Artist Talk | Gala Porras-Kim || Radcliffe Institute

Artist Talk | Gala Porras-Kim || Radcliffe Institute


– Hello. Thank you, Meredith
for the introduction. It’s a privilege to be
sharing some of my works here with the audience today. So thank you all for coming. I’m going to show
a lot of projects so you can sort of get
a sense of the way I think about making art. Some of my most
influential teachers were the conceptual artists
Charles Gaines and Michael Asher, who I had the pleasure
of working with a at CalArts. And they taught
me how works could be used as a form of critique
for the institutions of art, which I have tried to make
works this way ever since, but also trying to expand on
not just institutions of art, but to include other
social structures. I’ll be sharing
some projects that consider how a
lack of information in the fields of linguistics,
history, and conservation allow for other forms of
understanding through artworks. These projects are not
in chronological order because they were sort of
made all at the same time. So like Meredith said,
I’ve been working on this project in Oaxaca
for the past 10 years but just sort of finished
right now, so it’s fresh, and so I wanted to
start with that. I became interested
in Oaxaca because it’s one of the most linguistically
diverse regions in the world. And I also at the time was
working for this architect, and most of my co-workers
were from Oaxaca. So they spoke Zapotec
to each other often, and I was very
interested in what they were saying to
each other, mostly because I wanted to know if they
were talking behind my back. But Zapotec is a
tonal language that’s been passed down orally
for over 1,000 years and it has over 50
different variants. And I had heard that
people used to translate it into a whistled form during the
time of the colony to hide it, and I had heard some of
my friends sort of whistle to each other and I
really wanted to do that. So I figured that
what I needed to do to do that was to learn Zapotec
and then learn how to whistle, and then we’d be
able to communicate. So this is after my MFA. So then I thought that maybe
I could move to Oaxaca. But luckily, LA
being where it is, it’s kind of like
north of Mexico, and so there is a giant
Zapotec community there. And they were teaching
Zapotec at UCLA, so I applied, actually,
with my artworks and said, I want to make this art piece,
to the Latin American studies department. And they said, OK. So I went to make sculpture
within the department. And here are some of the worst
that I made during this time. This is a map of all of the
towns that exist in the region. So I sort of wanted to see
what it would look like. And also because making
sculpture is easier for me to study this way
instead of normal style because it takes a lot
longer to make an object than to just go
through notecard. But when I made this
piece it actually was starting to show different
sections of the geography that you wouldn’t
be able to see just by looking at the regular text. Like. you can see that
the clump of pins is like a giant
mountain like that. So it was through
making these works, it sort of revealed some
other type of information that I was unable to see
just by looking at the lists. Here’s a detail. So each pin is a
different variant of the Zapotec language. This is for learning
Zapotec verbs. I made this piece is
all the verbs that are in the specific variant
that I was learning from San Luc Quiavini. So at this time, you know how
like you learn a language class and you learn by subject? And so I thought that it
would be easier to understand. It if I organized it by tone. And so here’s– the verbs
actually have more Zapotec than the nouns because the nouns have
a lot of Spanish inside of it. So the verbs are actually
the most closely related to the language before
Spanish people came. And so this is all the verbs,
and it’s all organized by tone. So the higher pitched
verbs are up here. And it sort of makes a scale,
so it’s like, [INAUDIBLE].. And here’s a close up. It’s Latin alphabet in the
front and English in the back. The interesting thing that
was happening at this point was that my teacher
who was at UCLA was making up these
spellings because it’s the oral tradition,
and now they’re funding different sort of
dictionaries of the variance. So he was in charge of
deciding how to spell things in his own variant, which was
so closely related to drawing to me that it was like
you have this idea that is floating around in a sound. And it’s between ABC
and musical notation. Like, how will you do that? No? So I followed him for
a long time after that. But then I made some
other words that were during the whistling part. So I thought that somehow
I’d be able to learn how to whistle properly. So these are some
drawings of studies. The description is how air
travels through your body, how you have to form your
muscle and form the air, and then it comes out as
a different language part. So there’s actually 24 of
these, but these are just three of the no finger, one finger,
and two finger examples. So this is actually
my dissertation, which is just a record of
translated Zapotec language into whistled tone. [WHISTLING] So the way that I
made that was actually to record my teacher speaking,
and then the sound wave that he was making I was able to
trace with a bunch of– I went on YouTube and downloaded
all of these whistle tones. And then just tracing the
shape of the sound way from one to the other, because
I really tried to whistle and I couldn’t do it. Like, maybe I can get a
professional whistle person or I could do it. But then in the way by
doing it on the computer, it made this impossible
version because only about 75% of the spoken version can
be physically translated into whistle tones. But the computer
can make 100% same. Then I made a score,
so to turn it back into some other playable form
that an instrument can play. There’s this program called
WIDI, which is mP3 to MIDI. Anyway, you can
take us recording and it pops out a score. So let’s how that was made. Like I said, this
is a dictionary that my teacher ended up making. And during that
time, it was like, I was really
interested in thinking about how, instead of a
top-down sort of spelling, it could be an individualized
spelling because it doesn’t exist yet. So why wouldn’t anybody
just be able to come up with these forms that represent
whatever the language means for them? So I went around Mexico and made
this project of public signs of Oaxacan establishments. And I asked people, you
have all these signs. How do you spell– can I translate them for you? And they’re like, no. And so it’s like– it’s not– and so it took a little
while to convince people that it was free and then that
it wasn’t some sort of like– I don’t know. People– it’s a lot of
convincing for that to happen. But in the end, once I
convinced one, then all of them just sort of came afterwards and
were like, can you do my store, and whatever. And so then the people
who work in these stores actually decided themselves
how this was spelled. So I was hoping that
somebody would say, here’s like some drawing or whatever,
but it ended up defaulting to ABC. Here’s some more. So this is permanent
installation in this cheese store, which
I really like to think about. So then I also started looking
at different text that already had this carving before Spanish
people came and crunched everything with Latin alphabet. And then there were
these stones that have these undeciphered
characters, so mostly in– I guess they’re in the
museum in Vera Cruz now. But along that
section, I just wanted to see what the language looked
like before what it does now. This one is the Cascajal Block. It’s actually supposed to be
900 BC, which is the oldest text in the continent. And I also was thinking that
it’s like these shapes also have this ancient meaning
that nobody knows, but also that looks like
the ghost from Pac-Man eating an ice cream to me. Like, 20 and 21, and some mail. And it was
interesting to see how these forms that have
this original idea could also have a
meaning for people today. So this is La Mojarra
Stela, which is my favorite rock of the time. It was found in an 86
by a guy who was just fishing in the Papaloapan
River, and then he just sort of felt
something smooth and came out with
this amazing example of the Oto-Manguean language. And so it has all of this
text that is carved onto it you can’t really
see on the far side. This is the stone that I
based my next projects that were shown at the Whitney. And I wanted to make
works that could be a different way of trying
to understand this text. So this is the installation
shot of the four ways that I sort of try to
understand language. The first one is looking– it’s La Mojarra
Stela and its shape. So it’s a two-part piece
that is the drawing backdrop and the box in front
of it, which you look through. And it has these
Plexiglas sheets that separate the
individual shapes that exist within the texture, so all
the squares, all the circles, or whatever. So the idea was that
you could pull one out and look
through it, and then just find all of the circles
that exist in this text and maybe find a
pattern or something. But in this way I also
was thinking that, the same as when
I was in school, that it’s like the process
of making this drawing and making this like
artwork took so long that I know all of the
characters already. So it’s like this one
looks like– it’s so many different animals
or shapes that repeat. And now with this screen
thing, it was sort of like, find all the squares. This is– to be able to see
the white is sort of the text. I enhanced it so you could
see in the drawing better than the original stone. This is number 2, which is
“La Mojarra Stela Negative Space,” which is based on
this idea of the obsidian mirrors in Mesoamerica. So in Mesoamerica, they
used to use obsidian mirrors to find something that you
didn’t know about yourself. So I thought that
it would be like how to use methods that
existed a long time ago to try and understand
something about the language. So the object in
front of it is all of the parts that
have been damaged out of the original stone. So the holes that
you see there are sections of the rock
that don’t exist anymore. And I thought that it would
be sort of performative piece where the object is
looking into this mirror and it’s trying to be like,
what is missing, or something forever. So in this way, I was
thinking that the viewer for– the function of the piece
was for the audience to look at the object looking,
performing this action. And this is the third one,
“La Mojarra Stela Illuminated Text.” So this is the actual
structure of the– I made two twins. They’re sort of
twins, but pieces that one is this
illuminated text that is made with reflective
glass beads on the canvas. So it’s very hard to see when
there’s not lit properly. I thought that it would
be an invisible thing. And then when it is lit,
it makes this flash. I tried to– this
is my studio, so I tried to flash it because
it was very difficult to see in the actual installation
because the light is very even and nice, and
it’s not dark or whatever. But this is the set
structure that these works exist in– the text exists in. And the cousin, the twin
of it, is this piece, which is a “La Mojarra
Stela Incidental Conjugations,” which is the
text separated into the shapes. And it’s a piece that rotates. And the text– the characters
are supposed to fall and make these sort of random connections
that you couldn’t come up with. So the idea of
them being together is to show the set structure
and this random one together. So this is the Papaloapan
River, which this is where this rock was found. And so recently I’ve
made the second part of this project, which will
be shown in Oaxaca later next year, which is to go
to this river and then– so the installation will
be a two-channel video, one which is a video
of the fake river bed that I made in my bathtub
a long time ago when I thought of this project. And then the other
would be the real one with a video of the river
bed in the actual river. So they actually look very
similar to each other. But I haven’t edited it, so I
have just the video of the tub. It’s just muddy water and rocks. Oh, yeah. And so then the other part
that it’s going to be shown is these stones
that are made out of the same material
as the Stela because since this is one
of the most polluted rivers in the world, I was interested
in how the acid in the river would erode the top layer, which
is the text, which is actually the important part, but
then how the river would decide to make it back
into just a regular rock. So while making these works, I
have met a lot of conservators all the time because
I just wanted to figure out how to
technically handle artifacts if I found them. And luckily, at
the Fowler Museum is where they have, in
the basement, the Getty Conservation Institute,
where they teach conservators how to deal with antiquities. So I thought, OK, I’m
going to just go and stop them and figure out
how to build sculpture using these techniques
of conservation. And during this
time, I was invited to make a project at the
Hammer Museum, which, if you know in LA, there
are two museums that are both connected,
Hammer and Fowler, which are cousin museums,
but that they never talk to each other. Like, the Contemporary Museum
and the Ethnographic Museum, even though there are two
blocks away, never communicate. So when I was invited to
make the show, I was like, can I get full access
to your collection just to find something in there? And not really knowing what I
would find, I just found this– I went into the
collection and found this shelf of
random objects that had lost their
cataloging number, so they had no idea
where they came from. It was, like, this limbo
shelf that was, like, Africa? No. Bali? Maybe. So it’s like this trash
shelf full of objects that had the projections of
curators and conservators through time sort of editing
each other to be like, maybe this was African. And then it’s like, no,
actually, it’s Bali. So all of them had to sort
of really interesting way of seeing history unfold
itself through projections of what it is. So this is actually a mud ring. But I don’t know. Maybe it’s African. So this is the installation
shot at the Hammer Museum, which I borrowed all of these
objects and then made– the work consisted of
making reconstructions based on these notes that
the conservators had made. So it’s like we have this sort
of professional projections, and then what does
the object look like based on these things? And so this is one of
them, which is a triptych, is the blue base holds the
original artifacts and then the reconstruction
is the ceramic. And then the drawing
is a record of them being together because
I couldn’t actually install it into my piece. But this one actually
came with the story that the collections
manager told me that the Fowler
actually had a ceramic– that there was
this collector one time that had a
ceramic in his house, and he just put all
this trash inside of it and donated it to
the Fowler like that. So when they got it inputted
into the collection, the trash inside became
part of that work because they couldn’t
separate them. And then years after,
the ceramic got lost. So all they had was this
trash bag full of stuff that said, belonging to a ceramic. And so that’s what
the reconstruction was based off of. I made the ceramic that
actually, physically makes the piece belong to it. And the drawing is a record
of them being together because now, after the
show, a third of it, the artifact section,
went back to the Fowler. And so I’d like to–
and this is sort of the beginning of thinking
about how you could never really own an entire work of
art alone because a third of it would be somebody else’s or
something like that, separate them. This is a grass that was
part of a bigger grass. So any random shape bigger
grass would be fine. And then here you can
see the mud ring, which had wood fragment
inside of it so it belonged– it was attached
to a piece of wood at some point, so any
shaped piece of wood that’s bigger than that fits. This is 20 textile fragments
stitched into netting in bag reconstruction. So I was interested
also in textiles because there’s these
fabric fragments that the conservator stitched
into a net to conserve. And so by doing
that, he actually has made a new object, where
he has made a new fabric and decided this random pattern. And so based on this
physical object, I made the reconstruction
which is just a repeat of that pattern
based on what he– she made. This is two rocks,
one pumice split in half, one generic rock,
no date reconstruction. So this one had a Post-It note. These two stones
in the collection had this Post-It note that
says, two rocks found on shelf. Doorstops? Question mark? So somehow maybe it
was, like, the doorstops of the office that
made it into the shelf and then they became antiquity. And so then I made this
piece that was actually an actual doorstop that
holds the rocks inside of it, and then you can use it. But for me, at least,
the most interesting part was the document
that was made when they loaned these objects
from one museum to the other because the curators– the staff had to come
up with insurance form, so assign value and information
that didn’t exist before. So a lot of what
ended up happening was that, through
our conversations, all of these facts were made. Like, we made them
together and some of them don’t even make sense. So for example, this is,
like, one bag with crumbs with Post-It, and that
one’s just the– so some of these projects,
also it was like, why do you even have
some of this stuff? And so I was thinking, there’s
this bag full of breadcrumbs in the collection. And I was thinking,
maybe it’s trash. And then the staff
would say, well, somebody put it in this
collection for a reason because it probably was the
breadcrumbs of kings something something that is now– we don’t have the technology yet
to be able to fully know what it is, so we have to keep it. And really, like, with
gloves and everything, climate controlled breadcrumbs. And then the second
one in the middle is called “January’s
Fertility Belt.” January is the
curator at the Hammer who came with me one time. And she had mentioned that
does belt look like a gift that she had received
when she was pregnant, so now, officially, it’s
called her fertility belt until somebody else comes
up with the technology to find out what exactly it is. And then the third example
is one that I made, which was this rock
with a hole in it. And it sort of reminded
me of the rock that– you know the movie “The
Goonies,” that you look through to find the treasure? And I was like, oh my gosh, I
want to make a reconstruction. You look through it
just like the movie, so now, officially, it’s
called “The Goonies Rock.” So at this point, I really
got into these forms, and so I was trying
to figure out how to make meaning,
just like, what are the different
forms that assign value to different objects? So then I made this
work on paper that– I’d been collecting all
these Southwest artifacts because I’m interested in the
difference between Mexican law and US law, and how artifacts
just change inherently because it just
happens to be one inch on this border or this. And so I haven’t
formulated together. But this work was
just about forms and how the forms
could shape what people would think about the shards. So I bought these shards on
eBay, and it’s really funny. The description was
something like, they’re not as nice as they were when
they were first found, or something like that. It’s like, they’re really old. And they came with
the certificate of authenticity,
which looks medium, which says that it’s 900 AD. So I was like, OK, that is the
date, because there is no more information. So do I trust it or not? So then I took it to– wait. Yeah, I took it to the
conservator at the Getty and was like, how
do you reconstruct this piece of broken
pottery even when you’re missing information? How would you even do that? OK, so before I say
that, the work on paper consists of the images
and also this essay by Frank Monteiro which
is about the ethics and policy in conservation. So it’s basically, when
you have no information, how do you make
reconstructions for history? So then here’s
some images of sort of how the process of old-style
conservation documentation was. And then he made
all kinds of tests. I was trying to figure out the
machine, like XRF or something, like you shoot
something, and then it comes out with all the
chemical composition of it and carbon dating and all that. But again, one of the
biggest challenges was just to convince him
to make the test because it was so obvious to
him that it was like, of course we can’t do it. But I sort of want to
see through paperwork where the limit of your
science is, and then there’s nothing else, and then
I could do my project. So then he gave me
this condition report. At the bottom, he
explained to me that there’s no other shards
to mount meant that that was the end of sort of science. Like, there’s no base to
mount, so that’s the end. So then I made the sort of
blob reconstruction that is– I think of them as sort
of like a placeholder until there is a way to figure
out how it was originally. And I think abstraction
is really helpful to understand because there
are many reconstructions that happen. But with abstraction,
it’s easier to think– to see how it would be
impossible to actually know what something
looked like instead of trying to make a shape that
would be similar to what a pot or whatever. And so then here’s the work. It’s called “Reconstructed
Southwest Artifact.” And then I donated
to the Hammer, which is a contemporary museum
and they have no antiquities in the collection. So when they accepted
it as a sculpture, it became a new work
of art because it was a reconstruction all
along until the building and this paper said
that it was a sculpture. So that’s why there’s this
object has three dates. It has the 900, which
was from the eBay, and then the 2015, which was the
reconstruction date, and then 2015, the sculpture date. That’s what that was. So now it’s in the Hammer. And I was thinking, oh, maybe
if the Fowler borrows it, then it’ll go back to being
an old timey or whatever. And then I made one
for the Whitney, so now the Whitney has
antiquity in its collection. This was a piece that was
installed at the last Whitney Biennial. My friend Rafa Esparza made
an adobe brick installation and then invited me
to make this piece, and he put this work in it
because probably the shard existed in an adobe building
if it’s from the Southwest. So we were like,
oh, matchy-matchy. So this is a project
that was similar to that that I made in France,
in the Frac in Nantes. And I had been to
Marseilles a long time ago and had collected all
these for a residency, and it just so happened that
the building next to the place where I was staying was
a construction site. And Marseilles is one of
the oldest towns in Europe, and there was all of the ceramic
that they were throwing away because it was everywhere. And so then I went over
there and dumpster dove for all of these
pieces of ceramic. And then I was
talking to the people who were throwing them away. I was like, why are you throwing
all these ceramics things? And they’re like, if we
try to keep everything, then we would never be
able to build anything. So we only keep the ones that
we find that are perfect. So I’m like, OK, sweet. Mine. But then it turns out
that when I actually– I saved them for a long
time, and then years later I made this project. And then it turns out that
I can’t make them because I can’t own them myself. So this was part
of the beginning of to think about how the
law came into conflict with the project
that I was thinking and also actually made
it more interesting. And so this piece
now as it exists comes with this legal document
that means that I can only own a third of this piece. The French government
owns a third, and then a third is owned by
the property owner of that site because legally, it’s
divided like that. If you find something, you
can’t own it altogether. So actually, it’s in the
collection of the Frac now because it can’t
leave unless we all agree. Or I can maybe buy them out. I don’t know. So then this project
also has this 1.5 project attached to it. That was about provenance
in slow motion. And so in the document, every
time any of the ceramics has shown, whoever shows
it has to contact me, and then I will make real
analog provenance picture of it in its new setting. So this is the first
time that one of them was shown which was– I can’t remember which. So it was shown, and then the
tomato and this purple thing were pieces of other people’s
work in that exhibition because it was this
current setting. And then the next one
was in this show in Korea where people’s other
work around it was there. So it sort of this slow motion
provenance through drawing. It just so happened
that like another artist that I know was in both shows,
so two parts of her pieces are in both. So now moving on. This is one of my
favorite rooms ever. So this is the art of the
ancient America’s galleries at LACMA. It looks interesting because it
is installed in a Jorge Pardo installation. They commissioned an
artist to make the display system for these ceramics. And during the Getty PST, I was
invited to make three shows, so I made them all about this
collection because I really– growing up in LA, I
had gone to see it. And I really was like,
if I make works about it, I will memorize every
single thing about them. And through the process
of drawing, I did that. So I drew all of the 300 objects
that are in the collection. And actually, I separated
them because they were all clumped down as South– they were all some down
as west Mexico ceramics, but really they came from
three different states. So then I separated
them by state and then tried to see if
there would be any different. So the first one is
the Jalisco index. And actually, they’re
to scale, so I wanted them to be in
the future, hopefully, mirrored and installed
in front of each other. The first project I made
was with the Jalisco index, and it was works that were
responding to different– the title that the people
that the people in the museum had given them, because it’s
like how do you name objects that you have no idea like
what the original shape? So I made this
joint couple, which is based on this
second piece, which is called “A Joint Couple.” You see it in there? So it’s called “A Joint
Couple,” and so I made a joint [INAUDIBLE] couple. This one is three works based
on general shapes that I found. So there’s a lot of dogs,
and then a lot of gourds and a lot of acrobats. So I thought, OK, what
are the dogs in my life and the gourds and
acrobats that I see? So somehow to be
able to make works that mirrored whatever they were
trying to show in today’s life. This is number 2, which is shown
in Mexico City, [INAUDIBLE] as a [INAUDIBLE] index. And this project was
about the known provenance of these pieces. So they were in a
grave, originally. So I made a photorealistic
picture of the grave because it’s in the
dark, and you cannot see. And then, through
interviews, I heard that it had been shown in
mantels all over the world. So I made mantel drawings
of hypothetically what they would be looking. And at this time, curators were
emailing me all these pictures of these ceramics in
different home settings, which was really bizarre
because people are crazy with their ceramics. But that’s what it
was, a home setting. And then for the future,
one of the curators had also told me that one
of the biggest challenges is the lack of provenance
and documentation. So I made these general
shapes for the future which have a GPS attached to them. And every time
they move, you can see exactly where they’ve been. So for the future, they will
be recording their location. And the third one, which
was the main one which was shown at LACMA
was the Colima index, and this project was about
the naming of the collection because when I went to
this room many times, I noticed that the collection is
called officially “The Proctor Stafford Collection,”
who was the man who sold the collection to LACMA in
the ’70s for about $3 million. But in the stipulation for the
sale because Mexico changed their laws, and
then you were not able to buy artifacts during
the ’70s– or the ’60s. He was able to ask
for some crazy stuff. Like, every time
that these are shown, his name has to
appear next to it. So when you go into this room,
his name appears 300 times. So I was thinking,
oh, maybe this show is not about the
ceramics, but it’s about this man who
is also interesting. You know what I mean? So I thought that it would be– that also the provenance
hadn’t updated because it said that it was “The
Proctor Stafford Collection,” but LACMA bought it, so
now, technically, it’s the LACMA Collection,
and so the naming should go into the near history. But through these
contracts, that’s sort of where the conflict
was because it was like, first of all, I couldn’t
see the contract. And then I couldn’t
see how this was– how he was able to do this
crazy loophole to have a permanent show at LACMA. Also because in interviews
he was an artist before he was a
collector, and he had said, the way that I
put these objects together is the first time
that these objects had been seen as artworks and
not as ethnographic objects. So he did a total Duchamp
move where he was like, art, and then put my name next
to it into a permanent show. So it was like, did you
just do like a loophole to have a permanent
show at LACMA forever? So then the piece that I made
here was to try and figure out how to separate the private
name from the public collection, which was very difficult
because I don’t– I’m still trying to
figure out– there was all these sort
of ways to bypass law, which we tried to do
because, for example, he didn’t specify what
color his name had to be. And so maybe we could
do it white on white, and then you couldn’t see
it, or the size of the font or whatever, these sort of
ways that his name would disappear from it in a way. Another way was– there
was another museum friend that I had, and a way to
actually separate the name is to deaccession the
collection to improve it. So in museums, when they
have two of the same thing, they will actually deaccession
one to get a better one. But they don’t say what a better
one is, so I thought that maybe we could deaccession everything
and get it right back, and then it would be a better
piece with the name removed. – Is that what happened? – No. I tried. I really tried. But actually,
something did happen. So the piece also
came with this letter to the curators, which was
like, how do you separate that? Let’s think about it. And one of the
things that ended up physically resulting
from this work was that when you went
into the LACMA website, the button to find
these ceramics had “The Proctor
Stafford Collection,” not the “West Mexico
Ceramic Collection.” So it was a really
order of information that was very revealing
to me, that it’s like the priorities
of the institution and it just comes
collector first, and then what it is because
if you don’t know him, you’re looking for a ceramic,
why are you not just ceramic to begin with? So they changed the button. So this is actually part of the
work that I want to do here, that is sort of to look
into different collections in the country just to see
sort of what regulations take and why. I don’t know yet what
it is, but it definitely has to do with law. So a couple of months
later at LACMA, they had this show on
new finds of Teotihuacan. And then I saw these two
stelas there that were so odd, and so because at this
time, they obviously are carved and very detailed. And so then I was
like, what is it? And so the curator told
me that they had just found these inside of
the Pyramid of the Sun. So I made a project about
mediation of human– not human, mediation of the sun. With the sun? Of the sun. And so for me, it was
obviously these rocks were important to
somebody because somebody took a lot of energy to
put them up in the pyramid, inside, where no human
actually would see it. So in a way, it was
like by removing them, maybe something
has been disturbed, like taking the batteries
out of something, or who knows, because the site
is actually a ritual site. So in terms of dealing
with the afterlife, its actual function is still
happening because a ritual– the sort of spiritual world
continues and it doesn’t stop. So this is a picture of
the rock in its place before it was taken out
in the hole that it left. Another one. And so I made an official
replica of these rocks. I had to get permission
from the government because Mexico
owns the copyright of all of its antiquities,
so it has to be licensed. And so there’s
another legal doctrine that it was like, how
can a country take the place of an author? And it comes with this
letter that the stones will be donated to the government,
so they put it back in the hole to reconstitute
the ritual elements of the Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacan. This is what the sun looks
like with your eyes closed. And then now it’s
like sort of sciencey. [INAUDIBLE] put
some science works. So this is a sculpture that
only is a sculpture when the sun reflects on it. So I was thinking of
these temporal works that would exist as a prop. And then only when the
third element comes, so you can’t control, it would
be that time when it’s a sun. And also I was thinking about– I read about
Archimedes death ray, and I was like, I really
want to try to figure out how I could burn something
because so much of conservation is about trying to
preserve things. But I was like,
maybe it could be interesting to see demolition
or breaking down of things. This is an exhibition of
the three works of the sun together. That’s a big drawing
of the inside of the pyramid,
so the perspective of the rocks inside. This is a piece,
“Untitled Efflorescence.” So this is another sort
of demolition experiment that I did. I was invited to make
this piece in Mexico, and it’s installed on the beach
in Jalisco with a third of it is in the– oh, wait. I had heard that a
long time ago in Mexico with official buildings,
you couldn’t remove them. So then people who
owned the property would put tiny holes in the
wall and put salt inside of it. So then the salt would
break the concrete, and then the building
would collapse on its own. So I just wanted to,
again, figure out how long that would take. And when I got invited
to make the show, I made this wall
that is concrete. And it’s saturated with
salt, so a third of it is under the sand. And when the tide comes in, it
suctions the water and the salt dries on it every day. And it was supposed to
eventually fall apart, but it got taken down by humans. This is a picture of it. Ah, yes. Great. So this is also another
piece that I recently made, which is a
piece of alabaster and it’s got a drop of water. And when the water
in the surface dries, the next drop falls. And then slowly
it’s making a hole. So the piece will expire when
the hole goes all the way through, which is
interesting because now I’m going to briefly
talk about my show at MOCA, which I’ve never
curated anything before. But it had this idea, the sort
of ideas of how a work of art never– like, it’s
always changing depending on the framework or the material
or other things you can’t actually control as an author. So this is– quickly. So the first four works are
changing shapes on purpose. This is Walead Beshty,
“FedEx Large Cracked Glass.” It’s a piece where it’s a
glass piece that gets mailed. So every time it moves,
it has to go in this box, and it’s breaking
and the stickers have to be added onto it. So the purpose of it is that
it will be destroyed quicker. This is a France
West Provisorium. So it’s made out of
silver leaf, which reacts to all kinds
of stuff in the air. So every time that it’s actually
on view, it gets damaged. And when you clean it,
people remove top layer, so it’s getting
thinner and thinner. This is a Solowitz fold for JB. Solowitz made this fold
pieces with his friends, and it was just like a
piece of paper folded. And it’s like, ta-da– art. But then the one that he
gave to Baldessari, when it was getting framed, got lost. So then Baldessari
was like, oh shit. So Baldessari sent
Solowitz this letter from the framer where
they say, oh, it’s lost. And so Solowitz
folded that piece, and that became the
new folded piece. So it’s sort of like,
who cares if it got lost because now this
paper is the new piece. Because the work
is in the seams? I don’t know. It’s the seams or the paper. This is Felix Gonzalez-Torres
“Untitled, Last Night.” So Felix Gonzalez was amazing. He’d let so much
freedom for people to decide what his work,
the formatting would be. So MOCA actually
owned– so the show will be at MOCA opening next
week [INAUDIBLE] or not. But it’s two pieces. They own two of
the same sculpture. And since Felix
Gonzalez-Torres said, you can show it
any way you want, so he gave the freedom for
the person who was installing it to decide so many
things about this thing, so because MOCA owns two will
show one lit and one as a clump ball unlit because
it’s the same work, but it can exist in
this multiple forms. This is John
Chamberlain [INAUDIBLE].. So it’s made out of urethane
foam, which is non-archival and it’s deteriorating. And the conservation
record says that foam is dirty and
deteriorating throughout, possibly intentional to work. So in a way, this one is
a weird one that is like, do we know that is
getting broken on purpose? Or it’s just a material issue? Now, the next four
words are getting– are going to disappear
for different reasons. So it’s like the first
four were on purpose, and now these ones are
like, you cannot control it. So this is Wolfgang Laib,
“Pollen From Dandelions.” So Wolfgang Laib made these
blocks of dandelion pollen, but it has to be dandelion
from [INAUDIBLE] Germany. So MOCA, every time
this shows, they have to collect the pollen
back because there’s no– you can’t collect pollen that
much in [INAUDIBLE] anymore. Who knows? And so in a way– and the original one
was this bright yellow, and that was not the color
that he intended for anymore. So in a way, it’s impossible
to conserve it because there’s no dandelion there anymore. This is, again, Felix
Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled Corner Of Baci.” It’s made out of 72
pounds of Baci chocolates, and so this piece is attached
to the life of the company Baci because if they go broke,
this piece will go away. And so now Nestle bought it,
so it’s pretty stable, I guess. But then it depends on– Felix Gonzalez-Torres left
these sort of stipulations that if you cannot find–
if Baci goes away ever, then it can be replaced
with chocolate that has international love
messages like Baci. But I tried to really look
for another chocolate that has multiple international
love messages. So I haven’t found one. If anybody knows, you
can save this piece or have an insurance policy. This one’s Richard
Tuttle, “44th Wire Piece.” This one is– I love this
because Richard Tuttle is 78 now, and the only person who
can install those pieces him. So the piece consists
of him coming. He draws a line on the wall,
he installs a piece of wire, and then the piece
is the relationship of the bent wire to the line. So we’re actually
flying him over to install the piece because who
knows how many more times we’ll be able to see it? Next, this is– so
I also was looking for which is the piece in the
collection that is made out of the most fragile material,
like it’s going to collapse even though however much
conservation wants to not make it go away. There’s no way. So most of the
Polaroid works that you know are going to
disappear at some point. But I found that this Chris
Burden piece is made out of many, many materials
that, no matter how hard conservators try to
keep it, it will go away. So the show will actually
have the estimated range of time of different
elements in the work and when they will expire. So next section is I
was interested just looking at the storage section. And so they have all of
these materials that are not sculpture yet, but is waiting to
become sculpture when something breaks or, like,
replacement things, and then stuff that
is left over from– so waiting to be
art, and then ex-art. Like, we were art, and
then we’re not art anymore. So this we’re going to show
one of the bulbs, a Dan Flavin bulb, which is waiting
for any of these bulbs to go away to
become a sculpture. And then a Dove Bradshaw
“Passion” piece, which is a copper plate that
gets replaced every time. It’s a copper plate that
gets squirted with ammonium and it just drips. But every time that it’s shown
you have to make a new one, and MOCA somehow
has one the one that was shown last time, which
is not an artwork anymore. But they still treat
it like an artwork. I was like, can I have it? They’re like, no way. And so in a way, it was
how the building was even going– like an anxiety to
preserve all of the things in the show, even though
the directions specifically say like it’s over, done. And then the final two
is these two examples were artists that
were alive trying to negotiate the
shape of their works because this is something
that was interesting to me. Like, how can I negotiate
with an institution to be able to change my works
if I feel like it– or maybe? So this is Michael
Heizer “Double Negative.” It’s the first land art piece
to be owned by an institution. It’s supposed to
just– it’s these two holes in the landscape, and
it’s supposed to dissolve. Nature do its thing. But now Michael Heizer
is fundraising to fix it. And so it was
like, no way, dude. Like, how are you
going to fix it? They’re supposed to go away. So it was like artists going
against their own intentional– their own original intention. And then, of course, the
museum is like, we own it. You can’t do anything. So in a way, it was like this
conflict between the author and the idea and
the institution, and who owns it makes
such a big difference. And like, how can you own it? So instead of owning,
let’s just be stewards. And then this Raphael Montanez
Ortiz, “Henny Penny Piano,” is one that we actually were
able to change because– so this piece is
from a performance. He actually gets a piano
and he destroys it, and then by destroying it,
he liberates the material from its colonial shape. But MOCA put it after in the
collection as a sculpture. So I was like, by
just the forms, it made an even bigger colonial
shape on top of this object. And so now I was
like, hey, Raphael, do you know that your piano is
a sculpture in the collection now? The wood, not the
piano, the wood– it’s in the collection
as a sculpture. And he was like, what? And so in a way, it was
just how the paperwork went against the idea
of the original shape. So the way that we
sort of resolved it was that he was
like, OK, they have it. How can we liberated
and then in a way– he set out to do that
we would plant trees of all of the wood that is in
the piano in different spaces, and that would be a
symbolic sort of making of– returning the material. So all of these sort of works
that I’ve been thinking about sort of determine how objects
will live in the future. And so it gives me
a lot of anxiety as an author when I
let works go because so many other things will become– will take my place. So at Radcliffe, I
was thinking, I’m going to learn so
much about the law because I want to really
plan for how my works would exist in the world after I die. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING]

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