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Talking with Your Mouth Full

Waxman1

Last night, I attended a dual talk by writer Lori Waxman and artist Michael Rakowitz (both in from Brooklyn) at Mess Hall in Chicago. Lori presented a paper that she's written on FOOD, the artist-collaborative restaurant started by Gordon Matta-Clark, Carol Goodden and Tina Girouard in 1971 in SoHo (I think I'm remembering the location correctly?). FOOD seems like an early experiment in what would later become service-based aesthetics and also an investigation into the growth of the service economy and the "flexible personality" of the artist. Having seen the Matta-Clark film bearing FOOD's name, I had only known that such a project existed, without any details... a fact reinforcing Lori's assertion that, when FOOD is discussed at all, it is largely done so within the framework of Matta-Clark, a framework that gaines power from the artist's early death (not unlike Smithson). The restaurant became more of a business concerned with its economic vitality after 1973, when the artists pretty much left and the specific geo-cultural situation changed. Lori ended with the looping, and unresolvable question of whether the artists left because FOOD was becoming a business, or if it became a business because they left.

Rakowitz talked about some of his past projects, including the PARAsite project (which was recently represented in Ljubljana) and Minaret. He also went into a new, developing work that involves running an import business. Based on his family history, Jewish Iraqis that immigrated to NY after the creation Isreal, the business imports products (especially some apparently really tasty Iraqi date syrup - Rakowitz claims Iraq produces the best dates in the world, with hundreds of varieties.) from Iraq at a loss due to the ridiculously high tarrifs placed on Iraqi imports. So your four dollar can of date syrup would run 35 dollars! To paraphrase the artist, "If you don't get pissed off about people dying in Iraq, maybe you'll get pissed off about the price of your date syrup." These projects, as Michael explained them, explore his interest in the possibility of failure (in terms of absolute function) to create a meaningful disturbance in discursive and symbolic space.

There are many questions brought up by both presentations related to the economics of art and the possibility for engagement through mundane and "everyday" processes. In the historical context, there is always the question of sustainability of the record (the official archive), but maybe the more important questions relate to how art, without taking for granted its accepted role and definition, interacts with/in what's going on around us.

12:21 PM | Permalink

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