REVIEW: Space Between Languages: Thoughts on “Space Fiction and the Archives” at Momenta Art and “Same Same” at Jackie Klempay Gallery

Written by Conor O’Brien

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At the center of Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen’s show “Space Fiction and the Archives” at Momenta Art is a UFO Landing Pad constructed in St. Paul, Alberta, in 1967, Canada’s centenary. Nguyen, a research based artist whose work investigates the “unnoticed political relevance of seemingly trivial historical anecdotes,” reconstructs this event within the gallery space using archival artifacts: newspaper articles, commemorative memorabilia, photography, and a film montage.

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The presence of the Landing Pad itself feels subdued, while the political and cultural climate that prompted its installment is foregrounded. Less about the Landing Pad than its implications: the intersection where the hokey good will of the project and political reality cross, blend into each other, reveal their discrepancy. During the video montage entitled “1967: A People Kind of Place,” there is a moment, taken supposedly from a television promotion of the Landing Pad, where an actor playing an immigration official talks to a figure, unseen beyond the camera frame, and explains that the quotas for people of different races do not include “green men.” What is meant as a light, self-deprecating jab about the inadequacy of immigration services in dealing with actual “aliens” holds a political reality about how these services control the inflow of people based on race.

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The artist seems interested in such cases where an awareness of social problems are discovered where they are not expected or intended, a fruitful task amidst the contrived idealism and patriotism of a country’s centennial anniversary. The Landing Pad waits passively, like an altar, the reception of otherworldly forms, while on another wall of the gallery are copies of Canada’s immigration regulations, the guidelines by which it is determined who may enter the country based, among other things, on occupation, age, usefulness.

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The Landing Pad can be understood as a symbol of openness, multiculturalism, universality, etc; or it can be seen as simply exaggerating the border between our world and an unfamiliar one, just as the immigration process defines more acutely feelings of foreignness in those who cross from one bordered space into another. More accurately, it represents not either but both of these things: it is the overlap of the ideal goal, understood as being unreachable, i.e. attracting visitors from other planets, and the immediate economic goal, i.e. attracting tourists from other places on earth. Both goals, lofty and material, are evoked here.

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Text flashes on the screen: “Science Fiction is Descriptive Not Predictive.” The value of sci-fi as a genre is not an imagining of possible realities but a reimagining of the existing reality. Extraterrestrials are almost always depicted as supreme beings, and supreme beings are almost always conceived as a means of observing ourselves from a higher perspective, and within a wider context. A parallactic reality: the angle where two perspectives either meet or split off: how we see ourselves and how we are seen (how we imagine we are seen): a resounding dissonance, constant, unheard.

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Sarah Sieradzki’s show Same Same at Jackie Klempay Gallery is based upon the linguistic concept “code switching,” the practice of switching between languages within a conversation. Those who enter another community must soon adopt a new way of communicating, a new way of navigating the structure. In some cases, two parties not fluent in each others’ language develop a neutral mixed language in order to communicate. Code-switching assumes both parties are fluent in all languages used in conversation; each language is kept separate and distinct, the speaker’s consciousness evenly divided between these different valves of expression.

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In our native languages, we build a world of familiarity: create patterns, narratives, causes, effects, orders, borders. From this space we reach outside and bring external events into our orbit: a geocentric existence. When we cross from this space into an unfamiliar one, where there are other patterns, other orbits, other gravitational centers, the effect seems at first to be distortive: going from a place of seeing, an active position, to a place of being seen, a passive position.

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Sieradzki’s work simulates this split-perspective: she photographs the simple, geometric familiarity of tablecloths and using mirrors she produces wavelike distortions in the patterns. Her works are products of combining two mediums: the camera which sees and captures the outside world, and the mirror which receives and reflects it. Confronted with the mirror, where one is both seer and seen, the once sure lines falter; borders fade and bend, reveal their fragile malleability; patterns taper into a blank sea. Sieradzki’s work captures the oscillations of a mind divided between an inner and outer perspective: the former confident and personal, ordered and comprehensible; the latter unfamiliar and impersonal, where pattern no longer contextualizes and conceals negative space, but in its arbitrariness accentuates the indefinite depths.

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Language is a medium, like a camera or a mirror, for processing external phenomena. To familiarize oneself with only one language, or medium, also means to be confined within the parameters of that language, and paradoxically, to not actually be familiar with that language at all, because one lacks a sense of its limits. In acquiring a new language (referring not only to written/oral language, but to any code, behavior, shibboleth) one gains a certain vantage point above one’s native language and the acquired one: developing an awareness of the contours of each language, the range of experience they are able to map; as well as the negative spaces between each language, where is glimpsed the limitless inadequacy of these or any language to encompass entirely one’s experience, the area where all divisions, including language, between spaces and people are arbitrary.

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REVIEW: Response to “You Do the Math” at Jackie Klempay Gallery



Written By: Conor O’Brien,[at]gmail[dot]com

In undressing, both body and clothing inherit a vulnerability, the aura of nakedness. Curiously intimate, encountering another’s wardrobe: an identity disassembled, dissected. The widespread use of washing and drying machines is based not only in convenience, but most importantly in the preservation of the sacred aura of privacy they afford. We treat the washing of our clothes with nearly the same attention to privacy with which we treat the washing of our own bodies. And while stricter, the limits we place on who may see our unclothed bodies are similar to the limits we place on who may see our disembodied clothes. Privacy preserves the identity’s delicate impenetrability. The image of our clothing reduced to a potential state indicates the extent identity depends on them. The symbiosis of cloth and flesh: what the body gains from the garments that adorn it, so do those garments gain from the bodies they adorn.















The main installation in MacGregor Harp’s show “You Do the Math” at Jackie Klempay Gallery consists of several racks of clothing set up in the gallery’s backyard. There is a sense of displacement: these objects have been transported from inside to outside, from a place of impenetrable privacy to a place of pure vulnerability. Yet even stranger  than displacement are the accompanying senses of appropriateness and familiarity: moved outside, how closely these racks resemble trees, the floral patterns on some garments recall branches heavy with foliage. It is not uncommon for the inner and outer worlds to interact with and seep into each other. Within the privacy of our homes we allow vestiges of the outside world to adorn, flowers and potted plants, paintings of landscapes, open windows act both as barriers and portals. While outside we set up furniture, build patios and fences, extend shadows of the private world. When an item is displaced from its natural environment, it adapts to the new one. Throughout the vast cloth of civilization there are holes and windows where the flesh of nature breaks through: city and national parks, both barriers and portals.


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Exposed flesh is an empathic stimulus; is it because these sheets of cloth, the ghosts of identities, remind us of flesh that we have the same reaction when we encounter them exposed? Morbid considerations emerge: flayed skin swinging from limbs of trees, displayed here, perhaps, as a warning to trespassers, or perhaps removed in the interest of scientific experimentation (vivisection is the most extreme form of undressing). The ghost of gender is here too: the wardrobe is deliberately feminine, and belongs to the artist’s fiancee, as do the tufts of hair that sprout from the top of each rack. This gesture, the incorporation of hair into the installation, draws associations between the synthetic fur represented by the clothing with real, organic human fur. Clothing is the vestigial phantom of fur shed from our genes in millennia past. Gooseflesh is the skin’s longing for a lost protector, the present-absence of body hair lingering above exposed skin. These displaced reflexes persist, senile languages from old evolutions. The hair anthropomorphizes the clothing racks, though there is already something abstractly human in their design.














The work in MacGregor Harp’s exhibition makes use of subtle gesture, minimalist arrangement, and understated display: one installation, a bowl of cigarettes set in a corner on the floor, could easily be overlooked by inattentive passers-by. Another piece, a pack of cigarettes displayed on top of a printed cloth, simply presents the object for uncomplicated consideration, where the full weight and irony of the phrase “American Spirit,” coupled with the native mascot, speaks for itself. Cigarettes, an omnipresence with a tinge of the forbidden, somehow ubiquitous, mundane, and yet generally frowned-upon, a commodified taboo, a dangerous comfort, a self-destructive system, that functions in disappearing: these associations reveal themselves. Harp’s choice of subjects is not particularly biased; cigarettes and flowers are the two major ones, and are juxtaposed in some ways (the size and white-grey scheme of Cigs contrasts starkly with his Flowers series), though the artist also incorporates into his work sports logos, newspaper comics, and, of course, clothing. The artist’s fascination lies with these overlooked objects and symbols, which have a consistent but rarely considered daily presence, and in representing them Harp employs a delicate playfulness that slides from the abstract, to the personal, to the absurd.

















Location: 81 Central Ave

Hours: Saturday, 1-5pm

Contact: klempayj[at]gmail[dot]com

REVIEW: A Response to “Peristalsis” at Air Circulation

Written by Conor O’Brien,[at]gmail[dot]com

"Indeleble," video by Ronald Reyes

“Indeleble,” video by Ronald Reyes

Air Circulation is a recently opened space at 160 Randolph St, which according to the gallery’s website is “a zone of artistic research and play…interested in content, narrative, and experience.” Marcin Ramocki, one of the gallery’s co-owners, explains that the gallery plans to dedicate itself to one specific, yet broadly interpretable, theme each year. Their premiere show, “Peristalsis,” initiates the first of the gallery’s annual themes, which is concerned with “food, nutrition, human digestive biology, and global food politics.”

"Untitled," drawing by Lucia Love

“Untitled,” drawing by Lucia Love

Leftover aioli from Sean Joseph's performance "Experimental Aioli"

Leftover aioli from Sean Joseph’s performance “Experimental Aioli”

Including performances and public participatory events such as a “Conceptual Cake Party,” one of the ways the gallery has dedicated itself to this theme is the construction of a functional kitchen within the space. Ramocki explains the kitchen will have a variety of uses throughout their year long gastronomic exploration, including potentially acting as a stage for food-related performance. The act of placing a kitchen within an art space in itself highlights the performative and ritualistic aspects already inherent in cooking and food preparation. “Peristalsis,” named after the motions of the muscles that propels food down the throat, features work by Mimi Kim, Mia Brownell, Oasa DuVerney, Jude Tallichet, Saeri Kiritani, Sean Joseph, Wojtek Doroszuk, Matt Freedman, Kenneth Tin Kin Hung, Lucia Love, and Ronald Reyes.

"Muffin Corner," sculpture by Jude Tallichet

“Muffin Corner,” sculpture by Jude Tallichet

Eating, like all basic biological functions that reminds of animal nature, has been transformed universally in human culture into ritual and performance, distorted by various convolutions into something separate from the cycles of the earth: growth, harvest, and fertilization. In our society primarily, the act of eating has reached an apex of sterilization where at no point, from consumption to defecation, is it necessary for the average person to slaughter, to reap, to fertilize, or generally to come into direct contact with anything resembling a natural cycle.

"Wedding Cake," sculpture by Matt Freedman

“Wedding Cake,” sculpture by Matt Freedman

It is this state of disconnect that forms notions of material hierarchy: the food product which is immediately useful to us for nutrition and energy is considered higher than the product of the digestive process, which in this state of disconnect has lost its purpose, is thought of as waste and is hidden and flushed away in a ceremony that resembles, not coincidentally, the burial of a corpse. Both “waste” disposals ceremonies symbolize an aversion to the natural cycle, signified by death, which is an affront on and a negation of our conceptions of human identity. It is not surprising, then, that such notions of hierarchy extend into our social structures.

"100 Pounds of Rice," photo Saeri Kiritani

“100 Pounds of Rice,” photo Saeri Kiritani

"100 Pounds of Rice," sculpture by Saeri Kiritani

“100 Pounds of Rice,” sculpture by Saeri Kiritani

Of course these hierarchies are illusions, but they do illustrate how our attitudes towards eating or other biological processes conditions our understanding of social order. The “Peristalsis” exhibit asks the viewer to draw this connection between the biological and the socio-economic, how our attitudes toward our biology, which at times expresses itself as shame or disgust yet not without a childlike interest and curiosity, shapes our identity as a species and is recreated in our social structures.

"When life gives you lemons, burn them," drawing by Oasa DuVerney

“When life gives you lemons, burn them,” drawing by Oasa DuVerney

It is clear that such biological functions are fundamental in shaping society, and are of the utmost concern for those who hold power in it. It has long been understood that in order for a government or power structure to retain control over the general public, it must keep that public fed. This method is much more effective than forceful oppression. A public that is well taken care of, which has all of its basic needs met by a system of power, is not likely to try to revolt against that system on any fundamental level. A well-fed public may wish to change a few superficial aspects of the system that provides for them, but to overturn this system completely would also mean abandoning the sense of security and stability that it provides. Economically, this general public is referred to by the biologically potent term “consumers.” A consumer is ultimately a threat to those who wish to maintain power, because by definition a consumer is someone who perpetually consumes, and is never satiated. This is due to the fact that even if a particular need has been completely satisfied, it opens the door to new desires. An effective system not only feeds its populace in the literal sense, but also provides for the needs and desires that arise once a person has been well-fed, intellectual, political, spiritual, social, and is flexible enough to keep providing for new desires as they impose themselves. The most flexible systems even allows for the transgression of their own laws, in ways that satiate a public’s need to revolt without actually threatening the system. American democracy is an example: the public’s desire for political upheaval is sedated by a steady biannual change in leadership, even though this change leaves the system, at its core, intact. But even the most flexible system cannot continue to account for new desires indefinitely, at some point these perpetually voracious consumers will find their ever-evolving needs are not being satisfied at the same rate they are increasing, leading to revolution.

"The Fast Supper," video by Kenneth Tin Kin Hung

“The Fast Supper,” video by Kenneth Tin Kin Hung

“Peristalsis” explores consumption on all of these levels: how eating/digestion shapes our identity as a species and fosters a sense of community, how learned food habits are perceived as indicators of class or culture, the food industry’s relationship to power structures, and the ceremonial aspects of eating. Sean Joseph’s performance “Experimental Aioli” during which he presents an array of flavored aioli derived from celebrities and public figures including Tina Fey, Bill de Blasio, Biggie Smalls, and others, is a comment on how our consumption of celebrity culture satiates a hunger for entertainment, and the ways celebrities are packaged and marketed to appeal to all facets of the populace. Kenneth Tin Kin Hung’s video “The Fast Supper,” which features the Christ of da Vinci’s painting gorging himself on fast food, is a humorous take on how eating is featured heavily in religious ceremony, and the use of institutional religion in satisfying a broad spiritual hunger.

"Le Saucisson," painting by Mimi Kim

“Le Saucisson,” painting by Mimi Kim

Saeri Kiritani’s sculpture “100 Pounds of Rice” of a begging women constructed from rice, and Ronald Reyes’ 30 sec video loop “Indeleble,” featuring a dancing man dressed as the Chiquita Banana mascot, are both comments on the exploitative practices of the food industry, and a kind of exploitative “digestion” of other cultures. Mia Brownell’s surreal painting “Still Life with Flu” and Wojtek Doroszuk’s video “Festin,” which features a feast table overrun with pests, comment on the phantasmagoric and nightmarish effects of feasting and food excess. Mimi Kim’s painting “La Saucisson,” which depicts a woman wrapped in the same manner as a sausage in a butcher shop display, comments on the relationship between fetish and food culture, as well as the marketing of the female body as consumable object.

"Festin," video by Wojtek Doroszuk

“Festin,” video by Wojtek Doroszuk

The rhythm of the throat mimics the rhythm of the river. Even this far inland, one can sense, as if by magnetism, the thunderous muscles clench around cement and steel, a knocking at the gates, answered with our own silent muscular rhythm. The city inflates like a whale bladder, riverwater pumped into the veins of streets and buildings, released through a hundred thousand gurgling faucets; only to be flushed, this same element that digests continents, into some untrodden mental murk. The sacrifice must always follow, though we stave it off as long as we can. The sacrifice is the rotted god ingested and fed back into the soil: the flowering of new gods. The sacrifice is the blissful horror that succeeds a protracted era of rigid harvest. When it turns its head, its eyes are reflective as seashells, and silent except for a trapped, ancient echo growling like an empty stomach.

"Still Life with Flu," painting by Mia Brownell

“Still Life with Flu,” painting by Mia Brownell


160 Randolph St.


Sundays and by appointment



REVIEW: The Gastro-Fantasy: Thoughts Surrounding “Workin’ in Ah Hole Mine” at 247365 Gallery

Written by Conor O’Brien, Living Gallery

Photos were taken at “Workin’ In Ah Hole Mine,” an exhibition at 247365 Gallery featuring artwork by Michael Mahalchick and Jacques Louis Vidal. 247365 is one of three galleries part of the Donut District located in Red Hook.

"Jerk Off Material" -Michael Mahalchick

“Jerk Off Material” -Michael Mahalchick

The bed is a stand-in for the stomach, a stage for gastro-intenstinal performance. Warmth is conducive to sleep in the same way heat is conducive to digestion. Thus, the desire for warmth stems from the desire to be digested.

Left: "Frame," Michael Mahalchick. Center: "A Hole Mine," Jacques Louis Vidal. Right: "Crutches," Michael Mahalchick

Left: “Frame,” Michael Mahalchick. Center: “A Hole Mine,” Jacques Louis Vidal. Right: “Crutches,” Michael Mahalchick

Each night we enter these artificial stomachs and, pulling over our bodies sheets reminiscent of fur, flesh, blood, intestinal walls, enact the gastro-fantasy: to sink into this salty, enzymatic foam; to be broken down and sent through drainpipes into sewage treatment plants and then dumped like pollutants into rivers; to have our genetic material fed back into the oceanic laboratory that engineers new species; to then be spewed back out, by regurgitation or excretion, and return.

"A Hole Mine," Tile detail -Jacques Louis Vidal

“A Hole Mine,” Tile detail -Jacques Louis Vidal

Excretion is an act of destruction which, because it fails to obliterate, ends parodically in creation, or an anti-creation whose necessary impulse is destruction. The in-between state: a destruction that can never fully destroy, a creation that can never fully be.

"Crutches" -Michael Mahalchick

“Crutches” -Michael Mahalchick

The stomach and the womb are often metonymic: digestion parodies birth. In this the digestive drive and the artistic act are aligned. White walls recall the toilet bowl, the blank page, an infantile reaction to that silent white, the need to soil/ disrupt, then flush/ reset; two actions that, through Pavlovian repetition, induce a deep satisfaction, the illusion of two extreme states: appearance and disappearance, positive and negative.

"Magnets" -Michael Mahalchick

“Magnets” -Michael Mahalchick

The in-between state fails to respond to the Pavlovian tick, which then echoes without answer, half-digested, a vague, lingering discomfort. Here nothing appears and nothing disappears. Nothing even changes form, everything is always transitioning between: endlessly vibrating with organic dissonance. A manic cycle between a mechanical, static positive and absolute zero, never settling on one, never fully achieving either. This friction produces an electric pulse.

"Savarin" -Michael Mahalchick

“Savarin” -Michael Mahalchick

Objects and materials have a potentiality that can be preserved in the creation of art pieces if the materials are used in ways that are unconventional, free-associative, etc. Forms that defy definition or identification retain a certain formlessness, or at least contain both form and formlessness.

"Unknown Pleasures (Corner)" -Jacques Louis Vidal

“Unknown Pleasures (Corner)” -Jacques Louis Vidal

A form is in part its physical qualities/ limits and in part the associative limits imposed on it (preconceived notions of functionality, classification, genre, etc). When the latter set of limits are blurred or transgressed the object regresses back to a state of energetic potentiality, until another term is invented or a preexisting term is expanded to encompass this form.

"Unknown Pleasures (Wall)"  -Jacques Louis Vidal

“Unknown Pleasures (Wall)” -Jacques Louis Vidal

In art, terms are created, values assigned, expectations fostered all for the purpose of subversion, just as certain religions encourage (by implication) the ritualistic transgression of their own taboos.
In the middle of this tug of war between classification and deconstruction is experience, the object presented naked before you without any interpretive shield.

"Frame" -Michael Mahalchick

“Frame” -Michael Mahalchick

Art can approach this whirling, kinetic experience. Not simply recreate or represent it, but can itself be the volatile, pulsating link connecting the creative-destructive. The in-between state: an amphibious mutation gasping on shore, half-developed lungs full for the first time with alien atmosphere.

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All photos on this post are © Conor O’Brien 2014

Gallery Location: 131 Huntington St.
Hours: Weekends Noon-6pm
Contact: communications@

REVIEW: Candy Colored Clown: Response to “Economy Candy” at Harbor Gallery

Candy Colored Clown: Response to “Economy Candy” at Harbor Gallery
written by Conor O’Brien, The Living Gallery

Ross Moreno is clown apparel

Ross Moreno is clown apparel

Justin Cooper, dressed in park ranger garb, introduces himself as yet another park ranger who has moved to Brooklyn. He explains that like most park rangers, he needs a side job to support himself: so he does performance art. This joke works mostly on the level of its simplicity, specifically the awareness of its own simplicity. Most of the performance operates on this hyper-aware level wherein the jokes, magic tricks, and stunts adopt an aesthetic of simplicity and childish absurdity as the joke is often the joke itself: its awkward and/or childishly sincere delivery, basic structure, and anti-climatic punchline. Cooper and his partner Ross Moreno so often comment on the performance (usually self-deprecating) within the performance that it can become unclear at which point a seeming mistake is genuine or just part of the performance, part of its self-referentiality.

Another park ranger moving to Brooklyn

Another park ranger moving to Brooklyn

In the first part of the two-parted performance, Cooper makes a joke about his partner’s birth saying “He was born with a full head of hair, and a cigar in his hand that he used to cauterize his own fallopian tube.” Realizing his mistake, Cooper fumbles for the correct term, needing to ask the audience before he remembers what he meant to say is “umbilical cord.” By the time he returns to the punchline (“But I don’t believe it. Cause I don’t think he ever had hair”) the audience has already forgotten or lost interest in the joke’s set up, and the punchline loses all steam. But those who went to both performances would realize that what seemed as a genuine mistake was actually intentional, as Cooper repeats the same joke with the same mistake in the second show. The duo often undermine themselves in this way, and to some extent they do it to play with the audience: a Kaufman-esque effort to baffle, antagonize, or otherwise playfully prank the viewer. The performance feeds on audience reaction, its confusion or discomfort in particular, often going as far as implicating the audience in the performance, during moments where character/fourth wall is broken or the audience is invited (or more likely forced) to participate.

April Childers “Santa for all Seasons (Cheeseburger Santa)”

April Childers “Santa for all Seasons (Cheeseburger Santa)”

April Childers “Pocket”

April Childers “Pocket”

The two performances are part of Harbor Gallery’s “Economy Candy” exhibition. The name is taken from a Lower East Side candy shop that opened during the Great Depression. A candy shop which sells discount candy, whose existence is necessitated by a harsh economic reality, acts both as a distractive relief from those realities as well as a reminder of them, this reminder just thinly and almost mockingly veiled by the shop’s colorful, candied walls. This juxtaposition, the dual role of distraction and reminder, which can be applied to comedy and art as well as to candy shops, seems to be the main concept dealt with by the artists exhibited in the show. These artists, playfully and with a sense of humor, explore the ways that art can distract/ soothe/ even numb and the ways it can make reality felt more immediately. These two effects of art are not mutually exclusive, as all art contains some ratio of both, and each effect can be used to produce the other: reality, struggle, pain can be sublimated into entertainment while alternatively, as seems to be the case with some pieces in this exhibit, a more kitschy/ readily accessible aesthetic can be adopted exactly for the moment when it is broken, the veil lifted, and rather than being distracted, people are made more  keenly aware of their discomfort for the element of surprise.

Jeff De Golier “Spirit Lake”

Jeff De Golier “Spirit Lake”

Jeff De Golier “Motor Boat”

Jeff De Golier “Motor Boat”

Two pieces by April Childers use familiar symbols of American culture to make large, absurdist sculptures. “Pocket” is an oversized, denim pocket filled with a half-deflated beach ball so that it balloons out from the wall. With “A Santa for all Seasons (Cheeseburger Santa)” a cartoonish depiction of Santa Claus resembles an anthropomorphic cheeseburger. The combination of these otherwise harmless and familiar images creates a sculpture that is as unsettling as it is humorous. Jeff DeGolier creates sculptural collages using a variety of objects and materials: coffee cups, champagne glass, sawdust, glitter, mirrors, yarn. His piece “Motor Boat” is constructed from a car stereo and two large speakers which are draped in doilies and yarn, a collage of the loud and the delicate. Maria Britton makes abstract paintings using acrylic paint on bedsheets, which are wrinkled so that the canvas, rather than being simply a backdrop on which the piece is painted, asserts itself as being part of the piece. Alicia Gibson uses acrylic, oil, and spray paint to make colorful, loud, disorienting paintings which seem to reflect a chaotic experience of urban life.

Series by Maria Britton

Series by Maria Britton

Alicia Gibson “Notes of a Dirty old Woman”

Alicia Gibson “Notes of a Dirty old Woman”

Much of the humor in Justin Cooper and Ross Moreno’s performances come from playing with these two juxtaposed forces in art and comedy. At one point Moreno, dressed as a clown, performs a magic trick only to start berating the audience for not “understanding” it. Distraction and diversion are the fundamental techniques of a magician; it is important for the magician to divert the audience’s attention or mislead their expectations so that trick takes them by surprise. In the case of Moreno’s bit, it is the magic trick itself that is the diversion, they expect some sort of surprising conclusion to the trick but they do not expect the performer, dressed as he is in a clown costume, to suddenly turn on them. At one point Cooper plays a lounge singer who in between songs confesses to his lingering, debilitating depression. Similarly, the show’s “encore” features Cooper playing an overenthusiastic pitchman who at one point begins bleeding from his mouth and reveals a wound on his torso before collapsing to the ground. Their humor comes from diverting the audience in some way, with some silly/ childlike aesthetic, soothing lounge music, or excess of enthusiasm, only to allow the things broiling below the surface performance, some antagonism between performer and audience, depression, etc., to reveal itself.

The “Finale:” Justin Cooper attempts to break a cinderblock over Ross Moreno

The “Finale:” Justin Cooper attempts to break a cinderblock over Ross Moreno

All photos on this post are © Conor O’Brien 2014.

Gallery Location: 17-17 Troutman #258, Queens, NY 11385
Hours: Saturday/Sunday from 1pm to 6pm and By Appointment
Exhibition Dates: January 11th through February 16th, 2014!
Gallery Contact:

REVIEW: Stoned Apes and Good Vibrations: The Work of Josef Bull

Stoned Apes and Good Vibrations: The Work of Josef Bull
by Aviram Yap, Guest Contributor (

VIDEO: Josef Bull – Full Body Didgeridoo from Josef Bull on Vimeo.

Josef Bull’s latest exhibition is psychedelic, mind-bending, and as scientific as ever. In conjunction with the opening of his exhibition Casa Piramidal, this past weekend at Bushwick’s Jackie Klempay Gallery, Bull organized a performance with his PVC-pipe Didgeridoo sculpture, which enables full-body sound bathing for participating audience members, featuring musician AJ Block.

Bull weaves a fine line throughout his examination of spiritual phenomenon conducted in domestic environments.  He takes easily dismissible subject matter, such as the didgeridoo or DIY culture, and tweaks it just enough to make you wonder if Bull is critical of, or embracing of, this mash of cultures on display. People current on druggie-hippie-rave culture understand that this group has wholeheartedly embraced the “didge,” instantly transforming an Aboriginal Australian wind instrument into an object of controversy.

When asked about his choice of subject matter, Bull responded by saying, “I like the didgeridoo as a ‘material’ because it’s so hated. Didgeridoo players are hated! Jim who I collaborate with in Sweden regularly has experienced people spitting and shouting at him because of their hatred for the didgeridoo. It’s insane. I’m interested in these cliche spiritual and often mass produced attributes. Like didges and hippie shirts from nepal. I like ‘low’ materials and to see how they transform with different contexts. The cool thing though is that every didgeridoo player I’ve met through the project this far has been anything but cliche and incredibly interesting and intelligent.”

Following Bull’s explanation, it should be made clear that his didges are anything but hated. Bull succeeds at taking despised subject matter, extracting the essence, and producing an inquisitive object that embodies any relevant attributes it may possess.  Indeed it takes real skill to be able to turn something so hated into high art.

The first major attribute setting it apart from the hippie didge, is the complex construction and performative aspect. Seeking out and hiring the local didge expert is part of the process, which culminates when gallery-goers lay within the instrument so that they can meditate while completely enveloped by sound and vibration.  There are 7 openings for air to flow through – 1 for the musician to blow into, 2 for the ears, 2 for the breasts, 1 for the belly button, and 1 for the groin. (It hits all the chakras.) The PVC pipes are painted with a stone-craft patina, and placed on a hand-woven yak-wool blanket.  When the performance is not happening, most people do not realize that the object has anything other than a purely aesthetic purpose — it is indeed a curiously beautiful apparatus.

Internet-based research is also a huge resource for Bull’s work.  He’s inspired by amateur enthusiasts, garage scientists and fringe thinkers sharing their work on the web.  Framed and overlooking the entire space is one of the characters he came across while surfing youtube – the owner of Casa Piramidal, a pyramid-shaped mansion in Santa Catarina, Brazil. In the back room, there is a video projection of a suburban backyard. When you don the headphones, vibrating ‘OMs’ fill your ears. Both of these visual and audio elements were culled from the internet.

Adorning one gallery corner is a “rain stick” covered in luscious salt crystals that the mad-scientist Bull grew onsite with bluing and ammonia. In the garden space, the thread between inexplicable meditation techniques and casual Western comfort continues. Three butterfly sporting chairs sit in the grass, outfitted with copper-piping and chic pyramid-shaped crowns. Beside them is an analogous cooler of beer.

Born 1984 in Stockholm Sweden, this is Josef Bull’s first solo show in New York.  He  graduated from Konstfack University College of Arts in 2009 and has exhibited internationally at Museum of Ethnograpy Stockholm; Mare Gallery, Crete; Hanaholmen Cultural Center, Helsinki;  Forgotten Bar / Galerie Im Regierungsviertel, Berlin;  Peter Bergman Gallery, Stockholm. He’s a co-founder and editor of the publishing house and artist collective Nautofon. With such a stunning exhibition history and this New York debut, I can’t wait to see what curiosities the young Bull has up his sleeve next.  Until then, this show is a must-see.  Jackie Klempay Gallery is open the night of the opening, always by appointment, and usually on Wednesday evenings 7:30-9:30 pm.

REVIEW: “Intention/Intentionality” at Panoply Performance Laboratory

Review: “Intention/Intentionality” at Panoply Performance Laboratory
written by Conor O’Brien, The Living Gallery

As explained by Panoply Performance Laboratory co-founder Esther Neff, their event series Performancy Forum showcases “interdisciplinary experimental performance,” with each one revolving around some relevant discourse. The thirty-first installment of the series uses the theme “Intention/Intentionality” to contextualize performances by Matthew Gantt, Natasha Jozi, Ayana Evans, Ian Deleon, and Ellen O’Meara.

Matthew Gantt at his audio mixer.

Matthew Gantt at his audio mixer.

Matthew Gantt performed two compositions played on an audio mixer, made up of layered looping tracks of prerecorded instruments and sounds, each based around “an open-ended structure,” which he was able to manipulate midperformance.

Gantt claimed during the Q&A following the show that he conceives of his pieces as being “compositional objects,” completely independent of any personal or autobiographical themes. He conceived of himself as a worker and the compositions his products, and this idea of impersonal production is an interesting lens through which to view his performance.

Natasha Jozi in full costume, circling centerpiece.

Natasha Jozi in full costume, circling centerpiece.

Unlike Gantt’s performances, most of the other performances were informed by the performers’ explorations of identity. Natasha Jozi’s performance featured the performer covered from head to foot in white cloth, circling a display of several wine half-filled wine glasses, as she spoke several phrases in Urdu that were simultaneously translated into English by a fellow performer. Jozi eventual broke the pattern of circular movement as she moved into the centerpiece and began covering her costume with wine, staining it red.

Jozi pulls wine-stained cloth from under wine glasses.

Jozi pulls wine-stained cloth from under wine glasses.

Jozi, who grew up in Pakistan, claimed the piece was based upon her own autobiography, spirituality, and as she does not drink and is uncomfortable with alcohol, the act of immersing herself in discomfort. Her performance reflected the repetition of ritual, exploring themes of language, wine as symbol of something sacred and also something that “stains.”

Ayana Evans confront man taking a picture of her in Chelsea.

Ayana Evans confront man taking a picture of her in Chelsea.

Ayana Evans presented a montage of clips from her “Operation Cat Suit” video art series, in which she dresses up in the eponymous neon colored, tiger striped one piece suit, travels to different art districts in the city, and confronts people trying to take pictures of her, in order to gauge these people’s reasons for doing so. According to the artist, the video series is a social experiment on the act of “heightening oneself,” of amplifying one’s personality and appearance, and an exploration into the kind of attention and voyeurism garnered by this act.

Ian Deleón drawing on bag of Domino Sugar.

Ian Deleón drawing on bag of Domino Sugar.

Ian Deleón’s performance, titled “Open Veins, Diabetic Souls,” concerns the history of colonization in the Caribbean, in order to explore his own family history, as well as bring attention to the complex colonial history of the familiar, which in the case of this performance was Domino Sugar. The first picture shows Deleón drawing on a large bag of Domino sugar what was revealed at the end of the performance to be a map of the symbolic meanings and historical associations of the props he used during his performance, bringing the artist’s thought process into the actual material of the piece.

Deleón dancing with bag of sugar.

Deleón dancing with bag of sugar.

This picture shows Deleón wearing a gag ball (a reference he revealed later to the Puerto Rican “Gag Law” of the 1940s which suppressed independence movements), and dancing affectionately with the bag of Domino sugar to Carribbean music (one particularly relevant song on the playlist was “Rum and Coca Cola” by Lord Invader, who sings in the chorus “Drinking rum and coca cola/ Go down to Point Koomahnah/ Both mother and daughter/ Workin’ for the Yankee dollar”). As the performance went on, it became progressively more of a strain for Deleón to keep holding the heavy bag.

The show closed with Ellen O’Meara, not pictured due to technical difficulties (dead camera), who performed two lyrically minimalist songs played with a drum kit and looping, echoing sounds. With this performance, O’Meara claimed she was experimenting with methods of execution she isn’t used to: new technologies, different lyrical approach, and performing solo, which she said she usually does not do.

Cleaning up after Jozi’s performance.

Cleaning up after Jozi’s performance.

“This is part of the piece, by the way,” Matthew Gantt joked as he struggled to set up his equipment, having to move to different spots around the space until he found one close enough to hook his equipment up to the sound system. Though not meant to be taking seriously, there was something interesting in the statement with regards to the show’s theme of intention and intentionality; something interesting in how the event around a performance, the set-up and breaking down of props and equipment, could be understood as being incorporated into the performance itself. There seemed to be a move in many of the pieces to intentionally incorporate things outside the performance proper, to appropriate them or at least bring out an awareness of them. After her video, Ayana Evans presented some of the YouTube comments on her “Operation Cat Suit” videos; during his peformance, Ian Deleón drew a map of his thought process and read a passage from Open Veins of Latin America, one of the source materials for his piece, Matthew Gantt discussed how the approach he took toward his compositions was meant to incorporate all of the logistics of music making, rehearsal, booking gigs, etc. Pictured above is Natasha Jozi, Esther Neff, and some of the show’s attendees helping clean up after Jozi’s performance. Perhaps it the size and intimacy of the space at Panoply Performance Laboratory itself that lends itself to this kind of thinking: without a means to keep these things hidden, to keep the performance separate from its surrounding logistics, there is almost a call to contemplate how these unintentional aspects add something to the overall experience of the performance.

Where: Panoply Performance Laboratory,
104 Meserole Street,
Brooklyn, NY 11206
Contact: Esther Neff