Brooke Wise on the State of Art

Brooke Wise on the State of Art

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Brooke Wise on the State of Art

The curator discusses how galleries and festivals are adapting to the very strange times.

The curator discusses how galleries and festivals are adapting to the very strange times.

Text: MATHIAS ROSENZWEIG

Everything is perfectly normal in the world, and things are generally going super well.

Or I guess that's how it feels if you're able to bury your head in the sand and disregard the raging pandemic ("I haven't even peaked yet!" - Corona Virus), as well as the omnipresent threat of violence during tomorrow's inauguration for Joe Biden. Then again, disregarding that stuff is apparently what makes for world leaders these days!

But enough about hell–I mean, our lives. Speaking of, one of LA's most fabulous curators, Brooke Wise, put on the fourth rendition of her 'Aloha From Hell' Film Festival, which involved comedic shorts from the likes of Chloe Wise, Mark Indelicato, Miles McMillan, and more.

As art and film festivals have historically relied on the ability to physically gather individuals in the presence of the visual piece at hand, we asked Wise about art curation in this strange new time. Ultimately, it seems that the constraints have helped to push creative thinking, as they nearly always do. In this case, lending more authority to online showcases was one of the byproducts.

What are some of the coolest ways you've seen artists/museums/galleries/art events adapt to the times? 

There have been so many interesting and innovative ways that the art world/curators have adapted to the current climate. Early in the pandemic, (it’s been so long that I can’t comprehend time anymore), there was an art show that was formatted like a drive-through/scavenger hunt here in Los Angeles. I thought that was a great idea, giving people a digital map, leading them to different outdoor sculptures and works. A few galleries in New York installed their shows so that the works were visible through the glass windows from the street, which seems like a pretty simple and effective way to progress throughout the remaining days/months/years of the pandemic.

How has the current state of affairs affected the actual pieces of art that you are choosing when curating? 

My two big projects during quarantine have been a downloadable coloring book called 'The Fine Art Quarantine Coloring Book,' which raised money for Meals on Wheels/Black Visions Collective, and the fourth edition of my annual film festival titled 'Aloha From Hell' for Planned Parenthood. The work that went into the coloring book touched on themes of isolation and hygiene, for obvious reasons. Even though the coloring book was a light and fun activity, the themes weren’t light in actuality. In contrast, the video shorts that went into 'Aloha From Hell' were, and always are, comedy. I think comedy does a really good job at approaching topics that are heavy, taboo, or just flat out political.

What makes aloha from hell stand out compared to similar events (can be in normal times or in this post-apocalyptic BS time we're living in) 

I think what makes 'Aloha From Hell' stand out compared to similar events such as video art festivals or comedy festivals is the inclusivity. It’s interactive with the creative community, as it’s 100% submission-based. Users are invited to create works, with few guidelines besides time and non-violence/hate speech. The festival isn’t only for filmmakers, but for anyone who feels like creating a video short. Rappers, musicians, artists, comedians, and more are encouraged to dabble in this medium. Proceeds benefit Planned Parenthood which also is different than the for-profit film festivals I’ve seen circulating.

What were some of your favorite films from this year's event and why? 

Three videos that stood out as my favorites this year were The Real Housewives of the North Pole by Mark Indelicato, Miles McMillan and Kaitlin Gleason, Meditatin’ with Sheila by my sister Chloe Wise and Secret Santa by Joshua Michael Paulin. RHONP was an obvious parody of the Real Housewives series, with Indelicato playing “Brenda”, the housewife of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, “who has a very shiny nose, and a very shiny something else”. McMillan played “Kelly”, the wife of the Head Elf, and Gleason, played a very drunken Mrs. Claus, the First Lady of the North Pole. Meditatin’ with Sheila by Chloe Wise was a guided meditation with Auntie Sheila, a Jewish aunt who’s “not your mother” but “wishes [she] was”. I may be biased here as a few quotes of Sheila are inspired by my own lovely and perfect Jewish mother and her love of scallops from the Cheesecake Factory. Last- Secret Santa by Joshua Michael Paulin followed a robotic rat with a tinsel tail around the city of New York, making pedestrians jump at the sight of it or giggle, it was very sweet and lighthearted. These three films each captured the spirit of 'Aloha From Hell' as well as the theme of holiday horror.

What impact do you think 2020 has had on the world of art that you believe will be long lasting? 

Before the pandemic, and I’m not an expert, but it felt as though online shows didn’t carry the same weight and legitimacy as physical shows, which is actually unfortunate since a lot of people can’t afford to rent a space for a DIY show or aren’t at the place in their career where they can show with a gallery–and this shouldn’t dictate who gets to curate/put on/show in a conventional gallery fine art show. Since many people were forced to take their work and exhibitions online, it seemed as though the virtual platform was immediately legitimized. The Gallery Association of Los Angeles (GALA) even got together and formed their own virtual space called “Gallery Platform LA.” Besides online shows, I think and hope the inventiveness that we’ve seen come out of the pandemic will be long lasting. Not to discredit the conventional gallery exhibition, but watching people come up with new and imaginative ways to show art has been really fresh and exciting. Additionally, I imagine the theme of isolation, hygiene, sanitation and the notion of ACAB(!) will continue to show up in artist’s work.

How do conversations about sustainability or the environment factor into the art world? 

I love this question! Some of my favorite work belongs to this “movement” which is known as Critical Design. This concept dates back to 1994, and two of my favorite examples that have come out of it are Christine Meindertsma’s Pig05049 and Dunne and Raby’s “Designs for an Overpopulated Planet: Foragers”. Pig05049 chronicles all 185 products made from a single pig chosen at random, naming the book after the pig’s processing number. The book catalogs every organ, bone, meat, etc, and lists all the products that came from said pig. Besides obvious things like bacon and sausage, we also learn about the less obvious items, like cigarettes, x-ray film, insulin and even the glue that binds the book. One of my favorite parts is the pig’s ear tag that is attached to the side of the book. I own this piece and recommend it as a gift to anyone who’s into critical art/design. Dunne and Raby’s project is a hypothetical, “what-if” project, utilizing Design Fiction to come up with a method to solve human food needs in 2050. The result is these huge green mechanical devices that attach onto the bodies of humans, acting as a synthetic biology to externalize their digestive system, to allow them to digest leaves, grass, pond plants and other things.

What are your hopes for 2021? 

In the words of Miss America.. or Miss Canada for that matter, world peace.. but seriously- Trump needs to be thrown in jail, America needs to not be the most embarrassing country in the world and I hope the pandemic subsides. I’d love to resume a life of normalcy, but this whole sh’bang has been a learning experience and a grounding one.

Credits: Cover image from Julia Kansas' 'Stupid Santa'

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