Hmm. I cannot get away from that Joseph Kosuth piece, the black bedroom which was part of his 1987 series of exhibitions of the same title. In Kosuth’s contributed comments to the catalog he speaks of “The use of Sigmund Freud’s theoretical work as a ‘made-ready’ — from my [ed. Kosuth's] Cathesis (1981) through Modus Operandi — has permitted me to employ various strategies and (for me, problematic risks), while continuing with the committed agenda… The theoretical object – the system of thinking of Sigmund Freud – was chosen not only for its rich generative complexity, for its use within a variety of discourses, and for the unchartable impact of its practical implication, but also because of its internalization in society and in that culture which forms, and dialectically describes, both” he goes on, “We know where it (Freud’s influence) locates itself, we can’t say where it doesn’t.” [ed. All this is excerpted from "No Exit," a 1988 Artforum piece that Kosuth later published as a book.]
I want to share also some of the homeowner’s words with you, “The project was always cloaked in mystery. I was not to enter the room until the project was finished. Although I would spend a considerable amount of time with John Tower, the artist’s assistant, we would not really discuss what he was doing. As a psychiatrist, however, I have some skill in picking someone’s brain, so I got various clues as the project wore on.” And later, “As the time wore on my fear was that it wouldn’t be drastic enough. I would have allowed that artist to blow a hole in the roof and hang dead animals from the ceiling. Truly anything was alright with me. Before seeing the project I invited 150 people to the unveiling.”
Mr. Tatomer closes his thoughts with “When I am alone in the room it is more peaceful now. The nakedness of the walls seems to produce this effect. There is a timelessness about this piece that could have placed it as much in the 17th century as the present. Kosuth has distilled these bits and pieces of clutter to state the essence of what is me, just a man taking risks.”
Famously, a local art professor of note begins each academic year by assuring his first year students that “art is not therapy.” I believe there is a degree of emphasis to his tone, and a certain disdain for those who come up short and do spill their guts out on the canvas or something awful like that.
I wonder if thinking on this subject was different twenty-three years ago? In reading the catalog, again and again I am coming across story’s like the above – statements that to me feel very…. out of place in this art context, like inappropriate confessionals. This is not limited to the homeowners, who might be considered outside the stringent rules of the art world but also from the artists. Ilene Segalove in her comments on states that “if art is therapy, at least for the artist, this piece (her installation ‘Dogtales’) couldn’t be more timely.” Segalove’s homeowner was a pet portraitist, Segalove’s own pet dog was in decline tending toward imminent death, and her installation consisted of three photographs “which act as location markers for two audio pieces that relay intimate tales of people’s relationships with their animals.”
In another example of potential transgression, Lisa Hein and her homeowner, Cy Madrone both talked about the artwork in relation with their similar experiences growing up with dysfunctional families.
I recognize that I am mixing two matters here, that of artists presenting their work in psychological/therapeutic terms and that of collectors who insert personal psychology into their understanding of the work. I suppose in the example of our famous professor above, the first would be the more egregious while to the second one might respond,”Well, they bought the work, they can do as they please” with perhaps an indulgent touch of, “this person can’t be blamed as they don’t know any better.” In fact a number of the homeowners have characterized their responses to the work and to the collaboration in personal terms, which I suppose to be one of the points of the exercise. These collaborations (or are they collaborative at all?) are in fact taking place inside their homes. It must be a stunningly fraught situation for all parties!
If you think during all this that I might also be thinking of the current Home Show, Revisited then bingo! you’re correct. How fascinating to be a fly on the wall sometimes…
I believe I missed Ann Hamilton in my earlier essay. In the meanwhile the good folk at the CAF have supplied me with Hamilton’s image, missing from among the previous batch.
Ann Hamilton writes of her project in the catalog:
“Although my work is motivated by an observation of the mundane events that constitute the everyday… taking a bath… burning toast… watering the lawn…, the translation of these observations to a pristine institutionalized space creates a context entirely different from the context and attachments we have for home and family. Initially HOME SHOW seemed like a rare opportunity to locate work closer to the source. As I toured homes and thought about a specific response, the questions and assumption became more complex.”
“How much leeway does on have in a home?”
“Do you have to erase the homeowner’s presence to be successful?”
“Is the piece to be about the people who live in the home or is the piece about my own ideas of domestic relationships?”
So ran the internal conversation that Hamilton conducted during her planning. Wrestling with her various and conflicting responsibilities as an artist.
“…my choice to work at Jill’s (homeowner Jill K. Barnitz Davis) was motivated not in response to the specific architecture or site but to the tone that already existed in the home as place. I found comfort and tranquility and chaos. I sensed a resonance between my own process of labor and tending and Jill’s work as a landscape contractor. Jill has patiently witnessed my indecision. She has participated in my attempt to make a piece that addresses my own notions of domestic labor and relationships while creating a quiet room for her to use. We have shared late night hours, breakfast, and Louise’s swedish dinners.”
For what we aren’t able to see in the above image, essayist Dore Ashton provides us with,
“The spectator enters the home and is instantly caught in her environment, lyrically articulated, filled with shaped air and light and even shaped fragrance. The symbolism of the wave of gilt-edged and singed shirts, and the table of ornament holders, and the eucalyptus branch is almost but not quite mute, while the hushed atmosphere is articulated by the absolute stillness of the seated human figure.”
I believe what we see lining the walls are eucalyptus leaves, scented probably of menthol and lemon – another reference to the homeowner’s business and life.
Okey dokey, Erika Rothenberg gets the award for funniest installation. I quote:
“I have turned the Waidner’s family room into an Anti-Media Room – with paintings satirizing viewing habits and a special device designed to give ordinary people the power and respect usually reserved for people on the air: The Celebrity Simulator.”
“The Simulator gives real life a chance to compete with the media, by replacing face-to-face communication with something proven to be much more effective: Monitor-to-face communication.”
“If you want your family and friends to pay attention to what you say, now you can say it on TV, right in your own home.”
On just about too many levels, this makes me laugh. At the time, when TV really was the only option for mediated home entertainment, such a project might have alternately seemed annoyingly puritanical and also “right on! enough of Miami Vice and The Facts of Life. And then we get to now, when everybody with a phone can make a movie and the notions of reticence and respect for celebrity seem quaint, my how things change.
I must share with you the words of Jack and Patrice Waidner, Rothenberg’s homeowners:
“It is an ironic twist that Erika decided to do an anti-TV installation in a home that does not own a television. She didn’t realize when she selected our family room for her installation that the TV set she saw, was one that we had borrowed from neighbors. We borrow or rent one every four years to watch the Winter Olympics. We do not own a TV because we feel, compared to printed material, it is a superficial medium for news and entertainment.” (Again, how quaint.)
On a cliff high above the Pacific in the gated community of Hope Ranch on an acre and a half lot (shown on Bing Maps to still be undeveloped from the original 1948 home – one can also see where von Rydingsvard located her project in the small guest suite perched atop the cliff) Ursula von Rydingsvard found a World War II bunker which she populated with charcoal sculptures.
Dore Ashton writes nicely of von Rydingsvard’s installation:
“For instance, both von Rydingsvard and Hamilton strive to engage the spectator in a meditative response. The use enclosed spaces as a means of suggesting that which is hidden, sheltered, closeted, secreted in our own depths.”
“In the scarred, massive pews and darkened floor, one senses allusions to tragedy; compelling illusions and allusions that are made insistent by her recouse to the circumstances of the enclosure. The most formal of the artists in teh exhibition, von Rydingsvard has resorted to the recurrent game of atists: they create a constricting framework (such as the sonnet form in poetry or the rectangle of the frame in painting) in order to create their own absolute freedom within, defying at each moment the self-imposed limitation.”
Imagine the smell, the weight and roughness of the wood, the sound of waves below, light streaming in from a window, afterno0n heat building then dissipating into the night – poetry my friends.
“Norie Sato composes a self-contained piece within the fireplace of a comfortable old California house.”
As we can see above, Sato’s installation comprises three television monitors, shards of glass and, it is apparent from Ashton’s continued writing, a video source which symbolizes “eyes, flames, bricks and mortar.”
I do not know more than this, nor can I surmise anything from my limited resources.
“I’ve got this real old dog SAM.
He has funny back legs that don’t work anymore.
A coat like acrylic pile that’s been washed too many times
And the sweetest face in the world.
Every morning I peek outside to see if he’s breathing.
“Sam,” I whisper. “Are you still alive?”
One eye opens up and gives me a look and I know
he’ll be around for another day.”
Song by Ilene Segalove.
To close, some information about the print edition, oh and news just in of Thursday, July 14th Gallery Salon and Lecture at the CAF with master printer Elaine Le Vasseur. Possibly later possibly a few additional artist / project profiles.
Home Show, Revisited closes on Sunday, July 17 so you have ten days to drive to paradise.
In current events:
Bettina Hubby at Post this Friday, July 8.
Piero Golia has an exhibition at Gagosian in Beverly Hills.
Stephanie Taylor, Saturday July 23 at the Schindler House / MAK Center “The Stephanie Taylor Songbook” concert at 7:30 pm. YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS CONCERT. IN THE VERY SPACE WHERE HEROES PAST AND PRESENT HAVE FIRST PRESENTED TO A DISCERNING PUBLIC MUSIC AND SOUND THAT WOULD LATER CHANGE HISTORY.
(I tell you this with an absolutely straight face and with no trace of irony. Stephanie Taylor’s music opens up the human voice in unfamiliar and beautiful ways. Sense is created somewhere behind and to the left of your rational, understanding, pattern-seeking mind. Lovely is an adjective that comes to mind, as does provocative. Come hear for yourself – there may yet be tickets available.)
More of CAF “Home Show, Revisited:
CAF Part 10: “One More Time For Home Show 1988