Hyperallergic | Virginia Lee Montgomery’s Abject Whimsy

Hyperallergic  |  Virginia Lee Montgomery’s Abject Whimsy

Montgomery toys with the psychic space in which abjection is gendered, playfully prodding erotic hierarchies.

by Eileen G'Sell

A blonde ponytail waits alone on an unmade bed. A drilled hole in a blue box reveals a blinking eye. Pliers snap a wire hanger, the hanger’s corner trembling to the sound of windchimes. A cheese Danish is slowly punctured by a prim pointer finger.

Welcome to the dreamscape of Virginia Lee Montgomery, whose recent videos charm — and alarm — in the New Museum’s Screens Series. A sculpture, video, and performance artist who has described her work as “a meta-structural argument for what it means for spirit to pass through form,” Montgomery marries an interest in the uncanny with a raptness toward the material. Error coins, dripping paint, Xeroxed cutouts of a smiling sphinx — the artist investigates each for its sensory properties, often referencing her professional history of diagramming ideas for corporate clientele.

Upon this rather sterile stage of inorganic matter, the bodily and visceral make cheeky cameos. Disembodied hair, colorfully woven or tied with humble strings, becomes a metonym for a roving female subject. Honey — which can sometimes look like urine — slides over a cardboard surface. Danish frosting (or lonely semen?) dribbles down from a rainbow braid.

What results is an intermittent and very whimsical sense of the abject, less horrifying than it is subtly unnerving — a poke in the proverbial id, a pinky in the ear of consciousness. A concept explored by Julia Kristeva in her seminal study Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection(1980), the “abject” is typically linked to excretions and waste, what the body leaves behind to remain intact. “[A]s in true theater, without makeup or masks, refuse and corpses show me what I permanently thrust aside in order to live,” the French-Bulgarian philosopher writes. “These body fluids, this defilement, this shit are what life withstands, hardly and with difficulty, on the part of death. There, I am at the border of my condition as a living being.”

Whereas artists such as Cindy Sherman, Louise Bourgeois, and Sarah Lucas have explored the abject from an overtly feminist angle (as, after all, female bodily functions have always been more stigmatized than male), Montgomery toys with the psychic space in which abjection is gendered, playfully prodding erotic hierarchies in which men and women have been historically fixed. Power tools take on an unexpected feminine zest, leaving perfect circles wherever they go, everything a potential orifice to peek and reach through, often to the tune of birdsong.

Montgomery is a woman who knows how to drill — literally, a Dewalt power tool in her pale, French-manicured hand. In Deep See (2017), the drill ruptures a 2-D seascape, a black-sleeved forearm entering to grasp at a human ponytail. In Pony Hotel (2018) shots of a sunny business suite are ruptured by close-ups of a silver bit suddenly entering a void. Cut Copy Sphinx (2018) montages one drill shot after another — each hole a possible frame for the artist’s own curious face. In Beyond Means(2017), pennies spin across a white surface, the sound of a drill whirring in the background. As a portal forms in a wall, a clear, gelatinous substance oozes from its edges, the artist’s by-now familiar hand invading to the sound of dripping water.

“Formally, I make work about circles — psychic or material ones, and what unexpectedly excretes out of open holes,” said Montgomery in a 2017 interview with She/Folk. “I can survey relationships between bodies, hierarchies between objects, genders, sounds, or forms, and thus allow forth a message to emerge from these intersecting realms of cognitive awareness and sensorial participation.”

Water Witching (2017), the longest video on display, invests these relationships with more conspicuously political significance. The spinning drill cuts to a corresponding graphic of a fearsome tornado, which segues into shots of melting glaciers, then to a montage of archival footage of women’s marches for reproductive rights. The hand-drawn hanger on a protest sign becomes an actual hanger relentlessly severed, then reshaped, by the artist’s fingers — as though carefully constructing some industrial talisman.

Whether bodies of water or bodies of women, cheese Danishes or a Dewalt drill, Montgomery perpetually tests the border between subject and object, matter and mind. “What is thing and what is theory?” her work seems to ask. What must we thrust aside to survive the tangible world?

Screens Series: Virginia Lee Montgomery, organized by Kate Wiener, continues at the New Museum (235 Bowery, Manhattan) through March 3.

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Hyperallergic | Asif Mian | Queens International Speaks Volumes About a Borough that Welcomes the World

“Evoking tools of non-diplomatic relations, Asif Mian’s installation, “Nothingness & Specter” investigates the technological limits of thermal infrared cameras used in drone targeting. Plastic bags from local Queens businesses are fused together to form multi-patterned polypropylene smocks, which hang on steel stands like wispy scarecrows. Nearby, oscillating fans circulate hot and cool air, as ghostly figures appear and disappear on a closed circuit monitor fed by a thermal camera. This use of cameras associated with drones reminds viewers of the United States’ forever wars abroad, opening a searing critique of the domestic surveillance of Queens’s diverse population, by staging this elaborate decoy diverting state violence.

Source: https://hyperallergic.com/486015/queens-international-speaks-volumes-about-a-borough-that-welcomes-the-world/


Camille Hoffman interviewed on Image Culture

Link to Image Culture Podcast

”My guest is the artist Camille Hoffman. In her work Camille rethinks the narratives embedded in traditional American landscape painting. She points out the political motivations of the romantic landscape, it’s enforcement of ideas of Manifest Destiny and Western Exceptionalism, and, in doing so, she begins a conversation about the monolithic history of painting. Looking closely at this history motived Camille to focus on her materials. In addition to traditional oil paint, she uses printed matter collected from her daily life, ranging from holiday themed plastic tablecloths to discarded medical records, from plastic bags to nature calendars. The resulting works reimagine what a landscape painting can be, and point out how charged the medium has always been.

You can see Camille’s current show Excelsior: Ever Upward, Ever Afloat, in which she remixes the allegorical figures in the New York State Seal, now at the Queens Museum. It’ll be up through Fall 2019.

I’d like to thank Camille Hoffman, as well as False Flag Projects for hosting our talk. This show is produced by Sarah Levine and our music is by Jack + Eliza. Remember to leave a rating and review and subscribe to hear all of our episodes. Have a great week!

Find more of Camille Hoffman’s work at http://www.camillehoffman.com/

Find her show at the Queen’s Museum HERE

Camille is on Instagram @camillehoffmanstudio


Camille Hoffman in The Studio Museum's Artists on Artists | Joy Out of Fire

Three in-gallery conversations with scholar Dr. Vanessa K. Valdés, artist Camille Hoffman, and healer Veronica Agard focused on the forms and processes on view in Firelei Báez: Joy Out of Fire.

1:00 pm - Dr. Vanessa K. Valdés
2:00 pm - Camille Hoffman
3:00 pm - Veronica Agard

Presented as part of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture's annual Open House, there will also be opportunities for visitors to learn about the archival process, explore the Center's offerings, and get tips on creating a personal archive. For a full schedule of the day's activities click here.

Artists on Artists: Joy Out of Fire
Saturday, November 10, 2018


Sterling Crispin featured in "Does Art Have Any Relevance in the Age of AI"?


“Among the artistic projects i used to illustrate the issue, i’ll only mention Sterling Crispin’s N.A.N.O. , B.I.O. , I.N.F.O. , C.O.G.N.O. because of the way it illustrates the tension between the grand vision and promises of the Silicon Valley and the fragility of a world that is increasingly shaken by contingencies such as the depletion of natural resources (energy, minerals, etc.) and climate change.”


Art in America | The World in Flux: Virginia Lee Montgomery’s Playlist

In a First Look profile for our October issue, Wendy Vogel discusses how Virginia Lee Montgomery subverts the paternalistic expectations of the business world in her sculptures and videos. “Montgomery . . . travels up to three weeks a month for her job as a graphic facilitator, diagramming the flow of ideas at focus groups and tech conferences,” Vogel writes. “So it seems fitting that her art highlights disruptions in the smooth machinery of capitalism.” Here, the artist shares a YouTube playlist of videos reflecting her interest in uncanny natural phenomena. —Eds.


Sterling Crispin in Garage's "Bitcoin is the New Birkin Bag"

Garage Magazine

Bitcoin Is the New Birkin Bag

Ten years after Bitcoin's launch, the coin’s scarcity has generated a market that's more luxurious than libertarian.

Link to the full article here.


“I see Bitcoin as an exotic financial asset that rich people are using to make more money, which at times is similar to art.”

“In 2012, Crispin came up with an idea for a sculpture about the apocalypse—which at the time seemed nigh: The end of the Mayan calendar threatened universal extinction. The technological singularity, when humans would mesh with robots and we would upload our souls to the cloud, threatened the end of our species as we know it. And the rise of Bitcoin threatened financial, political, and social chaos. Crispin titled the sculpture Self-Contained Investment Module and Contingency Package. Inside its cubic, steel framework is a post-apocalyptic survival kit composed of an emergency radio, heirloom seeds, a filtration water bottle, and, most importantly, Bitcoin mining hardware.

When Crispin completed the sculpture in 2015, the price of a Bitcoin was $220. “If I had dedicated [the hardware] to mining for the three years I had it, and then didn’t panic and sell when the price hit $300, I would probably be a multi-billionaire right now,” Crispin says. He’s transformed this regret into a kind of perverse creative delight. “I love the idea that as a material within a sculpture, the cryptocurrency might become more valuable than the sculpture itself,” he says.

Crispin intended the sculpture to be tongue-in-cheek; like the rest of his work, it’s critical of technological utopianism. Yet it demonstrates how cryptocurrency has evolved from a financial tool into something more akin to a Louis Vuitton suitcase, a Cartier watch, or a Jeff Koons sculpture. “People are not only buying Bitcoin in order to make money; they’re buying Bitcoin to be the kind of person who holds Bitcoin,” explains Jay Owens, a futurist and research director at the London firm Pulsar. “It’s functioning as a brand name.”