Friday, February 9, 2007

The Returns

Living Arts is an unusual cultural center. There are hardly no other spaces devoted to contemporary art in the “mid” states, except for - this is what I hear - Bimis, in Omaha. The center functions because of the vision and conviction of its director Steve Liggett, and because of a tightly-knit board, which does not entirely consist of art enthusiasts and aficionados, but which is devoted to providing warm hospitality.

The Andy Warhol Foundation approached Living Arts, wondering why it hadn’t applied for a grant (the foundation actually sought out organizations in states that were not receiving support from their grant programs). Consequently, Living Arts can now exhibit artists from out of town (like me), and organize a yearly two-week long New Genre Festival. This year’s festival will include Marina Abramovic’s Balkan Erotic Epic, a multi-channel video installation that presents folk traditions that explicitly incorporates sexual performances (ie: groups of men hump the land in what seems to be a fertility ritual). The piece was shown last year in New York at the Sean Kelly Gallery.

This is an impressive but isolated art center, and I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to show so much work there. It’s invaluable to be able to see what you make in action, to see it have space, to combine it with other projects, to watch new viewers interact with it. I will go back into the studio with a wider vision for new projects.

My artist’s talk was well received, especially because it gave an in to viewers unfamiliar with video art in general. After, I was approached by folks who wanted to tell me about racism they have seen or experienced. Others asked questions, sometimes uncomfortable ones (do you think Amos n’ Andy would be poorly received today?). Others still were revelatory (a woman told me about how being a maid meant getting into character).

What I would like to consider in these upcoming days, weeks, and longer is: Which pieces worked and which didn’t and why? What do I think about sound in general (I found it mostly annoying)? Should audience be considered when selecting to exhibit works at a specific venue (yes), but can an artist predict and tailor reactions (no).

So, thank you Tulsa. Next stop, Paris, France.

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