October 11, 2013

by Becca Millstein, Grier Stockman & John White

published October 10, 2013

Inventory. Taking stock. It’s a check-list, cross it off. Go to Venice, take a drive, come, and back again. We bring you Inventory: Your chance to know it all.



FOR THE 55TH VENICEBiennale Art Festival, Russian artist Vadim Zakharov has re-embodied the myth of Danaë in the Russian Pavilion at the Giardini. Zakharov, a leader of the Moscow Conceptualist movement, is the first artist to utilize the entire museum chamber for a single installation. The two floors of the chamber represent two distinct spheres of the installation. No men are permitted to enter the first floor of the pavilion. They must remain behind the glass handrails of the wraparound balcony, peering down into the glimmering mirage of gold coins pouring from a large shower head in the center of the ceiling. On the wall of this room of reflection, the words beg the men: “… the time has come to confess our Rudeness, Lust, Narcissism, Demagoguery, Falsehood, Banality, and Greed, Cynicism, Robbery, Speculation, Wastefulness, Gluttony, Seduction, Envy, and Stupidity.” There has been considerate displeasure among male visitors, with some exhibiting aggressive behavior in their attempts to access the golden womb of the pavilion.

      Within this womb, female visitors gaze upwards through protective clear plastic umbrellas at the golden rain pouring down onto and all around them. The golden coins shower down, the women collect them and put them into buckets. The buckets are returned to the second floor, where they begin their abrupt descent again.

     In the Greek myth, King Acrisius of Argos, who has no male heirs, asks an oracle if his luck will change. The oracle responds that yes, it will—and then his daughter Danaë’s son will murder him.  To prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled, Acrisius locks the childless Danaë in a bronze tower where no men can reach her. Though impenetrable to mortal men, the prison is no barrier for Zeus, who enters in the form of a fine golden rain. Zeus showers Danaë in the rain and she becomes pregnant with Perseus, who does indeed go on to kill his grandfather. Zakharov has given a figure to the myth in the Russian Pavilion; it contains the womb that no man can enter and a continuous golden shower.

      At first glance, Zakharov’s exhibit seems to criticize the power of commercialization in Russia, greed, and male privilege. But if you look a little closer, this first impression is complicated. On one face of the coins, handcrafted by Zakharov, a woman’s figure holds out her dress and welcomes the falling coins into the folds of fabric. On the other side are the four words: Trust, Unity, Freedom, and Love. For Zakharov, the falling coins do not represent a modern conception of money—they are called “Danaës” and, in their cyclical journey through the museum, represent the dynamic driving force of the female. ZakharovW oscillates back and forth between positions on the symbolic meaning of the exhibit-—once he suggested that the exhibit should force people to reflect on their values but later explained, “I didn’t want to create a special installation, just follow the structure of the myth, identifying a very simple and linear solution. Instead some people began to talk about issues connected to humanity although it was not my intention to place the myth in these terms.” By incorporating the visitors as a moving part of the exhibit, however, he has invited them to enter the body and, through their participation and understanding, change the meaning of the myth itself. - RM



IF YOU FIND YOURSELF DRIVING along Interstate 10 this month, look up. You are part of an elaborate, 2,640 mile long, multiple-artist collaboration to re-envision the cross-country road trip. The undertaking, entitled “The Manifest Destiny Billboard Project,” is the brainchild of LA-based artist Zoe Crosher and the Los Angeles Nomadic Division, a non-profit public art initiative. In practice, the project is a series of artist-produced billboards and activations stretching from Florida to California along the I-10 freeway. In theory, the project will, Crosher writes on her website, “map out the American fantasy of Westward expansionism by moving through and punctuating the narrative of the landscape itself.”

Crosher’s project conceptualizes an old fixture in the American imagination: the lore of moving west. The very taming of the western wilderness came to define the American spirit in the 19th century; the roughness of the process inspired strong artistic and literary response. Like Crosher, mid–19th century artists like George Catlin of the Hudson River School (1825-1870) and transcendentalist poets like Henry David Thoreau were intensely preoccupied with what Crosher describes as the “loaded threshold,” the point at which you hit the border or reach the shore and you can’t push further. Crosher’s work powerfully reimagines this mid–19th century anxiety in a 21st century context, embodied in the last physical structure of high-speed consumerism: the billboard. In her own words, the project allows artists to “explore their shared investigations in the development of society and cities, specifically the westward manifestation that has built Los Angeles into the cultural epicenter that it claims today.” - GS



DAVID DORFMAN DANCE—a New York–based, award-winning modern dance company that has performed all over the world—recently made the interesting decision to use online crowd-sourced fundraising for a trip to Massachusetts. The company’s Kickstarter campaign ended on October 1 after having received $10,713 from 153 backers in 34 days. Because the campaign surpassed its $10,000 goal, David Dorfman Dance will be able to participate in a week-long residency at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (or MASS MoCA). There the company will complete work on their new, hour-long dance piece, Come, and Back Again, which is described by their website as a “kinetic anthem of reckless personal abandon.” Thanks to the Kickstarter funds, the many parts that make the dance piece so dynamic—including five dancers, five musicians, video projections, and a junk-strewn set co-designed by street artist Swoon and Brooklyn-based sculptor Jonah Emerson Bell—will all be able to come together at MASS MoCA.

     David Dorfman Dance’s decision to turn to Kickstarter points to an interesting trend: Dance projects by both young, independent choreographers and, more recently, established choreographers and companies are increasingly finding funds this way. Last August, the New Jersey–based American Repertory Ballet joined Kickstarter in order to fulfill an invitation to perform at the world-renowned Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, also in Massachusetts. They surpassed their $5,000 goal and performed at Jacob’s Pillow a couple weeks later. In fact, though many of the most publicized and profitable Kickstarter projects have been films (the Veronica Mars movie broke records last March by reaching its $2 million goal in less than ten hours), dance projects have the highest success rate among all of Kickstarter’s project categories.

     According to the website’s own statistics, 71 percent of Kickstarter dance projects reach their campaign goal, followed pretty closely by 64 percent of theater projects and, more distantly, 55 percent of music projects. Only 40 percent of film and video projects succeed, and there are several categories—including publishing and fashion—which have even lower success rates. Of course, these statistics can be accounted for to some degree by the fact that films on average require much more money than do works in the performing arts. Additionally, though Come, and Back Again was already David Dorfman Dance’s second Kickstarter campaign, the dance world at large seems to still be learning the online crowd-funding routine: Dance consistently has by far the smallest number of live projects of all the categories (54 at press time, compared to film and video’s 832), which helps make them more visible than other categories’ projects. Therefore, it seems very likely that David Dorfman Dance will come back to Kickstarter for more. - JW