The following is a fictionalized account of the opening of Jon Rafman's You Are Standing in an Open Field, which was on view from Sept 12 - Oct 26, 2013 at Zach Feuer Gallery in New York.
"Zach Feuer's on 22nd Street," said Thor. He looked up from his iPhone and pointed downtown.
"That sounds right," said Zoe. "A really even number. I can picture it on their website." Zoe nodded and then coughed.
I shrugged and joined them—Thor, Zoe, and my girlfriend Ann. Thor leaned over his phone.
Thor was a tall man, handsome with thick eyebrows. At twenty-two, he was a decade younger than me. Zoe, meanwhile, had sparkly eyes. I think she was Ann's age, twenty-eight. "I haven't seen anything new by Jon in a long time," she said. "I don't even know what this is going to be like."
Nate Hill, from the series Trophy Scarves (2013).
To the extent that people know his name, Nate Hill is a controversial figure in the internet art world. He gets into bizarre, seemingly one-sided fights with art blogs, sends fake computer viruses to his press contact list, or generally puts people off by relentlessly focusing his web projects on "white women"—the most recent example being Trophy Scarves (2013), a photo series in which Hill, who is biracial, poses wearing a tuxedo while nude white women are slung across his shoulders as if they were recently slain wild animals. Like many, I found myself turned off by some of these projects, but, nonetheless, wanted to know more: the satire was clearly there and he was prolific. I also liked how committed he was to being an artist and how thoroughly he followed his artistic voice, no matter where it took him. In a growing series of conversations with Hill, what impressed me was how consistently every project revolves around the idea of a performative "character" and how committed he is to the idea that his artistic voice is channeled through these different characters. I quickly learned that the majority of these characters aren't even internet-based, but performed in public, on the streets and subway cars of New York. Be it online or in New York City, though, these works share a common motivation to be catalysts for disruption, to interrupt Hill's daily passage through networks of various kinds. While I can't justify everything Hill does, after speaking with him regularly and engrossing myself in the work, I am convinced that he is, in a strange way, a significant artist, as well as an interesting if unacknowledged heir to David Hammons and Andy Kaufman, whose projects Hill cherishes. Because he so frequently invokes the idea of character, I thought that to write about Hill necessitated describing him as a character in a fictional style—a mode of prose that I've been experimenting with recently. What follows is an impressionistic story following a few hours in the life of Nate Hill. It precedes two upcoming projects: a live reenactment of Trophy Scarves and "Lights: Nate Hill and Ann Hirsch," a performance event I am curating at Interstate Projects on November 2nd.
As an artist, my interface with holography and laser technology is always aimed at achieving a particular art piece that communicates the concerns of all my work. They are chance, change, it-ness, attention, a concern with perception.
-Peter Van Riper, From “On Holography” (1980)
Peter Van Riper, Room Space I (1976-78)
When the independent curator, publisher, writer and art dealer Willoughby Sharp died this past December at the age of 72, the art world lost an iconic figure. Active internationally in the art world since the early 60s, Sharp's name is most often associated with his role as the publisher and co-founder (with Liza Bear) of Avalanche magazine (1970-1976) and for his curation of the seminal art exhibition Earth Art (1969). Avalanche has become something of a cult classic in the art world. Consisting mostly of idiosyncratic editorials by Sharp and Bear and interviews with figures such as Joseph Beuys, Yvonne Rainer, Bruce Nauman, Lawrence Weiner and Vito Acconci, Avalanche helped define the art of an era while also redefining the role of the art magazine. The editors viewed Avalanche as an open space for artists and art, and this vision dictated the overall direction of the magazine. Sharp's seminal Earth Art, held at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in 1969, was the first major exhibition of land-based sculptural work, and it included artists such as Walter de Maria, Robert Smithson, Hans Haacke, Robert Morris, Richard Long and Dennis Oppenheim (among others). It has also become somewhat mythologized as the exhibition where the young Gordon Matta-Clark, who lived in Ithaca, was hired by Sharp as an assistant and, thus, met the vanguard of the international art scene for the first time.
However, it should be noted that Sharp, himself, was also a performance artist, video artist, satellite artist and computer artist. In fact, his work at the nexus of art and technology is one of the most passionate chapters in his career, but has largely gone unnoticed. The art historian Frank Popper (who met and befriended Sharp in 1968) has offered one of the few accounts of this work in his book From Technological to Virtual Art. According to Popper, the introduction of television to American culture in the late 1940's had a tremendous effect on Sharp. "Almost instantly after DuMont television sets began to dominate living rooms and lives in 1948, television took control of Sharp, and he was transformed from just watching "Uncle Miltie" to being him," writes Popper.
That's always going to be part of the experience.
The whole idea of immateriality is fishy--be it in the context of Jogging or anything else.
I went overboard on the rhetoric for sure, but the point I'm trying to make is basically the same as yours, Brian, and Jacob, too, I think.
This work is getting somewhere, but the terms its being framed in--immateriality and economic freedom--are tripping it up, shifting the conversation too much in a direction that get tangled in semantics and theoretical navel-gazing.
I wanted to give examples of how sticky that road becomes.
Like, do you guys really want to spend your time debating this material/immaterial stuff?
What's interesting about it is something different, something fresher.