SHINE: Jeff Foye Explores Identity

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SHINE is an exhibition opening this Saturday at The Collaborative gallery that showcases the work of recent Arts Council for Long Beach Professional Artist Fellowship grant recipients. Of the five artists featured in show, the work of Jeff Foye is perhaps the most abstract and conceptual. Jeff collaborates with Gordon Winiemko, and they present their work as JEFF&GORDON.

Their work often uses video, but just as often uses a variety of other elements as well. In SHINE, they are presenting two works.

“The first is called, ‘Our Jeff Gordon.’ It is a video with a sculptural accompaniment. Perhaps it is important at this moment to mention that for about six years my artistic practice has been focused on my collaboration with Gordon Winiemko. We present our work under the name JEFF&GORDON. That’s all caps, no spaces, ampersand. ‘Our Jeff Gordon’ looks at the nature of being a fan in the internet age.

“Two things were happening to us. First, people were liking our Facebook account from places we suspected were not likely to have seen our art. Secondly, our google search presence started showing Nascar driver Jeff Gordon.

“Many people build their personal identity on what they like. The internet provides an opportunity to broadcast one’s identity in the form of postings, video and images. We noticed that people would re-post video of anything relating to Jeff Gordon. There are home movies, but there are also clips of Regis and Kelly where Jeff Gordon is simply mentioned casually.

“What we did is start from the apparent confusion of our identity with his, take a few of these fan videos from YouTube and make them into JEFF&GORDON videos by inserting our presence and our interests. The videos were then posted back to YouTube.

“In the gallery will be a program of these JEFF&GORDON videos on a large monitor next to a seven foot tall ampersand. The ampersand being key in distinguishing Jeff Gordon from JEFF&GORDON. If you do a Google search for “JEFF&GORDON” our web site is the first hit, but Jeff Gordon’s picture is there on the right.

“Although the videos are fun, there are some very serious questions being raised about the how people project their identity on the internet, both from the perspective of the media personality Jeff Gordon and from the amateur, his fan base.

“I think the idea of being a fan of something, and that being a large part of the identity many people project, is well understood. It’s the kind of thing that is so common it might be funny to point it out. Like confirming that the sky is blue or water is wet. What is new out there is people are not only authoring new content, they are re-posting media about their interests, in effect re-authoring the media. Being a fan is now a place of creating material about your interest. Not just consuming the media provided. As artists who utilize video, this is a pretty good description of what we do, too.

“In the presentation of our work we like to consider the situation in the gallery from which the video is being viewed. We once did a video which was based on another YouTube phenomenon, the real estate walk through video. For the presentation of that work, we have a couch, rug, and plant to set the stage to think about the homes on the screen. For this work, the ampersand sculpture sets the stage for viewing the videos.”

JEFF&GORDON are presenting a second work in SHINE, titled “Chefs d”Oeuvre.”

“For this piece we polled our friends about that ubiquitous part of every art show, the snack table. From the responses we selected four snacks to be served the night of the opening. The video presents the making of these snacks.

“The food will be presented one snack at a time, so people can really consider the food and the interaction with us serving it. By eating the snacks, and watching the process of making them, the viewer completes the artwork. For the run of the show, the catering table, table cloths and table presentation will remain as a sculptural accompaniment to the video.”

Jeff and Gordon connected when Jeff was a grad student at CSULB.

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“I helped to start a yearly survey show of local MFA student art called the Greater Los Angeles Masters of Fine Art exhibition. (GLAMFA) We curated Gordon into the first two shows. Gordon was attending UCI and living in Irvine. Shortly after the first show he moved to Long Beach, finding an apartment one block from my house. We kept talking about art and each other’s art and helped shoot video for each other’s MFA shows. Following graduation, we decided to collaborate on a piece for the Long Beach Sound Walk. The collaboration just kept rolling.

“Gordon’s background is film, while mine is theatre and dance. Both of which are naturally collaborative mediums to work in, so our working together feels very natural.”

For 323 Projects, a gallery whose work is accessible only by calling their phone, JEFF&GORDON created Not at the Dinner Table, which invited people to leave messages for friends and family, saying things that might not be appropriate otherwise.

“It was pretty amazing, actually. We were interested in getting people to speak in ways they normally do not. When the number is called, a prompt is played asking people to address the loved one, friend or acquaintance who you hold back on speaking your mind in order to maintain decorum. This is the speech that said would make dinner uncomfortable or worse.

“People tend to want to agree with one another, so hearing people actually address those they disagree with has an amazing charge to the language and feels very new. The very first reply was amazing. The caller referenced a dream where he was having dinner at his uncle’s house and George Bush was there. Being that his politics swayed him that way, he naturally had words with the former president in his dream. The call finishes with the dream being a convenient allegory to the disappointment he feels in his uncle ever since learning about the uncle’s political position, and the struggle family events have been for the caller. It was very performative and well written.

“A few calls ended with the affirmation that, despite the difference they feel, the caller still loves the person being addressed deeply. People really responded genuinely to the request. For the most part, the messages were heartfelt and the relations being addressed were important to them, with this difference being a real issue.”

With so much of their work being abstract, in a physical sense, I could not help but ask how it fits into the paradigm of art as a commodity.

“There is a growing class of collectors who are focusing on video. Typically, video is sold in a limited edition, so a particular work might have three to five copies, just like a print. As for the performance work and the YouTube project, I think they are both a reaction against the drive to reduce art to simple commodity. I think is it important for people to feel comfortable approaching art. When the price tag is the first thing mentioned, I think people can feel excluded. Our work prompts the viewer to consider their relationship to the content.”

To learn more about JEFF&GORDON, visit JeffAndGordon.net. To learn more about the Arts Council for Long Beach, visit ArtsLB.org.

The opening reception is taking place this Saturday, February 1, from 6 -9PM. Other featured artists include Margie Darrow, Jessica Kondrath, Annie Stromquist, and Kurt Simonson.

The Collaborative is located at 421 W. Broadway. It operates as a partnership between the Arts Council for Long Beach and the Museum of Latin American Art. To keep on top of upcoming exhibitions, follow it on facebook.

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