Pictures Talking to Each Other: The Conversational Practice of Megan Pobywajlo

Megan Pobywajlo does not think of her photographs as separate entities. Although they can stand alone, for her, they exist relationally within the space of a publication or gallery. Narrative and gestures of communication are central to her practice; her collections of images rely on memory, time, and syntax in order to present a more fully contextualized story. Critical to her work is the democratization of knowledge about how a photograph is made. This often takes the form of workshops, gatherings, experimental programming and social media in which information about the photographic process is exchanged with an audience.

Red Chicken by Megan Pobywajlio. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Red Chicken by Megan Pobywajlo. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Deciding what each photo says to the rest of the images in a series is a process that can only be described as one in which the works get to know one another. Pobywajlo prints the photos out on cards and takes them around with her, occasionally pulling them out, shuffling and rearranging looking for associations that expand on their formal connections. Within those formal considerations ,the practice becomes less about what each image communicates to the viewer and more about what they say to each other. Her instagram feed offers a wealth of opportunity to discover this phenomenon of conversation between the images. From June 25th to July 3rd Pobywajlo posted a series of four photographs, that create a call to followers of her instagram account to explore the formal relationships around the image.

The fireworks tent, bathing its explosive contents in red reaches up to a triangular point that exclaims in one breath ‘Emergency’ and ‘Exit’. The following image is of a red chicken figurine that contains something but the form is elusive; I have thought perhaps it is a folded up drink umbrella but it has occurred to me that it is a firework. The chicken sits on a gray backdrop, curling at the right and the triangular shape from the previous photo is repeated but pointing in the opposite direction.The next two posts are of cherry tomatoes, first; three tomatoes in a sunlit hand posed in front of a ficus leaf and then three tomatoes (I assume they are the very same tomatoes from the first image) grouped around a previously snacked-on cucumber. The hand is open, ready to pop the tomatoes in a mouth but the next photo reveals that desire unfulfilled, made more striking by the inclusion of a cucumber that is nearly consumed.

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Tomato Eggs by Megan Pobywajlo. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Pobywajlo’s writing displays the same poetic tendencies that present a word or object, only to refer to some other idea in a verbal sleight of hand that makes full use of parens and footnotes. One of her lengthier pieces presents itself as something more like an administrative document. It is a script for a workshop that teaches its reader or participant to make a photo zine. The text does more than just describe the ‘first you do A, then you do B’ process, it proposes a connection between an audience, an art practice and the place of images in our visual world.

I read a lot of artist statements. I read them online, I see them in various applications and I sometimes edit them for inclusion in project documentation. They are intentions, a way to contextualize a set of works within the larger scope of an artist’s’ practice. Zines & How Pictures Talk to Each Other does the work of an artist statement but also functions as a work of art. It is a radical and democratizing effort at not just leveling the who of who can make art and what stories they tell but how art and images operate in our world.

Red Chicken by Megan Pobywajlo. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Thought Experiments by Megan Pobywajlo. Image Courtesy of the Artist


This essay is part of a series commissioned, in collaboration with Informality Blog, for the exhibition Against the Screen at La Esquina Gallery (1000 W 25 Street KCMO) open from August 25 through October 7, 2017. These pieces, co-edited by Melaney Mitchell (Founder & Senior Editor of Informality Blog) and Lynnette Miranda (Curator-in-Residence at Charlotte Street Foundation) focus on a shared goal of bringing the eyes of national writers to the work of Kansas City-based artists. 




The Healthcare Paradox, as Seen Through ‘Care, A Performance’ at La Esquina

The concept of ‘healthy’ contains a multitude of definitions; asking how human society defines the tools of normalcy for our physical and mental states. Pain is an individual sensation, but its resulting effects are felt by all. We see in this exhibition that one’s mobility, disability, debility, illness and institutional access are social. Returning to “normal” is a paradox as the very idea of wellness is reconsidered.

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Cellphone photo by Karl Marks taken in the New York subway system

The state of American healthcare is a series of negotiations and consolations. This exhibition put a human face on what healthcare does for a population; standing in opposition to the current administration. Their obsession with undoing an already existing system without reasonable replacement brings up the human and psychological necessity for human empathy and care.  The healthcare industry’s bottom line mentality concerning wellness doesn’t always jibe with the societal effects. It’s begs the question: ‘How much are we willing to spend on one another?’

At first look, the space was the standard curation of objects and materials; there really wasn’t any central focus on one piece or another. Who suffers more isn’t the right question to ask; pain doesn’t necessarily have a hierarchy. Eyes pitched towards the artists’ construction of new interfaces to existing ideas.  Negotiating a world that demands one-size-fits-all policies requires invention.  

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Care, A Performance installation image courtesy EG Schempf

If there is a takeaway to be understood, it is the human capacity for adaptation. Amongst the Donald Judd-esque bathroom handrails (Constantina Zavitsanos), seeing eye canes (Carmen Papalia), hospital gowns (Hadley Clark) and care instructions (Lynne McCabe), were the aesthetics of human care and its evolution. In a sense, this room was a survival guide. Appropriately so, as there are larger issues at work; these objects of adaptation also prescribe the advancement of the human species.  Now that citizens of Earth have been handed a timetable, the effort to make ourselves into the next form that adapts towards overpopulation, conflict (political, social) and climate change, it is necessary to begin thinking about how the human form will continue to augment itself.

Ben Gould’s live performance, In Ballast, reflecting his experience with Tourette’s Syndrome, was by far the most powerful. It went directly to the core of living with difference. I was more interested in his balletic movement and whether or not he was going to be able to hold the water poured into his cupped hands (He did!).  In the spirit of Eva Hesse, it is important the viewer not “Ask what the work is. Rather, see what the work does.”  We witnessed his experience in stark reality, not perceived in the abstract, which highlighted to the audience that we have been invited to watch as both architect and observer. Do we sympathize or empathize? Our emotions must mitigate the experience to reach a pragmatic extension of Gould’s motions, acknowledging these specific limitations  tell us the limit does not exist.  Rather than focusing on otherness Gould says, “Instead of my spasms being like an engine stalling, they have become an engine.” And thus, is the evolution of humankind’s leap into the future.

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In Ballast by Ben Gould. Image courtesy Patricia Bordallo Dibildox

Photos of implants after the body has been cremated (Sarah Sudhoff, Precious Metal) gave thought to what this might look historically. Before I read the wall text, I assumed they were ancient objects and considered part of a dialogue on  how we’ve always cared for and about the infirm. But the afterlife of prosthetics and augmentations take different routes after death, so Sudhoff’s documentation became a conversation about the rejuvenation and conservation of these artificial elements.

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Face by Samara Umbral. Installation image courtesy EG Schempf

Conversely, the cost of living as yourself (Samara Umbral, Face), put into motion the idea that the human figure does evolve and change according to its personal user interface.  Curiously, it leaves us to wonder what happens should this particular body be cremated after death and what comes of all the secondary and tertiary implants when melted down? Umbral presented a banner highlighting the monetary expense of personal evolution, but it is difficult to discern what else is seen beyond that.  It doesn’t answer whether all these estimates were undertaken or how Umbral felt about the results. It is little more than a bleak shopping list that seems to skim past the psychological considerations of such measured steps.  Face does present a triumph of science that such progress can keep up with the human need for ‘wellness.’ Fitting into a society comprising itself out of matching one’s psychological foundation to these artificial gender binaries with its physical manifestation.

It is not merely enough to be physically on board insomuch as it is to be in sync psychologically as well. There is no such thing as a normal, as we continue to fight for the rights for those with needs, CARE presented this truth. We negotiate trust as a means of survival and the instinct for personal strength, with the capacity for acknowledging society’s needs, is stronger than ever.

 


Care, A Performance was an exhibition curated by Risa Puleo for Charlotte Street’s La Esquina Gallery (July 7-August 5, 2017)




Deconstructing Reality: Caitlin Horsmon’s Transformative Video Installations

Every Time I Go Outside the World Is Different by Caitlin Horsmon, 5 projector expanded cinema performance, 2017

Every Time I Go Outside the World Is Different by Caitlin Horsmon, 5 projector expanded cinema performance, 2017

“It is not necessary to create a world, but the possibility of a world”

Jean-Luc Goddard(( Jean-Luc Godard cited in Robert Stam (ed.), Reflexivity in Film and Architecture, From Don Quixote to Jean-Luc-Godard, New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.))

What might you do if suddenly the walls of your beloved home began changing? Expanding and contracting, breathing and bleeding, altering without any sense of reason? In Caitlin Horsmon’s work Sense of Place, she creates an immersive video installation that works with these ideas.  Interested in merging reality with fiction to create experiences, Horsmon examines the idea of place through theatrical gestures within spliced video footage. She transforms place into space and back again exploring their histories and the objects they hold, altering their architecture and highlighting their quirks and imperfections.

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Superlinear Living by Caitlin Horsmon (2015) from The Center is a Moving Target at the Kemper Crossroads. Image courtesy of the Artist

Like artists before her, Horsmon highlights the visual and emotional relationships developed between the domestic space and its occupants. The histories embodied in the home and the interactions with the bodies that inhabit them rise to the surface in the artist’s work. In a way, the work is in conversation with Gordon Matta Clark’s building cuts into domestic spaces. His work would highlight the textures and layers of the space—exposing what lay underneath while also creating a new history to a space before it was demolished.

In Horsmon’s work, utilizing a hybrid of found and constructed footage and sound, she also adds to the history of the space by projection. In Sense of Place, her space is created through the combination of installation and video. The gallery wall is no longer perfect—it resembles a living organism with bulges and fissures. The footage is spliced and stitched together. The content is familiar—images from a freshly finished home makeover television show juxtaposed with scenes spewing the heightened awareness of a horror film. Details from wallpaper patterns and elaborate molding glide across the wall and occasionally fall into place with its new shape. At certain times, the artist’s body enters the frame—adding an additional architecture to the work. “Houses hold memories—what these are and how we remember them are variable and impacted by storytelling, documentation and time.”((Caitlin Horsmon’s statement for her work _place _plateau))

The work elicits tension and nostalgia simultaneously. Through creating these installations filled with potential, like Matta Clark’s building cuts, Horsmon introduces the possibilities of deconstructing reality by transforming our consciousness and the way we perceive our world.

Every Time I Go Outside the World Is Different by Caitlin Horsmon, 5 projector expanded cinema performance, 2017

Installation shot of Practical Optics at Front/Space by Caitlin Horsmon, 2016


This essay is part of a series commissioned, in collaboration with Informality Blog, for the exhibition Against the Screen at La Esquina Gallery (1000 W 25 Street KCMO) open from August 25 through October 7, 2017. These pieces, co-edited by Melaney Mitchell (Founder & Senior Editor of Informality Blog) and Lynnette Miranda (Curator-in-Residence at Charlotte Street Foundation) focus on a shared goal of bringing the eyes of national writers to the work of Kansas City-based artists. 

 




Encountering the Black Everyday in William Toney’s Photography

“The black aesthetic turns on a dialectic of luxuriant withholding – abundance and lack push technique over the edge of refusal so that the trouble with beauty, which is the very animation and emanation of art, is always and everywhere troubled again and again. New technique, new beauty.” The Undercommons, Fred Moten and Stefano Harney

Clippers by William Toney (2016) Image courtesy of the Artist

Clippers by William Toney (2016) Image courtesy of the Artist

In photographer William Toney’s Clippers (2016), a set of multicolored clipper guards, the artist’s own, are arranged before a black background, their teeth at some points intersecting —each guard in some way touching another. The blackness of the background feels almost infinite —it isn’t quite clear if the clippers are at rest, suspended in space, or falling together in a cluster. It’s an image that has likely been incidentally reproduced on the counters of countless barbershops. But in extracting these tools from their original context and placing them quite literally into the black space of a studio backdrop, Toney’s still life imbues these objects with a sense of wonder. Through this, a full recontextualization of the quotidian, he doesn’t raise the mundane to the state of beauty but rather troubles conceptions of beauty itself.

Toney’s work is an intensely personal exploration of the spaces and traces of black life. He describes the recent shift in his practice—which occurred after returning to his hometown of Kansas City from Columbia, Missouri where he studied photography at Mizzou—as a rencounter with the language of urban spaces, a re-immersion into the familial and the familiar. Left without the resources and support of his undergraduate art department, Toney turned to making work in his bedroom studio meticulously arranging “scenarios” to capture, some of which involved his family and friends, others which incorporated found objects and personal items. In triangulation with his studio-based work, the artist approaches his street photography through a similar lens. From his de Bechers inspired typological cataloguing of car sun screens across the U.S. to moments of flux or visual irony captured on the streets of Kansas City, Toney crafts a narrative of movement through space.

Still Life White (2017 by William Toney. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Still Life White (2017 by William Toney. Image Courtesy of the Artist

He considers these images to be in a state of interdependence, each a vignette standing both on its own and together which Toney compares to the relationship of tracks on a mixtape. Thematic refrains reappear in their full presence or in a gesture toward their presence. The clipper guards reappear in Stilllife White (2017) in the sculptural shrine-like arrangement of wilted and wilting flowers and leaves lit by a reddish light. Amongst the plants Toney places objects that ring of black urban life. The heel of the Jordan sneaker peeks out in the left part of the frame. A folded white “tall tee”— popular in the snap rap era of the mid-2000s — sits propped at the base of the arrangement. Elsewhere in the sculpture one finds detritus that Toney has collected from the streets of Kansas City: the face of a Newport carton and a generic styrofoam cup one would find at corner convenience store. Toney refuses to overlook that which is considered waste/discarded, whether in the form of cultural passe or actual objects that people have thrown away, instead bringing the viewer to an makeshift altar of blacknesses past, present, and future.

Here, his embrasure of refuse runs against expectations of beauty, distancing us the everydayness of the black everyday. It is this that is Toney’s act of refusal—a rejection of the terms of what is considered passe, ‘dirty’, or unworthy of an attentive eye.

Far from the Tree by William Toney (2010) Image Courtesy of the Artist

Far from the Tree by William Toney (2010) Image Courtesy of the Artist

The presence of the clipper guard echoes again in Far From the Tree (2010), a studio portrait of two closely shaven heads—Toney’s and his father’s—leaning into one another, the shadows of the crowns of their respective heads eclipsing the other. The image captures not only the physical similarity of the heads of a father and son but an orchestrated, nonetheless, palpable moment of tenderness and intimacy between two black men. The image acknowledges both the black familial space and the space of black masculinity as spaces in which there is the possibility of refusal of their imposed/supposed limits and acknowledgment of their beauty and complexities.

In a world where representation of blackness in the mainstream remains important, it fades as a goal or interest for both artists and mass political movements. Toney’s photographic practice enacts a practice of refusal, asking his viewers to encounter the black quotidian and its intersections and divergences with a mainstream on its own terms, in its own language in its full wonder and beauty.


This essay is part of a series commissioned, in collaboration with Informality Blog, for the exhibition Against the Screen at La Esquina Gallery (1000 W 25 Street KCMO) open from August 25 through October 7, 2017. These pieces, co-edited by Melaney Mitchell (Founder & Senior Editor of Informality Blog) and Lynnette Miranda (Curator-in-Residence at Charlotte Street Foundation) focus on a shared goal of bringing the eyes of national writers to the work of Kansas City-based artists. 




Journeys and Cross-Generational Narratives in Barry Anderson’s The Janus Restraint

A labyrinth evolves before us in Barry Anderson’s The Janus Restraint, the ongoing multimedia project begun in 2012. Anderson has created a kaleidoscope of epic semi-narrative proportions, which merges mythology, romantic landscapes, and personal symbolism.The project could be considered an extended portrait of the artist’s son, who’s featured heavily in the work, although such a simplification would do a disservice to the richness of the piece.         

Barry Anderson Come as You Are. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Still from Barry Anderson’s The Janus Restraint. Image Courtesy of the Artist

In 2010, Anderson took a trip across the American landscape, visiting national parks and landmarks with his father and his son. The journey extended for weeks, becoming the catalyst for a tradition that connects three generations of family and laid the foundation for the project that would become The Janus Restraint. Through these experiences, in addition to a solo sojourn to Iceland, Anderson has generated works of cinematic beauty and moments of transcendence in what is ultimately a metaphorical reimagining of boyhood rites of passage. 

The Janus Project shifts across disciplines, incorporating video, digital construction, black and white photography, and sculptural installations that progress and build on one another. They culminated in a series of exhibitions with a variety of these elements shown. Each form complicates and layers the work, recording time in different ways as we witness Anderson’s public and private experiences coalesce. In one moment the camera pans slowly across a deserted Icelandic mountainscape and takes our breath away, in another, we watch candid images of Anderson’s son investigating new terrain in a style that suggests home videos. In the midst of the majestic and the intimate, all is permitted.

Still from Barry Anderson's The Janus Restraint. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Still from Barry Anderson’s The Janus Restraint. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Collectively these videos reveal the Icelandic landscape and the Aurora borealis. As the Northern Lights and additional visual cues to Scandinavian lore accumulate, Anderson establishes a link to Norse mythology. Here we come to see the Bifröst, a bridge to the gods, and understand the natural relationship between a simple baseball bat carried by Anderson’s son and Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir. For a contemporary audience familiar with Marvel comics and immersed in a pop culture, saturated with their corresponding superhero movies, these connections provide us access and a vernacular through which to approach the work.

Anderson uses music as a vital element in his practice, one that he pushes as he experiments with different narratological structures. In addition to creating his own soundtracks, he has been working with a variety of musicians to score his videos. Like the unfamiliar influences from which his scores grow, Anderson’s symbolic language provides a slow burn: noticeable but not obvious, intimate but also indirect. The more time we spend with The Janus Restraint, the more the symbols reveal themselves and generate unexpected connections—from Icelandic mythology to Americana—establishing a visceral and psychological space that brings together disparate narratives. The Roman god Janus was two-faced, looking towards the past and the future, and was also known as the god of beginnings, transitions, time, duality, passages, and endings. The restraint Anderson references in his title may be a loose metaphor for the eternal search within the work for himself and the viewer, on various but akin journeys.

Still from Barry Anderson's The Janus Restraint. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Still from Barry Anderson’s The Janus Restraint. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Anderson’s pristine video quality and cinematic approach create a surreal experience when presented on multiple screens in front of the viewer, challenging the expectation of single-channel narrative. Seen across screens or broken up on individually, Anderson requires viewers to divide their attention and eventually experience all the images simultaneously. It is easy to get lost in the labyrinth of imagery and psychedelic colors, to lose your grounding in the shifting patterns, or to get caught in the symbolism and density of narrative. Anderson and his son reveal themselves to be adept collaborators and guides, however, inviting us to accompany them across unfamiliar terrain through private experiences which always just elude our understanding. Their shared vision welcomes the viewer into their journey of monumental scope, suggesting that even when you’re not exactly certain where you are, you might perhaps stay awhile and enjoy the view.


This essay is part of a series commissioned, in collaboration with Informality Blog, for the exhibition Against the Screen at La Esquina Gallery (1000 W 25 Street KCMO) open from August 25 through October 7, 2017. These pieces, co-edited by Melaney Mitchell (Founder & Senior Editor of Informality Blog) and Lynnette Miranda (Curator-in-Residence at Charlotte Street Foundation) focus on a shared goal of bringing the eyes of national writers to the work of Kansas City-based artists. 




Zoe Chressanthis’ Utopian World

Kimi Hanauer explores the subtle familiarity in the sculptural worlds of Zoe Chressanthis.

Part I: A Place To Rest

"Excerpts from Swamp Island Cave with Albino Gator" 2017, Plasticine, Acrylic Paint 4 x 6 inches

“Excerpts from Swamp Island Cave with Albino Gator”
2017, Plasticine, Acrylic Paint
4 x 6 inches

The exhibition YET, UNKNOWN proposes that knowledge is dependent on an understanding of the unknown that is based on our own experience of the world. Humans are motivated to understand, and attempt to control, the contexts in which they inhabit. We use common sense to determine our own behavior, language, and understanding of our surroundings as we navigate different environments. In the text Outline of a Theory of Practice, Pierre Bourdieu, a French theorist, defines the term doxa as a commonsense knowledge that is tied to the specific cultural identity of a place and defines social norms that are often left unspoken, or taken for granted. Doxa is a kind of commonsense that certain ‘natural’ inhabitants of a place are indoctrinated into, and others, visitors for example, are not able to easily pick up on.

The idea of doxa came to mind while investigating Zoe Chressanthis’ body of work and wondering what type of logic or commonsense defines the creation and navigation of her constructed environments. Chressanthis’ style embraces a naivety while remaining assertive, building miniature worlds out of plasticine clay accompanied by dramatic colorful lighting that pushes each scene to appear as a dreamscape. Made up of seemingly ‘natural’ occurrences, organisms, plant life—generally uninterrupted by human behavior—these environments linger between known and unknown realities. Her spaces feel quiet and empty of human touch, with the lone animal-like presence of a small snake crawling up a rock, for example. In this tranquility, agency is held by the artist’s characters such as metallic palm trees, gravel, starfish, cactuses, and other plant-like organisms that are less recognizable. While typically presenting her work through films, animations, and images, in this exhibition Chressanthis moves her practice into the realm of sculpture, presenting the worlds themselves. For YET, UNKNOWN, she is creating a new ecosystem for our minds to find rest and ease within, a space we have probably unconsciously desired to escape to at one point in time.

"Still from Mers Springs: Shell Bed" 2017, Clay, Acrylic, Paper Mache, Plasticine (animation 1:08)

“Still from Mers Springs: Shell Bed”
2017, Clay, Acrylic, Paper Mache, Plasticine
(animation 1:08)

Chressanthis transports the viewer into an environment where the existing landscape and logic isn’t immediately identifiable, uniquely positioning them to experience a mismatch of internal and external doxa. This position, between the known and unknown, initiates our own subjectivity, thus allowing the acknowledgment that our understanding of the world is based on personal, emotional, and experiential factors. In other words, through these works, the artist asks us to identify the place from which our knowledge comes from—the subjective lens through which we see and understand the world around us. Through producing these utopian environments within a paradoxical frame, Chressanthis is asserting a type of authority over our society’s relationship to the natural world, reminding us of our emotional and physical ties to that which gives us life. These environments, seemingly thriving, subsequently ask us to reflect on exactly what it is we are escaping during a time where society is readily on its way to destroying our natural world.

Chressanthis’ ability to connect us with our place of ‘escape’ is a powerful questioning of the viewer. What makes the viewer feel free, safe, comfortable, and calm in these spaces? What are the conditions and variables the viewer is escaping from? What limits the conditions of safety and freedom the viewer experiences within the work from existing in reality? This questioning reinforces work being created by many other artists, cultural producers, and activists today, working to shift and expand our understandings of the world around us, in the hopes of transforming society. For cultural change to take form, we need artists who guide us to recognize our biases and prejudices, who ask us to acknowledge the experiences of others, and who are finding and facilitating moments of empathy. Chressanthis’ work and the experiences she creates is a necessary complement to other modes of cultural work happening today. This work is a call for empathy: when you accept your own subjectivity, you must also  accept the subjectivity of others. This positioning is a fundamental and powerful shift away from dominant dichotomies of ‘right and wrong’ or ‘truth and false,’ that often violently structure our co-existence.

"Still from Mers Springs: Sea Floor and Reef" 2017, Clay, Acrylic, Paper Mache, Plaster, Plasticine (animation 1:08)

“Still from Mers Springs: Sea Floor and Reef”
2017, Clay, Acrylic, Paper Mache, Plaster, Plasticine
(animation 1:08)

Part II: Speaking with Chressanthis

What motivates your work? Powerful and sometimes merciless parts of nature: the desert, the sea, mountains, volcanoes, and glaciers. Also forming a space in which people do not reside, or maybe they have been taken by the land itself.

How would you describe the relationship between the different, yet related, landscapes you are building? Destinations like, Dune Valley, Pink Desert Clouds, Lagoon Falls, Mers Springs and now Palm Lake appear to exist alone, but really they are different environments with varying climates that reside within the same world and universe. As of now, I do not know the name of this world, or planet but I intend to form an atlas of sorts that fully describes the terrain of each location and what falls in between.

You talk about your environments as being transformative for the viewer. Can you expand on what experience you hope to create? Until recently, my environments have been viewed through animation or in photographs and paintings. “View of Palm Lake,” is an immersive environment, and like my films, it is simply an observation of a habitat, currently vacant of any inhabitants. I intend for it to be a destination that you can place yourself in while experiencing not only its visual details but also its sounds, and scents. This full sensory experience may give the illusion this place is possible, when in our reality it is implausible. A fully imagined land, presented without a perspective through film or 2D format.

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“Still from Dune Valley: Palms” 2015, Plasticine, Composite Images (animation 1:45)

This exhibition circulates around the idea of knowledge and the unknown. Do you feel like you’ve learned more about our reality through the creation of your environments? Yes definitely. This piece in particular is more tropical than others before, yet it lies in a cave, on an island, somehow still thriving. While my work often combines opposing vegetation and characteristics, it isn’t intended to be proven, I prefer it to remain mysterious. Much like certain aspects of our own reality, whether in nature or in society.

What is something that makes you feel free? Visiting my hometown, Topanga in Southern California. It is nestled in a canyon and if you drive only 15 minutes down a winding road you will find the ocean. Ironically I am afraid of water.


This essay is part of a series commissioned, in collaboration with Informality Blog, for the exhibition YET, UNKNOWN at Paragraph Gallery (23 E 12th St, Kansas City, MO 64106) open from July 27 through August 26, 2017. These pieces, co-edited by Melaney Mitchell (Founder & Senior Editor of Informality Blog) and Lynnette Miranda (Curator-in-Residence at Charlotte Street Foundation) focus on a shared goal of bringing the eyes of national writers to the work of Kansas City-based artists. 




Tactile Rituals and Feminine Power in The Work of Shelby Burchett

Anna Harsanyi reflects on Shelby Burchett’s use of magick and ritual as Goo-Witch.  

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Thesis Exhibition install. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Being in touch means understanding the people and the ideas that surround us. By touching things we form a deeper connection with the physicality of our immediate world. Touch is an intimate part of Shelby Burchett’s work, simultaneously both ritual and experimentation. Through  a tactile experiments and ritualistic installations, the artist conveys a sense of desire and mystery that prompts the audience to interact playfully with the materials at hand.  

Burchett’s installations invite the viewer to engross themselves in her experiments with materials like goo, organic fabrics, and fur. These are assembled in immersive environments, often seeping through surfaces or oozing out of multiple structures, daring the audience to touch them. Embodying the persona of Goo-Witch, a maker who works with symbolic objects in order to conjure sacred qualities into a space, Burchett presents installations that change over time based in large part on how the audience participates in their evolutions. Tactile experiments draw attention to the importance of hands in the making of magic, with its array of crafted rituals. Spaces are restructured manually, organic materials are mixed together so as to cast spells that aim to alter both the physical and the spiritual realm.

shelby_image_2

Goo Witch performance as a part of Flesh Crisis 2017 at the Drugstore. Image Courtesy of the Artist

When experiencing Burchett’s installations, the viewer is called on to alter their own perception. In a recent performance, Cord Spinning, Burchett spun cord for 3 hours, inviting others to add herbs and organic materials to the circular space she created. The herbs and colors of the spun fabric held symbolic value and were part of a spell, though the audience was not necessarily aware of their direct participation in a ritual. The process of adding to and entering parts of the piece formed a point of collective access that allowed the participants to encounter moments of magic through touch and physical creation.

In Burchett’s work, magic is experienced in the form of mystery or the unknown, a collective wondering that brings the audience together through their shared desire to both participate in and further explore the tactile experiments they are engaging in. This experiential quality empowers the audience, who is given an agency in their desire to touch and to feel, and drawn into the creative process.

Goo Harvest from the exhibition Future Human at PLUG Projects. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Goo Harvest from the exhibition Future Human at PLUG Projects. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Using this approach to play and experience, Burchett further conceptualizes power and collectivity as inherently feminine qualities. In many magic practices, deities and spirits are female, holding symbolic and metaphysical importance as embodiments of power and wisdom. The spells that invoke them seek to produce empowerment in their execution. In Burchett’s work, the feminine is an essence, an object, a feeling, or an unnamed sensation—related to a concept that can be accessed by anyone, and is not necessarily gendered. Feminine in her practice signifies power, propelling this notion to a spiritual place where such qualities represent multiple aspects of our world, and are not tied to contemporary conventional social structures. This subverts the concept of femininity as female-oriented, rather allowing for it to be integrated into a universal sense of experience.

Through play, touch, and collective experience, the audience grows more “in touch” with their physical surroundings which allows for an agency in shifting and evolving the practical and the magical within a shared space or collective identity.


This essay is part of a series commissioned, in collaboration with Informality Blog, for the exhibition YET, UNKNOWN at Paragraph Gallery (23 E 12th St, Kansas City, MO 64106) open from July 27 through August 26, 2017. These pieces, co-edited by Melaney Mitchell (Founder & Senior Editor of Informality Blog) and Lynnette Miranda (Curator-in-Residence at Charlotte Street Foundation) focus on a shared goal of bringing the eyes of national writers to the work of Kansas City-based artists. 




July 2017 First Friday Radar!

Archive Collective @ Front/Space

Friday 8:00-11:00

Front/Space

217 W 18th St

Kansas City, MO 64108

Archive Collective is collaborating with Front/Space in a new partnership. Programming is scheduled for the entire month of July to showcase the mission of AC — providing opportunities for the community to engage with photography and other lens-based media.

 

Care, A Performance

Friday 6:00-9:00 PM

La Esquina

1000 W 25th St

Kansas City, MO 64108

An performance series and tour hosted by Rita Puleo featuring local and national artists Hadley Clark (Kansas City), Valentina Desideri (Amsterdam), Pepe Espaliú (1955-1993), Ben Gould (New York City), E.K. Harrison (Kansas City), Stuart Horodner (Lexington, KY), Carolyn Lazard (Philadelphia), Jaimes Mayhew (Baltimore), Park McArthur (New York City), Lynne McCabe (Houston), Carmen Papalia (Vancouver), Megan Pobywajlo and Olivia Clanton (Kansas City), Harriet Sanderson (2017), Gabriela Salazar (Brooklyn), Sarah Sudhoff (Houston), Samara Umbral (Kansas City), Constantina Zavitsanos (Brooklyn) This particular performance will use choreography to pose questions of mobility and access in works made by artists who have disabilities, chronic illness, or entanglements with the medical-industrial-complex.

In for a Penny, In for a Pound

Friday 6:00-9:00

Vulpes Bastille

1737 Locust St

Kansas City, MO 64108

In for a Penny, In For a Pound is curated by local artist-curator Thomas Luna. This show is featuring artists Annie Woodfill, Fredy Gabuardy, Justin Mellon, Kylie McConnell, Kyra Gross, Max Crutcher, and Zane Smith.

Mudras – A Hand Magazine Group Exhibition

Friday 6:00-9:00 pm

Leedy-Voulkos Art Center

2012 Baltimore Ave,

Kansas City, MO 64108

The Hand Magazine, which focuses on regional printmaking practices is curating and exhibition of local, national and international artists.

Femin • Is

Counter Point

Friday 6:00-9:0o pm

1903 Wyandotte St

Kansas City MO 64108

Portrait series by Rachelle Gardner-Roe from her year long Femin • Is project. Each portrait is based on an interview from her podcasts for KC Art Pie that focus on female-identifying creative folk.

Final Weekend of Cristina Muñiz: My Hand — Mi Mano

Friday 12-6 & Saturday 12-4

Kiosk Gallery

916 E 5th St

Kansas City, MO

 

Final weekend to check out rad local abstract painter Cristina Muniz’s new work at Kiosk Gallery




Exploring Cultural Memory in The Work of Lyndon Barrois Jr.

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Of Color by Lyndon Barrois Jr. @ Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis. Photo Courtesy of David Johnson

I first encountered Lyndon Barrois Jr.’s work at the CAMSTL where his installation Of Color was exhibited. In the gallery was half a basketball court: fresh, black asphalt with crisp white lines, a hoop, and a basketball. Complicating this construction were structures made of stacked toner boxes and adorned with fragmented halftone catalog photographs of shoes and clothing, each topped with a cardboard cutout of a hat or hair. These sculptures were both figurative, arranged like basketball players on a court, and architectural, like skyscrapers on a city skyline. As a physical space, the installation allowed viewers to move through the court and through the box towers. I interpreted this work as an assertion of legitimacy of the street court as a space for Black expression and culture.

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Of Color by Lyndon Barrois Jr. @ Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis. Photo Courtesy of David Johnson

Barrois’ new work, shown in the exhibition Sensible Disobedience, included a series of four collages, along with three small sculptural pieces. Unlike Of Color, these works didn’t command the entire gallery space, but shared walls with other artists’ pieces, thus creating new contexts. In fact, Oli Watt’s tiny traffic barriers interacted directly with the Barrois’ sculptures. The collages were each on brown chipboard, framed by dark wood: A National Geographic image of a small shirtless Black boy holding a monkey, paper marbled with blue, yellow, red, CMYK test prints, the well-known pangram “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog”—the elements of each collage feel deliberately chosen and arranged. Much like the sculptures in Of Color, these new structures were made of toner boxes and spent toner cartridges. But they were far shorter, and lacked a sense of figurativeness; instead they seemed more formal, bringing to the forefront their materiality as waste products of the printing process. Viewed together with Watt’s traffic barriers, I began to think about printing as means of accessing an audience and having influence, and then who is barred from that by what may feel like hundreds a tiny barriers.

Installation ofLyndon Barrois Jr.'s work in Sensible Disobedience at La Esquina. Photo by E.G. Schempf

Installation of Lyndon Barrois Jr.’s work (also featuring Oli Watt’s barricades)  in Sensible Disobedience at La Esquina. Photo by E.G. Schempf

Barrois evokes cultural memory–that is both collectively and selectively remembered. He allows his viewers to shift their understanding of familiar images, to see them in new contexts. The magazine pictures of the boy and monkey, the tribal women, and the mother and child are immediately recognizable as being from National Geographic. In recognizing the image, I had a number of immediate connotations: I was struck first by a sense of nostalgia for film photography and childhood adventure, then by the voyeurism and exoticization of the subjects of the photos, then by a sense of appreciation of the photos as intimate portraits. Each element in the collage evoked a series of immediate impressions. They were hieroglyphs that contained layers of meaning for each person who views them. Combined, the images can take on different meanings than they do individually. But whatever new meaning they take on, there is still an understanding of each elements on its own.

This understanding of the image by Barrois, both in popular culture and the art historical canon, allows him to subvert the visual representations of each to create other meanings and narratives. Throughout his body of work, he has explored the various methods of manipulating the image—cropping, collage, curation, and juxtaposition. He draws his source material from films, history and art history, popular magazines, and photography. By re-contextualizing found sources, he takes control of existing images and their attached associations and is able to forge messages of his own.

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Installation of Lyndon Barrois Jr.’s work (also featuring Oli Watt’s barricades) in Sensible Disobedience at La Esquina. Photo by E.G. Schempf

Our culture relies on the image to represent the abstract concepts and values that form our identities as individuals and as communities. We use images to define our version of history, to streamline events and perspectives too vast and inexact to capture. This makes the image a powerful tool. It designates within a culture, what is beautiful—and therefore what is ugly—, what is good—and therefore what is bad—, what is desirable—and therefore what is detestable. The image reinforces accepted aesthetic values until they are considered truth.

Barrois’ work reminds us that images, and our associations to them, are manufactured, not inherent, and the repeated use of the toner box and repeated reference to the CMYK process signifies that. It is possible to use the CMYK process to only ever create one color, but that singularity does not represent its ability to make many hues. In creating totems from the remnants of the process—the empty ink cartridges and packaging—he illustrates an ordinary origin of the images that our culture reveres. The printed words on the boxes, turned outward toward to viewer and that read “waste box”, describe warnings, and show illustrated instructions, invites us to question the ultimate authority of images, as they are created by people as fallible as ourselves.

 




February 2017 First Friday Radar

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The Shape of Things: An Interpersonal Circumplex

Friday 6:00 pm- 9:00 pm

Front / Space

217 W. 18th St.

Kansas City, MO 64108

Portland based artists Justin Seibert and Kayla Mattes collaborate in an exploration of personality based on data collection. Templates are generated in response to a 24- question quiz corresponding to an individuals personality.  These are then folded into a 3D object.

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Public Reading and Performance Featuring Annie Raab and Trey Hock

Friday 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Beggars Table Church & Gallery

2010 Baltimore Ave

Kansas City, MO 64108

Local writer Annie Raab will be reading an original short fiction and Trey Hock will give a performative lecture titled “From Whence I Came.”

 

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Pinch / Punch

Friday 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Beco Flowers 1922 Baltimore Ave.

Kansas City, MO 64108

This exhibition features a collaborative project between Casey Whittier + Mark Raymer and a part of Third Pill. The show discusses the artists’ studio process and the intersections through artists of different mediums.

 

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FF: “The Eclectic Company”

Plenum Space Gallery

504 E 18th St.

Kansas City, MO 64108

This multimedia group exhibition includes works by Neil Goss, Laura Maloney, Marie Mckenzie, Carie Musick, and Thomas Woodward.

 

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Informal Gathering #1

Sunday 8:00 pm- 10:00 pm

The Drugstore

2948 Main St.

Kansas City, MO 64111

Artists, writers, and readers of all kinds! Join us for our first Informal Gathering event sponsored by Rocket Grants! We will provide ample portions of a Vegan/Gluten Free/Kosher Friendly stew along with some wine! Bring a treat or two to share.

Our Informal Gathering events are our way to get in touch with our audience, our writers, and grow our community. We want to support those who support us with a warm meal and conversation.