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Kevin Bewersdorf: Public Domain
OCTOBER 10, 2020–January 10, 2021

Kevin Bewersdorf
Curated by Nathaniel Hitchcock and Kevin Moore


Text by Nathaniel Hitchcock

Performance Review

The theater of the world has nearly ceased to be a metaphor; it takes place where no idea of theater exists, for its space begins before there is a specific place for staging.

–Luiz Costa Lima and J. Laurenio de Mello, 1985 [1]

Portraits of American Life (2004-2008) is a series of photographs wherein artist Kevin Bewersdorf engages in a conceptual game of hide-and-seek with the subjects he photographs in Central Texas and Northern Illinois. Walking through suburban communities, Bewersdorf attempts to become invisible–hiding in bushes, behind trash cans, etc.–in an effort not only to see the subject without their reaction to him and his camera, but to destabilize the hierarchies produced by the camera between photographer and subject. Through this performance of hiding, he attempts to mirror the social invisibility of his subjects, many of whom are service workers, maintenance and construction crews, homeless persons, or call center staff, to establish a more symmetrical power dynamic. He targets the anonymity of the subjects who, throughout the series, are almost entirely shown out of doors. He finds that there is countervailing power in the anonymity produced by the performance of labor. It is in this performance where his work stands its ground.

Pictorially, his primary concern is with the geometry of the image. He centers the subject with an obvious, if not generic, compositional technique–one that can be argued is default, or native, to the machinery of the camera. The compositions are particularly attuned to the social structures that constellate around the centralized figures. Writing in 2007, Bewersdorf noted that “through the lens I see how their surrounding geometry is in control of them.” To this effect, a larger conceptual

framework beyond portraiture is what he seeks to display. He writes, “Centering something reveals its flaws. It reveals that the thing in question is not perfectly in place, it is only nearly there” [2].

Broadly evident throughout Photographs of American Life are cues and hallmarks of class. Luiz Costa Lima and J. Laurenio de Mello write in their 1985 essay “Social Representation and Mimesis,” “we do not look at reality and translate it into a classificatory form. On the contrary, it is the classificatory form which informs us of reality, making some portions of it meaningful.” They further argue that “representation is a product of classifications,” stating, “there is no clearly delimited reality prior to the act of representation” [3]. In Bewersdorf’s depictions, visibly detectable representations of class are performed by the figures.

Lima and de Mello identify in this circular nature of identity and representation a mechanism which produces a seemingly infinite feedback loop, calling it the “social ceremonial.” They define this as an “autonomous body of conventions” constructed to “regulate” performative exchanges of language [4]. In the world of Bewersdorf’s photographs, the social ceremonial takes the form of class-based performances, with the figures performing various indicators of their class, including social invisibility. He treats this obviously class-based invisibility–what we might call the embodied alienation from labor of, for example, the restaurant worker, or landscaper on break (or even working)–as raw, or found material. It is the subject to be represented. This includes those who it is enacted upon as well as the geometries holding it fast.

Citing Alfred Schutz, Lima and de Mello describe a spectrum of orientation towards the other with anonymity (or estrangement) and personalization at its poles: they, you, we [5]. Bewersdorf’s photographs begin as encounters with anonymity, and when he seeks to remain anonymous, he positions his photographs by jumping from one end of this spectrum

(anonymity) to the other, landing at a point of empathy–a “we-orientation.” While he has no intimate understanding of the details of the lives of his subjects (their favorite desserts, their “good” or “bad” habits, etc.), he understands the pervasive systems under which they perform their labor–the social ceremonial regulating their representations. It is this manner by which workers build solidarity that Bewersdorf replicates in his images through his understanding and acknowledgment of mutual labor conditions across industries. His photographs fit Lima and de Mello’s concept of representation: “anecdotes against the other’s invisibility–or rather, screens against which our mutual invisibility classes, thus allowing us to suppose we understand each other” [6].

Bewersdorf’s subjects may be compositionally centered (or nearly so), but the depicted figures are performing at the relational peripheries of corporate branding. Often, the moments he documents are enacted at intervals within the center of the corporate architectures themselves–as scheduled breaks in the workday. His subjects, such as Be Mine or Kid Tossing Cell, are often “on break”–a period where it is common practice in the service industry to make oneself invisible (specifically, to the customer). In the service industry, this invisibility is one in which “free time” happens.

What comes into focus, as it were, are the dynamics of prescribed labor and its countershot of prescribed leisure: Super Villain Regenerating, Man Selecting Wine, etc. The positionality of the countershot offers subjects who are wrapped in their working attire–uniforms with company logos, as in Lunch on the Grass, to outfits dictated not only by the performance of labor (tools of the trade) but by the subcultures of specific labor types, as in Man with Tools. Even his depictions of the homeless, including Man Reading Novel and Man Surveying, are tethered (perhaps more obviously) to this system, in that they are defined explicitly and totally by their lack of labor opportunities, e.g., a situation that does not yield so-called “free time.” So, what of this pervasiveness, that “free time” must be nested within the confines of a break period?

In brief, mimesis is defined in Lima and de Mello’s work, in contrast to the Greek idea which they equate to verisimilitude, as “a particularized form of play [that] can be distinguished from other forms by the fact that its playfulness is only a starting point that soon changes into a seriousness of its own: the serious request that one think about what one is playing” [7].

In his series GEARt.e.k. CORPORATION (2002-2006), Bewersdorf produces a number of advertising videos for a nonexistent corporate entity. He employs a number of tropes typical of corporate presentations intended to elicit excitement in the viewer: fast-paced editing, repetitive cinematic scoring, etc. Ephemera, or sculptural components from the series, include: an etched plastic name plate listing the artist as the CEO of the fictional company and a white polo shirt embroidered with the corporate logo. Additionally, he produced a website for the entity, with renderings of a corporate headquarters and an edition of stock certificates. The type of work managed by the fictional company is never addressed. Bewersdorf instead opts to adopt the performative classificatory language of corporate culture and image production. Labor itself remains speculative.

Continuing this thread of investigation, Bewersdorf produced a body of work in 2008 and 2009 titled Maximum Sorrow. He describes the series in an interview with critic and historian Gene McHugh: “Maximum Sorrow is my self brand and self corporation. It is a body of information waiting day and night to be wandered through, a corporate body whose only shape is the reverberation of the information passing through it” [8]. With this series, Bewersdorf seeks to playfully adopt not only the classificatory language of business in its visual form, but attaches its performance irrevocably to his own identity. He slides back towards the pole of estrangement, taking himself and all of his personal complexities with him. Once this gesture is made, it is difficult to return from it, for it begins playfully yet mirrors in all seriousness the pervasive power of the geometries fixing his figures into place.

The inescapable adoption of these relational programs by the populace comes to bear similarly on the vetting processes of Human Resource departments. HR departments tend to hire workers who show a predisposition to existing workplace cultural norms. Here, the classificatory performative language must be pre-existing to the stage that requires its performance. If the play principal–where the mimetic process begins–relies on self-structured activity, then the entry onto the stage of the workplace is where it becomes serious. Conversely, we can see this as the expansion of the stage into the personal life of the classed worker, wherein the cultural norms of potential employers become regulatory features of personal life. In this context, Bewersdorf’s series GEARt.e.k. CORPORATION and Maximum Sorrow become less a verisimilitude of corporate CEOs, angel investors, or self-employed sales persons, but an implementation of the performative practices they embody.

1. Luiz Costa Lima and J. Laurenio de Mello, "Social Representation and Mimesis," New Literary History 16, no. 3 (1985), 450-51.
2. Kevin Bewersdorf, “Nearly Symmetrical,” unpublished essay, 2007.
3. Lima and de Mello, 450-51.

4. Lima and de Mello, 450-51. 5. Lima and de Mello, 453.
6. Lima and de Mello, 453, 454. 7. Lima and de Mello. 461.

8. Gene McHugh, “Interview with Kevin Bewersdorf,” Rhizome, Sept. 20, 2020.

Catalog: PUBLIC DOMAIN: Portraits of American Life, 2004-2008, published by Liberal Arts Roxbury, 2020
Essays by Kevin Bewersdorf, Nathaniel Hitchcock, and Kevin Moore

Special thanks to Carl Eckett, Jesse Greenberg, Mike Smith and Bee Gray, for their invaluable support.

Photography Alon Koppel

The American Institute of Thoughts & Feelings, Tucson, AZ
December 15, 2019–February 29, 2020

J.A. Deaton, Max Guy, Brook Hsu, Ben Medansky, Jon Rafman, Sydney Shen, and Nobuo Uematsu, with piano rendition by Elizabeth Hitchcock
Curated by N. Hitchcock

Annihilation Holiday
Liberal Arts Roxbury, Roxbury, NY
October 26, 2019–January 19, 2020

Theodore Darst and Kate Steciw
Curated by Nathaniel Hitchcock

Text by Nathaniel Hitchcock

Kate Steciw and Theodore Darst position themselves as digital flâneurs of sorts—assuming that the digital is something that can be “traversed.” We can at least watch our avatar, a pulsating blue dot, move across the screen of a phone as we’re traveling down a highway, as Darst’s diaristic practice advocates, melding together embodied life with digital experiences. Steciw, who employs comparatively more found imagery, takes the digital environment of her computer workstation as its own ecosystem—a hermetic image-space for one, where she alone is master. Both artists approach digital media as an expansive landscape where attentions seamlessly cascade from one perspective to the next. Their treatments of this landscape explore its construction, prospecting its fissures, its multitude of layered images, the simultaneity of vision, and its “higher ground” in terms of visual language.

Their productions employ sets of divergent yet interrelated skills, each of which are uniquely the domain of labor (typically freelance), formerly performed by each artist respectively. The formal qualities of their practices exist in an ever grayer spectrum between labor subsumed by capital and self-determination. Steciw, who recruits photographic source material from varying databases—stock photos, archives, social media accounts, image searches, etc.—considers the mark making that establishes the borders of her collaged layers to be a welcome mediation, explicating the peripheries of machine-human interaction. Darst privileges the mobility afforded by contemporary software. Using a powerful laptop machine built for gaming, he is able to simulate complex physics and render frame-by-frame animations in 3D on the fly and at any location. He works across the spectrum of the moving image, producing videos for fashion houses and working with DJ’s and producers to create and perform real-time, projected visuals. And yet, as an artist, his practice pivots off of the robustness of daily lived experience, flattening various arcs of cultural language.

Falling into what is typically considered to be the matrix of post-studio practice, each artist makes use of their computers as the site of production. Even as much of their photographic source material is the result of a camera and lens transported to a location, work in this arena is essentially “digitally-born.” The photographic material being edited is divorced from the environment where it is produced. From the outset of the process, images enter a wholly new situation—one that is not beholden to the rules of the camera or of light as its levers of manipulation. The software employed by the artists is a fully contained organizational structure within what Lev Manovich calls the “media machine.” The acknowledgement of this source material as such, divorced from its initial conditions, provides a translucent barrier, compartmentalizing its elements. This barrier is a special feature of graphic computing, the psychological aspect of which engenders tandem feelings of social isolation and togetherness—or, as artist Jens Haaning states, “a possibility to be alone together with other people.” This feeling predicates de facto assumptions relating to the objecthood of an image, allowing for the photographs to become source material. They are objects held and fully surrounded by the container of the software, to be manipulated by the robust toolset at the artists’ disposal. This directed process effectively outmodes the camera.

More than her source material, Steciw considers her prints to be objects, no longer mere images, which in this scenario are hallmarked by mutable continuity. In fact, her prints are quite heavy—large panels produced as dye-sublimation prints on aluminum, and in wooden frames. Additionally, the reflective qualities of the surface mimic that of a glass computer screen (an appearance which manufacturers make attempts to avoid), capturing vague reflections of their surroundings, reinforcing their physical presence. Darst coincidentally produces an ongoing body of work (not on display) comprising digital prints on aluminum. These pieces are the product of long-term efforts, with sessions interspersed throughout his day-to-day life, often working with painting software from his phone, and reworking later with a more powerful machine

Darst’s casual, yet work-intensive, process of making prints on aluminum attends to the speed of contemporary mass production and distribution. This interest manifests in his video works. His video Cloud Requital & The-Grift (2019) has a total runtime of five minutes. The single-channel work was produced with over four machines, with all of its files stored server side. Cloud Requital & The-Grift is Darst’s eighth collaboration with Kevin Carey, a musician based in Massachusetts. The video is a futuristic mediation on the artist’s recent trips between New York, his grandfather's western Massachusetts painting studio, and the Catskills. Like his geospatial peregrinations, the video loops seamlessly from end to end, providing the viewer with an experience that can be taken up or left behind at any moment. Despite the flow of visitors, the loop also offers a certain sort of stability: it is constantly present, giving it ideological weight, like an object.

1 Greaves, Matthew. “Cycles of Alienation: Technology and Control in Digital Communication.” New Proposals: Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary Inquiry 9, no. 1 (2016): 49–63.
Matthew Greaves proposes that maintenance technological competencies by the proletariat does not intrinsically constitute a capitalist mechanism of control. He states that, “Technologies created for the accumulation of surplus value online do not require the separation of proletarians from appropriative skill.” Darst and Steciw resist Subsumption, and thus alienation to some degree, by using their skills--co-developed through class and capital--in a playful manner, and outside of the arena of the work day. The result is the dissolution of human-technology relations into one “hybridized unit.”

2 Paul, Christiane. “Histories of the Digital Now.” Histories of the Digital Now | Whitney Museum of American Art. Whitney Museum of American Art, September 2018.
Christiane Paul describes “digitally-born” artworks as containing “intrinsic elements of objects,” while acknowledging that a contemporary understanding of theories of digitally engaged artworks “attempt to describe a condition of artworks that are conceptually and practically shaped by the internet and digital processes,” and “often manifest in the material form of objects.”

3 Manovich, Lev. “Alan Kay’s Universal Media Machine.” Lev Manovich - Alan Kay's Universal Media Machine., 2006.
Lev Manvich argues that the media machine--the computer--is also a “remediation machine,” which has the potential to simulate all possible media. During the process of simulation, media undergo an experiential flattening resulting in an existential crisis, foundational to interpretation.

4 Haaning, Jens, and Pécoil Vincent. Hello, My Name Is Jens Haaning: If You Dont Want to Buy This Catalogue but Are Interested in Reading or Looking in It You Will Find Its Entire Content on This Address: Dijon: Les Presses du Reel, 2003.
Jens Haaning’s conceptual artwork entitled, Certificate (1999), proposes an “unfinished homepage”--a domain which does not exist online. The quotation from the artwork here, reads in full: “To see the internet only as a extension of the possibility of communication is an extreme oversimplification, seen from an Existential point of view the internet gives the possibility to be alone with other people, 1999"

5 Manovich, “Alan Kay’s Universal Media Machine,”
Lev Manovich proposes that remediation itself, as a container, offers a more robust toolset. He states directly that “a digital photograph offers its users many affordances that its non-digital predecessor did not.” He goes on to discuss the immediacy of the digital photograph as “an object,” claiming that this status facilitates interaction with other photographic images, and other simulated document types.

Photography Alon Koppel

Metal Meadow
Camp Eternal Hell Chamber, Cobleskill, NY
May 4–June 30, 2019

Chelsea Culprit, Zack Davis, Debo Eilers, Brian Kokoska, Larissa Lockshin, Bunny Rogers, Chloe Seibert, Tarwuk, Hadley Vogel, and Quay Quinn Wolf
Organized by Nathaniel Hitchcock, Elaine Levy, and Brian Kokoska

Text by Nathaniel Hitchcock

Metal Meadow is conceived as a group exhibition, a singular installation, and an immersive environment–intended to engage each of the participating artist's practices with the architecture of Brian Kokoska's upstate farmhouse. Even as each artist is allotted separate areas within the building, the project positions itself as an encompassing environment by incorporating the building as a sculptural element–to be inhabited equally by both visitors and artworks. As an installation, it investigates archetypal tropes of the haunted house; a sentient architecture, brought to life and animated by supernatural elements. The presented works thematically engage with stillness, terror, memory and death, and the possibilities of emotional emergence facilitated by non-human objects and images.


The visual and architectural language of illusionism has been consistently present in human-made immersive environments. Oliver Grau, in his seminal text Virtual Art, From Immersion to Illusion, traces the origins of the immersive environment, in part, to the Great Frieze in the Villa dei Misteri at Pompeii (ca. 60 B.C.)–a 360 degree fresco dedicated to Dionysus, and used for rites of initiation and rituals. The fresco depicts life-sized figures preparing for the Bacchic rite, and includes images of Dionysus–as if a visitor is sharing the space with them. The strategy employed by the fresco's designers visually extends the architecture of the space, making use of perspectival tools, and realistic renderings of imaginary architecture. Grau describes the installation, “With the exception of this opening in the wall, which is less than three meters wide, the visitor to the room is surrounded hermetically by a 360 vision with unity of time and place. The overall effect is to break down barriers between the observer and what is happening in the images on the walls.” – “The fresco brings gods and humans together on the same pictorial level.” 1

Later in his book, Grau writes of the popularity of the panorama The Battle of Sedan, finished 1883 by Anton von Werner and his team of 13 additional painters, and especially notes the political nature of the project. The Battle of Sedan is considered to be a precursor to cinema due to its appeal amongst all classes of the time. Grau illuminates the nationalist tendencies in the composition of its images–especially its historical revisionism–and points to it as a modern example of the dictation of emotion through hermetic image spaces–a fixture that can easily be seen in contemporary Hollywood films depicting, especially those depicting American wars.

In 1896, as the price of admission into The Battle of Sedan was waning, Georges Méliès released his film Le Manoir Du Diable–considered to be the first film of the horror genre. In just three minutes in length, it contains a visual index of tropes and images which continue in the genre today–bats, devils, witches, &c.– though no doubt each with their own visual lineage–traceable to the spiritualist movements of the time by way medieval folklore. In his film, each of these characters enters and exits the static view of the camera in seemingly supernaturally manners–what were at the time, advanced editing techniques.2 The film was not intended to evoke fear, but still–by image alone–began a trend in the production of increasingly distorted and horrific films. Its near immediate influence was felt, taken up by German Expressionist cinema wherein the design of the lighting and film sets were said to have subjectivity projected onto their production materials–Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920), by Robert Wiene, being a prominent example.3

Standing in contrast to expressionist set design's potential to activate a broad range of emotions, the haunted house, as a format, exchanges dynamism for intensity, and opts out of the nationalism of modern panoramas in favor of terror. Chris Heller, in Smithsonian Magazine, notes that haunted houses in America emerged in the 1930s, and were organized by the families residing in the buildings.4 The haunted house, in this sense, is akin to the everyperson's panoramic encounter, in that it provides an immersive environment often cobbled together by amateurs. The hermetic nature of the experience as an image space, is predicated by the architecture of the house. This differs from modern panoramas, like The Battle of Sedan, which was housed in a specially constructed rotunda, the exterior of which did not hint at the content within. Haunted houses, on the other hand, make direct use of their architecture and locale. The contents–the domestic siting of terror and the joining of spiritualized images and technological illusions–are wholly integrated with the architecture; the building and its site becoming a part of the image.

Contemporary, roadside haunted houses have not strayed far from their roots as projects of the residents or owners, though they have been highly influenced by the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, which opened in 1969. Not unlike the 19th century panorama, in which visitors were invited to sit or stand on a rotating platform to view the images at a mechanical pace, modern examples of haunted houses typically employ a predetermined pathway for visitor flow, in which the patrons experience a series of horrific images and physical starts. The route which each visitor is funneled through has a direct relationship to the novelesque structure of film with its beginning, middle and end, and no actions made by visitors will effect the outcome of the narrative. The trust in their own physical safety that visitors must have mirrors the willful ignorance of the apparatus of cinema which grounds experience of most films. Characters, or images of characters, included in the standard roadside haunted house begin with the cast of Le Manoir Du Diable–supernatural entities with sway in the physical world. They are joined by the more grotesque, and more human actors–the serial killers from the nighttime news programs; costumes of real-life sociopaths known for inflicting actual pain on actual people.

This secularization of the haunted house characters echoes some sentiments of Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari–the protagonist of which is a scientist, and perhaps the antithesis to religious or spiritual speculation. Dietrich Scheunemann writes in his formal analysis of Wiene's film that the reemergence of the doppelgänger (a trope that is integral to the film's plot), and its shift to cinema, is a symptom of the exploitation of film's technological possibilities via photographic technique.5 While the Romantic, literary interest in the doppelgänger hinged on the potentiality of a tangible intervention envisioned by the readers, the emergence of this story in cinema secularizes and supplants the romantic notion with technological advancement. The director's employ of the doppelgänger trope as a way to parse modern technology opens a window into the sentiments of terror at the time–instead of a refocusing, the shift in the camera is more akin to trucking; the horizontal sliding of the camera's body to apprehend a wholly different, yet equally terrifying subject.

It is terror that is the singular emotion on which horrific genres sharpen their blade. It is this terror that is cutting the path through the roadside haunted house–moving the visitor this way and that–or progressing a film from one scene to the next. To remove its whetstone is to allow for the visitor flow to spiral out into a plurality of trajectories. All of the sudden, the costumed actors are on equal footing with the visitors; the cinema lights go on and reveal us all to be apparitions.

“What should I call it? As a philologist and man of words I baptized it, not without some liberty—for who could be sure of the proper name of the Antichrist?—with the name of a Greek god: I called it Dionysian

– Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

1 Grau, Oliver. Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007.

2 Wilson, Karina. "Silent Horror: The Golem, Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Nosferatu, Häxan." Horror Film History - Horror Films in the 1920s. Accessed April 2019.

3 Eisner, Lotte. The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt. Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 2009.

4 Heller, Chris. "A Brief History of the Haunted House." Accessed April 2019.

5 Scheunemann, Dietrich. Expressionist Film: New Perspectives. Rochester, N.Y: Camden House, 2011.


Note G
Chicago Manual Style, Chicago, IL
June 24–August 10, 2018

Barbara Bloom, Stephanie Hier, Greg Ito, Sydney Shen, and Jack Strange
Curated by Stephanie Cristello and Nathaniel Hitchcock

Ada Lovelace, Note G, computational diagram (c. 1842)

Text by Nathaniel Hitchcock and Stephanie Cristello

Between 1842 and 1843, English mathematician Ada Lovelace hand wrote what many consider to be the first algorithmic computer program: Note G.[1] Entitled after the final in a series of these computational Notes—a term which can be interpreted as both a scientific and musical notation—this exhibition includes works by artists within the context of technology, as well as in relation to both lyricism and the handmade gesture. As the only legitimate child of British poet Lord Byron, it serves to note that Lovelace described her approach to mathematics as ‘poetical science,’ which applies to her approach for composing code. 

Just as the word ‘scripting’ in the language of computer science is borrowed from that of a screenplay—a series of instructions read and executed in the exact order it is written—poetry can be said to belong to the foundations of the first invented piece of software. The perception of the screen as a stage, or vice versa, positions the gallery space as a theater set, where a controlled code, or program, may be played out; one that is navigated by the viewer, not built by them.

The Romanticism implicit in Lovelace’s notations finds its footing in the present by way of immersion. In this sense, each of the selected works contend with the ideological implications of contemporary computing in their own right, coalescing as a mise-en-scène where narratives of language, source, and immersion become present. As such, the exhibition Note G is an experiment in the implementation of a poetic interface amongst objects. Unfolding as a singular installation, rather than a curated exhibition, the premise considers the slippage and reification that emerges when objects are aligned for the purpose of being networked. 

By tracing the histories which begin with the work of Lovelace, and are continued throughout the twentieth century, [2] Note G features the poetic impact of the computer across mediums and conceptual approaches. Central to the exhibition are two works by Barbara Bloom, Steinway Piano Carpet (2010), a large-scale floor-based work that imagines the absence and potential of a piano at various scales, and a photograph from the Scores series (ongoing), which positions sourced advertising photographs on stanzas, as though the image can be “read” like a piece of music. This sense of networked lyricality carries over in Sydney Shen’s sculptural work, entitled Lament Config. (2015), which feature metronomes, whose audible ticking keeps a rhythm at the same time it produces as sense of altered time. Stephanie Hier’s two recent paintings, Yes, this is our finest shower and It’s time to pay the fiddler (2018), are displayed against the backdrop of a wall drawing that depicts an animation of hands juggling—a type of literal tracking, as if the frames of a gif were presented at once, that points toward the same digital potential of the source material used in the work, such as Microsoft Word clip art and temporary tattoos, layered over traditional still life techniques. 

The artist proof of the seminal work g—which shares the key letter of the exhibition, but also the formulaic value of gravity in physics—by UK-based artist Jack Strange, an edition of which was acquired by MoMA in 2009, features a lead ball on the keypad of a MacBook, infinitely generating pages in Microsoft Word until it crashes the computer. The installation is completed by a site-specific commission by Los Angeles-based artist Greg Ito, spanning the entire south wall of the space.

[1] Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace (née Byron; 1815–1852) was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed computer, the Analytical Engine. She was the first to recognize that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation and published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine. As a result, she is often regarded as the first computer programmer.
[2] Such as Norbert Wiener’s foundational work on cybernetics, the Church-Turing Thesis, and Alan Kay’s invention of the Graphic User Interface, as well as the Xerox Parc team’s formulation of the first painting simulation software.

Photography Daniel Hojnacki



Forced Autumn
Chicago Manual Style, Chicago, IL
November 19–December 17, 2017

Allora & Calzadilla, CARNE, and Ricardo Morales-Hernández
Curated by Stephanie Cristello and Nathaniel Hitchcock

Ricardo Morales-Hernández, studio view, June 2017.

Text by Nathaniel Hitchcock and Stephanie Cristello

November 2017

Dear N and S.

Nature is completely devastated, there is a forced autumn on a tropical land. I have never seen something equal. Complete towns incommunicado. The telecom is down on the majority of the island, there is only 28%, but it feels like 5%. Interminable lines for gas and food, and many situations of health and security out of control. I sense the crisis will reinforce exodus. I will consider it too, but later. I thank you for your help and ideas here.


Chicago Manual Style is pleased to announce its inaugural exhibition, Forced Autumn, bringing together works by Allora & Calzadilla, CARNE Gallery—Adriana Martínez, and Mariana Murcia—and Ricardo Morales-Hernández. The exhibition is curated by Stephanie Cristello and Nathaniel Hitchcock, the Co-Directors of Chicago Manual Style and P.S. (Publishing Services), a dual-format project space dedicated to exhibition making as practice-based research.

In a letter to the curators, Morales-Hernández (b. 1980) described the natural effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the island of Puerto Rico, its inhabitants, and its infrastructure as a “forced autumn,” equating the devastation wrought by the storms with the ongoing colonialist agenda perpetrated by the United States’ Federal government. Following this conflation of natural occurrences and geopolitical power structures, Forced Autumn brings together three artists and collectives whose works are staked on the upending of phantasmagoric images of the island through consideration of material processes, site, and image distribution. The selected artists utilize methods of appropriation and subversion to contend with the ‘exotic’ image of the island propagated within the colonial frame.

The exhibition will feature the American premiere of Puerto Rico-based artists Jennifer Allora (b. 1974) and Guillermo Calzadilla’s (b. 1971) video work, entitled La noche que volvimos a ser gente (The Night We Became People Again) (2017), most recently exhibited at Lisson Gallery in London as part of their solo exhibition, Foreign in a Domestic Sense. Conceived in dialogue with Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos), a long-term, site-specific Dia Art Foundation commission

in the El Convento Cave in Guayanilla-Peñuelas, Puerto Rico, the film acts as a counterpart to the physical installation of the work. Confounding footage of the cave, filmed by drone, with narratives of an abandoned petro-chemical plant, a sugar cane refinery, and the short story by Puerto Rican novelist José Luis González, from which the title of the work is borrowed, Allora & Calzadilla trace the colonial, cultural, and geopolitical implications of the film’s composition through highly formalized takes and shape shifting imagery.

The work is exhibited alongside a selection of recent acquisitions by CARNE Gallery—an artist collective founded in 2014 and based in Bogotá, Colombia. Featured in Forced Autumn are works by Mariana Murcia, and Adriana Martínez, from the curators’ personal collection, originally installed as part of the collective’s exhibit FAMA (2017) in San Juan at the artist-run gallery km 0.2. In a series of vinyl cut outs on postcards of Columbia by Martínez, each covered with the word “FIN,” (which translates to ‘END’) similar to the format one would find at the end credits of French Cinema, the letters partially reveal the image, though the black field largely obscures the landscape of the touristic images. The series is a continuation of her works, which were first exhibited as larger scale paintings on world maps at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) in her solo exhibition Detroit Affinities, curated by Jens Hoffmann earlier this year. Presented alongside these pieces are two works by Mariana Murcia; digital prints on seed packets. The seed packets, in dialogue with her ongoing sculptural series Gerberas, depict close-up images of the works, which are comprised of flowers whose petals have been cut into squares. At once a mirror of the process, and an imaginative departure of the origin of sculptures, Murcia’s flower forms are transformed into an image of itself, as though a bouquet made of out of pixels.

At the core of the exhibition are a series of paintings by Morales-Hernández—based between San Juan and Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico, whose studio is sited in a mountainous bamboo forest within the center of the island. Surrounded by fauna and large boulders, and containing a single white wall, the majority of his works are produced in nature—a type of “Green Cube” space, a term coined by Stefan Benchoam and Pablo Leon de la Barra, two of the curators of La Gran Bienial Tropical. In these works, a series of drawings on canvas executed in both charcoal, manufactured by the artist from the organic residue surrounding his outdoor studio space, and blue construction chalk, Morales-Hernández’s imagery oscillates between the abstract and the figurative, depicting tropical, or paradisiacal, landscapes against the backdrop of geopolitical struggle on the island.

In Forced Autumn, alternative models are used as a method and means of display: caves, jungles, and the storefront, pose the site as a subject. If the hurricane can lay bare the colonialist power structure of the island, so too can these artists’ leveraging of the landscape—as both a material and a site—hold the power to mobilize against Romantic images. Returning to the concept of the Green Cube, the context exists not only in opposition to the white cube, through the distrust of the neutrality of its space, but also as a method of display through which informalism is considered to be on the same footing as formalism, and which places life (and by extension, nature) at the center of art.

Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, FL
October 2017–April 2018

Pascale Marthine Tayou
Organized by Leilani Lynch, Assistant Curator, and Nathaniel Hitchcock

Born in Cameroon and based in Ghent, Belgium, Pascale Marthine Tayou brings his itinerant practice to Miami Beach for his exhibition, Beautiful, creating an organic and collaboratively formed presentation of work made in the last decade. Visitors will navigate between stacked arabic pots, Colonnes Pascale (2012), and encounter Tayou’s colorful Fresque de Craies (2015), constructed of hundreds of chalk pieces arranged beneath West African colon tourist figures, gold foil, and plastic eggs. Tayou, whose practice spans media and subject matter, is an alchemist of sorts. His work fluidly transforms and recasts the viewer’s understanding of materials, objects, and narratives. Mediating between cultures, while setting man and nature in ambivalent relation to each other, his works are created in the knowledge that they are products of social, cultural, or political constructions. Tayou’s work is deliberately mobile and heterogeneous, elusive of pre-established schema.

Beautiful also includes an intervention with the museum’s permanent collection where Tayou presents his work alongside his own selection of objects from The Bass’ founding collection. The dialogue between contemporary artworks and objects from the past speak to his overall practice and material considerations for incorporating objects encountered by chance or from his immediate surroundings into the installation. Further, Tayou’s concern for the decolonization of histories and territories aligns with the international and transient nature of Miami Beach and the impact tourism continues to have in shaping the city. A newly commissioned, site-specific work by Tayou called Welcome Wall (2015), composed of animated LED signs that read “welcome” in over 70 languages, broadcasts a message of profound inclusion from the lobby of the museum.

good evening beautiful blue
Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, FL
October 2017–April 2018

Ugo Rondinone
Organized by Silvia Karman Cubiñá, Executive Director and Chief Curator, Leilani Lynch, Assistant Curator, and Nathaniel Hitchcock

Spanning the entirety of the museum’s newly designed second floor, good evening beautiful blue by Ugo Rondinone is part of a major multi-institution retrospective comprising works that span three decades of the artist’s practice, from the late 1990s to the present. From poetic installations in public spaces to life-size drawings, Rondinone’s work balances on the edge of euphoria and detachment.

good evening beautiful blue begins with Rondinone’s clockwork for oracles II (2008). The multi-wall installation is comprised of 52-mirrored windows (one for each week in the year) set against a backdrop of whitewashed pages from a local newspaper. Visitors encounter their mirrored reflections, stopping momentarily to contemplate how their temporary presence in the room contrasts with the dated newsprint behind the windows, which becomes more distant throughout the duration of the exhibition. The subsequent gallery houses vocabulary of solitude (2014-2016), the centerpiece of the exhibition and the only work present in all venues of the retrospective. vocabulary of solitude is an installation of 45 life-size clown figures cast from 22 men and 23 women of various ages and ethnicities. The work takes inspiration from the artist’s reflection on his daily actions, where each figure is engaged in a different quotidian activity, such as sleeping, dreaming, remembering, showering and walking.

Marking its first appearance in the U.S. in nearly two decades, the final gallery presents an immersive six-channel video installation titled It’s late It’s late and the wind carries a faint sound as it moves through the trees. It could be anything. The jingling of little bells perhaps, or the tiny flickering out of tiny lives. I stroll down the sidewalk and close my eyes and open them and wait for my mind to go perfectly blank. Like a room no one has ever entered, a room without any doors or windows. A place where nothing happens. (1999–2000). The entire room is given a blue tint by an illuminated ceiling, as projected slow-motion loops of six men and six women, alone in their frames, perform an unresolved gesture without acknowledging the viewer, like opening an apartment door, or floating (or sinking) in water. The final line of the work’s narrative title …A place where nothing happens. aptly describes the cyclical loop of movements performed by each figure, resulting in a thought provoking and introspective space. Together, the selection of works places the visitor in an arena of contemplation and introspection, confronted by installations that stimulate self-reflection.

good evening beautiful blue is funded in part by: Phillips. Additional support is provided by: Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council.

Time Flies Like A Banana
Johannes Vogt Gallery, New York
April–May, 2015

Josh Reames, Greg Ito & Ron Ewert
Organized by Nathaniel Hitchcock in collaboration with Josh Reames

Night Cage
Johannes Vogt Gallery, New York
May–June, 2015

Brian Kokoska & Chloe Seibert
Organized by Nathaniel Hitchcock in collaboration with Brian Kokoska
Exhibition text by Gerardo Conteras












Download full exhibition text, by Gerardo Conteras

Paging Yolanda
Johannes Vogt Gallery, New York
June–July, 2014

James O. Clark, Luis Miguel Bendaña, Harry Finkelstein, Donna Huanca, Elizabeth Jaeger, Brian Kokoska, & Jasper Spicero
Organized by Nathaniel Hitchcock

Paging Yoldana was an experiment in devising an reproducible exhibition format. The exhibition followed five rules which were based on the children's game of "Heads Up, Seven Up".

Text by Nathaniel Hitchcock

This exhibition format takes its inspiration from the playful collapse of real life relation building into the relational visualization of networked social environments occurring in the game “Heads Up Seven Up”. It is intended to serve dually as a recursive and versioned DIY platform for exhibition making as well as an investigation into social networks we inhabit on- and offline.

Heads Up Seven Up Rules:

1. Find a space for an art show
2. Pick one artist
3. The artist picks the following artist
4. Repeat step 3 until seven artists are selected
5. Each artist exhibits work

A hallmark of successful game design is the ability for a simple set of rules to encourage emergent and robust game play. The case of Heads Up Seven Up is interesting due to the fact that the emergent play is primarily social in nature. The gameplay can be interpreted in at least two ways: to create social bonds among the players, and to relationally visualize the social structures already intact. It facilitates interaction through structured contact while acting as an entry point into the micro-community of childhood social politics. In this way the game becomes useful and can be considered an example of gamification of a more fluid system of conditions existing outside of structured play. It has a real-life affect within the community; “I’m here to make friends."

This affect leads directly to the second interpretation of the game: as a relational visualization of pre-existing social structures. During play players are privy to a more in depth glimpse into the social workings of their classroom. Who picked who is obviously the most pertinent thing to note, but also how hard or softly my ones thumb was touched which signifies the picking, along with other environmental cues; how sneaky or casually you were picked and if the picker had a reputation of being sneaky or casual, or even known tendencies for competition.

In this way, if one were to map out the game, pre-existing social relations would be readily apparent. When the game is played in succession it functions as a sort of feedback loop and the above two propositions are bridged. Successive play as with all games allows the player to become better at playing the game; traversing the learning curve. In most cases this learning curve is tailored towards well-defined goals, but here since the most notable consequences of play are impacts outside the gaming arena successive play draws relations built on previous games back into the following ones.

The Heads Up Seven Up exhibition format was developed by Nate Hitchcock & Jordan Rhoat. Chicago, Summer, 2010

Deauville Beach Resort, Miami Beach, FL
December 4-7, 2014

Sara Ludy, Nicholas Sassoon, Sylvain Sailly, Krist Wood, Laura Brothers, Rick Silva, Lorna Mills, Rollin Leonard, & Brenna Murphy
Curated by Nathaniel Hitchcock and Julia Colavita

In Cultural Partnership with New Art Dealers Alliance and Artsy

Image: Nicholas Sassoon

Liquid Crystal Palace: New Works with Jeremy Blake
Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles
March–April, 2014

Jeff Baij, Jeremy Blake, Petra Cortright, Chris Coy, Sara Ludy, Rafael Rozendaal, & Travess Smalley
Curated by Nathaniel Hitchcock and Michael Connor

In partnership with Rhizome at the New Museum

Jeremy Blake, Liquid Villa, 1999 Digital C-print 29 x 84 inches Edition of 3 + 1AP

Text by Michael Connor

Liquid Villa shifts between lucid, crisp dream architecture and colorful, blurring abstraction, unsettling the viewer between pictorial depth and flatness. These shifts take place from moment to moment, but also within particular scenes. For example, the dark alcoves in his dreamlike villa feature glowing orange torches with jagged edges, suggesting (on a pictorial level) the amorphousness of flame, but (on a material level) the low-resolution artefacts of a too-large digital image. Such passages function in a way that is analogous to facture in painting: as traces that point back to the process by which the work was created. Thus, Blake's "painterly sensibility" incongruously leads him to call attention to his use of digital tools.

The other artists in this exhibition, all younger than Blake, inhabit similarly incongruous positions, although they often are not presented as incongruities at all. For her work Dream House, Sara Ludy translates the architecture seen in a recurring dream into a rendered 3D model. With sterile surfaces and mathematically perfect lines and shading, the model somehow conjures a sense of a genius loci, an oneiric intensity akin to Blake's own work. Chris Coy, who conducted an email exchange with Jeremy Blake as an undergraduate in 2006, makes work that draw on cultural sources including uninhabited architectural spaces from the children's cartoon The Real Ghostbusters and the color-coded emotional tone scale used in Scientology. Jeff Baij also makes work that is rooted in appropriation, drawing on and manipulating images from a wide range of sources to make new still or moving image works almost daily. However, in contrast with the high-fidelity, slick imagery found in Coy's work, Baij's serial production revolves around simple digital effects and an aesthetic rooted in degradation. Rafaël Rozendaal presents two lenticular paintings in the exhibition as well as a website installation. In Rozendaal's work, the abstractions could be said to refer to a distinct tradition from that of painting, one rooted in the very technologies of image reproduction that have provoked repeated existential crises in the painting field over the years. Travess Smalley describes himself as painter while using a continuum of tools, both digital and physical. Smalley's past works include a range of physical objects as well as works for the screen, often making use of collage and drawing on online visual culture for inspiration. Like Blake, Smalley uses color fluidly to activate the senses, finding transcendental potential in the mundane visual register of the corporate web. 

In Petra Cortright's works, the seemingly conflicting traditions of painting and digital art are confidently put in play in prints on aluminum and silk, materials that refer to the reflective surface of the screen and the movement of digital media. 

Haunted by the perceived failure of geometric abstraction, and fascinated by technologies that are often written off as mundane, flat, and lacking in affect, Blake found in digital abstraction not dystopia, but what he called "dystopic potential." It is this dystopic potential that is taken up and extended by the other artists in this exhibition.

The curators would like to thank Eva Diaz, David Hendren, Ignacio Perez, Laura Watts & the Honor Fraser team, and the artists.

Material Images
Johannes Vogt Gallery, New York
March–April, 2014

Kari Altmann, Trudy Benson, Petra Cortright, Franklin Evans, Lauren Luloff, Michael Manning, Jessica Sanders, Kate Steciw, Rebecca Ward, & Jeff Zilm
Curated by Nathaniel Hitchcock

Abstraction has taken an interesting turn in recent years. There has been a proliferation of abstract images, though not necessarily produced by artists. Abstraction is sitting on the surface of cultural production in general. Images today exist halfway between depictions of things that might exist in front of us and generalized forms. From the poorly Photoshopped cover of a teen fashion magazine to the icons on our smart phones, there is a conflation of the abstract and concrete, the image and the object, the static and activated, the unique and the serial, belief and disbelief.

The show aims to investigate how the fact that images are no longer what they seem is expressed in current art making. As images are no longer of something, but images that move and take on a life of their own as they are processed, constructed and filtered through collaborative information networks, the meaning they carry is multifaceted. Traces of their routes cling to them as cultural forces move them between formats and image contexts. On this journey, the depiction eventually wears thin. Left behind are images that are akin to an acceleration of “first name recognition” such as “Thank you, Andy.” They are seemingly distilled but heavily laden.

Strategies for artistic confrontation with this current state of image making are varied. The selected group of artists contends with and acknowledges these mechanisms of manipulation as ideological structures for visual production to work with, or to work against.

What We Know: An Exhibition of Neen Works
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
October, 2008

Miltos Manetas, Angelo Plessas, Rafaël Rozendaal, Nikola Tosic, & The Angelo Foundation
Curated by Nathaniel Hitchcock

Press Release, Catalog

Existential Computing, Miltos Manetas, 2006

Skype Poetry Reading, Nikola Tosic, 2007-2009

Rules of the Computer Lab, poster by Nikola Tosic, 2008

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