michael j. morris


Spicy finger lickin’ good loses.
25 May, 2010, 11:51 am
Filed under: art, Dance | Tags: , , ,

My brilliant and renowned art writer of a twin brother Matt Morris wrote an excellent and insightful piece about my recent project “Autumn Quartet” for Sparklezilla, an online blog-based zine published by Lindsey Whittle.

You can download the full issue here.
Matt’s article about the piece is p.23-25.



Recipes During Wartime
20 February, 2010, 2:31 pm
Filed under: art | Tags: , ,

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending my twin brother Matt Morris‘ opening reception for his current installation/exhibition at U.Turn Art Space in Cincinnati. The piece/exhibit is entitled Recipes During Wartime. I would like my writing about the work to focus primarily on my experience of it and the meaning I made of it, but I would also like to offer some suggestion of the form/materials of the piece. The piece is comprised of a large rectangular veiled space, the floor of which has been covered with sifted flour. In this field of flour are various small objects. Below are a couple of images, and a list of materials provided by the artist:

Recipes During Wartime
Matt Morris

Tulle, flour, lights, perfume, broken bottle, wax, Diet Coke lid, foil tape, plastic, iridescent polypropylene, paper, embroidery floss, Christie’s auction magazine cover, dowels, foamcore, stickers, thread, holographic paper, hot glue, acrylic paint, glitter, crushed meringues, masking tape, an argument, drywall, aluminum leaf, ink, rosé wine label, primer, tissue boxes, wax paper, twine, ostrich feathers, dust, rainwater, Saint Kitten’s footprints, glass, Model Magic, hosiery, stickers, mica powder, chenille stem, wire, aluminum flashing, fiberglass tape, leftovers, antacids, found photograph in plastic frame, lust, glitter glue, invisible tape, a week of naps, Mylar, pushpins, trips to flea markets, spider webs, found objects, graphite, salt dough, lipstick, wood glue, figurine, rainbow sprinkles,  baking powder, corsage pins, ghosts, framed digital photograph.

2010″

Where to begin?

My initial sensation upon entering the gallery was the articulate pronouncement of duality or dichotomy. The colossal veil of tulle that forms the membrane of the installation immediately provoked a sense of interior and exterior, inclusion and exclusion, separateness and otherness. I felt initially as that which was other than that which was veiled. This was not without its immediate ramifications. By becoming acutely aware of the veiled quality imposed on all that was included in the installation, I became increasingly aware of my unveiled quality. It left me feeling exposed. But between this sense of the veiled and the unveiled was a sensation of the unveiling. The tulle veil was permeable. I was invited to see into, to investigate (from a distance) that which may have been completely withheld. The veil hung with this quality between withholding and revealing, neither fully one nor the other.

The veil and that which was veiled felt removed, specialized. Immediate associations were fashion runway, holy of holies, the train of a bride’s veil, the skirt of a ballerina. The objects inside of the veil felt special, secrets being revealed.

My second immediate sensation echoed several of my current research interests: the expansive nature of consciousness and its implications for embodiment and corporeality. The veil kept me physically outside of the installation, requiring me to project myself sensationally into the interior space. But it was not a sense of disembodying; instead, I felt an expansion of my corporeality, an extension of my perception (essentially embodied) into the interior spaces. By being presented with the permeable boundary of the veil, I became increasingly aware of the expansive and potentially permeable nature of what I perceive of an my own boundaries.

Perhaps it was in response to the intonation of “Wartime” in the title, but I was struck with a sense of witnessing the aftermath of some catastrophic event: I am thinking of the layers of dust that covered so much of New York City after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers on 9/11, or the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the cloud that settled over the debris after the blast of destructive force. This implication of previous violence and the calm that came after was pervasive throughout my experience of the installation. Throughout moments of being seduced by elegant details, fragile forms and elusive sensations, I still felt the persistent implication of former violence beneath the surface of what I was being shown. It is a grace that comes by violence (to quote a poem by Anne Carson).

There is an intense fixity to the installation, a sense of a moment being held or preserved. Perhaps more than ever before, there is a sense that something has happened here (this is a persistent quality in Matthew’s work, at least for me: the implication of previous events), and the installation serves to fix the evidence of that event. Matthew’s work sometimes feels like crime-scenes to me. The veil in this instance serves as caution tape, the flour the chalk drawing around the edges of the body. The installation could be seen as evidence, evidence of former violence, the aftermath of war or warcrimes, or, perhaps even more poignantly, a life or lives lived. There is a personal nature to many of the objects to be found within the veiled space, offering a sense that this was a personal war, a war of persons.

Into this association with the aftermath of war and destruction came an important realization. There were signs of life throughout the installation: disturbance of the flour at the edges provoked by the movement of the viewers, but, even more importantly perhaps, disturbance of the flour on the interior of the installation. Brief texts emerged in the flour (whether these words were part of the evidence of that which had occurred or evidence of life responding after the fact was deliciously ambiguous), words like “MENU,” “YES,” and “STOP;” the footprints of a kitten could be found, echoing one of the few imagistic representations in the installation, a framed print of kitten footprints on a white wall, hung out of the direct line of the viewer at the far end of the installation. It seemed possible that this life evidenced may be paranormal in nature (ghosts are certainly listed as part of the materials), but the important realization was that the preserved/fixed moment of the event that has transpired has not gone undisturbed. This was a realization that mixed hopefulness and suspicion.

Perhaps it is more an accident of my own Butoh-affected aesthetic than anything essential in the work itself, but there was a leveling quality to the expansive field of flour. In Butoh, white powder is sometimes applied over the body of the performer as a way of neutralizing individual identity, so that the dancer takes on a kind of embodiment of universality. The field of flour had a democratizing affect on the scattered objects, neutralizing distinction in the space in between one thing and the next, and coating them in a sense of egalitarianism.

It would be impossible to stand before this veil without thoughts of the sacred. This is one of many apparent dichotomies intoned by the work, the distinction between the sacred and the mundane (or profane), and that which separates and creates this distinction. However, this dichotomy is subverted throughout the work. The nature of the objects themselves, the permeability of the tulle veil itself, the subtle places where the veil has been torn (these tears accentuated with touches of glitter, bringing special attention to the flaws of this dichotomy, the barrier we draw between the sacred and the otherwise). Just as the objects themselves are given subtle transcendence by the addition of iridescence, sparkle, silver leafing, etc., this transcendence is extended to the viewer and the mundane world beyond the veil in these elegant tears in what may at first seem a clear divide. One particular object of interest within the veil seems to perfectly epitomize this subversion of the sacred/mundane(profane) dichotomy: near one the the front corners of the installation is found a small silver figurine of a putto lying on its side, partially obscured by red wax that has dripped over it from a candle that has been burned down. I cannot help but think of the angelic figures fabled to sit atop the ark of the covenant, the ark kept within the veil of the holy of holies by the Israelites in the Old Testament. Here the tiny angle is found lying on its side, at a distal corner of the veiled space, submerged in a fairly mundane evidence of the passage of time, a candle having burned down. Of course this candle could have been sacred; it may have been an implement in ritual or witchcraft or seance. But situated as it is within the context of the other objects to be found within the veil, it seems far more likely that the story of the candle and the reclining angelic figure it consumes is mundane in origin and nature. There do seem to be common denominators amongst the objects: all of the objects situated about the field of flour seem either compromised or compromising, bits and pieces, unfinished forms, found objects, remnants of previous events. Descriptions that come to mind are dismantled (intended to connote both deconstruction and unveiling), disregarded, disheveled, distressed, mementos and memories, all somehow pervasively confectionate. Again, above and beneath what seem to be the charged content of the debris of catastrophe lies neutrality: from beneath each object, rooted in its nature, are these common qualities listed above; from above, as if to ensure the perception of neutrality, there is the field of flour. The nature of the installation tastes like a layered pastry, charged specificity and ambiguity sandwiched between layers of neutrality.

There are aesthetic rewards to be discovered throughout the installation. There was the overwhelming scent of warm sugar permeating the gallery space (the edible accoutrement for the opening reception were a variety of home-made cotton candy, in flavors conceived of and concocted by the artist. Flavors of revelatory interest to me were Brown Sugar, Wasabi and White Pepper, Balsamic, Cinnamon and Cardamom, and Smoke. I could write a whole additional piece on the cotton candy and its relationship to the work, but I may have to leave that exhaustive work to others). Bursts of iridescence rewards the viewer who moves slowly and carefully, examining each object. Sparkle is the buoyant punctuation within this predominantly flat and neutralizing field of flour: iridescent plastic, bits of silver foil, specks of glitter, a small sheet of holographic paper, holographic tape lining the upper edge of white foam core, the gleam of glass and tape and plastic. These glints of divinity amidst the compromised neutrality of the objects themselves is yet another aesthetic reinforcement of the sense of permeability and mutability between the sacred and mundane(profane). Other aesthetic rewards (all to be found mostly through careful examination) are loose threads in the veil and small bits of hair caught up in the tulle. The movement of the viewers around the edges of the veil leave tiny traces (“drawings”?) in the edges of the flour, reinforcing the record of continuing presence in what seems initially and apparently a “fixed” situation evidencing a previous event. There is an eroticism to the presentation of many of the objects: by having the full form or nature of the object withheld or partially obscured, I am left with longing for that which is out of reach. A pink slip of paper featuring scribbled lines, some scratched through, far too far out of visual range to be legible; an image if seemingly Baroque figures partially covered in the field of flour; a framed photograph hung just out of my sightline, so that I cannot stand squarely before it. I was rewarded in recognizing the difference between the wet footprints of the spectators emerging into the gallery out of the snow, the motion of the viewer and the apparent immobility of the installation.

Herein seems to be one of Matthew’s many gifts, an ability to imply or direct attention to everything via his constructions. Everything becomes implicated either by inclusion or contrast. His enchantment is one of expanding awareness, elevating attention, and in doing so neutralizing what might otherwise be a varied landscape of importance and unimportance. In viewing this work, and lingering in hours, days, and scattered moments after viewing the work, everything takes on importance. Everything becomes sacred because of the attention I bring to it. I read a couple of weeks ago in May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude that “Absolute attention is prayer.” This seems relevant to the lingering enchantment of Matthew’s work. By entreating the expansion and intensification of my attention, all becomes sacred, awareness becomes reverence, and that which is becomes deified.

I could likely write far more about the work, but as I look back over what I have written, I feel that I have at least sketched in the major structure of my experience of the work.

Events continue for the show. Tonight there is an artist and poetry reading accompanying the release of a monograph in conjunction with the show. Info for this event can be found here. It starts at 7:00pm at U.Turn.



recipes during wartime, etc.

Tonight I am driving to Cincinnati to attend the opening reception of my brother‘s new exhibition/installation “Recipes During Wartime” at U.Turn Art Space:

A few images that have been released thus far:

I am very excited. I can have consistent confidence that Matthew’s work will offer the subtlety, ambiguity, and profundity that I crave in aesthetic experiences.

Here is an excerpt about Matthew and his work from the U.Turn blog:

“U·turn Art Space is pleased to announce a solo exhibition by one of its collective members, Matt Morris. Recipes During Wartime is a site specific installation characterized by a transparent veil ensconcing the central portion of the gallery. Within the veil Morris presents a floor installation involving powders, an array of subtle objects, and experiments with lighting and scent. The work developed alongside Morris’ research for his upcoming lecture “After the Party: Artistic Hindsight as Crowns Were Passed at the French Revolution and the Localvore Revolution” at the 6th Conference on Food Representation in Literature, Film and the Other Arts in San Antonio, TX. Almost as if laying out a picnic feast for gathering ghosts, the installation within the veil becomes the charged focus of the room. The artist asks viewers to project themselves into a space that is right in front of them but cannot be entered. In this brand new installation, Morris is interested in inquiring into and exploring our psychologies as they relate to place, memory and the edges of perception.”

(for more, please visit this post)

Tomorrow I am going to the Wexner’s “Super Sunday” event for the new exhibition Hard Targets. I am very excited to see this exhibit, especially because of its inclusion of Catherine Opie photographs. Also, as part of the event, Dante Brown is presenting his new work-in-progress, Chalk Boundaries. I saw a preview of this piece on Wednesday, and I am in awe of it. I hope to have more articulate language with which to respond to the piece after Sunday.



Work by Matt Morris and Eric Ruschman

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go to Cincinnati to see several art exhibits, most notably new work by my twin brother Matt Morris and friend Eric Ruschman. It’s been a few weeks and I still hardly feel that I am capable of putting words to my experiences of these shows and the work included in them, but I felt to pull to make an attempt before the freshness of my experiences of the work becomes even farther removed into the conclusion of this quarter of grad school.

I saw Eric’s show, “If Anything Happens You Are My Constant,” first and I was struck by several things. First, and this seems to be a recurring theme in my art experiences as of late, I was aware of how much my personal knowledge of Eric affects my perception of the work, and with that personal context, coming to this work with a context of having seen years of his work, both in exhibitions and in his studio. I truthfully cannot imagine how someone who does not have this context might experience the work. Thankfully, I saw the show with a friend who does not have that exposure or familiarity, offering me an insight into that kind of experience.

So with a disclaimer towards the stance of non-objectivity, I will try to relay my experiences of the work:

It struck me as very personal. Some of the work is representational, and even when not directly representational, the work has a sense of referentiality that seems reenforced by Eric’s sometimes esoteric titles. Yet in contrast to the personal-ity of this work, it felt somehow more open than previous work. My experience of Eric’s work has often been one of innocence paired with disillusionment, cute paired with both hope and cynicism. The content has previously felt more experientially driven, anchored in personal association, connotation, narrative, and anecdote. This work retained some of these elements: Eric’s work, both the representational and the non-representational, has a cuteness to it. There is a eruptive joy in his careful color palette. Something boisterous emerges from the contrast he creates between purples and teals, pink and black, red and blue, etc. The assertiveness of the vibrant palette seems sympathetic to the persistence of hope and the adamancy of disillusionment, the poignancy of that contrast reinforce and nuanced by the specificity of the palette. And while the careful specificity of the palette was retained (evolved?) in this work, assertive as ever, there was less association. I felt less directed towards specific experiences like memory, hope, or disillusionment. And yet certain details seemed to still address these ideas; I think I brought more of that to the work from previous work than was present in these particular pieces. In summary, I suppose, despite the specificity of certain elements in the work and the sense of the personal that they seemed to carry, the work felt more open to a wider range of association and appreciation, even just the experience of the color itself.

One piece affected me profoundly. The title had something to do with a banquet I believe. I found out later in conversation that it was intended as a kind of response or re-imagination of a surrealist painting. And there was certainly a surreal quality to it. It was (basically) a rectangular support, mostly a light blue with a fluorescent pink circle at its center; around the edges white foam cloud stickers drifted on and off of the support and the wall on which it hung. There was something about this pink and blue . . . it made me see spots. It seemed to flash when looked at directly. When I looked away, the pink circle remained imposed on my field of vision, as if scorched on my retina. Easily my optic nerves had been affected. And there was something refreshingly aggressive in this effect. I think I can be extremely sensitive to work that literally makes an impact or alteration within my physical body. This painting literally affected the way that I saw, it asserted itself to be retained for a time within my field of vision. If there was a “bite” to this show, it was (for me) in this piece. As I have said, Eric’s use of color has always had an insistence, a bold assertiveness to it (for me); here the color literally left it’s mark on me. There was a sense it which it felt a little like “op art,” but with more gravity to it. I think this had to do, again, with my familiarity with the artist. It was more than just a painting having an effect on my body; it served as a point of mediation for an inter-subjective collision (I think this might be said of all art; this was perhaps more palpable because of its lingering physical effect), between Eric and the viewer (me).

Another point of note included the situation of figures that I would have previously expected to be rendered two-dimensionally in paintings finding their way into three-dimensional sculptural form. Whereas I think Eric previously created windows (paintings) into situations, other worlds, of cute creatures, memory, and anecdote, now he has a points situated these figures into the actual space of the viewer, implicating the viewer into the world/situation he has constructed.

You can view a video of Eric offering a guided walk-through of the show here.

One image I found from the show on the facebook event page:

As a segue, I also wanted to share Matt’s writing about Eric’s show:

“Eric Ruschman’s new body of work entitled If Anything Happens You Are My Constant is constructed from a regimen of exercises in painting, installation and combinations of the two. Delicate renderings in oil paint of animal characters continue to make occasional appearances in a vocabulary of color, shapes and found objects that have broadened considerably since Ruschman’s previous exhibitions. Substitutions have been made, so that stickers, stenciling or the charm of the high-gloss monochrome are interspersed with his painted narratives; the saccharine visual experience that Ruschman masters now has some resistance built in. Rather than resemble the simply summarized life lessons represented in anthropomorphic Fables, a single take around the room involves paintings (some hung alone, in groups, or occasionally leaned at the bottom of the wall), objects and cluttered shelves—a game of chutes and ladders through the artist’s recollections and daydreams.

Ruschman has been occupied with the maturation process throughout his young career. What may seem like a logical set of steps from childhood to adulthood to some is called into question, deconstructed and reassembled into abstractions of life plans by Ruschman and his team of black kittens, unicorns, voles and other critters. Throughout the past year, he has been a collector of visceral experiences and unassuming bits of wisdom from his everyday life. Paintings make offhand or straightforward references to a day trip to an alpaca farm, evenings immersed in Cincinnati’s local music scene, tender moments with house pets and careful appropriations from pop culture, such as the empowered “Toonces the Driving Cat” of Saturday Night Live and Youtube fame. Ruschman has gravitated to these scenes because of a specific humanizing element and has drawn connections between disparate source materials in order to populate a situation in which playful, innocent characters find themselves caught in dilemmas of aesthetics, displacement and the challenges of adulthood.

Eric Ruschman earned his Bachelors in Fine Arts from the Art Academy of Cincinnati in 2007. He has an established exhibition record in the Cincinnati area, having shown at the Art Academy’s Pearlman and Chidlaw Galleries, ArtWorks Gallery, semantics gallery, Synthetica Gallery and the Cincinnati Visual Fringe Festival. This is his second solo exhibition. His work recently graced the cover of the first volume of the online zine Sparklezilla. Ruschman is also a curator and collective member of semantics gallery and U•turn Art Space, two alternative gallery spaces in the Brighton district of Cincinnati.

-Matt Morris
colleague, artist, freelance curator + art critic”

From Matt’s description of Eric’s work, I will segue into my experience of Matt’s exhibition. In comparison to Eric’s work (comparison comes naturally; I experienced the shows within hours of one another), Matt’s work was far more elusive, less assertive. To be frank, my language surrounding the work is similar. How to find words for experiences that seem to shift, transform, vanish, and reappear as your experience them? I’ll see what I can work out.

Also, as if it isn’t obvious, I cannot be objective about Matt’s work either. Far too much context. This is my disclaimer for subjective familiarity.

Matt’s show, “Pairs Well With” (continuing at Aisle Gallery, 424 Findlay Street 3rd Floor, Cincinnati, OH 45214, through December 20), is a “multimedia installation conceived and installed in direct response to the nature and idiosyncrasies” of the exhibition space. Its list of materials is expansive. Most notable for me were tissues, small found objects, light and translucent/transparent materials, clear paint directly on wall surfaces, etc. The entire show seems to suggest evanescence, the fading, the vanishing, the spectre, the elusive, anchored in concrete matter, small, precise objects, the materiality of the space itself. There is a sense in which I felt the work functioning as a sheer veil, a hardly substantial reality, that pulled back to bring heightened attention to the space itself. I cannot experience this work without situating it in my experience of Matt’s work up until this point. As he has shifted farther and farther into the realm of installation work, I have felt increasingly that an intention or function of his work is the elevation of the mundane into something sacred, the expansion of the art or aesthetic lens to include the banal, the overlooked, the forgotten, the unnoticed, beginning in the space itself, the materials included within the work, then extending this elevated attention into the psyche of the viewer. This experience was pervasive throughout this work.

There was a performativity to this work, a responsiveness to the viewer’s presence, motion, perception, and attention. As one walks down the long hallway where tissues are suspended lightly from their top edge across from object “responses,” the tissues flutter and float, disturbed or worried by the presence and motion of the spectator, almost clamoring for attention, but in a subtle almost beguiling fashion. There is a mysterious enchantment that takes place when something so fragile and like enlivens itself at your presence, then calms, relaxes again for your examination and attention. This performativity was in other work as well, where motion of thew materials were not presence, but the materials transformed in the perception of the viewer as he approached. Perhaps the most striking and memorable of these was a cardboard box that was part of a full room installation. At first glance this object registered simply as a box lying on the floor. But as one approached, it illuminated, shimmering radiantly with a fine sprinkling of glitter over its surface. This moment of transformation, in which the object reveals itself as something more than it seemed at first apprehension, was an essential quality throughout the exhibit, and completely definitive of the process of elevating the mundane to a place of the sacred or aesthetic. This occurred again and again throughout the work, in transparent paintings on walls that only revealed themselves in certain angles of the light, in a pedestal that seemed solid from afar but then revealed itself as styrofoam filled with styrofoam packing materials, something far lighter and (dare I say?) less reified than a gallery pedestal. Other works were fairly concrete materials, but almost hidden, overlooked, at the base of walls, in the shadows, etc. Once they were noticed, my attention was heightened even farther, looking for all that I may have overlooked. This way of looking extended, as I left the gallery and went “back into the world,” bringing more relevance to my environment around me, and extending, perhaps, even into myself. The work provokes a kind of buzzing calm, an awareness to detail, a sensitivity to subtlety and nuance, that infected my self awareness as well.

I wish I had titles to post here. Their wit and cleverness were a sensational part of the nuance and subtlety of the show.

Which may bring me to my last point. This exhibit was a championship of subtlety and nuance, both of which are essential elements in my own aesthetic. There is something so sophisticated about work that doesn’t reveal all, that holds back, obscures certain elements, demands time and attention and even affection in order to uncover or reveal itself more fully. The work behaves as a refined madam, sparkling and shining in only specific light from certain angles of approach, fluttering lightly, gently to attract attention at which point she sits back to be admired. The lightness and ephemerality of the materials demand a kind of intimacy if they are to be understood, a care and (dare I say?) commitment of time in order to tell their secrets. If seen through a rough or hasty glance, the work may provoke the statement, “There’s nothing here.” But it’s in investing in that which is there that the materials work their enchantment, revealing themselves as an entire universe of subtle details and transmogrifying of the act of perception. It is a spell that lingers.

A short talk through of the work can be seen here.

A few images lifted from the facebook event page for the opening reception:

I think those are all the words I have for my experience of this work for now.

Eric’s show is up through 5pm today at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center in Covington, Kentucky (1028 Scott St.).

Matt’s show is still up as mentioned above. The full information for the show is as follows:

“Matt Morris
PAIRS WELL WITH
Objects + Installations

Pairs Well With is a solo multimedia exhibition by artist and writer Matt Morris that has been conceived and installed in direct response to the nature and idiosyncrasies of Aisle’s newly expanded gallery space.

Aisle Gallery
424 Findlay Street 3rd Floor
Cincinnati, OH 45214

M-F 1-4 p or by appointment 513.241.3403

November 7 – December 20, 2009
November 7: opening reception, 7-10 p
November 21: artist talk, 1-3 p”



Urban Regalia

Friday, 14 August, I had the opportunity to see the premiere of Nathan Hurst’s new couture collection “Urban Regalia” at his show “Off with Their Heads” at CS13 in Cincinnati, Ohio. According to the show’s facebook, “Urban Regalia focuses on a royal renewal of precious vintage finds, explores the reconstruction of former garments, and serves as a host for his [Hurst’s] original design concepts inspired by a reinvention of historical regalia.”

I haven’t stopped thinking about this show since I saw it. I’m not quite ready to commit those ideas to type yet, but I thought I would go ahead and let you in on this inspiration in my world right now. Suffice to say that it was a brilliant first showing from a talented young designer/artist:

urbanregalia_001

urbanregalia_002

You can read Matt Morris’ article about Hurst and the show in CityBeat here.

You can also see images from the show at CS13’s facebook page.

Hurst just posted this video this week. Many of the pieces from the collection are on display. What I love most about it is that just as many of the pieces are appropriated and repurposed garments, their transmogrify is heightened further in their transgression of traditionally gendered morphology on the body of the designer. Just as Hurst engages in processes of “renewal” and “reinvention” and “reconstruction” of vintage finds, former garments, and historical regalia, their situation on the male body both further recreates the garments themselves, and recreates the meaning of the male body. Amazing:

I have an evolving ideology on the concept of the actual body and the social body. The actual body in my mind has to do with biological morphology. The social body refers to the contextual connotations that we associate with the body. The way it’s dressed, the way it’s depicted, the way we think about it because of its treatment in culture. Identity (including corporeal/kinesthetic identity) is situated somewhere in the midst of these. This seems to be the hazard of any sort of focused research: suddenly everything relates to your research interests, but I love how Hurst’s work and this video in particular  relates to my interests in the relationship between the body and identity, and that relationship to the choreography of identity.

I don’t want to make too much of the video as a “video dance” (for those of you who are unfamiliar, “video dance” is a whole field of dance expression, choreography and dances specifically made to be explored/directed/displayed via video rather than live/stage presentation), but I do have critical responses to the movement in the video, not just the garments it animates. To be clear, I view the organization of the body itself as a kind of choreography, the carriage of the body, its stance, its dynamics. But there is also the movement itself. Of course the most obvious observation is its appropriation/mimicry of the runway format, the advance and the retreat, the gate of the “model” (and to be clear, I read it as meaningful that in this case the model also happens to be the designer . . . it relates to my perspective on the choreographer and the dancer (see previous post), a relationship that although different is similar in that it involves the creative action of one individual, the negotiation of that creative activity on the body of another, culminating in an event that represents the identities of both. Here, those individuals are the same, the creative activity of the one individual recreated/translated on the body of that same individual, all taking place in and through the site of the singular body), and the punctuation of poses both near to and far from the camera lens. The advance and retreat reads as meaningful to me: the retreat gives way to the advance, moving away gives the opportunity to move forward once more. It’s aggressive. I like it.
I’m also struck by the contraction of time. We know because the outfits change that a remarkable amount of time has passed in the filming, but we are given something far more surreal to be viewed, in which events occur one after another, like a series of fevered memories (memory being the space in which time becomes flexible, fluid, non-sequential). This contraction of time seems to reflect in video editing what has been done in the construction of the garments. It says, “Look again. And again. And again. Because what it once was is not what it is any longer.”
I am also struck by the gaze of the model/designer (can I add “dancer” if I am viewing the video as a kind of choreography?). While the video reads to me as an aggressive invitation to gazed upon, it’s confrontational. The model/designer/”dancer” gazes back. The viewer can actually meet his eyes (negotiated through the video . . . and I can’t even begin to discuss the politics of presence and absence in the medium of video, not in this post). When he is undressed, it is he who undresses himself, not the viewer undressing him.
I love the drama of the tossed fan, the thrown jacket, the twirl of the long white dress, the coy smiles, the laps when he doesn’t pause to be viewed, but moves towards and away in a single path, almost as if to say, “You can look, but I’m not going to assist you in your looking.”
There. That’s my brief critical dance response to a fashion video.

Oh, and this is a picture of Matt and I at the party after the show. I think we look nice:

couture_michael



Sources of insight and inspiration

I feel as if a new post is dreadfully overdue, but I’ll be honest: I am absorbing a lot of information right now; it hasn’t really had time to synthesize into my own thoughts. So I thought I might just offer a list of what I am taking in right now as inspirations and source materials:

Ballet technique classes with Karen Eliot three days per week. It is amazing to have been practicing this technique for almost ten years now and still have moments of total tidal shifts in my understanding of what it is that I’m doing. Karen is an exceptional teacher.

Reading The Splendor of Recognition: And Exploration of the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam, a Text on the Ancient Science of the Soul by Swami Shantananda. I’m swimming in thoughts of Consciousness (citi) as the creator and substance of the entire universe, the creative pulsation (spanda) of creation, sustainment, and dissolution, the nature of subject and object, knowledge, and the mind. One quote for today (and understand that several terms in this quote are specialized; most importantly, identification of Siva as a specific deity is symbolic, and in fact refers to the Supreme Consciousness out of which all Reality emerges):

“Wherever the ind goes, whether toward the exterior or toward the interior, everywhere there is the state of Siva. Since Siva is omnipresent, where can the mind go to avoid him?”

Reading The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy, and Practice by Georg Feuerstein. I am only a chapter into this, but it is an exhaustively precise description of the historic evolution of this complex system of thought/practice.

Reading Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude by Amy Bloom. This is Bloom’s only non-fiction, and it is lovely. It is truly queer in that it is completely undermining my concepts of normality, gender, sexuality, social roles, relationships, etc. It is written in an easy fashion on subjects that are less easy to contemplate. For all my support of transsexuals, it is not easy to read about phalloplasty and metoidioplasty female-to-male surgeries. These are complicated, invasive and painful surgeries that are offered as part of an FTM transition. It isn’t easy to read about the tension in relationships between heterosexual male crossdressers and their wives. Etc. And yet I think it is contributing positively to broaden my perspective of identity and society and self-perception/presentation/performance.

Reading Matt Morris’ genius writings on Aeqai: A Journal for Writing on the Visual Arts in the Greater Cincinnati Region. Matt (who is my twin brother) is writing an excellent series concerned with sculpture in public spaces. In them he has touched on concepts of the private/public dichotomy, the relationship between social, psychological, energetic, and geographic space, the relationship between art and identity, etc. They are truly brilliant and worth your time to read.
First installment.
Second installment.

Watching HBO’s In Treatment. This series is GENIUS. I am completely addicted. It follows a psychoanalyst and his progress through the cases of five patients and himself week by week. The episodes are short, generally limited to the content of his sessions. The acting is superb, the writing even better, the filming excellent, etc. Everything I want in a television show.

Listening to Jay Brannan‘s new cd In Living Cover. Jay Brannan is probably best known for his role in the John Cameron Mitchell film Shortbus, but makes beautiful music as well. I loved his first album, and this week he released an album of covers, including Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want” and the Cranberries “Zombies,” among others. Great listening for this week.

Dancing in a new project with CoCo Loupe, Eric Falck, and Jeff Fouch tentatively titled “3 Boys and an Old Prophetess.” No idea where this project is going, but you can read more about it on CoCo’s blog here.

finishing my Elementary Labanotation Certification exam

I have a lengthy to-do list for the summer and I am slowly making my way through it, absorbing and continuing to move and thrive and live. These are pieces of that process.

All come highly recommended.



Inspiration and Connections

It’s been a “heady” week working in the Labanotation Teacher Certification Course. I feel tired, a little tired of trying to figure out “integrated living/art making,” rather than just doing something like that. My friend CoCo did a series of posts last year about inspiration. I do them sometimes. I need one today:

An ongoing inspiration is the Love Art Lab. It’s huge with me right now. It’s full of love and politics and color and chakra energy and integrated life/art. Annie and Beth just had another wedding, #5 the Blue Wedding, in Oxford, England. I can’t wait to see pictures/video. I did a whole post about the Love Art Lab a little bit ago, so I’ll just give you an image or two to share my inspiration:

05_40180035

I’m also having a great conversation of memory and experience between the brilliant color and energy of Annie and Beth’s Love Art Lab, and the company I danced for when I lived in Baton Rouge, Of Moving Colors Productions. I think I’ll created a “visual conversation” between the two . . .

RED

 

OMC "Red"

OMC "Red"

OMC "Sienna: Transformed by Fire"

OMC "Sienna: Transformed by Fire"

OMC "Sienna: Transformed by Fire"

OMC "Sienna: Transformed by Fire"

Love Art Lab "Red Wedding"

Love Art Lab "Red Wedding"

Love Art Lab "Red Wedding"

Love Art Lab "Red Wedding"

Love Art Lab "Cuddle"

Love Art Lab "Cuddle"

ORANGE

OMC "Paradise Orange"

OMC "Paradise Orange"

OMC "Paradise Orange"

OMC "Paradise Orange"

Susie Chaney in OMC's "Paradise Orange"

Susie Chaney in OMC's "Paradise Orange"

OMC "Paradise Orange"

OMC "Paradise Orange"

Love Art Lab "Orange Wedding"

Love Art Lab "Orange Wedding"

Love Art Lab "Orange Wedding"

Love Art Lab "Orange Wedding"

YELLOW

OMC "Yellow Orchid Blue"

OMC "Yellow Orchid Blue"

Love Art Lab "Yellow Wedding"

Love Art Lab "Yellow Wedding"

Love Art Lab "Yellow Wedding"

Love Art Lab "Yellow Wedding"

GREEN

OMC "Green"

OMC "Green"

00018 

Love Art Lab "Green Wedding"

Love Art Lab "Green Wedding"

Love Art Lab "Green Wedding"

Love Art Lab "Green Wedding"

BLUE:

OMC "Peacock Blue"

OMC "Peacock Blue"

OMC "Peacock Blue"

OMC "Peacock Blue"

OMC "Peacock Blue"

OMC "Peacock Blue"

OMC "Peacock Blue"

OMC "Peacock Blue"

Love Art Lab "Zen for the Head"

Love Art Lab "Zen for the Head"

Love Art Lab costume designs

Love Art Lab costume designs

Love Art Lab costume designs

Love Art Lab costume designs

 

 Whew! That’s a lot of pictures! Such a glide through memories and inspirations . . . 

NOTE: It should go without saying, but all photos of OMC are the property of Of Moving Colors Productions, and all photos of Love Art Lab are the property of Love Art Lab. I offer both here to honor and share these inspirations in my life.

If you still need more inspiration, check out this site that documents Linda Montano’s 14 Years of Living Art. I am so inspired by this work!

And I finally finished reading the first installment of a series of articles concerned with art in public spaces written by my brother Matt Morris for Aeqai. It is excellent and definitely offers points of interest as an art, a mover, and a public figure. You can read it here.
And here is an exceptionally thought-provoking quote by Rickey:
“I think it’s very important to make art that you have to wait for. I’m very concerned that movement be slow enough so you have to wait and you have to wonder what happens next.” I think that relates to my aesthetics in all kinds of ways . . .

George Rickeys Two Rectangles Vertical Gyratory II, Variation IV

George Rickey's Two Rectangles Vertical Gyratory II, Variation IV

 

Other inspirations tonight:

gentle rain outside
incense
fresh raw produce
indian fabrics all over my house
my friend Mara and her thoughtfulness
 Antony and The Johnsons “The Crying Light” (dedicated to Kazuo Ohno)

Looking forward to Columbus PRIDE 2009 this week/this weekend. Hope to see you there.