- Jenny Holzer's Inflammatory Essays in that grid on the wall say things like "DON'T TALK DOWN TO ME. DON'T BE POLITE TO ME. DON'T TRY TO MAKE ME FEEL NICE. DON'T RELAX. I'LL CUT THE SMILE OFF YOUR FACE" and "FEAR IS THE MOST ELEGANT WEAPON, YOUR HANDS ARE NEVER MESSY." The artist made them between 1979 and 1982.
Your guide to imminent happenings in conjunction with Elles at Seattle Art Museum.*
1. Soft Power, Activated continues (tonight with Michelle Dunn Marsh on "Reading Photograph")
2. Also tonight: the opening of The Rug Pulled Out From Underneath; You Lie on the Floor a group show co-curated by Dawn Cerny and Shaw Osha at the Hedreen Gallery at SU (scroll down a little).
3. A conference at UW Nov 15-17 called New Geographies of Feminist Art: China, Asia + the World gives a good, focused take on feminist art, including sessions on feminist art made in the city versus art made in the country in Asia, and the effect of the exploding markets on feminism in Asian art.
4. At SAM on December 1, the greatly freaky Eleanor Antin will perform from her memoir Conversations with Stalin.
5. On December 12, Seattle artist Victoria Haven will talk about her show-within-a-show at Elles: SAM, which involves minimalism, torn-out chunks of studio walls with mix tapes painted on them, and the new downtown "city Target" store.
6. Photography scholar and curator Debra Willis speaks about what she sees in Elles on December 14 at SAM.
7. Jenny Holzer, the iconic artist who works in blocks of text she calls Truisms—and whose Inflammatory Essays are currently wallpapering a hallway at SAM (see above)—will be interviewed January 9 at SAM by Catharina Manchanda, SAM's modern and contemporary curator.
There will be more—and there are related shows opening all over the place—but this is a basic outline of what's truly imminent and what's directly related to Elles, especially out-of-town speakers you'll only have a chance to see once.
Unfortunately, last week's talk by Amelia Jones, a star of feminist academia who shot through Seattle for a night, felt like a missed opportunity.**
- Mes Poupees (My Dolls), by Marie-Ange Guilleminot, in Elles. This is a still from a video in which the artist pushes and pulls at a fabric tube stuffed with powder in her lap; it shifts from seeming unidentifiable to overtly sexual, and female to male to both.
Jones recounted a fairly textbook history of feminist curating and pedagogy focused on LA. She mentioned Elles only briefly, and had nothing to say about Elles: SAM.
For the last few minutes of the talk, Jones said she would introduce an artist who confounds feminist curating and pedagogy in interesting ways. She delivered a nice description of a rarely if ever seen series (Holly Myers describes it here) that Barbara T. Smith undertook in the middle 1960s.
In what must have earned her the scorn and misunderstanding of friends and family—since she was "just" a housewife with an art background at that time—Smith went to the considerable expense and trouble of renting a large Xerox machine and, in addition to making Xeroxes of inanimate objects, Xeroxing her own naked body as well. Jones described sitting with Smith in her home recently, holding the soft, fleshy scrapbooks in her hands.
While this evoked the desire to have held them in your hands yourself, not much analysis came from there. Jones glancingly reiterated the familiar critique that museums are sterile, forced environments—"we need to think of ways of not ruining the messiness of this work"—and delivered another unsurprising remark about "market-happy" artists, citing Wangechi Mutu. She made one or two choice comments that indicated why she's so well-loved (especially a zinger about the hypocrisy of English Marxists). But she didn't really land anywhere, or go very deep on anything unfamiliar. Wouldn't it have been great to see her flash applied to, say, Seattle-based feminist/queer artist Wynne Greenwood filming her own music video in a gallery at the Frye Museum two miles away? Or Holly Bass's recent peep show in SAM's boardroom.
Is this a case of a Seattle appearance just not being that important to a world-famous scholar?
**I couldn't attend, so I watched a recording of Jones's talk on DVD.