From the category archives:


An Interview with Aleks Slota: Language is a Shell Game

by RM Vaughan on June 9, 2017
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Years ago, if you read Derrida, Lacan and their fellow travelers and then came to the conclusion that language is inherently unreliable, you were considered at best pretentious and at worst mentally ill. Here, for instance, is Lacan on one of the various, maddeningly indirect ways in which words acquire meaning, or a lack thereof: “… insofar as it forms part of language, the signifier is a sign which refers to another sign, which is as such structured to signify the absence of another sign …”. Um, yeah, exactly. Language is a shell game.

Now, in the post-truth era, all that giddy philosophizing (presented in a style as nutty as the ideas it proffered) suddenly rings true. Hell, it clangs. The relationship between words and their assigned meaning(s), never all that comfortable in the first place, now strikes us as illusory, if not deceitful. You can’t trust your own reading glasses.

Multimedia artist Aleks Slota’s latest works ask a further question: if all of the above is true, how can you trust an artist?

A Berlin-based Polish-American, Slota has built a career out of being, in the larger and best sense of the modifier (signifier?) an irritant, or “irritainer” as the Canadian artist Andrew Harwood coined; an artist who puts his audience’s his own comfort aside in pursuit of new, less easy revelations. His performances typically involve acts of endurance, for both artist and witness, and no end of noise.

But in his latest projects are markedly more pensive. We met for a chat at Berlin’s Ex Girlfriend Gallery on the final day of his understated exhibition of text works It Happened Here. And a few weeks before our get together, Slota presented Meat Puppet at the Berlin literary centre Lettretage – a concise performance wherein he attempted to verbalize into sense a word salad derived from President Trump’s barking. Better him than us.

Slota’s new works acknowledge the simple fact that we are all part of the now-heightened language/meaning problem, because unless you’re a hermit you too are contributing to the constant cross-talk and, by extension, the reduction of words to mere noise. There is no getting away from the collapse of the familiar formula of words = distinct (or at least agreed upon) meaning. We burned that barn down. Nor is it useful to simply blame this slippery slope on Trump and his imitators and not acknowledge our own complicity. Slota wants us, instead, to own the chaos.

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An Interview With Painter Alicia Gibson

by Irena Jurek on June 2, 2017
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Alicia Gibson’s paintings are messy in the best sense of the word. Aesthetically, their sloppy paint, muddy colors and worked over surfaces look as if Gibson deposited all her thoughts on a given subject one canvas. Emotionally, they pack the same unvarnished punch. Her paintings overflow with acerbic humor, saccharine sweetness, and an aggressive punk rock ethos that’s impossible to forget.

Now, as the inaugural show at Real Estate Gallery, a new gallery in Greenpoint, started by Lisa Cooley, Jeremy Willis, and Kenan Gunduz, this work is on view.

I sat down with Gibson and discussed her involvement in the feminist girl gang “Ladies in Heels”, the necessity for faux history in her art, and why “Jeff Koons Sucks”.

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Pulp Friction: Deborah Castillo on Her Politically-Charged Fotonovelas

by Michael Anthony Farley on April 21, 2017
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Deborah Castillo wears a lot of hats as an artist. And wigs. Originally from Venezuela, Castillo often blurs the lines between performance, video, photography, publications and even jewelry making. What binds these endeavors together is a sharp, critical wit (usually trained on political institutions) and flair for the dramatic. That might manifest as necklaces in the shape of misogynist slurs in Spanish or over-the-top fictional narratives involving art world kidnappings and embezzlement.

I met Castillo (who now lives in Bushwick) at her book launch at Mexico City’s Aeromoto, an artist-run library of contemporary art and artist books. She was celebrating the release of “La Dama Profunda / Profoundly Yours”, the third installment of her “Dramas Museísticos” series. I was immediately drawn to the format of the publications—they’re fotonovelas, comic-book like novels that use photography instead of illustrations. They were a popular form of mass media in Latin America, but are less known in the US. They’re fun and extremely approachable—even though Spanish is my second language, they’re easy reading, and the third book contains an English version of the story. 

The books follow the soap-opera-like story of Castillo’s alter ego Profunda Mol, an ambitious woman who social climbs through the art world of her native Venezuela. Profunda navigates (often through seduction) a world of corrupt officials, along the way becoming the Venezuelan Minister of Culture, an Ambassador to the United States, and ultimately Donald Trump’s fourth wife.

We talked about fotonovelas, sexuality in the art world, and the crappy political climate.

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The Shape of Indoor Space: An Interview with GIPHY Artist Peter Burr

by Paddy Johnson on April 7, 2017
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Peter Burr’s GIF environments are hypnotic visions of dystopia. Now, with a new commission from GIPHY, he’s bringing more futuristic digital space straight to your browser.

We sat down to talk pixels, megastructures, games, and Arcosanti.

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Long Live Dusty Whistles’s New Flesh (with no apologies to David Cronenberg)

by RM Vaughan on March 28, 2017
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Berlin-based, NYC-born artist Dusty Whistles practices a purpose-driven drag that blends futuristic post-gender, post-human iterations with front line political messaging. In Berlin, where mainstream drag can be boiled down to two show types, Cabaret/Sally Bowles re-castings and Hausfraus in bad wigs low comedy, Whistles is part of a new drag generation that wants to put the pocket knife back in the queen’s purse. Drag is political, and always has been. Sometimes, however, drag culture needs a bit of a tune up. Whistles is here to help.

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An Interview with Painter Trudy Benson: Loving The Smell of Paint

by Irena Jurek on February 22, 2017
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Trudy Benson is a force to be reckoned with. Her painting upon painting upon painting leave artists and casual observers alike gazing in wonderment at the layers in her work. Her best abstractions demonstrate a masterful handling of patterning and color and seem to vibrate on the wall.

This week, I sat down with New York based painter, Trudy Benson on the occasion of her two concurrent solo shows at Ribordy Contemporary in Geneva and Galerie Bernard Ceysson in Paris, both opening at the end of March. We nerded out. We discussed the influence of experimental film on her newest body of work, as well as the evolution of her richly painted, lyrical oils.

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Time Traveling for Gingerbread Totems: An Interview with Theo Rosenblum and Chelsea Seltzer

by Irena Jurek on February 3, 2017
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Entering Theo Rosenblum and Chelsea Seltzer’s “Culture Shak” installation at The Hole, is like walking into a Post-human Natural History Museum arrangement of “2016.” The decadence, absurdity, and pleasures of our fragmented culture are put on display with a monumental gingerbread totem pole, a sexy penguin with a six-pack abs, and a touching sculpture of a volcanic ash encrusted skeleton.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with the zany duo, to discuss cultural appropriation and what interpretation a future alien race might bring to relics left behind by our own extinct species.

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ONLINE PREMIERE: “Ways of Something – Episode 3”

by Paddy Johnson on January 30, 2017
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With John Berger’s death this month, the online premiere of Lorna Mills’ “Ways of Something, 3” feels particularly poignant. While Mills’s “Ways of Something” wasn’t conceived strictly as an update, as 117 person re-interpretation it effectively functions as such. To complete this piece, Mills invited over 100 artists to remake all four parts of Berger’s 1972 BBC series “Ways of Seeing”, minute by minute. Each artist was given 60 seconds of video—doled out on a first come first serve basis—with the sole condition that they would need to retain the text used in captioning. What they did to the captioning font, the visuals, the sound, was entirely up to them.

The result is almost certainly the largest video exquisite corpse in existence. Similar to the first Surrealist conceived exquisite corpse drawings, where each half is made blind of the other, each artist creates a minute without knowing what will come before or after it.

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Do It Slow: A Conversation With Sara Reisman on ‘Enacting Stillness’

by Emily Colucci on December 20, 2016
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Stillness as a form of protest is nothing new. There are numerous examples of die-ins, sit-ins and even, hunger strikes that mobilize through immobility. And yet, at a time when many are searching for methods of resistance to Trump’s upcoming administration, a reminder of the potential power of stillness seems necessary.

A current exhibition at The 8th Floor provides this much-needed refresher. Enacting Stillness gathers a group of artists who use slow moving bodies and themes of waiting, silence or inaction in order to provoke dialogue and maybe even, political change.

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An Audit Nightmare Turned Artist Victory: An Interview With Susan Crile

by Hannah Cole on December 15, 2016
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If your arts practice loses money for more than a couple years, the IRS may question the legitimacy of the business – specifically, the profit motive. Typically, they reclassify such a business as a hobby, and disallow the artist from expensing deductions past the point of their income from the activity. That’s bad news for any artist, but it was a near nightmare scenario for artist Susan Crile.

Crile spent eight years in tax court (from 2005-2013), defending her right to take losses. In this interview, we discuss how she proved her case, what it took, and what she recommends for artists in a similar position.

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