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.
In this interview, conducted by Rhizome Editorial Fellow Gene McHugh, artist Kevin Bewersdorf discusses his philosophy toward surfing the web, the spiritual dimension of his work and his upcoming show "Monuments to the INFOspirit" at the New York gallery V&A.
By Gene McHugh
Scratch the surface of Baltimore, an American city best known for high homicide rates and crab cakes, and you might get a whiff of the schizo, silly perversion that camp auteur John Waters famously captured in celluloid. A case in point is the music festival Whartscape, the Wham City art collective's freak-power counterpoint to the city of Baltimore's annual crafts 'n corndogs festival, Artscape.
In this, the festival's third year of operation, Whartscape has adopted a wider angle lens, expanding the lineup to 77 bands, playing over 4 days and nights, in legally secured venues. This expansion of the festival can most likely be seen as a result of the "Baltimore's got a cool scene" meme that has spread as far into the mainstream as Rolling Stone Magazine who declared that, indeed, Baltimore does the have the "Best Scene" (of 2008, anyway). Given the hype, it might seem tempting to enter into this "scene" with a skeptical eye, however, this year's Whartscape still felt like a somewhat unexploited, cozy family affair.
To give an example of how things basically go down: Baltimore singer and performer Lizz King impromptu danced while donning a shabby tiger mask during the Creepers set; the Creepers are a Baltimore band featuring Adam Endres from the Baltimore band Blood Baby and Blood Baby also features Kevin O'Meara from the Baltimore band Videohippos; the other member of the Creepers is Connor Kizer who is in the Baltimore band Santa Dads with Joshua Kelberman who's the brother of Baltimore comic artist Dina Kelberman, who worked at a Baltimore movie theatre with Victoria from the Baltimore band Beach House and went to college with, respectively, Dan Deacon and the visual artist Jimmy Joe Roche.
Joshua Kelberman from Santa ...
Bloomberg Tower, the headquarters of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's global business news and information corporation, Bloomberg LP, is a sleek, glass and curved steel skyscraper in midtown Manhattan which forgoes cubicles and executive offices for an ostensibly non-hierarchical and sans-wall flow of physical and digital information. As an allegory for globalized information dispersion, this opening-up of interior space reflects the much-discussed contradictions of globalization, itself. Since the building's completion in 2005, the downtown art nonprofit, Art in General, has partnered with Bloomberg LP to produce five contemporary art exhibitions that reflect on this space as well as the model of business practice that it nurtures. The current iteration of the partnership, entitled ONLY CONNECT, features work by artists Larry Bamburg, Tom Kotik, Heather Rowe, Mafalda Santos and Patrick Tuttofuoco that, according to curator Cecilia Alemani, "infiltrate" Bloomberg Tower and offer alternative "systems of communication and exchange that rely on basic materials, fragile geometries or simple, sometimes even natural forms." Given the overwhelming environment of the office building itself, I had to ask what kind of critique could productively challenge or transcend the complex ideas embedded in its surroundings.
The "nature expedition" is a tried and true exercise in elementary school science class. Assuming the identities of junior scientists, students embark into nature to collect samples of bugs, plants, twigs and sundry living things for study. The artists Pascal Glissmann and Martina Hofflin, working in conjunction with the Academy of Media Art, Cologne, have updated this model, but with a distinct twist: their samples are solar-powered Electronic Life Forms (2004-2007) or "elfs". According to the artists, "elfs are small, analog creatures reacting to light, calling the attention of the observer with their delicate sounds and movements." Isolated in glass Mason jars and accompanied by photographic documentation of the machines inhabiting their "natural" environment, the artists present elf "specimens" in the gallery much like exotic fauna. The set-up falsely attributes these simple robotic creatures with the characteristics of a living being, thus enduing the elfs with an endearing quality. Glissmann and Hofflin explain the underlying motivation for the project as a questioning of "the relationship between technology, nature and humans." The elf installation is currently on view in the "Urban Living" exhibition at Pittsburgh's Wood Street Galleries. - Gene McHugh
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.