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REST AREA: a collaborative installation

16 Sep

As part of the LA ROAD CONCERTS – Catalysis Projects’ Core Artist Kim Ye and collaborator Christine Wang give CP a sneak peak of their REST AREA project proposal. The project itself will be performed SUNDAY, 9/18/11 from 11am-2pm @ the intersection of Portia & Sunset in Los Angeles.

Abstract
In Los Angeles, where cars are a near necessity and filters many a person’s perception of the world around them, drivers and pedestrians often experience the city completely differently. Often more than just a mode-of-transportation-choice, this split may trace real differences in the social/economic/geographic position between individuals. How can we navigate this difference in a way that can generate a sort of shared experience?

In this experimental installation, we would like to explore options for a public space that unites the comfort and shelter of the car, with the public social space of sidewalks, parks, and bus stops. Through the creation of a temporary shared oasis at the boundary between sidewalk and street, we hope to propose an alternative function for the automobile, while simultaneously modifying the bodily experience of the pedestrian. Through this act we hope to explore how the unit of the automobile may create new relational possibilities for the interaction between human bodies.


Christine Wang & Kim Ye, REST AREA (test), 2011

Installation
Two identical Toyota Sienna minivans are parked directly across the street from each other at either ends of a pedestrian crosswalk. Both side doors are open on the vans, and a ramp runs through the middle of each van; this creates a tunnel that pedestrians must pass through in order to cross the street. As pedestrians pass through the inside of the vans, there will be music, air-conditioning, and refreshments offered to them. They can rest in the back of the van for any amount of time they wish, before proceeding on to their destinations.

Location
This installation was originally conceptualized for the crosswalk at Sunset and Portia in Echo Park, but can work anywhere with significant foot traffic and a crosswalk that can be parked in without obstructing traffic.

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The Life of Objects

9 Aug

NOTES FROM THE STUDIO – Catalysis Projects’ Core Artist Kim Ye gives a sneak peak of her proposed project THE LIFE OF OBJECTS for High Desert Test Sites

Background / Abstract

This project started as an exercise in processing the leftovers of family tradition. In January 2011, I cruised the streets of Los Angeles, picking up curbside Christmas trees in my minivan. Some pick-ups were planned, involving prior communication with the owners. Others were more spontaneous, where I pulled over upon spotting a tree trunk sticking out between a mass of pine needles, sometimes wrapped nefariously in an overgrown plastic bag. All in all, I collected 58 Christmas trees over the course of a month.

I am fascinated by the process by which the Christmas tree falls from preciousness to worthlessness. A symbol that takes its place at the center of family gatherings and acts as such a loaded, often sentimental, representation of religion and relationality is discarded in the same manner as common household waste, dust, and dirt. The trees I rounded-up were completely used up—abandoned unceremoniously by the very family units that had chosen them.

Why does the becoming of a Christmas tree involve such a degree of pomp and circumstance, while its ending is treated with the irreverence of a chore like taking out the trash? Does this say something about a larger tendency to avoid facing the material consequences of our culture’s socially meaningful—but economically and ecologically impactful—traditions? In an effort to confront these questions, I reorganized and modified the trees in stages, giving them a newly collective physical presence.  The first two configurations can be seen below. The third and final configuration is planned for the Wonder Valley desert in the vast stretch of land behind The Palms.

Kim Ye, The Life of Objects (Installation #1), 2011

Kim Ye, The Life of Objects (Installation #2), 2011

Installation / Location

For the desert installation, the trees are coated with strontium aluminate glow-in-the-dark pigment, and then fastened together in an organically chaotic arrangement. This configuration results in an object that is reminiscent of an overgrown radioactive tumbleweed—its size and luminosity confronting and activating the viewer’s body. The placement of the sculpture at The Palms puts it within the range of human contact—fitting since the sculpture’s conglomerated form mirrors the function of the restaurant, which acts as a rhizome that generates social activity and interaction.

As part of the Homestead Act, Wonder Valley has a history of being a site for new beginnings, redefinitions, and unavoidable endings.  Within this uncanny setting that is at once magical and unforgiving, hopeful and terrifying, is it possible for these glowing tree parts to embody the affective motivators that pattern human behavior? To realize the final stage of The Life of Objects in this landscape is to postulate a new function for the material byproducts of networked human relationships.  Perhaps these discarded symbols can act as a beacon that encapsulates the resonant activity inherent in all endings.


Noah Purifoy and the psychology of bricolage

11 Jul

NOTES FROM THE STUDIO – Catalysis Projects’ Core Artist Kim Ye makes a visit to the desert and muses on the psychology of found objects in art.

A couple weeks ago, I ventured out to the Mojave desert with friend/artist Thinh Nguyen for a visit to fellow CP’er Deborah Martin home/studio. While scouting possible locations for a project proposal for High Desert Test Sites we made a visit to the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture. Off a poorly marked dirty road, we pulled up to 2.5 acres of sculptures and installations suggestive of a post-apocalyptic amusement park. Giant monuments, stage sets, and elaborate scenarios fashioned from toilets, old clothing, scrap metal, foam, and other discarded, scavenged, and generally devalued materials haunt the arid landscape; wandering through, between, and into the structures, I had the eerie feeling of being alone in a crowd, as if my body were being displaced by the collective force of a culture’s material products.

In reading about Purifoy’s work, much of its conceptual underpinnings are traced back to Dadaist ideals of assemblage and the readymade, and the folk art aesthetic of using cheap, everyday materials to make works that are tied to the maker’s personal history. Accordingly, much of the discourse surrounding Purifoy contextualizes his work by emphasizing its relationship to natural processes of erosion and decay, its attempt to break free of modernist straight-line aesthetics, the artist’s political choice of using junked and scavenged materials, and his personal history as a African American artist and art educator in Los Angeles.  While all these factors may be relevant to a historical/contextual reading of the work, linking Purifoy’s formal choices to a commentary on inequality and urban blight seems like a neat and easy place to stop—conveniently collapsing the work onto the body of the artist. As an artist working with found and scavenged materials myself, I wonder if a more psychological reading of the bricolage process can be generative for thinking about works like these, allowing meaning to be made without having to rely on Dada or revert to romantic old hat like “art is all around us”.

According to an essay by Anna Dezeuze, the word bricolage was first theorized by anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss in 1962. Referring to a DIY process of making objects out of odds and ends or with quick-n-dirty solutions, bricolage comes from the verb “to tinker” or “to fiddle”—and the figure of the bricoleur can be likened to that of the mad-scientist, amateur, or hobbyist. The term is also used in biology and information technology to talk about structures that are cobbled together or built from the bottom up, such as biological organisms and strategic information systems. Like Levi R. Bryan I believe that bricolage is a type of methodology, a model of engagement with the world, rather than a formal category within the visual arts. The idea of using pre-existing materials acquired through collecting and scavenging mirrors for me a kind of mental process which depends on, glens from, and recombines (both consciously and unconsciously) information disseminated via cultural memes and direct interpersonal contact. It is an acknowledgement of the real material constraints that shape our desires, and behaviors.

In an era of increasingly dematerialized art practices, it may seem regressive to use the discarded remnants of corporate, mass-produced materials. Perhaps such a material-based practice can be read as being complicit with the structures of advanced capitalism, producing beauty out of its products even as they no longer serve their original function. Or even more cynically, that the artist–through an act of diversion–is literally turning trash into gold, aligning him/herself with the position of the industrialist.

But something doesn’t feel right about this reading. Not only does it give no consideration to the experience or position of the scavenger, but it also denies the existence of any imprint that previous owners leave on the object in question after it leaves the factory. As in the case of many scavenged items, there is a long period of time after its original purchase that it slips out of the commodity state and becomes a physical component of a person or family’s life. It functions as a domestic object, fulfilling a need or desire for the home in which it resides, but at some point, it no longer fulfills the desires, or somehow fails to contain the needs or expectations placed upon it by its owner, and is cast off into the street, where someone like me picks it up.

It is this string of desire/non-desire, and the evolution from preciousness to worthlessness that I find most interesting about the role of found objects in my current practice.  In a sense, objects are abandoned when there is the sense that no one can project onto it, that it is so used up and broken that it is impossible for anyone to identify with it at that point. The item is not taken to a donation center or even a junkyard, it is simply left outside—as if an immediate split had occurred which quarantined it from the rest of the home. I find something deeply psychologically compelling about this exchange of abandonment and salvage—almost as if one person’s shame corresponded perfectly with another’s fetish. In this way, the process of re-appropriating found materials is not about chance, it is about the negotiation of individual fantasy within shared material landscapes.

    Kim Ye, Gold Digging, 2011

Kim Ye, Surrogacy, 2011

The Ultimate Match

7 Jun

New Work by CP visual artist Kim Ye in collaboration with director Jeff Jenkins

What are the ideological underpinnings that govern romantic attraction and partner selection, and who is in the position to influence such personal preferences? In The Ultimate Match, a collaborative project between commercial director Jeff Jenkins of ContagiousLA and myself, we attempt to prod at this question with a 60-second satirical commercial. Some of the issues we were thinking about during the creation of this video include the redirection of personal desire,  construction of “the power couple”, Asian fetish, whiteness, eugenics, fetishism, politics of reproduction, implicit vs. explicit, and the economics of pairing.

The Ultimate Match from kim ye on Vimeo.

REVIEW: Microtextual at the Microfest 2011 concert series

5 Jun

MicroTextual

Catalysis Projects

April 16, 2011

MiMoDa Studio, Los Angeles

Review by CP composer Veronika Krausas

One of my favorite things is bilingual poetry books – English on the right side and the original on the left.  Sometimes it’s a foreign language I understand but often not. Still, it makes me feel a little bit like a traveler to an exotic place – comparing the alternate versions.  It feels like a magical and secret world that is private and I’m opening up a little cabinet of wonders to enjoy and watch sparkle. 

CP’s MicroTextual, curated by Aron Kallay, for me was just like that – a land of wonder, from the moment you walked into MiMoDa.  The space was transformed to an art exhibit with soft lighting and mysterious scrolls hanging from the ceiling and paper-origami-poof lamps  (my term) and a super cool vibe.  This concert featured many of the Catalysis Projects artists and what a collection of creativity and performances it was.

The reason I bring up bilingual poetry books is that the work of Quintan Wikswo is a 3-D version but so much more.   Her ‘cabinet of wonders’ included two wonderful works combining her texts with sublimely beautiful video footage.  They’re from her Floriography collection:  Floriography I (Coimbra 1541) and Floriography II (Bavaria 1543).  Her term is a “diptych of text-integrated video installation.”  

Wikswo "Floriography"

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the back wall, in amongst the mostly red images floated text, in English, while Rafael Liebich read, as an echo, the same text in Portuguese, with trombonist Matt Barbier playing a microtonal composition by David Rosenboom.  In the second work, the texts were read in Hebrew to a soundscape of flies and frogs.  These pieces were a visual realization of bilingual poetry books.

Wikswo: FLORIOGRAPHY II: COIMBRA 1453

Starting the program was the amazing Honey, Milk and Blood, a collaboration by composer Isaac Schankler and visual artist Kim Ye, inspired by the ideas of Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla.  The scrolls were explained – they were functional art!  It was the score for the dozen singers, dressed in off-white flowing clothes.  The soprano soloist Andrea Zomorodian was herself a sculpture, a kinetic sculptures by Ye, a mermaid plant with a long root carried out by her attendants.  LOVED the music, LOVED the kinetic sculptures – it was the first sparkle opening up the cabinet of wonders.

Schankler/Ye: HONEY, MILK AND BLOOD

And what microtonal concert would be complete without some quintessential Harry Partch, the grandfather of American microtonal music?  The Barstow:  Eight Hitchhikers’ Inscriptions by Partch was brilliantly performed by baritone and guitarist John Schneider, one of the co-directors of the Microfest series this year and Aron Kallay on chromelodeon.  

The second half of the concert started with a minimal and very serene work by Cat Lamb, The Field (for Agnes)There was a world premiere by Jeffrey Holmes, Fragments for soprano and piano.  The vocal line is more of a chant or what Holmes calls “a spell” in a series of images that use text from a variety of anonymous Latin sources. It was a Teutonic saga full of rich harmonies and virtuoso piano writing.  The virtuoso piano part was expertly performed by CP member and organizer of the whole evening pianist Aron Kallay

Holmes: Fragments

The most amazing thing about this piece was visual and completely accidental. I just happened to be lucky enough to be sitting in the exact spot to notice – Katherine Giaquinto, the singer was standing in a spot that when I looked in the mirror on the opposite wall, her body was replaced by the reflection of one of those paper-origami-poof lamps.  This alternate body was like another sculpture by Kim Ye and added to the chant-like Latin text’s magical and removed quality.

The concert concluded with Luminenscence, a gorgeous work by this year’s other co-director of Microfest, Bill Alves.  In his program notes Alves writes:

… an oton [is] a ritual that is performed 210 days after the birth of a child when the baby’s feet touch the earth for the first time. Before that time she is considered still too close to the realm of the gods to be allowed to touch the ground. The only music at this ceremony came from the chanting of the officiating priest and the small bell whose sounds he wafted to the fascinated baby’s ears.  Those chants, or mantra, are … a way of tuning oneself to the vibrations of the universe. These are in a very real sense the sounds of the transition from the celestial to the terrestrial world.

The singers now changed from white to black – from light to dark – balancing the visual and aural in the concert, touching the audience’s feet to the ground.  The whole evening was a wonderfully surreal and dreamlike experience.

PS

If you, like me, love bilingual poetry books – definitely check out The Madness of Amadis by Jean Cassou, translated by Timothy Adès  (Agenda Editions).  Cassou (1897-1986), was a war-time Resistance leader, created France’s National Museum of Modern Art, and a poet!  It’s wonderful poetry and a brilliant and sensitive translation.

PS #2

The concert was part of the Microfest Concert series that started in LA in by the fabulous John Schneider in 1997.  www.microfest.org

MicroTextual Musings: Isaac Schankler Interview

11 Apr

In the last of our interviews leading up to the April 16 MicroFest event, composer/performer Isaac Schankler talks about the composer as abacus, the omnipresent 60Hz hum, and science fiction eeriness.

MicroTextual will premiere Isaac’s piece Honey, Milk and Blood, with soprano Andrea Zomorodian and conductor Troy Quinn.  Here are the particulars:

MicroTextual:  music with words | words without music
Saturday April 16 | 8:00pm
MIMODA STUDIO
5772 W. Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
Enter though Paper or Plastik Cafe
$15/10 online or at the door
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND BUY TICKETS:
www.catalysisprojects.com/microtextual.html

CP-Text can be understood as a code – a symbolic mark-making that some others can “read,”  but yet completely unintelligible to people not fluent in that language.  How important is it to you whether your “text” conveys a comprehensible meaning or communication to your audiences?

IS-Honey, Milk and Blood incorporates a text by Jillian Burcar, a wonderful writer who I’ve collaborated with a few times now.  It’s inspired by an old interview with the inventor Nikola Tesla, who had these radical predictions for the future, including this notion that society would become matriarchal and have this hive-like collective organization.  Jillian’s text is, in a way, a depiction of this society, but what’s great about it is that it’s this very open-ended and free-flowing amalgam of scientific language, poetic symbolism and almost violent imagery, so you can focus in on different aspects of it and come away with very different impressions or conclusions.

I’m drawn to things like that, where things seem to be on the cusp of a comprehensible meaning without ever fully resolving, and it’s something I think music can do really well.  We tend to think of music as emotional or expressive medium, but these emotional associations can vary a great deal from person to person or from culture to culture.  I think in the 20th century there was a lot of skepticism of this and so you see movements to make music totally abstract, to make it some analog or elucidation of a mathematical or objective process, in everything from serialism to minimalism.  But if you rigorously adhere to that process something is lost — you’re not operating as an artist but some kind of glorified abacus.  So for me at least, the process becomes some kind of negotiation between abstraction and expression, and the inevitable imperfections that result are what gives music its beauty and meaning.

CP-Why do you choose to compose in a microtonal language?

IS-I don’t always compose in an explicitly microtonal language, but when I do I’d say it’s largely driven by my background in electronic and electroacoustic music.  When working with electronics it’s really trivial to produce any frequency you want, and if you do any kind of electronic analysis it’s impossible not to notice that all music is inherently microtonal, in a sense.  Almost every sound is made up of harmonics that don’t fit in the equal tempered scale.

The kind of microtonality explored in Honey, Milk and Blood came out of some research I was doing for Light and Power, a chamber opera about Nikola Tesla commissioned by Juventas New Music Ensemble that Jillian wrote the libretto for.  I found out that Tesla was directly responsible for making 60Hz the operating frequency of alternating current throughout North America.  So this low 60Hz hum you hear everywhere, coming off power lines, appliances, stereos, florescent lights… it’s all Tesla’s fault.  It’s normally an unwanted sound, a sound you want to try to weed out or minimize, but I thought it would be interesting to use as a foundation instead.  It’s an especially troublesome sound because it doesn’t fit in our equal tempered tuning system — it’s almost exactly halfway between a low B and B-flat.  So I built a kind of ad hoc microtonal scale based on harmonics of 60Hz and harmonics of 49Hz (basically a low G).  For me this scale became a kind of link between our world and the world of Tesla, and there are some mesmerizing sonorities that came out of that.  There’s not really any grand scheme or theory behind it, though — it arose from the needs of the piece, and the next microtonal piece I write may have a completely different approach.

CP-The term microtonality is generally applied only to music that uses a tuning system other than twelve-tone equal-temperament.  However, we believe that, because microtonality breaks down one of the fundamental building blocks of western music (the tyranny of the twelve), it is a term that can be applied to other disciplines of artmaking.  Do you see microtonality in your, or other, fields?

IS-Well, one thing that’s exciting about microtonality is how it can break down our most fundamental ideas about what music is or how it’s constructed, and how it challenges us to build something new from scratch, from the ground up.  I think one of the things that drew me to Kim Ye’s work, and made me want to collaborate with her, is that she seems to be doing something similar in the physical world, breaking down these concepts of how our bodies are constructed or what our relationship is to our bodies.  Not to mention how Jillian’s text breaks down language, how we write and speak, and how Tesla’s ideas poke at how civilization is put together.  It just all seemed like a natural fit.  Plus there is, I have to admit, a common thread of science fiction eeriness that links them.

MicroTextual Musings: Kim Ye Interview

24 Mar

Continuing in our series of interviews leading up to Catalysis Projects’ MicroFest event on April 16, interdisciplinary artist Kim Ye weighs in on embedded text, relating to the public on a bodily level, and the ambiguity of trans-disciplinary collaboration.

Kim is creating performative sculpture for composer Isaac Schankler’s new work for soprano, women’s chorus and electronics, Honey, Milk and Blood.  Here are the particulars:

MicroTextual:  music with words | words without music
Saturday April 16 | 8:00pm
MIMODA STUDIO
5772 W. Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
Enter though Paper or Plastik Cafe
$15/10 online or at the door
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND BUY TICKETS:
www.catalysisprojects.com/microtextual.html

CP-Language can be defined as a system of symbols that convey meaning. In your artistic practice, how do you convey meaning? In what way do you use your medium to create your own language?

KY-In the visual arts, I think many of us read objects and images as texts. We try to find meaning in the piece by decoding, or trying to decode, the symbolism of its components, production process, and its emotional affect on us. In group crit situations, there is this attempt to withhold judgment, to suspend your knowledge of what you like or dislike, in order to give the object a chance to speak.  But because there are so many layers of text potentially embedded in one object, the meaning of the work—what the piece says—is really dependent on what language you listen for.

In my work, the intention is not to inject a specific meaning into a piece for the audience to extract later and then either “get it” or not. More and more, I’m approaching what I make in terms of creating an ambiguous, maybe amoral, force—something that might be meaningless in itself, but forces people to project onto in order to make sense happen.  By asking people to make choices, maybe I’m asking them to identify what language they are listening for…

CP-Text can be understood as a code – a symbolic mark-making that some others can “read,”  but yet completely unintelligible to people not fluent in that language.  How important is it to you whether your “text” conveys a comprehensible meaning or communication to your audiences?

KY-I think the question of “who is your audience?” is an important one. The fact that work can perform boundary-work, which creates a group of insiders who speak the language vs. outsiders, who don’t, is really fascinating and problematic to me.  I think my current m.o. is to make sculptures, to make work in general, that can be interpreted through and float between various bodies of knowledge.

There is always an affective component to any work I make, which tries to relate to the public on a bodily or emotive level. I think that I gravitate towards this type of communication because it kind of operates as the “unknown known”—like the things that drive us to sleep, to eat, to learn, to buy, to perform, to like or dislike certain people, to be attracted to someone, are all things that operate underneath the surface. Our moods, associations, fears, and compulsions determine our practices, but are not really beliefs. This is an area that everyone has experience in, but in completely idiosyncratic ways…so instead of trying to force someone to have a conversation with me, maybe I am suggesting that he should have one with himself.

CP-How does your work on the April 16 concert find the small spaces between the keys or between the words.

KY-On a very basic level, Honey, Milk and Blood is a sculpture-based performance embedded in a microtonal oratorio of sorts. In a way, the collaboration between Isaac and myself involves exploring the space between positions; the work we are presenting is not a musical performance in a concert venue, nor is it a performance in the white-cube, art gallery way either. So what are our roles? Am I a set designer, or costume provider for his composition? Or is he a sound provider for my installation?

The emphasis changes depending on how the project is framed. The ambiguity of trans-disciplinary collaboration is pretty powerful and still mysterious even though there are plenty of practical and political implications latent within it.

CP-Here at Catalysis Projects, we believe that the collaborative process can lead us in new, exciting, and sometimes unexpected directions.  Have you ever had a collaborative experience that led you to results you didn’t expect?

KY-Well I collaborated with Jeff Jenkins, who directs commercials normally, in the making of the Gastro Porno video. My original idea was that it was going to be a straightforward documentation of a performance where I would eat unfamiliar/nasty-looking food sensuously. In my mind it would be cut together fairly randomly switching back and forth between the different foods. Jeff comes in and is like “Where’s the story? You gotta have a story…otherwise who cares?!” and after some grumbling on my part, I’m like “Ok, well let’s do it then.” So the video ends up being a music video with a cover of Britney Spear’s Toxic as the song!

The final result was way more commercial, but probably much more compelling, than what I would have churned out on my own. (You can see the final version on the homepage of www.kimye.com)

Kim is creating performative sculpture for composer Isaac Schankler’s new work for soprano, women’s chorus and electronics, Honey, Milk and Blood.  Here are the particulars:

MicroTextual:  music with words | words without music
Saturday April 16 | 8:00pm
MIMODA STUDIO
5772 W. Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
Enter though Paper or Plastik Cafe
$15/10 online or at the door
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND BUY TICKETS:
www.catalysisprojects.com/microtextual.html

Artists and Escorts: Kim Ye’s Notes from the Studio

3 Mar

NOTES FROM THE STUDIO
This week your friends at Catalysis Projects introduce the second in our series of new columns – brief notes  from the “lost and found” desks of our Core and Resident Artists. In these posts, our artists offer a glimpse into one of their interdisciplinary, collaborative projects, including artifacts from the flotsam and jetsum that litter their creative spaces. This week our Core Artist Kim Ye’s asks whether ARTISTS and SEX-WORKERS hold parallel positions in our current economy?

Below is an excerpt from a discussion I’ve sent to Miwon Kwon as a project proposal. The writing that would result from this line of exploration would be for a seminar called Exchange Rate in which the changing economics of dematerialized art is addressed:

I’m interested in exploring parallels between the artist’s position as a service provider and an escort or sex worker’s position as a service provider. Specifically, I have Andrea Fraser’s Untitled and Art Out Artist Escort Service in mind. In both cases, the artist is taking part in the experience economy, but the experience is of the artist’s body and/or subjectivity. What is the nature of this exchange? What does the client/guest receive and what does the artist receive in this encounter both materially and symbolically?

I was thinking about the interview you did with Andrea wherein she states that while she does have moral dilemmas in regards to selling art work, she does not have any in regards to sex work. In addition, she mentioned that her intimate relationships have helped sustain her financially over the years. While Untitled subverts the client/escort relationship in certain ways, I am thinking about how analysis of artistic practices can be applied to the practices of high-end escorts and vice versa. My hope is that through this comparison, I can answer (or begin to answer) the question of  “What is the nature of–or what is behind–the economic value being added in the experience economy?”

I would start by stating the following:

Sex work in the United States is becoming increasingly professionalized and entered into as a voluntary career path. With this shift, highly-paid escorts start to embody members of Veblen’s cultured class; their clients expect to receive not only a physcial/sexual encounter, but also a “girlfriend experience”–the consumption therefore becomes that of the escort’s subjectivity, and not only of her body. I would argue that this shift from service to experience-production of the sex worker parallels the shifting position of the artist.

Artout (and other works like Andrea’s Untitled, Abramovich’s The Artist is Present, and others?) exchanges the client’s economic contribution and bodily involvement for the opportunity to “experience the artist” both physically in real time/space as a companion for an activity, and psychically/symbolically as a form of cultural capital which augments one’s social position.

What is it that the client is getting out of this type of “intimate” encounter that allows him to pay $250/hour for an artist’s companionship? Perhaps here is where we can draw additional vectors that connect the artist to the sex worker.

On the other hand, it might be interesting to ask what position within the experiential economy do artists occupy? Up to here, I’ve assumed that artists are the producers of the experience, and viewers/participants the consumers. But, in acts of condensation, aren’t artists also transforming the experiences they have consumed (art school, for one) or delineated for themselves (I’m thinking of Helen Molesworth’s mention of Process Art) into art objects? So, in this way, for certain artists, their capital is in their body experiences. Again I find myself thinking of Abramovich (especially in her performances with Ulay), where the strength and intensity of the work is located within the artist’s actual experience.

Perhaps this last section gets a little murky/tangential and perhaps there is a more contemporary practice I can reference there (Francis Alys’ melting ice block perhaps?), but I think there is potential in using sex work as a frame for analyzing contemporary experiential art practices.

Video still from Andrea Fraser's Untitled

For further reading:

Dirty Money on CNBC.com: http://www.cnbc.com/id/26869953

Andrea Fraser’s “What do I, as an artist, provide?”
http://www.kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu/exhibitions/2350

Confessions of a Client: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/27651436/ns/today-today_people/

Newest Work @ UCLA MFA Open Studios

25 Nov

Please see new work (including Kim Ye’s new piece that “annihilates discourse”) at the UCLA Graduate Open Studios in Culver City on December 4th! Studios are open from 6:00pm-9:00pm. Need a map?

Not Just Garbage: What do I know about art and service?

5 Oct

Musings by Kim Ye

As some of you may know, I’ve recently started the MFA program at UCLA. The following short article is basically me public processing issues touched on in my discussion group last night…

In 1969, Mierle Laderman Ukeles wrote the Manifesto for Maintenance Art in which she framed everyday chores as performance art pieces. This document drew attention to the fact that certain actions are given cultural and economic value, while others are not. Artists Richard Serra (steel worker) and Donald Judd (carpenter) represent the laborer removed from his cultural context. Their actions recontextualized in the art world appreciated in value in comparison to their blue-collared counterparts who actually refined the processes the artists employed.

What this implies is that those involved/invested in this sector of high culture find value in the development and progress of work that falls under their umbrella. Changing what art means, what art does, what art looks like is valuable. However, the impact of these changes on the culture at large—how it affects the layman—remains largely unexamined or unaddressed. Perhaps lacking is an appreciation for the basic structures that support and make possible the existence of art institutions. Garbage collectors, construction workers, road workers, postmasters, and security guards all play a role in facilitating the day-to-day functioning of museums, galleries, and other art spaces.

So, if the non-traditional actions that artists are employing to create their work—doing chores, providing shelter, giving away food—already exist in contexts that are outside of art, what is the value in bringing these activities into an art context?

Some possible answers:

1.     Artists are attempting to widen the role and responsibility of art so that they can leverage the (often substantial) money and resources within the art world in order to bring tangible benefits to society at large.

2.     In changing the definition of art, artists are hoping to create a trickle-down effect.  Art becomes experience, the dynamics of relationships (relational aesthetics) instead of an item to be purchased or owned. If art is perceived as an experience, then perhaps it is implied that each person is the architect of the experiences of those around her. This may lead people to act in ways that are more conscientious, creative, or progressive.

3.     Art is able to bypass the bureaucratic and legal limitations put on social service groups.  In this way, the artist can have an immediate effect on her environment and create a testing ground for possible solutions to social problems. If the role of the artist is to show what is possible, then this model for art-making fills the gap between theory and programming.

Finally, one last series of questions:

How do we evaluate the success of these service/art pieces? Do we evaluate them by their social effectiveness, or in an art context? Should both be considered, or should some new measure of success be created?