UCR Thesis Exhibition: A Predominance of Bockelman (w/4-23 update)

Hello friends,

Having yesterday begun posting images from the UCR MFA Thesis Exhibition only to veer radically into a discussion of my own practice, and indeed having then hijacked the entire post to announce my recent addition to the American work-less class; I shall now continue my path toward ever greater exposure of the arts.

Riverside, here we come.

Embarrassing thing to admit: I do not have any titles for this work. I failed to pick up a works list. I am one sad puppy.

I shall gather the needed informations sirs / madams and inload to blog them you asap.

Sweeney Art Gallery, UCR MFA Thesis exhibition, work by Nathan Bockelman and David Gilbert.

Sweeney Art Gallery, UCR MFA Thesis exhibition, work by Nathan Bockelman and David Gilbert.

Work by Nathan Bockelman

Work by Nathan Bockelman

Work by Nathan Bockelman on the left and Cameron Crone on the right.

Work by Nathan Bockelman on the left and Cameron Crone on the right.

Seeing a Nathan Bockelman photo thru a Nathan Bockelman sculpture.

Seeing a Nathan Bockelman photo thru a Nathan Bockelman sculpture.

Nathan Bockelman photo. Sorry about the picture quality, I still prefer my old Samsung phone to my new I-phone for photos.

Nathan Bockelman photo. Sorry about the picture quality, I still prefer my old Samsung phone to my new I-phone for photos.

Portion of Bockelman sculpture.

Portion of Bockelman sculpture.

I guess you can see I was all over Nathan’s work on Saturday. We saw Bockelman perform in “So Funny It Hurts” a few weeks ago at LACE and I will tell you his performance was a… singular experience for me. As in, “Whaaaaa?” My usual strategy in such situations is to start thinking in capital letters: This Is Performance Art. He Is Symbolizing Some Thing At Me. I Smell Dialectic And Ennui. Oh, A Stance. Dry.

I know myself well enough to understand that if I wait long enough I’ll relax and let the artist move me gently out of my own head. And into, well – this is what is to be determined during the intercourse of performance. (Um, yes “intercourse” is an official NoL term for the exchange of information that occurs during a performance.)

I wish that I were able to describe what happened in great detail, but it was too long ago and I can’t find images online. What stayed with me? A guitar (electric); the artist’s request for a guitar pick (of the audience? a rhetorical request? was this somatic poetry?); a pair of blue jeans on the floor; fetching red tights (yeah, I know…); a microphone stand; I think that there was black fabric tacked to the wall; I recall the artist visually measuring said wall as if he was considering a body-hurl at it (he may have leaped, leading with one foot – I can’t recall); at some point the artist makes a demand:”I need someone to put fake blood in their eyes and stand there! (pointing); repeat; repeat with added emphasis; again; (at this moment I considered volunteering but felt that would be some sort of odd insertion and not the point); suddenly a young wild-eyed unruly haired gentleman stood and approached the artist and volunteered. Given a water bottle filled with red liquid this young gentleman removed his eye glasses, leaned his head back against the wall and… poured. (update August 20, 2011) This admirable young gentleman is Jared Baxter.

And, and, and, Baxter stole the show. Jared-from-LACE was a character out of “Ciao! Manhattan,” a sort of mash up of Edie Sedgwick’s drugged-out/too-much-history train wreck and the film’s twangy-naif narrator. As I think back now, the dude stood there quite a while, and much of what Nathan did in my description followed his action.

The thing is, Bockelman presented us with dilemmas: in whom do we place our trust? Where is any guidance? Do we trust any of the artist’s requests, or none of them? Why choose? Is our behavior conditional – if we offer up a victim then must Bockelman deal with it? If I question the veracity of his requests, may I question the fact of his performance? I mean, is he performing or…. defying us to makes sense of  incoherence? And what is the song on the guitar? Does it have personal significance? Might knowledge of the title clue me in? What is the artist thinking, while I stand here wondering what he’s thinking?

Why is this all making me so uncomfortable and physically self-aware? My mind is racing to fill in gaps that weren’t present prior to this performance, um – Nathan Bockelman’s performance created a void that I rush to fill.

Huh. That’s a stumper. That’s a way to fuck me up and set me down to thinking. Way to go man, make me want more.

The above was posted on April 19, 2011. It is now April 23, 2011.

Having never talked with Nathan Bockelman is something of a hindrance for me, I have difficulty walking blindly into a show and finding my way. A couple of things do come to mind, these four days on in my thinking and looking at images again: I think I see that Bockelman’s practice as a performer informs his installation of work at the Sweeney – and installation which is, by the way, quite wonderful. His cut-out panels grace the overhanging soffit in the space and the shadows they cast also register as physical presences. It is difficult sometimes for an artist to acknowledge architectural space in a way that works to the advantage of the artist’s own work and the work of the architect. I would not want to imply that Bockelman kow-tows to the room, but he visibly respects the walls and the physicality – the presence of the space. Nicely done. Also – the concrete moon, suspended as it is from the architecture itself brings a tension into the space not unlike that of a performer – as when Nathan Bockelman considered the wall at LACE for a long moment and then did (or didn’t) jump at it. His use of chain and concrete brings to my mind Liz Larner’s “Wrapped Corner” piece. (A piece, btw, which I believe was exhibited in the 1994 exhibition “Plane Structures” curated by David Pagel for the FOCA and which then traveled to the Renaissance Society in Chicago. The image I find online does not exhibit the tension and drama of the image in the catalog. Um, catalog is still available at the FOCA office, if one is interested.)

Bockelman’s photographed concrete body casts also imply an amount of performance – also they bring Ana Mendieta into the conversation, which is never a bad thing. He titles these after Marvel Comics – I have little experience with comic books and do not know Nathan’s connection nor can I read the possible pop cultural significance. I like the way they look placed on the grass and then photographed. The cavity where a body lay makes me want them to have depth but the placement on the grass has me wondering “where do they go?” They, too are installed nicely and emphasize the photographness of the objects. I kind of want to imagine Bockelman as a giant, developing them by hand, dipping them into and out of flat pans. I know this doesn’t happen – good lord they are color photos and I don’t think one can develop color pictures oneself; ;but I enjoy the mental image.

At the panel discussion after his performance Bockelman spoke of performance as being a “marking out of time.” In this exhibition he does a similar marking out of space. If these two structural elements – time and space relative to structure – are his starting points (if) then he is certainly making interesting and elegant use of what might seem to be simple ideas in his exhibition at the Sweeney. Remember too the cafe floor.

Sometime we’ll talk, I’ll see another performance, he will show work at another space – and the conversation will continue. This is how life works: I begin where I am, ask a question – any question however odd it might be – and then start learning. If I don’t make a first attempt I never get anywhere.

Cheers, and talk with you again soon,


Complete Native Strategies and So Funny It Hurts posting:

So Funny It Hurts, March 9, 2011

So Funny It Hurts, Part 2, March, 17, 2011

Native Strategies – Brian Getnick helps us look at Performance Art in LA, posted on March 20, 2011

NoL: April 7 thru tbd, (scroll down to “Someone’s finally tellin’ mah story…” for Asher Hartman review), April 7, 2011

So Funny It Hurts, last night, April 15, 2011

Paul Outlaw, So Funny It Hurts, performance April 16, 2011

Nathan Bockelman: UCR Thesis show and So Funny It Hurts performance posted on April 19 and 23, 2011

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