When we dream, who and what do we dream for? When Jasper Johns dreamt of a flag, was he dreaming of a thing? Or was he dreaming of a nation? Was he dreaming for himself or for the country? We are told that we dream alone. That dreams tell us the things about ourselves that we could never admit in the light of day. We are told that dreams are symptoms of individuality. It’s all a sign of a creeping power annexing the last frontier of free time. But there’s more there than an I.
The power of Flag, Johns’ painting of 1954, lies in the path it traces between a dream, a thing, and its representation. But its meaning hinges on these elements being held apart, it depends on dreams being “unreal,” on images being shades of what they represent. The flag as a thing helps us fit that piece called nationalism into the larger puzzle of our identity. The individual, the flag, the nation—Like Johns’ painting, the flag itself unites the first and last elements while also holding them apart. The flag is useful less as a symbol of a nation and more as a tool deployed by power in the constitution of a multitude of individuals, separate from each other but bound together by force. Recognition of the flag, of oneself in the flag, and of the power it wields, is recognition of isolation. Red goes here, blue goes here; here’s a star and here’s a star and here’s a star. Everything in its place. Everyone in their place.
Israel Lund’s painting was never meant to be a flag. But everyone who has seen it says that it is. It hangs upside down, a distorted reflection of the Stars and Stripes in a pool of water; you can see it, but you can also see through it. Lund’s flag looks a bit more like that of an accidental nation. The dream, the thing, the representation—Lund’s flag bypasses the middle category and seesaws between imitation and speculation. It looks like the country we inherited but also like the country we could have. It resembles a flag but questions the integrity of such a symbol. There are imitations of geometric authority but everything falls together in a collage of images of ambiguous origin and association, related concretely only in being timely with each other. We’re here together, they say, let’s make something of it. So if Jasper Johns dreamt his flag then who dreamt Lund’s? Maybe if we dream together we’ll find out.
NoteThe typeface for this exhibition is Verdana, designed by Matthew Carter in 1996 and packaged by Microsoft as part of its Core fonts for the Web program.
At the end of the visit the guest may remove one object from the room.
The guest will send a detailed description of this object to the artists.
The artists will commission a drawing of the object based on this description.
The drawing will be sent to Zzz and installed in the gallery.
This exhibition is accompanied by a poster designed by David Knowles naming all the items in the apartment that are free for the taking. This project is permanent and ongoing and open to all future guests of Zzz who stay overnight in the exhibition space.
NoteThe typeface for this exhibition is Andale Mono, designed by Steve Matteson, and packaged by Microsoft in 1996 as part of its Core Fonts for the Web project.
December 15, 2014 – January 31, 2015
I first met Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries when I drove them from an airport to a hotel in a Hyundai adorned with orange tiger stripes; A solid automobile of South Korean origin as they observed. YHCHI — as they are acronymically known — live in Seoul. Young-hae Chang is Young-hae Chang. Which by default makes Marc Vogue, her American counterpart, the heavy industry. According to the duo, Koreans love the kind of corporate industrial might that produces cars like the tiger-striped Hyundai and the LG brand plasma screens often used to display their artwork. No corporation has proved of greater interest to the group, however, than Samsung—an entity that, in the work on display at Zzz, possesses a sublime and transcendent erotic power. Koreans may love clanging machines, but Americans these days seem less transfixed by industrial manufacturing and more taken by the promise of a post-fordist economic utopia: a self-engineered mega city of houses and factories built in the clouds.
It’s in one of these factories that YHCHI does their work. Since 1998 they’ve been maintaining a running archive of their minimalist animations at yhchang.com — text-based black and white works set in the Monaco typeface accompanied by borderline cheesy background music and sometimes a little splash of color just for fun. You can’t pause yhchang.com. This isn’t YouTube or Netflix. But Young-hae and Marc were making work before those places existed. No, there’s a certain degree of sustained focus demanded of the viewer. This is why, as they explained to me over sandwiches on a late summer afternoon in Brooklyn Heights, they had such an enjoyable time showing at the Toronto film festival. People sat there! And they watched! According to YHCHI the art world is too concept focused. Once people think they get the concept, they stop looking. I point out that for most people, excepting the 1–6 individuals who actually come see the shows, Zzz exists mostly as a concept. But this doesn’t seem to bother them. Those who watch really watch.
The typeface for this exhibition is Impact, designed in 1965 by Geoffrey Lee, and packaged by Microsoft in 1996 as part of its Core Fonts for the Web project.
October 10–November 10, 2014
Welcome to Alex Felton’s exhibition at Zzz. Both myself and the artist sincerely hope that you enjoy your stay. Please be aware of the following guidelines during your visit:
1) Mr. Felton has equipped the room with a television set and a Roku streaming media player. Both are available for your entertainment pleasure but please do not turn either of them off. Sleep is essential for both human and machine. The movement of your eyes within your skull during REM sleep indicates a particularly productive slumber, and the small Roku logo bouncing around the screen suggests a similar restorative action.
2) Above your bed Mr. Felton has painted an inquisitive, creepy figure looking down at two rows of empty boxes — blank TV screens or the empty wheels of a slot machine. He isn’t interested in looking at you, merely at what YOU are looking AT. He’ll observe and he’ll extrapolate. He knows all the algorithms and equations, is well versed in genres, and is willing to bet what you’ll watch next. The only occupied box contains a cherry and behind the others the wheels are forever spinning, the channels perpetually surfed. Maybe he’ll get lucky. Maybe you will. In any case the odds of correctly predicting what will show up in those boxes are about as good as a computer predicting what you really want from this evening.
3) Incidentally dreams and art are as close as we can get to teleportation — a familiar image or person re-materialized in an unfamiliar place, or one’s own sudden presence in an alien setting. Alex produced this work in a room much like this one on the other side of the country. I’ve seen it there myself, seen him with it. Yet here it is now, the same, but different than I remember. And here you are, in this unfamiliar place, a stranger.
The typeface for this exhibition is Courier, designed in 1955 by Howard “Bud” Kettler, and packaged by Microsoft in 1996 as part of its Core Fonts for the Web project.
May 15–July 15, 2014
I’m eighteen and very stoned, lying on a dirty floor with a dozen others. Tom Greenwood is orchestrating an ensemble larger than the group of us, a band called Jackie O Motherfucker. Hunched over his electric guitar, he wrings an impressive range of frequencies and textures from the simplest and most subtle plucks of its strings. The horns, drums, and assorted woodwinds swell, subside, and mingle; an inversion of the proverbial tree in a forest—you hear a sound, but has something happened? Are you there?
I’ve always needed bands. My understanding of political economy begins here—a contract that binds together disparate voices. There’s a sweet spot, achieved through struggle; a unique frequency where each can have its own. If Jackie O’s songs and performances are “about” anything it’s this. Tom is a constant, but it’s never entirely clear who else is in or out. From what point on the spectrum, exactly, does each voice speak? Much as in American politics it’s the din that prevails. And Jackie O’s music is emphatically American: exercising a sonic manifest destiny through the kind of exuberant linkages and appropriations that can only spring from an uneasy relationship with history and tradition. Vastness and eclecticism are its twin poles.
I asked Jackie O to record a record—a funny verb/noun congruency. The record doesn’t record anymore, but it plays on a repeating turntable in a room that fills with both morning and evening light. This is where the voice lives and dies. Through repetition and practice Jackie O will make its own tradition. And if you let this voice do its thing, it might impress its shape on your brain … groovy.
The typeface for this exhibition is Georgia, designed in 1993 by Matthew Carter, and packaged by Microsoft in 1996 as part of its Core Fonts for the Web project.
February 15–March 15, 2014
“We don’t need other worlds. We need a mirror.
We struggle for contact, but we’ll never find it.”
— Andrei Tarkovsky, Solaris
“Goodnight stars Goodnight air Goodnight noises everywhere.” — Margaret Wise Brown & Clement Hurd, Goodnight Moon
I wish that I could tell you the 16 amazing things about outer space that will transform the way you think about the number of amazing things about outer space but the truth is I don’t know 16 amazing things about space and even if I did I doubt they would amaze you. I’m nostalgic for the atomic age I never lived when screens crackled with static and the air reeked of the pungent ions of first generation television sets; when I could say goodnight and go to sleep and dream for myself with everyone else. Or so I would imagine. But my imagination is more like a dramatic re-enactment embedded in a History Channel documentary about the Apollo space program. They pointed a camera at the earth and gave us the great global selfie, a mirror big enough to reflect the whole world. But I caught my gaze and couldn’t look away. I suspect that each of us prefers our own image. It’s rare that we see the whole earth now and it’s impossible to see the moon in this city. Instead I bid goodnight to the screen, silent as my own sleep. Sure, it’s transmissions still hum somewhere — through a neutered void, the low-earth-orbit graveyard of fantasies — but these noises don’t communicate. I’ve been told never to look in the mirror while on drugs and that too much time in front of a screen is detrimental to a healthy sleep cycle. We found another world and now we have our mirrors to dream for us; we dream out of our minds.
Andrei Tarkovsky was born in Zavrazhye in 1932, adapted Stanisław Lem’s novel Solaris to film in 1972, and died in Paris in 1986.
Clement Hurd was born in New York in 1908, illustrated the book Goodnight Moon with Margaret Wise Brown in 1947, and died in 1988 in San Francisco.
The typeface for this exhibition is Comic Sans MS, designed in 1994 by Vincent Connare, and packaged by Microsoft in 1996 as part of its Core Fonts for the Web project.
September 20–November 20, 2013
There is, superficially, a lot that is similar about the work of Kristan Kennedy and Gunta Stölzl. I mean this quite literally: all the drama and the intrigue of this work happens on the surface, and the story of its making is all about making a surface beautiful and meaningful on its own terms. I don’t even try to “look deeper” or “uncover” or “plunge the depths” or whatever one does to find the kernel of a thing that is only hinted at or expressed superficially. If I find myself at any point puzzling for too long over these surfaces I look at other things in the room—at the surfaces adjacent to the surfaces—the walls, the chairs, the bed. When Stölzl first began studying at the Weimar Bauhaus the problems of textile making were all pictorial—“a woven piece was a painting made of wool, so to speak.” All the sculptural and constructive elements, the “other things in the room” could be a part of these pictures, but only by bending to the logic of the plane. This problem gets twisted by the time she’s appointed head of the weaving workshop at the Dessau Bauhaus. The world of things no longer organizes itself on a surface but is instead pressured by the thing-ness of the surface itself. Now the textile plane is a “two-dimensional rendering that relates to all the things surrounding it, adapting and adjusting itself accordingly.” The textile is the thing that puts everything else in its perfect place. Their common materiality and dimensionality aside, Kennedy’s paintings are an entirely different class of thing. There is no collusion with the walls and the furniture to enact a balanced or harmoniously structured space. We’re in the human world now, circumstantial and dubious. Wadded up in a corner or draped over a chair, her fabrics engulf their surroundings, soaking up their air and texture, wearing their color. They are constantly performing a strange camouflage, and as a result I start to see them everywhere. Just the other day, on a walk to the subway, I looked down and found myself treading on a painting.
The typeface for this exhibition is Arial Black, designed in 1982 by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders, and packaged by Mircosoft in 1996 as part of its Core fonts for the Web project.