Big City Forum: The Hub at WUHO is designed as a lab for ideas that encourages cross-disciplinary explorations and exchanges between various creative disciplines. BCF: The Hub presents three separate collaborative presentations focusing on ideas and social narratives around the concept of space and envisioning our relationship to change both at an intimate, personal level and at the urban scale.
Part one presents the work of three artists, Soo Kim, Siri Kaur, and Christina Ondrus, who investigate notions around liminal space and the articulation of experiences or insights that defy precise description. In their own specific ways, each of these individual bodies of work touch upon issues of absence and presence and the ways in which we experience time and place.
The following is a brief conversation with the participating artists that helps understand their artistic process and thinking about their work.
How did you first arrive at your current work; was there an "aha" moment?
Soo: The progression to the work I currently make, cutting into photographs, was a gradual one. A shift happened when I started making photographs that I printed too dark or sometimes too light - as a result, making inaccessible some of the information available or given in a photograph. I decided to stop making editions of photographs, instead I wanted to build a practice, method and vocabulary that deliberately inserted absences and slowness into the field of the photograph, essentially using the material properties of the photographic medium to reconsider the reading of the photographic image. That idea led me to cutting away at my photographs. All of my work still continues to start with the photographic image, in a post-photographic stage I work out how to excise parts of the image to insert absences and voids and alter the overall reading of the image.
Siri: When I first made pictures, I worked within very subject-specific series but that has slowly evolved into a more organic process. I became more invested in pictures about emotive states rather than purely visual phenomena. I fought beauty for a long time because I thought that visually stunning images were deceptive and too easy. Recently I've embraced beauty as a complicated and worthy adversary.
Christina: In a way, "aha" moments are a starting point for much of my work. A few years ago I began to work with diagrammatic images. I was intrigued by the combination of rational methods used to describe states of consciousness categorized as irrational--moments of epiphany, awe or the sublime. Much of my text-based work sources material from the sixties, a time when a counter-culture that explored perception and consciousness emerged. I am fascinated by language used to communicate varieties of experience. I collect books from this era on self-realization, spirituality and the occult. The more texts I read, the more terms I encounter for experiences that are difficult to describe--including mystical states, transcendental epiphanies or near death experiences. The more elusive the experience, the more words tend to be collaged together descriptively. Specific meanings become obscured and ambiguities of language are revealed. I began thinking of language as a code, and using it visually to create moments of obscurity and legibility that mimic the shifting meaning of language and experience itself--the paradox of articulating the ineffable.
Who, if anyone, has influenced the direction of your work; historically and personally?
Soo: I am constantly fascinated by many artists - how they think, and how their inquiry and criticality manifests their work. I return to artists whose work I understand as asking questions and therefore often marked by changes in their work that are sometimes subtle, sometimes tremendous, always profound. The list is very long, but would include Michael Asher, Al Ruppersberg, Alex Hartley, Roni Horn, Jeremy Deller, Walid Raad, Ulrike Ottinger, Paul Thek, Martha Rosler, to name a few. Personally, I'm fortunate to have friends and a family whose ideas and adventures inspire me. Above all, my daughter has changed my work, as well as the way I make work. She, better than anyone, teaches me to consider things thoroughly, to take care with things, to go beyond.
Siri: I've been fascinated by the Mannerist period of the late Italian Renaissance for a long time. Philosophers and heretics such as Giordano Bruno theorized the existence of multiple universes in the late 1500s, completely breaking with contemporary ideas about space and time. The Mannerists were really the first modernists. Their obsession with pushing the boundaries of human perception and possibility was incredibly revolutionary, even from a contemporary perspective. I also love old-school photographers such as Paul Strand, Robert Frank, and Walker Evans. Their historical moments were so different from our current condition but their mix of formalism and emotive impact is still relevant.
My friends and family are incredibly important for my work. Much of my photography is about the relationship of personal history to collective memory. I'm fortunate to have friends and family intimately involved in my artmaking process.
Christina: Many artist and teachers--from Minimalists to mystics, influence me. Alan Watts remains a prominent influence in my recent work. He was instrumental in introducing Zen and meditation to the West, and was one of my earliest introductions to that as well. His writings and recordings bridge the gaps between many of the cultural disparities of perception and being.
What do you believe your work contributes to the current moment? How is it part of a larger creative community here in Los Angeles?
Soo: There are an infinite amount of photographs made and that circulate rapidly through our culture today. My work attempts to slow down the reading of a photographic image, to consider the materiality of the medium as a way to re-evaluate the photographic index in light of current technologies and its applications, and to reconsider ideas around abstraction, site-sensitivity, and unique properties through photography. This has been a discussion in circulation propelled by the changing technology, velocity, and accessibility of the photographic medium for several years, and similar and related ideas circulate in related fields as well. A long standing question around engagement, perhaps.
Siri: I think that the world is becoming an increasingly terrifying place, so I am always looking for explanations and for hope by doing my work. I recognize that there are dangers in creating purely seductive imagery so I strive to imagine an alternate world where danger is always fraying the edges of the aesthetic. Teaching is also an important part of my practice. I feel honored to help guide younger artists through their process. It helps sustain and inspire me.
Christina: The instability of current politics and the economy emphasizes the mutable presence of the present. Now is all there is. The "future" and the "past" emerge from the collective decisions made in this unfolding present moment. Every moment arising is an opportunity to create the world. I want to bring attention to our shared moment and connect with a cosmic perspective by cultivating a space of experience and engagement with the viewer. Many of the materials I work with are subtle in appearance, such as graphite on black paint, and require engaged presence of the viewer.
How do you see your work in relation or conversation with other aesthetic disciplines, visual arts, sciences, design, etc?
Soo: The way we live and the environments we build are very important subjects for me. I have a deep reverence for architectural thinking, how cultural environments are built, as well as collage and drawing. Some of my work has a relationship to drawings and collages by architects such as Superstudio, Archigram, Constant Nieuwenhuys, Wolf Prix, and Paolo Soleri.
Literature is also an important reference in my work. I title my work after stage directions from various plays. Some favorites are Genet, Beckett, Ionesco, and Dürrenmatt. Stage directions inform the elocution of language by an actor that the audience is not privy to - information that is purely performative within the delivery of the language of the play. I'm making a parallel between this nonverbal communication/information with the removal of the photographic imagery from my photographs. Through the removal of parts of the photographic image in my works, I'm trying to insert a different kind of information/reading/narrative to the photographic image. I'm interested in how stage directions shape the delivery of language in a performance, and use the removal of photographic imagery in a parallel way to alter the reading and interpretation of the image recorded in a photograph.
Siri: The relationship of writing and literature to photography is very important for me. Editing a body of photographs is like composing a poem or a sentence. It is similar to the process of finding the right syntax and tense in a foreign language. There are pauses, there are verbs, there are nouns, there is punctuation. All have different impacts but all are vital for sentence structure and for translating abstract ideas into concrete symbols. Some of my favorite authors are Marilynne Robinson, Harper Lee, Oscar Wilde, and sCarson McCullers, to name a few. Their works oscillate between hope and despair, between redemption and loss, struggles that I attempt to navigate in my work.
Christina: The search for meaning permeates all disciplines. Artists bring the unseen into being, a practice shared with science and design alike. It is a search for that which lies behind things, trying to get back, as Alan Watts would say, "to the naked experience of reality itself." My recent collaborative project, KNOWLEDGES at Mount Wilson Observatory was a site-specific, cross-disciplinary exhibition where artists explored these overlaps at the historic astronomical observatory just outside Los Angeles.
Soo Kim, Siri Kaur, Christina Ondrus
+ evening of readings curated by Les Figues Press
October 6th - 31st, 2013
Next in BCF's series:
November Almanac: A Book in Space
Featuring graphic designers Juliette Bellocq, Jessica Fleischmann, and River Jukes-Hudson.
California is a land of plenty. Fall is a time of harvest and change. Los Angeles in November has another kind of sparkle, a silvery light. We propose an installation, a book in space, that looks at harvest and clearing, and planting again, roots and vines, connection and longing, washing the spirit and greater understanding of where and how we are fed by L.A., the city where our food so mysteriously grows.
November Almanac runs from Nov. 8th through Dec. 1st.
The exhibition reception is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 14th at 7 pm.
6518 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Gallery hours: Thursday 1-8 p.m., Friday-Sunday 1-6 p.m.
Tom Image: Soo Kim, (After a pause), 2010. Layered, hand-cut chromogenic print: 30 x 30 inches, frame: 36 x 36 inches. | Image: Courtesy of Angles Gallery, Los Angeles.
About the Author
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Funding bubbles, cultural deserts and the politics of access to the arts in the 21st century.
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Multi-hyphenate works that combine disciplines, remix dogmas, and reinvent the wheel.
A dialogue between cultures, the music of our state serves up the California dream like no other artform.
Staging the drama of California through dance, music and theater.
Breaking away from the European and New York vanguard, California reinvents the art world.