SCOTT SPEH GALLERY
845 W Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607
Wedensdays thru Saturdays
11am to 6pm
2 to February 6, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010, 6 to 9pm
Works from the Suitable Exhibitions Archive
curated by Scott Wolniak
images | press: press: Chicago
Reader | Time
featuring work by
Irvin, Julia Hechtman, Sterling Ruby, John Neff,
Sarah Conaway, Kirsten Stoltmann, Paul Nudd,
Miller & Shellabarger, Reed Anderson & Daniel Davidson,
Marc Schwartzberg, Ben Stone, and Siebren Versteeg.
Video Vol. 1: Curator’s Note
by Scott Wolniak
This program loosely organizes work by a number of artists
who showed at Suitable Gallery, a DIY exhibition
space located in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood,
during its 5 year run between 1999 and 2004. It speaks more
of a community of artists than of a curatorial agenda. The
process of selection and compilation began as a straightforward
effort to survey all the video work shown at Suitable. Substitutions
and omissions occurred in response to logistic and aesthetic
concerns. The resulting program ultimately sought balance
and watchability over purity or completeness.
content is disparate and varied. There is no thematic or conceptual
agenda, although several arise retrospectively which may reflect
the tastes involved in Suitable’s original gallery programming.
Subject matter found in these pieces include humor, failure,
the abject and degenerate, the performative, roll playing,
the body, art history, art spaces, art materials, counter-culture,
process, time, death and love, to name a few. There is a tangible
sense of utility in much of the work- they do not seem fussed
over, they communicate directly.
good example of this directness is found in Kirsten
Stoltmann’s “I Spill my Guts Everyday
for Nothing”, 2002. The trope of Hollywood special effect
is combined with conventions of early Feminist performance video
to darkly illustrate emotional vulnerability. The fact that
Stoltmann is spilling ‘real’ guts, procured from
a butcher, out of her duct-taped prosthetic tummy is almost
too disturbing. The look of it is nasty, for sure, but we are
only given a quick glimpse, as it slides out of the ruptured
skin and hits the floor with a splat. It is in the extended
view we have of her face that the true horror/ humor is revealed.
As she confronts the camera, pallid and pasty, there is tension
between her facial-expression and the resonant splat from guts
hitting that black-and-white tile floor.
hand-made and the gross come together again in videos by
Paul Nudd and Charles
Irvin. Nudd is famous for brewing up pools of
slime and mucous from art supplies and food. They are playful,
like a child blowing milk bubbles, but the effect of viscous
ooze quickly turns real, abject, snotty and stomach turning.
Nudd managed even to disturb himself with his piece “Worm
Death”, 2000, in which an anonymous phallic drone protrudes
from a wet mustardy crevasse, and loudly oinks.
1999 video “O’Malley’s Head” is a
long trance-inducing piece about a baby and a head. Documentation
of a cute, cooing baby playing with a ridiculous wide-eyed,
decapitated head (presumably O’Malley’s) is edited
to over-the-top Gerber-baby squawk, creating an experience
that is kitsch and funny, but mostly just mental.
2000, by Reed
Anderson and Daniel
Davidson is a juvenile B-movie fantasy brought
to life with the methods and materials of an Ab-Ex sculptor.
An entire city constructed from cardboard and paint is destroyed
in battle between two robot-creatures (also made of cardboard
and paint). In an especially dramatic slow-motion fight sequence,
the hairy legs and wrestling-suit of a performer are sited through
the sloppy seams of one of the cardboard robot suits. This humorous
moment reveals the artists behind the action, contextualizing
the performers and the scale of the set, and allowing us to
remember that through all of the smoke and fire and smashing,
this is a construct of ludic delight.
moment of pure play comes in Ben
Stone’s “High Five”, 1999. This
piece takes the form of a home move, a document of low-stakes
backyard competition. Three friends run a small course then
high-five each other, with a cheesy little digital effect for
flourish. Everyone cheers and the piece is over in 40 seconds.
It is so sweet; it makes me want a juice box.
interesting sub-narrative for this program can be found in
the media itself. These works were made during a transitional
time for video, as the standard was shifting from VHS to miniDV
circa Hi8 and Digital8. There was no home DVD authoring, and
certainly no projectors. It is funny to think that most of
the video shown back then was displayed on crummy little monitors
with built-in VHS players. Tapes would be prepped for auto-rewind,
and viewers would experience art through awkward apparatus.
of works literally embody these historical phases in their media
identities, such as “Shooter” by Marc Schwartzberg,
for which the conversion sequence reads Hi-8 to VHS to miniDV
to DVD. This piece certainly cannot be harmed by quality loss,
as the content is already so far outside of what might be considered
‘good’. Acts of half-baked posturing, sidewalk intimidation
and spitting are captured on a shaky hand-held camera then set
to the music of Motorhead. The resulting video is like of a
C-grade A/V project made by a high school burnout.
works reflect format conversions visually. Degraded resolution
can reveal a history of over-dubs and bad signals. Sarah
Conaway’s piece “Two Dogs and a Ball”-
a cover of William Wegman’s piece of the same title from
the late 60’s, gains from its degree of quality loss.
In this case it is brought it closer to the chopped and fuzzy
original. This lack of fidelity is kind of comforting- a magnetic
patina to antique vintage moving images, evoking authenticity
and contrasting today’s pixel perfect HD.
newest work in the program is “Inevitable (NTSC Version)”
Versteeg, from 2008, which functions as a departure.
Produced four years after Suitable closed, this piece was included
to refer back to Versteeg’s 2001 solo project in the gallery
but also to look ahead, thinking about the possibility for future
manifestations of Suitable Video. This piece speaks poetically
of the kind forward and backward technological trajectory that
this program engages, traversing between old-school manual work
with hands and tools, to low-res pixels and, eventually, high-definition