Eight breasts, two severed heads: the tally of saints’ relics is long and a testament to miracles, the witness of magic, and the fallible human body. Saints endured immense pain — impaled by spiked wheels, breasts cut off with kitchen sheers. The work of performance artist Ron Athey encompasses the same beauty apparent in the tales of saints and sainthood — and the suffering they endured. Recently performing his works Sebastiane and Incorruptible Flesh: Messianic Remains in Chicago, Athey has continued to explore the mystical, romantic and the violent.
Athey’s upbringing as a Pentecostal Christian provided early experiences in mysticism. According to him, it was, “a religion that was rich with channeling, ecstatic states, and gigantic prophecies. I was supposedly from birth raised to be a minister. In childhood I was taught how to open up to receive the gift of glossolalia — speaking in tongues — and automatic writing. I was treated like a living saint.”
With the convenience of less than the touch of a button, we have finally found the perfect arena by which to define ourselves as individuals with individual tastes, individual desires and individual agendas. Social media is designed to give each participant an opportunity to create their own digital footprint, to shape an electronic prosthetic of themselves, and of course, to keep in touch with family and friends. Steve Jobs’ Apple empire, Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook landscape, Bill Gates’ Microsoft universe, Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger’s visual playground, the #hashtag and the smartphone are all networks of tools that we employ to participate as social beings having a modern, social experience.
Entering Darkness Matters (2011) feels like entering a tomb, or perhaps a haunted house. After signing a waiver at the door, the security guard informs me that I have ten minutes inside the chamber. She shows a map of the space, which diagrams the bent corridors, and where the chairs would ultimately be. Upon entering, the only guide is the sense of touch along the metal handrail and felted walls. The industrial materials for public use and safety contrast with the unknown potential of the limitless darkness. I inch through slowly, sitting down and looking out into nothing. I blink and the darkness outside and behind my eyelids is the same. Finally, after about five minutes of swiveling my head around the room, I notice a faint russet glow, hovering on the back wall. I feel like I might be looking at the back of my own eyeball. I blink and close my eyes. The memory of the hazy cloud lingers on my retina and once again my eyes, open or closed, reveal the same image. This is the breadth of the vision, a very faint distant glow, which is unreachable, and might not even exist. The similarities between the work and the mysterious stuff of unknown physical properties that makes up the majority of our universe is striking. Like dark matter, or more accurately dark energy, Darkness Matters is visible through its effect rather than its substance. I hear the footsteps of the guard up the ramp, and she calls out, “Your time in the exhibition is up.” It’s been ten minutes. A maximum of two are allowed inside, but I am unaccompanied. I feel my way down the ramp and enter the daylight of the gallery preparing for the next phenomenological adventure. The didactic informs that the glow was a dimly lit incandescent bulb.
The OpenLab is a little room with a website and a big idea: providing a catalyst for open art and design practices at SAIC. This will be a space for creatives to gather and generate knowledge, ideas and resources — and then make them available online, to anyone, for free.
OpenLab is spearheaded by Christopher Baker, Assistant Professor in the Art and Technology Studies department. In his five semesters teaching here, Baker has cultivated relationships with an energetic group of students, faculty and staff who are working in what he calls “open ways.” But these artists and designers are spread out across the school and the Internet. In the OpenLab, students will find resources to develop and publish projects that celebrate open source philosophy. Although the Internet makes sharing possible, he explains that the conversations we have online are often “one-dimensional and functional … having a physical location is a way to get more people involved.” This lab addresses a need to consolidate, to make room for an emerging community to develop and grow together.
On view through February 2 at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens, Mike Kelley is an exhaustive retrospective with a deceivingly simple title. The exhibition, which pulls over 200 works from the late artist’s archive, manages to occupy just about every available space in the museum, showcasing the artist’s tendency to continually experiment with new types of media and thematic content throughout his celebrated career. The show is a milestone for both PS1 and Kelley for a number of reasons: not only is it the first chance for American audiences to see the artist’s first major museum exhibition since his tragic suicide in 2012 (the show toured to PS1 from an initial run at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and then the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and will open again at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in March), it is also the museum’s largest solo exhibition in its 42 year history.
The massive variety of works on display is enough to satiate both unfamiliar visitors as well as longtime fans of the artist’s work. Kelley’s collaborative efforts with Sonic Youth, such as his 1986 audio piece, Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profileand the 1991 photographic work Ahh … Youth! (used as the artwork for Sonic Youth’sDirty) are some of the artist’s most casually recognizable efforts. Similarly, his video collaborations with Paul McCarthy will likely secure additional nods of approval from attendants of McCarthy’s recent Park Avenue Armory blockbuster, WS. The exhibition’s first floor galleries are also home to Kelley’s Kandor series of sculptural works exploring Superman’s fictitious home city, which was featured in a 2008 issue of Interview Magazine.
The collaborative endeavor of a print magazine exists somewhere between a static artifact and a disposable product. It holds the present still in a space that doesn’t demand the rapid-fire immediacy of a website nor offer a final say on a matter like a book. But it still must reflect the cultural relevance of the time of its publication. Magazines, whether print or web-based, are transitory objects that, because they lack the urgency accorded to daily newspapers, allow prime opportunities for experimenting with new methods of storytelling.
As Jeremy Leslie explains in his new book, The Modern Magazine: Visual Journalism in the Digital Era, the etymology of the word “magazine” is rooted in the process of collecting. It derives from the Arabic makhzan, meaning “storehouse,” and then the French magasin, “shop.” There is also the connection of the word as used in the realm of guns and ammunition. “We can see the shared meaning relating to the storage of disparate items or collections,” Leslie says, “and the sense that the magazine might explode at any moment appeals from the point of view of the reader sometimes being surprised by what they find.” Like other kinds of media, magazines as ephemera are often ephemeral; the format invites consuming and recycling usually more often than saving and savoring. It is a marker of modernity cataloging and saving the zeitgeist. Through a thoughtful collaboration between editorial fine-tuning and design dynamo, a slice of time is frozen on its pages and it becomes a specific artifact of a specific vision.
Born on the South Side of Chicago and brought up on the mean streets of rural Indiana, Chris Johnson is a Freelance Photographer covering the Chicago metropolitan area and studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Please share the work of the late Chris Johnson so that his talent may live on and continue to inspire others as it has me.
Life is difficult to understand, but there has to be a greater meaning.
Chris Johnson was a longtime contributor to F Newsmagazine - his work continues to inspire us here at SAIC.
Although it seems like just a distant memory now, the end of the fall semester was a whirlwind of papers thwarted by social events, excessive caffeine intake tempered by wine, and holiday joy muted by sheer exhaustion. Back then, I attended the opening of Faculty Projects and Tracing Affinities at the Sullivan Galleries. However, its was too difficult to draw any conclusions about it right then given my stress level and I had to revisit it about a month later.
Faculty Projects showcases works created by professors while they were on sabbatical. After having my own amount of designated time to do whatever interested me (i.e. winter break), I understood the value of a sabbatical. Granted, my interests were limited to pajamas and Netflix. However, it’s funny how differently I interpreted both exhibitions after a few weeks of mental rest. I recall almost having an anxiety attack when I first saw Professor of Painting and Drawing Frank Piatek’s “Theater of the Concealed Index” during the opening. “Please God, not semiotics!” I shouted [hopefully] inside my head. But upon my second viewing, I was ready to play Piatek’s sign game.
In a year overflowing with hyped sequels, poorly received remakes, derivative rom-coms, and embarrassing sci-fi, one modest film has managed to avoid the pitfalls of Hollywood’s oversaturated market — notably, with a lack of (color) saturation.
Director Alexander Payne’s Nebraska uses black-and-white imagery to present a simple slice-of-life story that fully embraces its visual and narrative restraint. The film follows Woody Grant (played by Bruce Dern), an aging Midwestern man, as he attempts to make his way from Billings, Montana, to Lincoln, Nebraska, to collect $1 million in prize winnings — an award to which Woody has been alerted through a questionable notification in the mail. Woody becomes unwittingly accompanied on his journey by his son, David (SNL alum Will Forte). Their journey’s passage through Woody’s old hometown inspires an impromptu family reunion, and Woody is forced to confront a past he had left behind in the film’s titular state.