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Contents for December 22, 2014

1. Ron Littke, FF Alumn, now online at icehouseartsny.org

Icehouse Arts presents Ron Littke's "Life in Space" as a free podcast download. The radio play follows a freelance computer programmer through a one-year period as he slowly looses his grasp on reality and sinks into the cyber world of virtual reality. This project was made possible through a generous the Sullivan County Arts and Heritage grant administered by the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance. The podcast can be downloaded by going to www.icehouseartsny.org and clicking on "click here to download."

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2. John Baldessari, Allan Kaprow, Joseph Kosuth, FF Alumns, in the New York Times, Dec. 18

The New York Times
A Permanent Home for a Collection of Art Ephemera
By Randy Kennedy
December 18, 2014

The death two years ago of the obsessive San Francisco collector and dealer Steven Leiber left a gaping hole in the scholarship of late-20th-century art books and ephemera. But his legacy will live on at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, which has acquired Mr. Leiber's vast collection of Conceptual art and art materials, as well as his library of reference and artists' books related to Conceptualism and the Fluxus movement.

In his obituary in 2012, Roberta Smith of The New York Times wrote that while working as a private dealer selling prints, drawings and multiples, Mr. Leiber "bought 21 boxes of ephemera relating to the performance-oriented Fluxus art movement of the early 1960s, the Beat and Concrete poetry movements and the 1960s counterculture," and "after a year of sorting and organizing the material, he had a new field of expertise:
the ephemeral."

The growing collection, which Mr. Leiber oversaw from an office in the basement of his grandmother's house, became an essential stop for scholars, artists and curators. The archive included work by influential artists like Michael Asher, John Baldessari, Marcel Broodthaers, Hanne Darboven, Allan Kaprow, Joseph Kosuth, Lee Lozano and Bruce Nauman.

The Berkeley museum - whose new home in downtown Berkeley, designed by the firm Diller Scofidio & Renfro, is scheduled to open in early 2016 - will name the area of the new building that will house the collection the Steven Leiber Conceptual Art Study Center. With the acquisition, which was a partial purchase and partial gift from the Steven Leiber Trust, the museum and film archive will become one of the world's most important centers for the study of Conceptual art.

A version of this article appears in print on 12/19/2014, on page C2 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Ephemera Collection Finds Permanent Home.

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3. Louise Bourgeois, Mona Hatoum, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, FF Alumns, in The New York Times, Dec. 19

The New York Times, December 19, 2014
Inside Art by Carol Vogel
BOSTON MUSEUM GIFT
The political activist and collector Barbara Lee has given the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston 43 works by 25 female artists, including paintings, sculptures and photographs by such major figures as Louise Bourgeois, Marlene Dumas, Mona Hatoum, Cindy Sherman and Kiki Smith. Representing three decades of collecting, the gift increases the museum's holdings by 30 percent.
"The I.C.A. introduced me to many of these artists," Ms. Lee said. "I've had things in storage and don't live in a home designed for contemporary art."
Ms. Lee said she started collecting work by female artists because she felt they had "traditionally been under-recognized and underrated."
It is the largest gift in the museum's history and "will dramatically change the stories we can tell, for our visitors, the city of Boston and the next generation," said Jill Medvedow, the institute's director. She said she planned to mount an exhibition of the gift in a few years.

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4. Barbara Hammer, FF Alumn, at KOW-Berlin, Germany, opening Jan. 9, 2015
Barbara Hammer, FF Alumn, "Have A Crush" Collage Exhibition KOW-Berlin, Brunnenstr.9, 10119 Berlin Opening January 9 - February 14, 2015
http://www.kow-berlin.info/exhibitions/barbara_hammer_3
Barbara Hammer has an international career as a pioneer of queer cinema, with an oeuvre of over 80 films. In recent years retrospectives at MoMA, Tate Modern and Jeu de Paume honored Barbara Hammer as an influential artist and feminist activist. Born in Hollywood in 1939, Hammer's practice evolved over five decades and has time and again included performance, sculptural work, film installation and photography.
For the first time KOW will now show her previously unreleased works on paper: A selection of fifty collages, color drawings and painted photos, mostly made by the New York based artist in the early and mid 1980s. It is an unexpected discovery to study Hammer's studio works, realized in parallel to her film projects, expanding her practice and experimenting with the intimacy of her image material.
If her films are renown for their painterly characteristics, Hammer's works on paper share the same sensual and at times expressive qualities. Her desires and struggles as a lesbian woman are reflected in some of the works, while others comment on political events of the Reagan era. Private and public, the intimate and the political, are interwoven. Hammer's work challenges the distinctions and values that restrict the social space, the body, and love.

Text: Alexander Koch

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5. Magie Dominic, FF Alumn, now online at http://amzn.to/1Ca8g51

My Newfoundland memoir, "STREET ANGEL", received an amazing review on Amazon. This is the review link:

http://amzn.to/1Ca8g51

Thank you,
Magie
STREET ANGEL
www.magiedominic.blogspot.com
Magie Dominic at Lincoln Center Archives
twitter @magiedominic

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6. Agnes Denes, FF Alumn, in The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, now online

The complete illustrated article is at this link:
file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/hspiller/Local%20Settings/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/OLK15/1%20Agnes%20Denes%27%20public%20sculpture%20neglected.html

Text only follows below:

The Sydney Morning Herald
Agnes Denes' public sculpture neglected
November 30, 2014 - 12:15AM
by Rachel Buchanan

Environmental sculpture A Forest For Australia.

A public sculpture by one of the world's leading environmental artists is neglected and forgotten in the western suburbs of Melbourne and the woman who made it, Agnes Denes, wants it repaired and cared for.

New York-based Denes, 83, created A Forest For Australia in 1998. Working with volunteers, she planted five intersecting spirals of 6000 native seedlings on a barren 400-metre x 80-metre site at the City West Water sewage treatment plant on Queens Street, Altona.

The forest comprised paperbarks, she oaks and red gums, planted in a step pyramid formation that moved up from the outer circle of squat paperbarks to a central ring of gums.

"I plant mathematical forests for the reason that I want to blend human intellect with the majesty of nature," Denes told me by email from her Soho loft, where she is planning another little gardening project - a forest of 50,000 trees for New York City.

Denes, whose work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington and many other major institutions, was one of 60 international artists invited to Melbourne for The Bridge: Construction in Process VI. About 40 locals also took part.

Environmental artist Richard Thomas chaired the anarchic, anti-establishment 10-day performance art and sculpture event. It was run from the Footscray Community Arts Centre. Project manager Katherine Armstrong negotiated access to the Altona site and the treatment plant provided sponsorship of the installation.

The Bridge received $420,000 in funding from state and federal government arts agencies and 20 other sponsors and an eclectic group of artists created work in unorthodox places.

Most pieces were ephemeral and many were purposefully opaque. Chinese artist Gu Dexin planted a field of poppies - made from pork meat, fabric, steel wire and staples - at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in the CBD. "Gu Dexin does not explain his work," the catalogue said.

Others were more literal. For a piece titled To the Artists of the Twentieth Century, Israel's Avraham Eilat erected a column of 20 toilets next to Crown Casino.

Anita Dube (India) launched two illuminated, breast-shaped rafts at the point where the Maribyrnong and Yarra rivers meet the bay, thus creating an unusual obstacle for the cargo ship that was sailing up the river at that moment. Her countryman M. S. Umesh carved a Chakravyuha (war plan) into the boggy soil of Andersons Swamp, Braybrook.

These three works are long gone, like almost everything else created for the event. "They were temporary works. It wasn't about creating monuments. It was about the process, a moment in time," Thomas said.

American artist Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) also took part. He made a maquette for Vertical Blocks #3, a 6.5 x 4.7 x 1.8-metre sculpture that was to have been built from concrete blocks and installed near the West Gate Bridge. The project never eventuated but another more monumental work in concrete was.

American Tom Bills is a practitioner of "hardcore sculptural minimalism". With the help of staff and students at Holmesglen TAFE, Bills created a 56-tonne concrete sculpture that was erected on the roundabout at the corner of Franklin and Queen streets at the Queen Vic market.

With and With Each Other, two shapes described variously as a bisected kidney bean, a pair of lungs or twin foetuses, is not a popular work of public art. In 2002 the City of Melbourne put it in storage and in 2008 the City of Maribyrnong took it off its hands. The bisected kidney bean is now on a patch of grass outside Saltwater Childcare Centre at the intersection of Geelong and Ballarat roads.

Bills' work has received plenty of critical attention but Denes' A Forest for Australia, the only other piece left from The Bridge project, has received none.

I have lived in Altona for nine years and knew nothing about it until a chance conversation.

The forest is even forgotten by the Victorian government entity on whose land it is planted. When I rang City West Water's head office in Footscray to arrange a visit, a staff member said: "Forest? There's no forest at the Altona treatment plant."

Land art expert Chris McAuliffe, who was the director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art from 2001-2013, recalled the work only when I rang him to ask about Denes. "I forgot it," he said of the Altona forest. "I am ashamed to say I have been to the United States to see all the land art sites but I have not visited the one on my doorstep. Ain't that an Australian thing?"

Denes' first large-scale piece of environmental art was Rice/Tree/Burial with Time Capsule (1968) in Sullivan County, New York. She planted rice, chained trees and buried haiku poems. She was one of the only women creating this sort of work in a scene dominated by much better-known male sculptors such as Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer, who used earthmoving equipment to make monumental work in remote spots. Smithson built Spiral Jetty in Great Salt Lake, Utah, in 1970, while Heizer bulldozed 244,000 tonnes of rock to make Double Negative in Moapa Valley, Nevada, in 1969.

Denes made her name with Wheatfield: A Confrontation (1982), in which she planted two acresof wheat on a former landfill only a block from Wall Street. The artist harvested almost 1000 pounds of healthy wheat. The wheat was then sent around the world - and planted - as part of the International Art Show for the End of World Hunger. In Critical Inquiry (1990), Denes said Wheatfield "represented food, energy, commerce, world trade, economics. It referred to mismanagement and world hunger."

Writing in Artforum magazine in 2008, Jeffrey Weiss, a curator at New York's Guggenheim Museum, said Wheatfield was one of land art's great transgressive masterpieces.

McAuliffe said Denes had taken land art to a new level. Early male land artists such as Smithson and Heizer were ambivalent, if not antagonistic, to environmental issues, he said. "When approached to make works to redress environmental damage, they had mixed feelings about it. They didn't want to be the clean-up artist. They didn't want their work to be some sort of artistic Band-Aid. Denes managed to resolve that," he said.

Denes, whose philosophical writings and extraordinarily precise drawings have been published in art, mathematics and science journals around the world, makes art whose meaning is revealed slowly, as it grows or falters. In 1996, two years before she arrived in Melbourne, Denes completed Tree Mountain in Finland, where she created a conical mountain from soil tipped over a gravel pit. She then arranged for 11,000 people to plant 11,000 trees on it. She has speculated that as the centuries pass, Tree Mountain could become "a thermometer, so to speak, of the evolution of art".

Her Melbourne project also reaches out to future generations with a legacy, but the message takes time to decipher. A Forest for Australia is a work of public art hidden in plain view behind a chain-mesh fence dotted with danger signs and security cameras. Visitors need to sign in and out. Each day, 13 million litres of toxic sewage from Altona, Laverton and Point Cook is treated here, in a big tank behind the forest. When I flush the loo, it ends up in that tank.

"I'm amazed that it is still there," said Thomas, who invited Denes to participate in The Bridge. "A lot of the projects were community-driven and that project was pretty under the radar. It was all done on a shoe string, with volunteers."

On my first visit to the forest, I had to wear a high-viz vest and gaitors to protect my lower legs from snake bites - a novel kit for viewing art. I took photos inside the five spirals, or what remains of them.

The western-most ring is intact. It feels special to be there. I walked through a circle of luxuriant, dense paper barks and into a smaller ring of she oaks. These elegant trees have slender black trunks and leaves that are thin and limp, like the stringy remnants of prayer flags on a verandah. In the centre of the spiral are the red gums. The tallest is at least eight metres.

A pleasant spiral path has been laid between the trees. No one knows who put it in. Agnes Denes didn't.

The first spiral is delicate and peaceful but the rest are struggling.

The forest was planted one year in to a drought that did not break until 2010. Hundreds, or more probably thousands, of trees have died. Landscaping contractors replanted some she oaks and red gum seedlings about two years ago but many of those have also died. The two City West employees who showed me around were unable to give me more details about the seedlings.

"I had few helpers, a few volunteers and planted mostly by myself in the hot sun," Denes said of the initial planting. "They gave me a silver umbrella to protect from the sun ... but it was heavy, and one can't walk or plant holding an umbrella. I still have it though. It will probably wind up in a museum."

After my first trip, Denes asked me to visit the forest again and to mark all the surviving trees on five hand-drawn circles. I cannot draw but I agreed.

However, the discovery of satellite photos on Google Maps saved me from the horrifying task of making a drawing for Denes. The bird's-eye images are a powerful illustration of the fate of this neglected forest. The spirals thin out as the basalt clay soil becomes more alkaline. Inside what is left of the eastern-most spiral, the dirt cracked under my boots. Tiny thick white shells dotted the dry surface. They are 10,000 years old, a reminder that this piece of earth was once under the ocean.

In the artist statement published in The Bridge catalogue (2000), Denes said: "I find it important to create these works all over the world as examples of what needs to be done: on destroyed, barren land where resource extraction has taken its toll; in the nervous tension of cities; on deforested soil..."

She said her art reached out to future generations. "These works question the status quo, elicit and initiate new thinking processes, and offer provocative, meaningful communication."

Even though it is sparse rather than dense, even though there are as many phantom trees as real ones, the Denes forest demands recognition. It challenges the status quo. It challenged me to act.

I visited the site twice and sent dozens of emails, made many phone calls, set up meetings, read about indigenous plants, all to research the history of the strange forest. As I finished this piece, I got the following statement from City West Water managing director Anne Barker:

"The type of trees that were selected as part of Agnes Denes A Forest for Australia at the Altona Treatment Plant in 1998 were not suited to soil and environmental conditions. This, combined with 11 years of drought, has meant some trees have not thrived.

"We have received advice from a local arborist and are undertaking soil testing to determine the trees most suited to this location. A maintenance program will commence in the cooler months to reinstate this important piece of conceptual art."

I sent this statement to Denes and asked for her response. She accepted City West Water's proposal but wanted the trees to be replanted in the spirals she drew. "I usually would like to plant endangered species in order to retain their seed for the future, but will let them plant what they suggest. I would like to receive images of the suggested trees, their names, and if they can add endangered (trees) that would survive, I would be happy," she told me.

She was sorry her forest had been neglected but was philosophical about it too.

"I am grateful for anyone doing anything," she said. "I can't expect people to do what I do, unselfish acts for the good of humanity. I am driven. I just want people to be loyal at best."

agnesdenes@earthlink.net

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Goings On is compiled weekly by Harley Spiller