Perambulating the Bounds

Friday, June 30, 2006

More Chicago jazz guys in town

Lately it seems like there has been, thanks to Chris Davis, a steady trickle of the best younger jazz players from Chicago making their way through town: Keefe Jackson and Josh Berman, then Mandarin Movie with Frank Rosaly and Jason Ajemian. Now bass player Ajemian is back with the trio Dragons 1976, which also includes Aram Shelton, another one of the sax players you hear about these days, and percussionist Tim Daisy, who among other things is the drummer in the Ken Vandermark 5. This show, like Mandarin Movie, is at Ruby Green this Sunday (July 2). Starts at 9:00. Hands Off Cuba is also on the bill, and another Nashville group called the Potato Battery Experiment. I'm not sure who that is.

Back to the blog

For several weeks I’ve left the blog aside to keep the piece on Will ClenDening on the top to make sure people saw it and took the opportunity, if they wanted, to add a comment. It’s been almost a month, so I’ll get back to posting. (BTW, I think some folks are working on a memorial to Will on the Watkins website.)

The Scene announced this week that our former Managing Editor Jonathan Marx has taken a job at the Tennessean, filling Alan Bostick’s old job. For those who don’t know, as Managing Editor, Jonathan coordinated and personally edited most of the visual art coverage. Nothing against Bostick (whom I’ve never met although I have benefited from his coverage for projects I’ve been involved with), but having Jonathan at the Tennessean is a big deal for the Nashville art community. He is so well tuned in to art and artists, and so smart about it, that having him at the Tennessean will expand the range of coverage. As a daily paper, there are some things the Tennessean can and can’t do in comparison to an alt-weekly like the Scene, but there is no doubt that Jonathan will look for every opportunity to say something insightful.

Just look at his first piece for the paper, on the Frist’s Egyptian show. He covers a lot of ground. In addition to describing the material in the exhibit and the main themes, making good use of curator Mark Scala’s voice (whose presentations on the exhibit are, not surprisingly, very good), JM has also worked in observations about the curatorial process and the logistics of putting on the show. With an exhibit like this (really any exhibit), it pays to think about the institutional as well as the aesthetic dimension.

One thing to consider is that up until now, Jonathan has mostly exercised an indirect influence on visual arts coverage as the editor of other people’s writing, outside of picks (where he was able to make significant comments). Now people will read his articles on art. People in the art community are going to want to keep up with what he is writing about and what he is saying.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Will ClenDening

Will ClenDening died in a motorcycle accident last week. This is a terrible loss. For his family and anyone who knew him, it goes without saying that they are suffering, but Will’s death tears away a piece of the entire Nashville art community. He was an incredibly gifted artist, and there was never more of a case of a young man who had an entire life of living and making art stretching in front of him which was snuffed out too early. You never know where someone will go with art, but Will looked like he was going to take things to the highest levels possible.

Will’s work has been some of the most consistently stimulating stuff I have seen in Nashville in the last couple of years. He had that rare combination of a good eye and a sharp mind, making pieces that were strong formally and conceptually.

  • In one Watkins show he made a column out of unwound videotape. It worked as a simple sculpture, running from ceiling to floor with a clear form and the texture of the curling videotape, forming a presence in the gallery, but there was also a subtext about looking at the unseeable.
  • I saw several pieces from him which involved really great experiments with sound and video feed, sometimes just minimal signals. I find it very useful to think about the quality of those signals in focusing my own music.
  • He did a series of sculptures that involved pouring molten metal into molds containing books, the metal partially burning the paper and then cooling in jagged, surreal forms (these were at a show at Ruby Green).
  • And there were his machines, which converted signals from the worlds of sound or motion into automated mark-making activity. I wrote a post about them a year ago.

He created an impressive variety and quality of work at a young age. Anyone who looks at art has lost something with his death.

This death will be felt especially hard by everyone in the Watkins family, Will's teachers and fellow students. They have such an intense bond, I can barely imagine how they feel right now. And all of them are so important to our community, and Nashville is so small and interconnected, that none of us is unaffected by their grief. And the grieving goes way past Watkins, since Will made a lot of friends with other artists in town. This ploughs right through the middle of us.

The Secret Show has a page with a couple of Will’s pieces from Secret Shows.

Visitation and Will’s funeral are this week, Tuesday and Wednesday. I don’t have more details yet. [Monday: Heather posted a comment with the details on visitation and the service.]

More updates, Monday PM: visitation is Tuesday from 4-8 at Woodlawn Funeral Home, which is in Woodlawn Cemetery on Thompson in Berry Hill. The service is 2:00 Wednesday at St. Mark's Episcopal, 3100 Murfreesboro Road in Antioch, pretty close to the intersection with Bell Road.

Finally, the family has set up a memorial scholarship fund in Will's memory at Watkins. An email from Melissa Means at Watkins said "A scholarship has been established by the family in Will's memory.Donations can be sent directly to the Development Office at Watkins College of Art and Design." Their address is Watkins College of Art and Design, 2298 Metrocenter Boulevard, Nashville 37228.

More additions: Melissa Means posted this URL for Will’s student page with images of his work:

Also, I hear that Watkins is considering creating an artwork or sculpture in his memory. I’m sure they’ll be working out details on that over some period of time.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

MTSU Performance Art

Cindy Rehm had her students present performance pieces at Ruby Green tonight they developed in a three-week workshop. True to the workshop’s name, Body + Process, most of the pieces either used the performer’s body as a central element and/or established a process of actions which the piece then played out.

  • Natalie Harrison set up a game piece. She sat on the floor with a laundry basket filled with shirts and then started to pull shirts out and fold and stack them. Three other members of the class stood across from her and took turns taking a shirt out of the stacks (messing up the stack in the process), putting it on, taking it off, and then throwing the crumpled shirt down. The game was Harrison trying to complete the task of folding in spite of the interruptions. The folding did proceed faster, so eventually she got ahead of it, and the piece ended with all four women facing the stacks, then one of them (I think) messing it up. On the one hand this was a piece that involved watching someone fold clothes. Tedious and annoying. But it was a bit complicated semiotically. In addition to its game logic which once started had to be followed in this obsessive manner, it mixed up shopping and household gestures, and also patterns of domination and humiliation. I was also very aware of how arbitrary the control/humiliation relations were. Any one of the four young women could have been the one folding the clothes.
  • Several of the pieces focused their actions on performer’s body. Erin Piper rubbed a viscous blue liquid on her lips and kissed her body wherever her lips could reach. It reminded me of a Tim Hawkinson piece that recorded the parts of his body he could see directly as he saw them, so the proportions were distorted. Piper does something similar by marking all the places she can kiss. And the action has other overtones: masturbation, isolation, even beauty treatments (“kiss your body”). And I couldn’t help but think this piece would be a lot shorter if I did it—in my middle-aged decrepitude, I’m not exactly a yoga master, so my lips don’t get around as well. Sarah Medsker had another simple and lovely piece, rubbing dirt over all of her body. It was a reversal of cleaning, and a kind of return to Earth, with a hint of self-damage as you heard the small stones in the dirt hit the ground.
  • Jeremy Braden did a complicated piece that involved a tower of stacked Crayolas that he exposed to a heat lamp, which he taped to his arm cyborg-style. He kept the lamp until enough melting occurred so it fell down. He did the exercise in a one-eyed mask and with a soundtrack of a couple of boys goofing around with a tape recorder, talking about Frankenstein and Dr. Seuss and just nonsense. Chris Davis said that the piece was about W letting the tower fall while he was just goofing around. I can see it. But I found this one kinda of tedious. It worked out that a good portion of it was sitting in the dark listening to the boys use up the tape. They were hilarious, but more so in small doses.
  • Jacqueline Meeks had the shortest piece, very clear. Dressed in black, she stepped into a basin of water and poured water all over herself with her cupped hands. Then she got out and laid down in a square of sugar she had spread on the ground. First her front, then her back, then she stood up, faced the crowd, licked her fingers and held her arms out like a T. The sugar formed this messy pattern on her black clothes like some sort of forensic trace on CSI or the Shroud of Turin. There’s obviously a lot of religion in this short piece: baptism, foot washing, crucifixion. And she turns herself into food. Sugar-coated. Her impression of herself on her own clothes was the single strongest image of the night.
  • Cindy Rehm also did a piece: dressed in white, kneeling on a small round table cloth, she had a stack of jelly doughnuts that she picked up one at a time, stuck her finger into, then rubbed the jelly on her lips and smeared it in a T shape across the front of her dress. She handled each successive doughnut more roughly. And after each doughnut, she lifted the back of each hand to her nose. The piece followed a rule set like many of the others, but it was less literal so it established more of an independent place for itself.

Glad to see the MTSU students doing this. Last year, Tom Thayer brought a workshop group to Angle of View, and it was very good to have some cross-pollination between them and the AOV scene.