Exclusive previews and one-off experiences from just €5 a month
Project Arts Centre presents
Talks and Readings
Dates: 08 Nov - 08 Nov
Show Time: 5pm
By Krist Gruijthuijsen (NL)
RAIVO PUUSEMP – DISSOLUTION: GALLERY TALK
This exhibition is the first comprehensive overview of Puusemp’s work produced between the mid-1960s and late 1970s. The exhibition presents documentation and materials around Rosendale, A Public Work, a number of his early sculptural works and one recent artwork. Presented alongside these are related works by artist Ben Kinmont that negotiate the notion of withdrawal and artistic contextualisation. Printed matter surrounding the work of the two artists will be available to take away on the evening, as well as a limited edition re-print of Puusemp’s publication – Rosendale, A Public Work, which will be available to purchase for €5.
Admission to the talk is free, no booking required.
Due to limited capacity, spaces will be issued on a first-come first-served basis. The talk is followed by the official opening of Raivo Puusemp – Dissolution at 6pm, which in turn is followed by an Afterparty (all welcome!).
Krist Gruijthuijsen is artistic director of the Grazer Kunstverein, co- founding director of Kunstverein, Amsterdam and course director of the MA Fine Arts program at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam. Previous exhibitions and projects have been presented at a.o. Manifesta 7, Platform Garanti (Istanbul), Artists Space (New York), Extra City (Antwerp), Belgrade Museum of Contemporary Art, Swiss Institute (New York), A Gentil Carioca (Rio de Janeiro), and the Stedelijk Museum, Van Abbemuseum and Stedelijk Museum Bureau in Amsterdam.
Raivo Puusemp – Dissolution is generously supported by the Lectoraat Art and Public Space, Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Extracts from a conversation between Raivo Puusemp and Krist Gruijthuijsen, 25 May 2012
K. Why did you decide to move back to NY?
R. By that time I had graduated with an art degree and felt that I needed to be in New York to have any kind of impact or chance at making anything happen. And this turned out to be true.
K. And what were you producing during that time?
R. I was making a lot of that stuff. At that time, I was also looking for contacts because the climbing and skiing people that I knew had nothing to do with art. They didn’t even know that I was an artist. So I was looking for feedback or some kind of a group to get involved with. I saw an ad on a little poster for a group called ‘Museum’. It seemed interesting, so I contacted them. They had regular meetings and got together and went out to bars. I wasn’t quite sure where it was going.
K. How did this group come about?
R. There was a guy named Smith, I don’t remember his first name, and another one named Eddie Harris. I’m not sure but it ended up about 30 or 40 people. Joe Pap from the Shakespeare was part of that and at some point a graphic artist was involved. The premise was that these were artists who weren’t able to get shows, though they deserved them. I mean, I was naïve, and at some point this graphic artist ended up contacting the Mayor’s office and there was a cultural affairs administrator there named Doris Freedman. It was Mayor Lindsay at the time, and we talked to her about the group. We met her and a group of business people at a big Sheridan or something on 6th Avenue, and said ’Look, we’ve got this group of artists, and we’re just dying to show so what can you do for us?’ She offered us an unused BMT subway station under 57th Street and 6th Avenue. It was a huge space, maybe 40 or 50 ft. wide, quite high, and 200 or 300 ft. long.
K. Had you exhibited your work before that?
R. No, so I got pretty excited. Because at that time I was making stuff but also had lots of things on the drawing board. I just didn’t have the facilities to store it all so I wasn’t making anything, just sketching things. Anyway, we left that meeting and decided that the best time to use this space would be somewhere in the fall. So then we went back to the group, totally ecstatic, and reported this. But instead of excitement, what we ran into was all kinds of excuses for why it couldn’t happen. That it was too soon, it was too big, and all kinds of reasons why people couldn’t get their art ready in time to show. Meanwhile, I was just bubbling with ideas. I was going to hire people, and have them perform useless tasks, all through the show. Not necessarily even labeling them as pieces of art but just a guy changing a light bulb continuously—all day long, on a ladder, changing a light bulb. That’s the kind of stuff I was thinking of.
K. Can you elaborate a little bit more on why you had these ideas? What inspired them?
R. I don’t know.
K. So it has nothing to do with the idea of maintenance and labor in art, for example, or…
R. No. It was just … I wanted to show the expanse somehow, and make people look at people doing things as art. I’m not even sure what I was thinking at the time, but it seemed a worthwhile thing to pursue. I had another idea, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the NY city subways. They have these four-inch square tiles on the wall,white tiles. And sometimes, they have a black line somewhere around shoulder height that runs along the entire platform. This wall was lined with tiles, so I was going to start at one end—maybe at shoulder height or eye level, about 6 ft. or 2 meters—and paint the tiles black for maybe 15-20 feet. And then drop one line down. And then paint 15-20 ft. And the effect would have been to basically tilt the entire 400 ft. platform, so that when you look at it from one direction it feels like you’re walking uphill and from the other direction it feels like you’re walking downhill. And you know, those are the kinds of ideas I was having. There were so many of them; I was excited to get this space because I could have filled it with all kinds of stuff going on. I was disappointed when the group basically backed off and decided not to do it. And that’s what made me realize that a lot of these people maybe didn’t have ideas, and maybe they didn’t deserve to be shown.
K. So basically the whole thing didn’t happen because the group didn’t want it.
R. Yeah. Exactly, they weren’t ready to show.
K. How many people were living in Rosendale then?
R. I think it was somewhere around 1,800 or 2,000 people– a little community. But the main thing is that there was this little clique running it. And it became clear that there was a division in town. There were two bars, for example, one across the street from the other. The old guard would drink in one of them, meaning the mayor and volunteer firemen and cops, and then on the other side you had a place run by this crazy dude named Bill Gouldee, who he wore a big top hat and ran for president and things like that. But he had blues people that he brought in there on weekends, and the college just down ten or fifteen miles away in New Paltz. People would just come in and pack the place on the weekends to listen to blues and live music. It was a pretty nice place. Well one night, while I was mayor, the cops were in their car drinking beer just across the street from the Gouldee bar. They were pissed off at all these hippies running around, and at some point when the bar let out, they figured they would just start busting people. The situation ended up with over 400 people in the street, turning over cop cars and burning tires. All the state troopers were called… it was a real riot. That’s the kind of climate that was going on there.
K Sorry… I have to recap a little bit. So you lived close to Rosendale. You bought a farm, which I assume was not so expensive back then…
R. No. It was $45,000.
K. Which you could afford with your job as a teacher at the local art school.
K. Did you still think of yourself as an artist?
R. It’s hard to say. I just kind of walked away from it, or from the object stuff anyway. I was thinking about things a lot. I mean, the other thing is, I started looking at this Rosendale thing more and more as a piece of art. It was a strange thing to do, like living a dual life. On the one hand, I was doing this thing, but I couldn’t tell people I was doing it because they would think I was using them or kind of manipulating the whole thing.
K. But was it always intentional for you that running for mayor would be an artwork?
R. I think it evolved. I was intrigued by the possibility…
K. So you started thinking of it as an artwork halfway through?
R. I was interested in the influence aspect of it. I was doing that with the ‘seed plants’ and had been wondering how far you could take that influence element. As it evolved, it became clear that I could take it pretty far — to the point where I could dissolve this whole goddamn community!
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