9 October 1988.” A collection of the complete series was published by Granary Books in 2015. 

In addition to the 750 copies of the 'trade' issue, there were also 125 signed cloth copies of the book released, and four 'presentation copies' (see below).

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

General Idea | Middelburg Tile

General Idea
Middelburg Tile
Middelburg, Netherlands: De Vleeshal, 1985
15 × 15 × 0.4 cm.
Edition of 200 signed and numbered copies

Published in conjunction with the installation Khroma Key Klub: Blue Ruins from the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion in De Vleeshal, Middelburg, this 24-page exhibition catalogue is accompanied a hand painted ceramic tile and presented in a printed black box. The catalogue features texts by Peter van Beveren and Andreas Oosthoek, in Dutch and English. 

Kenneth Anger

Kenneth Anger died at a care facility in Yucca Valley, California, on May 11th, 2023, at the age of 96. The announcement of his death was delayed until today, while his estate was being settled.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Bedwyr Williams | Basta

Bedwyr Williams
Wales, UK: Wales Arts International, 2005
[60] pp., 23.4 x 15.8 cm., softcover
Edition of 2000

I just got off a Zoom meeting with a friend who is helping to start a new residency program in Toronto, and asked Roula and I to share our related experiences with her. My sole preparation for the meeting was locating this book on the shelf. 

The opening page text is the most succinct and honest take on the residency experience: 

"Artists in residence smell, they fill their spaces with special teas, comfy mules, Olbus Oil and other knick knacks. 

They get ill, they misunderstand the heating system in their lodgings.1 

They haven't really got enough clothes with them. They don't have a car and are usually damp. 

Also you must go out for a drink with them sometime. 


During a residency at the Banff Centre, I became entirely spoiled because the staff cleaned the rooms bi-weekly, and the resident's food was prepared three times daily (with an additional self-serve snack bar space that was open 24/7). The only thing you had to do yourself was your laundry. So - even though there was a convenient laundry room within the residence building - I found myself really resenting having to do this one, single, simple chore. I drove to Calgary and bought more shirts. 

I was able to do so because of a generous uncle in the city who had loaned me his second car for the six-week duration. But it was clear that Williams' observation that most residents were without a getaway vehicle is both true and impactful.2

Unsurprisingly, Basta features a chapter on 'Laundry', as well as 'Personal Space', 'Jogging' and 'Venice the Menace'. The work was produced when Williams was invited to represent Wales at the Venice Biennale, in 2005. His work became about the experience of living in the city for three months - the disorientation, the general culture shock, the misunderstandings, the social anxieties, the overly helpful suggestions from friends at home insisting on various places that he simply must visit ("It would have been more useful if they had told me where not to go"), pets, etc. etc. 

The slim bookwork is a diary of sorts and its title, Basta, is from the Italian word for "Enough". 

We met Bedwyr, after traveling off the beaten track of the other venues to see his exhibition, which was a highlight of that year's Biennale. He was animated and amusing, much like his work, which - almost twenty years later - still examines the idiosyncrasies of the art world, pricking at pomposity. 

The exhibition Bedwyr Williams: Older Artist at Phillida Reid in London closes this Saturday, May 27th. The show features lightbox drawings with captions such as: "Quiet Art People Communicating via the Medium of Trouser" and "Artists Who Everyone Says Are Lovely Don’t Like You." Frieze reviewed the show yesterday, which can be read here

Despite being produced in an edition of two-thousand copies, and originally selling for three pounds, Basta is now scarce and sells on Amazon, here, for $140.00. 

1. I only half-paid attention to the instructions involving the cottage heater during orientation on my first day in residence at the Glenfiddich Distillery in Northern Scotland, thinking to myself "but it's June". I turned the heat on every single evening in the three months that I was there. 

2. The Glenfiddich Artist-in-Residence program recognizes this dilemma and a bicycle is made available for each of the summer residents. It's in the contract. 

Verena Moser | Two = One World

Verena Moser
Two = One World 
Basel, Switzerland: Ok, 1973
42 pp., 20 x 29, cm., softcover
Edition of 200 signed and numbered copies

Monday, May 22, 2023

Kiki Smith | The Fourth Day: Destruction of Birds

Kiki Smith
The Fourth Day: Destruction of Birds
New York City, USA: Pace Wildenstein, 1997
12.4 x 106 cm.
Edition of 2500 

Published on the occasion of an exhibition entitled: Kiki Smith : Reconstructing the Moon (Sept. 25th to Oct. 25th, 1997), this accordion fold artist book features woodcut prints of birds. 

Available from Cult Jones for $200 US, here

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Jenny Holzer | Laments

Jenny Holzer
New York City, USA: Dia Art Foundation, 1989
VHS tape housed in a plastic clamshell box.
Edition size unknown

Often packaged with the book of the same name (see below), this video documents Holzer's installation at DIA in March of 1989, in which thirteen texts were engraved into a continuous row of stone sarcophagi that recounted what Holzer identified as “voices of the dead.” These lamentations expressed the "before death" thoughts of an infant, two children, and ten adults. LED lights affixed to columns within the space echoed these meditations, constructing an architectural installation of spotlight tombs and didactic pillars.

“This videotape is based on the installation by Jenny Holzer of thirteen stone sarcophagi and thirteen vertical LED (light emitting diode) signboards at the Dia Art Foundation.”
- VHS label