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First Juror's Review

Juror: Dr. David Simpson

1. Nadia Awad - This War, 03/28/2008, Sculpture
This seems to me in a class of its own. While the ideas are at first glance conventional enough, the choice of media and location are transformative. First, the figures- made of reeds, conjuring up the Iraqi marshes and riversides everywhere, looking like figures from Bruegel paintings, human but dehumanized, squashed into unbearable postures, faces hidden, something between human and vegetable. Kiki Smith but better? Then the river- the river of life, the river of time, rivers everywhere. This river- the Potomac, the most important river of all for global politics, the one most ignored as anything other than a site for government and a few cherry trees. I love the sense of floating downriver, of something from the American hinterland, archaic and ignored, but also of the present moment and the elsewhere. I love the quietness of it- the lack of noise, such an effective message- and lack of explicit accusation. I love the /timing- /that it will last not long enough for watchers to become bored or distracted. They will see the beauty of the forms and materials as well as of the motion. And they will have to set that against the message, which they must also search out. And this one is eminently stageable, doable, and with the press corps and TV on hand it would be /seen/. I'll come to Washington if this happens!

2. Erol Hakki - Dead Market
The stockticker of dead bodies. Like the Awad project, this one exceeds its polemical inspiration and turns into something very powerful. It works for me because the state of the market is right now a topic of enormous anxiety- something that it obsessively /watched/. So what happens when the content of the message changes- the names of the dead, also updating every moment, posing questions of incalculable value, loss with no profit (except for some)-- and when the site changes- the side of the road, the middle of a city. This too is a doable project. It can happen, and happen in lots of places.

3. Michael Magrath - Lots Tribe
The salt sculptures. Again, a simple and conventional idea- but rendered new by the material, salt. Open to the weather and to vandalism, vanishing sooner rather than later, this idea speeds up the fate of all monuments, makes the mortality of commemoration itself visible and tangible, and above all demands a response, probably calling up considerable discomfort. And the forms can be made again and again in different climates. The salt of life, the salt of tears.

4. Bill Balaskas - Reminiscent Light
Things like this have been done before (e.g. in Berlin re the Jewish memorial competition) but this works brilliantly because it uses existing monuments (ours) to image the currently dying (theirs) and can be done all over the world, always at twilight. A powerful gesture- also works at its best by showing video of ordinary life, leaving viewers to make the connections.

5. Patrick Lichty - The Arbiter of Fate
The Uncle Sam pinball machine. A clever idea that is only obvious once it has been done here! Also small scale- can be done anywhere. Witty, but profound. What is 'chance' when the game is framed by Uncle Sam and the only choice is made by others? The object itself has an aura- the bright, cheery glamor of the penny arcade here turned against itself but still subsisting as a challenge to the viewer in the very mindlessness of our acceptance of the 'lottery' of daily life and its incursion into what we think of as leisure, amusement.

6. Jack Toolin - My Space for Your Life
Once again, conventional ideas put together in a new and powerful way- the darkening of faces is brilliant and powerfully estranges the genre of public performance art even as it makes its polemical point. I think the incarnations of these acts in various media (my space!) are also very powerful, and succeed well in blending the one-off event with the project of a memorial through time. Eminently stageable, everywhere.

7. Joshua Berger - Collateral Damage (tied for 7th)
Very similar projects with very similar virtues. Each combines the randomness and more or less sameness or 'machine' repetition of deaths (the x marks, the tiny silhouettes) with an enormous labor on the artist's part to record them, to make them slightly different while looking much the same, to mimic in the space of peace the real time of the space of war. Each must also find a way to 'show' how their task cannot be completed or exhibited completely in the time of now. These allude powerfully to familiar conventions of both format and exhibition, but do something different. Austere and classical on the surface, even formalist, but carrying life and death within.
7. Elise Engler - Collateral Damage (tied for 7th)

8. Elizabeth Filardi-Erik Burke - Audio Detonations (tied for 8th)
The Iraqis in New York! Great concept, one that should attract notice in a city that takes no notice. Cheap and infinitely performable. Blurs the them and us boundary...
8. Alyssa Wright - Cherry Blossoms (tied for 8th)
...and Alyssa Wright, the exploding backpack. Crams lots of ideas and references into a very simple gesture (as along as the technological part can be set up!). Takes the (security) anxiety about backpacks as a clever way to suggest that what they contain really does require our attention! And they can explode anywhere. Superimposing Baghdad on Boston, two river cities with 'old' traditions, is very smart.

 


 
       

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