Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ten Questions: Fred Mitchell

Ten Questions is a new feature by curator and Gallery Director Brett Levine. He asks artists, both emerging and established, to respond to ten questions regarding their artistic practice.

First to be invited is Fred Mitchell, an emerging artist based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

BL: Who or what is your most significant influence when making work?

FM: My daily interactions, experiences, relationships, and emotions subconsciously immensely affect my work. I suppose that my art is my conveyance of where I am currently at or about to be. If that makes any sense? I have plenty of heroes all of whom I consider to be an artist in some form or fashion.

BL: What piece of creative equipment do you most like to use?

FM: After much thought, I have only been able to narrow this down between two things. Technology and Nature.

BL: Do you describe your thinking as more analogue or more digital?

FM: I suppose I would see it has a middle-ground between the two schools of thought. I have grown up in a very interesting time in the world when there are frequent technological advances but I have on the older side of this revolution. I am sure there are kids growing up nowadays, unaware of what analogue actually is...

BL: What is your biggest creative success?

FM: I am not sure if I would consider anything I have done necessarily a creative success, but I am pleased with ideas that I have seen all the way through. Mainly, 4D work I have done would be projects I am truly proud of.

BL: What is your biggest creative failure?

FM: Each time I stumble, I like to think I have learned something.

BL: Which book, if any, first influenced your thinking about creative practice?

FM: On Photography by Susan Sontag has been a pretty important to me, although I do not think that was necessarily the first to impact me. Film has played a huge part on me as well as music and literature, and all in different aspects. I could narrow it down and probably explain each if you like though.

BL: Are you more afraid of originality or appropriation?

FM: Probably appropriation because I worry that my point of view may be misconstrued in the eyes of someone else.

BL: Do you archive or destroy works that you view as failures?

FM: I have a problem with being impulsive. I make an effort not to destroy failures because I need time to look at them and figure out how to put the next foot forward, but in the past my impulsive side has caused me to destroy projects. Hopefully that side of me will go dormant in the future.

BL: What medium do you view as the most relevant in the present day?

FM: This issue is one I have obsessed over for quite some time. To keep it brief I will say that I feel the most relevant mediums are any that can combine with science or the digital world to create something new and engaging.

BL: What medium do you view as the least relevant in the present day?

FM: I do not really consider any mediums do be less relevant than others but I do feel that some mediums are faced with a greater difficulty appealing to a wider variety of individuals.

Fred's works can be found here: http://yay-fredmitchell.com/

Friday, August 14, 2009

What's Working?

Day after day, art magazines, blogs, newspapers and other media outlets categorize a shrinking field. Museums and galleries close, staff are laid off, students in arts-related programs obtain degrees for which there is no foreseeable opportunity.

What’s evident is that the arts as its current model exists – educational institution, creator, writer, critic, curator, collector, gallerist, agent, muse – simply doesn’t function any more. The market itself is so top-heavy, even after its recent ‘adjustments’, that works of art and their relative values have no correlation today. This is as evident in the four figure prices of emerging and mid-career artists as it is in the speculative nature of the auction market. Dollars and euros seem, to ‘coin’ a phrase, chase good money after bad as a market built on demand dwindles to bewilderment.

Consider, for a moment, what it means for a major corporation like Polaroid to have its collection, wait, its assets, appear in public and private sales. What can it possibly mean if, using recent figures from artnet.com, as many as six hundred and twenty seven works by Ansel Adams suddenly enter the market?

Here’s how the house of cards must have worked – speculators, pardon me, collectors, purchased major works in an overheated market, driving prices and values up for everyone involved. Now, in a cool market, not only are the implications of that strategy becoming evident, but every organization reliant on the market is suffering. What’s even more remarkable is that educational institutions that should have been immune – those ivory-tower bastions of scholarly pursuit, ne’ertofore sullied by the vagaries of the market (heaven forbid) – now find themselves in precisely the same predicament, with fewer donors, shrinking endowments, ambitious plans.

So what in the world can this possibly mean? Will we see the market become a ‘cash-for-clunkers’ emulating, bargain chasing, free-for-all positioned by whoever might be left when the galleries and auction houses have swept their rosters clean of ‘surplus’ staff or shuttered their doors entirely?

Maybe the actual issue is that it is time to lift the veil and recognize that art is a market, that apart from its scholarly frameworks, its intellectual positioning, its speculation on mood and emotion, in the end its simply a transaction that is based as much on supply and demand, scarcity and availability, as anything else.

So what we have now is a more educated class of educated people, artists, professionals, supporters, languishing in a field of closures, cutbacks, and changes of scale.

I wonder if anyone took the time to consider something on the way up – did anyone outside the bubble really care? Did more people come to exhibitions? As prices were being driven up, did it actually attract people to the market, make them more generous with their time and money? Did we really make it bigger, stronger and faster? Or was it just some bloated behemoth teetering on the edges of speculation and belief, propped up by language and then deflated when the bubble burst.

Ask yourself now, what’s working? I’m in the business, and I don’t even think I have an idea.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Strange World Video

For a work that is almost fifteen years old, Pipilotti Rist’s 1995 “I’m a Victim of this Song” remains as compelling as it did when it appeared in the Biennale of Sydney in 2000. Then only five years old, and still fresh, I described Rist’s voice as she works her way through Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” as sounding as if she were gargling with broken glass. Hearing her version again after so long, my initial thoughts remain intact.

What surprises me after such a long time is how, somehow, we have witnessed a transformational moment in image consumption in which, for the everyday viewer, the idea of Rist’s intervention is almost unimaginable as art. Now, when everyone has the chance to mash up the latest hit and post it somewhere until a bot removes it, “I’m a Victim” seems almost nostalgic.

I mention this because what we are witnessing is the realignment of expectations in video art. That’s not to suggest that any of its core principles have changed – the non-linearity of its relevations, the real-time experience of viewing. But somehow viewers now approach these types of works without even the understanding that they are art. Videos posted on Artform.com may have the YouTube logo emblazoned in their lower right corner in many instances, but viewers of YouTube videos don’t even experience these images as art. Instead, I would argue, these have become part of a fine arts detritus that is overlayed on the visual experiences of the everyday.

Still, the notion of art as video, rather than video as art, might just be revolutionary, the insidious idea that an artwork might somehow slip up onto the YouTube favorites.

Just wait until some hipster thinks they’ve discovered Peter Campus for the very first time. Then you’ll see what I mean.