Archive for June, 2008


Saturday, June 28th, 2008

June 23 was Sankt Hans Aften (St John’s Eve), which is how the Danes celebrate midsummer.
We were told that it involved a bonfire near the water, plus a speech and song or two. Maybe the burning of a witch effigy, probably some beer. And so, without really knowing what to expect, we went over to the big town of Holbaek to go check it out.

These people are no joke.
The woodpile for the bonfire was the size of a U-Haul truck. Maybe bigger.

You might not be able to tell from the pics, but it was massive.
And it wasn’t near the water, it was in the water, on a humongous platform.

We got to the park in Holbaek around 8 pm. There were a few mellow hours of folks just hanging out at the park socializing, and a couple of cruise-ship-esque bands playing on a covered stage.

Around 11 pm, everyone trotted over to the slope facing the bonfire. A woman went up to the podium between the flags, and just started speaking. While she spoke, the bonfire was lit. No fanfare, nothing.

As she kept speaking, the bonfire went berserk.
Then everyone sang a couple of traditional Danish songs.


Towards the tail end, some fireworks were also set off nearby
almost as an afterthought.

And that was it!
Simple, and to the point.
Absolutely amazing.

the wind-down

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Time slows down, time speeds right back up again. It’s been a mildly melancholy day today: my stint at the residency is over, and tomorrow is departure day. Peter, Lovo and Hugo just left, and a few others are away for the weekend, so Soelyst definitely seems as though it’s quietly winding down, for the June crew, at least. There are still a few more days of adventure ahead (off to Finland and Estonia!), but the amazing-ness of this past month in Denmark, particularly all the quiet time here in lovely little Jyderup, and all the new artist-friends I’ve made, makes it hard to leave.

I’ve been remiss in posting photos: probably won’t be able to do this in earnest until back in beautiful West Oakland, but here’s phase one, a few random strays, just for kicks.

Osmo and Mauri, raising a ruckus at Soelyst artist Carla Ahlander‘s exhibition opening:

Tonia and Mads clowning around at the opening:

Hot dogs in front of the Radhuset in Copenhagen:

tree-ish sculpture in front of Rosenborg Slot:

New and old sections of the Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK):

Danish install humor at SMK:
sculpture of a dead-looking drunk guy next to a bunch of historic sculptural busts:

Wofford and puppy at SMK (borrowed off museum cart of kid’s toys):

Tivoli, the O.G. theme park that Disney took some major cues from:

Soelyst artist Koken Ergun‘s video screening and artist talk at Karriere Bar in Copenhagen:

Karriere Bar (started by artists, with decorative contributions from
Olafur Eliasson, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Franz Ackermann and others):

Exit08, show of work by graduating master’s students at GL Strand:


Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Some of you may understand the significance of this.

For the rest of you, this is my “yes, there are cheezballs in Copenhagen” evidence.

Planter’s stopped manufacturing CheezBalls in the US a couple of years ago, much to my severe disappointment. And then, in my hour of despair, I joyfully learned that  that you can still find them in Manila and other places overseas, manufactured under the pseudonym Lady Liberty (and still sold in the big cylindrical Planters-esque can). The Danish ones (Kims brand “Kanonkugler”) seem to be a knock-off of some sort, but they’re surprisingly convincing.

And you were worried I wasn’t having a cultural experience over here.

small frickin’ world

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

I was sitting here in cute little Jyderup, looking over a map/calendar of galleries I want to check out in big-city Copenhagen, when I noticed that Koh-i-noor, an artist-run space there, is having an opening on Friday June 27 of a collaborative project by Bay Area artists Josh Greene and Renee Gertler.

Renee and I only recently became acquainted, primarily through showing together at the DiRosa Preserve earlier this year, but of course, it has turned out that she, Josh and I have many mutual friends and conspirators. A tangled web, woven all the way to Copenhagen! And Koh-i-noor has a number of ties to the Bay Area arts community. I think this began when organizer Heidi Hove Pedersen studied at CCA for a year, and has extended a great deal since then. My buddy, fellow artist Jonn Herschend, worked with the Koh-i-noor crew to put together Deadpan Exchange, a series of international arts exchanges between Denmark and the Bay Area. This project started last summer, around the same time as Galleon Trade, so Jonn and I have been egging each other on ever since.

Soo, triple-delight:
1: get to see koh-i-noor space finally
2: get to see Renee and Josh in Copenhagen (even if we could do this at home)
3: get to see a really cool project that deals with the nature of partnership, negotiation and collaboration, always a juicy subject

from the koh-i-noor website:
Koh-i-noor is proud to present the video That’s My Side, by Renee Gertler and Josh Greene.

That’s My Side is a collaboration between San Francisco based artists (and married couple) Renee Gertler and Josh Greene. For this exhibition in Copenhagen Gertler and Greene are making a video that takes collaboration as its subject. As a married couple nearly every aspect of their lives are fused. But despite the fact that they are both artists, the work that they each do is distinctly separate and their own. Of course they regularly consult each other for aesthetic and conceptual advice, but they do not collaborate. Until now that is.

That’s My Side forces Gertler and Greene to take a look at their individual practices and figure out how they may fuse them into one coherent exhibition. Over the course of several months they have been having extended discussions via email and Gmail chat about how they can possibly collaborate. At times the dialogue has been tense and frustrating, yet also revealing of where they each are in regards to their careers at this particular moment.

Gertler and Greene have taken these emails and Gmail chats and used them as the basis for a dramatization of the conversation that they have been having. The video, That’s My Side, will feature the Danish actors, Penille Albæk Andersen and Jakob Knudsen from the Statens Teater Skole, playing the roles of Gertler and Greene. The video will be in Danish with English subtitles.

Opening: June 27, 5-8 pm
Exhibition: June 27 ”“ July 6, 2008
Hours: Thursday ”“ Sunday 2-5 pm

Dybbølsgade 60
DK-1721 CPH V.

out and about

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

The hermit gets restless, at long last. I’ve been finally venturing out beyond the lovely paths and trails around Jyderup, and seeing more of the area. And, now that Pirate has arrived, more sightseeing and adventuring are coming soon…
Over the weekend, I took a little day trip to Roskilde, to check out a Fluxus show at the city’s contemporary art museum, and then just spent the afternoon wandering around, enjoying the sights.

The show was a very dense presentation of Fluxus ephemera, instructions and scores: a lot to sift through, but engaging, nonetheless. I’m always a sucker for Fluxus.
Entrance to the Museet for Samtidskunst where the show was held:
The work was crammed everywhere in the galleries, and even in the cafe and toilet, which was actually one of my favorite aspects of the show’s installation.

Although the signage requested that no photos be taken, I couldn’t resist taking a couple in aforementioned teensy cafe which, quite charmingly, consisted of two little tables and a DIY coffee machine (the kind you plug a couple of coins into, and get a hot beverage in a plastic cup)…
…as well as the bathroom:
I’m thinking that Mag:net Katipunan’s CR Gallery in the Philippines is still the best bathroom gallery in the world, but a little global competition isn’t such a bad thing. Both the cafe and bathroom had way more art than these pictures demonstrate, but really. There are only so many cafe/bathroom gallery pictures that any blog should host.

Anyhow. Wandered down to the harbour (or is it a harbour, technically? Roskilde’s right on a fjord. How does this work?), took in the spectacle of some sort of gymnastics festival happening in a field nearby, then wandered around in a really lovely, quiet little cemetery before calling it a day, buying a hot dog at the station, and jumping on a train back to Jyderup.
boats.jpg cem.jpg
Fluxus, coffee in plastic cups, bathroom art, fjords, gymnasts, cemeteries, hot dogs, trains.
All in all, a very solid day.

the deal with residencies

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

I was thinking earlier, as Soelyst erupted today with shrieking, giggling little kids, that I haven’t actually described what goes on here, or who else is here with me. No, I am not the solitary Norma Desmond Grande Dame of the house: there are other artists (and, quite unusually and happily, their partners and kids) here as well, from all sorts of interesting places.
Koken‘s from Turkey, but splits his time between Istanbul and Berlin. Peter, Denise and Mikko collaborate: Peter and his wife and baby live in Copenhagen (he’s from Denmark, she’s from Bosnia Herzegovina), Denise and Mikko are married (she’s Swiss, he’s Finnish) with 2 little kids aged 4 and 1, and they live in Helsinki. Irina and her 3 year old daughter just got here from Moscow a few days ago; Mads (who’s Danish, but lived in Oakland for years) arrives from New York this weekend. (And Pirate, who’s arriving soon, too, is Welsh-Slovenian from Ohio.) It’s a serious international party! And I really love hearing the kids squawking and doing their kid-thing around the building. It’s a very happy thing.

For those of you who might appreciate a little primer on what “artist in residence” programs are, here’s a wee overview. (First off, hardly ANY residencies allow artists to bring their partners or children. This is one thing that makes Soelyst extra special. It’s super family-friendly, which I think is really amazing.)

One of the traditional functions of a residency is that it operates like an extended artist retreat, where you are away from all of your daily distractions, and can just focus on making art or developing ideas. Sometimes, partners and kids are considered part of this daily distraction, hence the lack of programs like Soelyst’s.

You apply competitively, with a portfolio and usually a proposal for how you’d use your time. If the residency likes your application, they invite you to come stay with them for a while. This can be anywhere from 1 week to 1 year. Most commonly, the time slot is 1 to 3 months.

What the residency will provide you with varies wildly. Some residencies will charge you to come stay with them, other residencies actually pay you to to come. Some are bare-bones, others are full-on hi-tech workshops. In general, the best-funded residencies seem to be in northern Europe, but there are still some sweet deals in the US, too. Outside of Japan and Korea, most of the Asia-Pacific residencies tend not to be able to offer much, if anything, in terms of compensation. And I know very little about South American or African ones.

3 great resource sites for perusing your artist-in-residence options:

A Dutch site: they do the best job of organizing around upcoming application deadlines, and offer other kinds of international artist opps, too.
Primarily an American site: things are well-organized by region as well as discipline.
The grand-daddy godfather of the international artist-in-residence cabal.

So how’d I get into this, you may ask?

In early 2002, I was burning out fast on being a high school art teacher, and becoming increasingly worried about how little art I was making, paradoxically, because of this. I made a dramatic decision to leave teaching after the school year ended, and to try to re-learn how to be an artist. Not really knowing what I was doing at all, I farmed out probably 10 applications to various artist-in-residence programs, and, unbelievably, actually got into a few.

The first residency I did was called the Summer SIX Program, at Skidmore College, in upstate New York, in July 2002. It was a modest and fairly specific (only high school art teachers could apply) experience, but exactly what I needed: time away, space to recuperate from school and make work for a month, somewhere quiet, new and different.
It was on a lovely college campus during summer, and exactly what I needed. Other than costs incurred getting myself there, my studio, dorm bedroom, and meal plan were all free.

A few months later, M.O.B. undertook a group residency from September to mid-November at McColl Center for Visual Art, in Charlotte, North Carolina. We’d applied for it about a year earlier, but it took awhile to coordinate our schedules to actually get there.
The kind folks at McColl paid for our flights out, gave us free accommodation and tower studio, gave us a daily meal stipend, a studio budget, and a car to use, since we lived in a townhouse a few miles from the McColl. Pimp. While sometimes it felt a little disconnected, being so far from the actual center and the other artists, it was hugely productive, and ridiculously fun. We were expected to do public outreach: open studios, some university lectures. (And, of course, Charlotte wasn’t far from Wofford College, which is when I made my historic pilgrimage, and pretty much went berserk on merchandise in the school store…)

While in NC, I learned that I had, by some small miracle, been accepted into 3 other residency programs for 2003: two I had to back out of for lack of funding, and one, which offered no travel or production funds, but a free 2 month stint in a castle on the French Riviera, all meals, accommodation and studio space included. Hellooo, Chateau de La Napoule.
Freezing cold (for the first month) and under-staffed, but insanely beautiful, retardedly inspiring, with great camaraderie and dramatic comedy among the 9 residents, and ample opportunity to explore the south of France…and, of course, many moments for stupid “here I am, working soo hard on the Cote d’Azur” gag photos.
And then that was it, until 2008! (I was decreed artist-in-residence at The Living Room, in Malate, Metro Manila, in 2006, but in my mind, that was more of an artist research trip than a formal studio residency.)

Grad school 2005-2007 was something like an extended two-year residency, though. Although I definitely chafed and struggled during my time at UC Berkeley, it was an absolutely formative experience, and utterly critical to my growth as an artist to have so much uncompromised time to just work on creating a bigger vision for my creative path. And now, a year out of my MFA program, I’m reminded how important it continues to be for me (and for many, many creatives) to have time and space to stretch out, explore, and/or rebuild one’s studio practice.

So: apply for artist-in-residencies.
Make sure and choose ones that are a good fit for your needs and dreams.
Go. You won’t regret it.

soelyst, to say the least

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

OK, back to serious business, folks. There’s a lot of Danishness to report about.
This, on the piano in the downstairs dining hall here at Soelyst A.I.R.:
BTW, smoking was finally banned in numerous public venues recently: kind of a big thing here.

Soelyst, as it turns out, is a former manor house, then hunting lodge, of some sort. When it came into public possession, it went through various incarnations as a house for “fallen women” (gotta love that), an orphanage or children’s center (I’m a little unclear on this one), a school, and now, for the past year or so, an artist residency center. Lucky me.

The ground-level dining hall isn’t really used by any of us (we’re on the 2nd and 3rd floors), but I like poking around in the emptiness down there. It’s like The Shining, only Danish, and pleasant. (Plus for all you design nerds, it’s just littered with Danish Modern furniture…)
…and one floor up is my studio, with the most ridiculously lovely view of the lake.
The sun just streams in all afternoon and evening.
Here’s the outside view (the open windows are my studio):
Just remember, most of the year, I live in West Oakland.
I like to think I’m entitled to a little time in a Danish manor house on a lake, here and there.

So how am I earning my keep?
Well, one, I’m making a ton of work in the studio.
And two, I offered to finish painting the upstairs communal room a lovely, leafy green:
Between the exterior foliage and the interior latex paint, it’s all about green right now, ladies and germs.

Actually, I’m just painting the room for kicks, since the job had been left half-done for some months prior to my arrival. And because, you know, between painting what feels like every room in my house as well as several galleries in SF in the past six months, I’m kind of programmed to do it. Like I just see a wall, and feel compelled to paint it.

More Soelyst shenanigans coming soon! Stay tuned.


Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

So I have this thing where every trip I take, I institute an official regional (or semi-regional) beverage of the trip.

In Malaysia, it was iced coffee Milo, or 100 Plus.
In Singapore, it was chrysanthemum tea.
In the Philippines, it was Cali Shandy, or San Miguel beer.
In France, it was pretty much any cheap red wine we could get our hands on.
In North Carolina, it was Cheerwine (which is not wine at all, actually).
In Denmark, it’s Faxe Kondi.
It kind of tastes like a lemon-lime soda, but with druesukker instead of corn syrup. So it’s healthy-ish!
Mostly, I’m obsessed with the logo: how can you not love it? For reals! It looks like it hasn’t been changed in the past 20 or 30 years. And that’s a good thing! Plus I love the diagonal stripes. That’s always a hard-sell for me.

Faxe Kondi people, please never never change this logo.
And send me a T shirt with it, while you’re at it!!

Faxe Kondi, I love you.


Monday, June 9th, 2008

Well, as long as we’re on the punk thing:
Denmark car sticker
Dead Kennedys logo

I’m just sayin’.

California, uber alles!

Sing with me now.

Mabuhay Gardens:WTF

Monday, June 9th, 2008

For those of you who don’t know about this odd little slice of SF history, Mabuhay Gardens was a Filipino nightclub in North Beach, not far from Manilatown/Chinatown, that ended up becoming a well-known punk venue, and even a stand-up comedy spot for a minute. I’ve had vague fantasies of curating a Mabuhay Gardens-themed show, somehow conflating the Filipino thing with the punk thing, but I’ve got enough Galleon Trade to contend with as it is.

Anyway, I’ve always enjoyed the odd chronology of this place. Imagine my surprise to see that the Berkeley Art Museum is mounting a show called Mabuhay Gardens, with photos by the legendarily weird Bruce Conner!
Bruce Conner: Roz Makes a Giant Step for Mankind: Negative Trend, January 23, 1978

I do love Bruce Conner, and I’m really interested in this history, so I’m sure I’ll have to go see this show at the Berkeley Art Museum. Still, I’m mildly irked by the dismissive “failing Filipino supper club” reference in the web press release. Not that this wasn’t necessarily true, of course, but the phrasing feels like yet another little moment of the Filipino experience existing only as a feeble backdrop for more interesting (ahem), white-oriented pop-cultural histories. I dunno. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive. Anyway, when I’m back in the US (and why the hell am I blogging about this from Denmark, anyway?), I’ll still go check it out, and make up my mind then. If you see the show first, lemme know what you think. I’m super-curious!

Bruce Conner: Mabuhay Gardens
June 4, 2008 – August 3, 2008
Berkeley Art Museum