Friday, October 2, 2015
I arrive in a blustery, hurricane-warned New York, and my umbrella turns inside out and has to be dumped as I rush downtown to hear an artist’s talk by the gracious Carrie Mae Weems in a Performa event. Before Carrie Mae starts talking about her own work, (a detail from her Woman Standing Alone is shown above) she tells us that she spends the first hour of every day with the muses she most admires … Nina Simone, La Dolce Vita, Anna Karenina, Alice Walker among them … an immersive process to focus the mind.
Saturday, October 3
Meet RoseLee Goldberg at the New York Armory where by a stroke of great good luck I am able to view Habeas Corpus a remarkable installation by Laurie Anderson – it is in place for only three days
The darkened Drill Hall is lit only by small, shifting shards of light from a mirror ball, except for a five meter high Styrofoam sculpture of a seated man, on to which is projected the image of an ex prisoner from Guantanamo, filmed from outside the country. Mohammed el Gharani is from Chad, and was raised in Saudi Arabia. After 9/11 he was sent to Guantanomo for more than seven and a half years, and tortured, before judges ruled that his detention was baseless, and he was released.
His video image speaks dispassionately of his American jailers telling him the key to his cell has been thrown in the ocean. The projection is supported in sound by the pixie -like Anderson herself, playing violin, a dramatic Lou Reed soundtrack, and a shifting cast of other musicians. See it here.
Monday, October 5
Fly to Savannah, where the solo exhibition of Other Voices, Other Cities will open at the SCAD Museum of Art on Thursday 8th. South African Storm Janse van Rensburg, a good friend and colleague for many years, most recently at the Goodman Cape Town, is now senior curator, with Laurie Farrell as director of the SCAD museums.
This is the first time all the eleven works – so far – of the Voices series will have been hung together, and I am really excited to see how they will all relate to each other, and to the space: the chosen statements of groups of young people across the world about the essential nature of the place where they choose to live.
Tuesday, October 6
I am on deadline with revisions for my Skira monograph, so instead of touring Savannah and the SCAD campus with the other visiting artists, I pore over my laptop at the hotel until lunch time. In the afternoon, there are a series of studio visits with young SCAD students in Alexander Hall, a busy warren of small studios in an old building near the river.
By this time, one wall in my space has been painted grey, as I requested. It’s time to start installing, and the SCAD team are super efficient.
Wednesday, October 7
The SCAD Museum is the winner of a major architectural award and is really stunning. Glass and steel have been combined with the distinctive old brickwork of the former 19th century headquarters of the Central of Georgia Railroad to make a truly imposing space: a series of handsome galleries able to accommodate a number of solo shows at any one time.
Visitors to the museum can check information on an interactive table in the foyer.
Thursday, October 8
Opening night. The first part of the programme is a discussion between Storm and Dakota. Dakota tells a story about a small, curved desk on the exhibition, commissioned by Yoko Ono in the 1970s for John Lennon.
Yoko asked for a secret drawer to be part of the design. When Dakota’s retrospective was in the planning, he phoned Yoko to see if the desk could be part of the exhibition, and Yoko replied that it had been one of John’s favourite possessions, and had been in storage for many years, but she would get it out.
The desk needed restoration, and Yoko could no longer remember how to open the secret drawer, but as the designer, Dakota knew … and opened the drawer to reveal a decades old manila envelope, containing a photo of Yoko … placed there by Yoko and hidden in the desk, so only John could see the photo whenever he wished.
The photo is still in its envelope in the desk as it stands there on exhibition, but of course, no one can see it …
Friday, October 9
A farewell lunch in Savannah before departure… I haven’t really seen enough of Storm and Laurie, we’ve all been so busy, so at least there is time to catch up a bit.
Well, it turns out it’s not quite farewell yet. After several hours at the Savannah airport waiting for bad weather to clear and the New York planes to take off, Dakota, RoseLee, their son Pierce and I go back to town for the night, and have a late supper at Grey, a restaurant in an old Greyhound bus terminal. ‘It would have been John Lennon’s birthday today,’ says Dakota, and phones Yoko. ‘You were there at the beginning,’ she tells him.