Saturday, September 26, 2009

Art When Museum and Curator Index it as Such

THE LIMITS OF LICENCE AT SAM: Artist-cum-security-guard Amanda Mae has caused a stir in Seattle after she pushed the limits of a participatory Yoko Ono piece at theSeattle Art Museum (SAM). Ono’s seminalPainting to Hammer a Nail is a small panel with a hammer hanging next to it, and a wall label that encourages visitors to "pound a nail into this painting" (the very artwork that, according to legend, brought Ono and John Lennon together). Hammer a Nail is featured in "Target Practice: Painting Under Attack 1949-78," June 25-Sept. 7, 2009, an exhibition that showcases works that "deconstruct painting in order to usher in a new way of thinking" -- though, apparently, this new way of thinking has some strict limits of its own.

Let me see if I've got this right; Yoko Ono and the museum grant the museum visitor the privilege of nailing a piece of paper next to the work on the wall, but not to allow a different artist to remove the papers and place them on the floor neatly with the stated intent of archiving scraps. So, one performance artist cannot "undo" or alter the work of another performance piece, that's where the sacredness of the "object" is encountered.

At SAM, someone had the idea -- whether it was a museum official or a member of the public is disputed -- of using the license granted by Ono’s work to nail a piece of paper to the museum wall next to it. In short order, the piece was surrounded by a dense ring of announcements, receipts, business cards and other detritus that visitors had posted, all under the museum’s approving gaze. Informed about the paper-hanging, Ono stipulated that it was acceptable as long as the scraps were preserved as part of the work, and returned with it.

On Aug. 20, Mae -- who in addition to working at SAM, also makes performance-based photo art, and is about to start a graduate program in museum studies at the University of Washington, according to Stranger art critic Jen Graves -- decided to take things a step further. She set up in front of the work and began to remove all of the pieces of paper, categorizing them in neat piles for archiving. Mae dubbed her own performance Yoko Ono Excavation Survey, or Y.E.S. After a half hour, SAM curator Michael Darling arrived, and ordered Mae to halt. The next day, she was fired.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blackbird. . .

[caption id="attachment_215" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Drawing by Nancy Charak, 2009, "Blackbird," 30"x44", pencil, prismacolor, oil wash on 90# white Stonehenge."]Shipwrecked on an Unknown Shore, pencil, prismacolor, oil wash on 90# white Stonehenge, 2009[/caption]


(A Riff on a Wallace Stevens’ Poem)

Because it was dark

all afternoon, because

it was snowing and

would continue to

snow, the Muse

decided she wanted

to be a blackbird,

wanted to sit in the

cedar-limbs, look

across the great

white vastness that

is her.

Here she is in a field

of white snow. She

has always been a


Look how beautiful

she is in her coat of

black feathers. She

could be a tarred

angel hanging from

a tree branch, could

be a rotting corpse

with a lolled tongue.

Cut her down! She

will fly up again,

become a magnolia

blossom stunned by

a snow storm.

She will smell of

death and burnt

feathers then, but

is she not beautiful?

She is like an icon

of the beloved black

Virgin Mary. Don’t

put a gold frame around

her. Set her free.

Poem by Jenene Ravesloot