Located in the former Dia Center for the Arts, the X initiative is a not-for-profit project that aims to respond to the impact of rapid cultural shifts on artistic production. Chelsea dealer Elizabeth Dee of Elizabeth Dee Gallery is spearheading the project; independent curator Cecilia Alemani will serve as its Curatorial Director, with Jenny Moore as Project Curator. By definition, the organization challenges the conventional division of labor between institution, gallery, collector, and artist. This approach is reflected in the appointment of an advisory board whose fifty members, all cultural producers within the art world, will be permitted to submit project proposals for review. X is a year long project, and will present exhibitions in four cycles. Not surprisingly, its first stage features three artists who employ production as a leitmotif in their respective practices. The work of Mika Tajima, Derek Jarman, and Christian Holstad is on view now; a battery of additional programming will include conversations with Hal Foster and David Joselit on March 26th, a talk with Sylvère Lotringer on April 2nd, and a symposium on Jarman's films on April 25th.
On the ground floor, an orange paper roll unfurls, leading visitors into the building where Mika Tajima organizes a series of brightly colored faux film sets, entitled The Extras. Here, wooden panels become surrogates for human models. Set against large screens painted with purple and brown geometric shapes, and flanked by ladders and scaffolding, these scenes reference consstruction sites; alternately, they are saturated color fields that anticipate narratives of desire as a play between site and sculpture ensues. The ladder, scaffolding, and backdrops encourage a sense of self-awareness in the viewer, who remains complicit in the image-making process.
Derek Jarman's films convey a similar concern with the conditions of film production. Exhibited over three floors and organized chronologically, eighteen of Jarman's 8mm shorts, and one of his feature-length films demonstrate the artist's keen attention to content and form. Jarman's hazy, sometimes-synaptic cuts are as haunting as they are beautiful. All transferred from 8mm film, the grainy images, vibrant colors, and ritual dances induce a sense of nostalgia for the time in which they were made. (This longing is perhaps heightened by the ambient sounds of Simon Fisher Turner and Throbbing Gristle, bands with whom Jarman collaborated.)
On the second floor, Studio Bankside, made during Jarman's time in Paris offers an autobiographical view into the film and filmmaker's milieu. Elsewhere, Journey to Avebury belies Jarmin's interest in the primordial, a concern that permeates his other works such as Punks at Santa Croce. In this short, ritual and rock and roll collide as the filmmaker records a punk band performing outside the religious chapel. In the last piece, It Happened by Chance, scenes culled from the other fifteen films are spliced together to form a triptych, the cuts jogging the viewer's memory of the scenes previously viewed. Here, a litany of self-referential stills riff between production and memory -- familiar scenes bring one close the film, yet its frenetic pace pushes one away, too.
Equally self-referential is Christian Holstad's rooftop bunker, Light Chamber (Part 2). A site-specific installation and departure from an earlier work, Leather Beach (which had been covertly installed in a Midtown deli) Light Chamber usually occupies light-filled room. At X, Holstad has blacked out the windows entirely; the floor is blanketed in black sand, while the walls are covered with darkly patterned bags. A colonic machine, tanning bed, and pulsing soundtrack of Michael Jackson's hits complete Holstad's jarring investigation of self-obsession and decadence. X's three seemingly disparate exhibitions are organized in loose proximity to one another, a structure that allows one's mind to drift while wondering from floor to floor. This new organization's mission and success hinges upon action and reaction to culture, while their approach provides room for both.
Mika Tajima, The Extras, 2009, Installation View at X Initiative, New York. Courtesy X Initiative and Elizabeth Dee, New York; Derek Jarman, Early Films (Super-8mm), Installation View at X Initiative, New York. Courtesy X Initiative and James Mackay, London.