Give Me No Title, Give Me an Aura


On the evolution of An Aura. From shimmering biology effervessence to object fetishes. To artists and art to the powers of super heroes and super heroines. And to our own multiplying-like-rabbits doors of perception. This week, everyone was talking about Aura, from the art and language of contemporary art at the recent Armory, Scope and Volta shows to the Rubin Museum’s Brainwave in New York City exploring what ecstasy smells like.

Aura, because the artist is there pulsating and making us drool before the offering. Aura, because it captures unseen being and becoming…the Past or Future Major. Aura because it is study in portraiture via the senses whether the components are scent molocules, digital pixels and in situ transmission of art and its “Aura.”  Aura as it happens and you are there.

Womb with a View: Giants, Google maps and Migraine Fortress Visions.

Way pre-google maps, when I was way smaller than I am now, I was captivated by the ending of a cartoon show hosted by a Giant, who was only seen via his hands. After all the cartoons ran, his Giant hand fingers lovingly nudged tiny chairs, rockers and puffy chairs back into place around a cozy fireplace, since, one assumed, the invisible and excitable tiny kids messed them all up watching the cartoons.  Ever since then, miniature people and miniature household items hold a special fascination for me. I so fetish-eyes them, they are all over my house feeding my Giant ego:-)

Feel big and then the even bigger universe on, by Slinkachu. It has long been a favorite, you can easily wile away at least 20 minutes peeping his series of wee folks left on the street to fend for themselves and their own devices. Their adventures in the Big World, which gets bigger with every step back of the Giant photographer, are amusing, sweet and pathetic. (see? a better prettier world view than morning papers, same conclusions…)

“…left in London to fend for themselves” is the artist’s Giant drop and run tactic.

The scope of our worlds changing in a moment is the promise of art, the senses, drugs and religion among other things. Having experienced in one week both the shows of the latest in contemporary art and a profound discourse on the world of scent, plus a never-before experience of a spontaneous mind-bending, headache-less, ocular migraine, shared with the likes of Leonardo d Vinci, Georges de Chirico and Lewis Carroll, with its glowing and growing rainbow laser light triangular “fortifications,” “fortress” and “Auras” which supplant normal vision…I can indeed say my scope of the world has been altered.

As Modern Citizens, we traipse from sensation to sensation, biological to digital to aura-bending experiences, readiness to the moment is the only anchor and answer. These are the Artists of Aura who made me slow down this week.


Thomas Doyle‘s little people at Witzenhausen Gallery are frozen in their landscapes via bell jars of memory for our meditation.

“I studied painting and printmaking, but ended up feeling limited by those media. After time, I realized I should just be making what made me the happiest, and I started the miniature work. I often say that if the nine-year-old me traveled forward to meet the current me, he’d probably give me a huge high five – and maybe demand to stay.”

From a tiny inner spark of universal memory, it’s either our google-enabled future Giant vision or our nostalgic busy-box brains looking for a “force-me-to-slow-down” primal need in which a play on scale offers solace and perspective to our sometimes sodden bodily reference points.  The visual patterning of macro cosmic painterly aerial views of civilization may reorganize our cellular makeup, the way the view from a plane in the air reminds us that rivers are like our veins, towns are like our computer brains and mountains and the earth is our body.

The comfort of encylopedic style imagery and a nostalgic trend for childrens books that began with Todd Oldham‘s ode to 1960’s and 70’s illustrator, Charley Harper, was all over the art shows. Whatever it is, the delight is worth the price of admission that yes, we are tiny creatures in a very big world. It is thankfully not all about us.

Floor to ceiling canvases dry brushed painted with tiny towns and encyclopedic details and goings on in Christopher Daniels paintings at Number 35 Gallery were hardly visible for the packed crowds around them. Naive, calming, intriguing, you can feel that people are compelled to play Giant as the world perspective is demanding our continued shift from egocentric focus to community and connection, whether held up microscopically, through a telescope or a google map.

Another street artist I have followed, Jan Vormann, fills in the spaces of decay at once with earnest Lego block cheery hope. The mind hops between synapses at these legos in buildings where it all began in Berlin, and now in New York City. This nostalgia for toys, figurines, comic book figures and language and play was everywhere. There was not so much of this at the Whitney Biennial uptown, draw your own conclusions.  These tiny kids and kid games may be a scaling back from Murakami and Koons’ big comic bravado and now in our more introspective times, random street art and tiny meditations on toys fit our back-to-the-beginning urges.

Yet Another Lichtenstein Comic.

It’s the juxtapostion people!  The debate, such as on, about these Jessica Lichtenstein at Gallery Nine 5, figures rages on in the blogspace about the source, the usage and intent.  Probably the same fire around Warhol soup can or Picasso and his steal from Africa or even Lichtenstein’s comics?  Murakami did it better? The gesture, emotion and fluids of anime charactors whose power is super human is more his statement, Lichenstein’s women are more self-posessed or beseeching the viewer as objects in an earthy and fully doll way, with none of the Aura of Anime as much as they are hipper Barbie dolls contemplating themselves and their plastic beauty.

Yet More Plastic Fetish Flowing.

The opposite of humans pumping themselves with plastic and botox for altercation into Barbie and Ken dolls, in Nick Ervinck‘s work…here the Plastic seeks and meets biology and air. The only thing exhibited by Antwerp’s Koraalberg Gallery at Volta was a film moving like fluid fast through yellow amporphic cell structures, an experience like the birth canal movies I remember seeing at about age 13. The largesse of Nick’s gestures reminded me of the volume and Aura of Alber Elbaz of Lanvin’s billowing tunics as they floated the models on the Paris runway.

Daughter-types for Dauguerreotypes, Lampshades for Hats and Wigs for Handbags.

Subject and Object collide when gallery guests end up as the art. At Volta, Heather Cantrell of Kinkhead, sat surrounded by a jungle of plastic and live plants and a flurry of photo gear fumbling with her Poloroid camera and I scrambled over to sit with her. And that is exactly her art. Portrait sittings impromtu for $200. Large scale Poloroids 7 feet by 10. A Study in Portraiture was Heather’s documentation of the documenters, capturing personalities from London’s art world as subjects.  This impromptu art-on-site at the Volta show, with artists on site exhibiting, made for very exciting palpitations.

Put Large Lampshade on head for Fun and Enlightenment.

Tronie Portraits of The Daughter. Hendrik Kerstens at Witzenhausen Gallery of NYC and Amsterdam showed Paula Pictures, a modern girl rendered timeless by light and a technique of Dutch portrait painters of the 17th century (called tronies) and removed from context by the non-identifiable “clothing and hats” attached to her by her father, Hendrik. From the gallery: “Kerstens is conscious of the fact that people are the same, no matter who they are or what age they live in. Any association with a certain age is determined by the way we are depicted: the clothes and make up we wear, accessories and lighting.” Thus the Aura of a modern girl references and the destruction of references and adding on the Aura of a timeless day.

Outre Aura-Worldly shots of In Crowd.

Station Independent Projects at Scope presented Sway, a photographic collection of how individuals influence each other with their behavior, dress and culture. Curator, Leah Oates chose a diverse selection and the photos by Miles Ladin, a society, celeb and events photographer who has shot for Harper’s Bazaar, Fortune, Vibe, Der Spiegel, Morgunbladid, W, The New York TImes Style section and Tatler. They struck me the most for their unintended candids, what do we remember about the faces in our midst, especially the Aura of The Famous?

Racial and Sexual Profiling.

Begin with Dr. Suess’s mash-ups of biology and throw in mixed gender, orifices and racial facials staring blankly.  Keep staring and Lewis Carroll’s satiric wit and social farce pushes through primal history with a goofy simple innocence, like Harold and his purple crayon. Boris Hoppek, with Helium Cowboy, spray paints, lassos latex on lasses and appliques fake fur genitals on real people for portraits while his Basic Bimbo appears in all sizes on streets, galleries, in boats en masse and videos. When a face looks like a light socket, you just have to love it.

It feels like finding an old Disney cartoon from 1930 that is eerily familiar and disturbing and funny, depending which point on a time and space line and what Aura mantle you put yourself in as viewer. And although his work around women’s bodies and sex are the most amusing, it says something of our culture that race is OK to dialogue about and portray, if tentatively, but women’s bodies may still be taboo beyond basic fetishizing. (For the weak of heart or easily excited, I’ve opted to include the “taboo.” )

…and thankfully the discourse and portrayal in the art world is getting more non-white and non-male everyday.

The Eyes of Deana Lawson.

The reviews say she plays with the “sacred and profane” two other words I heard much of these past few weeks. I believe I am a bit tired of these words being held up as opposites. This is a photographer who spends much time with her subjects until the relationship deepens and it shows in the images. It is just sacred. Deana’s work was shown as part of Station Independent Projects and you can see more of Deana and the other photographers from Sway here on

Deana is much like performance artist, Kalup Linzy, who stages soap operas twisting voice and character plays, distorting speed up or down through voices and tempo or  blandness to make the viewer question reality.  Both untether us from convention or even the madcap pace of our lives and perversions.

Mass Fetish.

“Fetishizing the object is mistake and at the same time, mass production on the net is an aura annililator.” says Holly Block, Director of Bronx Museum, “There is a whole segment of the population that has no access to technology.”  She spoke about projecting video on the face of the museum and that museums should be free. Where is the reflection opening for kids not exposed to the possibility of that transcendence language?  Exactly where it is, in the mass culture itself.

At Scope, Anonymous gallery featured Kostas Seremetis, a fetishizer and mash-up machine of of pulp iconography.  My favorite piece of his is “Trilogy” film, taking the left third of Star Wars, the middle third of Empire Strikes Back and the right third of Return of the Jedi, synchronizing moments and not.

Skylar Fein‘s turn table on cultural ephemera and slogans at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery were a tour de force, complete with Manifesto literature and two major pieces, Gun Rack and Black Flag (Marcuse), which were purchased by major private collections for $20,000 and $40,000 respectively, according to Volta’s press release. Not bad for collecting stray wood around New Orleans and making new signs of the old, some of which hawked bargain deals all for under $10.

Sacred Public Space

Nato Thompson, Chief Curator of Creative Time which conducts art in the public realm, declares, “Public space has gone from profane to sacred. Spatial experiences are more novel due to the amount of time we spend in virtual space.”

The videos in the elevators at Volta by Trong Gia Nguyen of Humanitarians Not Heroes, were a novel profane place to show art. I once heard that the funny nervous and uncomfortable atmosphere in elevators comes from too many auras crammed into a small space. I couldn’t focus on the videos at the time due to this Aura blending effect but truly enjoyed later at home. Perhaps better in a bathroom, I know the ladies room is always serious sacred space, especially in front of the mirror. Talk about art most fierce…

At a Volta panel called “Framing Art in The 21st Century,” Art Heads pondered digitization, market shifts, how and where visual art will be disseminated, sold, and exhibited in the coming decades. With Nato, Holly, Amy Cappellazzo (Int’l Co-Head of Postwar and Contemporary Art,Christie’s), Manon Slome, Founder and Curator of No Longer Empty, which exhibits art in vacant space, Sara Reisman, Director, Percent for Art, and Dan Cameron, Founder and Curator of the New Orleans Biennial Prospect, the gospel and testaments to art in the public realm and out of the museums were let loose.

Moderated by art market journalist, Lindsay Pollack, all agreed that decentralized centers of art, the dissolving of hierarchy in collecting and critique and public accessibility are the democratization of art and my favorite conclusion was: “Art defines what public space is.”

I would also add my gospel that shared new sensory art has enormous power to change the Aura of the Planet.

To Wit: Precious Encounters of The New Temporal and Olfactory Kind.

Tino Sehgal stages temporary public interactives in museums and is a brilliant Luddite with a gospel of no cell phone, no airplanes and no paper legal contracts or documentation in the selling of his work.  He’s got the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York Times reviews, shows in the Guggenheim and his pieces sell for millions. What a Luddite.

“For the last two to three hundred years in human society, we have been very focused on the earth. We have been transforming the materials of the earth, and the museum has developed as a temple of objects made from the earth. I’m the guy who comes in and says: ‘I’m bored with that. I don’t think it’s that interesting, and its not sustainable.’ Inside this temple of objects, I re-focus attention to human relations.”

Amy Cappellazzo at Christie’s is lit up by this idea. Just a digital piece with enormous value is intriguing. She’d like to see a million people pay $1 to own a piece of art versus one piece going to one collector for a million dollars. The world of precious object or experience with Aura plus the repeated Aura of digital experience is a full spectrum.

Even much more radical and potentially ecstatic than a digital revolution of art is the Scent Revolution offered by perfumer Christophe Laudamiel and Neurobiologist, Stuart Firestein, who together with an audience doused in scent strips, attempted to touch the mystery of the smell of ecstasy at Brainwave at Rubin Museum of Art. I was invited by the sensitive, vibrant and inquisitive expert at the pioneer of scent auras, Lucy Raubertas of the beautifully intriguing blog, Indie Perfumes.

Christophe Laudamiel is the creator of last year’s Green Aria, a scent opera at the Guggenheim using scent as a composer utilizes notes, a painter uses color or an architect uses building materials. Christophe created for Thierry Mugler Le Parfum Coffret, the suite of perfumes for the movie based on Patrick Süskind’s Book Perfume. Paris 1738 is the “signature scent” complete with the Aura of Paris at that time…full of fetid decay, decomposition, musty, and animal like the streets.  I actually liked it.

Why is the frontier of scent so alluring and ripe for art-making?   Although smells can affect us and feel drug-like, the difference is that we smell and then can analyze and decide, our smelling sense and resulting actions are not like a drug where our powers of reasoning are altered. What we see sold in stores as perfume is only thirty-percent of what can be done with scent. Fascinating that not much research is available and yet we know that scent is actually molocules consumed by the body versus waves of color and light or vibrations like music and there are hundreds of scent brain receptors versus the handful for visual or aural stimulants. Olfactory stem cells are the only nuerons that replicate into a new set of nuerons every day (a robust phenom) and information is delivered quicker to the inner brain than ocular synapses.

It is no surprise that there is actually a Buddha dedicated to the sense of smell in the direction of the South, an important sense to have in one’s ecstasy quest toolbox towards enlightenment beyond form. If art is meant to bring us together, it also carries the spiritual quest to bring us higher by it’s snarky invitation to love it but be unattached at the same time.  The temporality and permanence through memory and time of Scent is a smart and intriguing ingredient and I hope to smell more of it in art.

Mathius Kessler‘s Nowhere To Be Found human skull with live coral growing on it at Volta was perhaps the best art statement, quickly dispensing of art labels and chatterings such as “Aura,” “Sacred” and “Profane.” Since my own father’s recent passing, a particular gorgeous scent comes to me in moments of truth, one I have never smelled before in my life. I know this is a communication from worlds beyond what my profane (?) brain can currently comprehend and yet it is a most precious Art of Communication, spurring me on to expand my Aura into Non-linear Love and a World ever expanding.

Visionary Migraine indeed. Buddhist quest of non-attachment indeed.

Thankfully… All is Full of Love and The One Aura…Unavoidable.

“Love as the primary and fundamental cosmic fact. … I was this fact; or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that this fact occupied the place where I had been.”  Aldous Huxley, Doors of Perception

(note: Bjork video is on permanent exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.)

4 Responses to “Give Me No Title, Give Me an Aura”

  1. The images from little people blogspot make me think of this short piece which shares a very similar perspective:

  1. 1 Erotic Images that make you go...WOW - NSFW - Page 10 - Tilted Forum Project Discussion Community
  2. 2 Lucy Raubertas: I Confess! I am a Ritualizer! « The Dame Game
  3. 3 Best friends, boy toys and talismans « Jade Dressler

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