Archive for November, 2010


Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

— I have a long-term project that mostly revolves around Polaroid pictures. The bulk were shot in the last six years, though some go back over twenty. The work took on a certain urgency with the announcement in 2008 that the film would no longer be made. Last call… This news triggered no small alarm in many who loved the format, tied in with a perhaps predictable analog homesickness abetted by the fact that many are still trying to come to grips with the escalation/takeover of digital photography. How could two kinds of ‘instant’ picture-making feel so dissimilar, or were we just kidding ourselves that they were? Could they actually be different kinds of proof? I can’t say I really know.

Anyhow, the facets of my project may or may not eventually shelter under a roof I connect with the phrase “permanent ghost.”

Sometimes I make the images big and entirely remove the Polaroid borders, but occasionally it’s nice to be reminded of their fragile, relatively primitive origin.

I’ve provided a somewhat random train of pictures here. They’re mostly tied in with wandering, circumnavigations in cities, mostly my own. Sometimes on a given walk I’ll shoot just two or three. If it’s at night I may well find myself pressed against a lamp-pole holding my breath for a long exposure wherein, incidentally, the viewfinder goes dead black.

Looking at these it occurs to me that I’m often instinctively in search of a city freed from advertising campaigns, which take over whole buildings and buses and even creep onto public sidewalks now, a kind of corporate dogshit someone is desperate to get on our shoes. It’s a city that may not exist anymore, but hey, here it is.

I always think I’ll remember exactly where and when I took each picture but I already don’t. If they mark something, I’m not sure it’s time. I do know these were all taken within the last nine years and I’m reminded that this is the same period in which something over a trillion dollars was spent on two U.S. wars. (Is it more grotesque to toss that in here, or to leave it out? Please have a look at and make up your own mind).

When I took the pictures, my head may have been full of light, weather, or some weird shape-sense, but it was ideally full of nothing (a blessed respite) or maybe some song. And if it was a song, it might well have been by my friend Vic Chesnutt, who died late last year. So this final one is of Vic, one of the most permanent ghosts I’ll ever have the luck to know.

Jem Cohen (born 1962, Kabul Afghanistan) is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker/photographer. His films include CHAIN, BENJAMIN SMOKE (with Pete Sillen), LOST BOOK FOUND, and INSTRUMENT (with Fugazi). His recent portrait of artist Anne Truitt showed with her retrospective at the Hirshhorn Gallery and in the Toronto Film Festival. He is currently making projections for Godspeed You! Black Emperor, working towards a new feature film, and teaching. Cohen was intensively involved in safeguarding the rights of street photographers in New York City. A one-sheet summary of the laws protecting those rights can be downloaded at his website or at Cohen’s photographs were shown in 2009 at Robert Miller Gallery and he had a recent retrospective of his films at Punto de Vista Documentary Film Festival in Spain, where a book on his work, Signal Fires, was published. He will have work in the upcoming Sharjah Biennial.


Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

These drawings come from a sketchbook I was working in sometime in early 1999. the book was given to me as a birthday present from my old friend Nathan Maddox. He was a very influential force in my life. He passed away in 2002.

Mick Barr is an avant-garde metal guitarist and composer. He has been a member of many bands including Orthrelm, Crom-tech, Krallice, Quix*o*tic, and Oldest, as well as part of a duo with Hella drummer Zach Hill. He has numerous solo recordings released under different monikers such as Ocrilim, Octis and Or:12r3. In 2009 he was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. He is currently working on a string quartet that will debut in early 2011.


Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

— Within the context of curatorial practice’s ongoing fascination with its own history, one very decisive item has so far received very little attention: VOTI (The Union of the Imaginary), a short-lived but nevertheless important network of curators, formed in the late 1990s.

The list of original VOTI members reads like a who’s who of the international curatorial world: Francesco Bonami, Bart de Baere, Bice Curiger, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Hou Hanru, Iwona Blazwick, Dan Cameron, Maria Hlavajova, Charles Esche, Ute Meta Bauer, Udo Kittelmann, Jose Ignacio Roca, Nancy Spector, Okwui Enwezor, Octavio Zaya, Rosa Martinez, Maria Lind, Robert Fleck, Vasif Kortun, myself, and a handful of others.

VOTI was founded in 1999 by the Swiss born curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist, the Argentine curator Carlos Basualdo, and Jordan Crandall, former director of the X Art Foundation in New York, which hosted a permanent online forum for VOTI. The main goal was to foster discussion and conversation among curators, to develop a more progressive understanding of curating, and to fight homogenization at all levels of culture. What is interesting is the fact that most of the members worked independently, outside of museums. There was the strong desire to form a platform that would represent the interests of freelance curators while also facilitating exchange and discourse. Almost all of VOTI’s members have been pioneers of the field, given the innovations their exhibitions brought about.

Curating would not be what it is today if it had not been for this particular group of curators, who, in many different ways, strongly influenced the development of curating on a global scale through highly unorthodox exhibitions and other projects. Perhaps it is part of the “current” past and therefore too recent to analyze, but this period of curatorial emancipation will need to be looked at in detail at some point. I would consider it the origin of much of what curating is about today.

Vasif Kortun, director of Platform Garanti in Istanbul, is currently putting together an archive of the activities of VOTI.

Jens Hoffmann is a writer and exhibition maker and currently the Director of the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. He is the curator, with Adriano Pedrosa, of the 12th International Istanbul Biennial in 2011 and a curator for the 3rd Biennial of the Canary Islands in 2011 for which he is developing an exhibition on Christopher Columbus. With Harrell Fletcher, Hoffmann developed the People’s Biennial, presented in 2010 and 2011 at five US museums, organized by Independent Curators International in New York. In 2009 he founded The Exhibitionist: A Journal for Exhibition Making.


Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Jen–in parts

Kate Gilmore was born in Washington D.C. in 1975 and lives and works in New York. Recent and upcoming exhibitions include: 2010 Biennial, Whitney Museum of Art, New York (2010); REFLECTIONS ON THE ELECTRIC MIRROR: NEW FEMINIST VIDEO, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York (2010); GREATER NEW YORK: 5 YEAR REVIEW, PS1/MoMA, Queens, New York (2010); ONE MINUTE MORE, The Kitchen, New York (2009); Maisterravalbuena, Madrid, Spain (2011); REAL THING, Braverman Gallery, Tel-Aviv, Israel (2008); Parasol Unit, London, England (2011); PERSONA: A BODY IN PARTS, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina (2011); and FRAMED, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana (2010). Her work has been included in several national and international exhibitions including the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California, Rose Art Museum, Waltham, Massachusetts, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, Bronx Museum of Art, Bronx, New York, Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa, Israel, MAK Museum of Art, Vienna, Austria, Istanbul Museum of Art, Istanbul, Turkey, and Greater New York 2005 at PS1/MoMA Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY.


Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

— Years before I knew him as the author of Jurassic Park (1990) and many other popular adventure novels, I knew Michael Crichton as the author of a monograph on Jasper Johns. The book, simply titled Jasper Johns, was published in 1977 by Harry N. Abrams Inc., in association with the Whitney Museum of American Art. The book accompanied a major retrospective of Johns’s work at the Whitney that year, organized by David Whitney. The exhibition traveled to Cologne, Paris, Tokyo, London, and San Francisco. As a four-year-old in Wisconsin at that time, I missed the show. But I can say, without question, that Crichton’s monograph was the most important book in the world to me when I was 16 or 17 years old.

I think I was probably introduced to Johns’s work by my high school painting teacher, Mrs. Belling, though I also remember my A.P. English teacher, Ms. Adams, had a poster of Johns’s Three Flags, 1958, on the bulletin board on the back wall of her classroom. I’ve forgotten the order of events, so I’ll thank both of these hip ladies for the introduction; it apparently led me to seek out Crichton’s book, which I found and checked out from the Janesville Public Library. I’m not sure how much of Crichton’s text I actually read at the time. In retrospect, the essay is pretty unusual—often fragmentary and given to meandering. It’s frequently speculative, searching. He relies heavily on the writing of critics such as Leo Steinberg and David Sylvester (and rightly so), but goes beyond the more-familiar terrain of modern art to consider Johns’s relationship to everything from cave painting to Hitchcock’s Psycho. It’s a pretty wild ride.

I didn’t grow up visiting the museum: As far as I knew, art was something that happened in sketchbooks and scraps of paper, by virtue of my own hand. Looking back, I now realize the bustling margins of Crichton’s book provided my first exposure to Marcel Duchamp, who appears frequently throughout its pages, along with Merce Cunningham and a bearded John Cage. There’s also Manet’s Bar at Folies Bergères, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and an exquisite corpse by Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro, Max Morise, and Man Ray—probably my first encounter with that favorite Surrealist game. I also remember being struck by a small black-and-white image of the interior of Johns’s house in Stony Point, New York, with glass-paneled, roll-up garage doors serving as walls. Windows as walls! Who knew?

Above all else, I suspect I was more taken with the book’s numerous color plates (ale cans, targets, and flags—oh my) including a handful of splashy foldout spreads: Crichton’s book was like a thick Playboy for a teenage art nerd, with Johns’s multi-canvas assemblies of the 70s standing in for naked beauties, with hatchmarks and flagstone patterning replacing goosebumps and tanlines. I don’t remember when I realized that the guy behind Jurassic Park, Rising Sun, and The Andromeda Strain was the same person behind Jasper Johns—the monograph slipped from my attention for many years. But when Crichton died in 2008, I immediately thought of the book, still likely sitting on the shelves of what is now known as the Hedburg Public Library, not dinosaurs. I also finally bought a copy of the Johns monograph for my own shelves—not the revised and expanded 1994 edition, but the 1977 version I remembered, more or less clearly. Of course it’s impossible to know for sure, but I wonder if I would have become an art critic, writing catalogue essays of my own, had I not found this book.

Images: JASPER JOHNS checked out from the Hedburg Public Library, Janesville, Wisconsin, October 2010. Beer cans from the Frederick M. Holte collection.

Michael Ned Holte is a writer and independent curator based in Los Angeles. A regular contributor to Artforum International, his writing has also appeared in print periodicals such as Afterall, Domus, Frieze, Interview, Pin-Up, and X-Tra, as well as the online journal East of Borneo. He has provided texts for numerous books including RICHARD HAWKINS—THIRD MIND (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale), STEVE RODEN: WHEN WORDS BECOME FORMS (Pomona College Museum of Art), and ROY MCMAKIN: WHEN IS A CHAIR NOT A CHAIR (Skira/Rizzoli). He has organized exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, and Torino, Italy. He was born in Janesville, Wisconsin.