The Decadently Delirious Art of Jack Smith: A Feast for Open Eyes

Jack Smith, Untitled, c.1978

Jack Smith, Untitled, c.1958-1962/2011

Jack Smith, Untitled, c.1958-1962/2011

Jack Smith, Untitled, c.1958-1962/2011

Jack Smith, Untitled, c.1958-1962/2011

Jack Smith, Untitled, c.1958-1962/2011

Jack Smith, Untitled, c.1958-1962/2011

The Decadently Delirious Art of Jack Smith: A Feast for Open Eyes

Jack Smith: A Feast for Open Eyes

Jack Smith: A Feast for Open Eyes is a retrospective celebration of the underground films, performance art, photography and experimental theatre created by legendary American artist, filmmaker and actor Jack Smith (1932-1989), an exhibition that recently was presented at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). Smith was described by Andy Warhol as the only person he would ever copy and by film director John Waters as “the only true underground filmmaker.”

Working in New York from the 1950s until his death in 1989, Jack Smith resolutely resisted and upturned accepted conventions, whether artistic, moral or legal. Irreverent in tone and delirious in effect, Smith’s films are both wildly camp and subtly polemical. Just before Andy Warhol’s Factory, and well before the full flowering of New York City’s gay community, Smith made Flaming Creatures (1963), a trippy, decadently surreal tableau of cross-dressing men and women sexually molesting one another.

Flaming Creatures defined underground cinema for a generation and ended up being banned almost everywhere it was shown. The film was even banned in Europe, and Jonas Mekas ended up having to schedule a private screening in a hotel room for such luminaries as Jean-Luc Godard, Agnes Varda and Roman Polanski after a film festival in Belgium refused to show it. In 1968, Sen. Strom Thurman vehemently denounced it on the floor of the U.S. Senate. People were arrested for showing it. To this day, Smith’s works are still rarely shown; his films aren’t available from Blockbuster or NetFlix. Wagging weenies, female crotches, bare breasts and all manner of simulated sexual activities are shown in Flaming Creatures, as well as memorable lines such as a male voice asking: “Is there a lipstick that doesn’t come off when you suck cock?

While Smith is best known for his contributions to underground cinema, his influence extends across performance art, photography and experimental theater. Smith has been referenced by avant-garde artists such as Laurie Anderson, Cindy Sherman and Mike Kelley, filmmakers David Lynch and Matthew Barney, photographer Nan Goldin, musicians John Zorn, Lou Reed and David Byrne, and theater director Robert Wilson.

Jack Smith: A Feast for Open Eyes

Jack Smith: Flaming Creatures (Full Movie)

Jack Smith and the Destruction Of Atlantis

Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis is a documentary film directed by Mary Jordan that premiered in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary presents a collection of interviews and clips by and about the revolutionary artist Jack Smith. The film covers some of the difficult exhibition history of Flaming Creatures (1963) and difficult collaborations with Jonas Mekas, Andy Warhol and others. Voice-overs from Smith, culled from some 14 hours of interviews with various critics and friends, supplemented the archival visual materials, footage and extensive interviews with filmmaker John Waters, Smith’s sister Mary Sue Slater, playwright Richard Foreman, Smith and Warhol star Mario Montez, writer Gary Indiana, and musician John Zorn, among others.

Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis

Photo-Gallery: The Decadently Delirious Art of Jack Smith: A Feast for Open Eyes

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Ai Weiwei’s Interlacing: A Chinese Activist’s Photographs and Videos

Ai Weiwei, Dropping a Han-Dynasty Urn, 1995

Ai Weiwei, June 1994, 1994

Ai Weiwei, Ai Weiwei, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 1983

Ai Weiwei, Anton Wei, Lorimer Avenue Apartment, Brooklyn, 1983

Ai Weiwei, Study of Perspective, Tiananmen, 1998

Ai Weiwei’s Interlacing: A Chinese Activist’s Photographs and Videos

Interlacing is the first major exhibition of collected works by China’s renowned dissident artist Ai Weiwei, currently on display at Zurich’s Fotomuseum Winterthur. The collection consists of an extensive selection of photographs, videos and explanatory essays that present the interweaving artist as a network, company, activist, political voice, social container and agent provocateur.

Ai Weiwei is a generalist, conceptual, socially critical artist dedicated to creating friction with/and forming reality. As an architect, conceptual artist, sculptor, photographer, blogger, Twitterer, interview artist, and cultural critic, he is a sensitive observer of current topics and social problems: a great communicator and networker who brings life into art and art into life. Ai Weiwei deliberately confronts social conditions in China and in the world in ways that have captured an international audience.

In 2003, Ai Weiwei played a major role, together with the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, in the construction of the Olympic stadium, the so-called “Bird’s Nest.” Subsequently, he publicly repudiated the project and the whole Olympic buildup as a preposterous fraud to put on a “good face” for the international community. In 2007, 1001 Chinese visitors traveled, at his instigation, to Documenta 12 (Fairytale) in Kassel, Germany. In 2010, the world marveled at his large, yet formally minimal carpet of millions of hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern.

Chinese officials announced in May, 2011, that the authorities were investigating Ai Weiwei on suspicion of tax evasion, after police officers had taken him from the main Beijing airport on April 3rd as he prepared to board a flight to Hong Kong. A global outcry went out, blasting the Chinese government for what was deemed a politically motivated move, claiming that the tax inquiry was a pretext to silence one of the most vocal critics of the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese legal authorities finally released Ai Weiwei on June 22nd, after a three-month detention, apparently ending a prosecution that had become a focal point of criticism of China’s eroding human rights record. Nevertheless, the terms of his release may silence him for months or even years.

Ai Weiwei: Interlacing

Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs (with English subtitles)

Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry

Photo-Gallery: Ai Weiwei’s Interlacing/A Chinese Activist’s Photographs and Videos

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Never Sorry: Who’s So Afraid of Ai Wei Wei?

Never Sorry: Who’s So Afraid of Ai Wei Wei?

Never Sorry is a fascinating 17-minute documentary short film about China’s renowned dissident artist Ai Wei Wei by freelance filmmaker Alison Klayman, who spent several months documenting his work and life, as well as capturing his many provocations and scuffles with the government. So who’s really so afraid of Ai Wei Wei? Well, the Chinese government for one. Ai Wei Wei is China’s most famous contemporary artist, acclaimed for his solo exhibitions the world-over.

Much to the Chinese government authorities’ chagrin, Ai Wei Wei has vociferously used his fame to speak his mind. A prolific blogger and tweeter, Wei Wei often publishes angry writings against injustice, corruption and abuse, which the Chinese censors invariably take down.  Most famously, after assisting in the design of China’s renowned 2008 Olympic Stadium (the Bird’s Nest), Ai Wei Wei publicly repudiated the project and the whole Olympic buildup as a preposterous fraud to put on a “good face” for the international community.

A mere 5 days after the PBS television airing on March 29th of this short film, Ai Wei Wei was detained by police at Beijing airport, and proceeded to vanish. No word was given about where he was taken, only a vague statement from authorities that he had committed “economic crimes.” His associates and lawyer were also targeted and disappeared. A global outcry went out, blasting the Chinese government for what was deemed a politically motivated move; however, the protests appeared to have no effect. Youth culture began to assert itself, and based on the title of this short film, stencil graffiti and light tags imaging Ai Wei Wei went up all around Hong Kong and mainland China, in spite of extraordinary risks.

After 43 days of silence, Ai Wei Wei’s wife was finally allowed to visit him on May 15th. She has confirmed that he had not been maltreated and appeared to be in good health, but his imprisonment does not look as though it will be overturned any time soon. So for the time being, Ai Wei Wei is now China’s best known detainee.

Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry

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Performance in Photography Since 1960: An Audience of One

Matthew Barney, Drawing Restraint 9: Shimenawa, 2005

William Pope, Foraging (The Air Itself/Dark Version), 1995

Laurel Nakadate, Lucky Tiger #151, 2009

Ai Weiwei, Study of Perspective: Eiffel Tower, 1995–2003

Performance in Photography Since 1960: An Audience of One

Staging Action: Performance in Photography Since 1960 presents a wide range of images focusing on performance art that were expressly made for the artist’s camera, which was recently on exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Performance art is usually experienced live, but what documents it and ensures its enduring life is, above all, photography. Yet photography plays a constitutive role, not merely a documentary one, when the performance is staged expressly for the camera (often in the absence of an audience), and the images that result are recordings of an event but also autonomous works of art. The pictures in this exhibition exemplify the complex and varied uses artists have devised for photography in the field of performance art since the 1960s.

Many artists have experimented with the camera to test the physical and psychological limits of the body. Other artists have enlisted the camera as an accomplice in experiments with identity, suggesting the plasticity or mutability of identity itself. They have engaged the production of the self as positional rather than fixed and often played with shifting ideas of gender and/or sexual identity. The exhibition also includes both off-the-cuff and staged performative gestures of political dissent, as well as explorations of the dualities of consumerism and dispossession.

Staging Action demonstrates the complex ways in which photography, confronting us with its ability to both freeze and extend a moment in time, pushes against the grain of mere documentation to create performance art as a conceptual exercise that can be appreciated in the absence of a performing body. Often the technology of the camera is able to open up new space for performance, isolating exhibitionist, arresting, spectacular and just plain wacky moments. For every strenuous performance in this collection that challenges physical and psychological limits, there’s also a very playful one.

Viewers can read more about this exhibition in The New York Times here.

Tono Stano’s Performance Photography: Sense

Slide Show: Performance in Photography Since 1960

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Tripling: Playing Dress-Up to Disrupt Identity Politics

The Compatibilty Quiz

Paint by Number

Triplet Crime

Miss

Table for Three

Black and White

Triplet Pregnancy, Too

Tripling: Playing Dress-Up to Disrupt Identity Politics

Triiibe is a performance collective that originated in 2006 when performance artists and identical triplets, Alicia, Kelly and Sara Casilio joined creative forces with noted documentary photographer, Cary Wolinsky. Together, Triiibe creates political and social commentary through art using performance, video and photography. They explore diverse ideas together and their collective voice allows them to reach a broad audience. The images their exhibitions are carefully constructed observations on identity and the politics of identity. The works ask questions such as: How are we the same? How are we different? What is feminine? What is masculine? What role goes gender play in politics?

In 2009, Triiibe had their first solo exhibition of photographs at Gallery Kayafas. They unveiled a solo exhibition in Boston University’s 11,000-square-foot gallery 808 in the fall of 2010. Their current show at DODGEgallery is Triiibe’s New York debut.

Triiibe: In Search of Eden

Triiibe: Bailout and Bonuses

Slide Show: Tripling/Playing Dress-Up to Disrupt Identity Politics

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Ethan Law’s Roue Cyr Presentation: The Captivating Lord of the Ring

Ethan Law’s Roue Cyr Presentation: The Captivating Lord of the Ring

Ethan Law’s Roue Cyr presentation is a captivating piece of performance art; it’s part dance, part acrobatics, part athleticism and the longer you watch, it gets more and more impressive.

Ethan Law’s Roue Cyr Presentation: The Captivating Lord of the Ring

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Dreaming of Lucid Living: A Fascinating Performance/Animation Mash-Up

Dreaming of Lucid Living: A Fascinating Performance/Animation Mash-Up

Dreaming of Lucid Living is a short film that’s a remarkable, beautiful performance/animation mash-up by the award-winning animator, designer and multi-media artist Miwa Matreyek. The film is a performance/installation piece constructed like a shadow puppet theater, integrating Matreyek’s solo live performance, nicely composed visuals and animation in a way that is both poetic and quite quirky.  It combines live performance with both pre-made animations  and semi-autonomous, rule based animations that appear to update based upon what a camera is viewing.  The film’s presentation of deceptively simple, deliciously playful illusions, a high-spirited sense of wonder, and creatively unexpected mixtures of live action and animation is just incredible.  I’ve never seen anything quite like this ever before.

Dreaming of Lucid Living: A Fascinating Performance/Animation Mash-Up

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