Ander Mikalson

My role as artist is that of orchestrator, instigator and conductor. I make work of and with people who are experts at something. The knowledge stored in their bodies – be it tap dancing, playing an instrument, singing, analyzing cosmic radiation, or juggling – is unlocked by the structures I invent, and put to use in unusual ways. Entertaining and often playful, the work employs spectacle as a Trojan horse for critical inquiry into the politics of the body. I work solely with performers who are queer and/or identify as women and frequently co-author work with other artists. In form, content and execution, my work critiques the traditional model of the single author as genius or brand, challenges the role hierarchical processes play in contemporary art, and shifts the focus to the importance of collective creativity in our time.

This notion of collective creation is evinced in Score for Two Dinosaurs, a work which is performed by its audience. Using instruments comprised of household objects, appliances and toys and following along with synesthetic visual scores, the audience is enlisted and empowered to spontaneously generate the soundtrack to a familiar Hollywood blockbuster film.

#1 Hit, a musical tour of an outdoor sculpture park, is also a collaborative creation. A marching band performs the top Billboard song (such as Madonna’s Like a Prayer and The Beatles’ Hello Goodbye) for the corresponding year of the selected sculptures. They play in choreographed formations, responding and engaging with the formal qualities of each sculpture. The monumental artworks are surrounded and confronted with the popular music of their time, both serving to frame them within the specific cultural context of their historical moment, while also reclaiming them as part of a diverse and affirming present.

For Score for the Big Bang I enlisted University of Virginia astrophysicist Mark Whittle and Pulitzer Prize winning composer Caroline Shaw to help me translate the sound produced by the Big Bang into musical notation. The resulting score for choir and pipe organ is eight minutes long, approximately two minutes for every 100,000 years of the early universe. The composition is based on measurements of the Cosmic Microwave Background, the radiation that comes directly from the incandescent fireball of the infant Universe. The score is based on Dr. Whittle’s renderings of Big Bang harmonics and takes as a point of departure the characterization of cosmic sound throughout human history: Pythagoras’ notion of a “music of the spheres,” the Torah’s description of the creator of the universe as ‘a still, small voice,’ and the Vedic conception of Shabda as an omnipresent sound from which all the universe originates.

In North Shore a tap and a flamenco dancer move among wavy brick sculptures while listening to recordings of the sculptures being made. Only they can hear these sounds of hammering and chiseling, and must use their bodies to recreate them for the audience. As they dance the installation falls apart – the tapping causes the unmortared bricks to vibrate and fall, a backdrop of photographic paper expires in a sunset of colors as it is exposed to light, their shoes mark the pale wood floorboards, and their bodies work to the point of exhaustion.

In Stages a classically trained ballerina attempts to dance atop rolling platforms, alternately hindered and helped by a second performer who is rarely seen but continually heard. The dancer struggles, fails, and tries again, thrusting herself into uncertain territory with humorous awkwardness and heartbreaking grace. With its hundreds of small failures punctuated by shining moments of triumph and joy, Stages embodies both the creative process and the human experience.

My most recent work, White Knuckle, grapples with the power structures that create and inform the way white American women move through the world. A juggler focuses intently on her practicing, willfully ignorant of the people around her, the “security” systems she is setting off, and the destruction she is causing. Nearby, a pair of ceramicists are also absorbed with their work, endlessly forming palm sized balls out of clay – a task reminiscent of women’s traditional, nurturing labor (cooking, baking, sewing). Yet the result of that labor becomes a violent force, suggestive of bullets or blows, when the balls are launched from a baseball pitching machine borrowed from a batting cage. Baseball, as American as apple pie, is used here to position the seemingly benign, entertaining and nostalgic aspects of white American life in relation to brutality and destruction. The performers’ actions maintain and nurture a structure of violence, implicating themselves – and the artists – in systems of oppression. The work is accompanied by a free publication containing a compilation of texts written by white women activists and philosophers on white self-criticality beyond anti-racism. The publication felt necessary to situate the work for the gallery’s mostly white audience; it was our strategy to make visible the whiteness of bodies that are typically viewed as “neutral” and unracialized in our white supremacist society.

EDUCATION

2012
Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture
MFA, Virginia Commonwealth University
2005
BA, College of Creative Studies at University of California Santa Barbara

SOLO EXHIBITIOS & PERFORMANCES

2017        White Knuckle, with Carey Denniston, Kate Werble Gallery, New York, NY*[1] 2016        #1 Hit, with Carey Denniston, Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, NY
2016        Stages, with Carey Denniston, The Kitchen, New York, NY
2015        North Shore, with Carey Denniston, MOIETY, Brooklyn, NY
2014        Variations VIII, with John Dombroski, SkowheganNYC + Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, NY
2014        Score for the Big Bang, MASS MoCA Anniversary Celebration, New York, NY
2014        Three’s Company for Eight Performers, Churner and Churner Gallery, New York, NY*
2014        Score For Two Dinosaurs, Art, Design & Architecture Museum, Santa Barbara, CA
2014        A Narrow Hollow Volume, with Melanie McLain, Practice, Philadelphia, PA
2014        Score For Two Dinosaurs, Queens Museum, Queens, NY
2013        Score for the Big Bang, Skowhegan Awards Gala, 583 Park, New York, NY
2013        Score for a Dinosaur, Temple Contemporary, Philadelphia, PA
2013        Score for Two Dinosaurs, Institute of Contemporary Art, Portland, ME
2012        Score for a Cyclone, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2017
Nine, Queens Museum, Queens, NY
2016
Scarlet Street, Lucien Terras Gallery, New York, NY
2016
9 Evenings + 50, Fridman Gallery, New York, NY
2015
InLight, organized by 1708 Gallery, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA
2015
The Transportation Business, curated by Gregory Volk, Jane Lombard Gallery, New York, NY
2015
Exchange(AR), VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow, Ireland
2014
Starting Here, Art, Design & Architecture Museum, Santa Barbara, CA
2014
XX, Pierogi Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2014
Recuperative Tactics, curated by Lisi Raskin, Art In General, New York, NY
2014
Select 2014, curated by Gregory Volk, Artisphere, Arlington, VA
2013
Queens International, Queens Museum, Queens, NY
2013
Untitled (As of Yet), Flux Factory, Queens, NY
2013
Approaching Infinity, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA
2013
Taken, a curatorial project with Dave Kyu, Practice, Philadelphia, PA
2012
MFA Thesis Exhibition, The Anderson Gallery, Richmond, VA
2011
Strange Magic, curated by Skye Gilkerson, Guest Spot Gallery, Baltimore, MD
2011
Liminal Light, curated by Christine Gray, Project 4, Washington, DC
2011
The Wrong Miracle, curated by Oscar Santillan, NoMINIMO, Guayaquil, Ecuador
2010
Big Paper Winter, Woodward Gallery, New York, NY

PRIZES & AWARDS

2016
Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant
2013
Art Matters Foundation Grant
2012
Graduate Research Grant, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts
2012
Thesis/Dissertation Assistantship, Virginia Commonwealth University Graduate School
2012
Lecturer, Berglund Lecture Series, Virginia Commonwealth University Honors College
2010–11
Graduate School Assistantship, Virginia Commonwealth University
2010
Award of Distinction, Axis Gallery Fifth National Juried Exhibition
2005
Highest Honors at Graduation, University of California, Santa Barbara
2005
William Dole Memorial Fund Award, University of California, Santa Barbara
2005
Colin R. Gardner Award for Excellence in Theoretical Writing, University of California, Santa Barbara
2005
Faculty Award of Distinction, University of California, Santa Barbara
2004–05
Department of Art Honors, University of California, Santa Barbara
2003–05
Leonard Goodman Scholarship, University of California, Santa Barbara
2003
Melba Abrams Prize, University of California, Santa Barbara

RESIDENCIES & FELLOWSHIPS

2017
Artist in Residence, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Captiva, FL
2016
Artist in Residence, LMCC Process Space, New York, NY
2015–17
Artist in Residence, Queens Museum, Queens, NY
2013
Artist in Residence, Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY
2012
College Art Association Professional-Development Fellowship in the Visual Arts
2011
Artist in Residence, Mildred’s Lane, Beach Lake, PA
2011
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Graduate Fellowship
2007
Artist in Residence, Salem Art Works, Salem, NY

2006–07  Artist in Residence, Yolo County Arts Council, Woodland, CA

PUBLICATIONS

Will Heinrich, “What to See in New York Galleries This Week,” New York Times, October 13, 2016.
Paul Spencer, “Confederate Chapel to Get Trippy Makeover During InLight,” Richmond Style Weekly, November 3, 2015.
Jane L. Levere, “Come Right In: Artists in Residence Put Out the Welcome Mat,” New York Times, October 28, 2015.
Hanlu Zhang, Critic’s Pick review, ArtForumChina.com, August 21, 2014.
Joseph Stannard, “Phonautogram,” The Wire UK, January 2014, Issue 359.
Sam Newhouse, “The Art of the Steal: Taken at Practice Gallery,” theartblog.org, May 7, 2013
Nicholas Schroeder, “Inside the Bellies of the Beasts at ICA at MECA,” Portland Phoenix, March 27, 2013.
Andrea Appleton, “Strange Magic,” Baltimore City Paper, December 13, 2011.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

2017       White Knuckle, text by Marilyn Frye, Barbara Applebaum, Bridget M. Newell and Cris Mayo, Kate Werble Gallery, New York, NY

2014        Score for Jack’s Tattoo, text by Iris Cushing, Churner and Churner, New York, NY

2013        Queens International 2013, Queens Museum of Art, Queens, NY

2013        Approaching Infinity: The Richard N. Green Collection of Contemporary Abstraction, Crocker Art  Museum, Sacramento, CA

2013        Ander Mikalson: Score For Two Dinosaurs, text by Daniel Fuller, The Institute of Contemporary at Maine College of Art, Portland, ME.

* Please note that these were one- or two-day performances, not full solo exhibitions in a commercial gallery