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Home / Articles / Arts / Art Features /  A Ton of Simple
Schippling Dice
Occam’s Razor, at Santa Fe Complex, despite its shortcomings, has a few gems. Among them is Michael Schippling’s beautiful dismemberment of randomness.

A Ton of Simple

Or, a show fit for simpletons

November 11, 2008, 12:00 am

Helpful hint: If you’re going to create an art exhibition and call it Occam’s Razor, try to avoid cluttering it with a bunch of disparate, clashing work that ranges in quality from excellent to eye-rolling.

The nominal notion, after all, is simplicity, but the so-titled exhibition in question is, in fact, complex enough to be much less than the sum of its parts and as busy as a Tokyo metro at midnight, when all the drunken karaoke adherents are physically forced into overstuffed trains.

Honestly, how hard is it to follow through on a concept with some discipline and intention? Let’s go beyond helpful hints and just get to the bottom line when it comes to art exhibitions. More is not better. Space around each work is important—as much as possible, please. Most crucial, should you be the organizer of the show, remember that your friend’s art (and their friend’s art) probably sucks, so just don’t include it. Seriously, don’t. Be professional. And, in case it’s not clear, never imply simplicity and grace in your title and then hang a train wreck.

Obviously, there is a school of thought—a way of life, even—that suggests it’s a good and positive thing, no matter what, for a bunch of creative people who produce creative things to get together and invite a bunch of other, usually similar, people to come out and see the stuff in whatever willy-goddamned-nilly way people feel like setting it up. And more power to ya. No kidding, I think it’s great and I’m certain everyone has a good time. Just, please, for the love of whatever mighty goddess of creativity you worship, quit calling it art. Just because it’s fun doesn’t make it good art. Just because your friends ooh and ahh doesn’t mean you’re a good artist. Just because you can convince a bunch of scientists (to vastly generalize the instigators of Santa Fe Complex) to let you exhibit it, doesn’t mean you’re breaking down disciplinary barriers and prodding evolution or surfing the cusp of contemporary dialogue or anything of the kind.

Santa Fe Complex is going overboard in its attempts to be open to events, actions and exhibitions that break down borders betwixt so-called left and right brains and that push participants toward open source and process, a mission that can only be to the young institution’s credit. Yet it has been largely deluged by a host of usual suspects, in terms of artists, who make art that refers to science or uses technology, a process that is emphatically dissimilar to actual intellectual and technical exchange.

Again, no bad thing on the surface of it, but some rigor on the part of participating artists could produce mutual astonishment, rather than the good-natured coddling of “art” that has thus far been the signature of events there (an exemption is granted to musical and performance-oriented events, which have descended on the Complex with an altogether more exceptional level of execution and practice). Thus, a particular disdain is merited for visual artists who perceive the venue as simply another space to hang work, rather than a distinct environment in which to immerse themselves.

None of this is to say that Occam’s Razor lacks good work. On the contrary, the drawings/riddles of subjective and objective meditations by Aku are well-executed and long-legged provocations that deny easy categorization but seduce involvement from viewers. Philip Mantione’s “electronic instrument” is a satisfying, interactive rabbit hole, in which tactility becomes sound. Miles Guerin, age 7, batters the egos of several “accomplished” artists with his edition of 10 “mini-pterodactyls,” constructed from a few basic Lego pieces. A “simple money-making machine,” by Michael Sumner of Burning Books fame, is a John Ploof-ian masterpiece of capitalist counter-insurgency. Chain saw woodcuts by Robert Basaras are more than passable and, finally, Michael Schippling’s “Self-Organized Cripticality” [sic] is an object of wonder among a wilderness of refuse. Schippling’s construction—a slow, clear tumbler of large dice—is not only graceful in its construction (aside from a burdensome motion-detecting contrivance), but is a precious deliberation on the nature of randomness and the scintillating, broad-spectrum possibility inherent in, of all things, inevitability. Were the exhibition limited to pieces of such caliber, and given room to breathe, it would stand as a remarkable success.

But the undertaking is more centered on works such as Allen Gordon’s “No. III,” a sculpture that apparently requires a two-page flyer to describe the three ways in which it demands contemplation of the concept of three. The flyer conveniently leaves out the fourth dimension, in which the work is notably abominable.

Please do not confuse the video piece by Flame Schon with anything by the impressive performance/pyrotechnic ensemble called Flam Chen.

Go for the Legos, stay for the dice and, should you find a comment card that solicits opinions, you might want to suggest that if visual artists want to engage an audience as diverse and well-rounded as the one that frequents Santa Fe Complex, they should drop the pretense, take good note of failed hypotheses and go back to, as they say, the drawing board.

Occam’s Razor
Through Nov. 30

Santa Fe Complex
624 Agua Fria St.
505-216-7562

 

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