|photo © Nils_Klinger|
Lori Waxman is an art critic and historian who lives in Chicago. For d13 she decamped to Kassel for three-and-a-half months, together with her husband Michael Rakowitz, an artist also included in the exhibition, and their daughter Renée, who at the time was two-and-a-half years old. Lori wrote a total of 241 reviews during the course of the project. A few of them were for artists whose work revealed their existence as parents; some were even for children.
A book of the entire project was published by Onestar Press, with an afterword by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the artistic director of dOCUMENTA (13). It can be purchased in print or downloaded as a free PDF. Cultural ReProducers is pleased to share a series of reviews excerpted from the project, which recognizes children and parents as relevant participants in cultural dialogue.
Yi-Ping Hou and I have been sipping oolong tea for 20 minutes, as part of an artwork she calls “Serve Tea.” Her set is delicate and she uses it with sureness. Her three-year-old son Jasper flits around, wondering if it’s time to pour yet, time to paint. Are young children compatible with “tea,” a centuries-old practice meant to take the participants out of the space and time of quotidian circumstances? We discuss this and decide they are not. This feels painful but true. Is the self-conscious nature imposed by my open, public performance space compatible with “tea,” a ritual whose mastery involves slowing down and relaxing into intimate, subtle communion? We discuss this and decide it is not either. Finally, we take the wet, open tea leaves, scatter them on thick white paper, and together with Jasper’s help, ink them down in black and a bit of red. (Hou took up printmaking when her pregnancy forced her to stop using oil paint.) Would one of the Japanese masters Okakura writes about in “The Book of Tea” recognize or even appreciate our interaction? If he was a true master, then yes, if only for the deep honesty, flexibility and generosity that Yi-Ping Hou’s “Serve Tea” brought out in us all.
60 WRD/MIN ART CRITIC // KASSEL // 235
The compatibility of motherhood and art making is not a given, but it is excruciatingly important to raise as a possibility. Sylvia Krüger, a weaver and the mother of a boy who will turn three next week, is currently working out her own answers to its complicated questions. This feels like more of a necessity than a choice, as it similarly was for feminist artists like Mierle Laderman Ukeles and Mary Kelly beginning in the 1970s. Krüger, like her predecessors, works with and in her domestic and quotidian environment: she shreds and re-weaves used dishtowels; embroiders nighttime musings into her pillow (when finally there is enough quiet to think adult thoughts); builds the image of a house as a kind of feminist portraiture; spins yarn on a record-player bobbin, marking the constant passage of time; carves found sticks into hundreds of spools; and even fashions conventional, fairy-tale like tapestries. It is not easy to raise a child, and it is even more difficult to do this while making art; Krüger reveals these tensions with great honesty when she cuts up an unsettlingly chaotic tapestry, allows the record player to spin endlessly, and leaves the angry wood chips of her whittling spread across the floor, with three kitchen knives nearby. Redemption comes when these gestures and materials join together to form works of art.
—Lori Waxman 9/15/12 2:09 PM
Charlotte Lohr is six years old. She has made her first canvas, and it is a picture of a red bird. The bird stands dead center in the middle of a large white expanse, filling it with its round body, pointy beak, tail feathers, two feet and one eye. A phrase runs along the top of the chick’s head. From this description, you might imagine a sweet blob of red paint and some cheery ditty, all squashed onto a wee canvas. You would be wrong. Lohr paints her 90 cm square composition with a bold, thoughtful line, and her sense of restraint appeals. The bird isn’t colored in, and its schematic form feels original and cheeky. The caption, meanwhile, is not only stamped on in a nifty font, it’s an impudent play on one of the most annoying of sayings: The early bird catches the worm. Instead, Lohr wrote: I don’t give a shit about the early bird. This is surprising coming from a six year old, but also not. Children absorb and question everything in their environment, and the alternative maxim hangs in the Lohr family kitchen. So Lohr junior decided to interpret it and picture it. What’s so novel is the witty minimalism of her illustration, a style any grown-up would be hard-pressed to follow.
—Lori Waxman 8/25/12 2:00 PM
Also in this series:
60 WRD/MIN ART CRITIC // Walter Peter and Anna Yema Ditzel
60 WRD/MIN ART CRITIC // Julie Bernattz and Sofia Frank de Morais Barreira