November 10, 2008

Report on Prospect.1 New Orleans (the U.S.'s New International Art Biennial)

Prospect.1 is directed and curated by Dan Cameron, former Sr. Curator of the New Museum in New York, artistic director of the Istanbul Biennial in 2003, and current Visual Arts Director at the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). He's been visiting New Orleans for years and conceived of the new biennial as a way to help bring visitors back to the city, which is still struggling to recover from Katrina.

Cameron points out that until now, the biggest biennial in the the U.S. has been the Whitney, which isn't international.

I concur that New Orleans is an ideal location for this event, because of its cosmopolitan heritage and culture, its location, and above all its indomitable and disproportionately elegant and beauty-and-fun-loving population.

The Prospect.1 exhibitions include some 80 artists, most well-known within the art world. A possibly unusually large percentage of the works were created specifically for Prospect.1; e.g., there's a wonderful installation by Cao Fei which incorporates a virtual, New Orleans-related space within Second Life, called NO LAB (to see the video online, go here, scroll to 081 - 04|11|08, and click on SEE VIDEO).

The official Prospect.1 exhibitions are located at over two dozen venues throughout New Orleans. This initially seemed inconvenient, but I think it was the right decision; as intended, it helped me get to know the city, which proved to be a pleasure. New Orleans is easy to navigate by car; there's also a shuttle running every 20 min.

Also showing are a number of independently-organized exhibitions; e.g., by KK Projects, which has transformed four small houses in St. Roch, one into a gallery and three more into home-sized artworks. For The NYT on KK Projects and its founder, Kirsha Kaechele, go here.

As far as I can tell, the city parties constantly. So, I recommend allowing at least four days, if you can. And go soon: the weather's great (no irony intended).

Below are links to more pics and vidis.

Some of the works I liked best include:

  • Takashi Horisaki's piece at the Hefler Center (starting here; and when I say starting, I mean you might want to click on "next" 'til you're sure it's over) was made by actually slathering a semi-destroyed house with latex, inside and out; I understand it took the artist two years of effort to create it.
  • Candice Breitz's A Portrait of Bob Marley (here). What might not be obvious from my li'l vidi is that each individual is hearing the song through headphones and singing along, or not, without hearing the others.
  • The "Batman on Poppers" (here) at the CAC was part of a pretty wonderful installation about a gay bar in N.O. destroyed by a fire in which many died. The story is provided as part of the installation and is worth the read.
  • Pedro Reyes' Leverage (starting here), which I can't resist calling, "Teeter-Totter for Ten."
  • Fiona Tan's Island (starting here) looked terrific in its space at the CAC, though I had trouble deciphering the audio.
  • Allora y Calzadilla's brilliant piece, A Man Screaming Its Not a Dancing (starting here) -- I'm so sorry my four brief vidis don't begin to do it justice -- at the CAC. (I could have captured this piece better; but I think I unconsciously balked on the grounds that it was too stunning to steal.)
  • The Cao Fei (starting here), I'm already a huge fan and she totally lived up to it, at the CAC.
  • Sunset Refinery by David Sullivan (here), in the Universal Furniture space in the St. Roch area -- again, my vidi doesn't do it justice.
  • The KK Projects house starting here. (I have to mention, the nite I saw these houses, little kids from the neighborhood were giving guided tours. They stood at the doors and hawked in high voices, "Come see the lovely art!"; and if you got anywhere near, they'd capture your hand and draw you into the house. Once inside, they carefully pointed out various features of the installations, recited the names of the artists involved, and offered interpretive tips.)
  • Stephen G. Rhodes' installation at the U.S. Mint (starting here), though I didn't expect to. It captures certain aspects of life under B*shCo (e.g., the shock+awe), among other things, perfectly.
  • The Kalup Linzy piece at the New Orleans Museum of Art is wonderful (clip here); also Pulse Tank (here) by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.
And there were plenty of other great pieces.

Before I lose any more of you, looking again at the visuals of this work, I'm pretty slapped up the head with how much of it seems concerned in part with the sweeping away, containment, erasure, or veiling of individuals -- and with efforts, at least partly successful, toward individual expression nonetheless.

Overall, the works included are perhaps not the most difficult -- many are downright charismatic. Conclude from that what you will; still, there's quality, breadth, and depth, and what I think will prove a fruitful sensitivity both to New Orleans' (decreasingly) peculiar plight and to the potential benefit to us all of having a truly great, international biennial based in the U.S.

Credit for this sensitivity is due both to Cameron and to the artists he selected (many of whom, of course, are furriners).

From a purely personal point of view, I was happy to find a decent amount of video, sorry not to find more new "new media."

Prospect.1 runs through January 17, 2009. The official P.1 homepage is here. Roberta Smith/NYT reviews the event (with more pics) here; artkrush has an article (with more pics) here.

Go here for my own pics and vidis (totally unadjusted, unedited, etc.; deepest apologies for all deficiencies and also for my failure to snap the artist/title cards for some works. Those I did snap generally appear AFTER the visual(s) of the work to which they relate. Also, I include some party pics and the like for those who were there, etc., though the emphasis is on the art. Finally, there were some great works I didn't snap, too many I missed seeing altogether, and others I snapped even though I'm not sure how much I like them; so no judgment should be inferred.)

If your interests are more selective . . .
For work at the Hefler Welcome Center, start here.
For work at the Contemporary Art Center, start here.
For the block party/gallery walk on Julia St., including 527 Gallery, start here.
For work at Louisiana ArtWorks, start here.
For Halloween nite, start here (including my costume).
For work etc. in and around St. Roch, start here.
For the dinner and work at KK Projects (including party pics of Kirsha, her mom, and other new friends), start here.
For the after-party and work at the Brickyard, start here.
For work etc. in and around the Lower Ninth Ward, start here.
For work at the U.S. Mint, start here.
For work in and around the New Orleans Museum of Art, start here.
On the way home, we caught a swamp tour from Cajun Man, also rec'd. Caveat: don't assume you can plug the address into your GPS and get there; call him for directions.

Below's a l'il Brickyard after-party for ya. Somewhat bigger-better version here; continued here; and I'm trying to get the band name, so if you like it, check back.

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