Artist Talk: Zarouhie Abdalian: notes

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Visit us this evening at 7pm for a talk by Daniel Bozhkov, the last UNLV Visiting Artist of 2016. Below, please find some notes for the talk we heard two weeks ago from Zarouhie Abdalian.

  • her MFA project at the California College of the Arts “initiated the trajectory of the work I’ve done since.” The school occupied a series of old Greyhound bus maintenance facilities. Itinerants living in the dilapidated shelters behind the campus were virtually ignored. With adherent window film she blanked out jagged sections of the glass, disrupting the view (Set for the Outside, 2010).
  • she was at a gallery across from the city hall in Oakland. Protests while she was there. The shooting of a black man by a white officer. She made a window piece  – sheets of mylar, vibrating behind the glass so that it looked as if the glass itself was shivering. A phenomenon “observable but somehow outside the control of the viewer.” (Flutter, 2010.)
  • she’s interested in boundary points or spaces where the audience changes. These areas are charged. Different publics meet there. This can be highlighted by the artist.
  • the 12th Istanbul Biennial. Her space was new, clean, white: a generic box. She wanted to make a work that felt undeniably present but covered up, like Turkey’s past (Having Been Held Under the Sway, 2011). Behind the walls she set up a noise that was too low for human hearing. Bodies could feel it though. The room resounded. The space addressed the bodies directly. She set up a plumb-bob. It was unable to perform its function (measuring vertical true) because of the conditions of the space.
  •  Brutalist Berkeley Art Museum. A bell in a vacuum chamber. The vacuum is a stand-in for the museum vitrine in that it compromises the object inside.
  • a black vitrine making a tapping noise.
  • “The work I do is sometimes influenced by museums and conversations with museums.”
  • Maryanne Amacher. Unrecognized, look her up. Alvin Lucier.
  • Oscar Grant Plaza, a square in Oakland, a centerpoint for meetings. (Occasional Music, 2013.) She placed bells on the rooftops of buildings that did not represent “a specific authority” such as a church or city hall. At certain times they would ring. The piece doesn’t necessarily have to be understood as an artwork, she thought, but an art audience came deliberately to listen. They “became really important to the work because they were these obvious noticers.” Different kinds of people encountered the bells together. “If you’re there then you’re really implicated.”
  • Fluxus. Prose scores. She wrote scores of her own. Each score is written towards an unspecified ‘you’ and a public group ‘you.’
  • Amplified Audience (2008) by Philip Corner. She curates programs of music.
  • the nature of the signal she creates concerns her less than the response of the space.
  • a critique: Biennals are meant to say something about the place where they occur but most of them fail because they’re put together by outsiders who are curating “the hot new artists.”
  • an African-American museum in New Orleans; the buildings very old, shut, sealed. It was the oldest black neighborhood in the country. How do you draw viewers through a site that has no artwork or events?  Mirrors glinting on the sides of buildings. A recorded voice reciting a list of objects that have been used on this site. The list is long and exhaustive.
  • she cut up a security gate “to break up the space but not to prevent passage.” (Close of Winter, 2016).
  • “Many of the site-specific pieces I don’t repeat.” To recreate the mylar piece anywhere else would be “a gimmick.”
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