The curriculum vitae of Los Angeles-based artist Glenn Kaino enumerates an impressive exhibition history – the Whitney Biennial; Prospect3, in New Orleans and Performa, to name just a few. But this maker of sculptures, installations and conceptual work also has enviable experience in the tech world, having served as a chief creative officer at the pioneering music streaming service Napster and leading the digital team at the Oprah Winfrey Network. Kaino’s creative intelligence and preternatural curiosity means that his artistic undertakings are never not wildly ambitious, conceptually rigorous and, like the industries he has worked in, often collaborative in nature.
GLENN KAINO, TEARS OF MARIA, 2015. PHOTO COURTESTY OF KEVIN TODORA.
Kaino’s Aspiration, his forthcoming project for the Seattle Art Fair (SAF) this August, is all of those things and more. One of more than a dozen special installations and performances organised by SAF artistic director Laura Fried, Kaino's piece also relates to other works and his ongoing interest in the themes of space colonization, time and language. “It imagines the future, but also reinvestigates the past of our species on a cosmological scale,” says Kaino, who worked with linguistics experts to create two dialects – Lunar French and Martian English – that could be spoken in a theoretical future where space colonies are real. During art fair hours on 5–7 August, small groups will visit locations around Seattle. Speaking the invented dialects, their leader will be the famous New York City guide Timothy “Speed” Levitch, whose high-pitched, hectic diction was immortalized in the 1998 documentary The Cruise.
This multifarious endeavor is nothing if not a conversation starter, and on the evening of 21 June, Sotheby’s sponsored an artist’s talk with Kaino, who spoke about the SAF project and more in the Seattle offices of by Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. Ahead of his talk, we were lucky enough to catch up with the artist from our New York headquarters and ask a few questions of our own.
NEW YORK CITY GUIDE TIMOTHY "SPEED" LEVITCH IN A STILL FROM THE 1998 DOCUMENTARY THE CRUISE. LEVITCH WILL LEAD TOURS IN GLENN KAINO'S EXPERIENTIAL PROJECT FOR THE SEATTLE ART FAIR IN AUGUST.
Can you talk about what the title means? Are you, or we, aspiring toward something?
The title refers to both the action of drawing a breath, which, when done in a space suit is one of the actions that inspired part of the phonetic variations of the work, and also the idea of ambition and in this case, a specifically colonial instinct. The work is an ongoing investigation into a theoretical collision between the present day and an imagined colonial future as articulated through linguistic variations.
You’ve described your practice as conceptual “kitbashing” or the combining parts of different kits to build models. Is the creation of the new languages a form of “kitbashing”?
The languages are kitbashes in a way. My team of phoneticians worked hard to create several iterations of the languages that account for how words are pronounced, but also in the case of the English variation, what the words actually mean.
GLENN KAINO, L’ÈNETÈNAFIONALE, 2015 (SHOWN LEFT). PHOTO COURTESTY OF KEVIN TODORA.
The tours guide is someone with a recognizable, distinctive voice: Speed Levitch. Can you talk about why you chose him to lead?
Speed is an amazing performer. I have admired him for many years and always wanted to work with him as a performance artist. I have experienced several walking tours performed by Speed and knew that he would be perfect person to collaborate with on this work, not just because of his voice, but also because of his distinct expertise in crafting and performing conceptual walking tours.
What sites will be visited and what significance do they have?
We are doing some preliminary scouting soon. The significance, or perceived significance of the site is what is in question in the work. The hierarchy of meaning and the prioritization of importance assigned to landmarks represent a snapshot of a time, and this performance is meant to challenge the timelessness of these artifacts.
What can tour-goers expect? What do you hope people will take away from the experience?
Tour-goers will hopefully feel both lost and included at the same time. I expect that the will feel a bit uncomfortable but hopefully they can learn to be comfortable in their discomfort and see and experience a familiar landscape with new eyes.
The Seattle Art Fair is produced by Paul G Allen’s Vulcan Inc. and Art Market Productions and runs 4–7 August at the CenturyLink Field Event Center, Seattle.
LEAD IMAGE: GLENN KAINO. PHOTOGRAPH BY NOAH WEBB, COURTESY HONOR FRASER GALLERY, LOS ANGELES.