Iraq in Venice

by Travis Jeppesen on July 8, 2013

An interview with Jonathan Watkins, curator of this year’s Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, at Art in America.

Otto Zitko

by Travis Jeppesen on July 3, 2013

Otto Zitko paints lines. Long lines curving and curling, extending into nowhere, the void. A line never ends. It just goes and goes, infinite in its stark simplicity and ambiguity. Zitko uses lines to create environments. Such as the maze he installed at the 48th Venice Biennale. For his exhibition in Prague at the Austrian Cultural House, he limits himself to two colors: red and orange. Paints the entire room with them, totally changing the environment and violating the sacred white space of the gallery’s walls, effectively turning it into a fiery red-orange swirl, another world. Otto Zitko didn’t always paint lines. He used to paint other things, but in the late ‘80s, he decided to stop painting everything, everything except for lines. Where do Zitko’s lines lead? They are all contained in the same space. The Austrians have been kind enough to provide chairs for us to sit in and study these lines. Try to locate where it begins, follow its path throughout the walls and ceiling of the gallery, all the way to the end. And begin again. A line implies the dimension of time. Zitko’s lines illustrate time. You may sit in the gallery for hours, lost in Zitko’s maze of lines, until you ask yourself what time it is. The time is always now. It is never then or there. Zitko’s decision to stop painting in a conventional way wasn’t a nihilistic action, a gesture of aligning himself with the whole “painting is dead” debate that’s been going on for far too long. Rather, his intention to paint lines was and is based on the firm belief that this is the only way to develop painting any further. He is striving for a very specific and idiosyncratic form of purity that he can only hint at. A primitive gesture that becomes a reflexive metaphor – a line representing all lines, only gaining meaning in the context of the space it fills.

Originally published in the now-defunct Prague magazine Think Again in 2004.

Re-published in Disorientations: Art on the Margins of the “Contemporary”.

Reading the Palace

by Travis Jeppesen on June 14, 2013

What the “Encyclopedic Palace” ultimately offers are multiple examples of the extra-exclusionary, which may be nothing more than that fleeting moment in the act of creation when other people don’t exist—just me and my god(s).

My review of “The Encyclopedic Palace” at this year’s Venice Biennale for Art in America.

Waste: an object-oriented, collectively authored poem

by Travis Jeppesen on April 18, 2013

Below, you will find Waste, a collectively authored object-oriented poem composed last weekend at London’s ICA in response to the Bernadette Corporation’s retrospective, 2000 Wasted Years, as well as their collectively written poem, The Complete Poem.

Click here to get wasted.

Forever Okay: The Art of Jimmy De Sana

by Travis Jeppesen on April 14, 2013

Jimmy De Sana believed that the human body was every bit an object as, say, a toilet or a chair. Blend together, mix up the legs of a table, the legs of chairs, the bare legs of a person and see what you get. A person is no longer a whole, but known by her/his=its parts: head is a suitcase, brain a lightbulb, penis a shoe. Maybe become an entity with four legs instead of two arms and two legs. It’s all the same world, isn’t it?

There are those of us afraid of what we see. A world of interior objects we keep so that we can ignore other things – namely, the world out there. Furniture is static existence. De Sana’s work says something about domesticity. What does it mean to be a person and to disappear. There are no warnings, an announcement is never made. Objects are kept around us to avoid the sense of disappearing. To imply permanency. Railing, a railing against the sure swallow of the big fat void whose rim some of us dance around.

Jimmy De Sana’s gesture is a violence against disappearing. He committed suicide constantly in his work. He had to do that as a way of living in the world. Suicide salvation: the black-and-white photo that made him famous was him hanging from a noose naked with a hard-on. Or else he lies under a car, again naked, forever naked, wearing a mask with a tube connected directly to the exhaust pipe. Inhaling the car. Is he really killing himself there. I don’t think so. As with all of his photos, it’s more of a becoming-object than a becoming-dead. An extension of the car, that’s all. If you look at it as a body, then of course it’s going to die, but Jimmy De Sana did not want to die and his photos are not about death. Inanimate objects never die; you can’t get rid of them, no matter the state of decay. They’re never really alive, either, are they; they just are. Forever okay. A being that is a freedom in not-being.

For a gay person who has suffered violence directly, there is a fluffy comfort in becoming-object that few others may comprehend. It seems so hard. De Sana’s aesthetic looks hard, but I would say it’s just the opposite. Wooden boxes, pool chairs, torsos; the arch of a body run the length of a room, head in the toilet, an extension of the toilet; heads, faces almost never to be seen in these photos, to heighten the sense of disappearance, of desubjectivication; the light always soft; no more self to contend with, no such thing as death to confront. Jimmy De Sana is softcore, if the core we’re talking about is being, safe from the trenchant torpor of navigation.

This was among the least apparently glamorous approaches one could take in the 80s, which De Sana characterized, in an interview with Laurie Simmons, as a decade of death and money. The art market exploded, everyone dancing as dollar bill confetti floated through the air, meanwhile, guys are walking around with lesions, dropping dead all around you. It’s wrong to read these photos as documentary evidence of a gay S/M subculture that De Sana was never really a part of. Mapplethorpean scenes from a Manhattan night. Others have more aptly identified surrealism as the operative force, the fuel in De Sana’s vehicle. As an adjective, surreal is too vague and overused, and anyway, it’s the artist’s duty to carve their own reality out of this messy consensual one – that impulse comes out of a disbelief in messy consensual reality. It’s too easy to say that the world, as it is, is surreal on its own. Forty-year olds dropping dead for no real reason is surreal – becoming an object is pretty much okay, in a permanent sort of way.

There is, after all, a glamour, certainly a sexiness, in immortalizing yourself or some other selves in this manner. Don’t treat me like a sex object, screams the liberationist who, in doing so, believes they are on their way towards attaining autonomy. But for the corporealist, sex is just another utility; come here, let me touch you where it matters least. Jimmy De Sana knew things about bodies that we’re only now, in the twenty-first century, beginning to figure out. In this way, his photos can be seen less as a relic of a past moment and more as a blueprint for our present-future selves.

Cohesive Holes

by Travis Jeppesen on April 9, 2013


“As an embodiment of the myriad contradictions that China
finds itself mired in today, MadeIn effectively explodes the
double-mindedness that Chinese artists have had to internalize
in the post-Tiananmen era. The million little shards that
result, when put together, probably wouldn’t form a cohesive
whole. If anything, they’ll yield a cohesive hole.”

My essay on MadeIn Company appears in the April issue of Art in America.

The 27th London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

by Travis Jeppesen on April 7, 2013

(Ms. Vaginal Davis in She Said Boom! The Story of Fifth Column)

My review of the 27th London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival at Artforum.

2 Wasted Days @ the ICA, London

by Travis Jeppesen on March 31, 2013

2 Wasted Days with Travis Jeppesen: An Object-Oriented Writing Workshop

13 April 2013 – 14 April 2013

£25 / £20 concessions / £12 ICA Members

Object-oriented writing is a methodology through which practitioners might evolve their own individual poetics of art criticism. Object-oriented writing positions itself within the work of art, and also includes all the necessary contradictions and impossibilities embedded within such an approach. This allows a multiplicity of possible writings, ways, approaches, to flow forth, wherein the impulse of formlessness becomes the form. It could be suggested that the father of object-oriented writing is the Gertrude Stein of Tender Buttons, the mother the Roland Barthes of Mythologies. However, object-oriented writing is more likely their aborted fetus, having been revivified on a UFO by an extra-dimensional alien race that exists on a plane parallel to our own and returned to this reality in order to contaminate it.

This two-part workshop will take Bernadette Corporation’s The Complete Poem as a model. The participants will enter, via writing, individual works in the exhibition, as well as the exhibition as a whole, putting Jeppesen’s idea of writing inhabiting objects – a visceral, poetic model of art writing – into practice. Through processing and editing material together into our own Complete Poem, the workshop will explore the problems and possibilities of collective writing.

Participants are asked to bring their chosen writing tool, whether a notebook, tablet or laptop.

A single ticket covers both days of the workshop.

Sign up to get wasted with me here.

Berlinale 2013

by Travis Jeppesen on March 5, 2013

My summing-up of this year’s Berlinale can be read at Artforum in two parts: here and here.

Aliens & Anorexia: A Chris Kraus Symposium

by Travis Jeppesen on February 27, 2013

The Critical Writing in Art & Design programme at the Royal College of Art is pleased to announce the first conference on the work of the American writer Chris Kraus, to take place in London on 13–14 March 2013. Alongside presentations of new interpretations of Kraus’s work, the conference will include a reading by the author of some of her writings, an on-stage interview and screening of her films.

You can find the schedule of the symposium–and book tickets–here.

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