Last December, a plastic covered and patriotic "Diane The American Swimmer" portrayed by NYC based performance artist, Diane Dwyer, set the out to Miami Beach with a very specific message about climate change. Learn more about this great "American Swimmer" in our latest artist feature! - Quinn Dukes
It is with great pleasure that we jump back into one of the founding components of this site, the Artist Feature! Multi-media artist, Trevor Amery, joined the #AliveAtSatellite programming during Miami Art Week at Satellite Art Show. His performance initiated with the cross-country journey from California (where he is completing his MFA at UC San Diego) to Miami Beach, Florida. In our interview we discuss the importance of community within Amery's practice and he recalls the terrifying capsize experience while performing Baidarka. - Quinn Dukes
Earlier this month Bakehouse Art Complex (Wynwood, Miami) premiered Brian Whiteley’s solo exhibition entitled Ghoulish Gestures. The exhibition was organized by guest curator Jesse Firestone. According to Firestone, Ghoulish Gestures is the result of multiple conversations with Whiteley about the reception and interpretation of his clown personas. Whiteley’s clown performances have enraged local communities across Chicago and Brooklyn, contributing to Youtube users naming Whiteley "the worst asshole ever"! Firestone also notes that “while Brian's impetus for these performances is noble - to show the people how easily the media can be manipulated- there is serious a breakdown in communication or translation because people are so enraged by the works that they can’t even see what his performances are doing. This gallery show presents a unique opportunity to remove the performances from their initial making, illuminate the inner workings that make these performances so viral-ready, and qualify them within a larger practice. It’s all about framing.”
The presentation of performance art exhibitions can be incredibly challenging, especially without the presence of the live performer. I thought this was an excellent opportunity to hear directly from Whiteley about his performance interventions and am wildly excited to share our conversation with you. Ghoulish Gestures runs thru Tuesday, March 1st so if you are in or near Wynwood, Florida take the time to witness this wonderfully outrageous exhibition. (Bakehouse, Swenson Gallery, 561 NW 32nd St, Miami, FL 33127) - Quinn
INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN WHITELEY
QUINN DUKES: How do you bridge the gap between those who see your "absurdist" and "disrespectful" behavior as promoted via reporting with the true intention of the work? Do you think the individuals who respond with such incredible disdain later find the connection between the anonymous clown and you, Brian Whiteley the artist? Does this matter?
BRIAN WHITELEY: I have no desire to bridge the gap between the public’s opinion and the motivation behind the work. For me, the beauty with this style of performance is that it lives on in a mythical form. The average person who reads the paper and watches the news is suddenly confronted with the idea that there are clowns haunting the local cemetery, or that Sasquatch may be in one of our parks. To me that is the best thing about the work. Few people connect the dots, and when they finally do they are typically thrilled to have found out the mystery. I like to think that no matter the response, the fact that someone had a moment to pause and reflect on something other than the daily grind, that I provided him or her with a moment of intrigue.
QD: What led you to creating work within the crux of media hype and translation?
BW: The origin of this work began several years ago when I was heavily into performing as Bigfoot. I would capture myself on video skulking through the woods, then send the footage into "professionals" (under a pseudonym) for their review. I'd conduct interviews with the crypto experts and learn as much as I could about their beliefs. I had dozens of conversations, people claiming that Bigfoot was a product of a fallen angel mating with a beast, people claiming that Bigfoot could turn himself invisible to avoid detection, people claiming that they knew other people living with Bigfoot, people claiming Bigfoot abducted them, etc. I would use these conversations as inspiration in my own studio practice where I dressed like Bigfoot and created art around the themes the experts disclosed.
At a certain point I thought it was important that I speak with some Bigfoot hoaxers too, so I began reaching out to them as well. One hoaxer in particular still stands out, a mister Rick Dyer. Rick Dyer famously toured a fake Bigfoot body he created throughout the United States, stopping at various festivals and charging people money to see the corpse. He told me that he would make over $20,000 per stop. He consistently had huge lines at each festival; people were dying to see proof of Bigfoot's existence. Rick Dyer based his entire carnival sideshow on a similar stunt pulled in 1968 by a fellow named Frank Hansen. Hansen also toured a creature around the country to wide acclaim. Hansen’s gimmick involved a fake body in a block of ice that he called “The Iceman”. The intrigue was so great that the Smithsonian Institution even expressed interest in acquiring it. Inevitably, when it came time to let real scientists examine the remains both Dyer and Hansen had to concede the truth of the hoax. When pushed on why he hoaxed, Mr. Dyer explained to me the there is an inherent thirst for truth of otherworldly existence. This was a pivotal statement for me.
Fast forward a few years, I am now also heavily invested in all things clowns. Why Clowns? I went to clowning school around the age of 12 and it has had a major lingering effect on me. Anyways, I started doing the cemetery clown performances on a whim, basically because Greenwood cemetery was close to my art studio. Passing it one day, I thought to myself, I wonder what a clown would do in a cemetery? The very next day I went inside with a book bag stuffed with a clown suit. I changed into character behind a mausoleum and then had someone film me strolling through the headstones with balloons in my hand. The footage was great, and I thought, I should send this in to someone for review. There aren't really professionals on this sort of sighting, so I sent it to the South Slope News (a small news outlet in Brooklyn) they ran a piece on my clown performance....and then the NY Daily News, Brooklyn Mag, Village Voice, NY Mag, Huffington Post, Gothamist, Pix 11, News 12, etc . all picked it up. NPR did an exclusive on the creepy clown pandemic and listed my clown persona on the list. The coverage was extensive. My mind was blown. The comments online provided me with plenty of fuel for my studio practice, where like Bigfoot, I would dress as a clown while I made the work.
BW: After the excitement of the Greenwood cemetery clown performance subsided, I decided it was time to readdress Bigfoot. I wondered why was Bigfoot was confined to fringe news stories and outlets like the National Enquirer. My thought was, the story needs a new twist. I decided the best thing to do was to confront an urban population with his existence, instead of keeping him in the forest. I conducted my "Prospect Park Bigfoot" sighting in early 2015 during the blizzard, this was a highly elaborate hoax that ended up going mega viral as well.
In the summer of 2015 my "Chicago Cemetery Clown" piece debuted on CBS prime time news. The viewership was the most to date.
QD: Is there a relationship with Paul McCarthy's clown motif? If so, how. If not, can you discuss the differences?
BW: There are a number of artists that I am inspired by, Paul McCarthy is definitely one. I similarly have a disdain for painting, love performance art and provoking both the public and the art crowd. I mean his “Christmas Tree” piece in Paris got him punched in the face, so yeah I have a lot of respect for that man. In terms of thematic elements, the clown can be easily connected to Paul McCarthy and many other artists. I see the clown and Bigfoot as universal tools for artistic exploration, vehicles of escape from the self. All that being said, I believe my work is different in that my goals lie in calculated and elaborately planned out performative attacks on the media and the public, existing mainly outside the art arena. Additionally, I source almost all of my content from paranormal experts and professional hoaxers, not by visiting museums or studying contemporary artists. While I revere many artists, I try not to be influenced by them, I find it a lot more fascinating talking to real people with unique perspectives. I have never been inspired by looking at a triangle on canvas.
QD: To confirm, there is no live performance happening within Ghoulish Gesture correct?
BW: No live performances, just documentation of the performances.
QD: How does it feel to present performance artifacts and video void of live actions?
BW: The fact that there is no live performance does not make this any less of a statement on performance, methodology, and the art of creation. It actually strangely helps to elevate the performances into a higher echelon, celebrating the acts. Plus, there are plenty of performance remnants present.
In regards to the sculptures specifically, for this exhibit using fabric from my clown suits that I performed in at the cemeteries creates them all. They are inspired by murderabilia created by the likes of serial killers such as John Wayne Gacy who famously painted clowns while on death row. Ed Gein was also an inspiration, he notoriously used human body parts to make furniture and clothes, like his belt made out of human nipples. They are the artifact of the crime, and in my case, artifacts of the performance. The idea being that you are inescapably confronted by the performance, it lives on and on in new and unique forms. I additionally imbued them with as much human attributes, especially elements of sexuality to them, each one with a glory hole. It suggests that these costumes are primed and ready for someone to climb inside, to perform their own subversive actions. To have the performances live again. They are a vehicle for anonymity.
QD: Does social media act as another "performer" within your work?
BW: Absolutely, the sheer volume of interest, comments, shares, is of vast importance to the work. People are unknowingly helping to publicize performance art. This is great because social media typically serves as a platform for people to celebrate themselves and stalk former lovers. Without social media, and news outlets need for advertising revenue, there would probably be an editor making sure Bigfoot or clowns were not covered. It is a game changer for all artists, and I suggest finding your own way to manipulate it.
Join the revolution of outsider practices; painting is dead, for real.
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Brian Whiteley is a Brooklyn based artist who explores phobia, paranormal experience, the occult and religious phenomena through research, performance, and visual art practice. Most recently he has focused on hijacking the media-machine through absurd and anonymous, public performances. His practice capitalizes on our obsession with the unreal, the uncanny and our apparent, underlying need for these strange fascinations to be actualized. You may have inadvertently seen one of his performances as creepy clowns or bigfoots on the news, which garnered millions of views on the internet and were featured in hundreds of press articles (CBS News, Daily Mail UK, Huffington Post, Brooklyn Mag, Gothamist, Chicagoist, AOL News, NY Daily News, NPR, etc.).
Brian Whiteley earned a Masters in Fine Art at the School of Visual Arts in New York and is represented by the Christopher Stout Gallery, New York. Whiteley's clown alter ego "Flap Jack" is featured in NPR as one of the top ten scariest clowns.
Each room of the Ocean Terrace Hotel had been transformed (to a varying degree) by the gallery, nonprofit, or artist-run space that occupied it. The decidedly non-white-cube conditions of the building demanded an installation approach. Most rooms dealt not only with the walls of the rooms themselves, but also made use of bathrooms, floors, ceilings, windows and doors. In this sense (and augmented by the heat and humidity of a Miami evening) Artist-Run was an exhibition that consciously engaged the body of the viewer. Likewise, explicitly performative events that took place in the hotel were intimately intertwined with the space itself. A few examples are summarized below.
Artist Jennifer Avery’s Beast Boutique was a composed clutter of photographs, photocopies, and hybrid doll-stuffed-animals-garments. She called it “the chaos of the forest”. Walls, floor and all corners were inhabited. Upon entry into the boutique, the artist would ask if the viewer would allow her to choose a garment for her, assuring, upon a friendly sizing-up, that she would “choose the perfect one.” Through this interaction, the viewer noticed that the installation was, in fact, populated with these wearable artworks in brightly-colored, frankenstein-stitched silk, lace, wool and fur, often displaying vestiges of their former use as more conservative garments.
Some were full masks, others shawl-like necklaces adorned with oversized talismans made of stuffed-animal parts. Hand-made stuffed dolls (all alike) were lined up along walls and in corners looking like a cross between 19th century children’s toys and the mummy cats of the ancient Egyptians. Walls were plastered with images of these props and the artist (fully painted and adorned as a human-animal fairytail character, performing in a wooded setting), layering objects with images and creating a complex visual mythology. Beast Boutique was at once scary and exuberant. It had the enclosed, non dream logic of a fairytale and the sense of humor of a neon forest.
Stupid Bar was the creation of Baltimore artist-run gallery Open Space at Artist-Run in the Ocean Terrace Hotel. This was an actual bar complete with a few varieties of drinks, a stripper’s pole and constant Karaoke performances. It was impossible to tell whether these were performed by friends and associates of the gallery or visitors to Artist-Run, as everyone was invited to participate while enjoying canned beers and cocktails and reading the myriad handmade signage adorning the walls and shelves of the installation like so many neon signs and beer posters at a dive bar.
Because of the hotel room setting, Stupid Bar also held a tinge of nostalgia for a teenager’s room where a secret party might place after parents have gone to bed. A large chalkboard hung on the wall immediately to the right upon entry stating: “Postmodernism is just a cool word for Postmodernism.” Another in red, green and black advertised the fact that all drinks were $11 while another commanded, “Notice this notice.”
In spite of the jokey atmosphere of Stupid Bar, it was a locus for the free spirited exuberance of TSA’s Satellite Art Show, a taste of what actually makes people love art. Stupid Bar’s funny signs, its dildo microphones and underwear-clad gender-bending karaoke divas generated something profound that viewers and artists could participate in and sink their teeth into. As Paddy Johnson put it in Art F City, “[Artist-Run] gives artists a voice, and somewhat counter-intuitively that’s most needed here in Miami, during the biggest art fair week in the country.” Stupid Bar was a gathering place and a way station for this energy. - Alexandra Hammond, Miami Art Week Correspondent
artist-run shout outs!
Through the social media spirits we witnessed a few incredible works that we just have to note... Vincent Tiley presented Sleepy Head Sweetie at the Christopher Stout Gallery booth during which he seemed to pleasure himself in a digitally printed body-suit. Gedney Barclay surprised us as he slithered across the floors of the Ocean Terrace hotel in a hair covered sleeping bag suit. Both Tiley and Barclay performed in rich, visually textured garments allowing the joys of surface and live body to fuse.
- Quinn Dukes
Similar to "Segregation", Martiel's arresting performance at Pinta Miami offered viewers an opportunity to deeply contemplate personal and political freedom both as an individual and within a community at large. As a former pupil of Tania Bruguera, his performance philosophy should come as no surprise but I find Martiel exceedingly daring - willing to acknowledge and face consequence. This is no easy feat within commercial performance relationships. Following his Miami performance (Dictadura), I reached out to Martiel to learn more about his pre-performance preparations and post-performance insights. I am honored to share our conversation with you as a part of this week's Artist Feature. -Quinn Dukes
QUINN DUKES: What led you to create Dictadura?
CARLOS MARTIEL: At first, when I was invited to make a performance work for PINTA in Miami, I wanted to do a project that had a relationship with Cuba, given the number of Cuban exiles who are in this context, most of whom were fleeing Cuba from the current political regime. During the research process for the project, however, I decided to include a larger number of countries in Latin America that have also had some form of dictatorial regime just like the case of Cuba. But unlike Cuba, the vast majority were supported by the School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. In the United States, many people have no idea about the history of Latin America, or the macabre role the United States played in inflicting pain to the Latin American family, with its foreign policy of transforming Latin American military apparatuses into one of torturers, murderers and dictators. It was because of this that I created the project. I remained still, retained by the neck to a steel collar bolted to the base of a flagpole, forced to stare at the alternating flags of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, where dictatorial regimes have had support in some form by the School of the Americas. Each flag was placed for an hour and in historic chronological order, just as if the dictatorships were happening in real time.
QD: How did you prepare for the durational aspect of the piece?
CM: I really don’t have particular rituals for the preparation of my work. Usually I try to spend an hour alone, before making my performances, but it's not something I can always do. I believe that no preparation is sufficient to deal with the types of works I engage with, the challenge is actually at the time the work is presented in real time and the strategies that you develop internally as the work is happening, for example, careful breathing to avoid discomfort, uneasiness or tingling so that I stay focused.
QD: Stillness and duration are commonly core elements to your performances. What draws you to these two methods?
CM: I grew up in a society that lives on the edge in many respects, an island surrounded by water, people who endure a lot of financial hardships and even complete lack of basic needs, but must continue to live one way or another and not give up. This has influenced much of the durational aspect of my work. I have also studied and I am very familiar with African cultures and rituals of initiation, where one has to test the physical and psychological limits of the initiates. I believe that we should approach as much as possible to our limits, because only from there life can be seen through different eyes, and perhaps felt with a different kind of skin.
QD: Where there any challenges to performing in the context of an art fair?
CM: This was my first time participating in a fair doing a performance. It is a difficult experience because some people involved in organizing such events do not understand the nature or dimensions of a performance. For example, they wanted to reduce the performance which was suppose to last 21 hours, divided into seven days, only to three days for economic reasons ... I did not allow that to occur. If one wants to keep an initial idea and be consistent with what one is proposing, you have to be very firm. The relationship with the audience is also very different. I was surprised for example that people came to my performance and took selfies like if the performance was something to hang on a wall like a painting.
QD: How did you connect with Pinta Miami?
CM: I received an invitation by curator Jesús Fuenmayor to participate in his “Time Sensitive – Pinta Projects”.
QD: I see that you have presented performances across the globe. In your experiences thus far, does the reception of your work change per location? Can you offer a few examples?
CM: My work does not go in one direction, it is a fluid experience that changes depending on where I live, but also changes depending on the context where the performances take place. I think change gives richness and variety to my work, and better enables me to avoid common clichés. For example, on several occasions I have worked with the theme of emigration and immigration, but I address these topics from different perspectives each time. In Cuba, I made “Where My Feet Do Not Reach” in which I was interested in the idea of traveling through the subconscious of people who could not leave the island. For the Liverpool Biennial, I performed “Horror Vacui,” in which I dealt with the same issues from the point of view of the immigrant who is to assimilate into a different culture. In this context, I sewed onto my skin different parts of a classic English suit. In “Simiente,” a work I performed in Chicago, I wanted to unite in one body the blood of different immigrants living in Chicago, a city that has a large population of immigrants, but all segregated.
QD: Is your practice exclusively rooted in performance? If so, what brought you to this methodology?
CM: For the time being, I am working with my body and the possibilities that it brings as living matter. I am open to work with other media but it depends more on the ideas than a specific practice. For example, while I was living in Cuba in early 2007 I made a series of drawings with my blood. I would go to public clinics and ask the nurses to draw blood from me, clandestinely, so that I could use it in my work. Sometimes the nurses would refuse or they would not retrieve an adequate quanitity of the blood that I needed for my drawings so this created a big frustration for me. One day, I realiized that time and the body are extrememly important elements for the type of work I wanted to realize and so I decided to make my first performance. Since then, I’ve been working with the body and performance as my practice.
QD: Are their any current performance practitioners that inspire you?
CM: I really do not receive inspiration from performance artists, I am moved by the reality around me, I am inspired by human contradictions, social problems that I cannot believe have not been resolved yet like immigration, police brutality, racism, to just mention a few... I am inspired by writers like Eduardo Galeano or singers like Mercedes Sosa and Lola Flores. But I do think that there are perfomance artists whose work I find attractive given the content and the vivacity of the work. For example, Paulo Nazareth, Tania Bruguera, Regina Galindo, and Santiago Sierra.
Special thanks to Martiel's translator: Jorge Sánchez
Carlos Martiel (born 1989, Havana, Cuba). He graduated from the National Academy of Fine Arts “San Alejandro,” Havana in 2009. Between the years of 2008-2010, he studied in the Catedra de Arte Conducta, directed by the artist Tania Bruguera. Martiel’s works have been included in: Havana Biennial (2009), Pontevedra Biennal (2010), Liverpool Biennial (2010), Biennial “La Otra”, Bogota (2013), International Performance Art Biennale, Houston (2014). He has had solo exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Center “Wifredo Lam,” Havana (2012); Nitsch Museum, Naples (2013); Axeneo 7, Montreal (2013); Lux Gallery, Guatemala City (2013); and Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles (2014). He has received several awards, including “CIFOS Grants & Commissions Program Award” in Miami, United States, 2014; “Arte Laguna” in Venice, Italy, 2013; “Close Up Award” in Vallarta, Mexico, 2012. His work has been exhibited in Estonian Museum of Art and Design in Tallinn, Estonia; Museum of Modern Art of Buenos Aires in Argentina; Bellevue Museum of Arts, Washington; The 8th floor in New York, among others.
On the wall behind, a video projection of the live action spanned nearly from floor to ceiling, offering the option to experience the scene at hand as a mediated spectacle. This was Miami art week after all, and many of us who were visiting art fairs had spent plenty of time in recent days looking at and snapping shots of artworks through the screens of our smartphones. For a performance collective that specializes in viewer participation, the video projection was an apt comment on touristic looking vs. bodily engagement. Both were available modes of interaction with the work, though most viewers seemed to be compelled by the live action.
One might rightly question the relevance of Wild Torus’ work more than 50 years after Carolee Schneemann's Meat Joy, Allan Kaprow’s happenings and countless other examples of live art with multiple bodies. But for those of us too young to have attended these now historic performances, the relevance is that we get to experience such a performance in real time and in the flesh. It is one thing to know that such events have taken place in the history of art, and entirely another to negotiate the the social situation generated by the live action.
And in spite of the orgiastic, chaotic character of Wild Torus’ performance, it is the subtle social negotiations that make it interesting. Within our culture of internet pornography, media spectacle, and a half-century of body art, the shock value of coed naked wrestling is negligible. What remains potent is the negotiation between Wild Torus members and audience members as they are invited to participate in the performance ritual. Does one feel coerced, uncomfortable, excited by the invitation to pour flour and paint on the performers? Does one put on the garbage bag poncho so that one can stand close to the action, or does one keep one’s distance so that one’s clothes and shoes stay clean? Does one, in fact, jump into the action on the mat? These options are all available for the viewer / participant. Even more than the content or choreography of the Wild Torus performance, it was the exposition of these choices that was of interest. The performance highlighted the fact that we are constantly negotiating our engagement with other bodies in space and that the boundaries of this engagement are up to us. - Alexandra Hammond, Miami Art Week Correspondent for Performance Is Alive
SATELLITE PROJECTS presents performance at THE HOTEL, 7410 OCEAN TERRACE
FRIDAY, DEC 4th
CARLOS MARTIEL performs durationally at PINTA MIAMI, Mana Wynwood, 318 NW 23rd Street.
ABOUT: “Dictadura” (Dictatorship) is the title of the performance that Cuban artist Carlos Martiel presents as part of “Time Sensitive – Pinta Projects.” Martiel aims to reflect on the history of dictatorship in Latin America and the diversity of the Latin and Latino communities in Miami."
LARS JAN and MDC Live Arts presents HOLOSCENES at KYRIAKIDES PLAZA, MDC WOLFSON CAMPUS.
ABOUT: "An epic performance art installation that embodies the trauma of flooding, explores our troubled relationship to water, and contemplates our capacity for empathy, adaptation, and long-term thinking."