History in the Making: Beat Nite 10 and an interview with Signal

Norte Maar, Beat Nite, Bushwick, Ridgewood, gallery, galleries, Airplane, Auxiliary Projects, Centotto, English Kills, Orgy Park, Parallel Art Space, Schema, Signal, Studio 10, Valentine, Austin Thomas, Pocket Utopia, The Narrows

by David Levesley for Norte Maar

Beat Nite returns February 28th bringing with it a selection of 10 art spaces that continue to keep Brooklyn at the very center of art world conversation. Curated by Austin Thomas these spaces range from apartment galleries, basement spaces, warehouse lots, and polished white cubes. All in all the night offers what producer/curator and director of Norte Maar Jason Andrew, believes is “the single most important bi-annual arts event in Brooklyn.”

The regularity at which Beat Nite exposes the range and diversity of art actively being produced and presented is what makes this event so important. Perhaps even historic. “When one looks back, it’s awesome to see how Beat Nite has charted the comings and goings of artists and art spaces since it’s inception [in February 2009]. Each edition of Beat Nite writes a new and important chapter in he history of the ever-changing art world in New York City,” says Andrew.

For Beat Nite 10, guest curator Austin Thomas, who certainly is no stranger to the Bushwick art scene as she was one of the pioneers opening Pocket Utopia on Flushing Avenue in April 2007, believes that Beat Nite “ensures viewers a chance to experience the buzz of creativity and the aura of being at the vanguard of contemporary production. She had this to say about her intentions behind her selection:

My intention is not to define a night of neighborhood art openings but rather to collaborate on a happening of novel experiences in the broadest sense to include painting, sculpture, drawing and a wide range of visual and creative practices.

Of the 10 art spaces featured, Orgy Park and Studio 10 are both taking part in Beat Nite for the first time. Orgy Park, founded in 2012 by Steve Mykietyn in his 600 sq.ft basement apartment, will feature paintings by Adrian Tring and sculptures by Elisa Lendvay entitled ‘Alone Together’. Studio 10, opened in 2011 by Larry Greenberg and was one of the original galleries in the building now known as 56 Bogart. For Beat Nite Studio 10 will offer the second solo show of painter Adam Simon, a friend of Greenberg’s from their time at the New York Studio School.

Norte Maar, Signal, Beat Nite, Tim Bruniges, MIRRORS

Photo courtesy the artist and Signal

One the most compelling spaces new to the Bushwick art scene is Signal. Catching up with the guys, I talked with co-owners Alexander Johns, Mckenzie Ursch and Kyle Clairmont Jacques about their history and involvement in Beat Nite. Our conversation then turns towards how sound art has become a large component of the art scene.

NM:  When did Signal open? What were you aiming to do with the work you displayed?

The space was opened in May of 2012, with a large-scale, site-specific sculptural installation by Bennet Schlesinger. It was clear from the start that we were trying something with our space; making it more about helping artists to realize projects, pieces, than about picking stuff out of their studios. That said we’ve tried all sorts of different exhibition strategies here and we hope to keep exploring, keep growing along with the artists we meet.

NM:  What show will be on view during Beat Nite?

On view during Beat Nite will be MIRRORS, a sound environment/sculptural installation by an Australian artist named Tim Bruniges. Two enormous concrete dishes face each other from across the room, hooked up to microphones that loop and layer all the sounds in the space. It’s definitely one of the most ambitious projects we’ve undertaken. We’re proud of what Tim has accomplished here.

Norte Maar, Signal, MIRRORS, Tim Bruniges

Photo courtesy the artist and Signal

NM: What is it about the art you’ve selected that you think makes it work?

Our space is a pretty unique environment for exhibiting art, and it makes some of its own demands for what does and doesn’t work here. Its not so much that the work has to be large-scale, but the exhibition needs to be able to engage with the space. So we encourage site-specific work when possible, which involves putting a lot of trust in the artist, and we’ve had some amazing results come from that. Beyond that it’s really just what tickles us, moves us; the kind of work that we would like to see. Hopefully other people want to see it as well.

NM:  Have you participated in Beat Nite before? What are your feelings about the event?

We were glad to have participated in the last Beat Nite as well. It’s a great opportunity for people to see some highlights from the neighborhood. The galleries involved are somewhat off the beaten path, which can be an obstacle to getting seen but also allows for some interesting, nontraditional spaces for showcasing art. It helps too that it’s a smaller group of galleries that are selected, as wading through some 40+ galleries in the neighborhood can be daunting to visitors looking to find out what’s happening out here.

NM:  How does it change staging an exhibition when you’re part of an event, if at all?

For this show we’ve been scheduling occasional performances throughout the exhibition that engage with the piece, and we will be hosting a performance that evening by a few musicians. But otherwise we just try to make sure to sweep up and hide the paraphernalia. 😉

NM:  Are you seeing any patterns coming out of the art in Brooklyn? Or is it less a case of artistic trends and more a trend of what art galleries seem to be wanting at the moment?

That’s a tough one, the chicken or the egg question of how much the market dictates emerging trends (or has a hand in deciding what’s “emerging” and what’s floundering). There will always be some trends among young artists, and our curatorial practice isn’t entirely divorced from trends in the artworld, we don’t curate from inside a bubble by any means, but I feel that we’re more concerned specifically with what’s going to work in our space, what feels fresh and necessary.

NM:  Is New York still a cultural capital for the visual arts?

Very much so. It’s tough because of the unusual demands the city makes upon artists. The cost of living, the cost of space, is so high. It’s easy to get trapped on a hamster wheel of working all the time to support an art practice that you don’t have time for. But still, New York is a high-pressure cultural incubator. Things move very fast here, there’s a lot of attention being paid. And there’s still some room for artists in Brooklyn. Manhattan has changed a bit. When the cost of admittance is so high a lot of people are going to be excluded.  And even out here we definitely deal with the encroaching condo-fication of everything, which is kind of a culture-killer. We reluctantly foresee a future in which artists have all been priced out of the area.

NM:  The ‘art hub’ of New York seems to move around a lot, and it seems like at the moment several places could lay claim to the title if they wanted. Do you think your area of Brooklyn, or even Brooklyn as a whole, is the new center for New York’s art world? If it’s not, where do you think is?

Well, there’s of course going to be the big-money, blue-chip art world that’s recently concentrated in Chelsea. And there’s some exciting stuff in the LES that’s engaging/subverting that same discourse. But I think Brooklyn is definitely where young artists are living in NY at this point. And it’s fair to say our neighborhood, the “East Williamsburg Industrial Business Zone,” or Bushwick or whatever it’s called, is something like a center at the moment for young artists and emerging art organizations. There are a lot of amazing cultural organizations and artists concentrated into this one little area. In a few years it will probably all be condos and boutique stores, but for the time being this does feel like something special—dare we say, a community?

And of course there are communities like this in Red Hook and Bed-Stuy and other places. This is probably the largest concentration at the moment, for better or worse.

NM:  What sort of art do you yourself buy if any at all?

Part of running a space is satisfying that desire to be around art, immersed in it, and to coexist with big, awe-inspiring pieces. Unfortunately none of us have the money to buy art really—-we mostly have gifts from friends. Small paintings. Small sculptures. Primarily works on paper. If any of us buy art it’s most likely zines actually. Artist books.

NM:  How much sound art has the gallery staged so far?

We’ve hosted some performances before, music shows and the like, but this is the first piece of sound art we’ve hosted. We’re fans, and it engages with the space well. The gallery kind of has the acoustics of a cathedral. It’s something we’d like to show more of.

NM:  Is Sound art on the rise, and did it help for it to win the Turner Prize for the first time a few years back? (If you can’t tell, I’m British and the Turner Prize means everything to me.)

Lol. Make room for the YSA—young sound artists! No idea about whether it’s rising or not. The DIY music scene is reasonably healthy in NY and supports a lot of experimental musicians, but whether that’s crossing over into the rarified climes of the fine art world is hard to say.

There was that MoMA show last year, though those of us who went weren’t very impressed. One of us volunteers at La Monte Young’s Dream House, and there’s been a rise in interest there over the last few years. And of course Audio Visual Arts gallery in the east village has consistently some of the best arts programming in the city and hopefully they’re getting recognized for it. It would be nice to see some of these people getting more attention for the amazing work they’ve been doing.

NM:  When curating a sound exhibition, what are the difficulties with the space, or indeed what virtues does SIGNAL have for displaying it?

The acoustics of the place are pretty enormous; which is both a boon and a handicap. Echo can go either way.

NM:  If people find they love sound art from coming to your exhibition, who else would you recommend checking out?

To elaborate on the earlier question: Audio Visual Arts is one of the best galleries in New York and dedicated solely to sound art and artists. The Dream House is a permanent sound/light installation that’s definitely worth seeing. There are a lot of great DIY venues in our neighborhood that host art and experimental music: Shea Stadium, Body Actualized Center, Secret Project Robot, the newly re-opened Silent Barn. Otherwise we suggest the Q35 to the Atlantic Ocean.

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For more information about Beat Nite or to download a map click here.

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