Technology on its own just isn’t as fun. It needs art. To some extent, I do agree with the following…

The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people. ~Karl Marx

Artists are extremely USEFUL people.

I know, I know.

I should be writing about an artist I don’t really care for or agree with because that would make for an interesting piece of art writing but this is an art diary (of sorts) and, well, I can write what I want (for now)! I’m sure my writing will go into varying directions in the next month or so with a studio class on the horizon. I digress (per usual). For those that know me well, I preface (quite a bit) but I did that (yet again) because I constantly write about artists that inspire and move me.

Ellen Gallagher being one of those artists. Being a fan of Art 21, I found myself engaged by her work. The ability to take imagery and appropriate it in a repetitious fashion but making all iterations worthy of a look amazes and excites me. A great example of her collaborative work is the ‘DeLuxe’ Prints series. She adds to an image of Isaac Hayes in such a way that the viewer is forced to re-imagine a narrative. Her re-telling of a history through painting over what is there, magically, uncovers what has long been concealed. Think of that contradiction? Covering up to uncover. Re-appropriating to make appropriate, inevitably be re-appropriated and re-configured in the viewers mind. Gallagher works wonders. I guess I wrote about her because I’m hoping to do some of my own magic in this upcoming studio art class. We shall see!

Learn more about Ellen Gallagher here

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and watched Rottenberg’s new work entitled, Squeeze (2010). I titled part of my entry as ‘Interdependence’ because, coincidentially, I’ve been reading about interdepedence with others (and, even with inantimate objects) through a Buddhist lens and trying to incorporate that awareness within a meditative practice. Not only does Mika Rottenberg’s new work showcase the notion of interdependence, her entire body of work intermingles body image, use of the body, consumerism and labor. The women she incorporates into her film work (just to note, these women are not actresses) evoke gesture in such a way that is not only ritualistic but shows an end product in the ritualistic gestures and the women are, not only connected to each other, but to the viewer. Meticulsouly and brilliantly edited video installations create surreal manufacturing worlds for us to visually explore. In that viewing, the observer may see their connection to these women they watch. Hence, me bringing in the notion of interdependence because it is woven into her work seamlessly. She’s definitely an artist worth following. Even more noteworthy, she was a Whitney Biennele artist in 2008. I’m glad I found her sooner as opposed to later…

You can learn more about Mika Rottenberg here

The virtually untraceable art collective HUSH has done an excellent job at creating work that is fugitive and fleeting. Contemporary art increasingly entails questioning aspects of consumerism, commoditization, and the prevailing system of values over creating something for our eyes to gaze upon. HUSH’s work—a hybrid of activism and criminal activity—provokes us to see all the aforementioned within a legal construct, yet through an artistic lens. Politics and law serve as their ready-mades. They command our intellect be involved when examining their work and to react with a critical eye.

The surreptitious nature of their art heightens its value without much effort on their part. Based on the economic model of supply and demand, HUSH’s work is priceless. Not only is it unfeasible to sell the output of what they produce, the group takes it a step further and manages to catapult any documentation of their work. It becomes irretrievable and irreproducible.

In reminding us that art does not have to become a commodity, HUSH also calls into question the necessity for a maker. Is identification necessary? Should the public or HUSH followers know these renegade, almost vigilante, artists? I say no. The only individuals who should be privy to their identities are the collaborators themselves. This enigmatic nature makes their work all the more potent and proves a serious challenge to the art world. In some ways, their effective anonymity could herald the demise of the concept of the artist. Yet, I’m sure with their continued efforts to create incendiary work that provokes and thrusts its way into our visual landscapes, they must continue to stay apparitions.

Paradoxically, there is safety for these artists living and working outside the boundaries of the art world. Their activities seem to show us that we are not as free as we would like to think. I’d like to imagine that this clever art collective sits and connives atop some constructed Bentham panopticon, keeping watch.

Originally published to Art Practical for Shotgun Reviews April 2010