In Residence /

If It Need Be Termed Surrender

In the aftermath of organizing an unrealized exhibition at artist-run institution Odium Fati in San Francisco, K.r.m. Mooney offers a set of relations between figures. These six installments, contributed to Flash Art’s “In Residence” column, are a means for the artist to pursue the significance of each context-specific practice and the potential actions, kinships, and alignments between these figures.

I recently called on a friend who has been in direct correspondence with the gallery that represents Trisha Donnelly. Knowing there was a limited chance I would be passed along the documentation images of her 2015 West Coast exhibition at Matthew Marks, I sent a follow-up email about a book resulting from an exhibition at a local institution, which included two of Donnelly’s works. This Trojan horse produced a slight assurance that I would gain access to the images. When I received them, I impatiently saved them, feeling implicated in their transgression, their role as an active and animating force: one that participates in how the work means. Harmonic to the discretion that remains paramount in Donnelly’s practice, I’m sympathetic to Donnelly’s stance on circulation: a pursuit in which the values of the work remain imagined and hypothetically cast in order to reject the singular, a quest compromised when placed in a context of extreme acceleration or determined by language without contest of the hegemonic linguistic sign. I submit my personal favor and ask for the images because my memory is poor. There is too great a cognitive distance between the early fall of 2015, the time in which the exhibition took place, and the present. I try to remember what the exhibition felt like by looking up the weather for September 26, 2015, in an almanac. It details the average and maximum sustained wind speeds, which varied from 3.5 to 10.25 miles per hour. I’m curious about the significance of an exhibition that takes place on the cusp of two seasons.

Deceived by the stillness of the images, I continue to search for reviews that reference the tarps placed on the gallery’s six skylights. I recall my entrance across the darkened exhibition space. I find one description of how, when the wind picks up, the single unfixed tarp puffs open in erratic, billowing pulses. An incision. This pattern, buoyed by light, is beautiful. The text describes how “the tarp seems to dance; over time the tarps’ slow flashes start to synch with and pass attention to the large projection that is the room’s (and show’s) main event: an image of an isometric wavescape, pixilated spikes, all strobing between positive and negative, on and off. […] The projected image exceeds, in one corner, what at first appears to be the poorly keyed quadrilateral of ‘black’ thrown by the projector but is in fact a dim shape within a projected field too dim to see in a show daylit through cracks and tarps, brightened by the spillover of projectors. The tarp isn’t opaque; it wavers between grays. […] The tarp flaps like an analogue to the projection’s binary, as if reading a series of perfectly ephemeral peaks and valleys above the skylight’s bulge.”[1] I return here because there is a heightened sequencing in Donnelly’s works that is particularly useful as a means to animate the contingencies encountered within an exhibition space. With my tendency to read sites of exhibition in terms of their infrastructural and physical properties, I speculate about what the space of Odium Fati and a work of Donnelley’s might do while offering no commensurate precision. Proposed in a setting of sustained intimate contact, the incision of the tarp remains too appropriate for the space of a garage yet remains a touchstone. It facilitates a form of cross-modal interaction, a felt distance between the floor that a body might traverse and the infrastructures of light that make the exhibition available by sight — a consideration of spatiality in terms of nearness and farness, relations of proximity and entanglement and inter-implication rather than numerals or geometry.

K.r.m. Mooney is an artist living and working in Oakland, California.

[1] http://x-traonline.org/article/the-image-of-trisha-donnelly-at-matthew-marks/

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In Residence /

The Spear Verses the Net

In the aftermath of organizing an unrealized exhibition at artist-run institution Odium Fati in San Francisco, K.r.m. Mooney offers a set of relations between figures. These six installments, contributed to Flash Art’s “In Residence” column, are a means for the artist to pursue the significance of each context-specific practice and the potential actions, kinships, and alignments between these figures.

An exhibition is an ideological field in which we are charged with a mandate to think compositionally. The speculative exhibition at Odium Fati asks: What is the role of form as a context-specific practice both inherited and produced? What is the potential of revision as a strategy and a mode of engagement with one’s material conditions and physical world? The slight internal dynamics among practices, forms, and components generate a specific capacity to act as a carrier of the political. To reorient one’s recognition of the varied and uncounted participants that facilitate our innumerous encounters in daily life, while in public space, with objects and with one another. For example, in common architectural discourse attention is seldom paid to the embodied, affective, and relational aspects of site and space. To receive an exhibition of artworks is to recognize the implication of a body tracing a building: its structural citations brought forth by its history of past and future use, made solid in a specific physical arrangement. We recount the role of space as a container, its value as a collaborator, a participant in structural injustice but also in practices of living and of responsiveness.  

An exhibition will often traverse a number of formal and informal networks, including peers or friends, fiduciaries and foundations; the context of a group exhibition plays a particular role. Contingent on situation and context, it provides a space of mutual interruptibility amid works, resisting a singular voice. It asks: What is it to join with another? The physical limits of objects become heightened, distributed throughout space while trying to maintain a set of slight negative spaces — though this space is always full. In the most general sense, organizing a group exhibition is a means to gather and share. The figure of the container leads me to Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1986 revisionist text “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction,” from which the exhibition at Odium Fati takes its name. The essay describes the importance of two dominant stories in the context of new pedagogies. Le Guin posits a new theory, a counter-narrative, in which the first cultural device used by humans was a container or a carrier bag for food, rather than a weapon. “Before the tool that forces energy outward, we made the tool that brings energy home.” Aware that tales of hunting rather than gathering make for more exciting stories, and thus their cultural capacity to establish dominant patterns of narrative, Le Guin instead argues for the inglorious narrative of the container.

In “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction,” Le Guin proposes that the container is that which makes us what we are: the bottle, the net, the shell, the clay pot. Reflexive in its pedagogical role, it weaves a story through figures, citations, and memories. The text distilled asks: How we remember or learn anew? How may we story differently? Le Guin believes the process of writing a book to be akin to the lugging of a container, full of words and thoughts. An exhibition can be characterized by similar acts. It is a means of re-storying in which artworks are always coauthored via personal or historical memories made explicit through formal behaviors or not; artworks contain elements waiting to be used up. The exhibition at Odium Fati is a site of intensified involvement wherein less explicit practices of form and revision may find use in the figure of the container: the carrier as a means of responsiveness, gathering words or works that bear meaning and hold a particular relation to one another and to us. While always implicated in formations of knowledge that produce reward, recognition, or status as some stories accumulate and arise over others, the works in the exhibition channel a quiet listening. They function through a continuous process of holding open a slight negative space between philosophy and social realities, theoretical speculations and concrete plans.

K.r.m. Mooney is an artist living and working in Oakland, California.

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In Residence /

An End in Itself

In the aftermath of organizing an unrealized exhibition at artist-run institution Odium Fati in San Francisco, K.r.m. Mooney offers a set of relations between participating figures. These six installments, contributed to Flash Art’s “In Residence” column, are a means for the artist to pursue the significance of each context-specific practice and the potential actions, kinships, and alignments between these figures.

Naming a place one has a stake in, where one lives and works, is not inconsequential when the lines we follow function as forms of alignment or as a way of being in line with others. This also implies our corporeal alignments, behaviors, and orientations. To think in spatial terms, the spaces I move through — their responsiveness toward difference, economics, climate, and physical arrangement — create a set of affordances: a tendency or possibility for a one set of actions or forms of engagement over others. Working outside of a center, there is a turn to artist-run spaces and a potential to see through a different set of values when it comes to producing and exhibiting art. A dustpan, a kitchen, a stove, a bed: these are all things I’ve inherited from past exhibitions. There is a kind of transparency relative to the maintenance of space and the body that I’ve learned as a condition of where I work and live.

Pied-à-terre inhabited a garage beneath artist McIntyre Parker’s apartment. This quiet space provided a ground for exhibitions in San Francisco from 2011 to 2015. Positioned by Parker as an off-space and occasional publisher, it was a single-work exhibition format where, during open hours, one might encounter a breach of its inherently domestic infrastructure as a consequence of Parker and other tenants living above. One entered via a driveway with a slightly lower-than-ground-level slope. A concrete platform provided the main spatial delineation, with no wall to make clear the space of the exhibition and its perennial edges used for tenant storage. This was an intention, an open line between domesticity and exhibition; a building as movement of sedimentation and stabilization, but also a site of opening space and living.

Taking place at the same 2nd Avenue address, artist-run institution Odium Fati inherited multiple forms of significance historically and in the present. As a result of Parker’s relocation, the transference of space from Pied-a-terre to Odium Fati occurred out of necessity — an act of collective recuperation but also friendship. Felt aspects of Pied-à-terre were passed on; beyond exhibitions occurring in the same physical location, they continued to arrive out of an economy of means. For example, I spoke at length with Benjamin Ashlock and Diego Villalobos about the timing of the exhibition I planned to organize. We speculated its arrival in the program around the spring of 2018, though all agreed: only as the fullness of daily life permitted.

Most artist-run institutions are less staid organizations — sites of mutual entanglement operating from a coming-togetherness and coarticulation that is always implicated in a practice of self-questioning: What kind of institution are we? What kinds of values do we institutionalize? What forms of practice do we reward, and what kinds of rewards do we aspire to? Through which figures and citations do we build our dwellings? As worlds are built out of citational habits, the potential to gather works for this exhibition was a way of picking up figures as a mode of revision, a means of thinking with my own practice. A further attunement and attention to what gets gathered up, used, and shared; an attentiveness to which seeds should be saved for future re-seeding, future re-worlding. Odium Fati offered a space of physical and locally situated reflexivity by way of Pied-à-terre’s embodied history, allowing the works to enter the significance of this site. A possibility to lay out another path through which site and artworks are encountered and mutually constituted in a back-and-forth exchange, the goal of which may change as forms and their values enfold.

K.r.m. Mooney is an artist living and working in Oakland, California.

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In Residence /

The Bottle, The Net, The Shell, The Clay Pot

In the aftermath of organizing an unrealized exhibition at artist-run institution Odium Fati in San Francisco, K.r.m. Mooney offers a set of relations between participating figures. These six installments, contributed to Flash Art’s “In Residence” column, are a means for the artist to pursue the significance of each context-specific practice and the potential actions, kinships, and alignments between these figures.

Dear L,

I hope this message finds you well.

I’m working on my first exhibition with Altman Siegel that will open January of 2019 and have an inquiry for you.

The practice of June Schwarcz has held my thoughts in a significant and sustained way since arriving at her work in your house. I’ve spent the last year scheduling informational interviews with June’s colleagues and other collaborators in June’s life who have had personal relationships with her. These meetings have provided a great wealth of knowledge. This has also been in the context of the Jewelry/Metal Arts department at CCA, and since reaching out it has become clear that the ethical and emotional stakes require a lot of care to traverse.

This is to say, I intended to include her work in an exhibition I was organizing earlier this year at an artist-run space called Odium Fati, but unfortunately the space had to end its current operation due to increasing rents. Moving forward in my thinking, I am trying to understand how I can address the protocol and the context of my exhibition at Altman Siegel while having June’s work present within the exhibition.

For me, this gesture is a form of participation, as art and its historiographies thrive on singularity — an increasingly unavailable mode to live and think with while embodying difference. The exhibition I am working on prefers to focus on relations themselves and the dynamics between figures. In addition, through our corporeal interfacing and participation, we inherit material and political conditions of a shared and public life, which is always entangled with an inner world. I think June’s forms may act as a potential carrier of this inner world in ways I locate in her attention to the body, to garments, the serial impulse of her practice, and the use of enameling and electroplating, a technique and process that is particularly “lively” in its requirements to sustain and care.

I was wondering if you knew and were in good standing with June’s daughter, who I heard runs her estate?

Is there a way you could put me in touch?

I am working with the support of Altman Siegel so they would also be facilitators in this potential exchange.

Be in touch with any questions or concerns. I appreciate your time.

All My Best,

Mooney

The practice of ornamentation is one that is carefully and intimately embodied. Ornamentation, the tools and facilities found within this field, are collaborators — coproducers in finding new bodily capacities. I have long been a student in addressing jewelry as operating within a social domain, but the way I’ve moved through my practice is to examine these extensions, the complex interaction of objects as spatial, material, technological, biological: severely entangled entities.

June Schwarcz arrived at her practice during a time in modern art when fineness was abjured. The late Sausalito-based enamelist worked with small, intimate objects such as bowls, chiefly presented as container or shell. A few surrounding works include panels and inlaid tops for wooden boxes, partly because her kiln would not hold anything larger than twelve inches. Treating the metal in two different modes, enameling and electroplating, June used nitric or ferric acid depending on the effect she wanted to achieve. She would pound and shape copper on a pair of wooden stumps in her basement or use metal foil as an electroplating base. She deferred the common impulse in craft to overwork; she was sensitive to her processes’ active participation as producers of form. It took a minimum of five firings to complete a piece, utilizing enamel’s behavior of translucency and opacity “as color caught below a surface where it remains forever untouched, except by light. While one can penetrate the surface visually as much as its transparencies permit, it is also reflective, and gives back to the viewer the circumstances in which they behold it.” Troubling the attributes of and relations between objects and their spatial determinations, ideas of active and still, interior and exterior, June’s works recount these bifurcations. They are manipulated to produce meaning that surfaces in the vessels entirety. She understood light as an operative deployed alongside other coproducing systems: glass particles, heat, electricity, and their resulting behaviors. While her works have been overlooked in the context of art, her practice can be unraveled through materialist considerations: vessel as informant of our physical world, of the conditions for which it was produced, and from one’s own mode of living: one’s inner world as a dimension of knowing.

K.r.m. Mooney is an artist living and working in Oakland, California.

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In Residence /

Orison II

Dan Bodan spent November 8 to December 8 in residence at the Goethe Institute in Tehran. Flash Art invited him to write a travelogue during his time there. This is the sixth and final installment.

I’ve been trying to teach myself to pray this past year, apparently shaken out of some spiritual hibernation by the tanks and explosions of last years’ war parade down Khreshchatyk Boulevard during my first visit. Now, every sunset, every body of water, every kind gesture is a catharsis in which I drop to my knees, rip open my chest in reverence, pull out my teeth and, with tears streaming down my face, mouth the words: “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

It’s ridiculous but refreshing.

Friends have tried to ask me to define what exactly I mean by praying, and usually I say something like, “You know, nature, energy… that stuff,” because I really don’t have any better way to describe it, and I worry that if I put it into words I might break the spell and it’ll disappear.

This spring I’m walking with a friend through the Neapoli neighborhood in Athens, right where it slopes up to Mount Lycabettus, a hill formed when Athena dropped a piece of limestone after receiving bad news from a white raven (which she then turned black). I hear the sounds of vespers beginning from one of the ubiquitous orthodox churches that appear every few hundred meters. I suggest we enter, but my friend tells me she won’t, that she hates the Byzantines because for her they represent the end of the Goddess in Western culture. She does yoga every morning and lights a candle to Saint Expedite and a cast of deities she’s collected through books, study, and travel, and has developed a version of mythology on her own terms that forms an aesthetic center for her morning ritual and comforts her in times of crisis.

I, however, want to go into the church and demand they explain how they’re communicating with their god so I can better understand how to communicate with mine. I do finally step in one day, but I find myself feeling underwhelmed and a bit stifled. Guess I’m happier with my sunsets and the magic of pollen in the air than dark halls with bearded men in black robes. The sound of their prayer, though, is undeniable: a purity of belief that, regardless of my own feelings about big-brand religions, is impossible to disregard.

While buying milk at a convenience store in Tehran I notice, behind the till, the shop owner on the floor crouching in prayer, his body directed toward mecca. His co-worker walks over him to ring me up and then walks back over him to continue taking inventory, the ceremony never interrupted. That a prayer can take a form so simultaneously committed and casual, so integrated but performative, is a phenomenon to me.

***

So here I am: me, the sky, and this tiny drunk Ukrainian creature whose body treats mine with such kind firmness that every cynicism I try and invoke to pull myself out of this moment is immediately vaporized when I feel the pulse of his breath escaping. I convince myself that I am comfortable in this moment, even if the awkward position he’s pulled me into is killing my lower back. But I’ll stay here, my body curved in reverence and ritual.

I’m listening to his heart and it sounds healthy and Jiminy Cricket is whispering in my ear that I need to be careful about this guy, that I have a bad habit of investing considerable energy into too-short moments with friendly guys in foreign places. But I believe in these moments (whatever they are)! This moment of quiet ecstasy perfumed by the smell of his breath, an entire bottle of white wine and countless whiskey sours. Is this what the Sufis sing about? All the elements are here for a Rumi verse. I’m writing love letters in the sky with my eyes, dotting each ‘i’ in “i love you” with a new star. An infinite number of love letters directed nowhere and everywhere. Momentarily balancing complete selfishness with altruism.

I guess this is praying.

I follow the steps:
I tear my body apart to share and absorb with what’s around me at the same time.
I pull out my teeth to demand change.
I make a vow to try and never celebrate cruelty.
And I mouth the words: “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Walking home, he picks me a marigold and I absentmindedly place it in my pocket and forget about it. When I find it a week later back in Berlin, dried up and shriveled, I place it on my window sill alongside a bottle of gold schnapps made by German monks, a white plaster bust of Nefertiti, a brass Omega sign I got from a fisherman in Piraeus, and a peach-colored sea shell I picked up on the beach of Kamakura. My collection of relics.

It’s my last night and he’s asleep next to me. I’m leaving in a few hours, so that’s where this ends. We’ll send each other hearts and flower icons, type “miss you” and gently tap a piece of glass to confirm our existence to one another with less and less frequency for seven days until we’re strangers again and he becomes another myth that I’ll spend a few sleepless nights like this trying to understand.

But for now my body is open.
My lips are almost raw from earlier that night. He’s folded himself into me again and is holding on so tightly I feel like I’ll rupture and burst into dust.

Moments like this happen so rarely that I’m convinced it’s a manipulation from god so that we’ll forgive ourselves for everything else.

At 6 am on the eleventh floor in a hotel room painted pink,
out the window sunlight is lipping a gold-topped church and a radio tower with its first breath
and I am stroking your eyebrows and the loose hairs come off on my thumb
and for each one I make the same wish: that time will bend to my will and stretch this moment out for millennia and we will turn to marble.

You press your chin into my neck and I am completely undone.

 

(“Thank you, thank you, thank you.”)

Dan Bodan is a musician who lives in Berlin. He has spent the past seventeen months traveling.

 

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In Residence /

Orison I

Dan Bodan spent November 8 to December 8 in residence at the Goethe Institute in Tehran. Flash Art invited him to write a travelogue during his time there. This is the fifth installment.

“Hey, why does everyone say спасибо instead of Дякую?” I ask him after the waitress brings us two steaming bowls of borscht and a plate of raw spring onion and salo (cured slices of pure pig fat). These words mean “Thank you” in Russian and Ukrainian respectively.

I have no idea what part of the city we’re in anymore. A driver brought us here and I’ve given up on trying to find my bearings in Kyiv. It’s been a week of marathon drinking and fashion events, and I’ve been shuttled around from place to place in a van with darkened windows so I’m feeling pretty discombobulated. I know we were just at a palace. And I don’t remember crossing the river. So I guess we’re still on the south bank? If that’s even what they call it.

This is the longest we’ve been together alone and sober, and the first time we’ve attempted an extended conversation without the aid of one of his ubiquitous model-friends functioning as our unwitting translator. It’s been previously explained to me that he had a traumatic experience with a particularly volatile English teacher in his childhood, which stunted his learning. I believe it; I watch the suffering on his face as he tries to string together the right words to form a sentence. I also realize that this is the first time I’ve directly asked him about the relationship between Russia and Ukraine.

“Many Russians in Kyiv. In Ukraine.” He finally spits out.
“Me — I am, mmmm…” he struggles again.
“You’re Russian?”
“…mmmm part.” He’s looking me in the eye intensely like he’s trying to pass on information telepathically. I think he’d like to elaborate but we’ve reached the extent of our common language skills.

Sadly, we don’t have ESP.

A little defeated, he retreats back into his phone to catch up with the constant flow of incoming text messages. He’s a popular guy and tries his best to take care of everyone. I fill the silence by speaking enthusiastically about nothing in particular and laughing at my own jokes, a special skill I’ve developed by living alone for six years.

It’s been almost a year since I left him in a taxi on a corner in Paris, and we’ve had very little communication since. A couple of messages here and there, a few interactions on social media. I have no idea what’s happened to him during this time, and as far as I know he hasn’t kept tabs on me. And yet we seem to have picked up pretty much exactly where we left off. Time folds and two chapters from either end of a book suddenly come one right after another. We’re still very much strangers, and in many ways I’m projecting all my desires onto him in a way that is probably unfair and unrealistic, but we’re familiar and comfortable in each other’s company, even when silent. Being around him calms me down.

A few days earlier he’s invited me to his friend’s wedding, or rather the after-party, in the empty hall of a new museum constructed to reflect the architectural vernacular of prewar Europe, only with cheaper materials: hollow granite, plastic marble, drywall interiors. It’s become a popular style in recent years and I can’t help but draw some line between the emergence of a Disneyworld neoclassicism in our capital cities and the rise of a weird retro-futurism in international politics.

He wants to make out and he’s relentless.

He demands an intimacy from me in a way I’ve never experienced from another guy before. He doesn’t seem to have a filter through which to express his affection. He adores dogs, and I’ve observed the way he interacts with them; it’s not entirely dissimilar to the way he handles me, simultaneously trying to calm and conquer. To soothe his way into my space until I’m comfortable enough for a mutual embrace. To have me on my back as though it were my choice. He bulldozes my expectations of how men are supposed to touch one another — a difficult thing to write when I reflect on how I’ve been treated in the past, and, more worryingly, how I may have treated others.

***

Do you remember the last time I held you before we lost our love? I’m not sure I can. I remember one night when I couldn’t sleep and was tossing and turning until you gently grabbed my arm and folded my body into yours with a tenderness that surprised me so much that I passed out almost instantly. I remember when you punched my rib and told me you hoped my flight later that day would crash, and I remember discovering the bruise while showering at the hotel that night. I Remember when I finally hit you back at a crowded bar and people applauded me and declared me the winner, not because good had triumphed but because cruelty is far more entertaining and it confirmed their expectations of how men should communicate: assured mutual destruction.

And I remember the last time we tried to have sex, and instead of making new love the old simply melted off of our bodies and onto the dirty sheets around us like oil absorbing into a paper towel. Congealing and staining and finally being crumpled up and tossed away.

But the details of our stories fade with time.

Oh, time.

***

He’s literally ripping apart my face with his stubble. At one point I have to hold his arms behind his back just to keep up a conversation with the other guests at the party.

Eventually he wrestles free and turns and says, “Hey, Hey! I love you. I love you.” And starts to kiss me again.

His eyes are almost closed and he’s so wasted he can barely hold himself up straight. I’m not sure he’s really aware of what he’s saying, so I smile noncommittally and say, “Yeah, I love you too,” and let him destroy my face again while I process the sentence over and over in my mind. The last boy to tell me he loved me would leave me with a bruised body and a broken spirit within the course of a year, so, drunk talk or no, it’s a complicated thing to hear. At one point he goes to find a cigarette and I quickly Google Ukrainian translations for love. There are two apparently. Любов (platonic) and Кохання (romantic). When he returns I consider asking him to say it in Ukrainian so I can get a better grasp of what he meant, but I decide that would be a dick move and, anyways, I wouldn’t know how to respond to either.

He finally relinquishes my mouth for a moment while he takes a short nap on the steps outside the main hall. When I make a move to go to the bar he grabs my arm tightly and wheezes, “No, stay!” and pulls my head down to rest on his chest. I can hear his heavy heartbeat while Ukrainian techno plays in the background and the Dnieper River expands out below us under a cloudless sky freckled with white stars. With my temple on his chest and my eyes toward the moon I attempt a prayer.

Dan Bodan is a musician who lives in Berlin. He has spent the past seventeen months traveling.

 

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