Jim Drain’s Heart(s)

By now you might have heard that on most Monday nights you can find an artist at the Fifth Ave. Cinemas, speaking to a diverse crowd about their work and their ways. Curated by Harrell Fletcher, these lectures are free and everyone is invited. Last weeks offering brought out a “star” studded crowd to see Jim Drain. I could be wrong but I think he is the first artist in the series to have his name grace the marquee?
drain sign
Formerly of the rambling knit clad noise band / art collaborative ForcefieldDrain was one of the members of Providence Rhode Island’s Fort Thunder a drawing/performance/costume party/home/studio/rock venue. Both were catapulted into the collective art consciousness after Forcefield’s inclusion in the 2002 Whitney Biennial
Now the knitwearis off the band and on Drain’s sculptures. At times they confound -is it a funny looking monster?, a giant bong?, a firecracker? – or all of those things at once? but most of all they leave my jaw hanging open in awe.
1259
I say NOT BORING!!!!
Decked out in a cute/disturbing heart covered sweatshirt
drain's heart
its hard to take photos in the dark…
Drain started off the night by treating us to some videos – including an undulating rainbow by Takeshi Murata and found animation featuring escalating battles between a poop (yes I said poop!) powered villain and his gullible victim.
poopy cartoons
a cartoon turd rocket
Then came a Forcefield piece with three hooded drones staring down a fire in an oil barrel. This was the most captivating of the three- and significant to Drain who commented that he likes the tension and aggression set up by having to watch the piece and the annonymity that both his costumes and his Forcefield alias afforded him.
When the lights came back on Drain started in on his lecture – more ramble than academic posturing he quickly dismissed his aforementioned sculptures by flying through the slides and muttering that they were “boring, boring boring”. He revealed he is a bit nostalgic for his more performative and collaborative projects
geo structure
Drain/Peterson geo-kaleidoscope framework which when finished looks like this…
1058_i1_hypnogoogia_review
He even went so far as to suggest that perhaps performance is a more expressive and accessible art form. His uncomfortableness speaking to his own work was frustrating to some- and the audience started to call out for information. Inquiries lead Drain into more detailed discussion – and ranged from “how did you do that” (he uses a knitting machine) to tricky questions about what success brings and what his feelings were about the proliferation of Fort Thunder copycats. (He feels uncomfortable stating that he and/or forth thunder is responsible for inventing anything)
His answers and his lecture as a whole were awkward, endearing, frustrating and most of all human.
“Artists can no more speak about their work, than plants can speak about horticulture.” Jean Cocteau
What is it that we expect artists to say? Most people I spoke to afterward-expressed frustration that Drain did not reveal passion about his work did not get theoretical about his practice and did not clue us into some deeper meaning. I can only speak for myself when I say what these lectures have taught me is that our expectations of being entertained or having our own practice or theory justified by artists often hinders our experience – and that even little blips of coherence can lead to generous and genuine insight into an artists work.
The fact that we want more, better, faster and perfect seems indicative of a haunting question. Is the academic expectation that an artist should be able to talk (in art speak) about their work or that they need to deliver a lecture in a prescribed way- realistic? necessary? – anymore interesting than letting someone just be? or letting the work be?
I don’t really want an answer to any of these questions, I just want to keep learning by listening, debating when moved to do so and most of all to remain open to visiting artists sometimes challenging voices. How about you?
Listen Up! at the PSUMNLS (PSU MONDAY NIGHT LECTURE SERIES)
Most Mondays
7pm
FREE
Fifth Ave Cinemas / SW Hall of SW 5th Ave.
Next up is Bill Daniel- get notified of future lectures by signing up for emails right here.
Kristan Kennedy

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13 Responses to Jim Drain’s Heart(s)

  1. adam Forkner says:

    hey thanks for writing this, as i totally forgot to go to this lecture and now maybe i feel like it was okay to miss it. it kind of seems that perhaps the people who are disappointed in drains lecture are the same kind of people that put him up on this inhuman pedestal of international art star fame in the first place (jim drain included) when hen was just one of the rest of “us”, making weird stuff, being a community minded noise dude, having fun, putting on shows, living in a trash heap etc etc. if the art world continues to cast people in this absurdly unreal light, projecting all of these silly, backwards thinking modernist responsibilities (origin of a singular style, individuality of voice, etc etc) to weird “underground collectives”, then they will continue to get awkward people on the podium who feel uncomfortable in their shoes. i can’t blame jim for going on the ride he’s on now and i don’t want to detract from the brilliance of his art, as the stuff is really good. dude has brought it pretty hard consistently for quite a few years. but jim drain is no more an authority on knitting than your grandma or some hipster “copycat” in williamsburg…no more a geo-dome expert than the countless other underground artists obsessed with huts and the inherent “ripe problema” of nostalgic utopian visions. why are we still thinking in these backwards modernist terms, even as we collectively propel “art collectives” (see NYtimes art section slightly bullshit feature on “collectives” a few weeks back) into the international spotlight. perhaps it is just the nature of fame itself. it kind of seems that when people from “the underground” get “famous” this always happens (see: rock and roll for the last 20-some-odd years)
    anyway….nice blog!
    adam

  2. adam Forkner says:

    just re-read my comment and i sound like a total dick-wad. its totally true i am one of those “countless other artists obsessed with huts” so i admit that the previous comment was far from “objective”. far far from it. i’m totally insecure that people will think of me as a copycat what with the rainbows and the zomes and the huts and the videos and the mirrors and the prisms. but fuck it, man, thinking about that crap just makes my head spin and bums everyone involved out to the extreme. stupid ego shit. mostly though i am bummed out that people were “frustrated that he didn’t say deeper stuff”. it just seems like a tell-tale sign of the sort of unreal expectations i see placed on young artists and musicians all the time. its just weird.

  3. Kristan says:

    Adam- good comments and your not sounding like a “dick-wad”. I think my major concern is that we have the desire to define culture the second it happens – or for those not in the know – the second it happens to us. I like the idea of artists as delivering prophetic visions- I like domes too- I like brainy academic ramblings and I like disoriented mumblings too. There may be a pedestal involved in the skepticism and worship that Drain received in equal measure Monday night. And as for his career one can only assume it is a healthy mix of hardcore talent, luck, charm and trouble. And like all things is relative. I am just glad I had to opportunity to see his work – in a new way- through his lecture. I did feel he clued us into his passions; inspiration and practice -although the information did come in fits and starts. I think many of the same people who were frustrated might be hit with Drainisms down the line. Or maybe it will propel them into talking about their own art in a way they feel is more true or valuable. Either way it is fodder for a great debate- and an ageless one as you alluded too. ,,,like I said I don’t want answers to any of these questions- I just want to keep asking them.

  4. Steve Schroeder says:

    Ooohhh man, this was such a great post Kristan.
    I wanted to go to this so bad, and if I wasn’t laid up with deep double brain infections I would’ve been there.
    I don’t get that much from academic ramblings so this sounds right up my ally, and to me it sounds much more illuminating as to true intentions and humanity behind art than brain speak.

  5. Kristan says:

    Brain Infections! Brain Speak! Keep well dear Steve, there will be many more lectures.
    I usually get my mind blown by seeing the work itself but the lecture that was both intellectual, meaningful and experiencial was Marina Abramovic- her lecture was transformative – so it can happen.
    Jim Drain was a good time. See you next week?
    K

  6. aldar says:

    ug. remind me never to write on the internet first thing in the morning. i sound like a crotchety old grumper. ug. how embarrassing. kristan, you are too gracious to grumpy morning trolls. peace love aam

  7. kristan says:

    no ug. really – no ug. own it. zome it. your comments were good stuffs.

  8. Matthew Stadler says:

    I just came upon this. I thought Adam’s first comment was really insightful. Jim’s beautiful art should not oblige him to be historic or theoretical or a lecturer. It is strange to ask him to be these things, and I think Adam rightly locates the presumptions or orthodoxies that invite, or force, an artist to function this way in “silly, backwards thinking modernist responsibilities (origin of a singular style, individuality of voice, etc etc).” I’m perfectly happy for Jim, or earlier in Harrel’s series, Chris Johansen, to shirk these responsibilities and just go on making awesome art, and I don’t understand why we ask these artists to lecture. It seems to be a standard academic convention. Asking someone to lecture is the way a school expresses its interest and (importantly) passes a paycheck to deserving artists. But can’t we think of something more relevant and productive to do with these resources (the school, the artists’ smarts and time, our time and intellects)? This is 2006 and we should think of something better.
    Public speaking can be great. There are people, including many artists, who are superb speakers, who think and articulate complex thoughts while standing in front of an audience. It’s fucking awesome to be at a great lecture. Has anyone seen Rem Koolhaas speak? His talk is so moving and so relentlessly thought-provoking, a lot like Chris’s art, or Jim’s performances. But I wouldn’t ask Rem to play in Forcefield. That would just invite a ridiculous cult of personality, which is what the veneration of a great artist’s inarticulateness seems like to me.
    I hope we can make up some new conventions for bringing the artists among us into public discourse. If they don’t like speaking to crowds, don’t make them lecture. Don’t ask audiences to sit through performances of inarticulacy. I’d like to see lectures by artists who believe in speaking and aspire to do it well. I’d like to see support for other great artists to do other things. Maybe the money for lectures could be used to commission work that’s public or occassion-specific, but that isn’t a lecture. Maybe the artists can be given an honorarium and allowed to pay part of it to a speaker he or she admires.

  9. storm tharp says:

    I was “expressing frustration” after the Jim Drain lecture and it wasnt because I was disappointed in Jim Drain. I think we have learned our lesson over and over that a persons work is not to be judged by a persons character – and yet the issue remains on the table.
    (Which Beatle is the easiest to deplore? And why is that? It’s certainly not because he was a bad songwriter.)
    I was frustrated because the delivery of the lecture seemed like a stylistic phenomenon. A cliche of self-effacement – diluting that which is otherwise unique and inspiring. “AIDS a delic” is an awesome sculpture – I wanted to hear him stand for it. I can hardly blame him that he didn’t.
    I agree with Matthew that some artists can speak about their work and others shouldn’t have to. Im still hating myself for getting bent out of shape over this one. I wish that I could just be cool with it. But im not really. I would of rather watched the lecture with earplugs.
    “When it was suggested to the poet Philip Larkin that he earn a living by giving readings and lectures, he answered. . .’It would embarass me very much. I don’t want to go around pretending to be me.’” – Robert Adams on “Money”.

  10. kristan says:

    Storm – since you and I have had many an armchair debate about the Beatles you know of course ( in my mind) Paul is the easiest to delplore – but your right I can’t deny his songs their rightful place. In the end it is about the work and how it makes you feel. You are also right that this discussion is not about being dissapointed in Drain- but, perhaps this lecture bubbling up the uncomfortable realization that it is hard for artists to reveal what moves them to make work – for them to be held up to dissection and revue and even harder for us to wrestle with our expectations of them. Maybe what lectures by visual artists are good for- is to place them in the position of their work, for 30 min or so they are the unfinished drawing on the studio wall – and sometimes the unfinished drawing reveals the most.

  11. steve says:

    You wonder why the hand of fate had to fall
    On John when it could have been Paul
    Well, I’ve got records where he sings
    Equally embarassing
    Clap trap falldeerall
    Kristian Hoffman”I Don’t Love My Guru Anymore”

  12. kristan says:

    that was a response worthy of a crowd of screaming girls.
    kk

  13. jls says:

    whenever i feel overwhelmed by these questions that put my mind in knots i cant help but think… what an exciting time to be an artist, or art enthusiast.

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