Saturday, 26 March 2011

Diary of a thirty-something Art Dealer

London-based art dealer Beverley Knowles respondes to Ida Applebroog's visceral exhibition of drawing and installation.

I spent last week in silence in Sussex meditating six hours a day. On Friday I came back to London and sat in my flat spinning out. Saturday I went to the Ida Applebroog exhibition at Hauser & Wirth. Spinning out shifted to a whole new level.

I stood in front of Monalisa (2009) and tears poured down my face. It was overwhelming. It communicated with me on a level way beyond my conscious mind. It spoke rather to my body. Monalisa is about what it is to be human and what it is to exist as such in a woman's body.

Monalisa is a house, or what Applebroog has named a house, a would-be walk-in wooden box-like structure with membranous walls made up of scanned drawings through which the light filters.

The drawings are of what super-articulate critic, art historian, Applebroog expert and babe with a brain, Julia Bryan-Wilson refers to as the artist's cunt. What Hauser's press release prefers to call her crotch. Yeah, we wouldn't want to be outré, we're art dealers for God's sake. Officially they're called the Vagina drawings, although at the symposium that followed the eighty-year-old knock-out-feisty Bronx-born Applebroog said she'd prefer to have gone with Vulva.

Whatever we're calling them, these drawings possess a raw power the likes of which Tracey Emin can only dream about.

They were made in 1969 when Applebroog was living with her husband and four young children in Southern California. Desperate for time alone, a respite from the myth of domestic bliss, she would hole up in the bathroom for hours at a time with her sketch pad. There she created somewhere in the region of 160 drawings of the intimate details of her own body.

Hearing Ida speak about the creation of the work it became clear that this wasn't conceived as an art project. There was no goal. She wasn't putting pen to paper with the dream locked away in the back of her mind that one day she might see them hanging in a white space in Savile Row, an internationally celebrated artist. No, she was just doing what she was doing. She was trying to find a way to exist in the world, a way to cope with life's grotesque disappointments and sometimes even harder to bear joys. She didn't even show them to anyone. No one. It was an entirely private and personal undertaking.

An erstwhile acquaintance of mine, a writer in fact, once asserted that no artist would create if they didn't have it somewhere in their consciousness that their work might one day be seen, published, exhibited or in some other way appreciated. This tragic, bourgeois nonsense is examplematic of a pernicious misunderstanding. Creativity is not driven by the ego. It is driven, if driven even be the word, by something far, far greater. Exactly such a limiting and limited notion is responsible for the desert of pointless bollocks that gets churned endlessly into the world. Applebroog's story finally allowed me to dismiss this initially unsettling but ultimately diminutive idea without even casting a swipe at it.

The Vagina drawings languished in Applebroog's apartment until 1974 when they were packed into a box, shoved in the basement and all but forgotten. In 2009 a studio assistant discovered them; waterlogged, rat-eaten, ravaged. Forty years after the work had been created Applebroog conceived of Monalisa.

It is not possible to enter the house. But one can peak into it through gaps in the papery walls. The front door leans up against the house with a space on either side too small to squeeze through but large enough to imagine one might squeeze through. Tantalisingly and frustratingly the viewer is excluded.

The monochromatic portrait that appears at eye-level on the front door punches me in the stomach with its visceral amorphous ambiguity. It reminds me of the Dead Marilyn photographs. The being seems only half alive, only half of this world. The head and neck merge with the body. The hair, or perhaps it is a lack thereof, merges with the black background. There is no reassuring clarity. No illusion of stability such as we like to gorge ourselves on. There's no sleep here. No numbness. There is only vulnerability and uncertainty.

The larger red portrait on the back wall inside the house strikes another universal cord and a hammer blow to the self-exteriorising we spend so much of our time and energy in the management of. Fear in her eyes; anger in her deportment; horror in her body. Nausea and love rise up in me simultaneously. Confusion and clarity reign. Only paradoxes to offer. It is pain and joy and indifference all at once.

But that's the way of life. We can run from it if we are so moved to try, but we won't get away. Not ever.

Wyoming teacher faces child porn charges

A Newcastle High School science teacher and speech coach charged with receiving child pornography over the Internet is expected to be named in a federal grand jury indictment slated to be handed down within the next week.

Joseph “Jay” Whitney, 52, was arrested at his home in Newcastle a couple of weeks ago by members of the Wyoming Internet Crimes Against Children task force, a state-federal partnership.

After his arrest, Whitney appeared before U.S. Magistrate Scott Skavdahl in Cheyenne.

Skavdahl ordered Whitney held without bond because he could not assure the safety of the community and because Whitney had five children living in his home, according to federal court documents.

Whitney faces total penalties of five to 30 years in prison, five years to life on supervised probation and a $500,000 fine if convicted on both counts of receipt and possession of child pornography.

The offenses occurred on Jan. 9 and Feb. 28, according to the complaint filed March 1 in federal court.

Whitney has been held in detention at Scottsbluff, Neb., since his arrest, Federal Public Defender Jim Barrett said Tuesday.

Barrett said he will ask the court to revisit the matter of bond for Whitney after the federal grand jury issues its indictments.

“We had to put a plan together,” he said.

The “suitable plan of release” that Skavdahl required includes an appropriate third-party custodian, no access to the Internet or to computers, ankle monitoring, verification that Whitney hasn’t harmed the children or that there wasn’t any improper conduct in the home, and no contact with any person under age 18, including his own children, without suitable adult supervision.

Barrett said Whitney has two emancipated children in addition to the five minors at his home.

Whitney, he said, will have another initial appearance and an arraignment within two to three days after the indictment is issued. He will plead not guilty to the charges, Barrett said.

Whitney has been a teacher at Newcastle High for 15 years.

Brad LaCroix, superintendent of Weston County School District 1, earlier set up support for students who had been in contact with Whitney. LaCroix said Tuesday he had no information concerning the number of students who sought counseling.

The school counselors, he said, don’t break down the reasons students come to them.

“That’s pretty confidential,” he said.

Balochistan to figure in talks

Pakistan will raise the issue of alleged Indian role in fomenting unrest in Balochistan and tribal areas at the interior secretaries meeting slated for Monday, but will also try to make sure that the contentious issues do not bog down the nascent peace process.

The Pakistani side will also ask India to share information about investigation into the Samjhauta Express bombing of 2007.

“All issues are going to be discussed. When we are going to talk about terrorism, it is not going to be confined to the Mumbai attacks. The best interest of both countries demands a transparent approach whereby any apprehensions on either side should adequately be looked into by the other side,” a senior government official said at a briefing for Diplomatic Correspondents Association on Saturday.

The interior secretaries’ parleys are the first in the series of dialogue taking place under the umbrella of revived full spectrum dialogue and would be followed by meetings of senior officials in other segments.

The interior secretaries’ meeting is significant for the future of this renewed process because India had always pre-conditioned discussions on other issues to talks on counter-terrorism, particularly progress on the trial of Mumbai suspects in Pakistan.

The government is cognisant of the possible implications of the outcome of the interior secretaries meeting for other coming engagements over the next few months and is unlikely to press for any undoable because that could damage the revived process even before it takes off.

“As this happens to be the first meeting amongst various other segments following this session, we would like to lay positive ground for the future engagements,” the official noted.Any reference of alleged Indian role in subversive activities in Balochistan and the tribal regions during India-Pakistan talks always irks the Indian side.

Although there were a number of reasons for India reneging on the Sharm El Sheikh agreement of 2009, one of the factors for its premature demise was the inclusion of Balochistan on the agenda.

However, the official suggested that there was some sort of agreement whereby both sides were open to patiently listening to each other’s concerns.

“Without going into specifics, we have agreed through over diplomatic exchanges that all issues would be discussed in an open manner. That is going to be the basics of our engagement.”

The official further said: “The raison d’etre for our getting together and sitting across the table, talking about issues is that we would like to deter acts of terrorism in all its manifestations and we would like to point out all such actors, who
have been involved in acts of terrorism so that this could be eliminated from the spectrum of our relations.”

MUMBAI TRIAL: The Pakistani side, to be led by Interior Secretary Chaudhry Qamar Zaman, will share progress made in the trial of Mumbai suspects.

“We are going to be talking about the Mumbai trial in a manner which has very much moved ahead. We have lot of progress that we would be talking with our Indian counterparts. That is very satisfying progress that we will be conveying
to them,” the official said.

The statement issued jointly by Delhi and Islamabad in February on the resumption of talks had specifically mentioned ‘progress on Mumbai trial’ among the subjects that would be discussed in the recommenced dialogue.

The official, however, did not provide any specific details about the progress that would be shared with India.

Authorities have charged seven suspects, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, with involvement in the Mumbai incident, but their trial by an anti-terrorism court has been impeded due to technical reasons.

The official said both sides would discuss the issue of sending a judicial commission to India to interview key persons linked to the Mumbai attacks.

VISA RELAXATIONS: One area where both sides are likely to make headway is the relaxation of visa restrictions for travel between the two countries.

“Visa is a major topic at the talks. Presently we may not be in a position to say anything about opening of new border crossing points. But certainly about easing of visa restrictions, yes we will want to make headway,” the official said, adding that some proposals in this regard had been received from India. These too will be taken up at the dialogue.

The interior secretaries are also likely to discuss matters related to controlling smuggling of drugs and narcotics; and the plight of civilians and fishermen currently under detention in both countries.

The Pakistan-India judicial committee on prisoners, which was set up for furthering the objective of humane treatment of nationals arrested, detained or imprisoned in either country, has been inactive since the suspension of peace talks after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Casper bar scuffle leads to arrests

A scuffle at a Casper bar early Wednesday morning landed two men in handcuffs after one of them allegedly stole the other’s wallet.

Police arrested Evans Kambutu Nganga for petit larceny after he reportedly took Scott Shane Boid’s wallet at Moonlight Liquors and Lounge.

Boid was arrested on a charge of disturbing the peace after police said he became angry and wanted officers to let him take Nganga outside and fight him.

Police responded to the East 12th Street watering hole about 1:30 a.m. A bartender said Nganga had been in the bar for several hours drinking and trying “to steal things from people all night, including cigarettes,” according to an arrest affidavit.

The employee said Nganga, at one point, was standing beside Boid at the bar. Then Boid’s wallet, which had been sitting on the bar, was missing, authorities say.

Boid found Nganga in the restroom and began “beating him,” authorities say. During the scuffle, Boid’s wallet fell out of Nganga’s pocket, police say.

Later, while police were in the bar, another patron began looking for his cellphone. A police officer noticed Nganga had two phones in his pocket. A friend of the man missing his cellphone called the phone and one of the phones in Nganga’s pocket began ringing, according to the affidavit.

Nganga denied taking Boid’s wallet, and said while he took the cellphone of the man, it was only by mistake, authorities say.

Boid was ultimately placed in handcuffs and arrested after continuing to argue with police.