Response to the Dana Schutz Controversy by Joe Lewis, Artist

ANNA, MAR 25TH, 9:39AM Hi Joe I hope you are well! This is Anna Salmeron from The Biennial Project. You entered work for our upcoming show - which we love. I am writing to you because I have been thinking about the controversy at the Whitney Biennial in NYC. I would like to put together a post of artists of color giving their thoughts related to this controversy. Would you be willing to write something on this subject? What do you think?

JOE, MAR 26TH, 1:42PM Joe Lewis accepted your request. I like the idea. Count me in. what are your next steps?

ANNA, MAR 26TH, 3:54PM Great!!! Write what you think, and send it to us with any info about how you would like us to introduce you and any links to your work that you would like to have included. Here are a couple of articles on the controversy:

HYPERALLERGIC: Protesters Block, Demand Removal of a Painting of Emmett Till at the Whitney Biennial

ARTNET: Social Media Erupts as the Art World Splits in Two Over Dana Schutz Controversy

JOE, MAR 27TH, 4:39PM The following thoughts crystallized for me after reading Brian Boucher’s balanced March 24, 2017 piece on the controversy, “Social Media Erupts as the Art World Splits in Two Over Dana Schutz Controversy,” and then scrolling down to read the Artnet piece that followed “Turkish Artist Zehra Doğan Sentenced to Prison for Painting of Kurdish Town Attack. Doğan has been given a sentence of 2 years and 10 months by a Turkish court. [ ARTNET: Turkish Artist Zehra Doğan Sentenced to Prison for Painting of Kurdish Town Attack  ]

How close are we to that?

I oppose censorship in all of its forms but am inclined to open conversation and dialog.

However, this doesn’t negate the fact that the non-artist-of-color enjoys access, place, and creative privilege.

But let’s not assume the worst characteristics of the oppression – erasure, and suppression.

Joe Lewis, Artist (I am uncomfortable attaching any additional info/images/website about my work to this statement because the issue is not about me. ) Regards, Joe

ANNA, MARCH 27TH, 8:46PM Wow, Joe, this is perfect and very thoughtful. Thanks so much.

Chat Conversation End

The Irish Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale 2017

by Anne Murray, for The Biennial Project

[Editor’s note: profoundly strong review of one of the most powerful exhibitions at the 2017 Venice Biennale, written by another member of The Biennial Project Gang in Venice, Anne Murray - whose own art is also a must see!]

“My broken bones shall be a weapon,

chaos is the bread I eat!”

clip_image002Photo of Jesse Jones’ installation by Anne Murray

With an impressive sense of dignity, profound understanding of the human condition, and in full knowledge of the challenge that women face in a rapidly morphing set of boundaries created through elusive and divisive judiciary systems in Ireland and abroad, Jesse Jones has created a meta world which challenges the legal system, where what we think and see implores us to react and evolve or suffer the vile subsistence living that will ensue in the storm of chaos unleashed in the form of women forced to take justice into their own hands.

Tremble, Tremble, curated by Tessa Giblin, is more than a pavilion, it is a space between, a space possessed by magic and where fears take shape in an unearthly form, as a human buried under the bog, preserved in flesh, but morphed, shape shifted into something beyond comprehension.

Here, women have an enormous tempest of power controlled only by the force of the black hole of the body of Olwen Fouéré, as a photon encircling and drawn into it only when encountered by the the Higgs boson particle, a weight that gives our thoughts as light mass, and thus, slows us down; we are trapped in this hole with her, as if time would stop or else become eternal, both one in the same.

clip_image004       Photo of Jesse Jones’ installation by Anne Murray

The performer, a witch pulling the strings of the legal system as if she could change all at the wave of a finger or by towing a cart filled with fallen furniture, is a challenge by her sheer size and demeanor alone, but her words haunt us. As the work unfolds, two gigantic curtains are heard moving along tracks and encircling us, portraits of the artist Jones’ mother’s arms photo-printed upon diaphanous black fabric curtains, they stop with the two hands cupped over an invisible orb, the implication is the Earth, our world in her hands. The arms as giant as Ozymandias disembodied, strong and alive with light. Later, when the curtains move again, each arm encircles a sculpture of a bone, perhaps the bones of the witch herself pulled from the preserving womb of the bog and wiped clean for this display - they suggest the power of potions, a talisman, and reliquaries.

The artist Jesse Jones worked with the performer Olwen Fouéré and composer Susan Stenger, forming a triangulation akin to the Morrigan or the infamous witches in Macbeth, who could see the future passing one eye to share with another. The sound is perfectly aligned, mysterious, startling and eerily haunting.

We see performance artist, Olwen Fouéré, a collaborator in Jones’ production, who taunts us from her position of power on a twenty or so foot projection screen, “Are you ready for chaos?” her voice challenges us. At first her shoulders thrust back, in a power stance, as advertised by those advising us on television and the internet to take this position to equal our stance in the presence of those who would oppress us in the work place, Fouéré floats down from the upper left hand corner of the screen, growing larger and filling the space as she emerges, a tall witch clothed in homespun clothes of some earlier epic. Her sheer height with her exaggerated perspective looking down on us, brings to mind the powerful dragon shapes of the Northern lights as seen hundreds of years ago and their mysterious movement across the night sky without explanation or constancy. She appears then across the room, another screen holds a close-up of her face, her wrinkled and ashen skin warns us of our own mortality. We see lips and hair and teeth.

I am reminded of a remark made by a board member of Chapter in Cardiff, about how a woman becomes invisible as she reaches middle age; in the work of Jesse Jones, the woman as witch, is not only visible, she is a deity standing over us casting spells with her defiant words.

clip_image006                                                       Photo of Jesse Jones’ installation by Anne Murray

Fouéré turns a podium in her hands in a toy-like fashion, her huge form emerging again on the screen, she picks it up and twists counter-clockwise around and around as to turn justice upside down and time backwards. She chants:

All that is has its other as above shall be below. Drink your wine and spoil the barrels. Your house in ruins at my feet. My broken bones shall be a weapon, chaos is the bread I eat. My broken bones shall be a weapon, chaos is the bread I eat.

Have you had enough yet, or do you still have time for chaos? Huh, more? I’ll be watching you. You won’t forget us, even if you try and sweeps us away.

In an archaic text projected on the wall one reads:

Whoever believes that any creature can be changed for the better or worse? And bring it to utter confusion. They could destroy the world for if it were so.

One remembers the works of the artist Annette Messager comparing the different roles of women in history - as the temptress and the trickster, but here the witch is somehow more than just a symbol - something visceral, dangerous and possibly more wise than one would like to know; it is as if all the projected fears of 800 hundred years of women’s history have given birth to the vile woman that each of us is secretly perceived to be, the monster that apparently many cultures think exists inside of us.

But, is she a monster, or a witch, or just old and wise and eating chaos in the same way a mother follows in the wake of a family and all its chaotic existence in daily life, picking up toys and clothes, and cleaning up? What exactly is Jones trying to tell us here, what does she want us to realize?

Tremble, Tremble, conjures up images of witches in a subliminal way, somehow the repetition immediately drawing out one’s memories of Macbeth and the three witches chanting. The title comes from a chant made by Italian women fighting for wages as housewives in the 1970’s, “Tremate, tremate, le streghe sono tornate! (Tremble, tremble, the witches have returned!)”.

This exhibition lives up to this immediate reference of our collective unconscious, connecting the Italian historic words of women protesting for their right to wages and women all over the world fighting for their rights in historic Women’s Marches that began in Washington, DC this past January 2017, and have spread in solidarity across the planet.

If you can, go see it and stay for all 27 minutes, it is worth every second and will stay with you until you decide what you are going to do to change the world, the legal system, and to fight for women’s rights, because women’s rights are everyone’s rights, we are your mothers, sisters, daughters, students, and we need you to stand up for us and eat the chaos before it eats you.

Article by Anne Murray

INTUITION at Palazzo Fortuny bv Coral Woodbury

[part of an ongoing series of reviews by Biennial Project Artists on their favorite things at the Venice Biennale 2017]

by Coral Woodbury, for The Biennial Project

“When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.”

- Kahlil Gibran

“When the body functions spontaneously, that is called instinct. When the soul functions spontaneously, that is called intuition.”

- Shree Rajneesh

Peter Greenaway's installation at Palazzo Fortuny during the 1993 Venice Biennale left such an impression on me that the one thing I knew heading to Venice was that I would return to the Palazzo. Even in Venice this is a unique space, embodying faded and decaying grandeur while preserving the home and collections of Mariano Fortuny, an early twentieth-century stage, fashion, and lighting designer. So the house is a stage set of sorts, and one an artist like Greenaway knew how to animate eerily.

As it turned out, I was in time for the sixth and last collaboration of Axel Vervoordt, Belgian antiquarian, art dealer, interior designer and curator, and Daniela Ferretti, Director of Palazzo Fortuny. Intuition was absolutely worth the 25 year wait.


The exhibition explores “how intuition has, in some form, shaped art across geographies, cultures and generations. It [brings] together historic, modern and contemporary works related to the concept of intuition, dreams, telepathy, paranormal fantasy, meditation, creative power, hypnosis and inspiration.” It showcases work by anonymous ancient artists to iconic surrealists and modernists to El Anatsui and Marina Abromovich. The resulting show probes questions about the creative impulse, the subconscious origin of art making. You come to sense that the four floors of art are brought together as a devotional study, a deep research into an inexplicable yet ultimately knowable mystery. Within the palace walls are volumes of thought about this thing that is beyond thought. This thing that cannot be expressed in words.

Beyond words, but Vervoordt fully articulates it in vision and experience. Entering on the ground floor, most raw of the spaces, you are first confronted with Neolithic menhirs, powerful in their monumental quiet. Then you turn, and you see they are paired with a large Basquiat. In a flash of comprehension you sense the connections between these disparate works before you could ever start to formulate words about them. The entire show is like this: a dynamic dialogue of works speaking to each other, and you enter into this dialogue. Seemingly unrelated works create a humming


energy. If you are quiet you can attune yourself to this vibration. Juxtapositions and connections unfold across time, across geography, across culture, but unite in exploring this one overarching theme that connects humanity across all of its separations.

As you move up to the piano nobile, a violin sound installation resonates through the historic interior, creating an enchanting environment. It is a dim space, almost too dim to read the labels, but illuminated by irregular pulses of soft light from great domed fixtures overhead. These lights brighten in response to lightning hitting anywhere in Italy, connecting this interior space to the outside world, and your experience to others’. From the darkness of this floor you move up into light, the blacks give way to whites where airy rooms are filled with the light of Venice and work enlivened by light. Soft shades of damaged frescoes meld with the colors of paper, felt, and


canvas. Up another floor the walls are the color of terra cotta and the work there has an earthiness to its form and materials. A participatory installation invites visitors to roll balls from lumps of clay, leaving behind an embodied meditative moment, amassing collectively on a giant oval table. Each level of the show contains and is an example of exquisitely sensitive creation.

The sheer beauty of the works, independently and in harmony, set this show apart. There is a lot of brute and ugly art during the biennial, as there is brutality and ugliness in the world, but not here. The beauty is soothing and embracing; the silent conversations between the works, inspiring and exciting; the wholeness of the show is ethereal. Vervoordt’s final exhibition here cannot explain intuition, but it does engender a deep understanding of it, and a sparking of it in one’s own spirit.

Fortuny Palace info and tickets

Check out Coral’s beautiful work here: