#5: Otino Corsano*
Corsano is a New Genres Artist influenced by Los Angeles art practices now based in Toronto, Ontario. He works in a variety of media and his art writings and artist interviews were primarily published in artUS Magazine (LA).
Drawing inspiration from the “neo-conceptual” school enables Corsano to avoid being locked into any singular production mode. One notable series are his “Quick Draw” artist interviews that utilize Facebook’s IM Chat feature to record and document conversations with international artists (http://artpost-oc.blogspot.ca).
For me, this was a very special interview. I met Otino Corsano about four years ago when I started to interview artists as part of my own art practice and we’ve been following each others’ work since. His interview methodology has inspired much of my own intended approach for this research project. We both reject the label of being an art critic, engage in institutional critiques and believe in the creative insights emerging by engaging in direct discourses with other artist.
Having participated in the practice of artist to artist talks is something I am proud of; nevertheless Corsano provides a benchmark for this new genre of social media based work. You can see fairly quickly in the interview how Otino is engaged, knowledgeable, thoughtful, critical — and looks for the same in his influences. While I thought it would be interesting to capture a time and place utilizing social media with my Toronto scene specific 2009-2011 interview series, Corsano works beyond borders with some of the most notable artists of our time. One of the themes building throughout my series of interviews is the fact most artists are working for an audience of a “relevant few”. For me, as an artist, Corsano is one my relevant few.
This particular interview was planned as a “double interview” where we would be interviewing each other; yet by the end of two hours of chatting on Facebook, I had what I needed for my project and Corsano was left promising to interview me at some other time (That happened and you can find it here: http://artpost-oc.blogspot.ca/2014/06/quick-draw-artist-interview-34.html). Otino is the only artist I’ve interviewed twice (see the 1st one, from 2011, here: http://otinocorsano.blogspot.mx/2011/11/artlistpro-interview.html).
Are we ready?
I’m still swamped with work yet I think this would be the best time.
I appreciate your making time for this.
I am also screen recording this interview to go along with the transcript.
Alright so let’s make this work.
Would you like to start?
What are the general concerns that your practice addresses?
For example, I see you describe yourself as a New Genres artist but I am not totally sure what that means.
I began to employ “New Genres” as a descriptor for my art practice during the time I spent in Los Angeles completing my MFA at Otis College of Art and Design.
I studied with Martin Kersels who is now Director Sculpture Department/Associate Professor at Yale University (since 2012).
He was a good colleague of Chris Burden as they both taught at UCLA at the time.
During my time in LA I began to experiment with new modes of art making inspired by Martin’s work and a host of other conceptually informed LA artists like John Knight, Larry Johnson and John Baldessari.
I still draw inspiration from this “neo-conceptual” school as thus my use of the descriptor as it enables me to avoid locking into any one production mode.
One of my best memories in LA was creating a time-based, in situ work only Martin Kersels & myself ever viewed. It involved a beam of light travelling across a gallery space.
None. Expect there was a video as part of the installation which somewhat captures the essence of the project. We just sat on the gallery floor in silence for about 20 minutes as the light form expectedly entered the space (as pre-conceived) and then tracked across the anticipated route space. He just said “Cool.” at the end of the light traffic and walked out. My best critique I think.
I originally travelled to LA because of my interest in the Light and Space movement. I was inspired by a retrospective of Robert Irwin at MOCA in Los Angeles a few years earlier.
This type of impression makes sense to me, as an artist; yet what exactly in this exhibition drew you to further research Irwin’s work?
I originally went to see the Joseph Beuys show running concurrently.
At the completion of the Beuys show I happened to walk into the Irwin show from the planned exit for gallery goers. According to the curatorial vision, I viewed the show backwards. Ironically later I was to discover the Robert Irwin retrospective was, in fact, meticulously designed to be viewed in the other direction: from most recent work to older work. So here I was witnessing the chronological career of a premiere West Coast artist progressing through every major movement of contemporary art.
I guess you saw him predicting every major movement early in his career and then finish off with some unprecedented work?
Absolutely. By the time I reached the acrylic columns and spheres I was mesmerized that I had not known of this practice before. Art could be light and space itself and rather than minimalized it was enhanced beyond expectations.
The final work in the show was subtle architectural enhancements. I think he had sanded the only a section of the floor in the first gallery space. It inspired me to think of art in new modes of redefinition.
Although I must admit continually working in new modes of art making causes unforeseen difficulties for myself as an artist.
What kind of difficulties?
Well, one example is the way I began to use the genres of Social Media and art criticism as an ART mode when I interview artists AS PART of my new genres art practice.
I was soon recognized as an art critic and still many even in the art community find it difficult to see it as part of my visual art practice.
In LA there is a vast history of “artists who write”: Mike Kelly, Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, etc..
It may have been my fault for accepting to become a founding member of the Toronto Alliance of Art Critics. That move sure did not help in clarifying my role as an artist.
I remember “meeting” you at that Toronto Alliance of Art Critics panel discussion at the Double Double Land years ago. I remember you mentioning you might not belong there because you are not a critic. They laughed, and asked you more questions about other people’s art.
I sure was glad to meet someone else who interviewed as studio work but is not a critic. I’m not a critic either.
I am honored to be a member and think maybe it is a testament to how well I subsume the role for my art practice.
Like yourself, I am invested in new dialogues emerging from artists themselves.
I enjoy surprising some artists I am interviewing with unorthodox formats used by journalists or critics.
The concept of conducting artist interviews as art was a conscious Institutional Critique approach to reconsider the power structure of traditional art writing – especially in reviews where the artist is rendered silent by the critics singular voice.
Although I guess the art is always silent too. ha.
What led you to use the artist interview as an art form?
Artists are not silent in my interviews since I make YouTube videos.
I think I learn a lot from talking one to one with artists and being educated was always my first intention. My theoretical motives came later; however you seem to have established a preset theoretical roadmap.
I think we are equal in our sincere intentions and attempts to find more rewarding dialogues involving artistic discourses occurring in post-studio and even post-exhibition arenas. I’m definitely invested in more complex reads.
Listening well and talking articulately were areas in an interview format I wanted to develop.
Was the early use of Social Media as part of your practice employed because it became so readily available to artists as a new discursive space?
I had the notion Social Media could have a leveling effect on art shows in traditional galleries. Good shows from small independent spaces could compete with good shows at well funded public spaces. Social media, for myself then, was an extension of the traditional art community in the first place. And it did not dawn on me for a little while that my work on social media did not have to be connected to gallery spaces.
When did you begin to utilize social media as an artistic practice?
I started using Social Media in general quite early and my trepidation for corporate owned digital information systems took the form of my first Facebook page created using an anagram of my name. In about 3 months I had gained over 3000 friends before I was shut down (ironically or not) for running a false art star (Cameron Jamie) fan club page.
Again it seems like it’s difficult out there for Institutional Critique artists like myself – even in Social Media circles. Remember it was Exxon Corporation who supposedly bought Hans Haacke’s work before they buried it.
Why did you choose to set up a Cameron Jamie fan page?
I met Cameron Jamie when I was assisting Jim Shaw when I lived in LA.
We would all talk about great finds at the local swap meets held at the Rose Bowl on Sundays where Jim Shaw found some of his famous “Thrift Store” paintings.
Cameron was inspirational and I remember him discussing his rare collection of 8 track tapes of Indian musicians playing the sitar – Pre-Ravi Shankar.
Your interviews, I believe, are all Facebook text chats. This sounds like an ideal place to talk about these kind stories with artists – is that a fair observation to make? Describe this role of collaboration in your work.
My first real artistic collaborations were collage like drawings created with Pete Smith for a summer exhibition called “4 Eyes” at Katharine Mulherin’s Contemporary Art Projects. By showtime we had amassed over 40 drawings that were hung across the gallery in a salon style layout. Pete taught me a new type of humility in art making. He would completely erase sections of the drawings I would create and repaint over fine text elements and this taught me to let go of ego for the sake of a greater art.
In relation to my use of Social Media specifically – the artist interviews I was conducting were becoming more successful and I had completed some key interviews with some significant artists. Nevertheless, I felt the discourses were become formulaic. At times its seemed – especially via email – some artists would reformulate their press releases into interview answers. I sought Facebook’s instant IM Chat feature as a way to breath new life into art discussions and so I invented the “Quick Draw” Artist Interview series. It is still published via ARTPOST (My future interview of you will be included as one in fact.)
With the analogy derived from old Western movie gunfights, I sought to have artists engage in real talk verses the art-lingo verbiage I was getting tired of.
It became quite obvious from the start in this new Social Media venue whether artists could hold their own or working with smoke and mirrors.
Regarding your collaborations with Pete Smith: you are a very, very good drawer. Although any online samples of your work is rare I do remember seeing those storyboard-type ink drawings you exhibited at p|m Gallery. I’ve always had a bias or assumed conceptually strong artists are technically adept; however, the more interviews I do the more I realize it is an unfounded prejudice.
Thank you for the compliment on my rendering ability! I have started a new painting series specifically to focus on traditional media again. It will be a nice return since I have been experimenting so much with new modes.
My most recent collaborations involve close partnerships with commercial film directors (Peter Darely Miller) and top commercial photographers (Nikki Omerod from Westside Studios). I actually created a new entity for my collaborative practice called Ocean Course Films (www.oceancoursefilms.com) to give credit to all of the top creatives who help me create HD art videos reflective of the aesthetics of television commercials and luxury brand marketing.
I think social media has acted as a bit of a archival method for my approach. I envisioned my audience was not in the now rather created for viewers in the future. I was certain if I met enough people that someone important to art history would be among them. It’s like a game for me, I guess.
Are there other artists using social media as an artistic practice that you think are important to mention in my study?
I’m always sad to see how most artists simply use Social Media as marketing for their own practice. They acts as self-promoters floating in a sea of “Congratulations to me for and my recent publication appearance…”
I quit Facebook for some time because of this phenomenon. I found it really depressing.
I am also critical of “New Media” artists who employ Social Media simply because it s part of the new art lexicon. I tend to use Facebook to showcase my fascination with the sport of professional surfing for the very fact that it is distinct from my art practice. It is similar in the manner of how Robert Irwin was intrigued with custom cars and horse racing or John McCracken & Mike Kelly were deeply into alien & UFO culture.
Although I must admit – surfing does act as a great metaphor for art making.
Cory Archangel has a new line of surf wear by the way…
All art and no play makes jack a dull boy.
I find your surf culture posts very refreshing and interesting.
Then there are the banal Social Media art projects like when Montreal artist Josh Schwebel took over an ran Micah Lexier’s Facebook page for his exhibition at Galerie Articule last year.
Yes, I heard about Schwebel’s identity take over.
I new something was up when dealer Michael Klien posted : “Happy not birthday not Micah” on Lexier’s timeline in October 2012.
Schwebel’s work can be reduced to a amusing punch-line it seems to me. I guess that’s why it works well on social media.
Yet you are right about the punch-line effect: Remember ARTInfo’s blog battle with Richard Prince’s Birdtalk blog (now demoted to the contact page on his website.) Who cares to even follow this stuff?
It really all seems so impermanent and fragile. Remember, I used to think this was a new form of archival documentation.
I really respect artist pioneers of any media for artists who are able to imbue the new media with unexpected originality. I still look to Canadian video art pioneers as some of the greatest artists this country has ever produced. Everyone in Los Angeles knew who Colin Campbell was although they had never heard of Jack Bush.
Do you miss the west coast art scene – is it similar to here?
Yes I miss LA although I am still in close communication with many artists and the scene in general.
A lot of ideas and artists have considered this area of Social Media because of your practice, I would say. For me, that is a positive attribute of social media and its artists.
Social Media is a great connector. I recently found a new Vancouver artist via LinkedIn: Theresa Slater
…surprisingly no relation to pro surfer Kelly Slater.
James Fowler is tops on my list of artists adding value to Social Media discourses.
And Lynne Heller was one of the first Canadian Artists ever to use Second Life in her cutting edge print and installation work.
I also really enjoy when painters explore new media with amazing fun and light-hearted results. Chicago painter Allison Reimus ran “Jumping in Art Museums”
http://jumpinginartmuseums.blogspot.ca for years…
and her new venture “Henry Goes to Art Shows”
http://henrygoestoartshows.tumblr.com is even better featuring her young son in various gallery visit photo opportunities.
These examples are amazing! Perhaps some of the best examples “social media art” I’ve found so far!
Who is your audience?
I would like to think it is members of the art community who are both well informed of contemporary practices and art concerns. I imagine they appreciate an ‘art about art’ take on the state of current artistic affairs.
I try to make my Social Media art as light as an Adrian Piper calling card and hopefully as poignant.
I use my Twitter account to accurately predict surfing competitions.
And anyone who is following me knows I’m 3/3.
There is also a reason I only follow Larry Gagosian. It is a critical stance on the sad state of affairs here in Canada for artists within an economic system that has been failing the majority of good artists since the late seventies.
Sure Damien Crisp is cool and I’m all for a critique of capitalism.
http://dthtxt.com (by Damien Crisp)
Hell, I even believed his reporting of Jeff Koons death as verification we can never really know anything as truth via online sources anymore: http://unknownjournal.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/▼-report-jeff-koons-dies-in-tokyo-blast/
Yet Canadian artists in general are passive in my view to the raw deal they continually subscribe to: a system that is not working for then or helping to generate art of international acclaim.
Do you have hopes of social media art reaching non-art-centric audiences? I agree with your critical reflexivity to the funding format and the set categories.
No. I think online art activity and especially Social Media based art is such a niche market I have long since lost the hope of reaching anyone other then the small pond of artists and art community members who care enough to follow, read and stay informed. The digital ocean is now far too large – as you yourself testify – to have anyone find anything anymore.
Sorry, I’m sounding pessimistic.
I think I should interview you again another time exclusively about your work.
Well, you talked me into it. I’m moving to the south west coast in August. I used to hear to “make it” in Canada one must find success elsewhere and then return. I was told this is also true in Japan in another interview.
Thanks so much Chris. Let’s talk again. Next time your work will be the focus.
That would be an honour. I’ll let you go and can’t wait to talk to you again. I’ll follow up for more info about your new series of paintings.
Great Thanks again Chris!
* This version was edited on APR. 17 2015 by Otino Corsano
- Audience of the relevant few.
- Social media is the result of life experience and previous methodology.
- Looks for patterns in interview. Similar to Justin Lincoln’s looking for patterns in information.
- Resistance by certain established contemporary art community.
- Trepidation to corporate owned digital information systems.
- Critical of most artists who simply use Social Media as marketing for their own practice.
- Problematizing of Social Media.
- Recalls exhibiting a work seen only by a former professor.
- Discovered art could be light and space itself and rather than minimized it was enhanced beyond expectations.
- Began to employ genres within social media and art criticism as art modes by interviewing artists as part of his New Genres art practice. Difficultly in being recognized more as an art critic even though in LA there is a significant history of “Artists who write”.
- The concept of conducting artist interviews as art was a conscious Institutional Critique maneuver to question the power structure of traditional art writing – especially reviews.
- Rejects the ‘silencing’ of the artist inherent to contemporary theories positing the critic and curator as connoisseurs of cultural relevancy. New Genres practice reformulates this power structure.
- Sought Facebook’s instant IM Chat feature as a way to breath new life into art discussions as previous formulaic email-based interviews allowed for uncritical, press release jargon. Inspired by old Western movies’ gunfights started “Quick Draw” Artist Interview series and sought real talk from artists versus vacant art-lingo verbiage.
- Finds some Social Media art projects by artists problematic.
- Attempts to design Social Media art like an Adrian Piper calling card and hopefully as poignant.
- Many artists who tout themselves as “New Media” artists use Social Media simply because it is part of the new lexicon.
- Like Brad Phillips, uses social media to produce projects moving beyond the current set parameters culturally outlined for art making.
- “There is also a reason I only follow Larry Gagosian. It is a critical stance on the sad state of affairs here in Canada for artists within an economic system that has been failing the majority of good artists since the late seventies.”
- Critical of the truth quotient with online sources. Believes online art activity and Social Media based work is a niche market “I have long since lost the hope of reaching anyone other then the small pond of artists and art community members who care enough to follow, read and stay informed. The digital ocean is now far too large – as you yourself testify – to have anyone find anything anymore”.
Links from Interview
- ArtUS Magazine http://www.artext.org
- Martin Kersels http://art.yale.edu/MartinKersels
- Chris Burden http://www.moma.org/collection/artist.php?artist_id=871
- John Knight http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/john-knight
- Larry Johnson http://davidkordanskygallery.com/artist/larry-johnson/#bio
- John Baldessari http://www.baldessari.org
- Light and Space movement / Robert Irwin http://moca.org/pc/viewArtTerm.php?id=21
- Joseph Beuys http://www.theartstory.org/artist-beuys-joseph.htm
- Cameron Jamie http://gladstonegallery.com/artist/cameron-jamie/biography
- Jim Shaw http://www.massmoca.org/event_details.php?id=937
- Hans Haacke http://www.paulacoopergallery.com/static/0000/9077/HAACKE_Bio_NEW_optimize.pdf
- John McCracken http://www.davidzwirner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/John-McCracken-CV-20132.pdf
- Mike Kelly http://mikekelley.com/biography/
- Cory Archangel http://www.coryarcangel.com
- Lynne Heller http://www.lynneheller.com
- Adrian Piper http://www.adrianpiper.com
- Allison Reimus http://jumpinginartmuseums.blogspot.ca
- ART HISTORY EVENT: ARTInfo’s blog battle with Richard Prince’s Birdtalk blog
- Damien Crisp
- Theresa Slater
- Josh Schwebel http://joshuaschwebel.com/home.html