Thursday, May 19, 2005

Bailey on Ichiuji

The Postmodern Art Joke of Suffering

By James W. Bailey

The jokes in the world of high art often write themselves. Indeed, we were recently treated to the rare spectacle of an immensely funny postmodern art joke with artist Melissa Ichiuji, as reported in the Washington Post article, "Calling a Halt to Suffering for Her Art."

Ichiuji, who was suppposed to stand in the semi-buff in front of the Corcoran Gallery of Art for 36 straight hours, was forced to call a 14 hour early halt to her "non-performance" piece "Stripped" after nearly collapsing from heat exhaustion from excessive exposure to the balmy weather as enhanced and amplified by the unnatural elements of Washington, D.C. concrete and asphalt.

Mrs. Ichiuji supposedly shed herself of the excesses of her life (Starbucks, NetFlix, Whole Foods, Politics and Prose, those types of things I guess) in an attempt to explore something about who she really is outside of the unnatural products that she takes into her body and mind.

We are told in this supremely funny high profile Washington Post article that her only company prior caving in to upper middle class reality was a homeless man who lay down nearby to watch Mrs. Ichiuji struggle through her "non-performance" in all her sunburned and diarrhea-stricken agony – no doubt the homeless man could identify with that low profile real life struggle.

We’re also told Mrs. Ichiuji tried to contact her husband for emergency rescue from her plight. Apparently, her husband never bothered to return the desperate messages that were left on his cell phone. It’s also reported that one of the other luxuries in life that Mrs. Ichiuji swore off for her art was sex – I guess that might help explain the husband’s failure to respond to those text messages.

Although her husband is a banker, poor Mrs. Ichiuji, apparently penniless (I guess her sports bar didn’t have a change holder), was forced to thumb a ride in a cab back to the modern comforts and conveniences of her home. That must have been an interesting cab ride. One can easily picture Mrs. Ichiuji, half-starved, jumping out of the cab at every delicious chain restaurant in the District begging the management to freely inhale at will from the salad bar.

Now, nobody loathes postmodern art theory and theorists more than I do, but I just can’t help but deconstruct Mrs. Ichiuji "Stripped" to discover a greater truth and meaning about her project. There's a remarkable parallel between her self-imposed bodily denials leading to her near collapse and the refusal of a banker to assist her with the similar bodily denials (usually state enforced against the will of the child and their parents) that are found among hundreds of millions of impoverished children throughout the world and the refusal of the World Bank to assist them.

But unlike Mrs. Ichiuji, those kids don’t have a cell phone to call a high ranking bank official, let alone the ability to hitch a ride in an air-conditioned cab to a safe, cool and well-stocked abode.

James W. Bailey
Experimental Photographer
Force Majeure Studios

Jenkins on Ichiuji

By Mark Jenkins

I'm wondering if anyone else has found Melissa Ichiuji's "36 hours" a little unsettling in its aftermath.

Weening herself from cellphones, and TV, etc... I can see as a return to a more animal nature. I'm all for that. As for fasting, and cutting off social contact with friends, peeing in public, that's where it gets a little gray.

While the peeing part might be animal (I suppose), cutting off social contact while sitting on a corner on a platform and not talking to anyone seems to make yourself like an animal at the zoo with people gawking at you.

I too, came by, maybe to gawk, or to watch other people gawking; and anything done outside in the name of art outside (physically at least) of the institutions always gets my curiousity up. But upon arriving I discovered that she had left.

Just a note that said that she was ill. She'd left and taken her pee jars with her!

And in the aftermath, in my own comic way that amuses me if no one else, I sat on her empty perch and ate a hot dog, and when a few people came up and asked where she was I responded, "She's sick."

Mark Jenkins eating a frank

They looked a little concerned, disheartened, and sweaty (like me) after having made the walk over from their workplaces.

Ultimately, I think she's a caricature of our own inner selves who, seeing the ever increasing trash of technology, turns its absence into a treasure. But the catch is that even while seeking it you can't seek it purely.

One of Dostoevsky's characters said something profound once that I remembered. Something to the extent that modern man has become diffuse in his thoughts; he can no longer think a sole thought but always has several competing interests to contend with.

Buddhist monks would agree. And I'm sure probably wouldn't have given her a high chance at reaching any sort of success in this small amount of time. And of course there was the congential defect in her mission, that even while she fasted, and weened, her website blinked, (and blinks now) about Washington Post coverage and in the back of her mind, she was thinking...

Secondsight Meeting

Secondsight is an organization dedicated to the advancement of women photographers through support, communication and sharing of ideas and opportunities.

The next Secondsight meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 31, 2005.

All meetings will now be held at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Services Center, (just accross the street from the Fraser Gallery Bethesda) located at 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, MD 20814. If you are catching the Metro, exit on Wisconsin Avenue, take a left on Old Georgetown Road and walk for one block. The entrance to the services center is next to Chipotle. There is a public parking garage on Old Georgetown Road. The meetings start at 6.30pm and end at approximately 9pm.

Secondsight's next guest speaker is Chris Foley, Master Digital Printmaker and Director of Old Town Editions in Alexandria, Virginia. Chris will discuss the history of digital printmaking as well as the latest techniques, he'll show attendees the latest papers, discuss archival issues and answer all of your questions.

The presentation by the guest speaker will be followed by portfolio sharing. The group will split up into smaller groups of about ten and each member will have the opportunity to discuss their work. For those who brought their portfolio to the last meeting, please feel free to bring it again as you will be sharing your work with an entirely new group of photographers.

Meetings are free for members of Secondsight and $10 (cash or checks only) for non-members.

Please RSVP to if you would like to attend the meeting.

Money, budgets, grants... votes?

An interesting WaPo article on the alleged shenanigans being played through the use of art grants funding by the Politburo Chief of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Montgomery County.

The Montgomery County Council voted yesterday to strip County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) of his power to distribute millions of dollars in grants to arts organizations in the fiscal 2006 budget, saying the process has become too entangled in politics.
Read it here.

Express on Tate

Today's Express has a really cool interview with Tim Tate on "Compelled About Content" (page 30 of the pdf file).

"Tim Tate is a third generation Washingtonian and the city's premier glass artist..."
Read it here.

Dawson on Glass

Jessica Dawson has several mini reviews in today's WaPo and she has one on our current "Compelled by Content" glass exhibition in Bethesda.

Read it here.