Lucky Number Seven opens at Site Santa Fe (1606 Paseo de Peralta, Sunday, June 22, 12-5 pm)
Ah! Biennials! Since the creation of the Venice Biennial in 1895, the art world and the Beau Monde have been on a circuit through an increasingly large number of venues. During the 1980s and 90s, the biennial format boomed; all of a sudden, there were biennials not just in Europe and New York but throughout Latin America, in Istanbul, in Taipei, in Shanghai, in Dakkar and, not least in Santa Fe. But, came various arguments from the left, the right and the curatorial classes: Who is shown at these venues? And why? Should we really pat ourselves on the back for our post-colonial consciousness when we're just seeing the same work from the same art stars in different places? Think championship tennis-the same faces no matter where the match"¦ And, it really was disturbing to see the vanguard of the (now old) New Left claiming empowerment for the Third World and Situationist dérive while participating to the fullest in an inflating, speculative global art market.
Over the last ten years curators have tried to re-invent and re-invigorate the format. What to do? Should one just get back to a transcendental view of the relationship between viewer and object? Translated that means that someone looking at a single work of art gets it in a visual flash of understanding. Well, that takes care of the five-second sound bite of art that had permeated biennials and art fairs. And it also confuses the curatorial conceit of simply finding art to serve your intellectual notion although it cleverly replaces it with a notion that there is no notion. But, doesn't it still over-emphasize known artists, dealers and collectors? Enter Lance Fung and
SITE Santa Fe's seventh biennial that opens on June 22 (full information below).
Titled Lucky Number Seven, the exhibition is based on several premises that attempt to address the core "issues" of Biennial elitism. First, all 27 artists are emerging artists, which means they are not blue chip draws to the general public. Second, Fung assembled an international curatorial team who each suggested a few artists who were then chosen by the curator. That manoeuvre erodes the afore-mentioned curatorial conceit and authorial intent of a single director. Third, no commercial galleries were allowed to fund individual projects-weakening the connection between the commodifying art world and the Biennial. Fourth, each artist (or group of artists) is making site-specific work that will be destroyed after the exhibit closes.
Fung describes the process as collaborative and the outcome as "controlled chaos." This author calls it a delightful return to the Situationist, Neo-Dadaist moments of the late fifties and early sixties. As this column goes to press Site has just issued an invitation to the community-especially children-to help create a version of Kaekko, a piece initiated in Japan under the direction of Hiroshi Fuji (b.1960, Kagoshima, Japan) that has had many instantiations around the world. This installation/performance/commentary offers solutions to over-consumption and waste. By mimicking the structure of a bazaar, children exchange their outgrown or unwanted toys with one another, creating a new market and new values for formerly worthless items. Fuji-san will then invite various publics (kids, artists, us) to create sculptures from this Kaekko and various other post-Capitalist flotsam and jetsam for installations at the Museum of International Folk Art and the Santa Fe Opera.
Lucky Number Seven should be fun, thought provoking and a wonderful chance for artists and the public alike to take risks. We can choose to be art rather than simply see it.
Among the many other events happening during the second half of June is Codices: Heliotown by Thomas Ashcraft at the new 6,000 square-foot Muñoz -Waxman Gallery at the Center for Contemporary Art (1050 Old Pecos Trail. Exhibition opens June 21, Reception for the artist, June 28, 5 -7 pm). Ashcraft is a renaissance man, one of the few artists who do science, or scientists who make art. For many years, Ashcraft has worked to create alternative systems of currency, agriculture, and objects for his parallel world, Heliotown. As a radio astronomer, Ashcraft has tracked important astronomical events from his backyard telescope.
At CCA, Ashcraft will install a complex system of ponds, gardens, electrical labs and "thinking chambers" along with a panoply of investigations addressing such varied subjects as sculptural extrapolations into the possibility of extraterrestrial microbes; studies of fireballs; a method of extending the nervous system to enhance artistic sensitivity and much more.
On the nights of June 23 and June 24 from 11pm - 1:30 am, Ashcraft invites the public to be part of his experiments in a new cultural form, Harnessing Wild Electricities From Outer Space for Energy, Information, Sensation and Pleasure. The artist/electroreceptor will "attempt to receive and harness wild Jovian radio emissions" from respectively, Jupiter's "C" and "B" regions. Using modified radio telescopes to receive energy, Ashcraft and his fellow electroreceptors, try to capture the live radio bursts that are emitted periodically from Jupiter and Io and attempt to convert them into palpable micro-electricity and potentially entrainable sound.
From the self-unravelling biennial to the interstices of art as knowledge at the CCA, these two weeks encourage all of us to think about art.
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