Lynda Benglis: Water Sources at Storm King Art Center

Lynda Benglis: Water Sources
Lynda Benglis: Water Sources

I was recently invited to attend a preview of a new temporary exhibition at Storm King Art Center, an open-air sculpture park in upstate New York.

In the Hudson Valley, about an hour north of New York City, Storm King sits on more than 500 acres of rolling hills, fields, and woodlands, and is home to a collection of more than 100 large-scale sculptures by artists including Alexander Calder, Maya Lin, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, Claes Oldenburg, and Richard Serra, David Smith.

Its two special exhibitions for the summer season are Lynda Benglis: Water Sources and Outlooks: Luke Stettner. With more than a dozen outdoor sculptures, as well as more inside the museum’s building, it is the first exhibition to display a major grouping of Benglis’s large-scale sculptures and fountains, which she has been producing since the early 1980s.

Lynda Benglis: Water Sources
Lynda Benglis: Water Sources

This piece, North, South, East, West, features a crustacean-like piece called Crescendo, which sits atop the very first water fountain she made in 1983-84 for the New Orleans World Fair (it was lost for a long time after the World Fair went bankrupt.)

The surroundings of her early life influence her work. Benglis grew up in Louisiana, always around water and a witness to oil spills in bayous.

Lynda Benglis: Water Sources
Lynda Benglis: Water Sources

This 2014 piece, named Pink Ladies, is inspired by a kite Benglis saw at a kite-flying festival in Ahmedabad, India. Benglis reminds us that pink is a natural colour, though we may not see it as such. The texture, she says, is inspired by the brain coral she sees on her frequent scuba diving trips.

Lynda Benglis: Water Sources
Lynda Benglis: Water Sources

Hills and Clouds, her most recent work, glows after dark. Natural phosphorescence, such as in bioluminescent waters and phosphorescent caves, in another of Benglis’ indfluences. She also cites the glow-in-the-dark displays at funhouses in the South that she visited as a child.

Storm King are offering special evening visits to see this piece glow in the dark. Even without the full effect, in a blazing hot June sun in my case, it is well worth the visit for the rare opportunity to see these pieces.

Ragnar Kjartansson at the New Museum: Me, My Mother, My Father, and I

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In May 1975, Kjartan Ragnarsson and Guðrún Ásmundsdóttir shot a slightly schlocky love scene for Iceland’s first ever feature film, Morðsaga (Murder Story). As Guðrún, playing a bored housewife, fantasises about ripping off the shirt from Kjartan’s, playing a plumber, chest, she cries out: “Take me here, by the dishwasher!” Legend has it that the day after the scene was filmed, the performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson was conceived. Continue reading “Ragnar Kjartansson at the New Museum: Me, My Mother, My Father, and I”

Kara Walker: A Subtlety, at Domino Sugar Factory

By now, you’ve probably heard of artist Kara Walker’s massive installation at Domino Sugar Factory. So, in short: the 132-year-old sugar factory will be torn down this year to make way for (guess what) luxury condos — despite a high-profile campaign that fought to preserve the building. Continue reading “Kara Walker: A Subtlety, at Domino Sugar Factory”

Sami Stories at Scandinavia House

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Scandinavia House, on Park Avenue near Grand Central, is one of my favorite under-the-radar places in New York City. It’s almost always quiet, never busy, has a great (but pricey) Nordic café named Smörgås Chef; and shows excellent films and free art exhibitions. Continue reading “Sami Stories at Scandinavia House”

Hypnopompic by Kustaa Saksi

Hypnopompic at Artifact
Hypnopompic at Artifact

Finnish-born, Amsterdam-based graphic artist Kustaa Saksi creates abstract, dream-like, and fantastical illustrations that, as well as gracing gallery walls across the world, have been featured in campaigns for brands such as Nike, Lacoste, and Issey Miyake. His work has appeared in the pages of the New York Times and even on the stamps of the Finnish Post. Continue reading “Hypnopompic by Kustaa Saksi”

Station to Station

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.. Is the title not only of one of my favourite Bowie albums, but also a Nomadic Art Happening taking place across the United States this month — kicking off in Brooklyn last night.

Multimedia artist, Doug Aitken somehow convinced Amtrak to loan him a train that, adorned with multi-coloured LED panels and loaded with artists, will travel cross-country. From Pittsburgh tomorrow night and on to Chicago, Minneapolis, Santa Fe, Winslow, Barstow, Los Angeles, and finishing up in Oakland on September 28th.

At each stop along the way, an event is hosted inside old train stations, and a in a vintage drive-in movie theatre in Barstow. The multi disciplinary events will feature performances from the likes of Patti Smith, Thurston Moore, Beck, Cat Power, Savages and Eleanor Friedberger, as well as art by Kenneth Anger, Urs Fischer, Ernesto Neto, and Carsten Höller.

Last night’s event at the Riverfront Studios in Williamsburg began with multi-coloured smoke bombs bursting from an  Olaf Breuning installation and then a drum line and a popping of pink and grey pom-poms and silver sequins: The Kansas City Marching Cobras.

Olaf Bruening, Station to Station
Olaf Bruening. Photo by author.

While guests (the show was sold out but not crowded) explored the installations, including a yellow Ernesto Neto yurt, and Liz Glynn explained the theory of relativity in her black yurt; No Age, Free-Kitten member, Yoshimio, Hisham Akira Bharoocha and Ryan Sawyer; and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti played on the stage in front of a bold film backdrop running shorts from the likes of Yayoi Kusama and Nicolas Provost, whose spliced up film of endless cinematic kisses was my favourite.

The night ended loudly: Suicide. A band that, given the singer, Alan Vega, is 75 years old, I never thought I’d see live. Vega stumbled on, cane in one hand, drink in the other and screamed into the mic; Martin Rev, in shiny vinyl trousers, palmed and hammered the synth. Pretty damn delightful.

Suicide. Photo by author.
Suicide. Photo by author.
Suicide. Photo by author.
Suicide. Photo by author.

Here’s an interesting comment from Aitken to the Washington Post:

“The train system runs across the American landscape like untapped arteries,” Aitken wrote in an email. “Much of our journeys have been replaced by interstates and highways. I was interested in using the train to become a nomadic broadcast tower, broadcasting new and experimental culture while tapping into unknown and amazing creators from the locations in which the train stops.”

The Heartbeat Archives

Les Archives du Coeur is a collection of recorded heartbeats housed in a small building on the island of Teshima in Japan’s Inland Sea, a ten minute walk from Karato Port. A walk that goes through woods, past crumbling old houses, faded shop signs, moored fishing boats, and past a couple of shrines. The small building in its remote location is constructed from a dark wood that blends into its surroundings.

Teshima
Teshima
Teshima
Teshima

As I was walking there, alone and in silence, I questioned if anyone would find me here, should they try. Was there any trace of my being here?

The artist Christian Boltanski says that his archive of heartbeats is proof of the lives of the participants. It is, at least, proof of around thirty seconds or so of what was, at the time of recording, a life. When you visit the archive you first see a monitor displaying the name of the owner of the heartbeat that you hear coming from behind the next door, as well as the date and the place where it was recorded. When you open the door into the main room you step into a heartbeat so loud that the walls seem to vibrate — or maybe that’s the effect of the bulb that flashes on and off in pace with the heartbeat.

When the bulb lights the room up for a split second rows of mirrors lining the walls become visible. Catching an image of yourself in one of the mirrors, you might say to yourself: I am here. Or, you may find yourself wondering about Sophia whose heartbeat (recorded in Paris, 2010) that you can hear and, in a way, see. Where else is her heart beating?

And where was I? I was not lost, but I was in a place where I could not be found. No one would even know where to look.

I remembered myself at 13 years old. I had stayed late after school for hockey practice and had to walk about a mile to the bus stop to get back home. Somewhere along the way I got lost. Lost: it was the end of everything. I sat down on a strange street and cried, sure that nothing would ever be right again because I was lost and no-one would ever know where to find me. The terror I felt then was nothing like the quiet sense of nowhere I felt on Teshima.

And anyway, there is always a way home; though we may not mean to, we leave crumbs wherever we go.

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Les Archives du Coeur
Les Archives du Coeur

You can search for people on the heartbeat database by typing in their name or a place or date — the artist has recorded heartbeats in London, Berlin, Helsinki, Stockholm and New York. I had the option to record mine and add it to the database for someone to hear in the little room in the little building on this faraway island. It would be my stamp on Teshima that said I was here. But I chose not to. I was content with leaving crumbs.