Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Local Art Seen: Artist Kamikaze VII @ Pizza Luce

“There will come a time when it isn't 'They're spying on me through my phone' anymore. Eventually, it will be 'My phone is spying on me'.” ― Philip K. Dick

"Dystopian fiction only amplifies and catalogs the indignities of existing dehumanizing practices." ~Rebecca Lemov

This past Thursday I attended the opening for Artist Kamikaze VII at Pizza Luce. Artist Kamikaze is a competition between artists who work in different media who get randomly paired for the purpose of collaborating to produce new work within a specified time period. Each pair can make up to five pieces for consideration. At the opening an informal election is held to determine winners. That is, two dollars buys you a ballot. Kudos to Eris Vafias for creating the concept and curating the shows.

The theme for this year's Artist Kamikaze art show was Dystopian. Dystopia is the opposite of Utopia, and our competing visionaries produced some unexpectedly original images. What kind of dark future world do these visionaries portend? The show will be on the walls at Pizza Luce throughout the month of March.

In addition to the artists and their work, Israel Malachi performed original music and a number of artists collaborated on a live painting during the two hour opening reception. When the votes were tallied, the winners were Jonah Cannon and Rachel Eisenmann, Team 8.

"Our winning of the 2015 Kamikaze," Cannon said, "came with little surprise for me, not because I felt our work was better than anything else hanging on those walls (there were some amazing artworks on display, and I am thrilled by what a terrific job the competition did on their own art), but because Rachel's strengths played so well with my weaknesses, and vice versa. Rachel brought a degree of enthusiasm to our work that I never would have attained on my own. Between the two of us, no idea was left unexplored. Where I put depth in our work, Rachel added color and texture."

I had a similar experience in the A.K. events I participated in. The enthusiasm of a partner elevates your expectations. Perhaps you're forced to rise to the occasion because you don't want to let someone else down.

Of the five pieces themselves, Cannon said, "Our work on this project shows how hell is paved with good intentions. As a society, we tend to recognize problems and build solutions, often without deconstructing the infrastructure behind the initial issues. Some of us move forward while others remaine in the past. This is how good intentions can become an ugly future. We took all of our good ideas, layered them in, and then burnt, smashed, or cut the layer apart. Then, we just added another layer, and topped it off with a nice paint job, until the scars on the surface of our work paled in comparison to the scarring underneath."

The runners up also shared about their experience here and their work.

Nina Holz: "I would have to say that I enjoyed doing something new like this. I've never done a collaboration piece before and it was exciting to be paired with an artist I've never met before and create a piece based on a theme that was universal to the show.

Live painting, Dusty K
"I was really lucky to have been paired with Lesley I believe. Eris did a great job of pairing us up. We had complementing talents, ideas and really worked well together. Not only was it great to be able to work with Lesley, I met a new friend that is pretty darn awesome and I was fortunate to be able to meet and get to know. It was pretty cool that we both were interested in the nature aspect of a dystopian world. We both seemed to envison nature not being natural and how the technological world, deterioration of the post-apocalyptic world and nature seemed to meld in our vision of dystopia. All in all, I am thankful to have been able to be a part of Artist Kamikaze this year and to have met some great new people and to have been able to work with such a talented artist. I hope to be able to do it again next time around."

Nina's partner in collaboration, Lesley Ross: "What I enjoyed most about working with Nina was our easy, open communication; neither were shy to share our thoughts and bounce ideas back and forth. Quickly comfortable around each other, we were able to enjoy the playful nature of the creative process."

Of their project itself she stated: "Within our dystopic world, nature is no longer self-sustainable, nor adaptable to the deteriorating and disregarded mechanics of the forgotten world. Our piece depicts the four seasons in this climate."

When asked for her impressions about the caliber of this year's show, curator Eris Vafias said, "Hmmm... the Artist Kamikaze is a collaborative undertaking open to artists of varying skill and level, so it is less about caliber per se and more about meeting other artists, finding a sense of community and most importantly having fun while challenging oneself in the process. With that being said, I was very pleased with what our artists created this year. It was fantastic."

"As for what surprised me the most," she said, "All of it... While I may be privy to the in progress shots, I actually do not see the finished pieces until the night we hang the show. That's part of the appeal in curating such a show, figuring out how to make it all fit together."

Though they failed to win, the John Heino/Adam Swanson collaboration bore all the trademark fingerprints of their styles while emerging as something wholly other from what they may have created on their own. Now that the voting is over, and I say this wistfully, it would be nice to see identification tags on all the pieces for the rest of the month so we can see who did everything else. Otherwise, it was fun, despite the dark theme.

If you work downtown, grab a lunch a Luce sometime, or stop after hours and take in the show while sipping a libation. Congrats to all who participated.

Meantime, art goes on all around you.  

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