Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Give Twice this Holiday Season

This is the first post from Catena Bergevin, Director of Operations here at the Mattress Factory. Catena has worked for the museum for more than 5 years and is responsible for making sure everything here at the MF runs smoothly. She is also dedicated to ensuring the sustainability of the Mattress Factory's earned income lines of business, which include museum admissions & membership, the MF Shop & BoxSpring Café and facilities rentals.

Hello MF Blog readers! For my first blog post, I thought I'd focus on the amazing mission and people that make the Mattress Factory run smoothly each day. I'd also like to highlight some special initiatives we have cooking for the holiday season. I know, I can't believe the holidays are right around the corner either! Where did the time go?

Certainly, the holiday season fills each of us with a renewed "spirit of giving." Well, that is a year-round mantra here at the the Mattress Factory. During the almost half-dozen years I've been working here, I have seen MF staff go far beyond what is written in their job description. From visitor services staff to building maintenance, each face of the MF believes strongly in our mission and works diligently to support the art. Many of our staff members are artists themselves or volunteer for other arts organizations. They truly bring the spirit of giving an inspirational meaning.

Did you know that museum visitors and our friends from afar can also give back to the MF in a variety of ways? This might surprise you, but the museum relies heavily on earned money (i.e. paid admissions, shop and cafe revenue, membership, etc.). Approximately 30% of the MF's operating budget comes from earned income. My passion here has always involved finding ways to realize the museum's earning potential. (Not to mention that I absolutely adore retail!) In 2005 we opened the MF Shop and in 2006 the Boxspring Café. We also expanded our facility rental business with the addition of a full time Event Coordinator.

So this holiday season, we're launching the GIVE TWICE initiative. Each and every purchase, not only gets you something truly awesome (and by awesome, we mean MF awesome), but it also helps the Mattress Factory provide artists-in-residence with unparalleled support in creating new installations at the museum. So whether it is a new MF logo shirt, a green membership, a cup of soup, or a place to hold your next cocktail party, please consider supporting the Mattress Factory with your purchasing this holiday season!


Read All Posts by Catena

Friday, October 23, 2009

LIKENESS Video Series: Jonn Herschend

Today's installment in the LIKENESS Video Series (produced with love by MF Danny) comes from Jonn Herschend, an interdisciplinary artist, curator and experimental publisher preoccupied with how emotional confusion, absurdity and veracity play out in the realm of the everyday. He lives and works in San Francisco, and is the co-founder and co-editor, along with Will Rogan, of the experimental publication THE THING. Jonn was raised in a mid-western theme park in the Ozarks that his grandfather started. Later it was run by his father and uncle. Both of his parents were street performers and when Jonn was born, a sign was placed in his parents’ front yard that read, “Home of Jonn Herschend, future train robber.” According to Jonn that sign is still around.

Self Portrait as a PowerPoint Proposal for an Amusement Park Ride (2009)
projector, DVD player, self-running PowerPoint presentation, projection screen, leak in ceiling, buckets, plastic sheets, janitor closet, custodial items, 16 mm. projector with looper, portable projection screen
LIKENESS Exhibition - Through March 21, 2010

Herschend’s many-sided conceptual, Self Portrait as a PowerPoint Proposal for an Amusement Park Ride, is characterized by a strong sense of narrative, not strictly limited to straightforward vignettes or mimetic representation. In his complex self-portrait one finds a narrative that resembles fantasy, role-playing, fiction and a touch of reality. Jonn’s choice of subjects and materials contribute to the kind of story he opts to tell and show his audience. Jonn says about this piece:

The entire installation is a self-portrait...not one part. It’s both sides of the entertainment experience... the fantasy of the gallery and the hidden reality. It goes from the conceptual notion of a museum installation, to a disruption with the physical space (the leak in the ceiling), to a hidden and nostalgic projection of a true moment of complete innocence.

This is the first time I’ve ever really worked on a piece that referenced my affiliation with the amusement park of my past. For me, museums and galleries are very similar to amusement parks. They are where we come to experience a diversion from the real world. And we expect things to be a certain way.

From a formal aspect, the PowerPoint projection (an application used to supposedly make confusing issues clear) becomes bogged down and sidetracked with the introduction of an illicit affair and car wreck.

The black and white slides are spilling over with emotion, just as the physical building is failing and starting to leak. But in the Janitor’s closet, a place that is not formally on the map of a museum or gallery, the 16 mm projection is a translation of a moment (a true moment) where I recorded my daughter experiencing an amusement park ride with full and complete innocent joy (at the amusement park where I grew up). I wanted to transfer and translate the moment to a medium associated with memory and nostalgia.”

Read All Posts by Jeffrey

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

LIKENESS Video Series: Paul DeMarinis

Today's installment in the LIKENESS Video Series (produced with love by MF Danny) comes from Paul DeMarinis, an artist who has been working in electronic media since 1971. Much of his work involves speech processed and synthesized by computers. In his LIKENESS piece, Dust, Paul utilizes a diverse selection of materials to create a unique and moving experience.

Dust, 2009 (4th Floor)
computer, video projector, photoluminescent powder, bass speaker
LIKENESS Exhibition - Through March 21, 2010

Paul DeMarinis has been working in the arts for several decades and subsequently has produced numerous performance works, sound and computer installations, as well as interactive electronic inventions. DeMarinis’s subtle and magical works display an intersection of tradition and progress, often motivated to cover an expanse of subjects and themes. Today we hear the term multidisciplinary! It is indeed an accurate one to describe Paul DeMarinis. Although the majority of his productions fall within the realm of art, he is also a historian, an experimenter, a chemist, a physicist, an engineer, a programmer, an inventor, a computer scientist and an archaeologist. His cross-disciplinary approach affords him an aptitude to condense the many facets of technology into his art constructions that aspire to be concurrently comprehensible and philosophical.

In his new work, Dust, DeMarinis explores facial similarities, pairs of faces, and the abstraction of images into the dust. DeMarinis presents a fragment of this collection of likeness-pairs, scanned sequentially into the light-memory of phosphorescent powder. After a few minutes of exposure to the projected image, the powder retains a faint green image of the two faces on its surface, something akin to the ‘latent image’ of photographic film or the veil of memory. Unlike photographic film, though, the image starts to distort. Propelled by low frequency sound vibrations, the powder starts to flow and dance, first distorting the faces and erasing their likeness, then distorting them into patterns of abstract light in motion, with form and beauty all its own. (Excerpt from Elaine A. King's gallery guide for LIKENESS)

Read All Posts by Jeffrey

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

LIKENESS Video Series: Jim Campbell

Today's installment in the LIKENESS Video Series (produced with love by MF Danny) comes from artist Jim Campbell. Jim has two pieces showing in the LIKENESS exhibition, one of which you see below (Liz Walking: A Distillation Portrait) and the other will be posted here on the MF blog later in the week. Both make use of custom electronics and LED lighting. In Liz Walking, Jim has transformed an entire gallery into a lo-fi projection screen. To shine a bit more light on Jim's creative process, I've included some text from curator Elaine A. King's gallery guide below the embedded video.

Liz Walking: A Distillation Portrait, 2009 (4th Floor)
custom electronics, LEDs
LIKENESS Exhibition - Through March 21, 2010

Liz Walking: A Distillation Portrait develops out of Jim Campbell's earlier Motion and Rest series that depicts six studies of people with disabilities walking. The idea underlying this series was that the low-resolution process inherently eliminates everything about the walking figures except for their gait. According to Campbell, "the works (or medium) distill the movement of the figures eliminating all of the other information from the moving images (age, clothes, gender, hair style etc. cannot be determined from the representations)."

This work goes further, when at times it eliminates the entire image including the movement such that only the rhythm of the movement is left leaving an even simpler representation. The installation is set up so that at the front of the room is a low-resolution image of the figure, but concurrently the two side walls (on either side of the viewer as they are looking at the front wall) have the same moving image presented in a great deal, lower resolution to the point of being almost totally abstract. However since the sidewalls are taken in with peripheral vision (which is also inherently movement based and more unconscious based) the rhythm of the figure is felt from the viewer’s peripheral vision as it is seen on the front wall with the observer’s direct vision. A unique situation is presented since the viewer’s peripheral vision is actually observing the same thing that the straight-ahead vision is seeing. Lastly, as a type of facilitation process for the viewer to leave their analytical seeing process behind, this installation goes through a cycle where the higher resolution image on the front wall gradually fades to nothing (a flat field) leaving only the peripheral image rhythm to be felt for a few moments before the front image gradually fades up again—what remains is a movement portrait or signature. (Excerpt from Elaine A. King's gallery guide for LIKENESS)

Read All Posts by Jeffrey

Monday, October 19, 2009

LIKENESS Video Series: Tony Oursler

On Friday, October 9th, nearly 300 people packed into the galleries for the concurrent openings of LIKENESS, a group show guest-curated by Elaine A. King, and It's all about ME, Not You by Greer Lankton, which has been added to the museum's permanent collection. Big thanks to all who attended. I'm always amazed at the consistent outpouring of support at MF openings.

In anticipation of receiving and posting the official LIKENESS documentation images from our photographer, I'll be uploading short videos produced by Danny Bracken, multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire and MF Exhibitions Team member. First up in the series is Tony Oursler's Vampiric Battle.

On deck for tomorrow: Jim Campbell's Liz Walking (A Distillation Portrait)

Read All Posts by Jeffrey

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Notes From the Archive: Greer Lankton

In 1996, the Mattress Factory had the good fortune to work with Greer Lankton as part of a group show that was guest-curated by Margery King. Greer's piece in that show, It's all about ME, Not You, was a large-scale recreation of her Chicago apartment/studio and housed dozens of the artist's hand-made doll figures, photographs, collectibles, and -- perhaps the focal point of the installation -- an addict in a bed surrounded by pill bottles. Shortly after the show opened, Greer Lankton passed away and upon the close of the show, we put the entirety of her piece in storage.

The Lankton Family has generously given Greer's final piece to the Mattress Factory and with the amazing help of several other supporters, we will be adding It's all about ME, Not You to the museum's permanent collection. The opening reception is next Friday, October 9th. You can RSVP and share the event with your friends over on FaceBook.

My role as archivist here at the museum involves documenting, preserving and cataloging artworks or, in most cases, artifacts of artworks. Because of the volume, diversity and fragility of the materials she used, Greer's piece has proven to be a labor of love for me. Many of her doll sculptures are made from delicate materials like toilet paper so implementing proper handling and preservation processes are very important.

And from an interpretive standpoint, this piece is dynamic to say the least. Curator Margery King states in her original exhibition essay:

When faced with the prospect of creating her first large-scale installation at the Mattress Factory, Lankton knew that she wanted to re-create her studio, in an ideal form, designing an environment of "artificial nature/total indulgence," filled with "dolls engrossed in glamour and self abuse." Like the artist herself, Lankton's dolls and environments possess a disarming mix of innocence and decadence, hope and pathos. She said her work was "all about me," reflecting her life as an artist, a transsexual, and a drug addict. But beyond this, from her position as an outsider, Lankton eloquently explored and questioned accepted norms of gender and sexuality, as well as the powerful imagery of popular culture and consumerism. Her work also describes the difficult mandate of these pervasive, seductive models and the pain of those who do not conform. It is tempting to think that Lankton created her installation at the Mattress Factory as if she knew it was her last (she died in late November, a month after the exhibition opened), filling the space with a retrospective selection of her beloved dolls and everything that was most meaningful to her.

In this video, shot at the 1995 Whitney Biennial, Greer talks about two of her sculptures: a bust of Candy Darling and one she calls Blue Babe. The audio and camera quality are a bit shaky, but it's really great to hear the artist herself speak about these works. A great moment comes at 1:06 when a gallery attendant tells Greer not to touch the art and she says simply, "It's mine!" Coincidentally, this Candy Darling sculpture is now on view as part of It's all about ME, Not You.

Speaking for all of us here at the Mattress Factory, we feel very lucky to have the ability to show It's all about ME, Not You permanently. Greer's work has touched many people's lives over the years and we look forward to helping enable that connection for new generations into the future.

Read All Posts by Leah