Friday, June 30, 2006

I decided against the Haiku

I know that for artists in Memphis, not doing the South Main Trolley Tour is sacrilege, but neither Amber nor I were really feeling up to it. It’s been a very long week and tonight was hotter than it’s been all summer, so we decided that if we had to see just one show tonight it was going to be the Lantana show of Anne-Marie James at the Medicine Factory.

First a word about the space: I think the Medicine Factory is now my favorite display space in Memphis. The website for the gallery describes it as being intended for installation and “on site experimental” work and it almost seems as if the 96 year old McConnon & Co building were purpose built for it. The front half of the ground floor is the main gallery space, with a nice open plan that still provides for nooks and crannies that allow work to jump out and surprise you (including a few nooks that would be perfect for isolated screening video work). It’s a little out of the way (of course we live in East Bugtussle), but if they keep up the quality of the tonight’s show they’ll definitely stay on my must see list.

Now for the work itself: I admit that I’m always a little scared walking into these “visiting artist” types of shows. I remember enough of my first impressions of Memphis a scant four years ago that I walk in to any such exhibition fearing that I’ll see more photographs (or paintings) of Graceland, Pop Tunes, and the Hi Tone because those are the things that are most likely to make an impression on visually attuned people first coming to Memphis. And truth be told, in some ways the work tonight fell prey that, but it did so in the most wonderful and fascinating ways.

Present are all of the familiar Memphis landmarks but for once I felt like I was seeing them as the artist sees them, rather than as the artist telling me what to see. James shows us her Memphis in both the familiar and the obscure; the work is full of the sort of minor architectural details that each of us will know, but none of us can quite place. The center piece of the show is a floor-to-ceiling mobile composed of dozens of 4 inch square photographs.

In its presentation, it demonstrates the polished awareness of space usually only seen in sculptors and architects. It’s rare that a show of photography can have a sense of interiority beyond what the camera’s depth of field can show us. Mobile” however allows the viewer a rare glimpse inside the impressions and half remembered tangle of moments that make up the memory of a place in time. Suspended in an indefinite physical and mental space, each photograph bares the embossed name of the artist, making them feel almost like phenomenological dog tags; branding them each as visions that we can share, but however familiar, they cannot be our own.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Taking a break from the Chaos to post this...

So it’s probably no secret to any of the two of you who read this that my wife and I do the art opening circuit just about every Friday night. There are blogs around that already cover this scene (with varying degrees of thoroughness), but I’ve seriously been thinking about entering the fray. The problem is that I’m not entirely sure how to write about it.

Problem 1: My complete lack of authority about the subject. I’m not an artist nor an art historian. I’ll save you my “criticism is dead, long live criticism” spiel just at the moment, but even forgoing that I’m just not entirely sure I know enough about art to write about it in an interesting way; I just see a damned lot of it.

Problem 2: Mechanics. I lack a hook.

should i write
like e e cummings
punctuation and grammar
for style

or perhaps entirely in Haiku (Memphis-art renga style):

“Good glass in Midtown
Material is crowded
The wife and I bailed”

and demand only two-line comments of seven syllables each from my readers on the subject of the moon or cherry blossoms?

Problem 3: Feeling the need to be honest. I don’t like the idea of only writing about what I like, because it would feel like I’m bullshitting you. There’s some really good art being shown in Memphis, but there’s also some that (in my opinion) sucks. Only writing about the good stuff (or only writing about my friends) is poison; it’s a feedback loop that would ultimately hurt my ability to look at work objectively or write about it intelligently.

The flip side of that is that it’s a small scene and my wife still has to make a living in it so I don’t want to piss anybody off. I’ve discovered recently that you don’t even have to be particularly critical to do this. Failure to be sufficiently effusive is apparently a black-listable offense in this town.

All that said, all I’ll say about last Friday night’s openings is this: We went to 1688 and I liked it. The artist was a very nice person and I’ve not seen work in that vein shown in Memphis before. Go see it if you get a chance.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Birdshow... the amazing Birdshow...

And now in lieu of anything even remotely serious, I give you the world’s coolest bird.