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Lori Waxman, the 60/wrd/min art critic:

The selection process for the 60/wrd/min art critic performance is first come, first served. This egalitarian approach is necessary for writer, critic, and performer Lori Waxman, because in her performance it is the artist who chooses to be reviewed by her. As a performer, Waxman addresses whoever comes in the door for a review and must contend with whatever they bring. She is very aware that the participating artists are not only seeking critique, they are making themselves additionally vulnerable by having the review take place in a gallery that is open to the public. As a public project, Waxman’s 60/wrd/min art critic performance offers an important service in communities that are often bypassed by mainstream arts publications.

In order to review the works, Waxman asks that artists haul their art to the gallery so that during the process the works are on display. Also on display are the hot-off-the-press reviews, which the receptionist mounts to the gallery wall and are published later in a local paper and online on the project website http://60wrdmin.org/home.html, http://www.charlottestreet.org/page/2/. With every move of the cursor broadcasted live, the 60/wrd/min performance action serves as the present, in-the-moment exchange between artist and art critic. Waxman admits that her reviews tend toward the positive because she herself is on a bit of a learning curve. She must have a very strong conviction to write a critical review: “ If you say something negative, you better mean it.” For example, an artist may come in with work for which she has no context and no opinion about their prior works – perhaps not even the language needed to address it. The artist is not invited to explain his/her work, though, and so the critic is on her own. Everyone is on display in this performance, and according to Waxman, “everyone’s uncomfortable–except maybe the receptionist.”

Waxman however, is a savvy critic and a quick study, in spite of the built-in handicaps in her performance. Calder Kamin, local ceramic artist and gallery manager was eager to respond to our inquiry into participants’ thoughts after the performance. Kamin writes, “Lori’s review has left a wonderful impression on me. I make cut-up puppy parts and I felt like someone finally got it … I have had a lot of experience with the criticism of my work, but I have never had something written or so completely unbiased.”

We asked Lori about her own experience with criticism of her 60/wrd/min project and she said the attention she receives, like her interviews with NPR’s Studio 360 http://www.studio360.org/episodes/2009/05/15 come mostly in the form of interested discussion rather than critical review. Waxman did get one review by a theater critic from a paper in Knoxville, Tennessee, who told her later that he couldn’t imagine how uncomfortable it must be to write with the contents of her desktop on display via flat screen monitor in the gallery waiting room. Imagine the anxiety imposed by the blinking cursor, flashing between the waiting room audience, which may or may not include the artist being reviewed, and Waxman at her desk with laptop, timer and service bell. Participants and members of the public alike can watch Waxman delete a word, look up a reference or correct a spelling mistake. The pressure for Waxman of having her writing process on display reverses the roles for any artist who’s ever invited the public, or a critic, to an open studio event. Typically, the artist is always the one on display, while the traditional role of the critic is to waltz in and judge what they see.

The Kansas City art community often longs for more critical discussion, and judging by the crowded review schedule for Waxman’s performances at the Charlotte Street Foundation’s UCP Project Space, artists in this area welcome the attention and respect that visiting critics and writers bring to the community. Kansas City-based artist David Ford, no stranger to both local and national reviews, sees Waxman’s performance as a work of art. Ford writes of his review experience, “No I will not use it in my bibliography as it was [part of] a performance by art critic Lori Waxman.” 60/wrd/min participant and Kansas City-based artist Teri Frame writes, “Hard-working and insightful writers of critical discourse need to be supported just as much as artists need to be.” We couldn’t agree more.

Grand Arts would like to thank Lori Waxman, Urban Culture Project and the following participants for their interviews for this post: Calder Kamin, David Ford, and Teri Frame.

Post by: SF and LW

Calder Camin

Calder Kamin, Puppies Tummies, 2010

Tom Cruise, David Ford

David Ford, Tom Cruise, 2008

Teri Frame, Chimera, 2009

My Barbarian, an LA-based, performance collaborative, held a 4-day workshop at La Esquina and developed the piece, Broke People’s Baroque People’s Theater as part of Emily Roysdon’s “Ecstatic Resistance”. Together with local participants, they peformed the piece at La Esquina on Saturday, November 14th, co-presented with Charlotte Street Foundation’s Urban Culture Project. A version of Broke People’s Baroque People’s Theater comprised of a theater sculpture and video is installed in the gallery portion of Ecstatic Resistance.

Elmer Schafroth, Rosaura Valparaiso, Clifford Barnes, Sonja Stillman, Miranda Saks.

Juvenal panel discussion: Elmer Schafroth, Rosaura Valparaiso, Clifford Barnes, Sonja Stillman, and Miranda Saks.

Pablo Helguera’s project The Juvenal Players opened at Grand Arts on Friday, June 12th, 2009 with a gallery exhibition curated by Pablo Helguera of selected works of the late Juvenal Merst. Public discussions and performances of the play, The Juvenal Players, took place on Saturday, June 13th. Since the live performances in the gallery were one day only, a video of the performance is screened on the wall behind the stage.


Sonja Stillman and Miranda Saks in The Juvenal Players

Sonja Stillman and Miranda Saks in The Juvenal Players

Clifford Barnes and Sonja Stillman in The Juvenal Players

Clifford Barnes and Sonja Stillman in The Juvenal Players

Opening Reception for The Juvenal Players. Visitors investigate Juvenal's Work Number 11 (Against the Critics), 2001.

Opening Reception for The Juvenal Players. Visitors investigate Juvenal's Work Number 11 (Against the Critics), 2001.

Miranda Saks at The Juvenal Players Opening Reception at Grand Arts
Miranda Saks speaks with a guest at The Juvenal Players Opening Reception.
Sonja Stillman and Pablo Helguera at the Opening Reception for The Juvenal Players.

Sonja Stillman and Pablo Helguera at the Opening Reception for The Juvenal Players.

Grand Arts staff members with Rosaura Valapraiso at the Opening Reception of The Juvenal Players.

Grand Arts staff members with Rosaura Valapraiso at the Opening Reception of The Juvenal Players.

ALSO CHECK OUT: Afterall Magazine wrote a piece about the project on their online edition.

The piece, written by Lyra Kilston on July 11, 2009, is titled

“This is Not a Panel Discussion: Pablo Helguera’s Pedagogical Follies”

www.afterall.org/onlinecurrent.html?online_id=99

Greetings! Grand Arts is pleased to post our first text entry on our blog with which we hope to invite dialog and excite response from our audience both local and remote. Grand Arts Business Manager, Summer Farrar and Assistant Director, Lacey Wozny share their personal responses to this recent traveling project.

It Is What It Is

Standing outside in public and talking about the military conflict in Iraq feels like it would be a common occurrence, but it really isn’t, at least not for me. Gathering in circles with the Deller project experts or around the Creative Time table with flyers and brochures, people talked all day. I have to admit that I’ve never been sure if we’re at war with Iraq, occupying their country, or if we’re at war with Terror, or what. I was afraid a visitor would approach me and I wouldn’t know something crucial like that. This project brings these sorts of thoughts to mind – a vague sense of guilt that we should know more and do more and should be more aware of the “true cost” (human life, billions of dollars, the respect of the rest of the world, etc) for the Conflict (?) in Iraq. That might be why not very many people came, and those who made the biggest showing were die-hard anti-war types, the elder hippies who won’t give up, taking up the slack the rest of us have created by becoming extremely distracted. They devoured this project, some dedicating their whole day to it. But I think they felt a little alienated by the seemingly aloof British instigator’s refusal to designate the project as anti-war. During his talk at Grand Arts, he explained that It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq is about conversation, and Iraq happens to be the topic.

Mr. Deller said he felt neutrality provided everyone, regardless of his or her personal politics, an open invitation to participate. But clearly, the car, a former taxi completely destroyed by a bombing, is not objective. Reading about the car in the press release does not do it justice. As an object, it is visually engaging and quite tragic. I’m glad it was there, though – it gave visitors something to go on, a means of understanding the difference between art-as-social intervention and traditional protest. It’s quite spooky to imagine who used to drive the taxi and who used to ride in it.

It made me wonder: how can I be so saturated with (bad) news from Iraq – saturated to the point that I just stop listening to it – and still know so little about what’s going on there?

-SF

It Is What It Is: In response to SF

I always wonder how Kansas City looks and feels for first-time visiting artists. Is it similar to other cities – which ones? Does KC possess a more Southern, Western or Mid-western feel? When the RV carrying Jeremy Deller, Esam and Harvey, the bombed-out car, and the other intrepid travelers from Creative Time arrived at our 3 Kansas City stops, I expected a larger turnout, a greater response. At the park around lunchtime, I expected the anti-war die-hards to have a presence, but I also expected the passing foot traffic to take a moment with the “distraction” provided by the project set-up. Few if any business people or park-exercisers gave us more than a glance-I guess they were on track to something else. At Mill Creek Park people typically do one of three things: exercise on or around the track, protest war(s), or encourage some sort of free love and/or the legalization of marijuana. In a way, this gave us an opportunity to talk more intensely to the maintenance man working on the big Plaza fountain with the horses, the small bands of kids probably skipping school, and our eager anti-war group. Our rockstar Kansas City Art Institute student intern for the day, John, a veteran of Iraq, did two tours in a submarine in the Red Sea before enrolling at KCAI and had much to bring to the project’s Kansas City stop. Tasha, our gallery assistant spoke with him the following week at a local brew/pub about his experience with It Is What It Is,

It’s amazing that one day of talking changed six years of thinking, but it did. I think I’ll be able to let those issues influence my art, because I have been reluctant to do that…
Going through art school you are told over and over that you have to survey and interview your audience…I have never connected to the arts and veterans communities, but seeing this exhibit has allowed me to make that connection in my own work.
-J.H., Junior in Interdisciplinary Studies at KCAI

For myself, I feel humbled, whelmed-on-the-verge-of-feeling-too-ignorant-to-try, and ultimately humbled again by the variation and magnitude of relative effect just this war, of many contemporary wars, has on our global society and late capitalism, in framing our democracy as will of the people vs. the will of others, and then back around to contemporary social intervention through art practice. The project takes about one minute to understand – if you give it that.

Our second stop at the KCAI campus was even quieter. None of us, several art school alums among us, could figure it out. The overwhelming lack of curiosity, let alone response, critique, or ANYTHING was disheartening. I was embarrassed for my college self who probably would have been plagued by the same tunnel vision of school/studio life, too caught up in minutia of academia to be bothered by a famous artist and a timely, contemporary and much-acclaimed project. The students that did attend seemed distant -willing to listen but not wholly engage. One of the instructors, who came over to table, as we were about to leave, wanted to talk about the car’s aesthetic beauty. Art piece it is not; could the project title be more clear?

Skepticism for contemporary art is one thing, but the seeming lack of interest that surfaced here in KC, as it likely did in many other places across the country, hits me like a sucker-punch and was especially breath-taking at an art college where one would hope to find the most reception. I tried my best to explain/ rationalize the chill response to Jeremy by talking about the Mid-Western work ethic that is deeply seated in Kansas City arts and art appreciation. I reminded him and myself that the KC Art Institute historically tends to value craft and materials over conceptual art and contemporary issues.

My own whirling head recalls a song lyric by Beat Happening that I can only paraphrase: “It’s a burden that’s hard to bear. It’s so easy to not even care.”

I admit I’ve been trying to care more about my country’s sovereignty, foreign sanctions, and about the absence of daily reminders of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on American soil, which the bombed car from Al Mutanabi market does so poignantly. Suicide or roadside bombs did not make the potholes in our roads; we have no occupying forces patrolling the streets; no death debris on the sidewalks; no longer any ration stamps or metal drives. Of course we have the news, but its talk seems tired and largely one-sided. The local news sounds increasingly like a talk show – if not game show – and all the topics sound like sporting events. Most mainstream media generally fails to sensitize us anything more than abstract notions of fighting terrorism and democratic supremacy: at what cost?

What critical agency and circumstance would need to realize before American soldiers and civilians could together invite regular It Is What It Is-type public discussion? What would it take to renew public discourse or to rebuild platforms outside of the State and outside the church? What do we pay for our freedom?

I’ve been avidly reading the road diary of their continued cross-country journey, so maybe I’m becoming a bit obsessed too. I think this is a healthy reflection, but I feel unsettled. Esam’s words continue to echo through my thoughts since the project came through:

“You cannot grant freedom or democracy to a nation, it must come from them, from their own people.”

-LW


Conceptual snacks for Group Therapy event.


Menu inspiration and recipes for conceptual snacks.


Carnal Torpor members snack prior to event.


Members of Carnal Torpor look on while Spurse presents.


Audience members interact with sight and taste components of Carnal Torpor’s presentation.


Carnal Torpor provided hoods and candies for the audience.


Okay Mountain presents during Group Therapy.


Members of Okay Mountain during their slide show.


Members of the SSION during Q&A session.