100/10∆1: Alex Harvey and Anna Ayeroff at the Institute of Cultural Inquiry (ICI)
January 31 – March 3, 2011
Hours: Thurs. – Sat. 12- 5 pm; by reservation via website
Reception: February 5th, 7-9 pm
Free to the public; suggested $5 donation
1512 S. Robertson Blvd. , Los Angeles, CA 90035
(two blocks south of Pico); street parking available
[It’s wonderful] when you’re out there in the field and you’re first encountering marvelously strange natural adaptation. At first all you’ve got is a few disconnected pieces of raw observation, the sheerest glimpses, but you let your mind go, fantasizing the possible connections, projecting the most fanciful life cycles…later on, sure, you have to batten things down, contrive more rigorous hypotheses and the experiments through which to check them out, everything all clean and careful. But that first take — those first fantasies, those are the best.
– Tom Eisner –
As Tom Eisner the preeminent biologist and professor emeritus at Cornell hints in the above quotation, the scientist’s response to a “few disconnected pieces of raw observations” might be hard to distinguish from the preliminary work of the artist. At the same time, common wisdom tells us that this shared path quickly diverges when the “possible connections” that continue to flourish and find form in an artist’s artwork are batten down in science and subjected to the scrutiny of the scientific method. That is, until recently. In the last decade, especially with the advent of research-based studio art practices, the distinction between knowledge production in art and science has quickly eroded. Not only does the contemporary artist often borrow from the methodologies of science, but by integrating heretofore private and hidden research processes into the final artwork, the artist (sometimes unwittingly) exposes the extent to which the current art world, much like its ‘science world’ counterpart, rewards an institutionally sanctioned and legitimized knowledge.
Since its inception in 1991, The Institute of Cultural Inquiry has brought focus to the similarities and has questioned the accepted distinctions between the research processes of the arts and sciences. In this spirit, the ICI is pleased to announce the launch of an ambitious project: 100/10 (100 days/10 visions), which highlights the cross-disciplinary (or un-disciplinary) nature of knowledge production. Beginning January 31, 2011 and running for 100 consecutive (business) days, the ICI site and its archives will undergo a multitude of interpretations. Ten visual researchers—artists, writers, scientists, and other visual thinkers—will “play” with ideas that blend contemporary visual practices with aspects of the ICI Earth Cabinet, Ephemera Kabinett, and a 2,500+ volume library along with the ‘small display spaces’ of the eclectic and historically layered ICI space. To facilitate this project and to increase the possibilities for inversion and trickster curatorial strategies, the ICI site has been reconfigured to include many of the “institutional” forms the organization has often railed against. Visitors will find a “white box gallery,” a dedicated and well-stocked gift shop, and a clearly labeled library. At the same time, visitors will still find the unique, non-traditional features of the ICI laboratory– a time clock (with its adjacent punch cards) that clicks off the time of another (unidentifiable) time zone, a turning carrier for fractured postcards and other ephemera that operate somewhere between clues and evidence, a tattered Ephemera Kabinett with its ambiguously labeled drawers and constantly changing content and the many nooks and crannies that hide ICI treasures in plain sight/site. As a counterpart to our new “clean-space” gallery, we have also created a studio that will become the “messy-space” laboratory for our curators to configure their unique trajectories within the ICI body. Modeled on the transparent workspaces of 19th century natural history museums, visitors to the ICI will be able to glimpse research “in process.”
With little time for curators to conceive of their vision (approx. two weeks), few of the display iterations (wherein “display” is conceived within the broadest definition to include catalogs, performances, screenings and tactical events) will be landing sites for well-thought out projects. We anticipate displays that bring together what Joseph Beuy’s called “nips at the heel” – ideas that, like a dog that wants to go outside to play, nag you until you can no longer ignore their urgency. Whether it is a recurring color, a series of linked words or sounds, synchronic events or random visions—these “nips” that might be spurred on or disrupted by the curator’s interaction with the ICI and its archive, will come together—as a new form, as an excavation, or maybe nothing more than an interpretation—and change the ongoing display. Each of the ten iterations will evolve along with and through the ideas from which they take their shape. As such, the displays will not merely represent but will enact the creative process. 100/10 is a spontaneous, malleable and constantly evolving ICI project that reflects the nature of ideas right at the moment they come into play.
For the premier iteration of this ten-part project, 100/10∆1, the ICI has invited and collaborated with curator Alex Harvey to bring a number of rich and complex ideas to the “table.” At the center of his vision is Anna Ayeroff’s installation, Clarion Calls, a research-based exploration that draws parallels between utopias and history- both of which are rooted in the paradox of being a ‘better’ and ‘non-existent’ place. The display includes prints, sculpture, film and an 80-slide slideshow from which we are given a fragmentary story about a failed Jewish colony with a resident who shares the artist’s last name. Does the personal story and its nostalgic retreat underpin all studies of history and its documents? Harvey throws light on the single question that continually haunts the ICI archive. Ayeroff’s answer comes in the form of a large Mylar sculpture that invades the ICI space through an open window. The artist employs the form of a cosmic dust particle to build her own utopian place, integrating her abstract drawings and sculpture into the visual history of Clarion. By utilizing the fractal patterns of this celestial form, the artist revitalizes her photographs of a ruined past. If the call of family apocrypha initially brought Ayeroff to Clarion, Utah (study documents from that Interpretive Field Project are included in the ICI display) her laborious and repetitive re-mappings create a clarion call to the infinite “better world” possibilities that once drove the builders of these ruins.
Harvey’s display illuminates the struggle between form and content that “troubles” any archive – be it a collection of stories, a chest of documents or an assortment of shapes we imagine might build a “perfect world.” A series of displays throughout the library and in other ICI “small spaces,” will engage visitors with Harvey’s complex and multi-layered ideas. Also on display is a print portfolio that includes lithographs by Ayeroff including prints made from filmstrips found in the ICI Ephemera Kabinett.
A unique catalog will accompany this show. Modeled on the New Museum’s catalog for its 2008 landmark exhibition After Nature, the document exists as a dustcover wrapped around a slightly used book of the curator’s choosing with images from the display scattered through its pages. For 100/10∆1, the book is Songlines by Bruce Chatwin. The catalog can be purchased through the ICI gift shop or online through the ICI website.
Visits to the ICI space are by reservation. A $5 fee is suggested but not required. Additional participants to the 100/10 project will be announced as they are selected.
100/10∆1 is the first project to be conceptualized within the ICI 2011-12 study theme of PHANTOM WORLDS—real and imagined worlds that double, mirror and reflect our own.
Since 1991, the Institute of Cultural Inquiry (ICI) has explored the role of visuality in imagining, perpetrating and perpetuating the intangible and ever-changing phenomena known as “culture.” The projects and activities of the ICI are concentrated in four main areas: Field work and Data Acquisition; Research and Analysis; Creative Manipulation and Production; Public Presentation and Publication. Favoring the messy toolbox over the latest tool, creative tinkering over the execution of a pre-made plan, the stories and lessons gleaned from the remains of material culture over strict adherence to du jour theory, the ICI offers artists and other culture producers an environment for collaborative, long-term projects with methods that rely not just on innovation but on excavation and renovation as well. Adopting the maxim: projects not programs, The ICI follows the timetable of ideas; it speaks only when it has something to say.
The ICI sponsors displays, symposia, workshops, performances and provides numerous opportunities for both the artist fabricator and the curious spectator of visual culture. A newly instituted Residency Program offers a local artist or writer the opportunity to collaborate with the ICI to develop their work within the thematic focus of the organization. The ICI also maintains an active publishing program through ICI Press. The critically acclaimed Searching for Sebald: Photography After W. G. Sebald was released in 2007 and Barthes’ Tear, a meditation on the enduring influence of Roland’s Barthes’ Camera Lucida on contemporary theory is currently in production.