Philadelphia based artist and curator C.J. Stahl immerses himself in Tyler Kline’s April exhibit, The Golgi Apparatus, exploring the interconnectedness between the artist’s materials and practice, his collaborators, the collective, and the sharing of a creative act.
In preparing for this post, I thought that I would do all the things that one does to gain a comprehensive view of the subject I would be writing about. I would visit the exhibition, do a little research on anything that seemed unclear, e.g. the term Golgi apparatus, and talk to the artist, which I was able to do during the installation, as well as at the opening. I was, however, uncertain if any of these efforts would help to clarify what I was waiting in anticipation to experience, a full room installation at Grizzly Grizzly by the Philadelphia artist, Tyler Kline.
I have known Tyler for about 7 years now, and we’ve had an ongoing engagement with one another’s creative practices. Our discussions are sometimes brief, happening at openings or when we run into each other. On many summer – and some winter – days, I would run down on my lunch break to see what was on view at the Hamilton Hall Public Art Initiative at UArts – a pair of public sculpture plinths which Tyler curated for a couple of years. I would often find him there on Broad Street tending to whatever special needs the installation had, like a gardener combing their flower bed for aphids, he was diligent in his care for other artist’s works. He would enthusiastically tell me about who was showing and we would talk about the work, touch base about what was on view at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery across the street, and then wrap-up our conversation with gripes of art-job related annoyances.
A couple of times a year we will have more intentional visits to each other’s studio. I’m always intrigued by Tyler’s play on process and materials as they relate to abstraction, and the range in objects produced – from provisional construction to committed fabrication and finish. His investigations in materials and methods are always accompanied by their corollary thoughts on ancient philosophy, biological science, and technology. I find that Tyler’s translation of thought into form well served discussion about subjects that elude the visual field. While I have become very familiar with and accustomed to discussing Tyler’s object making, I’ve had less opportunity to engage his installation practice. I was curious to know how the expansive drama of an installation would be drawn out of the milieu of subjects Tyler has worked from, the processes he’s explored, and how I would access that work.
Before I go further, it would be good to give a summary definition of the Golgi apparatus. The Golgi is a component in the biology of an animal or plant cell that processes and organizes proteins, sending them to other parts of the cell for use. A cell can have one apparatus or many depending on the complexity of its function, and the Golgi can appear as one in a variety of possible structures.
When I asked Tyler about the impetus for his show, I was told a story about something that happened when he was working at the Portland Art Museum in the 1990’s. Within the museum collection there were pre-contact, indigenous, bundles that had been preserved. They were mysterious packages. I imagined them being of some kind of leather, all tied up containing unknown objects. These bundles eventually caught the attention of a bold curator who wished to know what was inside. Within the months following the opening of the bundles – the curator died suddenly from an aggressive cancer. An abrupt ending to a story that implies a lot. Who’s to say if there was a causal relation between the opening of these native time capsules and a particular, untimely death. Maybe upon being opened the curator was exposed to a release of a toxic mold, although I don’t imagine that this was the only individual present during its opening. I had a growing sense that the Golgi as an exhibition was not only using this dynamic, flexible cellular component as a point of departure, but also actively redistributing the energy, desires, and sense of shared experience that the artist, his co-conspirators, and the public put into it.
One of the characteristics I appreciate most about the art scene in Philadelphia is the sense of its general accessibility. It’s easy to walk into one of the artist run spaces in town, and find the artist or a collective-member sitting the gallery, willing to discuss the exhibition with you. If you happen to attend a performance, you may find yourself implicated in the overall structure of a work, or invited to directly participate within some determined bounds. Little Berlin was a great venue to find an event of this kind, one which extended permissions to its audience to go beyond a passive experience of art – Tyler was a founding member of this collective. Exhibitions like Flash Flood, Garbage World, and Muddy Muddy Mud Finger – all Little Berlin programs – opened up this kind of space. In a different gallery space, one that neighbors Grizzly Grizzly, I saw a demolition inspired work that took on the character of a performance. Beginning at the opening reception, a hammer was used to put holes in the gallery wall, marking out the form of a body and at the height of the gallerist. The artist’s tool was left present throughout the evening, and as the crowd received the work they began a negotiation of what was being read as a prompt. It was with unhesitant swings of the hammer that viewers began their excavation of the gallery wall, and an investigation of the extent of their limits within that particular gallery. The scene eventually culminated in the gallerist politely taking the hammer away after a period of time in which significant alterations to the wall had been made. I don’t think the gallerist harbored any hard feelings about that experience, but thought of it as more of an experiment that revealed the familiarity or a comfort level that could be achieved within the context of an exhibition. Of course this is a very limited account of ways in which the Philly art scene and its exhibitions open up to viewers. Many more examples could be given, but I am limited to my own experiences – which brings me back to The Golgi Apparatus.
The Golgi Apparatus begins suspended in the Grizzly Grizzly space, with its structural appendages expanding outward to the walls and floor. Multimedia are present including wood, foam, aluminum foil, fake fur, string, projected video, and fabrics from Kline’s long term textile collection accumulated through Gaffney Fabrics, located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. These materials are combined with a gamut of production methods from hand modeling/carving to 3D printing, laser cutting colorfully producing tactile vectors, bundles and objects of varying sizes, each containing and demarcating space in its own particular fashion. Many of the collaborators brought in for the install helped to produce these bundles, which include a range of materials, as well as personal effects. They operate as individual offerings within the gestalt of the whole, descending from above, sometimes into the space of the viewer, their furry hides requesting to be touched.
As elements in the installation transition from an overhead space toward the floor, hacked lighting fixtures and projected images illuminate the planes of the room. Shifts in hard light and shadow play build depth to an illusory space on the walls, where ghostly polyhedrons attempt to capture the organic, bundled forms. This tangle of objects and non-objects seem to pick at the subtle differences between the seen, the imagined, and the virtual. Whereas the textural bundles give way to their respective shadow double, a photosensitive theremin makes audible its trigger, light – at once a physical particle and invisible wave. Moving image projections carve windows into a virtual space of anarchic code, which finds its grounding in the equipment planted on short pedestals accompanied by strewn about cables and extension cords. A single chattering tape deck radio transmits a wavering signal from the floor.
While Tyler Kline is the authoring voice of this exhibition, a number of others were brought in to contribute to its completion. It may be more appropriate to refer to Tyler as the Golgi in this sense, as his efforts to include others have distributed labor, personal investment, objects, and time according to a non-authoritative logic, privileging difference and flexibility over austerity and determinism. The exhibition includes the efforts of Dr. Laura Katz, Assistant Professor in the school of Music and Dance at Temple University, artist helpers Christina Eltvedt, Krystal Gorman, Paige Miller, Tyler’s children – Max and Violet Kline, and donated equipment from Sean Stoops. Grizzly Grizzly member, Ephraim Russell curated this month of the collective’s programming, and he is the editorial voice for the gallery’s blog, Speak Speak, which is what I was asked to contribute this essay for. It is no surprise to those of us who work within our art institutions, that achieving an engaging exhibition or program is never the work of a sole individual, but that of a collective – if not still unequal – labor of love…and sometimes spite. In our collectives and efforts that parallel our institutions, we have the opportunity to recast these divisions of labor and consideration to be more inclusive and experimental without the expectations of making sales, creating revenue, donor/steward development, and governing bodies. It is with this consciousness that The Golgi Apparatus engages with other creatives and its viewing audience to affirm an egalitarian circulation of the work within its own socio-economic boundaries.
Before leaving the installation, Tyler invited me to add anything to it that I’d like. I looked around in my bag to see what could be suitable. Selecting a worn iPhone 4 USB cord, I tied it onto the side of a bundle just above my head. I was pleased by the small series of coils that it made and thought about the term “the artist’s hand”, wondering how many instances of it I was seeing around me. It’s a good feeling to be in a place that many people have contributed to building, and it’s a fortunate occasion to share the experience of making it, in part. The project of writing this essay has left me feeling fully integrated into the Golgi. What was once my anxious, perceived need for an objective account of this exhibition, is now a reflective process of its distribution.
C.J. Stahl is an artist and curator living in Philadelphia. Stahl received his MFA from The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and BA from Shippensburg University. His works have been shown in galleries and alternative spaces in New York and Philadelphia.
Tyler Kline is a curator and artist living and working in Philadelphia. Kline grew up in Stone Mountain, GA, studied Architecture and Painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design. He received his BA in Anthropology and Sculpture from Portland State University and a MFA in Installation and Sculpture from The Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts.
Kline has worked in the sphere of urban interior and exterior intervention for two decades, beginning with creating skate-parks in unused urban spaces in Atlanta, to creating a sculpture garden in the shadows of re-purposed textile mills through Little Berlin, in Philadelphia. He makes immersive installations and netart, and creates animated gifs as a way of exploring and constructing glitch theory. Kline’s own point of research within this field is to break the conceptual screen and expose the underlying subjective and internal forces that are imprisoned by late stage capitalism.