In Residence /

Closing Attunements

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.

Throughout the year and a half that n/a operated out of a small Oakland storefront, I was in charge of constructing eight benches made to support gathering, allowing various programs to exist alongside the six exhibitions that took place throughout 2013–14. Altering the space several times a month, from domestic site where dishes were washed and someone slept, to one of convening, this constant shifting in living relation implicated a dusting but also a decorating. A basement, a shed, a garage or kitchen nook, these spaces were cleared as a means to reach one another. In their initial context, the perennial edges of a living space might facilitate a slow accumulation, whereas when we exhibit our work where our lives enfold these sites take on a sense of urgent necessity. This strategy to embody away from insolation results in a third condition: a means to reconsider these sites as a more horizontal form of worlding and sharing our work. Generosity as attention becomes synonymous, and the hierarchies between objects, their interpersonal attunements and spatial determinations, perhaps lose their edges. Speculating so far, these values inform the exhibition at Odium Fati, imaginatively including Trisha Donnelly, Yute Cine, and June Schwarcz. The artists span three generations and varying forms of canonization. While two of them have ties to the Bay Area, Trisha Donnelly, born in San Francisco and living and working there throughout the early 2000s, including her role as an educator at the San Francisco Art Institute, continues to cast a version of the Bay Area’s historiography into specific form. Up until her passing in 2015, the late June Schwarcz was declared a living gem of Sausalito County, where she allowed the behavior of the marine layer fog to inform the color, surface, and tone within her work, inviting the viewer to penetrate the enameled surfaces of her vessels only as much as their transparencies permitted.

Providing a location for an exhibition and gathering the works that share space within involves a decision to make a specific type of interaction happen and at a particular scale. Operating as a small community of artists outside of a center, we are mandated to learn how place can mean, and the ways in which we are individually and jointly responsible for our own and one another’s development. The exhibition organized in co-articulation with Benjamin Ashlock and Diego Villalobos is a means for thinking through practices that require an intensified involvement on behalf of the viewer and the locale in which the exhibition takes place. The artworks operate both as an open line and a context-specific practice in which the political implications of the work arise not through explicit content but abstract form. The works within the exhibition consider a specific physical sequencing: a tonal cue for the capacities in which an artwork or material may refract, imparting the conditions from which the viewer beholds it. Making exhibitions outside of the formal codings of a traditional space, our routines are adapted, expanded for the company of others and the major and minor ways that space is lived in and altered. Through the more recent arrival of immoderate access and excess, the Bay Area currently sits at a dialectic; artist-run institutions persist through an economy of means. With the opening but mostly shuttering of artist-run spaces, we inherit this particular temporal scale where emerging and sustaining is ongoing and contingent.

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

Previous installments:
Constructive Gal
If It Need Be Termed Surrender
The Spear Verses the Net
An End in Itself
The Bottle, The Net, The Shell, The Clay Pot

read more
In Residence /

Constructive Gal

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.

The first twenty seconds of Yute Cine’s film consist of varying hues of green, gray, brown, and black. These tonal variants form squares, their skittish movement panning left and right across the frame. A digital camouflage slowly enrolls one’s recognition, initiating the film as a process of distillation observed by the viewer. The title of the video flashes entry while moving into the first frame depicting the sole human figure in the video, the titular Constructive Gal (2017). Although she is alone, various sonic events, including bio-acoustic participants such as birds and insects in vocal performance and the quiet cracking and shifting of twigs and soft earth underneath, are co-present. Constructive Gal takes place in a forest. In time, a quiescent voice initiates a soft and slightly metrical narration: I was never taught that putting things into perspective gives you a better grip on life. I was just always taught to gather irregular patterns and make them match up regardless of how hard it was, because that’s what real warriors were meant to do. Sharpening thoughts and making sense of each one always seemed to be a skill of mine. To be able to cipher the not sited, and constantly be on the edge waiting for it to finally come out of its hiding.

Like the pursuit of camouflage, various participants in Constructive Gal, human and nonhuman, lose their borders. The language and corporeal interfacing in Constructive Gal’s environment continues to oscillate between abstraction and conceptual schema — an intimation toward agency and space through an opening out of forms, and reflecting on the capillary and personal relations between that which is seen and that which is known. Constructive Gal is a modularization of Yute Cine’s larger practice, which sound frequency and vibration in particular illuminates. As Constructive Gal moves forward in its five-minute duration, the cinematic frame typically blurs and fractions off parts of the body. Only until she gathers materials and arranges them into a demarcation do we see her whole. Gently setting down three sections of wood on the forest floor, Constructive Gal gathers a structure just large enough for her body. She crosses her legs and folds them in before she sits. This is not to establish clear reciprocal terms but rather a kind of taking in: a will to blend into one’s surroundings, to be absorbed into space by performing one’s “distinction” from it.

Natural light filters in while various sonorous involvements play out; the score that accompanies Constructive Gal most dominantly includes a concussive idiophone, a hollow steel instrument with a bell-like tone historically fashioned out of the concave end of a propane tank. Adopting a common practice while inhabiting the woods, there are two times when materials are ignited. The viewer witnesses tones plucked on an mbira, which behave like instances of combustion: both illuminate the beauty of the film while hinging on their dissipative status. The environment in which Constructive Gal makes her world requires an attention to various material and acoustic properties both found and produced within a set of given conditions. It is a meditation on relations between the body and the environment, subjectivity, and spatiality.

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

Previous installments:
If It Need Be Termed Surrender
The Spear Verses the Net
An End in Itself
The Bottle, The Net, The Shell, The Clay Pot

read more
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/

Previous installments:
The Spear Verses the Net
An End in Itself
The Bottle, The Net, The Shell, The Clay Pot

read more
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.

Previous installments:
An End in Itself
The Bottle, The Net, The Shell, The Clay Pot

read more
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.

Previous installment:
The Bottle, The Net, The Shell, The Clay Pot

read more
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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