Tag Archives: featured too

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

happy new yearHappy Holidays from Creative Thresholds! We wish you a fantastically creative New Year full of exuberance, wonder, and delight!

2014 brings a new twice-a-month format for us, an issue coming out every 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month. We’re excited about what additional possibilities this will bring for both content creation and reader experience.

Something else that is new is that Christopher Hutchinson’s “Postcolonial Thoughts” column will be accepting submissions of books, essays, and eBooks for review. Email your interest to melissa@creativethresholds.com.

Here’s to a joyous year for all of us!
Melissa, curator/editor

Postcolonial Thoughts: Book Review of Nicholas Bourriaud’s “The Radicant”

by Christopher Hutchinson

Nicholas Bourriaud is one of the leading art theorists/curators presently.  He is behind the Relational art movement, globalism, and postproduction.  This is a review of his third book The Radicant.

Radicant & Breaking modernity

Rad´i`cant    (răd´ĭ`kant)

a. 1. (Bot.) Taking root on, or above, the ground; rooting from the stem, as the trumpet creeper and the ivy.                           – http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Radicant

Initially, The Radicant was an encouraging read.  It lays out the problematical perspective of the linear Western art world.  Bourriaud’s derision for the immobile art world was very engaging.  The Radicant recognizes the necessity for numerous evaluations that are not based on the canon of Western art history. Let us no longer encourage the formal elements of line, color, shape, space, texture and form.  Permit us to leave the language of white spaces occupied with eye-level paintings, sculptures on pedestals and holy institutions that have become so banal.  Leave the devotion to this practice in the past; all of the rubrics used to add value are out-of-date and exclusionary.

Formalism, abstraction, painting and sculpture in the West all have excluded the vast number of cultures and societies form being equal participants in the world of art.  Bourriaud invites us to have Radicant histories; here all histories are of equal value in globe.

This ethereal concept all falls apart at the end of the book where he suggests that we can achieve this Radicant understanding through the lens of Marcel Duchamp.

“In generating behaviours and potential reuses, art challenges passive culture, composed of merchandise and consumers. It makes the forms and cultural objects of our daily lives function. What if artistic creation today could be compared to a collective sport [play!], far from the classic mythology of the solitary effort? ‘It is the viewers who make the paintings’, Duchamp once said, and incomprehensible remark unless we connect it to his keen sense of an emerging culture of use, in which meaning is born of collaboration and negotiation between the artist and the one who comes to view the work. Why wouldn’t the meaning of a work have as much to do with the use one makes of it as with the artist’s intentions for it? Such is the meaning of what one might venture to call a formal collectivism.”-THE RADICANT
http://www.visual-art-research.com/2010/02/radicant-quote/

 Bourriard’s Duchamp suggestion does the most damage to his credibility in changing the thought process of the West.  How could Duchamp be the Radicant history necessary to break modernism, when Duchamp is the Western canon?  This book proves that historians & philosophers, like Bourriaud, even when they try with all their might cannot escape their own linear methodology.  It is in their blood.  This is the reason why, any new concept that actually changes the direction of the West, has been appropriated from some other indigenous culture.  Appropriated without crediting its origins.

This is important to note because they are many who believe that one day West will write something of worth about indigenous non-white people, but here is the proof, it can’t be done.  Bourriaud, a French Art critic, is doing exactly what he is supposed to, expressing National pride and lineage as the way to access the future through Duchamp.  It is up to each culture to document, protect, and preserve its own history before it becomes the newest jewel for the new global West.

Rirkrit Tiravanijia & Globalism

 According to art critic Jerry Saltz, Rirkrit Tiravanija’s works do nothing less than “bridge a mind-body gap that often exists in Western art.” Meaning: Tiravanija’s installations — which often combine food and communion among strangers within intimate, temporary worlds that contain all forms of social interaction from conversation to sex — stimulate the viewers’ brains and their bodies and open them up to experiences beyond just art appreciation. http://stationtostation.com/participants/rirkrit-tiravanija/

So what does this mean for Bourriaud sponsored artists like Rirkrit Tiravanija?  We now have the inclusion of westernized indigenous people interpreted through a Duchampian lens.  These westernized non-white people also look to Duchamp as the example set.  Magical non-white people will show the West once again how to create art that is not dismal. This is not new; by any means it is identical to Gauguin and Tahiti, Picasso and Africa.

The artists, critics, institutions that have been celebrated in this global Radicant history, are indoctrinated in the history of the West. For Bourriaud’s initial Radicant to be realized, there would not be a designation of folk art.  As long as folk art exists we are talking about a commercial viability of indigenous contribution to the West. Not equal respect. The Radicant ends up being just as linear as every other Western art history and philosophy.

“…’globalization.’ Like most terms of political discourse, this term has two meanings: a literal meaning and a technical meaning employed for doctrinal warfare. In the literal sense, ‘globalization’ means international integration. Its leading advocates are those who meet annually at the World Social Forum, coming from countries all over the world and all walks of life, working together to craft and debate forms of international integration—economic, cultural, political—that serve the interests of people: real people, of flesh and blood. But in the doctrinal system, their commitments are called ‘antiglobalization.’ The description is correct if we use the term ‘globalization’ in its technical sense, referring to a particular form of international economic integration, with a mixture of liberal and protectionist measures and many related to investor rights, not trade, all designed to serve the interests of investors, financial institutions, and other centers of concentrated state-private power—those granted the rights of super-persons by the courts.“-Hopes and Prospects – Noam Chomsky

 

If  you would like to submit a book or essay or an eBook to be reviewed by Christopher in the “Postcolonial Thoughts” column, send an email with your interest to melissa@creativethresholds.com.

Christopher HutchinsonChristopher Hutchinson is an Assistant Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and Archetype Art Gallery Owner in Atlanta, Ga. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama. He lived in Alabama for 10 years before moving to Atlanta in 2008. His installations mostly consist of black folded paper airplanes.

Learn more about Christopher and his work at Black Flight 144.

all that I had in you was only myself

By Daniel Boscaljon
Image by Melissa D. Johnston

rothko experiment mother and child two for CT

“all that I had in you was only myself” is the fifth letter in a series of posts called Letters to You written by Daniel Boscaljon with images by Melissa D. Johnston (from one of her ongoing projects). Letters to You began in July with “everytime i write i feel myself disintegrate.”

we are said to be meaning-makers–you and i, all of us–who by nature interpret events and things which are given in such a way as to determine their significance for our own lives.  We MAKE meaning, and do not find it.  In former times, these were considered omens and portents, glimpses of the future which the gods would give us.

Lacking a sensitivity to the role which the natural world plays in determining the web of relationships in which i continually am caught up within, I find that I more often engage in making meaning of signs and symbols, finding meaning in languages present or absent.  Despite knowing that such text has no relationship to your relationship with me, I nonetheless persist in attempting to determine SOME sort of connection which nonetheless would exist.  This is my most frequent action.

I read the words which you wrote to a mutual friend, some months ago.  I walk past the place where once we ate lunch.  I hear a song on the radio that you had once played for me.  None of these things have anything to do with your current life, yet you force me to investigate these glyphic scribbles as a way to postulate how you are now.  The song is clear and undistorted: you are having a good day.  I see a child crying in front of the restaurant: you’re having a bad day.  I simple and dichotomized world: this is how you force me to view your life.  Thinking about you is not an option, and so I take what I can to construct a relationship with you.

Often when we talk, those rare moments, you force me to pick through your words and fill in the blanks which you leave, spaces which are events in your mind and nothing within my own.  Because I want to have a relationship with you, I let myself believe that I know how you feel, that I know what you’re talking about.  You force me to make guesses and fill in the blanks of your mad-lib life, and, lo-and-behold!  It always conforms to what I had been thinking about anyway.  It always reveals to me that we had the same connection as ever.  I tell myself that you consciously continue our relationship through such absences in speech, such empty points which give me a blank entrance into your soul.  I tell myself that I see you in how you frame it, and that it is more than just a mirror.  You permit me to tell myself this.  I allow myself to believe it.  …this is what friends are for, right?

Not talking is just an expanded form of this–a sheet of paper filled with blanks.  I tell myself that we’re still friends, that this is still a relationship.  The moments where you break into my life, even indirectly, are caused by you.  I’ll say a prayer, or smile at a memory, and then move on.  I tell myself that you’re doing okay, and remind myself that such miniature affirmations, on a cosmic level, are powerful and have the ability to, where you are and at that time, generate a smile that I can’t see and that you can’t understand, but which exists nonetheless.  We’re magicians, all of us, I suppose.

Without your body, the world around me becomes your face that I investigate to see how you are.  Lacking your voice, I listen to the babble streaming around me, the cacophonic choir which only JUST covers up the words which you speak to me.  I strain and peer to find you: when I find something, I simply accept it lest the dark fear start to grow that all that I had in you was only myself all along.

Daniel Boscaljon has Ph.D.s in Modern Religious Thought and 19th-century American Literature, both from the University of Iowa. His interest is in the fragility and liminality of human experiences. His first book, Vigilant Faith: Passionate Agnosticism in the Secular World was published by the University of Virginia Press this past August.

Evidence that Ke$ha Is a Key Factor in America’s Growth Economy

by Bruce Covey

photo by Lee Ann Roripaugh

photo by Lee Ann Roripaugh

She has a dollar sign in her name, instead of an “S.”

Since Animal came out in 2009, unemployment has decreased and Wall Street stock prices have risen. No, really.

The day after I joined twitter in January, Ke$ha tweeted, “omg I’m cooking a carrot omg omg omg.” She’s talking about carats of gold, right?

In 2007, a music producer and a libertarian economist teamed up to write a rap song that talked about the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich von Hayek. When Ke$ha saw the video, she said, “It’s like legit. It’s really good rapping.”

She says, “Glitter fixes everything. At the end of my shows, why don’t I put on a backpack that’s like a handheld cannon and blast glitter at people?”

Mick Jagger attended the London School of Economics in the early 60s. Ke$ha refers to Jagger in her 2009 song Tik Tok.

Late last year Ke$ha asked her fans to send her their teeth. She says, “I got, like, over 1,000 human teeth. I made them into a bra top and a headdress and earrings and necklaces. I’ve worn it out!!!!”



Bruce Covey‘s sixth book of poems, Change Machine, will be published by Noemi in 2014. He lives in Atlanta, GA, where he edits Coconut magazine and Coconut Books and curates the What’s New in Poetry reading series.

who are you without what you are without

By Daniel Boscaljon
Image by Melissa D. Johnston
rothko experiment B1.1.6

“who are you without what you are without” is the fourth letter in a series of posts called Letters to You written by Daniel Boscaljon with images by Melissa D. Johnston (from one of her ongoing projects). Letters to You began in July with “everytime i write i feel myself disintegrate.”

when asked what one would prefer to sacrifice–what one has, or what one does not–i would dare to wager that most would prefer to do anything BUT give up what one does not have. I would do this, and I wager that you would also. To have something is, at best, ambiguous. i know the strengths and weaknesses of what I have, what is good about it, what i dislike, and i can rest contentedly in my relationship with what is known. at the same time, this seems an insufficient explanation for why humans (and i’m including you and i within this discussion, as you can tell) refuse to give up what they do not have, despite the fact of not having it. we will sacrifice everything–but not nothing. is it to hurt ourselves? are we this twisted? am i? are you?
if i only want what i do not have–what happens when i receive what it is that i want? is it acceptable? will i spend my lifetime pushing away everything that i want, so that i can continue to have a desire? is there some happiness possible out of this conundrum? is there a way to resolve it, such that i can rest contentedly in what i have? is absence the necessary AND sufficient condition of desire?
can i desire what i have? can you? can you look at your life, as it is, and will it again, an eternal return of the same? would you will your past, were you to do it again? amor fati, if you will…more fate! i desire to desire what i have and who i am, but i find this desire to be impossible. at the same time, i can accept the reality of this situation.
the reason this troubles me is that i am now forced to watch you chasing rainbows and butterflies, attacking windmills, and allowing your heart to be broken. i can see you as a mirror for who i am, and it frightens me. are we really so similar? can i remember that there is a distance between us, or has the distance disappeared?
a dream deferred wastes away like a raisin in the sun, so they say. will your past, so they say. i refuse to sacrifice what i do not have. the treasure of my imagination, the secret jewels of my desire–these are more precious than reality. what quivers in your heart? is it what is present, or absent? what motivates you to get up in the morning? who are you, without what you are without? can you even conceive of such a sacrifice, a sacrifice of that which does not exist? do you realize the difficulty of depriving yourself of what you already are deprived of?
IF YOU HAVE READ THIS FAR, i will offer something by way of a consolation, perhaps, although it may be a far cry from a consolation of philosophy. there is a hope of a positive movement by which you can give up what you do not have without isolating yourself from time (past, present, future). There is a sacrifice that can be made in faith, NOT resignation. There is a perspective in which we are all paupers in the world, born with nothing and having pockets too small for any real gift of the soul. in giving up everything, we can learn to give up nothing. in sacrificing nothing, that hardest sacrifice, in giving up what we do not have, we MIGHT be able to learn to have everything–both what we have and do not have. to be able to gain what you do not have in such a way that you can accept its gift, you need first to be able to give up what you lack in order to be able to accept it joyfully. Let go of what is absent. Decrease its control over your life. Face who you are without what you already are without, and then you can be, perhaps, the success which you are terrified of becoming.
are these all problems which don’t exist, problems of nothing? perhaps. at the same time, i offer these truths to you for your examination and contemplation. i do not claim hold to a truth–absolute or relative. i pray if you find error in these words, that you offer up a correction. show me that this is untrue, pray that i can accept the truth.

Daniel Boscaljon has Ph.D.s in Modern Religious Thought and 19th-century American Literature, both from the University of Iowa. His interest is in the fragility and liminality of human experiences. His first book, Vigilant Faith: Passionate Agnosticism in the Secular World was published by the University of Virginia Press this past August.

Postcolonial Thoughts: Critique of Michael David’s “The One-Eyed Turtle and the Floating Sandalwood Log”

by Christopher Hutchinson

Michael David is widely regarded as the one of the top encaustic artists of the 21st century. He has built his career on abstraction and an intuitive need to explore the continuity of wax as a medium, which has presently developed into dense and lush pictorial landscapes. His work is included in the permanent public collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Guggenheim Museum in New York,and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, as well as in many prominent private collections.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/11/prweb11310604.htm



On November 7th 2013 Bill Lowe gallery in Atlanta exhibited “America’s Most Acclaimed Encaustic Painter, Michael David.” I was initially impressed with the scale, technique, and medium of this exhibition.  It seemed that all David’s accolades were well-deserved, but upon further investigation there are obvious questions to the validity to these claims.

Encaustic

Michael David’s encaustic paintings are certainly the best without question in comparison to what usually passes as the encaustic craft.  David is a master of the encaustic, but Postmodernism separated the labor and precision of craft from art.  The time, scale, and medium of these “masterpieces” are not to be considered as part of the rubric as to what qualifies as exemplary art.  We may no longer judge artwork based on its craftsmanship.  Only if that craftsmanship is so terrible that it interferes with the concept.  In David’s work there is an overwhelming need to compliment its technique rather than the dialogue.

MICHAEL DAVID – THE  ONE-EYED TURTLE AND THE FLOATING SANDALWOOD LOG VII – ENCAUSTIC & MIXED MEDIA ON PANEL – 44 X 51 -2013

michael david 2

Maple Viewing at Takao (mid-16th century) by Kanō Hideyori (ja) is one of the earliest Japanese paintings to feature the lives of the common people.[1]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukiyo-e

Expressionism

“Michael David may be the most innovative master of immediate surface since the Abstract Expressionists. He has acknowledged his debt to Abstract Expressionism, but he has transformed it.”-Donald Kuspit

The conversation that has been brought up readily in the David’s work is Abstract expressionism, and this comparison for most would be acceptable, but this is not completely accurate. David’s “Navigator” has a replica war airplane that appears to have crashed in the sea of wax on the surface. What is transformative about this? “Navigator” is clearly a wax illustration. The piece is static and placed the opposite of expression. This piece was the key to David’s codex. Often three-dimensional objects are placed on the surface glued in place by the encaustic medium. The proper term for these would be arranged artifacts, an impression of expression.

Surface & Sculpture

Painters with an affinity for surface manipulation often become stuck in-between painting and their aspirations to become completely three-dimensional.  These painters never accomplish more than an additive relief.   These reliefs are unsuccessful at painting and sculpture equally.   These artworks do not have the deliberation of space to become suitable sculpture, equally also do not meet the fluidity of paint. David’s is additive praxis with no other concern but to accumulate more.  More does not equal excellent.

 A bas-relief at Banteay Srei in Cambodia depicts Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa, the Abode of Lord Siva. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relief#Notable_reliefs


A bas-relief at Banteay Srei in Cambodia depicts Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa, the Abode of Lord Siva.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relief#Notable_reliefs

Thornton Dial & Academia

 The best piece of the exhibition was due to David’s new muse, a Thornton Dial inspired piece called “Ophelia”.  Again here we have a second key to David’s exhibition appropriation.  A fusion of derivative influences that are not so readily apparent of which Thornton Dial is the most recent.   This exhibition had all David’s muses present, Ukiyo-e Japanese composition and color, Abstract Expressionist technique, and Southern Folk art all academically-appropriated.  David is well aware of this and has credited those influences, however should this be accepted the way Donald Kuspit intends?

David’s abstract paintings renew immediacy; they reconstitute and strengthen, even apotheosize it. They raise it to a feverishly fresh intensity with their remarkable touch, indicating they are among the very best painterly abstractions made.”-Donald Kuspit

 Or should it be placed as cleverly disguised influences remade with encaustic mastery?  Not fresh. Not New. Well crafted.

michael david 6



Christopher HutchinsonChristopher Hutchinson is an Assistant Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and Archetype Art Gallery Owner in Atlanta, Ga. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama. He lived in Alabama for 10 years before moving to Atlanta in 2008. His installations mostly consist of black folded paper airplanes.

Learn more about Christopher and his work at Black Flight 144.

my best for your worst

By Daniel Boscaljon
Image by Melissa D. Johnston

not rothko experiment. the now final

“my best for your worst” is the fourth letter in a series of posts called Letters to You written by Daniel Boscaljon with images by Melissa D. Johnston (from one of her ongoing projects). Letters to You began in July with “everytime i write i feel myself disintegrate.”

some words have power.  Even though I’m sure you will not dispute this assertion, I nonetheless will provide you with an example.  During 7th grade band, Maria looked at me and said: “You bring out the worst in everyone.”  An arrangement of seven words–do you think that they could stand engraved in my memory if they had no power? At the time, I laughed off the words, thinking to myself that they were only tossed out in a sort of bored and half-hearted rage.  As the words continued to haunt me, I continued to defend myself using a variety of different strategies: 1) she doesn’t know me well enough to be able to judge me!  2) she just hasn’t seen me with my friends, and, reduced to the context of band, was rendering a verdict as universally true despite being only locally valid.  3) she herself was just having a bad day and simply displaced other troubles and anxieties onto me.  Over the years, I settled on one or another of these theories, seeking solace overall in the wisdom of friends happy to assure me that I produced a beneficent effect on others and made them to be better people.  At the same time, the TRUTH of these words continued to haunt me beneath the comfort and I was unable to simply remove myself from them altogether.  Over the years, systematically unable to ignore her words, it was time for me to reconsider the original statement.  This I did.  I discovered, perhaps, that it is true.  I DO, indeed, bring out the worst in everyone.  I brought out the worst in her that day, her anger and blind frenzied frustration.  But not only her, or those who dislike me, or my students, or those indifferent: in all, I bring out the worst.  I finally understood that I want to bring out the worst even in you.  I succor it, slowly allowing you to open up to me, to trust me enough to give me even that.  I want to know ALL of you, I want the gift of you unfiltered, uncensored.  I want your bests–but your worst, too.  I want to bring it out of you.  The question I’m sure you’re asking is WHY I would do this.  For you, it’s easy…although there are two possible answers:1) I see your worst and realize how truly amazing you are…for your worst is not so bad at all.  2) I take your worst, drawing it out from you, allowing you to offer it to me as a type of purgative: freed from your worst, you can truly be your best.  With others, an additional motive comes into play:  3) I draw out the worst within them such that they can see themselves as who they are. In my youth, I would bring the worst out in people as a type of game.  As I aged, I grew self-righteous and would serve as a judge but now, I simply allow people’s worst to be reflected.  Judge for yourself!  I offer only comfort, never judgment.  I will take your worst, and then give a hug in return (if such physical proximity is not abhorrent).  I will do my best to get your worst.  I use what empathy has been granted to me to probe below surfaces, to see the dark linings under silver clouds.  I want your smog and pollutions, your dark secrets and rotting skeletons: once they’ve seen the light, perhaps we both can be released.  I will not judge.  I will not be angry.  I will do my best for your worst, my utmost for your lowest.  Such is my lot, and here do I embrace it!

Daniel Boscaljon has Ph.D.s in Modern Religious Thought and 19th-century American Literature, both from the University of Iowa. His interest is in the fragility and liminality of human experiences. His first book, Vigilant Faith: Passionate Agnosticism in the Secular World will be published by the University of Virginia Press this August.

Postcolonial thoughts: Michi Meko’s The job of the resurrectors is to wake up the dead

by Christopher Hutchinson

Michi Meko’s The job of resurrectors is to wake up the dead is the artist’s most recent triumph.  As a participant in Flux 2013, Meko used the opportunity to declare his position atop the list of contemporary American/African American artists in Atlanta.  Meko’s deliberate performance will easily be remembered as the best of 2013 with a couple months to spare.

Meko photo 1“A sound theater of Negro prison work songs will be played to wake up the souls of Negro men that were forced to lay the tracks in and around Atlanta as the re-enslavement of Black Americans increased during the Civil War up to World War II. Most of these free men were imprisoned on bogus charges enforced by Penal Labor/Servitude laws allowing the cycle of supremacy to continue. The inspiration for this sound work came from the pages of Slavery by Another Name written by Atlanta author and Pulitzer Prize-winner Douglas A. Blackmon.”

Performance

Early performance feminist artists like Carolee Schneeman and Yoko Ono employed performance to break from the European institution of the voiceless nude.  With similar stagnation the Black body has been stuck, unable to speak beyond the object/spectacle.  Schneeman merely reacted against the Tradition; she remained tied to that narrative. Meko goes beyond just speaking to create a sound performance that does not allow the Western custom to penetrate.  Meko has complete ownership of his narrative; it is not interested in protesting the West, rather revealing another tradition altogether.  Meko has revealed something that has always been present and regularly dismissed, disqualified as art-ritual.

Meko photo 2

Meko’s family. His mother is the youngest child in front on the right.

 This narrative in sound and action demands an investigation into a rich lineage of rites of passage which Meko receives directly from his bloodline.  It is a direct source, as well as a shared means of access.  Meko includes us in his lineage that allows the viewer to participate in a tangible way, not as romantic spectators.

 Meko photo 3Meko’s wailing sounds envisage a time that is past and present as a continuum.  It was a confrontation with the dead, not just the physicality of death, but also the innate that died to become more academic.  What awakened was the “Id.”

Romanticism

It would be easy to lump these chants into a familiar generalized “tribal.”  Native American chants, African drums, and the familiar “Bass,” that heavy “Bass” which divides the guitar lovers.  When Meko uses these sounds they are not bound by the already generalized “Blackness” that exists.   Viewers had to come to terms with visceral response.  The mind tried to figure out where it was. What was happening?  Why this felt so good? The body didn’t care to reason anymore, it just gave in to Meko’s provocation.  It was transcendence.

Participation

After moving through the crowd and happening on the piece, I saw a little boy doing some contemporary Hip-Hop dance. There was a circle of at least 100 people around him.  This youth captivated the viewers, and then about ten minutes later large Black Male fell on the asphalt motionless. After a while of lying there, “Bass” brought him back to life.  He was re-animated with the prison chants.  He was intense and somber corresponding with the introspective tone of the audio.  The performance had a crescendo into a celebration, where everyone participated.  It could no longer be contained in one cipher, the performance overflowed to another circle completely on its own, organically.  This ceremony went on for hours.

Christopher HutchinsonChristopher Hutchinson is an Assistant Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and Archetype Art Gallery Owner in Atlanta, Ga. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama. He lived in Alabama for 10 years before moving to Atlanta in 2008. His installations mostly consist of black folded paper airplanes.

Learn more about Christopher and his work at Black Flight 144.

confession: the nature of my crime

By Daniel Boscaljon
Image by Melissa D. Johnston

“confession: the nature of my crime” is the third letter in a series of posts called Letters to You written by Daniel Boscaljon with images by Melissa D. Johnston (from one of her ongoing projects). Letters to You began in July with “everytime i write i feel myself disintegrate.”

not the last time no by Melissa D Johnston

If I have, in fact, committed a crime, I offer this up as my confession and apology:  1) I am guilty for a lack of self-reflection: I wrote to you when I was tired, and the presence of sheer honesty obscured the level of half-truths in which we are used to communicating.  I’ve let you become accustomed to reading through what is there–and not the thing itself.  If in being purely honest I have misled you, I am sorry. 2) Instead of being honest and stating that I miss you and need to find myself in your words–the words of past or future–I decided to accuse you falsely of crimes uncommitted.  The truth is that i need to hear from you–to hear you address me, as me.  I need for you to fill voids in my life, unavoidably present, as much as I attempt to see past and through them.  My life is empty: I want you to fill me up.  It isn’t your responsibility, you aren’t obligated…but I want to think that you want to do this. 3) I desire to assume that I mean as much to you as you mean to me, even when I know that it is an absurd truth, and therefore far from the truth at all. 4) When you tell me the truth, I want to hear it all as lies.  When you lie to me, I wish to see it as the truth.  I wish I could be less human than this, but human I remain. 5) I told you that I would tend your garden, but I did not.  Weeds grew, unobserved, in the evening.  Should I have told you I do not know a flower from a weed?  Should I have told you that I think weeds are as beautiful as the flowers you desire?  Should I have told you that I was busy during that time period and couldn’t do justice to your instructions?  I told you that I would tend your garden, but my tendency was to sit and do nothing, allowing nature to run its course.  You knew this about me, however: in entrusting me, were you counting on my failure?  This, now, is my hope.6)  You said that you would return.  You promised you would come back for me: how was I to know?  When I was obedient, you stayed far from me.  In sinning, I merely wanted to see you once again, even to see you angry.  I would rather have you judge me than ignore me.  Is this a crime? 7)  I can be righteous for a moment at a time, but only a moment.  If you make me wait past these moments and I fall from grace, if I get bored with waiting and wander into unmarked deserts–is this my fault, or yours? 8)  I am guilty of being empty but wanting to be full.  I am guilty of trying to hide from the lack of reality in my life.  I am guilty of sleeping too little and dreaming too much.  I am guilty of not being ashamed. 9)  Instead of simply missing you, I choose to blame myself for imaginary crimes or blame you for a lack of attention.  If being human differed from being guilty, I’d offer this as an excuse.  Instead, I can only confess and testify this is so.

Daniel Boscaljon has Ph.D.s in Modern Religious Thought and 19th-century American Literature, both from the University of Iowa. His interest is in the fragility and liminality of human experiences. His first book, Vigilant Faith: Passionate Agnosticism in the Secular World will be published by the University of Virginia Press this August.

Postcolonial Thoughts: Afrofuturist Rashid Johnson’s Message To Our Folks

“Afrofuturist Rashid Johnson’s Message To Our Folks” is the first post in the new column “Postcolonial Thoughts” written by artist Christopher Hutchinson, Assistant Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan College and Archetype Art Gallery Owner in Atlanta, Ga. In the column Christopher will offer fresh and trenchant analyses of art and theory through the lens of multiple traditions, especially those neglected or not included in the Western canon. 

by Christopher Hutchinson

Rashid Johnson earned his B.F.A. from Columbia College Chicago in 2000 and enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2003. The program’s heavy emphasis on concept and theory posed a challenge to Johnson who wanted to make things. Yet it stoked his interest in the formal elements of artworks and in finding meaningful materials outside those typically associated with traditional art. Johnson left for New York in 2005, and currently lives and works in Brooklyn. Johnson was the recipient of the 2012 David C. Driskell Prize.

Rashid Johnson’s Message to our Folks exhibition at the High Museum was on display June 08 – September 08, 2012 and has recently moved to September 20, 2013 – January 6, 2014 at the Kemper Art Museum to great reviews. Viewers were asked to accept Johnson’s venture from photography to a hodgepodge of other mediums.  Johnson’s venture includes carefully contrived compositions.  These compositions are not as offensive in the medium of photography, where the medium itself is understood to be a simulation. Once Johnson includes sculpture, painting, installation, grafitti and video these compositions are painfully   insulting.  Johnson’s attempts at expression do not meet the requirements included in  the freedom provided by abstract expressionism. Johnson’s marks are unresponsive, static moves. The expression here is purely decorative design.  Johnson’s decisions aren’t concerned with the exploration of the praxis of art making.

 UNDERGRADUATE

Johnson’s methodology is clearly an undergraduate approach. When a concept is weak, throw as many icons as possible. Undergraduates plow through ideas without taking into account the limitations of the medium.  The medium dictates whether that idea will succeed, and when it doesn’t, undergrads depend on imagery to cover this oversight.  Every medium requires a different process from concept to execution and often the concept conflicts with the material. Will this material allow this concept to work? Johnson presents forced concepts onto materials inorganically.

"Napalm" (2011) by U.S. artist Rashid Johnson. It will be shown by the London and Zurich dealers Hauser & Wirth at the 38th edition of the FIAC fair in Paris, previewing Oct. 19.

“Napalm” (2011) by U.S. artist Rashid Johnson. It will be shown by the London and Zurich dealers Hauser & Wirth at the 38th edition of the FIAC fair in Paris, previewing Oct. 19.

Johnson’s Napalm is a good example of this oversight. Napalm is just one example of the blatant disrespect Johnson displays in his praxis. Marks and mediums are made as an afterthought, not as an intuitive response. Every drip, every punch, every brand, every image is staged as an illustration of narrative. Johnson often employs an additive process. Adding more stuff does not make that idea any clearer. Johnson’s marks are timidly placed to make the photographer (which he is) comfortable. Broken glass is regularly spaced and spray paint drips are consistently spread out. It is problematic when an individual is having a discussion of materials, mark-making, sculpture, abstraction, and graffiti.

NOSTALGIA

Johnson explores the work of black intellectual and cultural figures as a way to understand his role as an artist as well as the shifting nature of identity and the individual’s role in that shift. By bringing attention to difference and individuality, he attempts to deconstruct false notions of a singular black American identity. (http://www.high.org/Art/Exhibitions/Rashid-Johnson-Message-To-Our-Folks.aspx)

Rashid Johnson Self Portrait

Self Portrait with My Hair Parted Like Frederick Douglass, 2003.Lambda print. Collection of Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of the Susan and Lewis Manilow Collection of Chicago Artists, 2006.26
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Message to our Folks is laced with nostalgia. Don’t you remember Frederick Douglass, Al Green, Sweetback, Huey Newton’s wicker chair, Jazz, and Public Enemy? Johnson’s Self Portrait with My Hair Parted Like Frederick Douglass accurately sums up this exhibition.  This seems like Black intelligence, this appears like authentic Blackness. It is a simile and if Johnson’s discussion included simulacra, he would have succeeded. This exhibition provides the foundation to include Blackness as a trend. It adopts osmosis of style, where all an individual has to do is “act Black” to be an authority on Blackness.

Triple Consciousness, 2009 Black soap, wax, vinyl in album cover, shea butter, plant, and brass 48 x 96 in. (121.9 x 243.8 cm) Collection of Dr. Daniel S. Berger, Chicago Courtesy of the artist and moniquemeloche, Chicago

Triple Consciousness, 2009.
Black soap, wax, vinyl in album cover, shea butter, plant, and brass
48 x 96 in. (121.9 x 243.8 cm)
Collection of Dr. Daniel S. Berger, Chicago
Courtesy of the artist and moniquemeloche, Chicago

Nostalgia is a protective warm blanket that prevents this work from critique. How can you criticize the monolithic Black community and not be a deserter? The fact is, Johnson’s Triple Consciousness is just corny. Three Al Green albums does not address the Dubois’s Double Consciousness; it belittles it. The moment critical questioning is applied Johnson’s exhibition falls apart. Johnson’s work is the very definition of Black exploitation by Black Artists under the pretense of uplifting the community.

AFROFUTURISM
Here again we have a contemporary artist living in the past. The irony is Johnson and others are considered to be Afrofuturists. Doctoral candidate Nettrice Gaskins does her best to define and identify the Afrofuturist agenda.

What is afrofuturism?
• It’s not the black version of Futurism. It is an aesthetic and the term can be used to describe a type of artistic and cultural community of practice. Afrofuturism navigates past, present and future simultaneously. The keyword here is: navigation or ascertaining one’s position and planning and following a specific route.
• It is counter-hegemonic. Hegemony refers to the dominant, ruling class or system. Afrofuturism is not concerned with the mainstream or the canon of (Western) art history. In the image above jazz musician and cosmic philosopher Sun Ra (Ra being the Egyptian God of the Sun) placed himself at the center of other known cosmic philosophers and scientists.
• It is revisionist, meaning that afrofuturism advocates for the revision of accepted, long-standing views, theories, historical events and movements

While Gaskins provides the best analysis of Afrofuturism’s intent, unfortunately most of the visual artists included in the Afrofuturist dialogue succeed at accomplishing the exact opposite of its intent. Afrofuturism currently actually provides a collective generic consciousness, which Johnson has condoned. The canon of Afrofuturism imagery is there due to the lack of originality and the regurgitation of something that is assumed to be authentic “Blackness“. Afrofuturism, at best, is a style not an aesthetic. It is not a set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement. Afrofuturism is stuck navigating the past. Using the spectacle of black bodies dressed up in futuristic garb does not change the context that already exists. The spectacle nourishes it.

ECTO-KITSCH

Black artists manage their representations (images, sounds, systems) in mainstream society and the global world through creativity and innovation, and by using improvisation and re-appropriation to move beyond the limits of nationality or identity. We see these representations manifested again and again in black culture. The lack of African knowledge has not prevented African diasporic people from tapping into the ancestral memory of traditional (African) systems. In other words, we replaced images/artifacts like the cosmogram (map of the universe) with the Unisphere. (http://netarthud.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/what-is-afrofuturism/)

Ecto-Kitsch, a term coined by Professor Jason Sweet that addresses the globalization push that was initially a response to Postcolonialism, is a farce. Ecto-Kitsch recognizes the pretense that a globalization is a non-Western interpretation of art produced by minorities. It recognizes that Globalism has created a universal rubric used to qualify art from non-Western people through the lens of the West. The most Western-like minorities are pushed to the forefront as an example of the West’s new inclusive attitude. The Unisphere expressed in Afrofuturism equals hegemony and hegemony equals kitsch. The very images/artifacts posed as re-appropriations in Afrofuturism, are used for commodification of living people. Johnson proves this commodification with his New Black Yoga. A Black man is performing yoga poses on a T.V placed on a persian rug with the words black yoga spray painted in gold on the rug. This is by far the worst piece in the exhibition. Now Johnson ventures into commodifiying other non-Western cultures as well as his own. This is Johnson’s Message to our Folks.

Christopher Hutchinson Christopher Hutchinson is an Assistant Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and Archetype Art Gallery Owner in Atlanta, Ga. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama. He lived in Alabama for 10 years before moving to Atlanta in 2008. His installations mostly consist of black folded paper airplanes.

Learn more about Christopher and his work at Black Flight 144.

%d bloggers like this: