Consider Josette Urso’s paintings a gathering of environmental explorations. They present us with a complicated mix of layers that are sometimes light and airy, other times heavy in thickness. Across pieces like Button Up and Crest , one might read spidery gestures and watery, weather-like patterns. In the backdrop of all her works we find the pleasing essence of candy colors and trinket shapes. The poetry of Josette’s pieces emerges when bursts of cartoonish playfulness arise out of her delicate abstraction (i.e. Snow Here/Snow There and Snow Kit). Though the paintings have titles that ground us, Josette’s art keeps us wondering about the landscapes from which each painting came.
Josette Urso, a two-person exhibition with Joan Grubin, Location/Dislocation: Re-Imagining Space is on view at the New York Institute of Technology until March 19, 2012. She is a Brooklyn-based artist and has shown at the Bronx Museum, the Drawing Center, and the New York Public Library, among other institutions.
When approaching the Psychic Destabilization Unit, a peculiar collage of noises arises. Listen closely, and you’ll catch muffled voices and conversations buried underneath the buzzing static. The sculpture looks like an alter made up of found IKEA furniture, mirrors, LED lights and plastic skulls–the cheap detritus that appear around Halloween and Christmas time. Imagine E.T.’s homemade telephone spouting white noise and conceptually mixed with Jack Gladney’s postmodern dread.
Of all the items, the Ikea Lack Table sitting at the heart of the PDU is the most important. Usually, this piece of furniture costs $6 and that uncommonly low price has something to do with the materials used to make the table, like the type of nails, the finish, the “wood,”…and the cardboard. Yes, correct, cardboard is an ingredient in making Ikea furniture, not just in packaging it. The artist, Max Razdow, discovered this when he removed the first thin layer of “wood” from his found table to unveil an intricate lattice shape formed by the cardboard. It looks like a small surface of honey combs, or a neat sliver from a skull revealing the folds of a brain. Max had been amazed by its organic look, which reminded him of a meshed web. Using blue and white LED lights the artist emphasizes the cardboard organs and the alien nature lurking behind this simple piece of furniture. In other words, Max unveils the inner monster hiding under all the plastic and low-priced knick-knacks. The sculpture examines ready-made furniture, which have “obtained a sense of beauty that is outward,” Max said. The fact that theses tables bare cardboard skeletons on the inside creates “a metaphor for the emptiness.” Even the name of this item “Lack” hints at the metaphor.
The PDU brings to mind the work of Jean Baudrillard, the cultural theorist who wrote The System of Objects, among other books related to consumerism. In this piece, Baudrillard forms a philosophy about commodities, mostly surrounding our households. In what seems like an impossibly long discussion, Baudrillard visits color, interior spaces, architecture, materials, autonomy, purchasing power and the sociology attached with all of the above to create a philosophy on consumerism. His ideas converge towards a despairing view of our lifestyle:
“…THERE ARE NO LIMITS TO CONSUMPTION. If consumption were indeed what it is naively assumed to be, namely a process of absorption or devouring, a saturation point would inevitably be reached. If consumption were indeed tied to the realm of needs, some sort of progress towards satisfaction would presumably occur. We know very well that nothing of that kind happens: people simply want to consume more and more.”
That’s the kind of language we might use to describe worms or viruses. And what is to come of this conversation? Razdow continues right where Baudrillard leaves off. For the artist, there is a way out of this endless satisfaction—One must become a creator instead of a consumer. His piece of sculptural science fiction exemplifies this idea. As a theorist, Jean Baudrillard doesn’t search for solutions. If left to him, our consumer society would remain prisoners of a viscoius cycle. Note his final sentence on the matter: “Consumption is irrepressible, in the last reckoning, because it is founded upon a lack.”
I first came across the Psychic Destabilization Unit during the 2009 Bushwick Beta Spaces Festival. The piece was also shown at Washington Square East Gallery in 2008. Max received his MFA from New York University and is currently based in Queens. His paintings, drawings, and sculptures have been exhibited at Andrew Eldin Gallery, Galerie Jan Dhaese, Freight + Volume, and St. Cecilia’s Convent.
The road sign on Bogart Street is twisted so that part of the name is missing, and from one angle, one seems to be approaching a place called, “ART St.” That had been one of the first sights I came across about a year ago when visiting Bushwick during the 2009 BETA Spaces Festival. At the time, I had been new to the area and sights like this came off as especially welcoming. I felt at home. Now, I regularly trample through this community for shows and talks, and I look forward to annual events like the BETA Spaces Festival, which arrives this Sunday.
Over 50 group exhibitions will open from Noon until 7PM. Some will appear in the usual gallery setting and a number of others will spring up in unexpected spaces. See the map and a complete list of shows.
L Magazine also decided to spotlight 10 BETA shows.
Here’s a sampling of exhibits that might attract the green minded, art-enthusiast:
Chris Harding’s INTRUDER at English Kills Gallery.
In addition to these visual events, I’m excited for the afternoon panel, “Artists on the Block.” Artist, Laura Braslow will moderate a discussion on the impact of the art community’s effects on the Bushwick landscape.
The photo above comes from Sparkle Motion, a show from the 2009 BETA festival. It was an exhibit creatively stationed in a well-decorated, saucy U-HAUL. Another Sparkle Motion should be on view this year too.
I recently used James Elkins’ essay, “The Object Stares Back” in a Heliotrope post on one of the shows in Beta Spaces ’09, and while the essay discusses many different aspects of vision/perception, a lot of the extraordinary points Elkins makes didn’t relate to the show I covered. So I never got to flesh out any thoughts about them. However, his insights certainly relate to the investigations being made here. The following is a long excerpt regarding the nature of vision for animals:
Page 65-67, The Object Stares Back
…There are many ways of seeing aside from those that can be captured by pointing photofloods at an object and documenting it in Kodachrome. A few years ago there was a special slide film called infared, which mixed visible light with near infared to produce unexpected colors. Pictures of autumn leaves would come out partly the way they naturally look and partly glowing pink-and-turquoise. A picture of a hand would look a little waxy, with the surgace veins showing through as if the skin had become transparent. The color infared film was also a way to think about the vision of other animals. Some animals see different wavelengths than we do; this raises curious questions about how they perceive the world. Apparently frogs can see color but tadpoles can’t: is the metamorphosis from tadpole to frog like the change from black-and-white Kansas to colorful Oz? Bees can see some ultraviolet, so that they can look at flowers that appear perfectly white to us and discern patterns in them. But at the same time, Bees cannot see the other end of the spectrum–they can’t perceive red, and so their vision begins in the ultraviolet, continues up through the spectrum of purple, blue, green, yellow, and stops at orange.
To us, the two extreme ends of the spectrum look very similar: red on one end seems to blend well with violet on the other. In terms of wavelengths they are opposites, but in our perception they seems like a good match. This the reason why artists have been able to bend diagrams of the spectrum into color circles, connecting the red to the violet to make a continuous (and unscientific) cycle of color. If you think of what happens when you mix the deepest red with the deepest violet, you can only imagine a color very much like red or violet. Most colors mix to produce new colors, so that for example, blue and yellow make green; but red and violet seem to only produce more red and violet. That’s odd if you think of the spectrum as a number line. Violet at one end of the spectrum has a wavelength of around 420, and red is about 660. You might think that if they were mixed, the result would be in between—say, about 540, which is the wavelength of green. But red and violet do not mix to produce green. Bees are different, and they see mixtures of their two extreme colors (ultraviolet and orange) as a third color, which we cannot even begin to imagine. It is called bee’s purple, though there is no reason to assume it looks anything like purple. Perhaps to bees it is more like our yellow or our indigo…or perhaps it’s something entirely new. We have no capacity to imagine new colors. No matter how hard you try, each color you imagine is going to be a color that exists and probably one you’ve seen before. You can make up a new color—the philosopher Nelson Goodman made up “grue” and “bleen”—but you cannot imagine how a genuinely new color looks. We are stuck with the spectrum and its mixtures, but we know that other animals may not be.
And what about other ways of seeing form? Animals that can change their color, like flounders, octopi, and chameleons, provide a way to think about that. A flounder will not only change its color to try to blend in with its surroundings; it will also change its pattern (figure 9). The flounder in these pictures has a fairly good idea of what a dot pattern looks like, even though it ends up making dots that are several times too large. But it messes up the large and small checkerboards. Faced with a small checkerboard, it produces some small white patches, but there are too few of them and they are unevenly spaced. For the large checkerboard it manages larger spots, but it cannot get the evenness of the pattern, and its silhouette remains clearly visible. In describing things this way I am of course seeing as a human, and what these pictures may show is the way that the flounder sees those patterns. It could be that, for the flounder, those are perfect matches, and a large checkerboard really is a mottled black surface with some blotches of white. The flounder might be communicating its vision with its body, letting us glimpse the world through its eyes.
AKT: If other animals had to examine human sight, what would they use to describe the way we envision the world? I realize this question is too big for a blog post and certainly too large for a comments thread. Even Eilkins didn’t seem completely finished with his contemplations on the “nature of [our] Seeing” when he ends this book. In his closing, he writes, “this book could have been five hundred pages long or five thousand. Vision is inexhaustible…” …and the investigation of sight reminds us that life is not the same in every place; nor is it the same for every being.
The excerpt comes from Elkins’ book, The Object Stares Back .
Bird’s Eye View in Fairfield, CT
Originally organized and conceived by Ryan Dean with the help of countless others around the world.
Participants in the Bird’s Eye View have a unique way of petitioning for the reduction of carbon emissions through collaborative installations built on rooftops across the world. Upon these rooftops, collaborators unload pounds and pounds of plastics, paper, fabric, and other used materials, which they then arrange into the number, “350,” a massive 350 that can be seen from airplanes.
These installations call attention to the reduction of carbon emissions in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, which is a level prominent scientists (i.e. NASA’s James Hansen) have identified as “the only safe level of carbon dioxide in the air.”
The following images come from Birds Eye View pieces around the globe:
BEV installations are not just piles of material forming signage. Those working around the BEV think of these collaborations as “nests,” and like birds, these nests require a collection process.
For example, in the installation at Fairfield University, students started a campaign to collect old bed sheets from members of the community. At Beta Spaces, collaborators used recycled materials to create art pieces to form the numbers. In Maine, Ryan Dean (the original creator of BEV) organized lumber yards to donate tarp-like materials for the projects. For the piece in the Congo, stalks of bark from Banana trees formed the numbers. At Brooklyn College, people used recycled art work (old paintings) and tarps for the 350. In a sense, each of the nests reflect bits of the surrounding environment.
The Bird’s Eye View has also joined networks with other groups across the world. In China, participants from an environmental effort known as Greening of the Beige created their own nest using old magazines. Another eco-minded group known as Reverse Garbage in Australia also collaborated with BEV.
These billboard-sized nests attract attention in a fashion similar to the desperate signaling employed by those trapped on uninhabited islands. I find this very fascinating, but more importantly, the idea behind BEV is to capture 350 from a perspective that allows one to absorb the surrounding environment in such a way that we can actually see the spread of houses, buildings, and other human detritus growing across the Earth.
For many of us, this BEV portrait of Earth isn’t something we confront on a daily basis, for we approach the architecture of our cities and suburbs on the ground. We move in and out of buildings, across streets, and through one city’s end to another city’s end without that ever-present view from above.
In a recent email exchange, one of the collaborators wrote, “Sometimes you have to look at things from a broadened perspective to see them clearly. It is in a global perspective that we may begin to change things together.”
Bird’s Eye View originally began under the direction of Ryan Dean from Cranston, RI. Since its inception during the winter of 2008, people such as Laura Marie Marciano and a network of individuals have assisted Dean by writing proposals for the project, traveling with him to spread the mission, and putting in hours to construct/document the installations. I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Marie on a rooftop where she displayed a Bird’s Eye View piece during Beta Spaces ’09.
Here we are after 45 days. My note has developed a slight, fine curl, perhaps due to the amount of ink coating the front face. I didn’t expect it to be sticky at this age, but it can still cling to a dry surface, if firmly pressed. I’m hoping for a few more weeks out of this note before I find myself turning it over to start using the backside.
This next picture documents the sticky note around its younger days:
Tan Lin’s Chalk Playground (LitTwit Chalk) set about a dozen+ artists and writers to chalk their thoughts on the streets of NY last Saturday. Pieces chalked included a Futurist Manifesto, a Chinese Manifesto, and many other impromptu pieces of poetry. The following pictures catch the “poetry line” working away in a parking lot in Chinatown.
Here’s a favorite:
I only caught up with the poetry line downtown, but the entire performance actually traveled across Manhattan.
I’m not much of a Bushwick expert, but I felt pleasantly welcomed by the neighborhood’s energy as I trampled through BETA Spaces ’09 on Sunday.
After last year’s festival, we saw some fine writing that delivered an overview of the event, but for BETA Spaces ’09, I’d like to work on posts devoted to a few of the individual shows that made up this now annual event. Until then, here are some photos from the weekend.
What you see before you is a 5-business day old Post-it note, which out lives 99% of the sticky slips I consume during my day job. Recently, I decided to try using this one over and over until it becomes completely filled and dysfunctional. Although I already have an idea of what that must look like, I am curious to see just how long this task can be kept up. Along the way, I’ll document and update you with the progress.
It must be noted, though, that I still constantly use several post-it notes during work to effectively communicate with co-workers and label documents. Still, there’s always some small task I’m finding each day that doesn’t require the use of an entire sticky note.