Dash Manley right now

Untitled from dashiell manley on Vimeo.

The following resembles a conversation on topics of mutual interest, taking place sometime around Thanksgiving, over the ethernet from Columbus to Los Angeles and back again, between two people who had not met.

The following resembles two men typing and then talking.

This might be communication.

This might be the Fall.

Hello Dash,

Your film at Favorite Goods looks great. Or rather, your film looks great in the show at Favorite Goods. My tortured locutions will be the death of me (;

I’m happy I heard you talk at the Armory – your comments were illuminating and even fascinating.

Speaking of tortured locutions – you expressed several times that “paintings were made” can you tell me about the circumstances? It is almost a deflection of responsibility, which is interesting given your hesitancy to make work early on, and then to draw others into the making.

The phrase also reminds me – in a good way – of some political crazy from my youth (some war or another perhaps) who excused a huge fuck up by saying, “Mistakes were made…” pretty cool to have that come to mind in art in a quiet, serious lecture room.

Best regards,


Hi Geoff, I’m glad you enjoyed both the video and the talk. Your comments are interesting, particularly this statement that ‘mistakes were made”…

Let me spend the night thinking about these things.

I will write you in the morning.

All best,



Ok, after a night of thinking, here is what I think.

Not to get all big and grand right off the bat, but the more I think about it, it would seem that art-making could be considered a practice in which the maker pulls the curtain back to reveal the mistakes of society, culture, and perhaps most importantly, themselves. I’m really into this idea, or perhaps, to take it further, am into the idea that art making is a practice that is synonymous with a life where one makes constant mistakes.

The utterance “paintings were made’, one which I have spoken many times in private conversations is an apology of sorts. It also means something different in relation to the work I was making in 2009, versus the work I am making now, a different kind of apology.

In the work Full Metallica Jacket, which was the first work I showed images from at the Armory talk, both paintings and mistakes were made on a few different levels. I was interested in fabricating social situations as time-based works of art. What fascinated me about this was less the work that would be made so to speak, but more the possibility to have different people remember different things about the same experience. I think that it was this interest in multiple accounts of the same action that initially drove this body of work, though a case could be made that embarrassment, failure, and guilt are easier to deal with when those feelings are spread out amongst a group of people. Ultimately, I was responsible for both the work, and any negative consequences resulting from the event, but some of that responsibility, at least at the time, seemed to be alleviated by the inclusion of others. As partners in crime perhaps.

It is interesting that even at the time I would argue that I was taking responsibility for the work, and the ideas contained within. Though, perhaps I was constantly taking responsibility for not taking responsibility. It would seem that one way in which our culture thrives is in deflecting responsibility either up or down the chain of command. So much of the way society is structured would seem to operate under this idea. I find it unfortunate.

While in the past work the social group provided the framework through which one could consider the specific works made, I would propose that in my new work, the videos and films take on this role. It is only as a result of the video works that other works are made. They are responsible for most (but of course not all) of the aesthetic decisions made in regards to the objects (paintings) that exist.

Perhaps this is just pushing the deflection of responsibility one step further, from person or peoples to things. I’m not sure, though I am interested to hear what you think.


Wow. I want to read your words again and consider them with some care.


Aaaaaugh! “…different people remember different things about an experience.” So good and correct. I find that even I – an individual – can retain or create different memories of one experience. So tenuous and yet so strong in our minds, memories can be.



A first thought: What you’ve written demonstrates the great difference btwn artists vs business people/politicians: even while ‘deflecting responsibility’ you do so from a theoretical position. And you engage me in an observational role as critic and audience. Those other characters (business people and politicians) would rather go down fighting than acknowledge ownership of a mistake. (If anyone wants a defense for the necessity of art to culture, here is a start: to be an artist requires one to lead an observed/examined life) Talk about value!

You mentioned a manifesto for interior design – this idea makes me squeal! I can picture some fierce fag channeling a cross of Elsie de Wolfe and Jack Lenor Larson and declaiming his pure design ethic. What is cool is that, among other things, your film brought to mind the sort of moody yet matter of fact tv commercials an interiors firm might have done twenty or thirty years ago.

(In the film) you continued a running theme of developing your text in real time, and showed what appeared to be sets which also built before my eyes. That you shot the film using a still camera and from a variety of camera angles offered me many singular views, and these seemed like presentations, or ‘statements’ that designers offer to potential clients.

Hmm. It felt a little like i was reading a book while holding in my hand – and considering while I read – a scene captured in a prism. Once again – dreamy and scientific both.

I saw bits of installations that I have seen in the past, paintings, floors, your writing of the text in real time on the wall at ACP. Considering the film in context with the performances, I’d say that the resulting film verifies your authorship of the whole! And thinking back to your talk I noticed a distinct sense of a coda about the film as you showed it and spoke. You brought back into this work many of your themes, I had that feeling Classical and Romantic musical compositions give one of ‘coming home’ of bringing the familiar back into a new situation. This reassures me while it also send my mind spinning onto other possibilities.

I am still humming inside about the possibilities you work presents for a true – and interesting – political reading.


Dashiell, I hope my questions aren’t too labored. Honestly – every time I begin a conversation such as this, I feel that I am learning anew how to dialogue. I can get carried away…

(also) Hey – I see that you went to Claremont HS! I went to Ganesha in Pomona. I don’t meet many people from the old hood, or hood adjacent. I’m laughing. Not sure what this coincidence brings to our conversation but it’s nice to make the connection.

At this point our electronic conversation gave way to a visit, a handshake, dialogue, a film screening, more talk, laughter, again the film, a hug, good-byes and promises to follow up.

During the talk Dash Manley gave at the Armory Center for the Arts, and again during our recent studio visit, the artist spoke of several performances that he coordinated at UCLA. I recall these performances as being structured around color: one was black, one white, one red and one blue. Manley spoke briefly about three of these scenes: he related tales of variously poetic and raucous actions,  interactions and non-actions that attendees performed freely. Art was made, paintings and sculptures, using tools presented by the artist or brought into play by the attendees. There was freedom, yes – but always the behaviors were drawn from a peculiar and seemingly random set of possibilities. The situations created by Dash were a tool chest, if you will, but one that had been queered by indirection of intent on the part of the maker, the artist or auteur.

Dash Manley, revision draft four (endnotes) Video still Color video with sound

Dash Manley spoke only of three of his performances. About the inaugural performance, Manley declined to speak. (I think also it was the first ‘completed’ work that the artist presented during grad school at UCLA and that it came after a full year of… calm regard, silent meditation,  calculating precision, frozen terror or all or none of these, but certainly a after vacuum of production by the then student artist.) (Someday we should all sit down and talk about the notion of a ‘student artist.’)

Independently of my visit with Dash, I have heard shadows of rumors of the buzz that surrounds that initial performance. Art school myth being what it is, I understand that the party may have included black magic, burnt rubber and an orgy. Probably all at once and in a dark room. Unspeakable things. At any rate, our young friend gained himself rather a ‘bad boy’ rep, which is never a bad way to enter the marketplace of ideas.

An interesting notion, or fact rather, that emerged from his talk, is that the initial installation was reconfigured for each performance and that any object that was brought in must remain, “things may be introduced, but nothing can leave,” to quote the artist. Every object must be accommodated by each event. At the close of his sequence Manley stored all this… stuff in his studio. At some point during its afterlife the artist chopped this all up and then recycled the bits into sets and objects for the new film. Messy but seamless.

For this new film Manley uses a still camera, along with an overhead projector, a series of modestly sized paintings, architectural glazing samples and a variety of paints and inks. You’ll see some of the results among the illustrations of this post.

A small painting is hung on the studio wall, letters are painted on to create a text using the phonetic alphabet that the military uses. At his overhead projector, Manley will pour inks and paints onto the glass samples and project this colored light onto the wall mounted paintings. Each time a letter is painted, a photograph is made, and these photos coalesce into a film. Once dry, the painted glass is inset to the verso of the small paintings to make potentially hand held paintings/sculptures.

Manley’s use of still photographs as a source for his films has an ‘early days of cinematography’ feel to it. But rather than feeling like the artist is quoting, or appealing to nostalgia, I have a sense of sweet regard while watching – each moment it is clear to me how the film was made and this understanding brings the experience very close to my own hands and to my own eyes.

I think of Dash Manley’s current practice as a pantomime and as a weird, literal, analog representation of Photography. One aspect – the films – are presented visually, as light projected on a wall; a second product of his practice are the paintings, which are the size of old fashioned photographs, and are based partly on sheets of glass. While these are presented set upon shelves, they relate very closely to photography for me – I find myself aching to feel and hold and appreciate physically their presence, just as I do photographs that I love.

I wonder if the mysterious nostalgia that exists in photography is a fact of the disjunctive connection that is made among my hands and my eyes and my brain when I look at a photograph? While my eyes are comprehending the picture my hands are comprehending something, too, or apprehending it, and these sparks of recognition travel along their associated nerves to my brain. Probably they land adjacent to each other, but not together. This chain of events, and the resulting stream of consciousness, are suggested by the objects and actions of Dash Manley.

It helps sometimes to have an artist take something apart, to use objects otherwise than intended, and to apply theories to clumsy tasks. The results will be fucked up by any standards traditional to the originating practices but might achieve an elegance of their own, and the struggle one makes to square this circle – to hold in one’s mind the apparent disruption while believing in the beauty – this is where understanding begins.

A few resources:

ACP: http://www.artistcuratedprojects.com/www.artistcuratedprojects.com/One_for_the_Money,_Two_for_the_Show.html

The End Los Angeles: http://theendlosangeles.com/past.html (artists space on Monte Vista St. in Highland Park)

Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/user6989343/videos/all

1 Comment

  1. Hey Dash,

    A week and more later, this paragraph I shall quote seems very
    Important. I wish that I had followed up on it with you. Next time.

    “While in the past work the social group provided the framework through which one could consider the specific works made, I would propose that in my new work, the videos and films take on this role. It is only as a result of the video works that other works are made. They are responsible for most (but of course not all) of the aesthetic decisions made in regards to the objects (paintings) that exist.”

    The paintings become almost a byproduct of the film. I have seen the work and recognize this to be true. Making a surprising (and i hope valuable ywo ways) connection – this process of yours begins to remind me of Steve Roden’s reliance on translation – of sound and text – as his guide in making his powerful and enigmatic paintings.

    I want to think of Steve’s films – full of grace and beauty and silence as they are – in relation to his paintings. There is something there that I have been missing, I think. Thanks.

    I also want to consider the nature(s) of your own acts of translation and the function of alchemy in your work. Is it (alchemy) additive? What is gained / lost in these translations? If we can’t understand beauty in the act of making, then…? Charles Gaines, in Leila Hamidi’s interview, would have us understanding beauty as politically based – and I can feel the sense in this reading. What other possibilities are there? Somehow the acts of translation and deflection that you and Steve Roden are engaged in feel personal – intimate, even.

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