The Dark Alternate Reality of John Bock

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The exhibition, In the Moloch of the Presence of Being, by John Bock transports the viewer into a curious, uncomfortable fantasy land which is in fact, all too real. Taking inspiration from circus freak show culture of the 1920’s, Bock presents the viewer with decayed color, absurd mechanisms, and distorted depictions of human behavior. He employs installation and film, causing the spectator to be placed within the set of what they view in the film, stirring a feeling of uneasy recognition. The pieces are spaced along a wandering path as if one were moseying through a dark carnival gone to disrepair. The exhibition feels like a modern art museum’s take on Sleep No More with an American Horror Story season four twist. However, do not let the pop culture similes mask the artistic rigor of the work itself. The pieces contain a high level of detail, invite the viewer to engage, and hold an intentional conversation between objects and time-based pieces.

Akin to the exhibition, Bock’s newest film and standout piece, Hell’s Bells, is screened in an adjoining theater. This feature-length production could be mistaken for a creative lovechild made between masters of gore and fantasy, Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton. This Wild West depiction has everything you could ask for- drag queen kingpins, eccentric parodies of religious lunacy, and a steampunk’s dream world.

The title of this exhibition called to mind the reference to Moloch as told by Allen Ginsberg. “Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!” The fervent, dark imagination in the voice of Ginsberg echoes through the space of the exhibition. A distorted reality is constructed, bringing the viewer into a moment to reflect on the absurdity of objects and our likewise curious social perception of them in what the exhibition text adeptly describes as, “a grotesque and mischievous pageant.”

 

 

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Bringing Down THE HAUS

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This weekend I withstood and instance where I waited in line for over three hours. Why, you ask? Art, my friends. For art. Art makes us do crazy and uncomfortable things.

The site of THE HAUS in Berlin was your typical, “Office Space”-style building of 1990s gray blandness. However, the building is condemned to be torn down and made into luxury condos, befitting of this high-dollar, posh neighborhood below the southwest corner of the Tiergarten in Berlin. However, until that time, a group of 165 artists from around the world have transformed 108 rooms into an artistic galaxy, full of individual, artist-created, planetary experiences.

 

There is no photography allowed within THE HAUS. In fact, they provide you with an opaque, sealable bag to place your phone into for the duration of your visit. Initially, I experienced the typical Millennial FOMO of not being able to recall these experiences through my photo library and was crippled to conjure some sick Insta-game. However, I was on board with the intention to experience THE HAUS completely firsthand, and not ever through a screen. Also, this place would have been bright screen and selfie infested if the rule hadn’t been put in place. Not only does this law also match the temporality basis of the exhibition itself through its limited life before demolition, it was also sharply practical by recognizing that the art was best benefitted without the presence of phones.

 

Now, for the good part. I can’t possibly encompass this experience through written description. Going in, I thought that the inside would only be filled with graffiti, which is awesome, of course, but in actuality, there was so much more. Each room, including stairwells, bathrooms, and broom closets, was transformed into its own atmosphere. Installation art, sculpture, cartooning, film, and sound art in addition to endless styles of graffiti and street art could all be found within. Beyond installationsenvironments, alternate realities—entirely separate worlds were created. A pitch black room gave way with backlights to lead you along a winding path through a neon forest. You may find yourself in a sticky-fuzzy apartment bearing the title of the world’s largest moss installation. Or, perhaps you will be entranced just wandering the hallways and staircases leading you through endless labyrinths of intertwining creations.

 

I wish I could tell these artists thank you. And, perhaps also congratulations. THE HAUS is the art museum of the streets. Those involved in its creation have commandeered the concept of the art museum and brought the outside, inside. You can avoid any stuffy museum-like or market-influenced environment here, while also not trekking for miles to see a great collection of street art. This collective exhibition brings the art of the streets to you, consolidated. The doors are open to the public, eagerly inviting any and all inside, with an accessible donation-only entrance suggestion.

 

Was it worth the wait, you ask?

 

Yes. Absolutely, yes.

 

Why wouldn’t she just buy a ticket for the guided tours so she could skip the line? A fair point, friend. However, they are all sold out. This isn’t surprising considering the demolition is at the end of this month, which is arriving at a break-neck speed. My advice: Get there an hour early before they open, bring a friend, bring provisions, and just know that it’s worth the wait.

 

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Personal shots of the outside of the building

ğ: The Queerest Letter

IMG_1203Personal installation shot of ğ – Queer Forms Migrate

ğ – Queer Forms Migrate at the Schwules Museum in Berlin provides a critical examination stemming from an insightful yet, whimsical premise. “ğ – the soft g” is a letter that was added to the Turkish alphabet in the early twentieth century and has no counterpart in the Latin alphabet. Its only purpose is to lengthen the vowel in front of it. As explained by the curators on the museum’s website, “ğ is an oriental sound-letter that migrated to a western body of sorts.”

This exhibition takes its inspiration from the migration of the ğ and has given it a reputation as the queerest letter. A large Turkish population exists in Germany from a long period of migration between the countries. This exhibition is specifically attuned to examining the exchange of the LGBTQ+ community through a transcultural lens. The curatorial proposition asks the question, “What if ğ left Turkey to migrate to Germany?” The queer letter becomes a symbol for the integration not only of migrants but more specifically of queer migrants, into the German context.

The concept of this exhibition is best encompassed in the standout piece, İnci Pasajı by Viron Erol Vert. This piece hangs just off-center in the gallery from heavy chains bolted to the ceiling. The piece presents a levitating, traditional Turkish rug suspended atop a bed of shiny, studded leather. The piece implies the exitance of bodies and its own use by two partners, engaged on a kinky sex swing that doubles as a magic carpet ride. (There is a pun there somewhere.) The colorful rug in combination with German Leder is a marriage of cultural symbolism with a sexy, queer twist.

Upon visiting ğ – Queer Forms Migrate, the viewer will be stimulated. Not only by the sometimes provocative imagery, but also by the call to deeply consider the particular experience of this example of queer migration. This point of consideration is extremely relevant to German/Turkish culture and take a leap further down the rabbit hole by calling forth further reflection on what this cultural fusion signifies for the LGBTQ+ community.

IMG_1204A closer look at İnci Pasajı by Viron Erol Vert (personal photo)

Viewing Art through Auras

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It started the moment I walked through the gallery doors: the auras. At first, I started blinking, trying to erase the visual sensation like that which comes after having a photo taken with a bright flash. Grasping for an explanation, I wondered nonsensically if I had accidentally looked into the sun. Those who may find this description familiar will know why I felt a wave of dread accompanied by it. I was a walking timebomb for the brain-splitting pain of a migraine that would start in under an hour. Naturally, I made the poor decision to resolutely remain in the gallery until I couldn’t possibly any longer. I wanted to absorb all I could from the exhibition. However, I soon learned that viewing art through auras is an odd departure from the typical gallery experience.

The exhibition on view was Alice Neel’s Uptown. I couldn’t read the wall text properly due to the auras, so I entered the gallery without any preconception of the show. What struck me first was her combination of her expressionist style in her blatant brush strokes and primary color selections alongside depictions of everyday life and people, reminiscent of Social Realism, a movement which was prominent a couple decades prior to her earlier works. Expressionism was also out-of-date for over a decade at the time she was working as well. Her combination of the two inspirations created a whole new method all her own. The pieces feel honest in both their intimate, no-frills portrayals of her subjects, but also in the expressive, personal method of her paint application.

One of my favorite pieces from the exhibition is the portrait of Ron Kajiwara (1971). Her expressive brush strokes along with the strong blue, yellow, and brown of the subject’s clothing and scenery are reminiscent of a Van Gogh landscape such as Wheatfield with Crows (1890). The figure is posed casually, sitting with legs crossed, mouth slightly open, with and upturned hang resting, mid-gesture on his knee. It is as if Neel captured a moment of conversation, where the subject was nonchalantly explaining a point. Through my disorienting auras, it almost seemed as if his hand and mouth were moving ever so slightly. I had to perpetually refocus to confirm that the subject had not come as alive as Neel make her figures appear. Viewing these pieces through my fragmented, glimmering visions made viewing the art in a normal manner difficult. It was as if I was attempting to critically view a work of art while sitting behind a shattered windshield while the sun came streaming through. What’s more, is the movement of the auras. Slowly, they reflect light like glimmering water and gradually drift around my peripherals with a movement like clouds.

It wasn’t until I stopped trying to look past the auras and embraced seeing the art through this cracked glass-like filter that I realized I was actually having a unique experience. The floating visual manifestations collided onto the surface of Neel’s paintings though my eyes, disjointing the figures and disrupting the flow of her brush strokes. On some level, my disjointed vision actually complemented the pieces. Her expressive, wide strokes refracted at the disruptions in my sight, causing them to take on new shapes and lines diverting into different directions. It was as if my brain had decided that these portraits needed a more Picasso-esque factor to them.

I pondered if purposefully viewing this artwork hypothetically would win approval of Neel if she could know my experience with her work. On one hand, I like to think that maybe she would have found it interesting or inspiring, seeing her own work in this kaleidoscope-like fashion. On the other hand, perhaps it is somewhat defeating the intention of the pieces. They are exceptionally straightforward, communicating an honest portrayal of the subject’s character. Maybe my borderline visual-psychedelic lens was negating the intention of the artist. However, I found peace in considering that every individual has a unique lens when encountering art. Although mine was out of the ordinary and temporary, I still think it goes to say that any personal basis for viewing has a place when experiencing art.

When describing this encounter to a professor, he recommended, “Maybe don’t take so many magic mushrooms before going into an art gallery next time.” However, this was far from a pleasurable experience physically. I rushed to the retreat of home less than a half hour later, the disjointed color-rich images still lingering in my mind.

 

Image from David Zwirner Gallery

Exciting Announcement: Apexart Franchise Exhibition Program

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I am so excited to announce that I am a finalist for the Apexart Franchise Exhibition Program! My proposal was ranked 1st out of 384 proposals submitted by people from 61 different countries evaluated by 205 jurors. Next year, I will be creating an exhibition in Japan! It will be on view June 30 – July 28, 2018. I will also be composing an essay to be published and also presenting public programming along with the exhibition.

This program is unique because the applicants are completely anonymous, no one’s past experience or networking taken into account. It is only based off your idea and writing. I am so thankful and excited for this amazing opportunity!

This idea came to me a few months back when I entered into a conversation between a few of my colleagues who are from different areas of Asia. They were talking about how mental illness is not recognized and how severe the stigma is. The idea was just so striking to me, and I was very moved. I decided then the best way that I could help facilitate this conversation, as with all conversations, is through art.

My proposal is to execute and exhibition in Japan that brings together artists and their works from both Eastern and Western contexts who have experience with issues surrounding mental health. The exhibition is set in Japan due the severe cultural stigma against mental illness and extremely high suicide rate. The aim is to spark cross-cultural conversation surrounding mental health and chip away at the taboos surrounding the subject through the platform of art.

I am overwhelmingly grateful and absolutely excited to realize this project!

Here is a link to the full announcement:
https://apexart.org/fep2017/results.php

Here is a link to the page with an abbreviated version of my proposal:
http://apexart.org/exhibitions/mckenzie.php

And here is a link to the rankings:
https://apexart.org/fep2017/ranking.php

E-flux Announcement:
http://www.e-flux.com/announcements/61961/2017-18-franchise-exhibition-program/

 

The Map is Not the Territory: A Co-Curated Project

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Helene Nymann, Still from Whether We Are, 2016 16:9 Hdv (10:52 min with sound).

I am extremely excited to announce the opening of my co-curated project, The Map is Not the Territory! I have the absolute privilege of working with seven other brilliant female curators in creating this project, under the direction of the wonderful Sarah Demeuse. Our team makes up nine women from various countries and regions around the world.

This exhibition examines the construction of representation through socially and lawfully imposed, arbitrary boundaries. The aim is to interrogate discrepancies between reality and belief in response to the current ubiquitous use of non-sequiturs in the public arena. Conceived at the dawn of an unprecedented, divisive presidency, the exhibition upholds the spirit of resistance against misrepresentation and commandeering of identities in our history and contemporary culture.

Curated by: Lux Yuting Bai, Piper Ross Ferriter, Jacqueline Kok, Noelia Lecue, Amanda Lee, Jasa McKenzie, Birdie Piccininni, and Natalia Viera Salgado under the direction of Sarah Demeuse

Artists: Brittany Cassell, Kate Gilmore, Martine Gutierrez, Ann Hamilton, Camille Lee, Anh Thuy Nguyen, Helene Nymann, Bita Razavi, Melanie Reese, Roberto Vega

The opening reception will be held Friday, April 21 from 6–9pm in the Pfizer building at
630 Flushing Ave, Brooklyn.
The exhibition will be on view from April 21–May 14.

Open hours:  Saturday & Sunday 12-6pm and weekdays by appointment
If you have any questions or wish to schedule an appointment to view the exhibition, please get ahold of us at MapNotTerritory@gmail.com

Read the full press release:
http://www.macp.sva.edu/the-map-is-not-the-territory

RSVP on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1788306318156129/

The Intersectional Self on the DailyServing

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Andrea Bowers. Throwing Bricks (Johanna Saavedra), 2016; archival pigment print; 77 1/2 x 57 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.

The Intersectional Self at the 8th Floor is an exceptional and thought-provoking experience. I highly recommend attending the exhibition to get an example of an inclusive feminist art show. Read my review from the DailyServing:

http://dailyserving.com/2017/03/the-intersectional-self-at-the-8th-floor/