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Ready For Your Close-up?

New York Try-outs for "Untitled Art Project"

Part I

James Kalm has been hearing rumors rumbling around New York about a “Reality” TV show dealing with artists and their careers for months. Tipped off about these auditions by Martin Bromirski, he peddles over to the West Village on a Sunday afternoon in July to see what all the hubbub is about. In the process, he’s intimidated, taunted, threatened with arrest, and shunted to the side. Ironically this “Report” delivers a reality check on “Reality” TV, and gives exposure to many artists who failed to fit the template and clichés of the Mainstream Media.

Part II

James Kalm returns to Greenwich Village’s White Columns on Horatio Street to wrap up this investigative report on “Untitled Art Project”. Just what is the reality of reality TV? Hundreds of artists from across North America waited in the late July heat for their chance at fifteen minutes of fame. Viewers are treated with glimpses of works varying from straight oil paintings to wind-up miniature sculptures and rustic furniture made from maple-root and sandstone. These artists represent an eclectic cross section of America’s creative grass roots.

The Kalm Report

A hearty welcome to Loren Munk a.k.a. James Kalm (an anagram of his initials and those of his wife, Kate Augenblick), intrepid videographer on a bike. His mission: to find new art in galleries, museums, studios, even on the street. To comment in pithy sotto voce segments while his camera reveals the art in slow pans and zooms. His challenge: to boldly go where no man has gone before, past haughty gallerinas, uniformed security guards and hostile PR functionaries, all discouraging his simple exercise of free expression with a common refrain: "You can't do that here."

The Kalm Report, now numbering hundreds of unique episodes, is a sheaf of dispatches from the art wars: terse, informed, rooted in experience and advocacy. His insights can be as profound as those of "real" critics with portfolio, but he remains a guerrilla tactician, snatching images from behind the lines while ducking enemy fire. Yet somehow, it wouldn't feel quite the same without this usual duress.

I have been watching the Kalm Report for years with interest, appreciation and amazement. It's good to have him posting here at The Thing.

Thanks Loren. Thanks Kate.

James Kalm: performance art

James Kalm

Steve, as one of the first and very prescient observers of the Kalm Report, you stated at the very beginnings that there was an element of "performance" art in these videos. As usual, you were way ahead of the herd. Thanks.

On "The Untitled Art Project"

The Untitled Art Project is a reality TV show that Sarah Jessica Parker’s Pretty Matches Productions is creating for the Bravo Network with Magical Elves, the producers of Project Runway and Top Chef. Thirteen "contemporary artist" finalists are being sought to compete for a cash prize, a gallery show and a sponsored national tour.

The winnowing process: Clutching 23-page application forms downloaded from Bravo’s Web site, hopeful artists gathered at one of several casting calls around the country: at nonprofit space LAXART in Los Angeles on July 11 at 12; at Fred Snitzer Gallery in Miami on July 14; at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on July 16; and at alternative space White Columns in New York on July 18 and 19. They were vetted by a series of art world "insiders"; apparently Jerry Saltz and Simon de Pury were among the final arbiters during the sessions at White Columns.

The show received a flurry of publicity prior to these cattle calls. Since then, in addition to linking to Kalm on their video home page, published a diary entry by Rhonda Lieberman. And the Wall Street Journal weighed in with this "look at all the wacky artists" puff piece.

photo from Miami casting call

Outside Frederic Snitzer Gallery, Wynwood district, Miami, July 14, 2009

photo: Onajide Shabaka