Publics, Histories, Value: The Changing Stakes of Exhibitions
In this Issue

The Armory Show Focus Group

Liz Magic Laser

The Armory Show Focus Group (Monitor), 2013, archival inkjet print, 33x40.6cm. Courtesy of the artist.


Various Small Fires is very pleased to announce its participation in the centennial edition of
The Armory Show with a solo presentation by Liz Magic Laser (b. 1981 New York, NY), the
2013 Commissioned Artist of the fair. Laser has become known worldwide for her videos
and performances in public spaces such as banks and movie theaters, which have involved
collaborations with actors, dancers, surgeons, and motorcycle gang members. She stages
situations, dialogues, and monologues in the urban environment, and its population becomes
both her audience and extras in the resulting videos. Her recent work appropriates the
dominant performance techniques and psychological strategies used by the media and
politicians to sway public opinion.

In August of 2012, The Armory Show invited Laser to serve as its commissioned artist. She
accepted in October, agreeing to produce limited-edition artworks and to shape the visual
identity of the fair through VIP cards, invitations, signage, Jack Spade tote bags, and
employee T-shirts. A performance artist confronted with the challenge of producing
marketable objects, large in number and scope, Laser enlisted the help of market research
analyst Ben Allen of Labrador Agency to conduct a series of focus groups with art
consumers. She had The Armory Show invite members of the arts community—a range of
collectors, curators, museum professionals, art advisors and critics—to participate in group
discussions that would ultimately determine how she would lend her identity to The Armory

Laser conducted a series of six focus groups, each consisting of ten participants and lasting
two hours. The first sessions in early November, 2012 were devoted to “exploratory” market
research in which participants were asked to characterize The Armory Show’s current status
and the critical value of Laser’s work. They were then prompted to suggest how she might
apply her artistic strategies most effectively to the fair. Based on feedback from the first
sessions, Laser developed prototypes of art editions and visual motifs, which were “tastetested”
by later groups that convened in late November for what the artist deemed the
“validation and refinement phase.” Laser’s video, The Armory Show Focus Group (2013),
assembles the most useful viewpoints, culled from over twelve hours of focus group
discussion footage.

Laser’s market research findings concluded that art consumers wanted her to make The
Armory Show’s internal data and affairs transparent. Based on this she directed The Armory
Show to assume a corporate identity reminiscent of a bank and to expose its internal
information via its VIP paraphernalia. For example, the Jack Spade VIP tote bag announces,
“An average size booth at The Armory Show costs $24,000...” and the VIP card tells its
recipient that he or she is 1 out of 12,365 VIPs. The site-specific installation, Artist’s Proof
(2013), extends her effort to apply the desired transparency to the art fair’s fundamental
building block, the booth. Treating the booth as an assisted ready-made, Laser has
transformed it into the viewing room in which she and The Armory Show staff analyzed consumer opinion. By installing a fourth wall with a two-way mirrored glass window,
visitors will be allowed to observe and discuss the fair without being seen from the outside.

Gallery staff will prompt visitors to analyze the fair according to Laser’s guidelines while
leading them through the artworks on display (all products of the focus group research):
photographs; a portfolio of unrealized limited-edition prototypes; share certificates of
Vornado Realty Trust (owner of Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., who in turn owns The
Armory Show); pastel drawings of the focus groups; a museological display of VIP
paraphernalia; signed proofs of the limited-edition works she has created for The Armory
Show; and the video The Armory Show Focus Group (2012-2013). The installation serves as
a living document of Laser’s exchange with The Armory Show, and traces the complex web
of opportunity and compromise that characterizes the relationship between market forces and
artistic production today. Artist’s Proof will be presented within the fair’s Focus: USA
section, curated by The Andy Warhol Museum Director Eric Shiner.

Liz Magic Laser (born 1981) lives and works in New York City. She is a graduate of the
Whitney Museum Independent Study Program and Columbia University’s MFA program.
Her work has been exhibited internationally at venues including Diverseworks, Houston
(2013), Mälmo Konsthall, Mälmo, Sweden (2012); Swiss Institute with Forever & Today,
Inc., New York (2012); The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2012); the Moscow
Museum of Modern Art (2012); the Performa 11 Biennial, New York (2011); MoMA PS 1,
New York (2010); Artisterium, Tbilisi, Georgia (2009); and the Prague Biennale 4, Czech
Republic (2009). Gallery exhibitions include Derek Eller Gallery, New York (2012); Various
Small Fires, Los Angeles (2012); The Pace Gallery, New York (2011); and Casey Kaplan,
New York (2011). She has been a resident at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation Space
Program , New York (2013, Forever & Today, Inc.'s Studio On The Street artist-in-residence
program, New York (2012), Smack Mellon, Brooklyn (2011) and the Lower Manhattan
Cultural Council, New York (2009). Laser is the recipient of grants from the Alfried Krupp
von Bohlen und Halback Foundation (2013), the Southern Exposure Graue Foundation
Public Art Award (2013), the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship (2012), the
Times Square Alliance and the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art (2010). In
summer 2013 she will have a solo exhibition at the Westfälische Kunstverein, Münster,
Germany. Liz Magic Laser is her real name from birth.

The Armory Show Focus Group, 2013, Liz Magic Laser, an Armory Show Commission
produced in association David Guinan of Polemic Media. Featuring focus group
moderator Ben Allen of Labrador Agency. Other contributors include Lew Baldwin,
Editor; Geoffrey Hug, Videographer; Matthew Kessler, Videographer; Danilo
Parra,Videographer; Brian Mcelroy, Production Coordinator; Reed Seifer, Graphic
Designer; Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Post-production Graphic Designer; and Michael Romeo,
Sound Editor. Produced with support from Various Small Fires, Los Angeles.

For more information or image requests, please contact esther@vsf.la or paul@vsf.la."

Artist's Proof, 2013, The Armory Show Centennial Edition art fair booth: modular hollow core
panels, industrial carpet, Luan plywood, MDF, laminate, aluminum metal, paint, office chairs,
display monitors, display vitrine, acrylic glass, doorway, black curtain, curtain rod, two-way
mirrored window, spotlights, The Armory Show Focus Group video (edition of 5), Sony 40 inch
HD monitor, security camera and DVR system, and performance. *One of each editioned
artwork included in the booth, 304 x 421 x 487.7cm. Courtesy of the artist and Various Small
Fires, Los Angeles

The Armory Show, 2013. Courtesy of the Armory Show.

The Armory Show Focus Group, 2013, single-channel video, 30 minutes, video still. Courtesy of the artist.


Liz Magic Laser is a video and performance artist based in Brooklyn, New York.



Tel: +852 2844 1112
Email: chantal@aaa.org.hk