MICHAEL REES AND ROBERT GERO: TACTICAL PLAY EXCHANGE
Over the past year, Michael Rees and Robert Gero have created a series of artwork based on the strategical play of a particular gallery space and the hundreds of interactions it can produce. Tactical Play Exchange, their first collaborative project, was on view in New York at Pablo’s Birthday Gallery through May 5th. The show moved to Favorite Goods Gallery in Los Angeles, where it was reconfigured according to the new space on May 12th.
This constant-action project begins with the architectural elements constituting the exhibition space—modeled with 3D software in different times and places by the two artists. This to-and-fro movement between the two artists becomes a “networked ground of play” in which the physical quality of sculpture is transformed into an infinitely malleable architecture of relations.
Vanessa Saraceno: Can you explain what you mean exactly by the expression Tactical Play Exchange?
Robert Gero: The play came out of the idea of humor and possibilities. Instead of having a concept and applying it, we wanted to produce the concept itself, to further its possibilities. We turned the gallery into an object itself, a 3D file, and then started interacting with it. Then we established rules for this game of positive possibilities and humor. For example: if you have modified something in that file, you have to share it.
Michael Rees: The thing is that with digital media you have the opportunity to see everything you or someone else has worked on. The record of it is perfect and permanent. This means that the work can continue to grow and change forever. As a work constantly in action, there is a very prevalent playful quality that goes beyond the network aspect of the work.
VS: You also defined this project as a “networked ground of play”.
RG: What interested me in regards of the idea of the network is its radical openness. There is dynamism in our work because we are exchanging ideas as well as objects.
VS: I know you previously worked with Joseph Beuys. How has his concept of “Social Sculpture” influenced your work?
MR: This project in particular is very involved with the idea of Social Sculpture, as well as with the Open Source movement. Although we can’t identify much with the Marxist aspect of Beuys’ idea of Social Sculpture. Through our work, we discuss ideas that imply interactivity and a democratic attitude, but on the other hand, this project is between Robert Gero and myself, so there is a higher level of intimacy achieved. However, if our work took on a worldwide scope, it could be more closely bound to Beuys’ Social Sculpture.
VS: Indeed, this interactive aspect of your project implies the death of the author. To what extent does your collaboration worked this way?
Michael Rees and Robert Gero, Fidelity to finite systems, 2012. Painted polyurethane foam, wire, painted wire, painted 3D print, 26 x 22 x 25 in.
Courtesy of the artists.
MR: Barthes’ “the death of the author” is exactly the sensation this project provokes. This is not just about personal expression, but all about understanding all of the forces that exist between and around us.
RG: For the project to be successful, there cannot be any one dominant voice. As a play of ideas and forms, there cannot be any singular entity but an assemblage of multiple ones. All of our efforts are aimed at creating an open territory of play, of tactical exchange.
VS: Even though they look heavy, all the sculptures are suspended and thus have an ethereal, weightless quality to them.
MR: We used foam for construction and wanted to elevate the sculptures to allude to a kind of rapture for the viewers. We wanted to communicate the idea of the cosmos as being open to possible change, a shift in understanding. This shift in understanding and physical shift in perception creates what we refer to as a “tactical exchange.”
RG: We wanted to suggest that these objects can continue to levitate and transform themselves for eternity. Fundamental to this project is the idea of things unfinished; everything has the potential to change.
VS: As a dialogue between you and Michael, would you say that the abstracted architecture constituting the project represent a language that is universal?
MR: In a way, I feel this project really has a lot to do with language and how we construct a language. But you cannot define the reality of a process, especially in this culture and at this time where everything is transitive.
RG: To me, the beauty of the visual is its indeterminacy. For a long time art was expected to say something, and language always tends to be representational. I want to be aware of all the dominant systems that are affecting us. In the representational system for instance, things stand for something else. Michael and I tried to find an alternative to that. Instead of showing something, we did something. We created a process.
ART AS INSTINCT. IN CONVERSATION WITH ANNE PERCOCO
To solve the dysfunctional relationship we have with our environment, where everything is consumed and thrown up, Anne Percoco decided to make art without creating something new, but using what the environment already offers. The Boston-born, New Jersey-based artist creates site specific work from discarded materials, such as plastic bags, chairs, and tree branches, and re-invents their values and functions.
In her latest project Life Instinct, currently on view at Nurture Art, Anne Percoco created a makeshift shelter, combining creative resourcefulness with the playful improvisation of a child’s fort. This hut is made with materials — both synthetic and natural — Percoco found on the streets of New York. In this project, the hut and all of its joyful grace act as the visualization of a positive creativity that favors resourcefulness and self-sufficiency. Celebrating at the same time makeshift solutions with a survival instinct, this exhibition draws attention to a re-consideration of the values and functions for every object. In saving all these objects once categorized as refuse and bringing them to a new life, repairing becomes a creative act.
Vanessa Saraceno: Where does the title of the exhibition come from?
Anne Percoco: The title comes from the Maintenance Art Manifesto by Mierle Laderman-Ukeles. She wrote that manifesto when she was pregnant or just after she had had her baby and she realized that she was spending her time taking care of this baby and of their house. She didn’t have time to make art, so she started to view of all these maintenance activities as her new art. Realizing that these everyday activities — not just domestic maintenance, but also civic maintenance such as trash collection — are immensely undervalued in today’s world, she created the work, Touch Sanitation, in which she shook the hand of every trash worker in New York City. The ideas of maintenance and object-care comes from there.
VS: In your work you always mix natural elements with synthetic things.
AP: Yes, I like to mix materials – natural and man-made. Especially in the Nurture Art exhibition and in the hut in particular, combining natural with synthetic materials presents, for me, a post-apocalyptic scenario. I think that a lot of people, when they look at these huts, think about our civilization, where it is going to be and so forth. For example: for my Master thesis project, I collected refuse, junk, and fallen limbs from trees, and put them together to create shrines. That was a project dedicated to the nearby drainage system. Shrines have always been used to celebrate the power of Nature, so I thought it might be interesting to have them celebrate a man-made system.
Too often we forget to appreciate that at the very least, things are still here.
VS: In the Gowanus Project you also used makeshift shrines. What do they represent to you?
AP: Shrines have always been a symbol of connection between man and the environment. I think the relationship we have now with our environment is very dysfunctional and strained. If something breaks, instead of repairing it, we have been taught to simply buy a new one; it’s unsustainable.
VS: Is this relationship what you were thinking of when you made the hut for the Nurture Art exhibition?
AP: The idea of building a shelter from things you have found around you is a very primitive act — it’s a task done not only by people who do have no choice because they have no place to stay, but also by children who use their household blankets, cushions, and chairs to make living room forts. It’s a basic instinct.
VS: You want to provoke a public awareness about our disjointed relationship with our environment. It seems too that you want to draw attention to the way society values objects.
AP: Exactly, I want to turn something that has no value for most people into something that has value. The piece at Nurture Art made with a broom and the dust from the installation itself works to stimulate a similar consciousness. All of the found materials I use, even if they have no value, they are not dead objects; they come from somewhere and they are going somewhere.
VS: You’ve decided to organize a series of workshops at Nurture Art, hosting other artists and their projects. Can you tell me more about the artists you chose and why their projects are connected to your show?
AP: All of these workshops revolved around the idea of repair and creative repair. I chose the artists in regards to the resourceful approach of their practices. Eric Clausen has been the first. Secondly, Kristyna and Marek Milde created a sculpture from the objects people bring during the workshop. Then Fixer’s collective helped people fix their broken objects, and lastly, while Sewing Rebellion NYC organized a mending circle in the exhibition space. Showing how repair can be a creative act, these workshops’ aim was to celebrate the “Life Instinct”, that is a productive instinct instead of a disruptive one.
About the artists: http://www.annepercoco.com
About Nurture Art: http://nurtureart.org
SOCIETY AND DANCE. ABOUT NYC DANCE PARADE 2012
Dance Parade New York City is renowned for being the only parade in the world to exclusively celebrate and showcase the diversity of dance. On May 19 at Thompson Square Park, over 5000 dancers performed 59 unique styles of dance promoted by144 dance organizations working in New York City. Working to promote all forms of dance in a parade down Broadway, the fifth edition of Dance Parade ended up with a Festival where everything from ballet to breakdance was on stage to celebrate the acknowledgement of dance as a social form of expression.
Aiming to highlight all cultures and styles of dance, the Festival was organized in order to present dance companies whose mission is to foster emotive artistry with collaborative interdisciplinary performance art, as the New York-based company VueLA Performing Artist. Founded in 2009 by the choreographer Lannete Alvarez, VueLA company’s aim is to work with a different array of dance and artistic cultural influence to produce choreographies of emotive artistry and insight within the medium of Contemporary Ballet with other interdisciplinary influences.
For 2012 Dance Festival, the company presented Wom3n, casting 6 female artists with music by Nina Simone, Massive Attack, Lhasa de Sela, Florence and The Machine, Joss Stone and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. This work fascinated every visitor attending the festival for its particular mixing of 6 solos in the same show with a coming together finale. Each performer made a rapturing statement independent from the group of either love, passion, strength, independence, and courage, highlighting her own diverse esthetic, style and artistry, while all expressing at the same time their unique femininity.
In this vibrant atmosphere of unified upbeat, elegant and colorful jubilation, artist Ada Cacciatore performed a fluent and theatrically savvy dance, dancing on Massive Attack’s Paradise Circus. The talented dancer drew spectators’ attention with angled movements towards the center of the stage, embodying at the same time women’s tension to freedom as well as their perseverance to effectively get that freedom in everyday life.
Wom3n has been selected for Women in Dance 2011/12 by LEGROS Cultural Arts performing at Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater.
About NY Dance Parade 2012: http://danceparade.org/wp
About VueLA Performing Artists: http://www.wix.com/vuelaperformers/vuelaperformers#!about-vuela