Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Errorist Kabaret" (2009) by Etcétera

This very strange installation, by an Argentine collective, was like walking inside a junior high school project in the cafeteria, formally and conceptually. Which made it sort of fun. Etcetera "affirms error, compromise, confusion and surprise as productive qualities in life." Just like Kloe, always thinking positive...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Postgraduate Education" by Sinisa Labrovic


1. It is not merely the oldest trade, it is eternal! Eros is the force in the very core of Life and existence, which keeps the Universe together... Eros and love are safe business. And you don't even need to be tough, only have some money and good will. You should avoid street prostitution because it is dangerous, both for you and for the girls, while elite prostitution is inaccessible to you, so you should settle somewhere in the middle. Girls in an apartment bring more work and more money, but increase the probability of the police breaking in. For establishing a legal massage parlour, you need a large sum of money. The most simple and the least dangerous form of business is to take girls to the clients' apartments.

2. Publish an ad in which you announce that you are looking for girls between 18 and 35 years of age for escort services. Buy a cell phone and a SIM card only for this business. Promise good money to the girls, but don't exaggerate. Make a list, collect contacts, arrange meetings, try out those girls who haven't done escort before. Avoid using words such as "prostitution" and "whore." Those who have done this sort of thing before and look decent can be employed immediately, since they aren't likely to give up after the first job. Choose the prettiest and cleverest ones, those who are willing to work.

3. (gives instructions about buying a phone, etc)... Your girls should be nicely dressed, preferably wearing erotic lingerie, and they should smell fine. Buy them condoms, mouth water, and a lubricant in case they end up with too many jobs in one night.

4. Work from 4 p.m. until midnight. After midnight, you will have mostly drunk, drugged and problematic clients. The price list should be agreed with the girls in advance, such as: 100 EUR per hour, 60-70 EUR for half an hour, 40 EUR oral sex only... bonus for anal sex, SM, and other specialties.

5. Take the girl to the appointment, park in a side street and wait, read books, educate yourself, learn a foreign language. Split the earnings: 60% to the girl and 40% to you. She will be happy and work better, which means that you will earn more... Friends and acquaintances are the best clients. Steady clients should not receive any discount, but have the girls stay longer, be more attentive, etc.

6. If you are good to the girls, they will not snitch on you... The main problem could be guys who beat up prostitutes. If the girl doesn't return in time, phone her... Policemen and dangerous guys who want free sex should be best handled by the girl herself.. Another problem may be lazy, fastidious, irresponsible, and rude girls.

7. In summertime, take the girls to the seaside. Tourists, especially Italians, will pay twice the usual fee.
When your business has taken off, you can extend the offer and, with a bit of luck, launch an elite trade.

You can take the other way -- keep the girls as slaves, use minors, and take all the earnings -- but that way is paved with stress and mostly ends in prison.

Be kind to the girls. If you are honest and some luck, you will have both money and sex. You will live happily ever after.

Above text is from the poster “Postgraduate Education” by Croatian artist Sinisa Labrovic. Read about him here. I find this work both devastating and funny in its matter-of-fact honesty. With our economy in shambles now, like much of the rest of the world, how easy is it to turn to darker pursuits to survive?
A bit of background on the Biennial. Many artworks, including posters, diagrams, and pamphlets, had text, always translated into English and Turkish. All videos were subtitled English and Turkish. A ticket into the three biennial venues was only 10YTL, or about $7, less for students (Documenta was very expensive). The sites I visited were well attended, both by Turks and foreigners.
Visiting the Biennial sites, my friend and I came away exhausted and down. The political nature of the work was relentless, never relieved by beautiful abstraction or historical distance. However, thinking about it now, I am impressed with the consistency of the curation. They didn’t waver. All these tiny voices, mostly railing against injustice in their native countries, but occasionally against the “machine,” were somehow cumulatively enervating. Like artists really can make a difference if they just tell their small personal stories.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

“How can we live now?”

So, the other main reason I came to Turkey, besides curating the Trade Show, was to see the 11th International Istanbul Biennial. That Istanbul can pull this off is quite a feat (the Southern Californian attempts at regular biennials have been a failure). I saw two of the three sites, in a warehouse and a decommissioned school.
Every biennial is different. Some, such as Documenta, include big-name regulars on the international circuit. Some have big budgets, erecting buildings and large-scale sculpture/installation. Istanbul had neither of these this year. I recognized very few of the artists, most of whom were from the Balkans, Turkey, the Middle East and Asia. The artwork was temporary in nature: drawings on paper tacked to walls, cardboard sculpture, unframed photos. There were many videos resembling rough documentaries, without special effects or computer graphics.
The curation was extremely consistent—all about politics, strife, violence, poverty, economics, sexual and racial issues, etc. And it was generally bleak, although with a thread of black humor running through many of the works. The question asked was “How can we live now?” A friend commented to me that there weren’t a lot of answers, but many examples of how not to live.
In the next few posts, I’ll show you some specific artworks.

Friday, September 25, 2009

"Trade Show" Opening at Isik University, Istanbul

OK, am in the Madrid airport for a 5-hour layover, and am finally able to catch up on my blogging.
The opening of the Trade Show at Isik University was a great success. The gallery was large and well lit. We hung each piece by wires because the gallery walls can't take nails. That meant many of the works had to be mounted on light stretcher bars, which framers did in one night. The show has grown to over 250 works.
The opening was quite formal, with waiters serving wine and appetizers, everyone dressed up, university t.v. coverage, and speeches by the head of the printmaking department, the dean and the president of the university. I also spoke, with my Turkish partner, about how the exhibition evolved.
Everyone loved the show, and many commented how important it is for students to see art from America mixed in with Turkish work.
The show will be up for a month in Istanbul, and then the Turkish artists will choose their American work, and the Turkish art will be sent back so each American artist can have one. Should be fun!

Monday, September 21, 2009


Most Turks prefer to live in modern apartment buildings, cause the old way was hard. Some wooden Ottoman houses are being restored as low-income rentals, or as boutique bed-and-breakfasts, but full-scale gentrification in the old areas isn’t happening yet.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


View from my little hotel, an old Ottoman house with maze-like rooms and spiral staircases. This town was a mix of Greeks and Turks until the “exchange” of populations in the 1920s. Church is now a mosque, where I heard “Barak Obama” in the Friday night address. Don’t know what was said, though.
Greek Islands in background.
Laundry in foreground.
Very lovely.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


For my students (it’s nice to be missed!)
I’ll help you when I get back. In the meantime, here I am at the Ancient Lydian, then Greek, then Roman, then Byzantine site of Pergamon (about 300BCE to 300CE). This is the Acropolis on the hill, Hadrian’s Library. Germans archeologists have reconstructed a few of the columns, but carted off most of the decoration in the early 20th century. Still, it’s pretty amazing.
I’m going to put photos I took into my lectures of Greece and Roman Empires, and it will make much more sense. Plus you'll hear the funny stories of getting here…
There are some benefits of having a well-traveled doll as your teacher!

Joseph Beuys, Artist, Activist, Teacher

The museum presented Beuys' 2D works, a few video documentations of performances, and work of many of his students. I have never cared for Beuys before, turned off by his cult status. But this exhibit made me appreciate what a magnetic teacher he must have been.
From a wall label:
Joseph Beuys, drawings from 1974
Paper as a medium is of key importance for Beuys, who regarded drawing as “an extension of thought” that directly reflects the creative process… the fleeting drawings, words, and diagrams lend immediate visual form to Beuys’ teaching as a process in flux that sets discussions and thought processes into motion. For Beuys, learning was a matter of finding one’s own personal content, one’s goals and the paths one needed to attain them. He became involved only after his students presented him the results. Beuys’ group critiques were legendary—and anticipated with fear. “Beuys was very strict and very definite,” recalls Walter Dahn, “He delivered clear and definitive judgments concerning the works presented to him. And they really hit home.” For Immendorff, Beuy’s judgments were absolute: “It was like a stamp of quality.”

Imi Knoebel, Grace Kelly, 38 pieces “The icon Grace Kelly is referred to in an abstract repetition of total unreachability.”
Katherina Sieverding “… thematizes consumerism, glamour, mass media, and gender…”
Sabanci Museum in Sariyer is beautifully designed for seeing art, and surrounded by lush gardens. Restaurant prohibitively expensive.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Turkey in Crisis... Not

OK, so I’m sure you’re dying to know how Turkey has been affected by the economic meltdown that has crippled Americans. The answer is… not so much. I’m seeing mothers in the stores buying new clothes for their kids (school starts after Ramadan ends next week), people carrying packages, life going on pretty much as normal. Streets are clogged with new cars, and gas is still about $6 per gallon. None of my Turkish friends has lost their jobs.
When I told my friends here I sold very few of the Trade Show works in the two Southern California shows, they were shocked. Art is moving in Turkey. Here people realize how much some of these artists normally sell for, and I think we may sell many (to pay for installation costs, still keeping the majority for the trade, of course).
When I ask what is happening with the Turkish economy, the answer is always, “we are used to bad times, it doesn’t affect us.”
And for anyone who believes that Turks don’t party, the bars are full at night, selling $10 cocktails.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Contemporary Art, Ancient Place

Sight-seeing in Sultanahmet, went into the Cistern, a Roman aqueduct that supplied the water for Byzantium (which became Constantinople, and then Istanbul). It’s held up by pilfered Doric and Ionic columns, and two Medusa heads.
This contemporary video projected hands into the water underneath a stretched screen. I don’t know if it’s part of the Biennial, but it certainly added to this lovely treat of a museum.
Threads by Lara Mezzapelle and Giacomo Deriu. 09/09/09

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In Love with Turkish Food

So the first morning I wake up to one of my kids’ favorite things: Turkish cocoa puffs. They are different than American cocoa nasties, as they have much less sugar. This is true of most Turkish snack foods: better ingredients, less salt, less sugar, more taste. I have a friend who works for one of the major chocolate/snack food companies here, and he’s confirmed that the American market demands more sweetness than the Turkish market.
It being Ramadan, and eating on the street during the day is not OK, I went out to a small shop and bought every kind of junk food I wanted. Have to be aware of those around me who are fasting, which also means no drinking or smoking.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Arrival Istanbul

Made it, about 30 hours of traveling, almost missed the flight in Madrid. Both my checked bags were searched by US agents, which I only found out when I opened them and found a note inside that they had been there.
Very tired, jet lag is so disorienting. I remember the very first time I arrived in Turkey, 12 years ago. I was in shock from packing up (was moving here for my first year in Ankara), and then got the flu on top of travel exhaustion.
Tomorrow I start arting!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Window Shopping

On the eve of my departure, I’m faced with the fact that traveling is expensive. I’m going to have to spend money I don’t have.
Met some artists for a glass of wine and venting last night. Some are not working at all, others very little, like me. What can we do? Temping like after college? Art aiding in the schools? Crafting in nursing homes? What do over-educated, out-of-work teachers do?
(One thing we don't do is mope on the couch. At least now we have time to make work.)
Some friends don’t have health insurance. They had small problems, now fixed, but now are denied insurance when they apply. Others of us can’t afford to keep paying the insurance we have now.
So I’m going to Turkey on an extreme budget, staying with friends, eating on the street. No buying clothes, and you know how Kloe loves fashion…
My next post will be from Istanbul.
When I get back I begin my new life as an entrepreneur.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Bird Project

At a local art fair I photographed this project, which is similar to the Trade Show formally. An artist collective called Paint Night Group sent panels with a robin stenciled on them out to various countries, where artists worked on them, and then sent them back. The PNG then re-worked the panels.
I talked to some of the organizers about presentation. They reported most effective was to have maximum white space around each artwork, not stacking the works, like they had to here in the small art fair booth. They also framed a few of the pieces, and anyone wanting to buy one could choose framed or unframed.
It’s an interesting project, but I was sorry not to see more of a voice (ooh, that pesky voice) from the different countries/cultures. PNG admitted that sometimes the panels got overworked.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Packing Up the Trade Show

Leave for Istanbul in one week. Carrying all the work on the plane in tightly wrapped packets. It’s a lot…

Friday, September 04, 2009

Taco Crawl

A few nights ago I went to a fiesta encantada.
We met at the hostess’ house for chips, guac and margaritas. I didn’t know many, but it was a fun group.
We then walked en masse about six blocks as the sun set, passing local points of interest, such as where you can buy a mariachi outfit. This was East LA, not a neighborhood I could normally cruise by myself.
We finally arrived at a parking lot filled with food vendors running grills by generator, and had the BEST tacos, gorditas, crepes filled with cream cheese, juices, churros…
Algunos no creian que una guerra como yo podria hablar un poco de espanol...
And we then waddled back.
?Quien dice que nadie anda en LA?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Endings, Beginnings

Some pretty big projects have come to an end. Others are starting, including this lovely loan that rolled into my house yesterday. Thanks, Cuz!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Saw these two sculpture installations, both titled “HappyHappy,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art by Korean artist Choi Jeon-Hwa, en route to the Pompei show (more later). Also free jazz that night. I’m so amazed at the LA cultural scene: totally racially integrated, huge crowds, kids, transvestites, the whole world enjoying art and jazz…
Anyway, the fence piece is interactive, inviting viewers to tie their own piece of plastic to the chain link. But it’s not magical in the way that the hanging plastic work is: you can walk through it and bump up against it, like some kind of colorful carwash. And it’s right next to the Chris Burden lampposts, creating this interesting conversation between gray concrete and colorful colanders.
Read a review here.