Review in Dagbladet Information

June 17th, 2009

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Michael Jeppesen reviews Lost and Found in Information.

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Lost and Found on Kunstpausen

June 17th, 2009

The online TV show Kunstpausen was present at the opening of Lost and Found - and caught two happy curators for a quick interview after the official speeches. 

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Performance by Al Masson at Nikolaj

June 12th, 2009

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Performance by Al Masson (DK/FR) Saturday 13 June at 3 pm at Nikolaj, Copenhagen Contemporart Art Center.

Al Masson’s performance Objets de Voyage is part of the exhibition Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive. In this performance the artist arrives as a well-dressed ragpicker with a suitcase full of found objects carefully released from their original use – like brightly coloured packaging deviod of labels. Many of the objects are vaguely recognisable, but through the artist’s live installation of them in surprising combinations they form a strangely compelling parallel universe of inexplicable, fragile eroticism. This collections of refuse – lovingly rendered exclusive by the artist is stored and recycled in constantly new constellations. Carefully boxed and labeled when not on suitcase wheels and display, the Objects de Voyage form a series of alternative archeaological finds for the historians of the future.

The performance will take place in the exhibition space.

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Performance ved Al Masson (DK/FR) lørdag d. 13. juni kl 15 på Kunsthallen Nikolaj.

Al Massons performance Objets de Voyage er en del av udstillingen Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive. I denne performance ankommer kunstneren, som en velklædt klunser, med en kuffert der rummer dele af hans store samling objekter. I en slag ritual tømmes kufferten og genstandene placeres sirligt i et farverigt landskab. De viser sig at være emballage og andre masseproducerede hverdagsgenstande, som omhyggeligt er blevet renset og bevaret. Objekterne bliver fetich’er og får nyt liv som de arrangeres i fantasifulde formationer og udgør et alternativt arkiv af samtidshistoriske levn.   

Performancen finder sted i udstillingsrummet.

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Screening of The Watermelon Woman

June 10th, 2009

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On Thursday June 11 at 5 pm there will be a screening of Cheryl Dunye’s feature film The Watermelon Woman (1996) at Nikolaj, Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center in conjunction with the exhibition Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive. The film will be introduced by art historian Mathias Danbolt, co-editor of the Lost and Found publication. 

Set in Philadelphia, The Watermelon Woman tells the story of Cheryl, a 20-something black lesbian struggling to make a documentary about Fae Richards, a beautiful and elusive 1930s black film actress, popularly known as “The Watermelon Woman”.

While uncovering the meaning of Fae Richards’ life, Cheryl experiences a total upheaval in her personal life. Her love affair with Diana, a beautiful white woman, and her interactions with the gay and black communities are subject to the comic yet biting criticism of her best friend Tamara. Meanwhile, each answer Cheryl discovers about the Watermelon Woman evokes a flurry of new questions.

The film features many notables from the lesbian and gay community including: Guin Turner (Go Fish), Sarah Schulman, Camille Paglia and highlights the photography of Zoe Leonard. 

Read more about the film on Cheryl Dunye’s homepage.

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Torsdag 11. juni kl. 17.00 vises The Watermelon Woman af Cheryl Dunye (1996) på Kunsthallen Nikolaj i forbindelse med Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive. Introduktion til filmen ved kunsthistorikeren Mathias Danbolt, medredaktør af udstillingskataloget Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive.

The Watermelon Woman handler om Cheryl, en ung sort kvinde, der kaster sig ud i at skabe en dokumentarfilm om Fae Richards. Hun var en smuk men glemt sort filmskuespiller fra 1930’erne og kendt som ”The Watermelon Woman”. Ligesom Richards var lesbisk og havde en hvid elskerinde, forelsker Cheryl sig også i en hvid kvinde, hvilket ikke er uproblematisk. Efterhånden som Cheryl finder brudstykker fra Richards’ liv, opstår der nye spørgsmål om den gådefulde kvinde.

 I The Watermelon Woman optræder bl.a. Guin Turner, Sarah Schulman og Camille Paglia, og Zoe Leonards fotografier (”The Fae Richards Photo Archive”) spiller en fremtrædende rolle.

Les mer om filmen på Cheryl Dunyes hjemmeside.

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Lost and Found in Out & About

June 3rd, 2009

The Danish magazine Out & About writes about the opening of Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive on their web page. Read their rapport here.

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Interview with Mary Coble in Politiken

June 3rd, 2009

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Read the interview with the Washington based artist Mary Coble in the Danish newspaper Politiken: “Kunstner fik tatoveret ‘lebbe’ og ‘negerelsker’“. Coble is represented in Lost and Found with the piece Blood Script (2008).

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Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive

May 22nd, 2009

Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive is an international exhibition and publication focusing on memory and the writing of history in relationship to gender and sexuality.

The project questions what is lost in traditional archive compilation and canon creation: What is included, and what is excluded? How is history written? And whose history is told?

The artists in the exhibition are Kimberly Austin (US), Cecilia Barriga (CL), Mary Coble (US), Aleesa Cohene (CA), Elmgreen & Dragset (DK/NO), Conny Karlsson (SE), Heidi Lunabba (FI), Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay (CA), Flemming Rolighed (DK), Tejal Shah (IN), Al Masson (DK/FR) and Ingo Taubhorn (DE). The exhibition is curated by Jane Rowley and Louise Wolthers. Read more about the exhibition here.

The book Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive is published in conjunction with the exhibition, including contributions by Ann Cvetkovich, Mathias Danbolt, Heather Love, Jane Rowley & Louise Wolthers, Joe Brainard and the artists in the exhibition. Read more about the publication here.

 

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Aleesa Cohene in Conversation with Jane Rowley

May 22nd, 2009

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Still from LIKE, LIKE (2009)

Aleesa Cohene, in the tradition of found-footage art, removes filmic elements from the confines of narrative continuity and context to expose and explore shared anxieties. Separating gestures, glances and objects from their original narratives, she focuses on the anticipation of catharsis and emotional peaks, creating her own stories with composite characters compiled from literally hundreds of different filmic sources. She was invited to Copenhagen from Toronto on a DIVA residency to create a work specifically for Lost and Found. During her residency she sat down with Jane Rowley, one of the exhibition’s curators, to talk about her work in progress and in general.

How did you start working with the film media that you deploy with such skill in your work?

What draws me to the footage I use in my work are things that kept me calm as a kid, when I watched TV secretly late at night. I don’t think I was actually watching the stories. I was in my own mind. It was my time. But that experience was informed by these characters and dramas, and it’s almost as if the very presence of a plot made it possible for my mind to be free. I think I know that because it’s the same zone I still go into in making my works - a kind of ‘other’ world.

Later in life I trained as a film editor and fell in love with editing and the relationship it opened up between details. What emerged was that there were so many choices in so little material and therefore so many surprises.
 

Your early single-channel works were mainly screened on the film festival circuit, but your works are increasingly shown in a gallery and exhibition context. What difference does that make?

I come from an activist background, where ‘art’ is sometimes seen as the easy way out. But I became increasingly frustrated with activist scenes and the way that people would communicate - or not - with each other in some kind of judgmental structure. I did my degree in philosophy. And that also influenced how I was thinking. So I found an outlet for that in art. At the same time as it felt so much more important to be protesting - to be active. And I did both - I do both. But art has definitely prevailed in terms of what I find personally useful.

Showing in galleries and my move to multiple channels has also brought me into another context of relationships. People are relating to the work, I’m relating to more people. It’s less about watching something in the dark. In a gallery it feels more social and communal, more about dialogue. That’s exciting.
 

You’re part of a long tradition of found-footage art. What does being part of that tradition mean to you?

My footage is not found, it’s reused. I didn’t find it in my family’s collection of home videos or a dumpster, like other artists have. It’s refuse in other ways. I generally like the aesthetics of things that weren’t too popular - they weren’t necessarily blockbuster hits and there are no special effects or fancy editing. My work draws on a history of stereotypes and conventions and norms, and that’s important to me. As is an alliance with other found-footage artists working to change and question ‘the known’ and what is considered to be normal and right.

But that’s only the base. From there you can go into the realm of total imagination. But without that base I find a lot of art really difficult to digest. Not because I find all found-footage art interesting - people can use found footage to reiterate things that really frustrate me. Shared politics is not a given, but we’ve all done that work of sifting through stuff that already happened with a high level of subjectivity that has an inherent integrity to it, because all we ever really know is what we know about ourselves.
 

Talking about sifting through footage, it might be interesting to talk about your creative process?

I’ve been carrying around a library of about 700 films for the past 3-4 years, and it’s constantly growing. Every time I add to my own personal archive of footage I go back to my original stock looking for new shots, so I know those tapes really well. I’m also looking for very specific kinds of shots and have developed a kind of rulebook. I only use shots with a single person in the frame. Or close-ups. Or interiors or exteriors without people. So I scan the footage I know so well looking for precisely those shots. And once I find them they become little gems. And I remember them, because they’re exactly what I’m looking for.

I also have a guiding principle of using films from the first 10 years of my life. But with the work for Lost and Found I’ve invited a few later films I saw when I was a teenager, because there were lesbian classics that I wanted to include. They had the same meaning for me as films from the first ten years of my life.  I think many queers would say that even when you’re 20 and you see a queer movie it’s almost like being 13, because you’re seeing things on screen for the first time. Although I’m wondering if the later footage works aesthetically. With earlier footage I really like the film stock - the softness, the lighting. Maybe there’s a certain familiarity about the colours and textures and what I understood to be the magic of movies. Which is also why I’m devoted to having a musical score for my works. That’s where the magic happens - in the montage. It’s the height of emotion, I guess.
 

When does the musical soundtrack come into your work?

Very early on I’ll choose some music - or fragments - that fit the mood and form the story around that. But the music changes as often as the editing changes. Which happens every day, when I remix the sound with the images constantly. The two are integral throughout the process.
 

Have there been any new challenges with the work based solely on female characters you’re creating for Lost and Found?

I decided to do a piece about two women in a relationship, so I’m only looking for footage with women. Because of the story I want to tell, they have to be sincere. Most of what I’m finding is hysterical drama, which no one bought in the original context, and certainly won’t believe in out of context. This is a two-channel piece, and I’ve already gone through twice the amount of footage I went through for my three-channel work Something Better (2008). And I’m only halfway through.

In my work I don’t really care where something happens. If it happens in a bathroom, bedroom, corridor, supermarket or parking lot. It just has to happen. And I keep hitting a wall. It’s really sad to see that the sheer catalogue of mainstream representations of women is about how pathetic they are. I’m not so interested in violence or denigration - all those things are true in terms of how women are represented. But what has struck me is the sadness of vacancy - a kind of emptiness. What I keep finding is woman after woman in white nightgowns. Whilst so much happens around the women. And yet what actually happens to them and with them - in them - is not represented. And yet we have thousands and thousands of films that live on and have significance, so I’m interested in that absence.

For the work I’m creating for Lost and Found I had a clear idea of how I wanted the piece to be. That each composite character - my characters are always compiled of hundreds of different people in the stories I make - had their reasons for doing what they were doing. And that viewers should be able to relate to each character - shift in their attachments maybe  - but relate to both. But I’m realising that my desire for that kind of democracy and understanding is simply not to be found in the vast amount of footage I have. I face the challenge of having an evil bitch from hell on one side, and a passive victim on the other. For example, in order to make a masturbation scene I’m using women’s gestures and expressions from a rape scene, an abortion scene, despondent sex and sleeping. In order to create joy and release I need to sample stories about boredom, violence and the unconscious.
 

One of the unique aspects of your work is your creation of single, coherent characters from hundreds of different film roles. How does that work?

Emotion rules. As long as the emotion is there and is consistent, and is evolving as we understand emotion to evolve, it has an architecture that we can all relate to. As long as I’m feeling it - and am in it - a single person can be made up of thousands. This prevails over continuity. Continuity ‘mistakes’ where the character has glasses on then not happen all the time in mainstream films, but if the emotion prevails we don’t notice. It’s the role of emotion in the suspension of disbelief that I push in my work.

I think one of the interesting political aspects of this current work is portraying a bad relationship between two women, but a ‘bad’ relationship that is far more universal. I’m interested in how we communicate - or fail to. How we all struggle with the solitude of inner experience as it collides with a relationship. I work with emotions like shame, guilt or regret. They’re blanket emotions - they stop us from feeling anything else. Those are what a lot of my characters feel.
 

The home and interiors are pretty dominant in your work. What and who are you investigating?

I’m investigating relationships - and projection. When I’m talking to you, who am I talking to? Is it you - or a part of myself? I’m interested in the ways in which conversations and relationships are individual mirrors.

So my work is an intensively subjective experiment. The closeness the characters feel or the loneliness they feel is actually how close or distant they feel to themselves. I create opportunities for myself and maybe the viewer to jump outside of themselves. So the two women in my current piece are, of course, myself.  Both of them do things that remind me of myself - and of people I think I know.
 

Working as you do sampling mass media, where are the boundaries between being moved by your work and being moved by the original and memories of it?

What I feel about all art works is that the emotion pre-exists the context, so we are moved simultaneously by the ‘original’ content and the ‘new’ content. I hope that it evokes something in us that we can’t evoke without a little bit of help. That’s why I make art - because it helps me to be present. To be more in the world.

Otherwise, I’d just check out.
 

Jane Rowley
Co-curator, Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive
Master of Research, The London Consortium

(Published in AFART #26, 2009)

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