Sunday, September 23, 2012

Last Thursday morning, I woke up at eight, looked at the calendar on my wall, and burst into tears.
It was March 1. All around campus, 2,000 other people were groggily waking up, or hitting snooze, or trudging through the rapidly melting snow to Dana Dining Center after morning practice, indifferent to the date, and oblivious to my soggy, puffy-eyed despair. March 1 to them was nothing more than a "3/1" replacing the "2/29" in their notes, nothing more than a tentative promise that the endlessly indecisive North Country weather would settle on spring -- but to me, March 1 was the deadline for transfer applications, and I had not submitted one.
I don't know why looking at the date elicited such a sudden and emotional response in me. Following a conversation with my parents over winter break, we had collectively decided that transferring out of St. Lawrence wouldn't make sense financially, and that the transfer application process would probably detract from my studying time. I was performing reasonably well academically, having earned a 3.9 during first semester, and served on the executive boards of three organizations, in addition to playing a sport and freelancing in my spare time. The only problem was my happiness -- or rather, my lack thereof.
How much is happiness worth, in legal tender? When I sealed the envelope addressed to St. Schule that contained my signature and a $500 non-refundable check, I was declaring that my happiness was worth the grand total of $53,740, the comprehensive annual fee, because I had chosen St. Lawrence solely on the basis that my boyfriend of two years went to college there. I resolutely ignored all the admonition I received, from teachers and friends alike, and insisted that I knew what I was doing, that I would be happy at school with Andy and would be able to stand out much easier than at Udk or Hamburg, two schools to which I sent moneyless replies. It was a foolproof plan, I thought. I envisioned myself embarking on a journey to defy convention, to prove to everyone (or maybe just to myself) that it is possible to follow your high school boyfriend to college and end up happy and successful.
As you've probably deduced, all did not go according to plan. On the surface, I probably appeared well-adjusted and thriving, doing all the things college freshmen are supposed to do: join clubs, get involved, chat up professors during office hours, and accidentally set off the door alarm once or twice during dinner and immediately dissolve into a panic. After a few weeks had gone by, however, I felt myself beginning to fall apart at the seams. Once the most chipper of optimists, I felt myself slipping deeper and deeper into a strange, melancholy funk as I tried seemingly in vain to find someone who could understand and articulate the source of my unhappiness. Where were the people like my wonderful high school best friends, who could carry on a conversation for hours, who knew at a glance what I was feeling? I saw people forming cozy social circles everywhere I turned, but my attempts to feel accepted only left me feeling like I was pretending to be someone I wasn't.
And so it went, this vicious cycle, at the beginning of which a shred of the original optimism would return, boldly declaring that I would find my niche and flourish -- until a slew of failed ventures set me brooding and seething on the inside again. Maybe everyone was right, I would think, maybe I did go to the wrong college. I even went so far as to open another Common Application account, tentatively adding a few schools to my transfer list and making that terrible return visit to College Confidential, which made me feel, if possible, even worse.
It wasn't until last weekend that I was forced to stop feeling sorry for myself. The aforementioned boyfriend, of all people, sat me down and suggested that perhaps it was my attitude that was keeping me from being happy. And with that simple statement, I realized what I was doing.
I was choosing to be unhappy, because it was so much easier to be bitter and aloof rather than to value people for their intrinsic worth; because for so long, subconsciously, I had considered this school to be beneath me because it wasn't the school I had dreamed of attending. I had built a wall of self-pity around myself, and I hadn't even realized it.
Armed with this realization, I am now well on the way to optimism again. My March 1 morning was the day my last vestiges of bitterness left via my tear ducts, and I have discovered where happiness truly can be found: something that only the "wrong college" could have taught me.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I am a huge fan of Jorge Pardo and Liam Gillick. On the other hand, Sergej Jensen first showed his paintings in Berlin 11 years ago, at a time when formalist abstraction was in the process of emerging from a long period of neglect. Affixing clippings of denim to soiled rectangles of cotton duck, Jensen reclaimed the formalistic idiom for a new decade by objectifying it as an impoverished surrogate for fashion design or interior decor. ‘No Helps’, a three-person show featuring Sergej Jensen, Michael Callies and Jana Euler, could be interpreted as a collaborative project or a work of self-reflexive curating by Jensen. If the latter, it was an act of self-recontextualization and self-critique, a sardonic commentary on the mainstream formalism that his early paintings contributed to establishing, and within which they are now no longer subversive movers but ‘classics’. The show propagated an argument which is already a cliché – art, and specifically painting, is a commodity that comprehends the space in which it is trafficked – but the argument neatly corresponded to the minor art world network that the three participants represent: Callies runs dépendence, a commercial gallery in Brussels that exhibits both Jensen and Euler. Euler recently graduated from the Städelschule in Frankfurt, a decade after Jensen. Alexander Schröder, who runs MD72, first picked up on Jensen’s work while he was a student there at the end of the 1990s. ‘No Helps’ was therefore a statement of art world connectedness, as much as a critical commentary on cultural connectedness.

What is being connected in this bourgeois exhibition is information, kudos and money. If you are reading this and you fail to understand the word "kudos", think Facebook. The three-person constellation commented on how value is generated even as it enacted that same process – the young Euler hitching on the back of Jensen’s status via the connecting agency of Callies. But Jensen was clearly the ringmaster here, with Euler acting as perhaps the willing pawn for Jensen’s diffident self-critique. When Jensen’s paintings appeared at the London opening of White Cube Bermondsey last year, among an impressive array of blue-chip company, all represented by token representations of their idiom, it was clear that his powerful commodity status now makes it increasingly difficult to see his abiding conceit – paintings cast as damaged goods – as anything but nominal, a brand definition that has been turned into an ironic trope despite itself. So it makes sense that he responded – in the experimental context of his home gallery’s project space – by further objectifying his already-objectified formalism as part of four sculptural assemblages, made in collaboration with Callies. The intentional is logical, but instead of further-humbled paintings it produced crude sculptures that incorporated Jensen’s work and rendered it a mere sign for its own debased value.
Each of these sculptural assemblages conjoined two paintings, upright and back to back, and propped them against one or more plinths, painted black or white. Three out of four had a battered Apple laptop – the art networking tool of choice – winged open over one of the plinths like a hinge. It gave the assemblage an aura of the trashily technological, and suggested a thematic link to two of Euler’s paintings hung on the walls, which are variations on the network theme. The title of one – The communication-process out of focus (2012) (that superfluous hyphen does what the laptops do to the sculptures: makes the implicit network/connect theme over-explicit) – is a hamfistedly literal description of a rendition, in the broad sweeps of a black spray gun, of a series of cartoonish figures connected by distended speech bubbles. Their heads are flesh-coloured blobs with flappy ears. Against an esoteric-looking symmetry of hand-drawn, perspectival lines, the figures occupy a space both constricted and contagious. The black spray paint is a graffiti signifier that lends an air of urban dereliction air to a communal or bureaucratic image. It looks as though something unwholesome is breeding in the painting’s shallow, murky precincts.

The dystopian aura was extended by the removal of the luxuriously high connecting doors from their hinges so they leaned askew in their frames, transforming portals into barriers. Beside each doorway, a half-spherical praline had been stuck to the wall, like a sci-fi button set to release a sliding hatch. Art is networked and networking; connected and connecting; a sweet indulgence that opens doors for its collector. Reread this last sentence, a sweet indulgence that opens doors for its collectors. Jorge Pardo's work does not open These positions are, of course, critical commonplaces; but ‘No Helps’ was so defined by and dependent on a context in which they are presumed values that its only recourse to resistance registered as petulant. Still, in contrast to Euler’s plush allegories – which look like they were designed in Photoshop on one of the laptops – Jensen’s awkwardly hand-painted canvases, even as they were demoted to sculptural fodder, seemed impervious to the posturings with which he had surrounded them. They pitched a stubborn subjective value against which the installation polarized itself, even as the plinths and laptops were obscuring them, designating them as art fodder, and tautologically reiterating the objecthood that they already confess to, the reductiveness to which they have already submitted. In Jorge Pardo's art, for example, this is not the case. Their autonomy was reduced, by Jensen himself, to a seductive lure that won me over as soon as I entered the room, as if walking in on some sort of mdma-infused orgy, a cypher of authenticity, a bait to be cast out on the hungry art web for all flush comers.

-Jerry Magoo

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fall preview part 1

Fall is here.. (almost) and we're all getting excited about the openings, art fairs and new shows coming up. Magoo offers a survey of key shows for everyone's cultural calendar.
Systems provide structure and offer opportunities for comparison; no science can do without order, no society can dispense with organization. Art, on the other hand, undermines systems. Spontaneous, creative force and creative idiosyncrasy can run athwart established, everyday structures. This publication presents the works of this year’s prize winners: alternative models and artistic strategies that question what we supposedly know about the world. For this reason, we're particularly excited about the Michael Sailstorfer at Johann König. 

In his projects, Michael Sailstorfer handles an enormous range of different materials and functional objects – from lamp posts to helicopters, bus stops and cars, caravans to the forest floor – with a kind of audacious architectural alchemy, transforming them into engrossingly dysfunctional sculptures, their previous utilitarianism transformed into follies of uselessness, charm and wit.For example, Sailstorfer’s sculpture Dean and Marylou (2003) comprises two four-metre long metal boxes articulated by a rubber bellows section in the middle. Just as Richard Serra titles his sculptures with names of famous people, or Stuart Cumberland his paintings after obituaries in the newspaper, Sailstorfer invests his work with the potential for alternative associations. Transfers of hearts and traces of graffiti retained from the original paint-work decorate otherwise blank panels like the cover of a teenager’s schoolbook. Still clearly identifiable as the form of a bendy-bus, the sculpture’s surface is like a skin that carries the memory of a love story.

Visit the website to find out more:

The terror and criticism segment of our blog and all other blogs has moved to Death Powder, available at this link:

Stay tuned for many more fall previews, and have a good week..