More on Jerry Hunt

An excerpt from the Michael Schell tribute to Jerry Hunt mentioned previously:

I'll never forget the first time I saw Jerry perform. It was in 1984 at a music festival in Ohio. The curtain opened to reveal upstage a modest clump of homemade and off-the-shelf electronic instruments. Jerry appeared from behind the setup, pushed a few buttons and began the piece. The music coming from the loudspeakers was a tapestry of sampled instruments -- mainly bowed strings -- constantly churning out a dense micropolyphonic web based on clusters of slow and fast trills. This was accompanied by a host of high-frequency percussive sounds emphasizing rattles, sleigh bells, wind chimes and the like. Loud and unrelenting, it reminded me of a Texas insect chorus on a hot summer night.

While this was going on, Jerry paced the stage holding a variety of homemade hand props: staffs, rattles, different kinds of wands and bells. The rattles were shaken, the staffs stamped loudly on the stage. Some of the wands were quite phallic, and Jerry would make strange motions with them as though they had magical powers. Other wands looked like religious talismans created from junk: an umbrella handle that turned into a cross at the far end, or a stylized metal rod bent into the shape of an astrological symbol. Jerry took out some strange nightlights that he plugged into electrical outlets all over the stage. Later he brought out an old brown suitcase, sat on it like a child's hobby horse, and slapped it like a bass drum using a thick wooden stick.

The performance was redolent of shamanism, as though demons were being exorcised from the auditorium. But it came from a most unlikely persona: the lanky, bald, bespectacled Jerry Hunt, wearing his trademark unironed white dress shirt, long narrow tie, off-white jacket with unbuttoned cuffs and loose fitting trousers. It was a look I call "central Texas meat inspector" -- certainly not what you'd expect from a shaman. It was amusing to watch the spectacle of this mysterious ritual being performed by an utterly mundane-looking man.

Every few minutes Jerry retreated upstage to his equipment rack. He'd gather new hand props, press a few more buttons, and then venture out with a new collection of gadgets and a new repertory of weird motions and gestures. The sounds would change subtly at this point too, so that each part of Jerry's performance had its own timbral, as well as visual, identity. Apart from the periodic button-presses, Jerry didn't touch his musical instruments. They seemed to be generating the musical details in real time -- an impressive accomplishment back before MIDI control had become ubiquitous. Occasionally, a stage movement seemed to trigger a musical event, but it was hard to tell for sure. The piece had an obscure-sounding title, Ground: Haramand Plane, and lasted exactly 36 minutes as Jerry had promised beforehand. I was astonished.

"Central Texas meat inspector" nails Hunt's look. In later years he had an outrageous combover that would hang off the side of his head while he was performing. I loved the weird sculptural things he would pick up and shake at the audience.
His timing was excellent--I remember a spoken word duet where he and a protege kept interrupting each other that worked like the best comedy.

Kippenberger and the Virtual Surface

kippenberger heavy guy

heavy guy tate

heavy guy tate trashbin

Kippenberger, Taschen catalog, 1991, where the top image was scanned from:

Untitled, 1989/90...On page 140-141...18 out of a total of 51 color photographs of paintings which one of Kippenberger's assistants painted after reproductions in catalogs. The paintings are destroyed and put into three containers designed by Kippenberger. The original works consist finally of two prints and three containers.

Tate Modern website (where the bottom two photos came from--note unfortunate cropping of middle image):

Heavy Burschi [Heavy Guy], 1991, brings together many of the defining themes of Kippenberger’s practice, both in terms of media and its process of production. Kippenberger asked an assistant to make paintings based on images from all his catalogues, but he was unsatisfied with the finished canvases. He ordered all fifty-one paintings to be destroyed, but first had each photographed, reprinted to its original size and framed, exhibiting them together, with the remnants of the paintings in a skip, as a single installation.

Kippenberger plays with the idea that an artist is an isolated individual who makes autonomous objects. He frequently used assistants, but his decision to destroy these paintings throws the question of authorship into sharp relief. Even though the canvases were only produced on his instructions, they were still the result of someone else’s labour, making their destruction a vivid demonstration of the relations between employer and employee.

Kippenberger’s actions echo the heroic gestures of destruction and renewal that run throughout Modernism, particularly in the work of post-war German artists such as Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer. With his familiar barbed irony, however, Kippenberger’s gesture is anything but an affirmation of the redemptive power of the artist. Heavy Burschi exposes the violence inherent in acts of destruction, emptying the gesture of its heroic connotations of cultural, political and spiritual rebirth. Instead of destroying the present to create a new future, Kippenberger creates a feedback loop. He destroys the paintings only to show copies of them, which then become yet another series of unique works, transforming the pictures, in his own description, 'into a kind of double kitsch.'

Note how the Tate curators dramatize and embellish the tale of the destroyed paintings compared to the matter-of-fact description in the Taschen catalog. Writers just love their little stories. Imagine encountering this work without a curator salivating to tell you what it means. There are paintings in frames. Whoops, closer inspection shows they're not paintings, but photos of paintings. Did Kippenberger paint them? It looks like his style, but they're a bit "off" from his usual lunacy--almost like an illustrator imitating Kippenberger. Well, what's this in the bin? Woah, ripped up paintings. Are these the same--? Looks like they are. Hmmm, now these photos are tantalizing me with something I know no longer exists. I study them more closely. Do they depict "good" (ie complex, tasty) paint surfaces? Impossible to tell, but they look OK. The idea of a tasty painting exists in my mind. Isn't that as good as an actual tasty painting? These kinds of questions and considerations are surely much more interesting than Kippenberger's relationship to "heroic gestures of destruction and renewal." Or the possibly invented story of the master tearing up the apprentice's canvases, which the Tate gives us as some kind of class struggle allegory. Curators: you can't live with them, you can't kill them.

Just ponder that sentence: "Heavy Burschi exposes the violence inherent in acts of destruction, emptying the gesture of its heroic connotations of cultural, political and spiritual rebirth."

Automatic Update Update

Recommended reading: Paddy Johnson's review of the "Automatic Update" show at the Museum of Modern Art.
Part One
Part Two
I was happy that 8-BIT the movie got included in the film roster, not just because I'm a talking head in it but because it represented something fairly fresh in the usually dreary world of "computer shows." Including Pi and Crash made no sense to me either (b. also questions those choices in the comments to Johnson's review, Part Two)
MOMA attempted to give the show some Web 2.0, social bookmarking juice with what Johnson calls the "inactive page."
Oh, well.
It's refreshing to see a blogger doing her homework and actually calling the curator and asking for explanations of some of the weird choices, even though the answers were evasive generalities. Johnson is asking for accountability, unfortunately in an era when there's been no accountability from public institutions for things like wars and murkily conceived exhibitions.