As we’ve just seen with Circuit12’s decision to close its gallery in the Design District and explore other options, the nature of space for exhibiting artists in Dallas is again being deliberated and reconsidered. There’s new energy for finding different ways to present work. Satellite spaces and studio projects are maturing into collaborative prospects.
Two curators are taking the possibilities of nontraditional exhibition quite far – to Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico – for a show this weekend. Dallas connections and collaborative work relationships will come to fruition, not in a gallery there, but in a palatial convent.
The exhibition Charlie Don’t Surf began with a connection made during last year’s Dallas Biennial, another Jesse Barnett-Michael Mazurek curatorial effort. Teresa Margolles, one of the curated artists for that event, put the two in contact with Gabriel Hörner García, the director of La Museo De Ciudad de Querétaro, Mexico. A Skype interview and a visit to the site in September revealed a majestic 18th century convent established by an order of Capuchin nuns, now operating as a museum, with a robust selection of screenings and educational programming.
García offered the entire first floor of the space, which features ten galleries and various other “ancillary spaces,” as described by Mazurek. There’s also a studio component to the complex, which the museum will make use of to aid in the fabrication of work for the show, while garnering materials at the artists’ request.
Organized as an invitational exhibition by Michael Mazurek and Jesse Morgan Barnett, Charlie Don’t Surf is a show featuring filmmakers and artists in the practice of socio-political commentary, historiography, and documenting human experience; the likes of Carolee Schneemann and Wilfredo Prieto are on the bill. There’s even a video piece in the roster by Kate Wagner, the owner of the McMansion Hell blog.
The parameters of this effort resist finite description. Physically, the space between the works render the show less a group exhibition; the objects will be spread out over more than 30,000 square feet, making each installation feel separate.
“Jesse and I were thrilled to learn that Gabriel also programs the main movie theater in Santiago de Querétaro,” Mazurek says. García obliged access to the theater as well, bringing the largesse of the city to size.
The dual showing of objects on Friday and films Saturday and Sunday sees different artists exhibiting in both dimensions, sometimes appearing in each other’s works. At the time of this writing, only Barnett and Mazurek have seen the space, though the caravan of those that will make the trek down to Mexico departed Monday.
Barnett and Mazurek organized the show logistically, and invited the artists to participate, but are shying from a definitively curatorial title for this collective experience. Barnett will be presenting “a special performance with lots of touching involved.”
Jeff Gibbons, who’ll show in both the museum exhibition and the related screening, has a heuristic relationship to Mexico as a locale. Earlier this year, he completed a residency with Cerámica Suro in Guadalajara. Though that experience was intentioned as a time to work in ceramics, he was able to work with Gregory Ruppe during the first week of his stay on a film, which will be screened at the theatre. The two made use of Gibbons’s existing “Dream Body” figure and an invented character, comprised of a mop with sunglasses affixed to its tendrils. Mop and Dream Body Don’t Go to the Circus, is a study on agoraphobic feelings, and psychology of space in which one secludes. A garrulous chatter of headless voices echoes off-screen, and the mop and foam figure take turns staring out windows, stoically populating an otherwise empty home, and cycling through a daily turn of light and dark.
When asked about the impetus for producing a collaborative video piece, Ruppe talks about the inversion of interior and exterior in domestic spaces of the region. Entering the home means following a long hallway, then being introduced to outside light and air by an atrium. Studiomates Bruce Blay and Danny Skinner contributed to the score; Dallas educator and curator Sofia Bastidas narrates in Spanish.
Alongside the collaborative video, Gibbons will be screening another film, Looking, which features fellow exhibitor Stephen Lapthisophon. Though Lapthisophon appears in the film, Gibbons insists Looking isn’t a document of his person or his body. As the title suggests, it’s a way of seeing interpersonal connections and relationships.
Gibbons’ plans for the opening exhibition are less referential. His request of the museum for materials was simple: noodles and cement. He plans on scavenging upon arrival to the site as well; the work will respond to it when he gets there. It’s important to remember: none of the artists aside from Mazurek or Barnett have comprehensive knowledge of the tens of thousands of square feet that will be available for this show. Doesn’t it make them nervous?
“I’m accustomed to not knowing. I have been responding to the Unknown as part of my work from the very beginning,” participating artist Pierre Krause expressed by email. “My work is in constant dialog with objects, space, and time. I feel absolutely calm at the very idea of it but also enthralled.”
Krause’s video ‘15000 for a whole set (New Teeth): A Film About Friendship’ will show at the screening. It titularly announces the artist’s interest in addressing relationships and personal connection. The work is an After Deth production, the audio-visual label Krause founded with Jake Elliott behind such works as this Nelly Furtado music video.
Though Krause has travelled as far as Switzerland on previous occasion for their work, this will be their first time visiting Mexico. “I’m really excited and ready to experience something so entirely new yet close to where I live,” Krause adds.
According to artist Stephen Lapthisophon, the call and response nature of site-specific work is typical of his practice. He tempers this by mentioning that his contributions will be less programmatic or technical. His installation “The Long Goodbye” will take shape as a series of texts and referents pointing towards a flight to Mexico.
“The title is from Raymond Chandler’s last novel and mixes references to the death of Trotsky in Mexico and Phillip Marlowe and Tina Modotti,” he says. Periodicals, publishings, wall drawings and hair will stick to the surface of the convent, a palimpsest of historical conclusions layered atop one another.
Since not all the Dallas artists could make it to Mexico, the duo organizing the show produced documentation and resources to help them prepare and experience it vicariously.
“We provided detailed floor plans and images of the space as well as descriptors that we felt would help them consider the physicality of the architecture and the building’s history,” Mazurek says.
The precarity of the unplannable and newness of form have primed these locals to take that spirit of collaboration and stick it in another city, out of the country, to further their own processes and learn from one another.
Charlie Don’t Surf opens Friday at Museo de la Ciudad de Querétaro, followed by an accompanied screening of films on Saturday and Sunday at Cineteca Rosalío Solano in Santiago De Querétaro, Mexico.
Like many North Texas artists and writers, the bylined journalist and D’s online arts editor occasionally lead workshops for The Modern’s education department care of Jesse Barnett.
In an earlier version of this piece, artist Lauren Woods was featured and quoted. We received this statement from Barnett after the show: Despite many attempts to contact Lauren Woods, she failed to send her videos to us, thus making it impossible to install her piece. This is unfortunate and disappointing.