Archive for fine art

Entering…Tent City

Ant Farm 1971

‘Entering…Tent City-The melting of architecture into film, art and life.’

Mark Shunney will lead a tour and lecture of the current exhibit-

‘Chip Lord: Public Spaces’

University of California Santa Cruz – Porter College

Sesnon Art Gallery –

Wednesday, March 2    5:00-6:45PM

The short presentation will cover the influences Shunney observes in Lord’s work and the relevance of this exhibition to current world events and contemporary art.

The program for the lecture is as follows:

The first part will expose a pattern and relationship seen in the international art and film community and the work of Ant Farm and Chip Lord.   The talk will compare a diverse grouping of artworks from the 1960’s to current day.  Some of the selected artists that will be discussed are Vito Acconci, Cindy Sherman, Adrian Piper, Martin Kippenberger, Chris Marker, Tino Sehgal, The Yes Men and Andy Warhol.

The last part of the lecture will look at current world events starting at the turn of the 21st century.  Beginning with Sept. 11, 2001 and leading into the recent events happening in 2011 with Egypt and the greater Middle East .  The past years are witness to large transformations and paradigm shifts.   Shunney will use this perspective to understand and look at Lord’s exhibition.  Concluding with a discussion on what public space and international travel means to the early 21st century observer and artist alike.

Mark Shunney is an artist, critic and curator.  In 2001 Mark opened and operated a contemporary art gallery in a storefront in D.U.M.B.O. Brooklyn, NY.   Since completing his graduate degree in sculpture in 1997 at RISD, Mark has maintained a studio focus in sculpture and installation art.  Starting in 1997 he maintained his studio in Brooklyn (DUMBO & Red Hook) and concluded in the South Bronx before moving it to the forest of Felton, California in 2005.



CROW – judd

As the Crow tribe flew over and traveled on the soil that is now the United States.  I  would like to propose a show that exposes the graphic connections that are apparent between minimalism and native North American culture.  This will be based specifically on graphics, objects and tools.  I have a direct example of a Crow medicine bag that links this show’s thesis in solid soil.  From this context I would like to install a group of objects that represent this ancient culture’s color and graphic methods, and compare it to the early years of artist who immigrated from Europe to the US following the conclusion of WWII.  Concluding the exhibit with example’s from the period of Minimalism between the late 1950-1970’s.

I feel the intention of the show succeeds best on the grounds of Paula Cooper’s gallery.  Her profound focus in preserving the Minimalist’s impact on America and the international art scene is extremely impressive.  The current space allows for one of the most optimal experiences for this type of work and scale.  Another perspective is the ease in which I would be able to access certain works with the assistant of Paula’s gallery and contacts.  Lastly there is something really strong about this happening on the island of Manhattan.

I also feel that an institutional setting will affect some of the beauty that gets presented.  Context is everything in this subject of investigation.  A private space can have better controls and take risks that an institution is challenged to catch up to.

The current conversations around fine art, sustainability and environmental issues seamlessly mix into this concept, writing and ultimate exhibit.  I see the intentional and universal connections between these different native and imported shamans, artists and writers as a very potent and relevant topic for the day.  The show slows histories down and clearly points to a long and connected language between current and past cultures.  CROW – judd is an example of how art can strip down and point to the whole of things, and examine the cycle of how all things are connected.

WARS- Jeremy Deller and America

To follow is a letter I have had no luck sending over to Jeremy…

Hello Jeremy,

I enjoy the work very much and I find our approach and observations , at times, similar with to one another.  One of the main differences being our citizenship; my being American and you British.  Which as an artist is very important to the specifics and context of making work.  You also have three years on me in the sixties but I have no less of a respect and inspiration for the entirety of the counter culture movement and its effect on us now.  

The reason I was prompted to write you is the recent release I received on your project with CreativeTime, The New Museum and others- ‘It Is What It Is’ .  It is perfectly timed and a great reminder for the fast moving American and all the media distractions around the economy which results in less coverage and reminders of the devastating wars going on.  With this said my only question is why you don’t mention the involvement of the UK in this war?  Seeing how you are British I know it is important to you, and I am amazed at your fascination with America but remember the wars wouldn’t have happened without the UK involvement; past, present and future.  I hope this comes to surface more than once with your tour through the US.  I also find it funny that you will not make it to the Bay Area with your project.  What is the intention in this?  Have they already been won over and need no prompted discussions around the current wars?  I also wonder if you have done sufficient research to achieve the understanding that the greatest Middle Eastern populations exist in the Bay Area of California.  

I am looking forward to seeing what kind of bats make it out of this cave.

All the best, Mark

FREE- Public Perception and Investment in US Public Art

Public Perception and Investment


The growth of public sculpture and installation has happened with private funding in the United States.  The Public Art Fund in NYC has been doing amazing projects along all parts of the island of Manhattan and the fringes of its boroughs.  The name would lead you to believe this is a publicly funded operation.  It is not!  The fall of the NEA lead to a major marriage between art and industry.  The CEO’s of the industries also became the leading collectors of Art News profiles.  Some of the biggest collectors and supporters have been: The Gap, Enron, Progressive Insurance, Citibank and plenty more.  Yes the work landed in the public through the private funding of non profit projects in the public realm.  The realization of many projects we have learned about have only been possible with large private investment.  Yes the government partially supports some of the projects, but it was the overwhelming support from the private sector that supported a much larger percentage.  It should also be noted that this same network of investors have been leaders on the boards of a great many museums in the US and abroad.


I find it funny that you blame the art press.  They are guided by their advertising dollars and that comes in from the private sector.  The main mission is to review current exhibitions in galleries, the related artists and concepts in the museums and the occasional profile on private collectors.  The direction for exposure and critique is best left to groups like The New York Times.  This is a solid network of informed journalists.  If there is a lack of exposed public sculptures in the press, I believe it is because there have been few realized in the past decades.  At this time there is a big paradigm shift and I will assure you that it will bring a great increase in exposure to brilliant public installations and sculptures.  


Next Artist Colony- Mars

Next Artist Colony- Mars

Here we have another example of greed winning over culture. The artist as investor for a decade and then the government/developer comes in and sweeps them up and ushers in a “viable” landscape for the public of New Jersey. The artist pioneered this stagnant, toxic and post industrial enclave located on their shores. Only to witness the government and its guiding developers at work stripping it bare of all the history, recent and past, that brought this area to life. The next chapter is being written through the actions of knocking down old world mills and erecting generic high rise buildings that will rationalize the funds used to build the PATH train station. Why can’t New Jersey make a little preserve for the arts that put Jersey City in the minds of New Yorkers and New Jersey residence alike? Look at all the money and work they do for the sports industry. Is art any different? I feel this is another example of the artist in the post industrial landscape of cities. The artist does the best public relations for an area and then the developers thank them for the free services by wiping out their very existence- right down to the buildings.

Adjusting Vision of Waterfront Arts District to Include High Rises
Published: May 15, 2008
Whether or not you care to see Jersey City as New York’s sixth borough, you could write an interesting urban history centered on the area now designated as its Powerhouse Arts District.

LSD, LIFE and Death

Today I was astonished to find these two articles in front of my eyes and mind. Is it an example of profound accident or attention to awareness. I think both. Each article brings focus to death, the potential for change and the beauty in questioning and investigating life and death- one part art, science, nature and culture. Maybe 2008 will break out of the SAME and move to change. It is the two stories- one the death of Albert Hofman- inventor of LSD and the other is about artist Gregor Schneider.

International / Europe

Albert Hofmann, the Father of LSD, Dies at 102
Published: April 30, 2008
Mr. Hofmann synthesized LSD in 1938 but did not discover its psychopharmacological effects until five years later, when he accidentally ingested the substance.

There is nothing perverse about a dying person in an art galleryVilified for wanting to put death on display, the artist reveals the concept behind the controversy

Gregor Schneider
Saturday April 26, 2008

For years, I have a dreamed of a room in which people can die in peace. It’s a simple room: flooded with light, with a wooden floor. It is a copy of a room I once saw at the Museum Haus Lange-Haus Esters in Krefeld, Germany; a marvellous piece of classically modern architecture that concentrates on the basics. I have recreated this room – as an artist, that is what I do – and at the moment, it is standing right here in my studio. Any minute it could be dismantled, put on a plane and reinstalled anywhere in the world, for someone nearing the end of their days and who wants to die in a humane and harmonious environment.

I’m not a naive person, but I don’t think there is anything wrong or perverse about this dream. I think it’s quite innocent. So it has been rather a shock to me that for the last week I have been receiving death threats by phone and email.

It started at the beginning of the week, when I mentioned my project about death and dying in an interview with a reporter from the Art Newspaper. I didn’t think much of it, as I have talked to curators about this at length since 1996, and there have been several mentions in exhibition catalogues.

The reporter was very interested and wrote an article about it. Two sentences from this article have been quoted repeatedly: “I want to display a person dying naturally in the piece or somebody who has just died. My aim is to show the beauty of death.”

I did say those things, and I still mean them. Of course I expected reactions. But I didn’t expect that quite so many publications would quote me without putting the statements into context. Within a few days, thousands of articles appeared across the world relying only on these two soundbites. In a way, I am not surprised that they have triggered some absolutely horrific images in the heads of journalists and readers. And yet I am still astonished by the nature of the comments I received, and disturbed by their vulgarity and violence. I received threats in multiple languages, some of them absurd, some of them seriously threatening.

Someone emailed to suggest I should be “slaughtered” and given “the Jesus treatment”. Someone else emailed: “Why don’t you kill your mother and show her to us while he’s [sic] dying?” Another told me my artworks were “degenerate”. The reaction in Britain has been more balanced – I guess people find it easier to talk and even laugh about death there. After Damien Hirst and the Young British Artists, perhaps they are more used to artists pushing a few boundaries as well.

The irony is that I have never been the type of artist who courts controversy for controversy’s sake. I was trained as a painter; my first exhibition of paintings was in 1985. Even back then I was fascinated by the portrayal of inner spaces in art: rooms you cannot enter, places that cannot communicate with the outside world. Gradually I realised that sculpture, and eventually architecture, enabled me to investigate this fascination in a more direct way. Nowadays I mainly build and recreate rooms.

Of course I am not the first artist who is interested in death as a subject. I doubt that those who call me “degenerate” would say the same about Michelangelo’s statue of David – and yet we know that Michelangelo used to cut up dead people to study their anatomy. Is that not much more shocking than what I am proposing to do?

I find the public portrayal of death on TV and on the internet violent and cruel; it lacks grace and respect for the human spirit. But I don’t think there is anything cruel in the reality of death in itself: there has to be more humane way of presenting it.

I think our culture needs to reinvestigate the way we deal with death. It has not just become a taboo, it is something that we actively try to push out of our daily lives. People used to die within the family. These days, many die in hospitals, locked away from the public.

From what I have seen with my own eyes, the conditions of dying in German hospitals are scandalously brutal and bleak. And it’s not much better in Britain. When I put on my installation about private spaces in two flats in east London in 2004, I used to have to walk past the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel every morning. One day, I saw a woman who had escaped the hospital and was screaming as doctors were treating her on the road. Was it a humane place to die? I don’t think so.

My very first job as a teenager was with an undertaker, here in Reydt in the industrial west of Germany. I used to carry coffins from the church to the hole in ground. It was a well-paid job, mainly because no one wanted to do it. The other people I worked with were an alcoholic and a disabled man. It tells you something about the fear we have of death that we get the people at the bottom of the social ladder to handle our dead. Shouldn’t this last journey be the most intimate and personal journey in a person’s life?

More recently, I had first-hand experience with death when my father died. I wanted to give him a personal farewell, something that spoke of our relationship, so I wanted to design a personalised gravestone made of lead. It turned out to be nearly impossible: there are so many rules. In my view, the dying should be able to define the rituals and sites of their funeral themselves.

I grew up in a Catholic environment – I was even an acolyte in my local church for more than five years. My feeling is that the church used to provide us with rituals and ceremonies appropriate for death, but in a secular age, don’t we need to create our own?

For my project, I am not proposing that I would bring about someone’s death, or stage it. Nor am I suggesting that I would encourage someone who wants to take their own life. All I want to do is offer a room, a space in which they spend their last hours as they wish. Whether it is a public event or a private event, that is entirely up to them and their relatives.

I have also considered building a room for giving birth in. But I’m not sure there is much of a need for it; I have seen the sort of rooms people give birth in these days, and they are fine. Husbands are encouraged to take part in the process – everyone works together to make it a positive experience. I would like it if we can make a death a similarly positive experience.

Not all responses to my project have been negative. The Jesuit priest Friedhelm Mennekes has supported my project. He feels that there is a need to engage in a serious way with death, to show it as it really is. And there have been emails from people who have expressed interest in taking part. I don’t know if I will get back to these people yet, but the project will go ahead. There is one person in particular I could imagine working with. Of course, no one can tell when it will happen – that’s the deal with death.

To those who call me a coward for not putting myself up for the project, I would just like to say: when my time is up, I myself would like to die in one of my rooms in the private part of a museum. I live for my art, so I would like to die surrounded by art too. My aim would be to find a way of death that is beautiful and fulfilled: I couldn’t image a better place than a gallery to do so.

· Gregor Schneider was talking to Philip Oltermann. His exhibition, Doublings, is at the Museum Franz Gertsch in Burgdorf, Switzerland, until 15 June © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

Artist as TOOL


Brooklyn, NY is getting closer to sprouting its vision for the 21st century with a design by the international architecture/art star Frank Gehry. Gehry’s complex of buildings will amass housing, shopping and a sports arena. For the obvious reasons in America there will be no cultural component for the arts. One might argue they already have the Brooklyn Academy of Music and a museum anchored into the park. Isn’t this enough for the city who is second to that of Manhattan? I think differently, Brooklyn is the city that houses the most artists per acre of any soil on this planet! It is like the corn industry in the middle of America, once it took root, it has become infectious and grows like a weed. In New York it started at the first subway stop out of ‘the city’ and now it is at the tenth or more. People are trying to hold onto a certain neighborhood status even though they are over nine stops out of the real center.

In recent months I have been reading, from California, the horror and tragedy of certain artist occupied buildings in Brooklyn. No, the news never seems to break from a building in Manhattan because the high economy has helped push an exodus of the cultural producers(artists, writers, dancers, actors and designers) from the island over to the mainland of Brooklyn. Cheap rents, space, pioneering neighborhoods and a sense of community have attracted the shift. Soon Manhattan will be secured and occupied by the international portfolios of the super wealthy and the tourist. Sad as it seems it has become closer to the truth in just the two years since I have relocated from Brooklyn. The issue is getting the attention of the city government and they have formed teams and entertained meetings that try to understand the consequence of this plight.

Why do I go into this stuff? Well, it is based in a theory that I have concerning the artist as tool and I use tool in the most degrading way. After the success of Soho and then Tribeca, each have become valuable neighborhoods that artists originally pioneered, the developers got smart. The developer uses the artist as a bookmark and allows them the fiction of a few productive years in a post industrial loft space. During this time the renter usually has no heat or very little (business hours), cold water (that is likely positioned in the communal hall) and no conveniences on the street. If they build it, as artist triumphantly do, the rest will come. Wow! Does this not describe the last decade? The devastating conclusion to this NYC story is that the developers do not renew leases and start fixing everything from the sidewalk to the stand pipes and put it all up for sale.

The district of D.U.M.B.O. (down under the manhattan bridge overpass), Brooklyn turned overnight and now you can get chocolate from Jacque Torres and Starbuck’s coffee for the other hand. In the past you would not be lucky to find a quart of milk in this district. Yes this is a neighborhood with a few barriers(the expressway, Farragut projects and the East river) that prevent a scene like Willaimsburg from spilling so far out but it created what all developers would like to happen, demand over supply. Taking this into account I firm up my belief that this is the real future of New York City. ‘No man is an island’, cries out from my childhood, and I wonder if it is the artists that find the island for the man to take control over, and every step of the way the man hides behind the ‘good’ work they do for the arts? It definitely appears to be going this way and I think this can be viewed as a critique of the frantic art collecting going on currently with the contemporary art world. Here is an idea maybe they should start having art and design fairs in the neighborhoods these artists live? I then wonder who would be empowered by this sustainable way of creating an economy around the arts?