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click opera - One-Eyed Willie at SVA
February 2010
 
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Wed, Apr. 5th, 2006 02:24 am
One-Eyed Willie at SVA

One of my favourite things to do is to go round art school degree shows looking at the work, so yesterday was a bit of a red-letter day for me: I got to do it and get paid for it too. Ryan Sullivan, a postgrad student at School of Visual Arts, invited me up to do a series of official studio visits.



When I got to 21st Street the students clustered around the SVA door recognized me from the Whitney show, which they'd all seen. "Hey, it's the Unreliable Tour Guide!" they shouted. (Nicer than "Hey, it's the parasite guy!", the greeting I got on the street for a few weeks back in 2003 after talking about my eye problem -- acanthamoeba keratitis -- in a popular BBC documentary about parasites.) After getting security clearance and doing some paperwork, I spent about half an hour each with four students, Mike Egan, Yu Sheng Ho, Si Jae Byun, and Ryan himself. Actually, it turned out Ryan had an ulterior motive; he wanted to shoot some video of me for a spoof on 80s movie The Goonies. To be precise, he wanted me to play the pirate One-Eyed Willie. Blistering barnacles!

I looked at Mike's work first. Up on the walls of his studio space was ranged disjecta from performances he'd done. He showed me one on video. It looked like a cross between a Lightning Bolt show and a Paul McCarthy performance. People played rock and smashed up big treehouse-type sculptures. So I launched into a diatribe on the Dionysian energy of rock music, and how it leads to frat boys, to Thanatos rather than Eros, to Jim Morrison and Kurt Kobain dying early. Mike accepted that, but said that he was interested in taking the "4 real" elements out of rock extremity. Somehow we got onto the fact that his dad is a Marine Swift Boat commander who's about to be sent up the Tigris in Iraq... and then time ran out.



The work of Yu Sheng Ho (top picture) couldn't have been more different; he's from Taiwan, and although he didn't like to think of himself as "vending Asianness", I did feel that his work's measured and playful quality was as positively Apollonian as Mike's work was negatively Dionysian. Instead of destructo-art, Yu Sheng was interested in snapping stuff together and building stuff up. He had inflatable yellow modular blocks, magnetized wooden blocks, photos of city-like installations he'd built laboriously out of wooden building blocks, and an amazing piece, a vast soft plastic penis that erected when air was pumped into it, then withdrew into itself when a vacuum was formed, creating an image of the female genitalia. There was also a two-screen video installation of an object's-eye-view of two differently-shaped objects rolling down the street (you worked out the shape by watching the movements) and an incredible "transparent plastic steam octopus" installation. I wasn't surprised to hear that a New York gallery has already bought some of Yu Sheng's work (the penis machine), and left his cubicle convinced that he'll be an important artist.

Si Jae Byun is from Korea. Her work consists of tight, soft, dark little spaces -- igloos, caves, wendy houses -- made of pink sewn fabric, into which she projects videos based on memories of her "lonely digestion" (as a child she was left alone at home during the day, both lonely and hungry). Si Jae seemed a lot more nostalgic for Korea than Yu Sheng did for Taiwan, and was happy to see her colour selection, and her themes of handicraft, childhood and food as rather "Korean" ones. We talked about the metaphor of Plato's Cave, and whether adding video strengthens the experience for the "audience" clambering through these womblike spaces or detracts from it.

Ryan's paintings are deliberately "bad", sort of Otto Dix mixed with daycare, outreach, or art therapy. There's a neurotic menace emanating from his crude, folksy portraits and figures. We talked about whether the paintings could stand on their own, or whether they should be presented as part of installations: walls full of mixed styles, presented perhaps by a fictional persona (in the style of Jutta Koether) or as part of a Sophie Calle-style "investigation". I thought they'd be more disturbing presented straight, but not necessarily disturbing in a good way, and more reassuringly decorative presented in an installation with some added conceptual elements, but again, that might not be a good thing. The Otto Dix parallel led us to a conversation about whether America was Germany in the 30s.

I told Ryan I'd probably blog the visit as a contrast between neurotic, destructive American artists representing a civilisation in decline and healthy, constructive Asian ones representing a civilisation on the rise. "You'd probably be right about that," said Ryan... then immediately took revenge on behalf of America by typecasting me as One-Eyed Willie.

15CommentReplyShare

yanatonage
yanatonage
love you from the heart
Wed, Apr. 5th, 2006 06:35 am (UTC)

The last paragraph make this one of your more adorable posts ever.


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nessit
nessit
ness
Wed, Apr. 5th, 2006 07:28 am (UTC)

i saw you as the tour guide and it made me so nervous. nerves are not as bad as my interesting experience of joy/anxiety this evening evening though it was like being a random person "in the wild" who is my age - aka thirty years old old-(but i'm not old!)
i miss thinks.......


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nessit
nessit
ness
Wed, Apr. 5th, 2006 08:23 am (UTC)
things i meant,

but, really your grasp on language is bafflingly stong!
tonight i went to see Art Brut which was fun except my paranoia was tested, i work in retail interior design business development marketing etc and when we (me mostly) walked outside of the art brut show and i saw a somewhat wimpy guy with a lightly colored tie on, and i expressed interest in him and then my bf made fun of me for the rest of the last night.


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tassellrealm
tassellrealm
XWSF Tassell
Wed, Apr. 5th, 2006 04:27 pm (UTC)

So I launched into a diatribe on the Dionysian energy of rock music, and how it leads to frat boys, to Thanatos rather than Eros, to Jim Morrison and Kurt Kobain dying early.

I've always thought the "Auto-destructive" element of rock music was rather more Promethean than Dionysian.

If a particular strand is followed, it can be seen that the story of rock music is actually a history of electro-magnetic energy abuse(fire from heaven).

After all, can it be mere coincidence that the three most famous users of the Selmer Treble 'n' Bass 50 MKII (Joe Meek, Syd Barrett, Brian Jones) all had such nightmarish endings to their careers?

I think not...

http://www.vintagehofner.co.uk/gallery/gallery3/gallery4/cat26.html


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Apr. 5th, 2006 04:36 pm (UTC)

So many conspiracies, it's hard to keep track of them all!


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tassellrealm
tassellrealm
XWSF Tassell
Wed, Apr. 5th, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC)

Perhaps there's a bit of ancestral memory in there too.

All these anglo-saxon types sending coded electromagnetic messages back and forth across the ether.

Probably something to do with Stonehenge.

Did you ever read Michael Bracewell's flawed, but wonderful England is Mine?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/external-search/202-3613644-6175055?tag=125&keyword=Michael%20Bracewell%20England%20Is%20Mine&mode=blended

He was onto a thing or two.


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tassellrealm
tassellrealm
XWSF Tassell
Wed, Apr. 5th, 2006 05:27 pm (UTC)

Speaking of conspiracies, it seems that the one that it's bad manners to bring up at parties just won't go away...

http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/april2006/040406mainsuspect.htm


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cityramica
cityramica
cityramica
Wed, Apr. 5th, 2006 06:12 pm (UTC)

have you seen The Goonies? One Eyed Willie remains in skeletal form the entire film. or is this a prequel of sorts?


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Apr. 5th, 2006 06:38 pm (UTC)
SVA cont...

Dear Momus--

I like your live journal thing on SVA; especially the "daycare outreach" part on Ryan's paintings--did you know his dream job is teaching art to down syndrome children? Wow. In regards to a rumor--I missed a studio visit with you yesterday,(as I couldn't get out of work), and heard my double introduced herself to you at the Whitney? It's true, I'm of Asia, but my email is as following: schacich@hotmail.com; if you have any other thoughts on art, etc.

Best,
Sarah


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woodcliffe
woodcliffe
Wed, Apr. 5th, 2006 07:49 pm (UTC)
ulterior motifs

With his wiles, "rubies", and his stylish eyepatch, it's no wonder he was the most famous pirate of his time...He created a series of complicated treasures impassable by all but the purest of heart and keenest of mind - in other words, a bunch of kids about to lose their "homes" to "ruthless developers". Willie's kinship with the kids saved the Goon Docks from the wrecking ball.

I couldn't help but make the connection. Here's to you; and thanks again for everything.


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alphacomp
alphacomp
Digital Video Camera
Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 04:15 am (UTC)

Why didn't you somehow find yourself in SVA's east side buildings? Harumph. I would have been able to stumble upon you as I was walking around the school and making gameboy music.


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lord_whimsy
lord_whimsy
whimsy
Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 06:00 am (UTC)

What—no cracks about Momus' one-eyed willy? It's right there, for heaven's sake. Must the aged and immature carry all the weight?


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csn
csn
Nick the Monk-Rom
Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 10:32 am (UTC)

Healthy and constructive..that's good. You do realize none of these people you visit and hang out with represent the makeup of their countries or cultures much, right?


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 12:26 pm (UTC)
Momus

Can an artist be loyal?
Can an artist be subversive in Marxist society?
Can an artist be for the common people?
Can an artist be not for change?
Can an artist be uncontroversial?

To be contoversial the biggest clique are the artists at given moment in time.

Artists should be part-time. They should be workers and create art part-time. Just like opensource programmers. No middle class artists should be allowed.


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soisaysthis
soisaysthis
so i says this
Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 02:00 pm (UTC)

can an artist be constructive through the creation of art that is neurotic and destructive?

personally, my preference lies with art that is neurotic and deconstructive.

sometimes i'd just like to feel tense and ejoy myself at the same time!


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