In January and February 2020, I am the Artist-in-Residence at MERZ Gallery in Sanquhar, Scotland. The residency and film documentation are supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.
About MERZ Gallery
Located in the former lemonade factory in Sanquhar, MERZ is the project of artist and filmmaker David Rushton, who is developing once derelict and neglected sites into art spaces. In addition to MERZ, he has turned a former abattoir into ZIPStudio and the Museum of Model Art and began manifesting a village of caravans that can house artists during the summer. Future additions include a second small studio with accommodation (Tadpole), a pop up cinema/further exhibition or studio space (кино), an unheated studio (FURTH), and sculpture green in addition to the work-shed and yard around the MERZ gallery and Bothy. Learn more at merz.gallery.
At the Residency
At this residency, I will activate as an artist, a writer, and a culture worker through a series of projects.
ARTIST I will create a body of work that reflects my experience in Sanquhar. John Enderfield observed of Kurt Schwitters, “He used paper of virtually every possible origin and description that was available to him.” The art made while in residence will be exhibited at MERZ Gallery and shared online via social media.
WRITING My writing will focus on the idea of collage as a 21st century art movement. The writing will deconstruct the idea of an art movement and make the argument that collage, as a 21st century art movement, redefines how artists relate to one another and how art functions in society. I will also maintain a journal of thoughts and observations while in residency.
CULTURE WORK As a way of demonstrating collage as a 21st century art movement, I will build an international collection of collage. The Schwitters’ Army Collection of Collage Art at MERZ Gallery will be a permanent collection, a survey of art by collage artists, alive and active in 2020, who responded to a call to artists and shipped, via post, a single collage to MERZ Gallery. Components will include a Finding Aid, a website, and a book of collage in the collection. Learn more at the Schwitters’ Army website HERE.
Methodology & Values
TRANSPARENCY I will build the Schwitters’ Army Collection in a transparent and open manner. The collection will be open to any artist who sends a collage. The Finding Aid will be live so that each day, anybody can access the document to follow the process.
COMMUNICATION I will communicate via social media (Instagram and Facebook) on a daily basis. Instagram @kasini will share personal experiences of being at the residency in Sanquhar. Instagram @kolajmagazine will share collage registered to the collection. On Instagram @merz.gallery, I will post reports on work I am doing while in residence, pictures of the gallery and installation of artwork, process work, and events.
ACCESSIBILITY I will maintain public hours at MERZ Gallery: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from Noon to 3PM when anyone can stop in for a visit. I will make and post a sign that reads “The Artist Is In” and I will be available for visits by appointment to those who email.
For Kurt Schwitters, MERZ was his manifesto. He explained it as “the combination of all conceivable materials for artistic purposes, and technically the principle of equal evaluation of the individual materials.” His intention was to give anything from a used bus ticket to a piece of wire found on the street “equal rights with paint.” MERZ liberated artists by declaring anything potential material for their art making and, to illustrate this concept, he made hundreds of collages which he called MERZ pictures. Such forward thinking led art historian Isabelle Ewig to call him the “Father of the fathers of Pop.” Really, any collage artist working today owes a debt of gratitude to Schwitters, who not only legitimized the medium, but also established a working practice and aesthetic that is the basis of many artists’ contemporary practice.
Schwitters’ liberation of material was revolutionary to a world who thought of art as canvas, paint, and stone. In my work, however, I think very little of material. A child of the late 20th century, I grew up in a world where anything could be art and the true material of art was the idea. I think of Yves Klein having a spat with his gallery and declaring all of his paintings invisible. Or his Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility (1959–62) in which the artist traded empty spaces in Paris for pieces of gold. If the buyer agreed to burn the certificate, Klein would throw half the gold into the Seine to restore the natural order. These are forms of ritual play, gestures no different than Malevich’s Black Square or any work of art that asks the viewer to consider more than what they can literally see.
I speak about my work as an artist, as a writer, and as a culture worker, but I think of my work as contiguous parts whose gestalt, I hope, makes a grander point about the liberation of humanity. People tend to get what I mean when I say I am a writer or an artist, but culture worker is trickier. If my art uses paint and fragments of paper and my writing uses words, the material of culture work is the people you engage: other writers, academics, arts administrators, press agents, gallerists, and, of course, viewers and artists. My projects would be nothing without the communities of people involved…and there would be no point to any of it without those communities. Like Erykah Badu said, “We’re just emerging into a new state of being altogether.”
2019 was a transformative year for me. I’ve worked harder than I ever had and got farther than I’ve ever gone. As we start a new decade, and as I push on into middle age, the urgency to make some statements before I move on to another life becomes heightened. I think this is a normal part of aging, particularly when one has been lucky enough to spend much of their life engaged in vocational work. I will spend the first two months of 2020 in residency at MERZ Gallery in Sanquhar, Scotland where I plan to finish some texts that have been building up in me for a few years now. I am grateful for the privilege and want you to be part of it.
Since 2009, fellow Schwitterite David Rushton has been turning an old lemonade factory in rural Sanquhar into MERZ Gallery. He describes where he started, “Imagine a quarter acre plot of rubbish-strewn scrub-land in the centre of a small town. Something discarded and abandoned. It is divided by two rights of way to allow access to gardens serving two cottages along the eastern edge of the plot.” From this he has built a mixed gallery and studio space, a bothy for housing visiting artists, and a residency program to support their work at the site.” In parallel to Schwitters’ assembly of text on paper and his name ‘MERZ’ for a body of work, I thought there were resonances in adapting his approach and providing description to a small abandoned landscape imprinted with industrial and domestic histories, and that’s why I thought to call the site ‘MERZ’.” Schwitters took “the combination of all conceivable materials for artistic purposes” seriously and twice built immersive environments out of structures: MERZbau in Hanover and, later, the Elterwater MERZ Barn two-and-a-half hours south of Sanquhar in Langdale, Ambleside.
In preparing for the residency, I’ve been thinking how if Rushton could apply Schwitters’ philosophy to an old factory, I could apply it to my culture work. I often write about collage as a medium, a genre, and a community. More recently, I have been thinking of collage as a 21st century art movement. This is the idea I plan to explore while at MERZ Gallery. I invite you to join me and be part of the manifestation of the international collage community by sending a collage to MERZ Gallery. The collage will be documented and exhibited at the gallery in January and February. I will select one collage each day and share it online and via social media with a few words about how it connects to the work I am doing. And after the exhibition, the collage will become part of MERZ Gallery’s permanent collection, a forever stash of art marking the occasion that artists from all over the world manifested in Sanquhar. MERZ Gallery has agreed to maintain and care for the collection and to exhibit the collection in ten years, 2030, or give it to an organization that will do so.
Why? Because this is what we do in the collage community: we engage, we exchange, we manifest with one another. We emerge into a new state of being together. That is what makes art powerful. It connects us and takes us into the future.
How to Participate
Ric Kasini Kadour invites collage artists to submit a two-dimensional collage for inclusion in the Schwitters Army.
There is no theme. If you’re a ripper, send him a ripped collage. If you’re a digital artist, print and send a digital work. If you’re a collaborator, send a collaboration. Send a collage that shows what kind of collage artist you are.
The preferred size is 8″x10″ (20.3cm x 25.4cm) or smaller. The collage may not be larger than 14″x11″ (35.6cm x 21.6cm). Note: If you send something larger, Kadour will cut it in half. If you send something that isn’t collage, Kadour is going to cut it up and turn it into a collage. Mail Art with collage is welcome. Do not send framed work.
Once the collage is mailed, please send an EMAIL with an image of the collage and title. Also include the artist’s name, mailing address and website. If you want, you may also answer some questions, but it is optional.
Mail the collage to: MERZ Queens Road Sanquhar DG4 6DH Scotland, United Kingdom
NOTE TO ARTISTS OUTSIDE THE EUROPEAN UNION: Upon arrival in the United Kingdom, items valued at more than $100 US may be subject to customs fees, charges, and value-added taxes. Those charges are ultimately the responsibility of the artist. Should we be assessed custom fees, charges, and value-added taxes, we will contact the artist for reimbursement of these fees or the work will be returned.
January 31st, 2020
The collage may arrive at any time, but collages should arrive before January 31st, 2020. Any that arrive after February 15th will not be processed. Consider the time it takes to mail art from your country to the United Kingdom.
What Will Happen
Upon receipt (beginning January 8th), collages will be documented and registered. The collage will be exhibited at MERZ Gallery through February 20th and then the work will become part of MERZ Gallery’s permanent collection. MERZ Gallery has agreed to maintain and care for the collection and to exhibit the collection in ten years, 2030, or give it to an organization that will do so.
During the exhibition, selected collages will be shared on Kolaj Magazine’s website and via social media.
What is your origin story? When did you first start making collage seriously?
Who was the first collage artist you connected with?
Between 2010 and 2012, I made 226 photographs under a project I called “These Lights and Shades.” I took inspiration from the lines of a Walt Whitman poem, “These lights and shades, this drama of the whole, This common curtain of the face contain’d in me for me, in you for you, in each for each,… This heart’s geography’s map…” One of Whitman’s last poems, he wrote it upon seeing a portrait of himself by the English illustrator William J. Linton. Though not Whitman’s intended meaning, I’ve always preferred to read “Out from Behind This Mask” as a poem about two former lovers passing in the street. On seeing each other, they remember the lifetime they shared. Passion flashes between them and then memories and then they move on.
The moment stirred by Whitman’s poem is akin to those moments when I want to take a picture. Some bold colors, an interesting composition, texture, light, mood…all these things come together and I pull out my camera and take a shot or two. This is not as much art making as it is visual journaling. It is a way to move through the world, to acknowledge a moment, and to move on through the day.
As an affordable art product, I printed these photographs as postcards and put them into packs of 18. The brown envelopes had a white sticker on the front and one of the postcards on the back. I’d always select one of the better images for the outside of the package.
These were sold at various fairs and pop-ups and though ARTSHOP. In 2013, when I started doing INSTANT ARTSHOP, a version of the ARTSHOP project as an intervention outside of an art context, I took 18 Random Postcards to flea markets, grocery stores, malls, and other public spaces that are separate from contemporary art spaces. Each pack of postcards contained a random selection. Because it was impossible to collect all of them and because people never knew what was inside the envelope, the act of selling led to some great conversation. The purchaser needed to perform a leap of faith to commit. Many did.
The Complete Set
This collection of 226 photographs is the complete set of postcards. Only five complete sets have been made. The Complete Set of 18 Random Postcards is available at ARTSHOP here.
Each postcard is 5.5″x5.5″. The full set of 226 photographs exhibits in a grid that is 105″x105″ or in a long presentation that is 35″x315″, 26 linear feet.
Single Random Postcards & Packs of 18 Random Postcards
Packs of 18 Random Postcards are available at ARTSHOP here. If you would like a single postcard sent to you (for free), send an email with your complete mailing address.
Historically, Kunstkammers were magical places. A precursor to the museum, they originated in the castles and manors of European nobility in the sixteenth century. They held collections of various, dissimilar objects that demonstrated the owner’s curiosity about the world. The rooms were places for contemplation, but they were also often the site of meetings where people could come together to share ideas and discussion. In Renaissance Quarterly, Francesca Fiorani wrote, “The Kunstkammer was regarded as a microcosm or theater of the world, and a memory theater,” and in this sense, my hope is that the viewer will engage with installation to consider the viewer’s place in the world.
Operating from Year 2199, “Kunstkammer MMCXCIX” bends time and history by blending historical fact and imagined fictions to tell a story from the future about the present. The stories and perspective 180 years in the future will be different than what we know today. Knowledge will be gained, but it will also be lost. “Kunstkammer MMCXCIX” invites the viewer to employ what writer Alexis Clements describes as art’s great technology, “to inquire about the world without being limited to facts or logic or notions of objective truth.” The installation also takes a nod from John Green’s Looking for Alaska, in which he observes, “Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia.” We use our memories to imagine the potential of what may happen, but also what we can accomplish or achieve, to entertain what is possible. In creating and recreating this Kunstkammer, I invite the viewer to enter this theater of memory and consider the future of themselves and their community.
The objects in “Kunstkammer MMCXCIX” continue a practice of intervening on photographic portraits to portray a moment of expanded consciousness. I do this by collaging digital reproductions of the photographs that are embellished with paint or collaged elements. My intention in doing this is to bring the photograph into the present moment and create a connection between the viewer and history. “Kunstkammer MMCXCIX” includes sculptures and paintings that serve as physical manifestations of stories. Every object in “Kunstkammer MMCXCIX” has a story attached to it.
Some of the stories told about Rutland seem may silly but they are similar to the stories we tell about other cultures, stitched with ignorance and fantasy as we try to fill in the gaps of knowledge. Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaks about the danger of the single story, how simple narratives of others result in a poor understanding of our complex, shared humanity. This applies as much to the coworker sitting next to us as it does to the people living on a continent across the ocean. And it applies to ourselves when we decide that our story is simple and limited. Every person can write their own story, but to do that, they must imagine all the stories that are possible. My hope for the viewer is “Kunstkammer MMCXCIX” prods this thinking.
The ongoing series of installations debuts in Rutland. Over the next five years, I plan to move the Kunstkammer around North America and grow it to a thousand pieces as it is installed in and responds to various communities. The installation features some imagery of people from Rutland’s history. The photographs and stories blend facts and fictions. The introductory statement was made by replacing the word “Africa” with “Rutland” in the wall texts for the African Art collection at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Viewers are invited to enter the room and imagine the greatness of Rutland, past and future. Viewers are also invited to consider what is real and what is imagined, how we know what we know, and how we choose which histories to tell. Knowledge evolves over time and it is foolish to consider what we know now will not also evolve. And that is the point of “Kunstkammer MMCXCIX”: to lead us to new knowledge and realities.
“Rutland: Real and Imagined”
Curated by Stephen Schaub
Alley Gallery, Center Street Alley, Rutland, Vermont
January 31st to March 9th, 2019
For the exhibition, “Rutland: Real and Imagined”, I convert a room of the gallery into a Kunstkammer, or Cabinet of Curiosities. The installation features sculptural objects and small, collaged, historic photographs, some of which reference people from Rutland’s history. Viewers will be invited to enter the room and imagine the greatness of Rutland, past and future. In addition to the installation, I created a book that has images and writing from the project.
Late stage capitalism sucks. We live in a time of unprecedented resources and technology. Yet, no one seems happy. People seemed overly concerned someone else is trying to get one over on them. Folks are obsessed with money and how to pay for things. The smallest illness can put someone in an unrecoverable economic downward spiral. In America, we can’t address basic social problems because somehow it would upset the financial order of things. My friends work too much, struggle too much, and fear falling off what little pile they have made for themselves.
I make art to tell stories. I brought home a couple of coasters from the bar thinking I would make some little paintings on them. I painted them with gesso and transferred a page from an old encyclopedia I had lying around. The first painting was a doodle. I was laying fields of color, aqua, bright orange, soft purples. For this triangle in the center, I mixed some red watercolor with red acrylic and I liked how it was translucent. Later, when I looked at the small painting, I thought, if I had a pet rock that is how I would paint it. My Pet Rock Has a Red Triangle Heart was born.
My work habits are such that I get up and write and when my head is too gooey to write some more, I take a nap. And when I wake up, if I don’t feel like writing, I make art. Often what I am writing about filters into my art making. Lately, I’ve been trying to understand the relationship between art and society. This means I’ve been reading a lot of Donald Kuspit who writes things like this:
“The issue that haunts this paper is whether ideology, including the ideologies of technology and corporate capitalism, which converge in the ideology of the spectacle–a mind-numbing dumbing down of consciousness–represses, even denies, or at least systematically suppresses, interiority and subjectivity, or whether the spectacle grants them a new lease on life, bringing with it a fresh consciousness of feelings and sensations, more broadly, of subjective possibility, indeterminate yet invigorating, despite capitalism’s apparent determination to manufacture spectacular appearances that belie and discredit their reality, for feelings and sensations interfere with efficient functioning in the world of action and technological society.” (1)
Kuspit got me on to the work of Daniel Bell who predicted the post-industrial society back in 1973. Bell also tried to understand the contradictions of capitalism, specifically, how we can live in a time of unprecedented resources and be so unhappy.
When I get to deep into economic theory, I like to watch YouTube videos about history. I stumbled onto this Channel 4 documentary hosted by Rupert Everett, The Scandalous Adventures of Lord Byron, in which Everett retraces Byron’s early 19th century jaunt through the Continent. While the Grand Tour was a common thing for noblemen to do, Byron’s journey was special in that he was seeking liberation of his self and his creative soul, which he found. And I thought, Nobody liberates themselves any more. Probably because it costs too much. And then I decided to send My Pet Rock on a Grand Tour of his own. A few paintings, some collaging, and some writing and word-collaging later, My Pet Rock: A Tragedy & A Love Story was made.
My Pet Rock is a tragedy and a love story where the Byronic hero journeys to the Caribbean to Europe to the Middle East. He meet artists and writers, longs for lovers at home, and dies after eating Kentucky Fried Chicken across from the Great Pyramids of Giza. With guest appearances by Carl Werner, Louis Marie de Schryver, Eduard Gaertner, Jean-Frédéric Bazille, Claude Monet, Tears for Fears, Dean Martin, Rudolf Ernst, Antonio Maria Esquivel, Agostino Brunias, Daniel Bell, José de Espronceda, and Duckey. My Pet Rock is a parable about capitalism. I hope you enjoy it.
“Portraits on the Arrival” is an incomplete series of photographic portraits in which I intercede to portray a moment of expanded consciousness. I imagine the men portrayed here on the verge of a new way of thinking and, to commemorate the moment, have their picture taken. The swirl of color conveys the ecstatic joy that comes with new ideas and fresh thinking. This is not typically a moment we commemorate in our culture. Perhaps it should be.
At the end of 2017, I emerged from a dark, two-year period where I largely resisted having a place in the world. I was waiting to die and then when I didn’t, I realized I had to figure out what I wanted from this new reality. I took interest in the divine nature of humanity, how, through small action and intimate gesture, we manifest change in the world around us. How do we liberate our neighbor? How do we free the potential of those around us? If I were to remain in the world, how did I move through it so the world was more how I wanted it to be? I took inspiration from an interview Erykah Badu gave to Vulture Magazine in which she says, “I’m not a political chick at all. I’m macrocosmic in lieu of microcosmic. I see a whole big picture. I see freedom for the slaves and the slave masters. For everybody. We’re just emerging into a new state of being altogether, and the anger now is about people scared of that change.” I read Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light (1967), a book about a god living among an alternate humanity. Zelazny explains divinity, “Being a god is being able to recognize within one’s self these things that are important, and then to strike the single note that brings them into alignment with everything else that exists. Then, beyond morals or logic or esthetics, one is wind or fire, the seat, the mountains, rain, the sun or the stars, the flight of an arrow, the end of a day, the clasp of love. One rules through one’s ruling passions. Those who look upon gods then say, without even knowing their names, ‘He is Fire. She is Dance. He is Destructions. She is Love.’ So to reply to your statement, they do not call themselves gods. Everyone else does, through, everyone who beholds them.” And I reconnected with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s 1714 work Monadology. The 18th century philosopher saw himself as a mind in a world of minds where thoughts were the only things that were real. He believed space and time were an illusion. This led him to write, “Souls in general are living mirrors or images of the universe of created things, but that minds are also images of the deity or author of nature himself, capable of knowing the system of the universe, and to some extent of imitating it through architectonic ensamples, each mind being like a small divinity in its own sphere.”
I believe in the infinity of things, that space, time, resources, and love are limitless, or at least potentially so. In our world, we are constantly being told we have less, that there isn’t enough time in the day, not enough housing for everyone, not enough money to provide health care and education to our neighbors, and those who try to convince us of this often want us to fight with each other about it. Humanity has achieved many god-like things. We turn night into day. We fly. We leave the planet. We communicate across great distances instantly. I see no reason why we can’t achieve other god-like things that are a mystery to us only because we have not yet realized how to bring it into the world. If we believe anything and everything is possible, then the question is simply how do we work together to make it so. This is my idea of what a divine humanity would be like. What is yours?
I start these works by painting gestures on paper. I then photograph the paintings and remove any surface that remains in the image. These fragments are then collaged with a found photograph where the subject is removed from the portrait and the collage of paint gestures are inserted behind the sitter. In doing this, I am altering the space of the found photograph and recasting the image’s function. These men are now icons of new ideas and fresh thinking.
Collage Prints Portraits on Arrival
Altered Spaces at Spruce Peak Arts Center in Stowe September 13, 2018-January 7, 2019 Reception: Saturday, October 6, 5:30PM Curator: Kelly Holt WEBSITE
9th Annual UVM Alumni Art Show at Dudley H. Davis Center October 4-November 15, 2019 Reception: Saturday, October 5, 2-3:30PM WEBSITE
“Like George Seurat’s La Grande Jatte, or more recently Gerhard Richter’s streaky ‘motion paintings,’ Kadour’s acrid pinks, electric oranges, saturated blues, and hi-temp lemon yellows blend from afar and separate when viewed close up. This vibrates the subject from the 19th century to the present.”
-Jon Meyer, Art New England, January/February 2019. [website]
Not Ideas About the Thing, But the Thing Itself and Pictures of It.
Conceptual installation by Ric Kasini Kadour
Not Ideas About… trades on the Wallace Stevens’ poem of a similar title and plays with ideas about art, objects, and images. I present to the viewer ceramic cups wrapped in a newspaper alongside a framed print that shows three views of the object. In doing this, I wish to ask the viewer to consider what the art is. Is it the photography of the package? Is it the package as sculptural object? Is it the wrapped, unseen ceramic cups? Or is it the idea of setting these two things beside one another in a gallery? Stevens often played with notions of fiction versus reality, the mind’s perception or the truth of the matter. My hope is that this work will encourage the viewer to find their own “new knowledge of reality.”
Object: 10″x4″x4″; newspaper and ceramic, 2015
Photograph: framed, 12″ x 15″; photograph, 2015
Gift exhibition at Moon Gallery
February 12 – March 9, 2018
Berry College, Mt. Berry, GA
Juror: Jordan Amirkhani
“What Will Be of Us” is a continuation of the series, “I Keep Myself Together“, in which Kadour pairs photographs with texts to evoke a response in the viewer. “I am interested in the isolation of contemporary life and the sometimes intense personal drama that plays out without anyone really knowing. When I watch people, I often make up stories in my head about them. The titles of the photographs are snippets of those stories; moments of dialogue in a full work of theatre. By presenting the images in a circle, I hope to convey to the viewer the sense that they are peeking into a world or looking through a spyglass,” wrote Kadour in 2013. In working this way, Kadour taps into the tradition of text-based works expressed by Lawrence Weiner and Martin Firrell and the text/image collage work of Barbara Kruger.
“What Will Be of Us” is intended to be exhibited as a grid that alternates texts and images.
“The Veneration of Ruskin” celebrates the 19th century art critic John Ruskin. The 200th anniversary of his birth will take place in 2019. The project draws on Kadour’s interest in apotheosis, altar making, and still life paintings. The series of eleven collages cannibalize Ruskin’s drawings and Dutch flower paintings. Accompanying the collages is an altar to Ruskin that features a fabric tapestry and a table of objects and flowers designed to evoke the still lifes used in the collage. In addition to an exhibition, the project is manifested in a zine and a catalog that reproduces the eleven collages and the source works Kadour used to make them.
In the catalog essay, Kadour explains that he selected Ruskin because of a personal affinity with the writer and artist, because of his vision of the role of art in society, and because he was “moved by Ruskin’s sadness, the self-torment, and his beautiful mind to venerate him with flowers.”
Kadour works conceptually and manifests concepts in prints, photographs, and small sculptures designed to be exhibited in installation. The project continues Kadour’s exploration of influences that began in 2012 after the death of his grandmothers. In the project, “Twelve Days of Christmas Gifts for Yoko Ono,” each day from December 25th, 2012 to Epiphany on January 6th, 2013, Kadour made a “Christmas gift” for Yoko Ono, gifts for grandmothers who were no longer there, inspired by a cultural grandmother. The objects varied from prints to small sculptures to a collection of Edo-period Japanese poetry to performative acts. Each “gift” was documented and images and the instructions were shared online and through social media and later as a book. The project also continues Kadour’s work using altar making as an expression of contemporary art. The series “My Junk Taste Like Flowers” is both a documentation of objects and an expression of joy about them. This series is photographs of sculptures made with “junk” which are venerated with flowers. Kadour writes, “Arranging my junk was like restacking and reordering memories. The whole was other than the sum of its parts.”
In “The Veneration of Ruskin,” the collages serve as secular version of the Stations of the Cross leading the viewer to an artistic altar. The purpose of this is rooted in an understanding of Modernism that relocates the divine to the individual. Kadour cites a deep human need to apotheosize heros, something that is increasingly difficult to do in our society. While Kadour is interested in expressing veneration for a personal hero, the purpose of the exhibition is to model behavior and encourage the viewer to ask of themselves: Who would they venerate and how?
Installation Shrine to Ruskin
Shrine to Ruskin is a variable installation of a fabric tapestry, found and plaster objects, and silk flowers on a raised surface. The objects and flowers are intended to evoke the still lifes used in the collage. About Altar Making
Veneration of Ruskin Collages
The series consists of eleven prints: 10″x8″ collages on 15″x12″ paper. Edition of 5 plus two artist proofs. INQUIRE TO PURCHASE
Zine Apotheosis Ruskin
This zine, Apotheosis Ruskin, is an aesthetic rehash of the series in book form. Details: 24 pages | 7”x5” | saddle-stitched booklet | 2017 | ISBN 978-1-927587-21-8 | AVAILABLE HERE
Catalog The Veneration of Ruskin
The catalog shows eleven collages and the source works Kadour used to make the collages. An essay about why Kadour chose Ruskin also appears in the catalog. Details: 28 pages | 10″x8″ | saddle-stitched | 2017 | ISBN 978-1-927587-22-5 | AVAILABLE HERE
Talk: “Ruskin at 200”
In a forty-five minute slide-show and talk, Kadour speaks about Ruskin’s philosophy of art in society, the importance and problem apotheosis in contemporary society (and art in particular, i.e. How do we separate art from problematic artists), and the concept of secular altar making.
In early 2012, I had been thinking about objects and particularly why objects matter and why we collect the stuff we do. Around that time, I interviewed Katharine Mulherin at her gallery on Queen West in Toronto. I learned we share an interest in collecting seemingly random objects, things that are not quite art, not really design, but objects from the past whose shape, form, or colour appeals to our senses or the moment. I think of these objects as artifacts of someone else’s personal history that I appropriate into the grand narrative of an unwritten memoir. My partners call these objects junk.
I asked Katharine why she collects the things she does. “Oh, I don’t know,” she responded initially and then paused and said, “Joy. I collect things because they bring me joy.”
The series “My Junk Taste Like Flowers” is both a documentation of objects and an expression of joy about them. This series is photographs of sculptures made with my junk which are then venerated with flowers. Arranging my junk was like restacking and reordering memories. The whole was other than the sum of its parts.
“My Junk Taste Like Flowers” is manifested as an installation, a series of colour instant photographs, and an artist book.
Altar to My Junk
Altar to My Junk is a variable installation of found and plaster objects with silk flowers on a raised surface. About Altar Making
COLOUR INSTANT PHOTOGRAPHS
I documented each of these sculptures using a Polaroid 360 Land Camera and Fujifilm FP-100c to make a colour instant photograph in editions of three, except for the titular piece, My Junk Taste Like Flowers, which is an edition of 100 and released as an artist book.
An ongoing project, Clouds :: Knowledge investigates the visual imagery of sky and clouds as a symbol of knowledge and epistemology in contemporary life.
One day, I was sitting at a coffee shop with an artist friend and trying to remember the name of this other artist. I picked up my iPhone and started to Google descriptions of his artwork in the hope that I would stumble across an image of his work and thus be reminded of his name. I have an awful memory. I often get up from my desk to get a cup of coffee and forget why I got up before I make it to the kitchen. Some days, the more things I learn, the dumber I feel. But we live at a time when all the knowledge of the world is carried on our person, in a little box. Of course, it is not all in the box. Knowledge exists in the cloud of the Internet which is really just a system of computer networks that are linked together, but are ultimately out of sight and out of mind. But it isn’t really. Signs of the Internet are everywhere. You see signs advertising wi-fi on the door of a café or people using smart phones or web links printed in the visual patter of the city. We are constantly reminded that this cloud of knowledge is nearby.
Philosophers of epistemology suggest two types of knowledge: a priori knowledge which is independent of experience and a posteriori knowledge which is dependent on empirical evidence or experience. I wanted to imagine a third type of knowledge: acumulus knowledge which hovers over your head or sits on your shelf waiting for you to use it.
Clouds :: Knowledge exists as the installation/performance piece, All My Thoughts Are in the Air; the sculptural object All My Knowledge Lives in a Box; and the paper sculpture cum art product, Knowledge Cloud, which reinterprets the idea as a print and mini-cloud sculpture that unfolds as a free standing pop-up, and collage prints.
We experience so much artwork online; we forget that what we’re seeing is actually little boxes. I think we tend to confuse these little boxes of information for the actual artwork they represent. Deals for the New Century is the second piece in a series of work that plays with that idea. My goal is to make interesting print panels that stand alone as non-representational works that when assembled, become a common image. In the case of Deals for the New Century, that image is Monty Hall from the iconic TV game show, Let’s Make a Deal. In doing this, I also make something that one cannot truly experience online. On a computer screen, the mind puts the image together. It is only through experiencing the individual panels that one can experience the pieces as intended, as pixelated fragments one must assemble with their hands.
The book begins “You are a piece of shit and nobody likes you.”
Ric Kasini Kadour’s Everything That Is Wrong With You and How to Fix It takes as a point of departure Austrian playwright Peter Handke’s 1966 anti-play Publikumsbeschimpfung during which actors cast insults at the audience. The book is illustrated with Kadour’s photographs of banal objects and New Orleans oak trees.
Read as testimony, the book speaks to the buffet of verbal, emotional and environmental insults the come to us every day. Kadour gives voice to these stings and rages and then turns them on their head.
As a sermon, the bravado of the title carries itself through the piece. Kadour speaks to us from on high, exhorting us to examine ourselves in both the darkest and brightest places.
As social critique, Kadour, like Handke, uses “words to encircle the audience so they’d want to free themselves by heckling; they might feel naked and get involved.”* But where Handke’s play devolves into rhythmic chatter, a nonsense that negates both the insults and the praise, Kadour ends Everything… with a call to action.
Everything… includes a commentary by Christopher Byrne, “Remembering Everything”. Byrne writes, “Everything That Is Wrong With You and How to Fix It is writing that is meant to be dissected, examined and internalized. Read it how you will.”
Authentic Contemporary Art is a satirical installation and performance piece that is intended to cause reflection upon how contemporary art is marketed, reported, and discussed. The project is a response to art critics Sarah Thornton and Dave Hickey announcing that they weren’t going to write about the art world any more. In October 2012, a number of high profile art writers, among them Sarah Thornton and Dave Hickey, declared they weren’t going to write about the art world any more. Hickey called contemporary art “nasty” and “stupid”. Hickey said, “Thirty years in the art world and hundreds of biennials had not prepared me for… the conferences, committees, agendas, proposals, symposia, position papers, tourist boards, prize adjudications, directorial appointments and preening philanthropists.” Thornton complained that reporting on the art market, which she had made a name for herself doing, “implies money is the most important thing about art.” (I go into more detail in the article, “What Is Contemporary Art & How Does It Matter“.)
Authentic Contemporary Art generates a claustrophobic amount of visual clutter using a number of parts:
Authentic Contemporary Art Flags
variable size, paper and string, 2013
The flags are strung around the space in a manner similar to a used car lot.
each 3.5” tall x 2.5” diameter
11.7oz , edition of 50, signed & numbered, 2013
Branded cans are stacked and displayed throughout the space like beans in a grocery store.
set of 6 cans, each 43” tall x 23” diameter; 17 lbs
fiber, metal, paper
The viewer encounters over-sized/ life-sized cans. They may be stacked in a tower 11-feet tall or piled and leaned against one another depending on space. Each can is titled a different color.
12”x18” printed posters on paper
On the walls of the gallery are advertisements for Authentic Contemporary Art and posters contain quotes about contemporary art, art and money, as well as those from Sarah Thornton and Dave Hickey.
The Gallery Regrets…
framed, 8”x10” photograph
The photograph is of a post-it note that reads, “The gallery regrets to inform you the contemporary art has been sold.”
Eventually, the viewer is led to a “gift shop” where they can purchase mementos of their visit: Authentic Contemporary Art propaganda (buttons, stickers, cards), the zine Authentic Contemporary Art, and cans of Authentic Contemporary Art.
TALK: Why People Hate Art
Art is a magical piece of technology that liberates us, humanizes our neighbors, builds bonds with strangers, envisions solutions to our problems. Art is a tool that can connect our communities, ease our pain, expand our thinking, and love each other better. Too many people are afraid of, unfamiliar with, or dismissive of art. I want art to matter on a personal, social, and political level.
“Why People Hate Art” is a forty-five minute slide-show and talk about the frustrations many people have with contemporary art and the history of how we got to the current moment. The talk focuses on the manner with which Modernism was introduced in America, art’s role in the Cold War, and the division between an elite, international art scene and the art being made in communities where most Americans live. The talk ends with strategies for repairing the damage of history and unleashing the power of art, to make that magic available to everyone.
On April 28, 2005, I was asked to participate in a panel discussion in Burlington, Vermont about pricing artwork that was hosted by the South End Arts and Business Association. A few dozen people sat around the organization’s offices on Flynn Avenue while each of the panelists made a brief introductory statement about pricing and selling artwork. When it was my turn, I read a poem.
In earnest, “How to Price Your Artwork” contains little practical information about actually pricing artwork. The point of the poem is to underscore the ridiculousness of art pricing. A more practical discussion of pricing art is to say that in the current market, art is like real estate. The value of property is equal to the price for which it is sold. Where a two bedroom, two bath condo in one city may cost ten times more if it is in another city, a painting by one artist may cost ten times that of another. And while one would like to think that skill, value of materials, or time spent making the painting would impact the price; it is much more likely that the price is determined by the pedigree of the artist and the gallery’s assessment of how much its clientele will pay for artwork. There is method to the madness, but systematic stupidity is still stupid. There is little connection between the price of artwork and the value of artwork.
That disconnect is part of the eccentricity of the art world. It is what allows for extravagance and excessiveness. It would be charming if it also didn’t alienate people from art. The ridiculous speculative nature of the art market prevents people from taking art seriously. Artificially high prices keep art out of reach of most people. They also undercut arguments in favor of public support for the arts. In this scenario, very few people win. This is why I presented “How to Price Your Artwork” at a panel discussion in April 2005.
After the talk, a number of people came up to me and asked me for a copy of the poem. I sent it off to a few people who were there. But people kept asking me for copies so I decided to turn it into a little book. I turned the poem into a twenty-page, saddle-stitched, 4.25″ x 7″ chapbook with a collage of paintings on the front and back. In November 2005, I released a signed, edition of 100 copies.
“How to Price Your Artwork” was significant to me for a number of reasons. This was my first art product and first zine and a change in thinking about how to market my writing, art, and creative endeavours. While I continued to write for other people and make large art, I became enamoured with the idea of making small, accessible art products. This led to making art products for other artists, building and running an art shop in various incarnations and a project called INSTANT ARTSHOP, where I set up the store of art products at various places around North America. INSTANT ARTSHOP has gone to traditional art spaces and fairs and it has gone to places like flea markets in Rhode Island and farmers markets in Amish country. It is one thing to feed contemporary art to those wrapped up in the art world. It is something else to explain a pack of “I <3 Yoko Ono” magnets to a trio of Mennonite girls or explain “Love Guns and Other Weapons of Affection” to a man in full NASCAR drag. I don’t have had those experiences when I am selling $5,000 paintings.
Money is a part of culture. How we choose to organize our resources helps define our society. In the 20th century, wealth was dispersed to a much larger degree than it is today and, for better or worse, consumerism democratized our experience. Andy Warhol explained it best:
“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”
Those times are in the past. The art we talk about today tends to be art for the affluent. And while a Coke may still be a Coke, a Takashi Murakami throw pillow is going to cost you $375, roughly the weekly take home pay of someone who makes $10 an hour.
At the end of the panel discussion, the best advice was this: Price your art to sell it. There is no point in pricing art so that it never sells. You can always make more. More importantly, a $100 painting on the wall of someone who wants it is more valuable than a $10,000 painting sitting in your garage or that same painting sitting in someone’s art warehouse. What matters are the people you reach and connect with. Those are the people for whom art is made.