1) THIS ELECTION I find myself entirely depressed – depressed at being a woman when there is the War on Women, depressed at being “middle class” but unable to afford real health insurance. Depressed that in everyone’s accounting, 47, 99, 1 and 30 percents, I have no idea where I fall. Well, it’s certainly not the 1 percent, but I feel like a number in a country that really could care less about me. Rhetoric all seems directed at me, or rather not at me specifically, certainly not at me as an individual but me as an object: my earning power, my uterus and when life inside me is a “person.” How can two cells replicating having the same legal standing as me an adult woman? How can anyone even suggest that, not to mention making decisions over my reproductive power, what birth control I do or don’t have access to… In my confusion over this is a question: Do these people debating and discussing these issues not have sisters and mothers and wives? And how can the 51% (note that the extra one makes women the majority) be so ignored and pushed aside? What is that 49% thinking?
OBERTA SMITH PRAISED Michelle Segre ebulliently in the Times this spring going on about her “porous, freewheeling somewhat crazed assemblages.” The Brooklyn Rail began its piece on her with a long disquisition about art that gets bigger and slicker and ever more market driven, then cuts to the chase and says Segre is none of the above. She most definitely is not. She is the fairy tale gone awry, and her work sports giants gods eyes and chicken bones. It’s somewhere between folk art and the Watts Towers or, as she puts it: Eva Hesse, Time-Life Science books and Star Trek. There is a weirdness to her work, with the handmade made giant, and she will use whatever is to hand. Witness her last show with a mailbox and milk cartons and pitchforks. There’s trash and found objects. “Even,” she says, “an object my eight year-old has attacked with nails and hammer. Everything is up for grabs.” Including her own work. It is ready to be digested and repurposed. That chicken bone, say? It was originally from a series she did in 1997 of giant chicken bones. All to scale. Now It looks like it’s been given conduit pipe arms and is holding hands with string. The piece is called “Transmissions of The Threadbare, 1997-2012.” She fully admits, “I didn’t literally work on that for 15 years, the dating is a little joke on seeing artists [with their grand claims and monumental aims] date their work with five year time spans.”
1) THIS YEAR ACT UP is 25 years old, AIDS just over 30, and an excellent documentary How To Survive A Plague about the former (and, of course, the latter) was released a couple weeks ago. “Most inspiring film this year” has been said about it frequently. It’s true. Also true is what it shows that people can do if your heart is set to it. Or, if you face a death sentence. And, you are middle class and male and white and have (because of those three things) been brought up to believe you can change the world. There is a certain entitlement to those three things, but that isn’t to say that ACT UP continued to be defined by them. In fact, part of what the group did was invite in many voices to speak and fight: women, Hispanics, blacks. 2) The movie’s release is the occasion for this piece, but it is not the piece, though parts of it (pieces of the piece, if you will) will address the movie. For reviews there is Andrew O’Hehir’s excellent piece in Salon and this one in the SF Chronicle. There are countless others too. The movie I will say again is inspiring. See it.
PUSSY – BEAVER – CUNT. This was the first I remember of Marlene McCarty’s art– words, shocking ones at that, the sort of language hurled at women on the street, the words used to take power and show who has it. They were on canvas “painted,” so to speak, though they’d actually been ironed on with heat-transfer letters just like you’d wear on a t-shirt. These weren’t Marlene’s first words I’d seen though. Those were “Kissing Doesn’t Kill,” and I had no idea she’d had anything to do with them. They were produced by Gran Fury, ACT UP’s innovative, anonymous and in-your-face advertising and propaganda arm. No, “Pussy – Beaver – Cunt” was bracing, shocking – and on the bright white walls of an art gallery in Soho in 1990. They now reside in the Brooklyn Museum.
TAKE BAMBOO POLES and plastic discs stuck into a sphere and you get something that looks like a giant clocking dandelion, the seeds about to blow in the wind. But they don’t, they roll. They are designed to be carried by the wind, yes, but instead they tumbled over the ground, specifically over minefields. Detonating mines. The Mine Kafon or deminer was Massoud Hassani’s graduation project from the Design Academy in Eindhoven. Modeled on his childhood toys, the design is both lyrical and lovely – and it works better than you might expect. GPS tracks its path so you can see where it’s been and what it has cleared.