(American, b. 1951)
Claudio al Mandrione (zona rosa), 1985–86
Oil and plates on wood with Bondo
si× panels overall: 114 × 228 in. (289.56 × 579.12 cm)
Gift of Contemporary Art Society M1986.76
Photo credit: Pace Gallery, New York, NY
At Christie’s London contemporary sale, Christopher Wool’s Untitled set a new artist record. The price, after the buyer’s premium, was £4,913,250 ($7,758,022) high above the estimate of £2,500,000-3,500,000 ($3,947,500 – $5,526,500).
The piece spells out the word “FOOL,” and beat out the artist’s last record, $5,010,500 (according to Artnet), which happens to have been set by Blue Fool, a canvas with the word “FOOL” spelled out in the exact same way and in the same lettering except the previous record is in blue and the new one is in black
by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero, Santa Olaya, PR
Relocating from upstate New York, we came here with an abiding interest in the art of the island and the artists making that work. Our initial experience suggested that it was difficult to find a centralized resource for art information. The local newspapers and magazines provided occasional articles, but often those articles were a replay of an exhibition's press release, full of information, but lacking insight. The past seven years have shown improvement. Now art writers often give careful attention – as they explore the methods and intentions of the artists under discussion. Now there are more articles on a regular basis, and writers are given more space for their opinions.
Meanwhile, a couple of small but important local art magazines have ceased to publish, with nothing to take their place. This may be a function of the changing way that such information is distributed. As it becomes increasingly difficult to support printed publications, they are replaced by online resources. We still prefer to read articles in print. The information seems to have more substance and the pictures are more impressive on the printed page. But, our opinion does not have much influence. The world of publishing is rapidly changing and we need to adapt or we will be left behind, stranded with a pile of yellowing newsprint and curling glossy magazine pages.We have discovered that online publishing is crucial. Online provides a forum in which the writer has more control, immediate access to an audience, and the means to get direct feedback from the readers. We do not see this as a replacement for print publishing, but rather an enhancement, which seems to be the attitude of most traditional publishers. There are few newspapers or magazines that do not also have an online presence, and many of those sponsor blogs in addition to their websites.
For the independent writer, online publishing provides intellectual freedom, the opportunity to express an opinion, and a means for getting your word “out there.” Attracting and keeping readers can be difficult, but there are tools to help ease the way. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat can be useful in this process. You can connect a blog to those resources, and every time an article is posted, notices are automatically cross-posted to those other forums. Then, it becomes a project of building an audience through online networking while continuing to add new content.
It should be obvious that we are not limiting our remarks to writing about art. Instead we suggest that this provides a blue-print for doing creative work and seeking an audience. Our previous article, ART IN THE AGE OF THE INTERNET was a cautionary tale for artists using the internet to promote their work. Efforts must be taken to ensure that your intellectual property is protected. You don't want to give away your production, nor would you like to see someone else make use of your work and take credit for it.
Tocaperiodicos, artwork by Rafael Vargas Bernard, 2017
B) franja reciproca is an elaborate piece of flat plastic electronic ribbon cable to which sensors and other electronic have been hand-wired. This work requires two viewer participants, each of whom inserts a thumb into a small harness. While attached, as they move around, they can hear modifications to the sound of their heart rhythms.
franja reciproca, (installation view) artwork by Rafael Vargas Bernard, 2017
C) discojon island is a map of Puerto Rico with various electronics and speakers attached, which emit sounds when approached by the viewer.
discojon island (detail) artwork by Rafael Vargas Bernard, 2017
D) Reclamor firme, the most elaborate work, includes a side room with the floor covered in dirt, underneath which has been installed sensors and electronics. The viewer is encouraged to pick up a flag. The bottom of the flag pole also has a sensor. The viewer is instructed to plant the flag in the ground. As the pole strikes the dirt, a loud drum sound is produced while a segment of La Borinqueña fills the room. The more one bangs the floor, the louder the sound and the longer the segment that is heard.
Regarding the meaning, when possible we prefer let artists speak for themselves. Vargas Bernard says, “When the public comes into the exhibition, I want them to open the door and activate the work, and to feel an ownership of this work. Because I created it, therefore I release it so that they might do what they want, while creating their own version in the process.”
He says he considers these works to be
“strange experiments” which “measure vital signs” and which
can “create sensations and emotions between two persons.” His
discojon island, while
appearing to be a traditional painting, in fact “reacts to the
audience, and changes depending on their proximity.”
As for us,
we will take his word for it.
PICTURE CAPTION (left to right) : Elaine Sturtevant, 1966, Duchamp Man Ray Portrait; Richard Pettibone, 1968, Andy Warhol, "Marilyn Monroe," 1964; Sherrie Levine, 1981, After Walker Evans; Deborqh Kass, 2012, The Deb Suite
[ARTICLE AS PUBLISHED in En Rojo cultural supplement to Claridad newspaper]
by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero, Santa Olaya, PR
"It's all fair use," says Jan. "Maybe so," replies Lillian, "but in any event, these days we are all fair game..."
The internet changes everything. This is the mantra and the meme of the moment, and the art world finds itself under the spell. The rules have changed in ways that make it seem like there are no rules. What once was difficult, now is easy. What once took time and effort now can be done in a few keystrokes. Where previously art resided in semi-protected environments: art studios, galleries, museums – now artists, galleries and museums present themselves in the all-sharing, everything up for grabs domain of the world wide web. On one hand this provides for enormous exposure, while on the other, it opens an artist's oeuvre to appropriation, adaptation and reuse, often without the artist's knowledge or permission.
Appropriation has been a part of the practice of art since the
early 20th century, originating with Dada and Surrealism. The
intention of these artists was to provoke a sense of heightened
verisimilitude, while making comment on the contemporary milieu. In
the 1950s Robert Rauschenberg created the first contemporary art work
employing the work of another artist, when he convinced Willem de
Kooning to provide one of his pencil drawings which Rauschenberg then
laboriously erased, creating his Erased de Kooning Drawing.
Appropriation became an art movement in the 1980s with the work of Sherrie Levine, rephotographing Walker Evans seminal pictures; Mike Bidlo recreating paintings by Andy Warhol, Picasso and Jackson Pollock; Elaine Sturtevant making perfect copies of Warhol and Marcel Duchamp; and Richard Pettibone creating exact miniature replicas of Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns.
Appropriation art matured and the concept became more
sophisticated in the 1990s as other artists took up the practice
including Deborah Kass, who made Warhol-like paintings using her own
image; Damien Hirst, who used the Disney Mickey Mouse to his own ends
when he wasn't making paintings using Spin-Art machines; and the
artist who now epitomizes appropriation art, Richard Prince.
Unlike other artists of his generation, Prince embraced the internet – as a means to present and promote his work and as the source of material for his art. Recently this has led to a series of law suits against Prince, as well as against artist Jeff Koons, by the authors of the originals. The success or failure of those law suits has hinged on the concept of fair use – whether or not the new art work sufficiently transforms, or definitively comments on the original source. Prince was sued by a photographer whose images of rastafarians Prince used in his paintings, the result was a split decision: 23 of the paintings were deemed fair use, five were not. Koons was sued successfully by a photographer whose photo was the model for a Koons sculpture of a couple holding eight puppies; and most recently by the photographer of the 1986 Gordons gin advertisements Koons rephotographed for his own Luxury and Degradation series of 1986; that case is still in the courts.
Facebook was founded in 2004 and Instagram in 2010. Both are now heavily utilized by artists for self-promotion. Some artists now directly present their work on Facebook or Instagram, and a few are trying to make those platforms work metaphorically as their canvas or paintbrush. The problem is, that while they are public entities providing world-wide access, according to a copyright attorney in New York – by posting pictures and videos, you grant Facebook “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any content that you post on or in connection with Facebook.” Instagram's terms of service states: “To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”
So, where does that leave the artist in today's internet
free-for-all? One would be advised to proceed with caution when
uploading personal artworks of any sort to the internet. You cannot
stamp them with a copyright notice and expect that it will be honored
or remain in force. On public forums your work is fair game; unless
you take the trouble to publish your work in a more controlled
private format, say on your own website, or a website where their
terms let you retain copyright to your original material. Fair game
means anyone, anywhere can collect your work and do with it as they
wish: use it outright, incorporate it into their own creations or
stamp it with their name and present and sell it as their own.
Closer to home, in 2005 Spanish conceptual artist Antoni Muntadas was commissioned to create a public art project for the Roosevelt station of the inter-urban train. He used photographs from two books by photographer Jack Delano: De San Juan a Ponce en el Tren and Puerto Rico Mio. Muntadas work is titled On Translation: El Tren Urbano, and reproduces Delano's photographs exactly, enlarging them to enormous, 20 x 30 foot, backlit transparencies. In documents regarding this work, Muntadas acknowledges Delano. Although he does not specify that his work is an homage, clearly it is an artistic appropriation.
Contrast this with the work of local artist
Carlos Mercado who has appropriated many of Jack Delano's
photographs, turning them into a series he calls Iconos,
in which he gives no mention of
Delano, in the titles or accompanying descriptions.
(left) Antoni Muntadas, On Translation: El Tren Urbano, Roosevelt Station; (right) Carlos Mercado, Iconos, employing colorized photographs of Jack Delano
addition of color to Delano's photographs undermines their iconic
power, turning them into a decorative pastiche that renders them as
oversized picture postcards. Further negating their original meaning,
Mercado has given each of the photographs his own title. For
instance, a 1940s Delano picture of a group of workers, packed onto a
farm truck, is titled
COMO SALCHICHA EN LATA.
Mercado is able to use Delano's photographs for this purpose without
of copyright because they are freely available for download at the
Library of Congress. An interesting exercise at best, Mercado's
pictures, unlike the carefully considered work of Muntadas, do not
pay tribute to – or in any way honor – the original art of Jack
Picture caption - various items from the MECA art fair, on the couch at home in Santa Olaya, PR including: Tunica LESS THAN NOTHING shopping bag (Embajada); [his] EL ODIOSO OLOR DE LA VERDAD (the hateful odor of the truth) & [her] SONAMOS BAJO EL MISMO CIELO (we dream under the same sky) T-shirts from Rirkit Tiravanija & Tomas Vu (their GREEN GO HOME project); poster (MECA); books, postcards and announcements (various)
Sideshow, Rutland, VT State Fair, 1941 (click for additional image)
La Barra de Paquito, with Christopher Rivera, Paquito, Juni Figueroa, Jorge Gonzalez, Lillian Mulero, Bubu Negron
1913 Marcel Duchamp presented Bicycle Wheel,
the first in a series of artworks he called Readymades, objects selected using a method of visual indifference
in which the idea came first. At the time, André Breton defined
readymade as “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work
of art by the mere choice of the artist.” To create Bicycle
Wheel Duchamp selected the front
wheel and fork of a black bicycle, mounted it upside down on the seat
of a white wooden four-legged stool, then signed and dated the work,
adopting readymade, a term used to describe
manufactured items, distinguishing them from handmade goods. Duchamp
adapted the term ironically to specifically define artworks he
would create merely by selection. Because he combined two already made objects into one, he labeled Bicycle Wheel a Readymade (assisted) and then created others including With Hidden Noise, a
ball of twine clamped between two brass plates, joined by four
screws. An unknown object was secretly placed inside the ball by one
of his friends, and he never discovered what it was. Examples of
“pure” Readymades include In Advance of a Broken Arm,
1915, a snow shovel with the title written on the handle, and
Traveler's Folding Item, 1916, a leather Underwood typewriter
cover, signed and dated by Duchamp.
In 2005 Jesus “Bubu” Negron was included in the Whitney Museum Biennial, where he presented Honoris Causa, consisting of a table from an African street vendor selling handicrafts, coupled with a hot dog cart – locating them both outside the museum. In 2014, Radames “Juni” Figueroa was selected for the Whitney Biennial, and he created Breaking the Ice, a small wooden structure, similar to a typical Puerto Rican casita, that sought, says Figueroa “to bring a bit of Caribbean atmosphere to New York with references to the tropical and beachy architecture of Puerto Rico, and which included several heaters placed to warm up the space, recreating a tropical climate.”
Late last summer, Negron and Figueroa took over the Embajada gallery on calle Cesar Gonzalez in San Juan, and turned it into a clandestine speak-easy, of the sort found along the calles of Bayamon. They called it La Barra de Paquito, named after Figueroa's dog, Paquito – who, for the duration of the exhibition, served as the bartender.
Artists following a similar aesthetic, Negron and
Figueroa until this exhibition, had not previously created art
together. Billed as a one-person exhibition of new work by Negron,
the project was curated by Figueroa who, in the manner of his Whitney
installation, built the make-shift bar from various scraps of lumber,
at a slightly small scale – to fit the stature of his dog Paquito.
made a number of works specifically for the exhibition, including a
series of 30 photographs laminated onto shaped wooden panels, recalling low-cost religious items found in discount stores around
the island. Each photo depicts an invented internet meme of the sort
typically found on Facebook. Apparently, all of the meme slogans came by
way of text messages exchanged between Negron and
Figueroa prior to their exhibit. About his artwork, Negron says, “I
like working on projects that promote social interactions (usually)
against authorities or power structures. What results, usually
becomes an art object or documentation,” or as he has been know to
say, “Delving into the bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla
bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla
bla bla bla bla bla bla.”
works created by Negron include two cute puppies painted on the back
of cardboard beer cases and a
slot machine simulating the locally made and illegitimately rigged
machines found in convenience stores around the island, this one made
of paper mache, cardboard, and an iPad which displays three dogs as
the winning combination.
addition to the work of Negron, Figueroa chose complimentary works by
fifteen other artists, some displayed on the bar and others hung on
the walls of the back room, including a painting by Leo Fitzpatrick
that says: A MAN WALKS INTO A BAR, and a mixed media group of pint
liquor bottles by Jessie Stead & R. Lyon called: Duh
Angel Signature Cocktail.
In the leadup to their exhibit, on Facebook Negron and Figueroa posted a series of announcements and messages, all carrying the theme: NOTHING CONCEPTUAL. However, it's possible they were speaking ironically, as in NOTHING PERSONAL – which when used as an apology implies that the speaker really did not mean what he was saying. Here, Negron and Figueroa mean exactly what they say. Both artists have a long history of making work and creating installations that are simultaneously entertaining and a challenge to the viewer's sensibilities. Make no mistake, this is art of the most interesting sort, and – it is conceptual.
In 1969 Sol Lewitt
published 35 Sentences on Conceptual Art
in Art-Language magazine. A couple of examples: #1)
Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to
conclusions that logic cannot reach; #14) The words of one artist to
another may induce an idea chain, if they share the same concept; and
#30) There are many elements involved in a work of art. The most
important are the most obvious.
At that time, conceptual artists were considered dry, humorless,
intellectual, and against any art that was decorative or
representational. Developed in opposition to the tenets of critic
Clement Greenberg, who championed formalism against illusion,
conceptual art promoted ideas above objects. As artist
Lawrence Weiner declared: “Once you know about a work of mine you
own it. There is no way I can get inside someone's head to remove
Now you know about some of the
work of Jesus “Bubu” Negron and Radames “Juni” Figueroa and
so you own it -- it is yours do with as you wish. Just
be careful that they don't come looking for you …
Nothing Conceptual, La Barra de Paquito by Bubu Negron, The Warriors
Embajada, Calle Cesar Gonzalez,
382 – www.embajadada.com
Jesus “Bubu” Negron – www.artsy.net/artist/jesus-bubu-negron
Radames “Juni” Figueroa – www.artsy.net/artist/radames-juni-figueroa
by Jan Galligan and Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR
“I still say the art
here reminds me of New York's Lower East Side in the 1980s,” says
“What? Do you think that the art here looks like Neo-Geo, Neo-Pop, Street Art, and
Neo-Expressionism?” I ask.
“No.” What I mean is that the New York art world at that time had a youthful energy and a sense of community and cooperation between artists and gallery owners. Artists worked with colleagues to develop a new culture. At the same time they participated in the international art world and were recognized with important opportunities and represented in influential exhibitions. That's what it feels like here now,” she explains.
A good example
of that type of energy and commitment is El
cuadrado gris / The Gray Square a
project of the art couple Anna Astor-Blanco, curator and Ozzie
Forbes, photographer. After working and living in an art filled
apartment, they decided to find a place of their own that could serve
as both a home and an art gallery. They discovered a small
uninhabited house in Barrio Obrero which they could remodel to their
specifications. Having turned the basement of their building into
what they call “a platform for contemporary multimedia artists and
their work,” in early 2015 they began presenting exhibitions and
multimedia art installations. First time visitors may be surprised to
find that from the outside, the building looks like many of the other
houses nearby. Except for decorative lights on the front porch and
rather loud club music coming from inside, (Forbes has the reputation
as a serious dj for contemporary music from
Argentina) 455 Tito Rodriguez is hard to distinguish from
surrounding houses. Passing through the front rooms and kitchen, you
discover a small narrow stairway leading down to El
cuadrado gris, two
interconnected basement rooms – walls, ceiling and floor painted a
medium gray, creating a perfectly neutral environment for the
presentation of contemporary art.
recently, Astor-Blanco and Forbes turned their subterranean space
over to the fertile imagination of artist Nayda Collazo-Llorens who
took literal advantage of the opportunity, creating the project she
calls Debajo de la Casa / Under the
Collazo-Llorens says she immediately felt an affinity between their
repurposed domestic space and her own house where she grew up, the
homes of her aunt and grandparents, and the house she used as her
studio, all in nearby Santurce. She says she was captured by a
curiosity about this hidden space, “not knowing what might be
found, a mix of the familiar and the unknown, the near and the far,
it is a space that requires navigation.” Her answer was to bring
elements of her earlier experiences into this underground
architectural space, presenting them in a new and updated context.
These include a collection of her grandfather's books that she
stacked in a corner, from the floor to the ceiling, placed with their
spines against the wall hiding the titles from the viewer and
creating a sense of mystery about the stories and history they
largest and immediately impressive element of her installation is
also the most mysterious. Entering El
cuadrado gris one
discovers a series of light gray, abstract, concentric designs
painted directly on the walls and pillars. As you walk around they
seem connected, but only when you find a specific location do these
designs coalesce into one coherent pattern that suddenly floats
within the space, appearing to hang in the air just out of reach. The
effect is startling, impressive, and is its own reward for having
exercised your curiosity.
El Cuadrado Gris / The Grey Square, 455 Calle Tito Rodriguez, Barrio Obrero. Visits can be scheduled by appointment via email sent to: email@example.com
After a nine month residency, part of Beta-Local's La Practica program, artist Ramon Miranda Beltran was given use of Casa del Sargento to present sujecto/objecto, a series of related sculptures and projected photographs created during his residency. Beta-Local was founded as a non-profit in 2009 in the spirit of 1980s New York organizations such as Exit Art, and Art in General. Beta-Local is dedicated to promoting local artists and connecting them to the international art community. Through programs like La Practica, they support and encourage artistic practice and aesthetic thought working to make art an essential social and political part of the life of the community.
Beltran, a recent graduate of UPR and the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, has made his sculptures from cement and wood native to Puerto Rico. Each object, meticulously crafted, has been carefully placed within the main room of Casa del Sargento, situated for easy viewing, but also arranged in a precarious balance. Made from heavy and substantial materials, the sculpted objects lean on and support each other in such a manner that an incautious or accidental touch would cause them to tumble to the ground. Beltran's photographs follow a similar narrative. One group of pictures were made looking out the windows of model apartments in the controversial Paseo Caribe complex and the others were taken through the windows of office spaces used by residents of the adjoining Caribe Plaza – residents who have come to the island specifically to take advantage of new tax exemption laws. For Beltran these businessmen have a relationship to the island as tenuous and uncertain as the parts of his sculptural constructions have to each other.
Miranda Beltran, sujecto/objecto,
installation view at Casa del Sargento
Last winter, Christopher Rivera and
Manuela Paz converted a small clothing store in Hato Rey into a clean
white space for showing art, leaving one of the walls, covered with floor to ceiling mirrors, intact. This was an excellent
decision, as it makes the long and narrow space feel much larger, while providing an interesting challenge for artists
when displaying their work. In the most recent four person
exhibition, LEAN, artist Esther Klas who was born in Germany and
works in Barcelona, used the mirrors as the surface onto which she
drew a series of small faces. They are subtle and could easily be
overlooked. On the floor sits a pair of bright orange running shoes,
sculpted from beeswax, by Melissa Hopson of Indianapolis. Together
Hopson and Klas created a pair of inkjet photographic prints which
are mounted on the front window and can be seen from either side,
depending whether you are inside or outside the gallery. Claudia Peña
Salinas, born in Mexico and lives and works in Brooklyn, has used the
former fitting room to present a group of one-of-a-kind inkjet prints
which are mounted on wax panels which adds a luster to their day-glo
colors. Among Brooklynite Linda Matalon's sculptures is a pair of
wooden frames, coated with wax, which literally lean against the
wall. The six struts for each frame are assembled, unattached. Three
pieces lie on the floor, while two others lean against the wall,
with the final strut balanced on top.
Lean is a good title for this
exhibition, as many of the works are presented leaning or balancing
instead of being traditionally attached to the walls. The exhibition
itself is lean. These works, curated by Elena Tavecchia, are
judiciously few in number, spare in their materials, minimalist in
presentation, while they seem to have a special resonance in these lean
Installation view, LEAN,
group exhibition. Note mirrored wall on right.
Embajada, Calle Cesar Gonzalez 82, Hato
in its third year in a refurbished commercial building in the Puerta
de Tierra district, Walter Otero's gallery is distinguished by the
full length glass paneled overhead door which is its front entrance.
On particularly balmy evenings the door is raised and the gallery
becomes an open-air emporium. The door also serves a practical
purpose, allowing large scale art works to be easily brought into or
out of the building.
Another contradiction of
creature comfort is found in the work of Rademes “Juni” Figueroa,
a 2013 graduate of the Beta-Local La Practica program who also
exhibited at the Whitney Museum Biennial that same year. Figueroa
here presents a pair of automobile radiators whose grills have been
incised with a blunt object, probably a screwdriver, creating brash,
yet delicate drawings on the surface of the cooling fins. The
drawings have the characteristic of slapdash graffiti wall drawings
seen all over the city, and the imagery, palm trees, pirates,
sunbursts, and occasional words like VAQUERO, COCO, or even phone
numbers completes that connection. Of course, once the surface of the
fins are damaged, the device will no longer function to
provide cool air.
Figueroa, .40 Living the Dream, 2015, Air conditioner
Walter Otero Contemporary Art, 402 Ave. Constitucion, http://www.walterotero.com
by Jan Galligan and Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR
We first encountered Chaveli Sifre and her art at Roberto Paradise when the gallery was located in a beautiful old wooden house on calle Hipodromo. We wrote about her exhibition, Fixed on the Scent of Light, in a June 12, 2013 article titled Chaveli Sifre: Scents and Sensibility. Since then, Sifre has moved to Berlin where she continues her art practice and sings with her pop band House of Life, while Roberto Paradise has relocated on calle Roberto H. Todd. We remained in contact with Sifre by way of Facebook, and were delighted when she posted an announcement for a one night project to be presented at La Estacion Espacial in the Miramar arts district which includes galeria Agustina Ferreyra and the recently announced El Museo de Arte y Diseno de Miramar, scheduled to open in 2018.
La Estacion Espacial, directed by Guillermoe Rodríguez and housed in a former bodega is a temporary platform for contemporary art created with the support of Beta-Local's La Practica project. La Estacion Espacial presents a continuing series of micro-exhibitions and seeks to open a local / international dialogue in the art community.
Sifre's description of her project Personal Attention said she would convert the exhibition space into a healing center employing different faiths, various rituals, and therapeutic methods – in particular the Japanese alternative medicine technique Reiki, which was developed in the 1920s by a Buddhist and has since become a world-wide phenomenon. The name is derived from the Japanese words rei – miraculous spirit, and ki – breath of life. Reiki masters claim that they are able to perceive a subject's ki-energy and determine if the life force is functioning at a high or low level. If the energy s low, a Reiki master can, by passing hands over the affected areas, transfer energy and improve the subject's health and happiness. This appealed to me because for many years I have suffered from tinnitus, a condition of the inner ear which fills my head with various ringing, roaring, buzzing, clicking and hissing sounds. Apparently listening to rock and roll music at very high volume when I was in my twenties caused this. Now that I am nearly a septuagenarian, I am haunted by the echoes of my youth. There are no cures for tinnitus, no medications and no operations which can silence the background noise. I've tried various homeopathic treatments, but they had no effect.
When I told Lillian about Sifre's
project and insisted that we attend the performance, she treated me
to a series of Ricky jokes about Ricky Rosello, Ricky Riccardo, Rikki
Tiki Tavi - Rudyard Kipling's mongoose, and that joke about Ricky
Martin changing a light bulb. Arriving at La Estacion Espacial, we
found many people outside the storefront. Inside it was calm and
serene. The wall opposite the entrance was covered in a large
diaphanous fabric that rippled gently with two fans providing a
cooling breeze. I learned from Sifre that the fabric was
professionally dyed using two colors certified by Pantone
corporation, the international arbiter of color popularity. Each year
Pantone names a color of the year. For 2016 they picked two colors:
number 13-1520, Rose Quartz and number 15-3919 Serenity.
Pantone attempts to lead the marketplace with their color choices.
They say, “As consumers seek mindfulness and well-being as
antidotes to modern day stress, we join together Rose Quartz
and Serenity (a warm embracing rose tone and a cooler tranquil
blue) to effect a soothing sense of order and peace.” Sifre has
literally joined those two colors in a subtle blend from rose to blue
creating a gentle mauve where they mix together.
In the center of the exhibition space Sifre installed a sinusodial sculpture made from metal mesh painted an aqua color. The center peak serves as a bench where a person sits when having a Reiki session. Two Reiki masters dressed in matching white tunics imprinted with various religious symbols simultaneously apply their no-touch massage therapy, while the subject, facing away from the audience, can contemplate the slowly wafting fabric or dream their own thoughts as the treatment progresses. I watched two patients being treated while I waited for my own session to begin.
Meanwhile, Sifre explained a video she had installed on a small monitor in one corner of the room which can be watched while sitting on a soft white cushion imprinted with the same symbols as the Reiki robes. This video is designed to induce ASMR in the viewer. ASMR was named in 2010 by a New York cybersecurity professional. When watching and listening to security monitors for long periods, she would feel a subtle sensation of tingling and euphoria, starting on the scalp and moving down the neck resulting in a kind of spine-tingling brain orgasm. She named this sensation Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and started a Facebook Group to share her experience. Sight or sound can cause the sensation. Repetitive sounds can trigger a response. This might explain the feeling that I often have of fingers caressing the top of my head and the back of my neck. It could be that the repeated ringing and clicking noise of the tinnitus in my ears is causing an ASMR response on my skin. I was asking Sifre about this when her assistant told me it was time for my Reiki session.
Watching others receive Reiki made me realize that not only are they the subjects of the treatment, but they are the material of Siefre's art. The Reiki masters, acting on Sifre's behalf, sculpt and mold the energy field of the person under their treatment, adding or subtracting ki and altering the subjects overall mood and well-being. As I sat down on the sculpture bench to begin my session, I realized that I know what it is like to be the subject of an art work – a portrait or a self-portrait, and the object of an art work – the viewer or the recipient, but never before have I been the actual material from which the art is being made. Not only that, but this art work, of which I am the material, if successful, will remain with me after I leave the exhibition and if it has any long-term effects might continue to exist in the days ahead.
I decided to keep my eyes open and
stare straight ahead at the soothing color of the curtain in front of
me. Because I have an age-related eye condition, I am not able to see
well on the periphery, so I did not see the two Reiki practitioners
as they begin working their way around my body. I did feel my hair
begin to stand up – on my head and the back of my neck, and I swear
I could see waves of energy flowing in the space between me and the
curtain. The curtain moves in the breeze, but I saw separate,
distinct waves rising from the area near my waist then floating away,
above my head. A sense of peace began to overtake me when the Reiki
master touched me on the shoulder to say that my session had ended. I
stood up slowly and thanked them both for the personal attention.
Back outside, I found Lillian in conversation with a small group of artists. “They were just telling me about TMS,” she said. “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. It's a new scientific technique that uses electrical pulses to stimulate the brain. A writer for the New Yorker described how TMS made him feel like a savant when he tried it. He was smarter and excelled at mental tests and mathematics. And another writer, with no skills in drawing, made remarkable pictures while under TMS stimulation.Let's try it,” she exclaimed.
I wonder what effect it would have on my hearing or my vision.
Note: Chaveli Sifre, House of
Life, Roberto Paradise, En Rojo, La Estacion Espacial, Galeria
Agustina Ferreyra, Guillermoe Rodríguez, Beta-Local, Reiki Puerto
Rico, Ricky Rosello, Ricky Riccardo, Rikki Tiki Tavi, Ricky Martin,
Pantone, ASMR Preliminary Research, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
and the New Yorker are all available on Facebook.
Jan Galligan sharing a drink with Tonino near the top of el CERRO.
Lillian Mulero, stopping in a shady spot, half way up the hill of el CERRO.
El CERRO is an ongoing project by artist Chemi Rosado-Seijo of San Juan, PR -- located in the el Cerro community of Naranjito, PR 30 miles south of San Juan in the foothills of the central mountainous corridor.
Chemi says, "for the first time in 14 years we present to the general public The El Cerro Project in the beautiful community known as el Cerro in Naranjito, Puerto Rico. Since 2002, we worked with the residents to paint their houses with different shades of green to so honor the design and spontaneous architecture of this community. In addition, we are offering creative workshops, training and other activities of social impact for the community.
During this past year, thanks to the financial support of an "Artist as Activist" grant from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, we were able to paint more than 60 residences and impact the economy of this community helping many residents become proficient at the skill of painting -- some have even turned professional."
ABOUT THE PROJECT