On Feelings, Politics, the Future and Being Hit in the Face by Marko Kovacevic

On Feelings, Politics, the Future and Being Splashed in the Face

Marko Kovacevic, alum 2016

Splash by Marko Kovacevic   In the spring of   2017   I approached Marko to write for our “Alice”   publication  . It was to accompany a video he made for my class. I knew his experience with government red tape would prove insightful. Given the times we live, it is necessary to listen to those affected. When he makes a comparison of lovers and politicians we are given access and can   relate   to a universal need for   compassion  . -Randy West, faculty

Splash by Marko Kovacevic

In the spring of 2017 I approached Marko to write for our “Alice” publication. It was to accompany a video he made for my class. I knew his experience with government red tape would prove insightful. Given the times we live, it is necessary to listen to those affected. When he makes a comparison of lovers and politicians we are given access and can relate to a universal need for compassion. -Randy West, faculty

We live in trying times. Many smart people have tried (and mostly failed) to provide comfort, offer explanations or devise solutions. I wouldn’t dare attempt that. What I can offer are my thoughts in a meandering stream of consciousness.

In April 2015 I made a short video. The piece was fairly straightforward—a quick, rough and impulsive experiment in filmmaking or performance art that happened to hit upon something that was emotionally genuine and true. The short was an unauthorized music video for the song “Station” by a young English musician named Låpsley. If I am to be completely honest, the video owes more than a little of its emotional impact to this hypnotic song, which I was quite obsessed with at the time.

The video was about love. In a departure from my deliberately unemotional approach to making art, I created a very personal piece about how it felt to be in love with someone who didn’t love me back. How long would I keep coming back, enthusiastically craving something that was ultimately disastrous for my wellbeing? The original idea for the piece was to be repeatedly slapped, but the final video is far more nuanced.

And so, on a cold day in early spring, I stood at the open door to my backyard and was splashed in the face with water—some 50 times. The water was warm and steam rose from my body in the cool air. In the background, life goes on through flickers in my neighbors’ window; they are oblivious to the person getting drenched outside.

My eyes hurt from the water. Although I knew the splashes were coming, or perhaps because I knew, the expectation of each new wave was nerve-racking. I laughed uncontrollably—partially because of the ridiculousness of the situation, and partially out of desperation from the repeated water attacks. I showed the video in class and it had an odd effect: Some people found it funny and uplifting, others moving and sad. There may have even been a few tears.

Two years later, I was asked if the video could be featured in “Alice.” I gladly accepted. And there was a further request: I was also asked to submit a short text that addressed my experiences as an immigrant in the current U.S. political climate. Even though the theme of immigration is central to my actual art practice, the idea of such a text accompanying my atypical water-splashing video made me nervous. How did the two relate? Should it even matter? The video was one of only a handful of projects I’ve done that was unrelated to the immigrant experience. Or at least the intention was personal rather than political. There was, however, a very visceral, yet unconscious, connection that later became clear to me.

Like so many, politics have become increasingly personal to me; I read the news and feel anger and sadness in ways that I have rarely experienced outside the most intimate realm. Our current political climate is full of rage and spite, more reminiscent of a quarrel between vengeful lovers than of discourse among political opponents.

The day after the U.S. presidential election of 2016, I watched the euphoria of the previous day melt into scenes of stoic New Yorkers crying on the F train. That evening I met a stranger in a bar and we spent an intense, wild night together. The political insult felt so personal, a slap in the face (pun intended), and it had to be exorcised on an intimate level—to feel wanted and alive.

We (the people) have a peculiar relationship to the future. It does not exist, yet we see it vividly and treat it as something tangible—a precious object we possess. Breaking up with someone important has a strange effect on this vision of the future. A landscape of recognizable markers is replaced by a dizzying chasm. Suddenly, there are interruptions in our cognitive processes—thoughts and ideas cannot find their target. Our perceptions and identity, once anchored to an idea of the future, have become loose ends that dangle in the wind of uncertainty. So, too, does our political reality feel like a dramatic break-up.

Now, not to be the ever-gloomy Eastern European, I will say that this might all be a good thing, a great thing in fact. A vision of a brighter future can be a motivating source of strength; it can also be a crutch. Once free of the distracting protection of a fictitious future, we can truly take on the present. Since November though, both the present and the future seem unrecognizable and scary.

The U.S. has always been a better concept than a reality in my opinion, no matter what the people with the red hats think. But until November 2016 it seemed to be inching slowly and unevenly forward. To an immigrant, the future can often be hazy, conditioned by the next interview, the next visa, and the next status. I made a film about navigating the visa system, but since the election even that seems irrelevant; the immigration system itself is in question. I had been exploring the tedium of bureaucracy but suddenly I was afraid of far more dramatic situations—worried for friends who are asylum seekers or happen to be from the “wrong” country and rushing to a number of hastily arranged weddings at City Hall.

As a white European and a permanent resident in liberal New York City, my status is similar to that of a U.S. citizen. I am well aware of the privilege this position affords me. But last month on a trip abroad, I imagined the unlikely scenario in which my country, Serbia, caused a diplomatic incident and, after an angry tweet by the president, I end up on some list, suddenly unable to return to the U.S. I knew, too, that I would be relatively fine if this were to happen; for so many others, having to leave would mean disaster.

The person who inspired my “water” video is no longer a part of my life. While making the video I thought about the difference between a good person who, unknowingly, repeatedly hurts others, and a bad person who deliberately does so. I determined that, at some point, the distinction doesn't matter, only actions do. It took a while to understand this and even longer to accept, but after all my attempts and efforts to talk and understand, all the beauty had washed away and all I could see was the ugliness. In the end it was easy to walk away.

I understand people who contemplate leaving the United States. The idea of breaking up with a country that we feel has betrayed everything it’s meant to represent is very tempting. But this line of thinking is reserved for those of privilege—those who have a choice. With that privilege comes a responsibility to those who don’t. There is still hope that I can help things change for the better. I’m staying for another splash.



Alum, Maureen Drennan interviewed and featured on Art21 Magazine

Highway to the Sun: Truth and Fiction in Maureen Drennan’s Photography

by Jacquelyn Gleisner | Aug 15, 2017

In Montana, the Going-to-the-Sun Road traverses Glacier National Park along hairpin turns, where mountain goats live, and crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. Titled after this road, the series Highway to the Sun by the New York City–based photographer Maureen Drennan is a metaphor for an epic journey: In the summer of 1951, four friends departed from Hanover, New Hampshire, on a five-thousand-mile trip to Alaska, passing through Glacier National Park and countless other notable places. They kept a travel log and took photos of the sites they saw. One of the young men on this road trip was Drennan’s stepfather. While she was growing up, his coming-of-age tale was recounted to the point of becoming a myth.

Maureen Drennan.  Clear Creek, Montana , 2013. Digital c-print; 24 x 30 inches. Courtesy of the artist. © Maureen Drennan.

Maureen Drennan. Clear Creek, Montana, 2013. Digital c-print; 24 x 30 inches. Courtesy of the artist. © Maureen Drennan.

Drennan described how she imagined these four friends “moving toward an endlessly bright future.”1 Working with an archive of photos and written descriptions, Drennan began to recreate images from the expedition, using a medium-format film camera. Initially her photographs were too illustrative, so Drennan changed her strategy. She envisioned herself on a parallel journey with an uncertain ending. In the resulting work, the places and people in the photos are not literal representations of characters or locations in the travel log; Drennan was more interested in blending the past and present. The images depict her understanding of the trip as a journey of exploration and invention.

On the road, the four men took turns contributing to the log, which varies in tone from factual to poetic. One writer diligently states the mileage and location in the text, and another describes at length a comely waitress. Drennan noted that more than one person asked to join the road trip. The four friends remained unaccompanied by others, yet Drennan believes the strangers’ enthusiasm reveals the idea of the road trip as part of the zeitgeist. Six years after this journey, in 1957, Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road was published. Being on the open road—as Kerouac, his characters, and Drennan’s stepfather were—continues to inspire similar journeys now accepted as quintessentially American.

Charles Russell.  Hanover, New Hampshire , 1951. Silver gelatin print; 5 x 7 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Charles Russell. Hanover, New Hampshire, 1951. Silver gelatin print; 5 x 7 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Click here for the full Art21 article. 

Maureen Drennan was also recently featured in an interview on Musée magazine. Please click here for the article. 

Alum, Maureen Drennan in Group Show, Portals at Transmitter Gallery

Transmitter presents:

Portals Curated by Ashley Garrett and Anna Ortiz



"The self is only a threshold, a door, a becoming between two multiplicities." —Giles Delueze

"I never succeed in painting scenes, however beautiful, immediately upon returning from them. I must wait for a time to draw a veil over the common details."
—Thomas Cole

Portals considers the concept of landscape as a reflection of self. This range of paintings, drawings and photographs acts as a gateway into the experience of these nine artists. Depicted in personal, intimate scales, a range of real and invented imagery comprises a cross-section of approaches to the contemporary landscape. Energized and fantastical, dark and foreboding, these microcosms imply contradictory feelings of both safety and vulnerability. Creating spaces to peer into, but not necessarily through, these artists explore paths of escape while allowing us access to altered realities. As with the reflection from a portal’s glass, the viewer faces her own presence and occupation of space in the act of viewing.

Out of the shape and texture of a landscape emerges the first clue into an artist’s subjectivity. The works in Portals manipulate artificial proportions. These interpretations of the land break from traditional horizon-driven vistas into compositions that are jammed up, graphic, or ethereally floating. Spaces oscillate between perspectival depth and flattened surfaces, leaving the viewer in undefined territory full of potential. Through their imagined worlds, these artists transform memories and traumas into fantastical spaces; in some the results are haunting, while others are disarming.

Like a portal or passageway, technology can open uncharted mindscapes full of new kinds of energy and promise, while editing and shaping our experience. As we acclimate to experiencing life in conjunction with new technologies, we become further detached from our terrestrial surroundings, the physical space we occupy falling out of focus. We fight to stay present, often nostalgic for a recent past that did not include the digital mediation of our experience. In this increasingly digital world, the physicality of the landscapes in Portals is more vital than ever. Through brushstrokes, blurred and hard edges, these images test our attention, slowing down our consumption in spaces that pose more questions than answers.

Maureen Drennan

Maureen Drennan

Transmitter Gallery: 1329 Willoughby Avenue, 2A, Brooklyn, NY 11237 

Group Show at Metro Pictures featuring Alum, Shiyuan Liu

As a part of CONDO Complex New York, a gallery swap between New York galleries and national and international partners, Metro Pictures hosts Leo Xu’s two-part exhibition A New Ballardian Vision. The show brings together a selection of works that reflect recent social, technological and environmental developments through the lens of author J.G. Ballard’s (1930–2009) writings. Xu conceived the exhibition as two distinct chapters; the first features Metro Pictures artists Nina Beier, Camille Henrot, Martin Kippenberger, Oliver Laric, Robert Longo, Trevor Paglen, Jim Shaw and Cindy Sherman. The second chapter focuses on a younger generation of Chinese artists represented by Leo Xu Projects, including aaajiao, Chen Wei, Cheng Ran, Cui Jie, Li Qing, Liu Shiyuan and Pixy Liao.

A New Ballardian Vision Chapter 1: Curated by Leo Xu Chapter 2: Leo Xu Projects in Metro Pictures’ Upstairs Gallery June 29 – August 4, 2017

A New Ballardian Vision. Installation View, 2017. Metro Pictures, New York  

A New Ballardian Vision. Installation View, 2017. Metro Pictures, New York  

Read full press release here

An Artist and Her 'Beautiful Boy' by Alum, Lissa Rivera

In their intimate portraits, the photographer Lissa Rivera and her partner, BJ Lillis, are building their own fantasy world. The body of work has recently been featured in The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar, Creators (VICE), Forbes, Artnet, and Photo District News.

There will be an opening of 'Beautiful Boy' on June 1 from 6-8pm at ClampArt. Exhibition and upcoming event details below.

EXHIBITION Lissa Rivera: Beautiful Boy June 1- July 15, 2017 Reception: June 1, 2017, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ClampArt, 247 West 29th Street, NYC

ARTIST TALK Lissa Rivera with BJ Lillis Saturday, June 10, 2017, 3:00 p.m. ClampArt, 247 West 29th Street, NYC

LECTURE Beautiful Boy: Artist Lissa Rivera and Muse BJ Lillis in Dialogue June 22, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. New York Public Library, Mid-Manhattan Library, 6th Floor

Lissa Rivera, left, and BJ Lillis in two early test images. Credit Courtesy of the artist and ClampArt, New York

Lissa Rivera, left, and BJ Lillis in two early test images. Credit Courtesy of the artist and ClampArt, New York

On a long subway ride three years ago, BJ Lillis decided to share something with his friend and co-worker, Lissa Rivera. Mr. Lillis, who describes himself as genderqueer, told her that he had spent most of his college years dressing, full-time, in women’s clothing.

But in the professional world, he’d lost his confidence. To help him regain it, she offered to take his photograph.

Mr. Lillis had never really seen himself, dressed as he wished, in a carefully made portrait.

“So much of identity is constructed from looking at pictures,” Ms. Rivera said in a recent interview. “Looking at photographs and looking at a film can really change who you are.”

The two have made dozens of images since, in a project called “Beautiful Boy.” An exhibition of the same name opens June 1 at the ClampArt gallery in Chelsea. 

For the full NYT article, please visit the site

Newest book release From Alum Brandy Watts

The Field Photographs of Alain H. Liogier

Plants of Hispaniola, Dominican Republic 1968–1969

By Brandy Watts

This volume represents an important selection of 116 photographs from a specific window of time and place as viewed through the camera lens of one of the greatest botanists of all time. Ms. Watts has curated an impressive collection of images that not only serve to document Dr. Liogier's research but bring to light the unique way this particular scientist saw the world of plants in their environment. As Ms. Watts states, "Each photograph is an instant within diverging and overlapping trajectories: plant science research, photographic technology, plant species adaptation, habitat transformation, land conservation, climate change, a particular botanist’s research, and an individual’s lifetime." If you are interested in where science and fine art merge, then this book is for you.

General Books | hc | 5" x 7" | 4 color | 256 pp. | 117 images | no. 5549 | US $48.99

Order here.

Alum Allison Kaufman at efa Project Space

Once More, with Feeling

EFA Project Space

November 11 - December 23, 2016

Opening Reception: Friday, November 11, 6 - 8 pm

323 W. 39th St, 2nd floor NYC


Rasha Asfour, Chloë Bass, Katya Grokhovsky, Shadi Harouni, Jana Kapelová, Allison Kaufman, Hilla Toony Navok, Jasmeen Patheja, Megan Snowe

Additional contributions by: Silvia Federici, Laurel Ptak, and Zoe Beloff

Curated by: Chelsea Haines

Once More, with Feeling investigates the gendered economy of emotional expression and its relationship to contemporary art. Exploring the gaps between fantasy and reality, labor and leisure, free and working time, the artists in this exhibition—based in the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East—grapple with how changing definitions of work have informed their own processes as artists, workers, and women.

Kaufman will be showing two videos, Friday Nights at Guitar Center and Dancing With Divorced Men.

"Friday Nights at Guitar Center” explores the predominately male customers of guitar stores via their impromptu in-store performances. It is an examination into the loneliness that is somehow abated and accentuated by spending time in American chain stores, the packaging and stereotyping of identities that these stores perpetuate, the fantasy of rock stardom, the human desire to be seen and recognized, and the simultaneity of exhibitionism and vulnerability.

“Dancing with Divorced Men”, is a looped video projection of recordings of myself dancing with middle-aged, divorced men in their homes. All strangers to me, I asked the subjects to choose a song and style of dance and following their lead, I create an appropriate female counterpart from their cues

Alum Daniel Traub featured in CCTV America

Award-winning photo book shows African immigrants in China

What happens when an American photographer and two Chinese portrait photographers combine their talents over a six year period?

You get an award-winning book called Little North Road which focuses on African immigrants standing on a pedestrian bridge in China.

CCTV America’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports from Colorado.

New York-based photographer Daniel Traub was already fascinated by China’s connection to Africa when he discovered a pedestrian bridge.

He met two Chinese portrait photographers who were selling souvenir photos. Traub’s photos would illustrate the backdrop and provide a frame.

The book, called “Little North Road,” is the product of 25,000 digital photos taken over six years which were eventually distilled down to just 40 from each portrait photographer.

Click here to watch a video.