“Like photography negatives, urban design comprises information on what is not visible and only can be inferred by its contours. In this manner, urban geography becomes a catalogue of defeats and absences that can be interpreted from what once existed.
Based on Mexico City maps from 1867 and 1892, superposed on a 2014 Google map of the Juarez and Cuauhtémoc neighbourhoods, this project seeks to create an appropriation of histories through an artistic and scholar exploration of a specific street that ceased to exist more than a century ago.
Following the techniques of the Situationist’s dérive and Andrei Monastyrsky’s work with the Collective Actions Group, Ghost Walker: An Impossible Walk Through Mexico City’s History is a longitudinal study of a specific urban space, witness of a myriad of processes and modifications throughout 150 years
Ghost Walker (2014-15) has been presented at Muca Roma in Mexico City (2016), and as part of the group exhibition “Walk With Us” at the Rochester Arts Center (2022).
Participants: Sandra Calvo, Ramiro Chaves, Erick Meyenberg, Raul Ortega Ayala, Sergio Miranda Pacheco, Manuel Rocha Iturbide, Modelab.
Modelab is an artistic initiative aiming to promote interdisciplinary projects at the intersection of public space, history, and cartography.
Formed in 2014 by Claudia Arozqueta and Rodrigo Azaola, Modelab projects have taken place in streets, parks, billboards, beaches, museums, vacant retail stores, and other spaces in Australia, New Zealand, France, Mexico, Taiwan, and the Philippines.” (credit)
Pre-Image (Blind as the Mother Tongue) re-traces a journey undertaken on foot by Hiwa when he fled Iraqi Kurdistan in the mid-1990s. This long and often dangerous journey — lasting five months and two days and passing through Iran, Turkey, Greece, France and Italy — was an “experience of space and time” and a “fracturing of spatial and cultural experiences.” Each point along the way, whether a city or town, was experienced fractally, and always from below — with no overview.
In this work, the artist uses an adapted balancing device, equipped with motorcycle mirrors, to re-create the disorienting experience of space and time experienced by so many making similar journeys. One mirror reflects what is ahead, another behind, while the others reflect the artist and his immediate surroundings. To walk forward he must balance and control the device, alluding to the effort needed to keep moving and recalibrate oneself to new contexts.
Hiwa K (b. 1975) Lives and works between Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Berlin, Germany.Working across video, performance and installation, Hiwa’s work draws from personal experiences, including family anecdotes, his path through arts education, and daily encounters and occurrences.
Hiwa K’s works have been included in group exhibitions including Documenta 14, Kassel (2017); 56th Venice Biennial curated by Okwui Enwezor (2015); Asian Art Biennial, Taipei (2019); 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc Videobrasil, Sao Paulo (2019); Anren Biennale, Sichuan (2019); Yinchuan Biennale (2018); and MOMA Ps1, New York (2019).
Recent solo exhibitions include: Kunsthalle Mannheim (2019); S.M.A.K. Museum, Ghent (2018); KW Institute of Contemporary Art (2017) and KOW Gallery, Berlin (2016). His work has been awarded the 2019 Hector Preis and in 2016, both the Arnold Bode Prize and the Schering Stiftung Art Award.” (credit)
The battlefield on the day before the performance.
Participating former miners and their families on the day of the performance.
Police officers pursuing miners through the village.
“In 1998 I saw an advert for an open commission for Artangel. For years I had had this idea to re-enact this confrontation that I had witnessed as a young person on TV, of striking miners being chased up a hill and pursued through a village. It has since become an iconic image of the 1984 strike – having the quality of a war scene rather than a labour dispute. I received the commission, which I couldn’t believe, because I actually didn’t think it was possible to do this. After two years’ research, the re-enactment finally happened, with about eight-hundred historical re-enactors and two-hundred former miners who had been part of the original conflict. Basically, I was asking the re-enactors to participate in the staging of a battle that occurred within living memory, alongside veterans of the campaign. I’ve always described it as digging up a corpse and giving it a proper post-mortem, or as a thousand-person crime re-enactment.” (credit)
“Formed in New York City in 1987, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (more commonly known as ACT UP) brought widespread attention to the AIDS epidemic and helped make significant advances in AIDS research.
ACT UP’s first-ever demonstration in 1987 — as well as three others in 1988, 1989, and 1997 — took place on Wall Street, the world’s leading financial center, and targeted pharmaceutical companies that were profiteering from the epidemic.” (credit)
While not all ACT UP actions included walking and marching, their 10th anniversary demonstration did:
Newspaper advertisement for a 10th anniversary march organized by ACT UP. The ad appeared in the Village Voice, March 25, 1997 issue, and features a black and white photograph taken by Robert D. Farber in 1990 called “Fight AIDS.” The photograph features several men holding a banner that says “Fight AIDS!” on the roof of a building.
“Tenth Anniversary of the 1987 Demonstration
On March 24, 1997, the ten-year anniversary of ACT UP’s first demonstration, the group returned to Wall Street. The action, called “Crash the Market,” again protested the profiteering of pharmaceutical companies, but also cutbacks in Medicaid funding. ACT UP chapters from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and Oberlin, Ohio, brought over 500 activists, who gathered at 7:30 a.m. by the fountain in City Hall Park. They then marched south to Wall Street, chanting “We die — they make money” and “Wall Street trades on people with AIDS!” Demands for Congressional hearings on the price of AIDS drugs were also made. Protesters rushed the doors of the Stock Exchange or sat down in the streets. During the demonstration, 73 people (mostly women) were arrested for acts of civil disobedience.” (credit)
In the summer of 2001 on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan Indian Reserve in the northern reaches of Saskatchewan, a woman was running, reenacting running done two generations earlier by Cistemaw inyiniw, a Cree man who delivered tobacco from community to community to ask for their attendance and support at ceremonies. He was part of the Moccasin Telegraph: a runner, a traveler, and a messenger. Cistemaw inyiniw (whose name is Cree for tobacco being) walked or ran even when horses were available to him. People were amazed at the distances he could cover and how he traversed them so quickly. Cistemaw inyiniw’s grandson, Harry Blackbird, recalls that “[h]e could cross all the rivers in the region without seeming to get wet.”
Wearing a racing jersey with a number (distinguishing her as a member of a formal event), Cheryl L’Hirondelle ran from one end of the reserve to the other (approximately twenty-five kilometers) on the main road through the community. In most places, her action went by unnoticed, but on the reserve—as in most small communities—everyone knows what everyone else is doing. During L’Hirondelle’s performance, and inspired by her action, some women in the community began a Moccasin Telegraph of their own by phoning other people on the reserve and notifying them about the event.
Aware of what normally constitutes the art audience, certainly not the people from Makwa Sahgaiehcan, L’Hirondelle’s goal was to involve another kind of viewer. Engaging this other audience, as it is with all art that seeks to resonate with a particular community, required her to negotiate a new set of rules and develop a different set of cultural strategies. In some pre-performance musings she remarked that “the activity has to somehow engage people instead of alienate them…it has to occur where people live and where performance has survived for many years—in people’s camps, homes and at the kitchen table.” Her task of “engag[ing] people instead of alienat[ing] them” was determined from the outset. Her strategy was to stage the performance in the local, engaging the community by performing a part of their history.
Cistemaw inyiniw’s story was handed down to L’Hirondelle in typical Native tradition, orally. In Native culture, stories are not simply stories. They are told and retold so that they resonate in the present, not as myths and legends, but as a vital part of history. They teach critical lessons and cultural values, like bravery and the necessity of communication. By mimicking Cistemaw inyiniw’s running, L’Hirondelle’s performance highlighted the distinctions and pointed to the ambiguities of what constitutes public, community, and audience. The Elder originally telling the story has a captive audience: they are members of the given community. However, in L’Hirondelle’s performance the audience is not so easily located. In some cases the term itself is challenged (when does a passer-by become part of an audience?), its definition moves out of focus and its location shifts.
Audience is commonly defined as the assembled spectators or listeners at an event. In L’Hirondelle’s action the viewers were not formally assembled; the performance was happenstance and informal. This questions the distinction between audience and public. Are the people in the community an audience simply because they witness the event? Or, do they have to somehow engage with the action to gain meaning from its occurrence? Can one be called an audience if they refuse to be involved and ultimately disregard the action? Possibly the public are those who choose (for whatever reason) not to be involved with the work. The audience could then be further distinguished as those who gain meaning from the event.
As L’Hirondelle ran through the community of Makwa Sahgaiehcan, a film crew captured her performance and the performances of three other people, Louise Halfe, Cheli Nighttraveller, and Joseph Naytowhow, who, on consultation with the artist, also interacted with the community. Each performer was given a disposable camera, a list of Cree syllabics, and chalk. They were encouraged to write messages in syllabics wherever they saw fit. The performers were also encouraged to ask the people they visited if they would still be willing to honor the age-old tradition of never turning a stranger from your door but, rather, inviting that person in and giving them food and drink. This is based on the Elders’ belief that you never know how far someone has traveled. If the person still abided by this tradition, “water” was inscribed in syllabics on the outside of the house. During her run, Cheryl stopped at two houses where she saw syllabics denoting “water” and visited with the people inside.
Each additional performer interacted with the community in a separate way. Joseph Naytowhow recited the story in typical Cree tradition by becoming the spirit of Cistemaw inyiniw. He offered tobacco to the people he visited and alerted them to Cheryl’s action. Louise Halfe chose to do a photo essay in addition to informing the community about the performance and recording their opinions of the action. Cheli Nighttraveller visited the home of an elderly man in the nearby community of Loon Lake and documented her visit with photographs.
During L’Hirondelle’s performance, three radio stations, Flying Dust Radio, MBC, and CJNS, broadcasted the story of Cistemaw inyiniw in Cree as told by Harry Blackbird. While Flying Dust Radio is broadcasted to the reserve, MBC and CJNS are stations that play mainly Top 40 hits. The idea of a Cree story interrupting the regular streams of Shania Twain and 50 Cent is subversive in itself.
Each component of the performance—L’Hirondelle’s running, the visits with the members of the community, and the radio broadcasts—extended public reception of the event. The visits with the community informed people of the performance, broadening her audience; the radio broadcasts ensured that the community had access to the original story; and L’Hirondelle’s action physically inscribed Cistemaw inyiniw’s story in the landscape of northern Saskatchewan.
The term “public art” doesn’t resonate with most Native people. After all, they do not make up a large percentage of the museum audience. They certainly aren’t viewed as constituting the public or even one of the more carefully defined “publics.” Rather, they are part of a community. Will the community of Makwa Sahgaiehcan remember L’Hirondelle’s performance as a great moment of contemporary Native public art? Probably not. However, it will resonate in the minds of those who witnessed it as an honorable act.”
Specific to the 2008 iteration: “As part of her ongoing performance series Saddledrag, artist Anna Campbell dressed in self-proclaimed “cowboy drag” and pulled a cast-plaster saddle behind her. In her own words, this cowboy without a horse “hopes to critique both the construct of the American cowboys, as well as nostalgia for a romantic past that never existed.” The saddle was fully eroded by the end of the trek, leaving a two-mile double line that encircled the full parade route.”
— Credit: Uchill, Rebecca, editor. On Procession, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2009. Page 99.
“The Muster is a one-day, open-air celebration centering on the question “What are you fighting for?” posed by artist and self-appointed Mustering Officer Allison Smith (b.1971, Manassas, VA). This public art event takes place on Governors Island, the former national military post located in New York Harbor. Once there, visitors can tour an encampment of more than 50 campsites and art installations, created by an army of “enlisted troops” selected by Smith and the Public Art Fund. The afternoon includes an array of activities—mock battles, American Folk portrait painting, magic shows, quilting bees, soapbox speeches, and more—culminating with a formal “Declaration of Causes” on a central stage.
As a military term, muster refers to a gathering of troops for the purposes of inspection, critique, exercise, and display. The Muster adopts the language and aesthetic of a Civil War reenactment. Like Civil War reenactors, participants in The Muster engage in the articulation of identities through performance and expand on the reenactor’s belief that events lost to history can gain meaning and contemporary relevance when performed live in an open, participatory manner. However, The Muster does not involve enacting a specific war from the past; instead, Smith uses the format to create an occasion and a forum for individual expression of diverse causes.
Beyond its military roots, The Muster also bears a resemblance to a country fair or an early 20th-century carnival. Blending art, craft, culture, history and social activism, the event embodies Smith’s interest in community and freedom of expression. The causes of the participants vary widely, from the political to the whimsical, addressing art history, technology, gender, democracy, and sociology.
For more information visit www.themuster.com.” [credit]
“The series of five hand-worked photographs that comprise The Mythic Being: I am the Locus conveys Piper performing a consciousness of otherness on a walk through Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An American-born artist of mixed racial background, Piper has articulated questions about the politics of racial identity in many ways throughout her work as an artist and philosopher. In 1973, Piper created an alter ego, the Mythic Being, who became the basis of a pioneering series of performances and photo-based works. For this 1975 Mythic Being performance, she sported large sunglasses, an Afro wig and mustache—chosen to blend in with the mid-seventies urban environment, and dressed in men’s clothing. This simple costume enabled her to appear inconspicuously as a black man to an unknowing public. In these photographs we can perceive the indifference of the crowd in Harvard Square to Piper’s performance: people brush shoulders with her, or look in the opposite direction.
Her subsequent intervention into the photographs with oil crayon and text helps to dramatize the scenes, and to express the tension between the artist’s inner experience and the invisibility of her Mythic Being performance to its live audience. Drawing directly on the photographic prints prevents the images from being seen as straightforward documentation of a performative event. Instead, by the final sequential image, most of the other people and surroundings have been obliterated by drawing, which parallels the text’s shift from philosophical meditation (“I am the locus…”) to existential shove (“Get out of my way…”). Piper intended for these photographs to be made into posters; she did not initially intend for these preparatory images to be treated as works of art unto themselves.” [credit]
“In 1973 Adrian Piper pasted a mustache on her face, put on an Afro wig, and donned round, wire-rimmed shades.
Dressed and acting like a man, she went out into the streets.
Muttering passages she had memorized from her journal, the artist was startling and weird, challenging passersby to classify her through the lens of their own preconceptions about race, gender, and class.
Who was this light-skinned black man, going on and on about how his mother bought too many cookies. Was he crazy? Was he dangerous? Why was he being followed by a film crew?
These street actions formed the basis of The Mythic Being, an influential work of performance art that helped establish Piper’s reputation as provocateur and philosopher.
At a time when Conceptual and Minimal art were mostly male domains that pushed to reduce art to idea and essence, Piper pushed back with confrontational work that brought social and political issues to center stage. And at a time when most performances were barely documented, Piper announced her project in ads in the Village Voice, arranged for it to be filmed by Australian artist Peter Kennedy, and created works on paper dominated by her aggressive alter-ego.
Footage from Mythic Being, borrowed from Kennedy, had been playing on a monitor in the Grey’s galleries until this week—when Piper requested the work be removed. The monitor was turned off and the gallery posted a note to viewers on top.
It explained that the artist had articulated her reasons in correspondence with Valerie Cassel Oliver, the show’s curator, which reads in part:
“I appreciate your intentions. Perhaps a more effective way to ‘celebrate [me], [my] work and [my] contributions to not only the art world at large, but also a generation of black artists working in performance,’ might be to curate multi-ethnic exhibitions that give American audiences the rare opportunity to measure directly the groundbreaking achievements of African American artists against those of their peers in ‘the art world at large.’”
The note responds with a statement of Cassel Oliver’s from the catalogue, arguing that the show’s mission is to resist “reductive conclusions about blackness: what it is or what it ain’t. What is clear is that it exists and has shaped and been shaped by experiences. The artists in this exhibition have defied the ‘shadow’ of marginalization and have challenged both the establishment and at times their own communities.”
In response to Piper’s request, Cassel Oliver added: “It is clear however, that some experiences are hard to transcend and that stigmas about blackness remain not only in the public’s consciousness, but also in the consciousness of artists themselves. It is my sincere hope that exhibitions such as Radical Presence can one day prove a conceptual game-changer.”
In depriving students and the larger public from seeing her work at the Grey, the artist, who currently lives in Berlin and runs a foundation dedicated to art, philosophy, and yoga, has chosen to make a larger point about marginalization and otherness, themes that have dominated her work throughout her career.
The question is whether separate exhibitions are still needed to tell the stories that were left out and continue to be absent from conventional tellings of art history, or whether creating these separate spaces amounts to a kind of ghettoization that prevents the artwork from being considered on the larger stage.
These issues are hardly confined to race, of course—curators of exhibitions on gender, nationality, and other aspects of identity routinely encounter artists who decline to participate because they don’t want to be considered in the context of “women artists,” “Jewish artists,” and so on. So, sometimes, do our contributors and photo editor when we run stories on these issues.
The organizers of “Jew York,” a show at Zach Feuer and Untitled galleries in New York last summer, were turned down by several artists who didn’t want to appear under such a rubric. Luis Camnitzer, a German-born Uruguayan artist, was so conflicted that he couldn’t decide whether to recuse himself or contribute a piece. So he sent a letter describing his conundrum, which became part of the show. It read in part: “Do I refuse the invitation on the grounds of feeling that it is an artificial and anecdotal grouping irrelevant to the work of most artists invited and therefore tinged by an aroma of weird fundamentalism? Or do I have to accept on the grounds of my need not to deny my Jewish connections bound by my ethical debt and beliefs? Maybe not totally pleasing to everybody, this letter tries to be my compromise.”
When “Radical Presence” opened at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, last year, it also included five works from Piper’s 1975 series I am the Locus, collaged and painted Polaroids on which images of Piper as the Mythic Being are inserted into scenes of a crowded street. The text gets bigger as the figure approaches the viewer, culminating in the warning “Get Out of My Way, Asshole.” The works, owned by the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago, were deemed too fragile to travel to New York.
Part II of the New York version of “Radical Presence” opens at the Studio Museum in Harlem on November 14. It doesn’t include any works by Piper. The show is scheduled to travel to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis next year.” [credit]
[CREDIT] – “A Silent Soundwalk, Noisy with Abstract Compositions” by Claire Voon via HyperAllergic
Christine Sun Kim during her sound walk (LISTEN) on October 29 (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic unless otherwise noted)
“What is the sound of arms moving? Or of rats gossiping? What about the sound of slight anticipation, or the sound of memories?
These were among the many sounds that artist Christine Sun Kim invited us to consider during “(LISTEN),”a recent soundwalk she led in the Lower East Side organized by Avant.org. We were a group of about a dozen, following her as she visited a handful of sites around the neighborhood to pause, share a personal memory of hers, and offer us an accompanying composition.
But these compositions were technically silent. Serving as audioguides of sorts, they were void of mp3 players, headsets, or other audio devices. Instead, Kim presented a series of textual prompts on an iPad, like flash cards, that described sounds ranging from those that may play immediately in our minds (the sound of a bicycle spinning) to those that are utterly abstract (the sound of an urge to punch someone). Born deaf and originally focused on painting, she has been exploring sound as a medium for nearly a decade and the various ways we may experience and understand it.
“(LISTEN)” readapts Max Neuhaus’s own soundwalk, “LISTEN,” when, 50 years ago, the musician took a small group of his friends on a sonic journey through the Lower East Side. For his iteration, Neuhaus stamped the word LISTEN on his companions’ hands and encouraged them to absorb the familiar noises of the city. As he recalls:
After a while I began to do these works as ‘Lecture Demonstrations’; the rubber stamp was the lecture and the walk the demonstration. I would ask the audience at a concert or lecture to collect outside the hall, stamp their hands and lead them through their everyday environment. Saying nothing, I would simply concentrate on listening, and start walking. At first, they would be a little embarrassed, of course, but the focus was generally contagious. The group would proceed silently, and by the time we returned to the hall many had found a new way to listen for themselves.
Christine Sun Kim during her sound walk (LISTEN)
“(LISTEN)” made me hyper-vigilant of surrounding sounds, but with its designated stops and paired stories, it also brought a more focused approach to Neuhaus’s exercise. At each site, Kim animatedly relayed in American Sign Language the associated memories that her interpreter Vernon Leon spoke aloud. They ranged from her serendipitous encounter with someone who ended up writing her a recommendation for graduate school to a rage-filled bike accident outside the New Museum caused by a negligent cab driver. Outside Audio Visual Arts gallery (currently on hiatus), she recalled experiencing John Andrew’s 2009 exhibition The Now with Before and After. She could not hear its audio component, but she pressed her hands against the room’s yellow walls and through the strong vibrations, experienced the throbbing waves.
The iPad slides that followed such recollections probed our own understanding of sound: descriptions moved from the familiar to the obscure, increasingly prodding individual memories, imaginations, and sensibilities. Short but suggestive, the text pushed sound beyond an experience dependent on hearing; it may be seen or felt, as Kim made incredibly clear as she invited us so associate it with the material and texture (“the sound of pavement floor”); with moments (“the sound of condensation”); with emotional states (“the sound of uncertainty”); and with action and restraint (“the sound of not trying to smell”).
Christine Sun Kim, “a map of a sound as a space” (2016) (image courtesy Avant)
Parentheses often appear in Kim’s visual works, which deal largely with text. The coupled curves appeared in “(LISTEN),” too, bookending each phrase she showed. When anchored in the space between the two lines, words and their sonic implications are visually isolated and highlighted yet are also reduced in both presence and volume. The physical pockets of the neighborhood Kim carved out on her soundwalk worked similarly, becoming temporary spaces for each of us to consider the subjectivity of experiencing sound, which extends beyond the use of just a single sense.
We ended “(LISTEN)” at a quiet creperie next to a boisterous bar, where Kim crossed out the word stamped on each of our hands. As I walked away, my ears picked up the rough grating of a trash can hobbling across park gravel; the metallic tinkling of a trotting dog’s leash nudging its collar.
(LISTEN)took place on October 29 and October 30 around the Lower East Side.”
Alan Michelson (1953-, Mohawk) created a type of sculptural reenactment when he installed Earth’s Eye (1990) in lower Manhattan’s Collect Pond Park, outlining the now absent pond, a freshwater source that sustained Manhattan residents until tanneries polluted it and it had to be filled in during 1803. Forty cast concrete markers (22”x14”x6” each) referenced the natural and social history of the pond with low-relief imagery of plants and animals, and were arranged in the outline of the pond. Passersby walked around and within the installation, “bringing previous states of the locale into the here and now.” (Everett, Deborah. “Alan Michelson,” Sculpture, May 2007, Vol. 26 No. 4. Page 31.)