Volume II, Issue II
semigloss. Magazine's latest publication SOUND explores sonic experiences through performance, spoken word, and music discussed within the context of contemporary art.
Shelby David Meier
“I can draw you so that you have no ears. I can draw you so that you have no ears at all. So that where your ears should be, there is only blank paper.” – Laurie Anderson
It is often said that the most impactful artwork, that which is most potently recalled, generates more questions than it does answers. So, as you familiarize yourself with this, our 6th issue of semigloss., you might be asking why a print magazine would decide to publish an issue on sound art—one that not only features writing about sound art, but also sound in its direct form. It has always been our mission to continually question our publication’s formal and conceptual boundaries. And what better way to subvert the limitations of a visual art magazine than by placing its experiential departure point within an entirely different sensory arena? As challenging and time-consuming as this issue has been to produce, we are confident that the result is at once compelling, gorgeous, and indicative of this publication’s gravitation towards what sound art represents within the canon of contemporary art practice.
Sound art is experiencing a moment of sorts in contemporary art, with exhibitions emerging internationally in the past several years, such as Soundings: A Contemporary Score at MoMA, RPM: Sound Art China in Shanghai, and Word.Sound.Power at the Tate Modern in London. Sound artist and theorist Brandon LaBelle formulates an explanation of sound art as “a practice that harnesses, describes, analyses, performs, and interrogates the condition of sound and the process by which it operates.” Though one can point to early applications of sound-as-medium in the Dadaist “sound poems” of Hugo Ball (at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich) and Kurt Schwitters, and in the practice and performance of Fluxus artists like Charlotte Moorman, Nam Jun Paik, and George Maciunas, the origins, lineage, and definition of sound art are not at all concrete. However, as Suzanne Delehanty notes in her essay “Soundings”, when sound first entered the fray of creative production and exhibition, it marked a new beginning for artistic practice. “In the beginning,” she argues, “was the spoken word, ambient sound, noise, music and silence; all allowed artists to transform the visual arts into a new and third realm… and had become both the subject and the object of art.”
It is both sound’s ephemerality as well as its ability to be transduced into structural and even sculptural forms, which predict the variety in its potential applications and employments. Take for example Bruce Nauman’s Days or Cardiff and Miller’s The Forty Part Motet, which project and organize sound as a three-dimensional, spatial experience. Another sound artist, Maryanne Amacher, was concerned with architecture and space as an environmental element of her work, describing her work in terms of “the tone of the space, the color of it.” Many consider sound art to be synonymous with experimental or noise music, both trends in sound that champion the inclusion of all sonic phenomena, an idea originally proposed by Italian Futurist Luigo Russolo in his 1913 manifesto, “The Art of Noises”. This tendency enacted a trend to make formal distinctions between traditional forms of music and more experimental forms, which prompted several seminal artists to deconstruct how sound was experienced and conceptualized. The most well-documented example of which, of course, is John Cage, who not only composed and performed some of the most important experimental sound works of our time, but completely redefined the idea of silence, presupposing that it doesn’t actually exist.
Among the works presented here is Morehshin Allahyari’s #AsYouScrollDown, comprised of messages extracted via Twitter published during the Green Revolution which took place in Iran in 2009. We hear a stoic, robotic voice, somewhat evoking Alvin Lucier’s monumental work I am sitting in a room, reading aloud the frustrated and committed musings of an affected youth launched into rebellion by the corrupt actions of the Iranian government. The voices clamber on top of one another, and then retreat, twisting into a cacophony not unlike the incendiary energy of a radical revolution. Offset by the swirling undercurrent of ambient drones created by collaborator Andrew Blanton, Allahyari’s tweets encapsulate the unheard dispatches of a voiceless majority during tumultuous times of political upheaval.
Wonderwall is the result of an installation staged during “Sympathy for the Devil”, an exhibition held in conjunction with forthcoming release of this issue of semigloss. at Hello Project Gallery in Houston, Texas, which featured several works published within. For Wonderwall, a site-specific installation consisting of a karaoke booth was set up like a shower stall, in which single individuals were instructed to, wearing headphones, sing along to music in into a microphone to lyrics which appeared on a monitor in front of them. The isolated vocals from the microphone were played back into the gallery space for all to hear. They were then recorded and layered into a track on this album, in an allusion to the participatory and collaborative sound, happenings, and event scores of Yoko Ono as well as other artists of the Fluxus movement.
In a contrasting return to the personal, Jeff Gibbons appropriates the love song, “You’re Just Too Good To Be True”, but redacts all audible instances of “you”, replacing them with atonal beeps. His mediation of this familiar melody interrupts our fluid experience of the tune, the lyrics, and the emotional content. Perhaps a fitting parallel to the ways in which we block each other in interpersonal relationships or other intimate interactions, Gibbons highlights the rejection of “the other”. Peter Lucas, shifting our focus from the personal to the universal, has collected and collaged field recordings into a dynamic tapestry of common noises of the earth. Lucas’ work here is a direct homage to the Golden Record, an archive of sounds chosen by producer Ann Druyan and astronomer Carl Sagan and sent out into deep space on the Voyager mission, to be a true portrait of our world in the event of extraterrestrial interception.
Our desire is not only to highlight a diverse and poignant group of sonic artworks, but also to delve into the unique processes of perception and response that are involved in the sensual and conceptual apprehension of the works themselves—how, for instance, different modes of transmission can affect the ways in which one receives tones, textures, or messages; or how the deliberate addition of the element of sound to visual stimuli can exponentially expand interpretive possibilities. This sentiment is echoed by Steven Connor, who explains that, “the ear is the most delicate of organs because it more prone than any other organ to damage by an excess of the stimulus it is made to detect.”
As we have attempted to demonstrate in previous issues of semigloss., it is our explicit mission to consciously renegotiate the definitions of media, concept, and form. We believe sound to be the next underexplored frontier in art-making, and we take note of how, through the mediums of radio broadcasting and the printed magazine, it shares with the written word a historical basis in the dissemination of information (Kenneth Goldsmith ponders the implications of the radio in his essay within). Operating as an exhibition in print form, this edition of semigloss. continues our existence as a freshly defined space in which artists can share their work, their words, and their ideas. We hope you enjoy it.
-- Sally Glass, Editor-in-Chief
Volume II, Issue I
With work by:
Meet the Schwarzes
The 2014 Dallas Biennial
Reflecting on our first year of existence, it is clearer than ever that semigloss. functions primarily as a fluid entity, evolving freely with each installment. Throughout the past four issues, this publication has simultaneously existed as part curated exhibition, part art object, and part forum for conceptual and aesthetic discourse. Each faction has served to more deeply and intentionally expand the potential for both the experiential practice of contemporary art and the print medium, all within an increasingly digitized visual culture.
When Jesse Morgan Barnett and Michael Mazurek first proposed a collaboration with the Dallas Biennial for our fifth issue, the idea immediately seemed like a perfect opportunity to seamlessly integrate our already naturally compatible, individual conceptual and aesthetic identities. Even more so, it appealed to a broader desire for semigloss. to continue its growth as an avenue for experimentation in an organic and meaningful way, rather than attempt to define or limit ourselves based solely on what we’ve produced thus far. Barnett and Mazurek explain in their statement about the project:
We started the Dallas Biennial (DB) in 2011 with the idea that as artists, the act of curation, among other things (in fact all production/action/inaction) functions as an extension of art practice. We value the format of the international biennial in its potential as an advocate for artists. It’s a beginning point. DB however is not limited to its origins as an exhibition— not in terms of convention, length, scale, location, scope, end product, or lack thereof. The format suits our investigation into the broader context of art making.
A YBA once said in an interview, as a recent graduate of art school, that he didn’t know what to “make”, so then anything he did was thus his “product.” He also felt that he wouldn’t sit idle, but rather he would contribute to culture creation, “not leaving it in the hands of others.” This is how we view DB. It will continue to examine art production, display, culture, and foremost the discourse of these actions. Its shape will evolve. For us the importance of the project is rooted in its beginnings as a product of artists. This is fundamental, regardless of the organic nature of its inevitable evolution.
Opening the issue are the hyper-surreal images of Danish artist Asger Carlsen, which are at once stunningly gorgeous and bizarre. His uncanny black-and-white photographic manipulations depict scenes and figures that alternately evoke emotions of profound alienation and vulnerability as well as the banal absurdity of the human experience. Working through similar parallels between life and art, To be Loved, an essay by Devin King, posits a contemporized interpretation of the problem of unrequited love presented in Shakespere’s “All’s Well That Ends Well.” King’s structurally poetic explication of this literary classic playfully likens a case of unreciprocated affections to failures of aesthetic engagement.
Requiring a more potent mode of visual and conceptual engagement is Lana Paninchul’s series Dog Shit, in which several directly composed, full-color photographs, feature forms of dog feces resting upon nests of natural materials, such as grass and hay. Preceded by what one could assume is a technical or veterinary description of the particular dog from which these bodily manifestations originated, Paninchul uses this connection with animals as allegory, challenging the viewer to question the relationships we have with our own physical being.
In working together to curate a collection of work by artists and writers hand-chosen by the Dallas Biennial to accompany an ambitious series of expertly organized exhibitions taking place in a variety of venues around Dallas/Fort Worth over the last several months, this issue of semigloss. has itself been effectively transformed into an exhibition space befitting an international biennial. Acting in this case as both host and dialogical partner, instead of simply a unilateral dictator of content and form, our collaborative efforts with DB14 create positively unexpected and provocative conversations surrounding the state of contemporary art and curatorial practice, successfully bringing a new complexity and dynamic interaction to the stimulating work contained within.
--Sally Glass, Editor-in-Chief
Volume I, Issue IV
With work by:
Mary Walling Blackburn
Shelby David Meier
Debora Delmar Corp
Jesse Morgan Barnett
Kevin Rubén Jacobs
“The future is not what it used to be.” - Theodor Nelson
Welcome to the fourth issue of semigloss. Magazine. In continuing with our mission to curate the publication around a certain concept or theme, this issue focuses on the idea of Future. When we typically propose ideas about the future, the default context we seem to revert to is the realm of the temporal; making intuitive comparisons between what has come before, what is happening now, and what is yet to be. Ruminations on the future are quite often some combination of evaluating what has occurred, to determine or predict what will occur next, and making some speculation or projection into an ethereal unknown in order to explain what already is. As humans, this tendency is unavoidable as it affords us (if only temporarily) the illusion that we have some modicum of control over the events that take place throughout our lives. Speaking abstractly, to live (or to choose not to die) is to assume that a future exists indefinitely, when in reality this may or may not actually be the case.
As a more relatable extension of this propensity to project ourselves into times yet unseen, humans seem to revel in the act of inventing worlds that can only exist beyond our own time and experience. Perhaps in recognition of the sheer absurdity that we are predisposed to devote our lives so steadfastly to uncertain fate, we are easily able to recognize the potential for humor and levity in the treatment of such paradoxical ideas. Whether for entertainment value, cautionary purposes, or creating a safe, theoretical environment to test out utopian ideals, we love to construct what we can merely imagine, and because the future is and always will be essentially unknowable, it has always been fertile ground for creative exploration. Whether in film, literature, philosophy, or visual art, the one inescapable unifying factor about any creative approach to the future, or even discussing it at all, is that the only truly informed temporal perspective we have is based on the present. And even then, ideas held in the present are necessarily formed upon a foundation of information gleaned from the past. Therefore, it follows that in fact all imaginative glances towards the future end up firmly rooted in, and consequently being about, the past. Nelson’s statement that “The future is not what it used to be,” illuminates these propositions quite plainly.
Artists working during any era are inextricably linked to the influences and cultural phenomena of the time in which they are living as well as to the artists, historical aesthetic traditions, and personal/universal issues that compel one to make art in the first place. Whether the intention is to reference or completely deny these preceding shaping elements, any acknowledgment of them at all creates a connection, however accidental or intangible. As far back as documentation reveals, artists have occupied themselves by continually pushing boundaries of what has been created before, as well as reimagining existing mediums to invent forms of expression for a new age.
For the contemporary artist in 2013, a foray into tomorrow often involves appropriating emerging and developing technology (or rejecting it) as well as advancing thought to shift our conceptual frameworks about what art is and what it can be. With respect to the infinitely complex nature of the topic, this issue of semigloss. is an appropriately diverse collection of work representing an incredible spectrum of visual and written investigations into the future. Through the Tumblr stream Jogging, which he co-founded, artist Brad Troemel has created an art-historically aware, communal culture for the sharing and consumption of visual information, employing digital manipulation to found images to produce photographic collages that function like new-Readymades within the collective net-based consciousness. Also related to ideas of technology and visual communication is the augmented reality collaboration between Kim Asendorf and Alfredo Salazar-Caro, in which a virtual 3-dimensional self-portrait of Salazar-Caro is set in front a backdrop of tiled images gathered from advertisements tailored for his Facebook page, compiling a digital identity determined and driven by the personal data that he chooses to share online.
Not to succumb too readily to the compulsion towards an exclusively screen-centric conversation about the future, there are several pieces that instead emphasize the importance of discussing the physical and interpersonal as translated through relationships, sexuality, and body politics. Noah Simblist interviews experimental filmmakers A.L. Steiner and A.K. Burns about their film Community Action Center, which results in a radically compelling and illuminating discussion regarding queer theory, the aesthetic implications of pornography, and the intentional interplay between authentic and fantastical representations of bodies within that space. Life Studies, by Devon Nowlin, offers a raw, personal perspective on the vulnerability of relationships, publishing a real dialogue between the artist and her husband about how his diagnosis of young-onset Parkinson’s disease affects their mutual future together.
The diversity among the work in our fourth issue of semigloss. is unsurprising, while successfully capturing the multi-faceted nature of such a wide subject as the future. What is remarkable, however, are the wonderful connections and interactions that emerge between the individual pieces, creating a network of ideas about the future that simultaneously reinforce and transcend the individual messages contained within. To speculate further into what we may discover about the future or art or the internet or human relationships or sexual politics or anything else for that matter, it is crucial to remember, in the spirit of the absolute absurdity of engaging with the elusiveness of the unknown, that the future never actually arrives. And as such, its mystery will always remain a perpetually inspiring and infinite arena from which to draw ideas, construct meaning, and create experiences for the present.
--Sally Glass, Editor-in-Chief
Volume I, Issue III
The third issue of semigloss. Magazine explores the notion of FAILURE, including submissions by the following artists (as well as limited edition sculptural piece by Lucia Simek):
Bruce Lee Webb
“I must go on. I can't go on. I'll go on.”- Samuel Beckett
The well-known artwork WRONG by artist John Baldessari is, by academic standards, a badly composed black-and-white photograph. It shows a man standing in the street with a palm tree directly behind him appearing to sprout straight from atop his head. Below the photograph is printed, in all capital block letters, the word WRONG. With this image, as with so much of his work, Baldessari humorously confronts the anxieties that arise throughout the oftentimes lengthy and frustrating process of creating a “successful” work of art in our post-modern world.
Upon consideration of potential themes for this, our third issue of semigloss., a magazine dedicated to artists and writers in that Baldessarian, post-modern, pluralistic world, “failure” was among the most appealing and apparent topics to explore. As a universally experienced element on every scale of human existence from the immensely monumental to the intimately personal: an ill-timed joke, the stock market collapse, ineffective governmental policies, doomed relationships; each individual’s understanding of failure is completely subjective, which is what makes its definition so elusive. Consequently however, the pluralism of failure is the very quality that causes it to be such bountiful territory for investigation and critical interpretation within a contemporary art context. Take for example the New Museum’s 2007 inaugural exhibition Unmonumental: The Object in the 21st Century, which featured works by Isa Genzken, Carol Bove, among many others, whose sculpture and assemblages evoke an informality in their presentation; objects that adopt certain “un-heroic” aspects of decay, corrosion, and dis-ease.
For this issue of semigloss., I was consistently struck that for nine of the ten people I approached on the topic of failure, the response was overwhelmingly some variant of the following: “Oh, I’d be perfect for that.” That failure is an area of life which feels acutely familiar and intimate to so many engaged in artistic practice is perhaps evidence of both the current propensity to unpack notions of wrong, to use Badlessari’s word, and as proof of failure’s age-old role in the life of the creative person—that thing that simultaneously terrifies us and drives us. Ranging from the political to the personal, societal to the institutional, artists throughout this issue lovingly embrace failure as one of the most psychologically potent influencers of human behavior, reflected in ways both poignant and absurd. It is through means of reflection, humor, and perseverence that we are able to transcend our own limitations and self-imposed judgements - finding wisdom in the struggle of living- which allows us to express a more enlightened and authentic portrayl of the human condition, in our work and beyond.
In her piece Julia Pastrana, 1834-1860 (2013), Margaret Meehan acknowledging a significant failure of humanity, takes a tintype photograph of the tragically exploited fur-faced Mexican woman of the same name, whom after her death during childbirth in 1860 was shipped around Europe with the body of her deceased child as a feature of a traveling freakshow, not to be returned to her native homeland for a proper burial until February of 2013. Meehan’s paring of her softly painted-upon version of this image with the lyrics to the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” reads like an invitation to this forsaken figure’s final resting place, accompanied by the return of her dignity.
Poet Rainer Maria Rilke famously mused that, “the purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things". Lucia Simek’s work Untended (after Rilke), which appears in both 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional form, alludes to literary manifestations of both personal and creative defeat. Her delicate preservation of burnt pages of text encased within transparent vinyl sleeves gracefully conveys the quiet redemption that may emerge from the type of suffering through difficulty frequently epitomized by Rilke’s mediations on life.
On an editorial note, a confession: This issue itself is a failure of sorts, through which it becomes indeed more successful. Considering the implied psychological and emotional weight the idea of failure can have on us, I was confident that a group of individuals willing to directly take on such a potentially daunting subject would result in the type of vulnerable, probing, and poignant work a colleague amusingly referred to as “juicy”. I envisioned complimenting this juicy content with an equally compelling formal concept, which would have entailed utilizing not only unconventional materials, but very expensive and difficult printing processes as well. After frustrating delays and unsuccessful attempts at realizing this formal vision, I felt stuck. It wasn’t until I finally accepted that I might need to abandon this direction for another that I was reminded that the collected works within are wholly sufficient to communicate the desired intention of this issue, negating any need for extraneous bells and whistles. In this case, as should be the aim of all sincere attempts at creation, the work speaks for itself. And in the words of our friend Rilke: “Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams: there against the depth of this background, they stand out, there for the first time we see how beautiful they are."
--Sally Glass, Editor-in-Chief
Volume I, Issue II
With work by:
Michael A. Morris
Andrew Douglas Underwood
“People can wrap dishes in my work.” -Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth’s playful assertion, in reference to his Second Investigation (1968), a conceptual artwork in the form of advertisements placed in magazines and newspapers, aptly introduces the focal point of the second issue of semigloss. Magazine: Ephemera.
The relevance of ephemera to contemporary art practice—in the world at large and specifically the North Texas region—is present in several manifestations. Due to the ever-growing screen-centricity of our visual lives, it has become apparent that the definition of ephemera is effectively shifting from the realm of printed matter to the endlessly refreshable barrage of images and textual information accessible daily. As such, in the spirit of delightful irreverence with which Kosuth regards his artwork, and among an age in which printed publications are failing at rapid rates, it seemed an appropriate act of humorous defiance to deliberately produce a printed art document that responds to this very dilemma.
All of the artists included in this issue have beautifully interpreted the notion of ephemera both visually and conceptually, and from many angles. Through his discussion of cinema, for example, Michael A. Morris both critically responds to and expands upon the shifting of our experience of ephemera from the analog to the digital in the vein of cinematic culture, claiming that, “in the end, the mechanical and the photochemical will outlive the digital… [suggesting] that we have the wrong one identified as the signifier of the ephemeral.”
Meanwhile, by mining images gathered from yourworldoftext.com, R.CF transforms a simple Internet forum into a romantic, nostalgic visual narrative that speaks to the ephemerality of contact, communication, and the persistence of memory in our modern age. For his part, Kevin Todora approached several sets of parents with the task of reading the dictionary definition of ephemera to their young children, instructing them to create drawings based on what they envisioned those words to look like. Not only does this exercise speak to the gorgeous imaginations of children and their inherent ability to touchingly interpret a visual idea in the least expected or predictable ways but also to the impermanence and preciousness of youth.
In discussing the relationship between conceptions of ephemera and print media, it seems apropos to consider conceptual artist Dan Graham’s role in revolutionizing the magazine as an alternative space for experimental art with his Homes For America “intervention” placed in Arts Magazine in 1966. In an interview with Mike Metz for Bomb Magazine in 1994, Graham states that he “realized how dependent the art world was on publicity and information.” By publishing an artwork directly in a magazine as its primary venue of reception, as opposed to an institution dedicated exclusively to the consumption of art, the work itself was disseminated through widely accessible channels of public information thereby neutralizing its market value and undermining the existing systems of commodification in place for artists and collectors. This result, coupled with the disposability of magazines, motivated Graham to regard the ephemerality of the magazine, or the “physicality of print”, to be a matter of great conceptual importance in his work. Due in part to its aesthetic and historical associations, the notion of ephemera provides a rich potential for artistic exploration. It seems only appropriate to explore this subject through a vehicle that is in itself ephemeral and traditionally disposable. Nevertheless, it is my hope that this publication remains in the world as a physical reminder of the beauty and thoughtfulness that spurred its very creation.
— Sally Glass, Editor-in-Chief
Volume I, Issue I
With work by:
Cassandra Emswiler Burd
Jesse Morgan Barnett
“Time passes. A place remains.”-Richard Long, Words After The Fact (1982)
WELCOME TO semigloss.
The conception of this publication was the result of comments made at the Radical Regionalism panel held at CentralTrak this past spring. One of the ideas that resonated most with me, as with many of my peers and colleagues who attended, is that North Texas is undergoing a proliferation of experimentation in the ways artists and curators are treating work and space.
In addition to the mention of these excited energies, someone noted (almost in passing) that one thing missing from the North Texas arts community is a publication that represents the artists themselves. This assertion stuck with me, and I suddenly felt that, not only were we, as a region, lacking a document of our arts community from within, but that it was an entirely reasonable pursuit—someone just had to get it started.
In keeping with a curatorial approach, it was decided that each issue would align itself with a certain purpose or theme. As the catalyst for this publication was the locality of our arts community, the idea of “place” seemed to be the most appropriate focal point for the first issue. I requested that each contributor ruminate on the idea of place and interpret this concept in any way he or she saw fit.
I envision semigloss. functioning as a series of exhibitions, with each issue offering pieces that compliment and layer upon one another, all drawing from the growth that we, as artists, educators, gallerists, curators, students, and art administrators have been experiencing. As a vital part of the diverse burgeoning arts culture in North Texas, it will be important to include a range of contributors and foster connections between the many aspects of this region.
I would like to personally thank each and every person that I had the absolute pleasure of working with on this endeavor, from the very first meeting to the very last email. I am humbled and honored to have received the support and genuine enthusiasm that made this beautifully crafted document possible.
— Sally Glass, Editor-in-Chief