Bruce Conner, "Crossroads," 1976

A Mini-Revolt

Some cracks in our Mentor Week group’s fortitude are beginning to show.

Whitney Museum of American Art
Whitney Museum of American Art
Whitney Museum Group Ticket
Whitney Museum Group Ticket
Mentor Group Outside the Whitney Museum
Mentor Group Outside the Whitney Museum

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Many of us are becoming weary of the obligatory field trips when what we’d really prefer to do is work on our own projects. Today the Mentor group is visiting the Whitney Museum of American Art to see the show, “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art 1905-2016” and also talk to the curator, later in the day. My biggest frustration with the Mentor Week is that it dangles a level of success over one’s head that may prove difficult to achieve for many of the students. More than that, few to no guidelines are given on how to navigate from one point to the next. That is, of course,because there is no roadmap, but I’d argue that spending inordinate amounts of time with responsibilities outside of networking with the outside world and creating work can be counterproductive. Especially for me.

In terms of the show, it is a well-curated collection of expanded notions of what cinema can be. It’s inspiring to me to keep going and get off my ass to finish my next editing and filming and prepare for open studios.

I especially enjoyed the soundtrack to Bruce Conner’s 1976 piece, “Crossroads.” According to Wikipedia, the film features 36 minutes of extreme slow-motion replays of the July 25, 1946, Operation Crossroads Baker underwater nuclear test at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. The soundtrack featured contributions from Patrick Gleeson and Terry Riley, both of whom I’m going to research further.

Bruce Conner, "Crossroads," 1976
Bruce Conner, “Crossroads,” 1976

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I also enjoyed Oskar Schlemmer’s “Triadic Ballet.” Again, according to Wikipedia, “Triadisches Ballett (Triadic Ballet) is a ballet developed by Oskar Schlemmer. It premiered in Stuttgart, on 30 September 1922, with music composed by Paul Hindemith, after formative performances dating back to 1916, with the performers Elsa Hotzel and Albert Burger. The ballet became the most widely performed avant-garde artistic dance and while Schlemmer was at the Bauhaus from 1921 to 1929, the ballet toured, helping to spread the ethos of the Bauhaus.”

Oskar Schlemmer, "Triadic Ballet" 1922/1970
Oskar Schlemmer, “Triadic Ballet” 1922/1970
Oskar Schlemmer, "Triadic Ballet" 1922/1970
Oskar Schlemmer, “Triadic Ballet” 1922/1970

During a break, I looked around for my “perfect brown leather jacket” and saw one at a vintage Levi’s denim store. It’s a beautiful jacket, but at $1200, it’s still a little outside of my budget. I’ll keep looking.

Our group of ten students staged a mini-revolt, yesterday. After four days of following the cultural interests of our mentor, I think we all were tired. The fact of yet another day of visiting places in which he was interested — this time in upstate New York — was too much for a good number of us. I certainly didn’t want to spend my valuable Friday stuck in another van to drive somewhere in which I’m not sincerely interested.

Mole Enchilada at Tortilla Flats, West Village
Mole Enchilada at Tortilla Flats, West Village

The Mentor gathered us all and noted that he needed a driver for the van to take us upstate. No one volunteered. In fact, a number of the ten remarked that they didn’t even have drivers licenses. He exhibited a little frustration with the situation and then, rather exasperatedly, asked who would NOT be attending the trip. Six of us raised our hands, which was both relieving and a vindication of my feelings. Good. One thing the six of us don’t have to do, so I can concentrate on important issues, like our own practices and careers.

Of course, it has nothing to do with the Mentor, and I went to great lengths to thank him and show him appreciation in front of my peers for his planning and diligence. My only criticism is that by introducing a large group of us to his friends for very short bursts of time, no real network or connections can be made. It felt very “touristic” and fishbowl-like, especially with the curator he arranged for us to meet at the Whitney.

Talk with "Dreamlands" curator at Whitney Museum
Talk with “Dreamlands” curator at Whitney Museum

We met the curator of the “Dreamlands” and she took us to a conference room where she literally talked us through the entirety of exhibition, piece by piece. She seems a little too obsessed with age and the “young” artists, which is always a wrong-headed bias. I am also constantly astounded by the fact that the curators are constantly denigrating the “market” and the financial side of the art world, while still only really interacting with artists with whom the market has already established some form of relationship. It seems very hypocritical, but it is an EXTREMELY common trait of institutional art workers. They act as if the artist with whom they work are the best or most visionary, when often they are the ones that are handed to them by the gallery system. As I’ve noted to others before, an analogy can be drawn between the gallery system and the music business in that the artists cannot be evaluated unless they are enfolded in what is the equivalent of a “major label” in the music business. Unlike the music business, however, being “independent” carries no cache amongst curators or collectors. It’s strange and delusional, but it’s a part of the art world which I’m still attempting to navigate.

Seeing Doctor Strange at AMC 34th Street Theater
Seeing Doctor Strange at AMC 34th Street Theater

So we chatted with the curator, and that was it. I left only a bit unsatisfied with the shallowness of it all, and then ate a salad at the new Sweetgreen location on Gansevoort street. After that, I caught the first night of the new Marvel film, Doctor Strange, which was entertaining enough. It stole many ideas and visual tropes from Christopher Nolan’s Inception. I then walked back to the apartment and got to sleep by midnight.

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