Tag Archives: notes from the studio

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

3 Mar

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?”

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


The Salton Sea History Museum

17 Feb

by Deborah Martin

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 features our Core Artist Deborah Martin, who works in photography and painting.

I’m immersed in producing an inaugural exhibition for the Salton Sea History Museum. The Museum is located inside the newly renovated Historical North Shore Beach & Yacht Club. If your first reaction is whut? That was my initial reaction too. The last time I visited there were a whole lot of pigeons held up inside there. Here’s an image of the North Shore Yacht Club back in the day.

The building was designed by famed mid-century architect Albert Frey.

Jennie Kelly, Director of the Salton Sea History Museum and Commissioner with the Riverside County Historical Commission, began her journey into ‘history’ with a heroic effort to save the threatened Rancho Dos Palmas in North Shore. During that intense two-year effort, Kelly requested and received cooperation from then Riverside County Supervisor, Roy Wilson.

Through this collaboration, space for a museum was offered to Kelly in the renovated Albert Frey-designed North Shore Beach & Yacht Club. Although Kelly received small grants from Supervisors Benoit & Ashley and the Imperial Irrigation District to get the museum open, it remains otherwise self-funded through memberships and sales.

The inaugural exhibition: Valley of the Ancient Lake: Works Inspired by the Salton Sea is curated by Deborah Martin with Historical works and Memorabilia by Jennie Kelly.

The Exhibit runs April 1-30, 2011 with a reception on April 3, 3-7pm. For those of you who are open for an adventure and a drive out to the Salton Sea, I hope you will Join us!

The Museum is open daily 10-4pm Closed Wednesdays & Thursdays.

Catalysis Projects is publishing a catalog for the exhibition with text by Ann Japenga. Ann is a Palm Springs writer specializing in stories about the California deserts and the West. As a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, she developed a love for tales tied to the Western landscape. After moving to Palm Springs more than a decade ago, she zeroed in on “deserata”–the natural and human history of the California deserts from the San Gorgonio Pass to the Colorado River.

Here is the list of Artist’s with a preview of  some of the work I have chosen for the exhibition and catalog.


Joan Myers’ photographs span the last quarter of the twentieth century and several locales. She is known for her platinum-palladium prints, a hand-coating process where the image becomes part of the drawing paper on which it is printed. Myers’ work is in the Museum of Modern Art, the Center for Creative Photography, the George Eastman House, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Myers is the photographer of Salt Dreams: Land and Water in Low-Down California, written by William deBuys Winner of the 1999 Western States Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and the William P. Clements Prize for the Best Non-Fiction Book on Southwestern America.

Above Image: Joan Myers Salton Sea Building,  19″x15″, platinum-palladium print with watercolor. Edition of 12 with 3 artist’s proofs

A photographer and historian, Christopher Landis combines art and historic documentation in his visual record of the Salton Sea, begun in 1990. Landis’ dramatic Iris prints focus not on the human presence at the Sea but on the human relics in this desert landscape. The marks left by humans bear testimony to their dreams, enterprise, folly, greed, and that perennial battle for control of the environment. Christopher is the author and photographer of In Search for Eldorado: The Salton Sea published by the Palm Springs Desert Museum in 2007.

Image Left: Christopher Landis, Salton Bay Yacht Club, 1990.

Kim Stringfellow’s projects have been commissioned and funded by leading organizations including the California Council for the Humanities, Creative Work Fund, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and the Seattle Arts Commission. Her work has been exhibited at the International Center for Photography, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions among others.

Her photographs are included in the permanent collection at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno and the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse in Miami. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, SF Camerawork Quarterly, Sculpture, Photo Metro, Leonardo, and Artweek.

Her first book, Greetings from the Salton Sea: Folly and Intervention in the Southern California Landscape, 1905–2005 was published by the Center for American Places in 2005. The website for Greetings from the Salton Sea was featured in Ecotopia: The Second ICP Triennial of Photography and Video in New York City in 2006/07.

Above Image: Kim Stringfellow, Abandoned Trailer, Bombay Beach, CA, 2000, 38″ x 30.5″ Lightjet digital c-print, edition of 10 prints.

I shot a Polaroid in 2006 of the Yacht Club when it had Aces & Spades painted on the outside of it from a previous film shoot. At the time I had no idea this was once a popular Yacht Club. I thought perhaps it had been a bar. Here is an image of the painting I created to document this building. Above Image: Deborah Martin Aces & Spades, Oil on Canvas, 36 x 36″ (2009) The North Shore beach & Yacht Club as it appeared in 2006.

Lying in a Ditch on a Stormy Day: Quintan Ana Wikswo’s Notes from the Studio

10 Feb

by Quintan Ana Wikswo

This NOTES FROM THE STUDIO column features CP Core Artist Quintan Ana Wikswo, who creates work in text, photography, video, installation and performance.  Visit her work online here and here.

When I was a teenager, some fortuitous creature slid me a copy of Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.”

Since then, I’ve been mesmerized by the indefatigable pursuit for a practical space for private creation and cogitation, with a door that locks. My first studio was the lower limb of an apple tree – when I got older and heavier I graduated to a maple tree – then a steamer trunk, a closet, a semi-abandoned sweatshop, my lap, the bathtub, the kitchen table.

A studio is a great place for scraps.  It’s like the manure pile of art: mostly shit, but very rich in nutrients.

Nowadays my studio is located on an upper floor in a 1920s building in downtown Los Angeles, with huge chickenwired windows peeking into the bleached out well of a courtyard. I have always considered chickens to be my muses, and perhaps it is the chicken wire windows that draws me into this vista with fantasies of transcendence.

My view is all soot stains and articulated smog, the cool hues of concrete and charcoal asphalt, and a monochrome obstructed light. All the chemicals are in flux: every visible surface is oxidizing, peeling, rusting, dissolving. Somehow, I find this galvanic activity very exciting.

It’s because of Virginia. Her command for studio is unconventional:

“Lying in a ditch on a stormy day, when it has been raining, then enormous clouds come marching over the sky, tattered clouds, wisps of cloud. What delights me then is the confusion, the height, the indifference and the fury. Great clouds always changing, and movement; something sulphurous and sinister, bowled up, helter-skelter; towering, trailing, broken off, lost, and I forgotten, minute, in a ditch.”

Required qualities in a studio: confusion. Height. Fury and indifference. Great clouds ever-changing. The smell of sulphur. Everything sinister and lost. Broken off. Bowled up.

And I forgotten. Perhaps that is the most important part – the humility of beginning with scraps and growing shoots from the muck.

Next to me on my workdesk today is a glorious bit of deliciousness sent my way from a musician friend. It’s a rejection letter sent to Gertrude Stein by a publisher.

I think it’s very much appropriate this week, when VIDA released its new report about the shameful, bigoted disparities in “the publishing world” between female and male writers. As the Guardian writes, “The gender imbalance at the heart of the British and American literary establishment has been laid bare by a new study confirming that leading literary magazines focus their review coverage on books written by men, and commission more men than women to write about them.”

In essence, women are writing, but their work is not seeing the light of day in major magazines, including Tin House, where my own work has been published. Then again, many people think the name Quintan could only be attached to a man.

One argument – made by a rather smug and odious editor Peter Stothard of the Times Literary Supplement, suggested that women don’t read and furthermore don’t know how to read quality literature, so why allow them to review quality books?

I offer him a sulphurous and sinister “screw you.”

Guardian books editor Claire Armitstead writes: “My own feeling is that there is an issue of confidence among women writers.” Hm.

So must we believe that women don’t submit our work to publishers, but rather keep it locked away in our hope chests with our tampons, barbie dolls and cooking aprons?

These are hardly credible alibis in any editor’s quest for misanthropic absolution – publishing is still a segregated industry, with women writers consigned to women readers, and the male writer deemed best at representing the literary expression of humanity.

But as long as we’re on the topic, it’s important to “submit” work. Without being submissive. Gertrude Stein didn’t get where she got by listening to fools like Arthur C. Fifield, whose role in advancing literature is surely as pathetic as the creature at the Times Literary Supplement.

Shortly after I read A Room of One’s Own, someone gave me Alice Walker’s retort, with her call for all women (not only wealthy white women) to have studio space. Today is her birthday, and her consistent efforts to get all women to the table is especially resonant.

Let’s have all the chickens in studios.

From within the fury and bowled up sulphurous confusion of the studio, it’s good to be forgotten, but only while mucking around in the manure pile. Afterwards, let’s send all the chickens out into the street, squawking.

I love the ridicule of this rejection letter, sent in derisive rebuke of Ms. Stein, who shouted her poems into the streets of Paris unabashed, furious and sinister and helter-skelter. And look where it propelled us.

Studios should be locked and then unlocked. When the work is done, send it out, ladies and gentlemen.

Send those chickens out beyond the wire and let them spread their icky little feathers everywhere.

And to catch up on the hoo-hah about the VIDA report, check out these articles: