Arts and Music at Wedgewood-Houston

War and Rumors of War at Seed Space

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One of my favorite exhibitions this year is currently on view at Seed Space, and the artist, Eric Dickson, will be present on Saturday night. I wrote some words about the exhibition for BURNAWAY, and I hope you’ll check out Dickson’s work! From my review:

War and Rumors of War is required viewing for anyone concerned about the policies that govern us, the wars fought in our names, and the ways we make sense of our present circumstances. Most of all, it helps to clarify what we should pay attention to and what we should ignore, for it challenges our political agency with advanced technological art-making that manages to somehow remain subtle and restrained.

Seed Space is located in the Track One building. Dickson will be there from 6-9 p.m. Saturday.

Impulse and the Anonymous Artist + Open Studios

I am not sure when or how I came to this understanding, but for a long time I have considered artists to populate the upper echelon of society, to be its most influential members, and to leave behind a testament of it that can inform generations to come. Much of what we know about the past and about other cultures is found through the work of artists. How much have we learned from artifacts discovered from ancient Mesopotamia? How many people know the extent of suppression of free speech in China because of Ai Wei Wei? What would the Great Depression look like without The Grapes of Wrath? You get the point.

We are fascinated by artists, and we delight in discovering their kinks and eccentricities. To learn about the life and habits of an artist I admire is to gain a bit more understanding of her greatness; my own is both dwarfed and magnetized by the knowledge. Marina Abramović will fast for days, weeks, or months as part of a performance. Hemingway stood up at a podium and wrote in pencil on yellow legal pads, every day at 6:00 am. Nabokov planned his novels out on index cards before writing a word of manuscript.

"Impulse: Playing House as a Blank Artist" will be performed at Ground Floor Gallery and Studios Saturday, Dec. 6.

“Impulse: Playing House as a Blank Artist” will be performed at Ground Floor Gallery and Studios Saturday, Dec. 6.

And this is why I’ve been thinking all month about Impulse: Playing House as a Blank Artist, showing at Ground Floor Gallery. Created by Austin Hoke, Ziona Riley and Evelyn Walker, the installation opened in November and gallery owner Janet Decker Yanez has kept it up for another run this Saturday from 3 to 6. The piece decontextualizes the objects of the artist, blasting them apart so they can be re-examined. I read it as a study of the artist that mocks my own inclinations to put him or her on a pedestal above the rest of humanity. The objects could not be more mundane, the life that emerges more ordinary. The only thing that threw me was an overly vague installation statement, which seemed to obscure for the sake of obscuring. Where it should reveal more about the piece, it pulls it into art-speak pretense, which seems to be exactly the thing that installation is attempting to trump. Impulse collage

This one criticism aside, Impulse is innovative and provocative. The trio has set up six stations in the space to mark the anonymous artist’s belongings, or more accurately, the physical pieces that make up the artist, with an audio tour that sounds like 70s-style documentary footage. (“When you hear these tones…prepare to transition to the next station.”) Each station takes the viewer to a set of objects owned by “the artist”, things like thrown-away trash, objects that are precious only to their owner, photos of “strangers found amongst the artist’s family.” Playful but instructive, I felt a sort of tug of war with the audio recording; when I thought I was headed toward a meaty conclusion about the work, it pulled me in another direction charged with the possibility to make meaning. In station one, I found dozens of framed family photos, yet I was told they are not the photos of the artist’s family, and the narrator comments wryly, “If you have ever wound up with someone’s stray sock amongst your clean laundry, you will know what it is like to end up in someone else’s shoebox.” Section six is wall of trash items mounted on rectangles of carpet. “The objects were used up, diminished, and cast away, mingled with dirt, orphaned, run over by indifference and better places to be. Have they really outlived their usefulness?”  Both clean and soiled clothes form a pile in the corner; the garments “filabuster our shifting skins, sediments posing as sentiment.” Spend some time with these elements, and you begin to imagine their owner, the Blank Artist. impulse collage 2

The work is enjoyable for these moments of poetry and for the overall harmony of its elements. The many items to examine, the cello performed by Austin Hoke, it’s an experience that gave me a deep feeling of contentment and pleasure. There are also, of course, any number of meta-analyses about the work (artists using their own objects to perform an artwork about the artist’s objects.) It’s a fresh exhibition by some cool, young artists in Nashville that we’d all do well to keep on the radar.

On Saturday, Ground Floor will also have open studios, so you can check out the work of Yanez, Heidi Martin Kuster, Mandy Brown, Desire Hough, and Shana Kohnstamm. It’s a big day with Porter Flea and the two art crawls, but GFG is smart to host the reception early in the day. The gallery is located at 924 4th Ave. South.

The Resounding Gong

Photo credit: Regina Wilkins in New Orleans, 2013.

Photo credit: Regina Wilkins in New Orleans, 2013.

Add this to your list of stuff to do this weekend: Tatsuya Nakatani will perform at Track One at 9:00, just as the galleries close up. The Japanese-born percussionist will perform solo and then with the Nakatani Gong Orchestra. The concept of the show is really cool. Nakatani trains local musicians and artists on the gong and in his conducting methods for each show, so you may see some Nashvillians performing alongside him.

If you’re imagining nine people banging on flat sheets of metal, let’s back up. They play the gongs with bows, so it’s a sort of mix between the sound a string instrument makes and the sound a percussion instrument makes. (You can see why I never write about music.) I’ve attended some experimental music performances at the request of one Tony Youngblood, and if I’ve made it through half of them, it’s been with equal parts martyrdom and resentment. I’ve learned not to torture us both if it’s going to be something that screeches until my anxiety reaches record highs. This, however, looks to be trance-inducing and ethereal. Wander into a dark corner of the big Track One warehouse and feel spooky. If you’re unsure, take a listen! You have to skip the first several minutes of tuning, but then it gets really nice.

Track One is located at 1209 4th Ave. S, on the corner of 4th Ave. S and Chestnut Street.

Gallery Visit: Heidi Martin Kuster at Ground Floor Gallery

2012-01-01 03.32.22Thursday, Ground Floor Gallery opened its doors for its very own Heidi Martin Kuster. In her exhibit Rock, Paper, Plastic, she looks back and forward, anchored in her geological interest. This is a great exhibit on a conceptual and aesthetic level that you should definitely check out. It will be up all month. Ground Floor is also an open studio, and the artists renting space from owner Janet Decker Yanez are multiplying. (I think they’re up to seven, and the huge space buzzes with great vibes.) They’ll be open Saturday night and keep regular hours, so drop by. 

2012-01-01 03.52.16The show’s title, Rock, Paper, Plastic, reveals the artist’s conceptual framework. Kuster borrows the phrasing from the popular childhood game in order to “step back, be present and look forward.” But unlike the game, paper doesn’t beat rock et cetera, but all three coexist on the walls and floor of the new gallery. The Past is seen in the rocks themselves; rocks are evidence of the past. They also exist without human intervention. For the artist, rocks seem to evoke the sacred: “A pebble in my hand holds the memory of a hike, a conversation with my son, a breathtaking, time stopping vista.”

Paper is the Present. It is human made. We use it to record and remember, but it will not last. Kuster writes in her show’s statement, “In the scheme of earth’s historic changes it will be an instant, quickly disappearing into the fertile compost of time.”

2012-01-01 03.32.46It really gets interesting with the Future, represented by plastic. Kuster told me that after years of trying to avoid and reuse plastic bags, she just started collecting them, taking as many as the world would throw at her. “They become, for me,” she writes, “the perfect admission of how my choices will inevitably impact the rock I live on for my children and their future.” She began layering them into her work and bunching them into bumpy balls that are collected on the floor of the gallery. 

2012-01-01 03.52.05It was interesting to watch people interact with the work during the opening. Some moved easily among the “rocks” as they viewed the paintings, barely acknowledging their presence. Others tiptoed carefully around them. I noticed Kuster nonchalantly kick one aside as she spoke to a guest. My favorite moment was definitely when a friend’s daughter began almost frantically moving them into mounds and shapes, darting from one end of the room to the other, carefully setting them in her own little installation. Kuster encouraged her behavior and snapped pictures of the new creations. I thought, how fitting. In a piece about what we will leave to the next generation, an artsy member of our lineage reconstructs the installation herself.
2012-01-01 03.29.05Side note: How delighted was I that the gals at GFG+S went ahead and planned this opening for Thursday, rather than during Saturday’s art crawls. In the great debate regarding the monthly crawls, I air on the side of splitting up downtown’s and WeHo’s simply because I want to see everything. Joe Nolan has an article in this week’s issue of the the Scene that explores both points of view. It seems like some galleries are wizening up to the fact that Nashvillians will come out to support the arts on nights other than the first Saturday of the month, which allowed me a full hour to chat with friends and artists at Ground Floor this evening. 2012-01-01 03.28.13

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