A 50 caliber M2 lays loaded and ready on the ground next to a thousand-dollar stack of cash. One of the walls of this sparsely lit room is pocked with a dark viscous substance. No, this is not a crime scene. This is NUTUREart’s WE ARE: exhibit Live and Let Die, presented by curatorial platform Fortress to Solitude.
For the last 3 weeks NURTUREart has been showing a new exhibit every weekend complete with opening receptions. WE ARE: will feature ten exhibits and culminate in mid-September. “We are trying to make a portrait of the place we live in and of ourselves,” says Marco Antonini, the organizer behind the project. “Like holding up a mirror to the community.” Antonini says one of the biggest aims of the projects is to emphasize the diversity of work currently being done. He points to next weekend’s exhibit, WE ARE: Chelsea Haines and Eriola Pira as an example. The two artists will present an improvisational comedy workshop that seeks to explore the various incarnations of art and comedy. As well as discussing what binds art to comedy the pair also seeks to blur any lines they feel traditionally separate art and comedy. The show will offer participants the opportunity to experiment with comedic props, draw cartoons, write jokes, and create their own improvisational sketches. In their artist statement Haines and Pira say they hope to instill, “a sensibility to and appreciation for comedy.”
The diversity of work is neither limited in subject nor in presentation. In addition to covering a broad range of topics through multiple artistic disciplines, Antonini invited a mix of artists, galleries, and curators to present work. Live and Let Die curator Guillermo Creus says it was this level of inclusion that attracted him to the project. “What I like is the mix of artist, curator, venue, and that each project was self-curated.” Creus himself is a painter and artist and only moved into a curatorial role within the last three years. He says there are thousands of emerging artists right now creating a lot of great work, but despite that, his show is pared down to three works. He says he purposely kept the show very minimalist.
The first work listed is a white paper model of a heavy artillery machine gun constructed by Sarah Frost. The structure is clean, imposing, violent, and yet it’s made with a material that is inherently flimsy. It’s this duality that Creus says he sought out for this exhibition. All three works walk a fine line between intensely aggressive energy and fragility. The second piece, by Ash Sechler, is a sculpture of one thousand loosely stacked one dollar bills. Sechler says in his artist’s statement that he intends to question the piece’s value both monetarily and as an artwork, real and perceived. But Creus chose the piece for it’s hostility. “There’s an aggressive nature of putting up the money you’re willing to lose,” he says. He goes on to explain how money is at once powerful in its worth and frail in its physicality. During the exhibition one of the gallery’s patrons attempted to swipe a few dollars off the top of the stack. The vandal was of course made to give the money back, but Creus says this act demonstrates exactly the kind of vulnerability money is susceptible to.
The final artwork, a short film by Nadja Verena Marcin, sets itself a part from the first two pieces in many ways. While on a surface level it contains the necessary ingredients of aggression or passive-aggression paired with a sense of tenuousness, the work carries relevancy in a way the others do not. The performance piece shows in slow motion a woman in a tennis skirt as she practices hitting a tennis ball against a blank wall. As the ball strikes the wall with increasing intensity, it begins to leave thick black marks on the wall, as if the ball has been drenched in paint. There are close ups of the woman’s thighs, her mouth, her hair, the side of her face as she repeatedly beleaguers the ball with her racket. Everything about this work is aggressive. The deep resonance of the ball hitting the wall. The woman, racquet in hand, forcefully swinging at a tennis ball. The black splotches on the wall, remnants of where the ball has left its mark. But where is that delicate duality? Are we to assume that this woman is the unstable element?
Throughout the piece the main character, who is also the artist, looks increasingly weary. Perhaps worn down by her struggle to return the ball to the wall again and again. Marcin is admittedly inclined towards feminist theory and practices, while striving to create a new context for the feminist conversation. In her untitled performance piece, she seems to ask her audience to identify the struggle present in the piece and beyond. From a cultural perspective the piece seems to mimic other public conversations that at the very least women are having nationally. At this year’s Technology Entertainment and Design (TED) conference, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made this very apt point, “We don’t live in the world our mothers lived in, our grandmothers lived in, where career choices for women were so limited. And most of us grew up in a world where we had basic civil rights.” She goes on to say, “Women are not making it to the top of any profession, anywhere in the world.” In a recent article in Interview magazine, Gloria Steinmen echoed the same desire for women to redefine what the struggle is with in this day and age. Marcin doesn’t exactly answer the question, but the piece suggests that maybe the struggle is more internal than external.
NURTUREArt’s WE ARE: series continues throughout the summer, opening a new exhibition every Friday night. This week’s WE ARE: opens on Friday, August 5, from 7 to 10pm.