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Hardcore Forest

Posted: February 3rd, 2012

Looking to understand a bit more about Umea, we started  the day with a visit to the Västerbotten Museum, which houses various local exhibitions of Swedish culture. We were lucky to get an appointment with Karin, who runs the “popular movement archive.” The archive houses various ephemera from Umea popular culture, which includes everything to membership logs from alcoholics anonymous groups, to church accounting books from the 1800’s. Currently Karin is working on establishing an archive of the Umea Hardcore scene that gained international recognition here in the ’90’s (and which she herself was active in!)

Hardcore History in UmeaBlithe and Karin

After our visit we toured the rest of the museum, we were especially drawn to the old skis and snowshoes and this photo of this Sami storage shed.

Sami Shed

Today the temperature averaged around -8F. (Right  now -15F, but the weather channel says it feels like -30.) We are told that this is even cold for Umea. Luckily, we came prepared. So far our gear seems to be working.

We then came back to the apartment and had our first brainstorming session. We let ourselves speak freely and without judgment. We talked about “the problematics of seduction/ nostalgia of beautiful snow.”  More on that soon…

Then we went for a beautiful seductive nostalgic walk in the snowy forest on the trails behind our apartment. It was 3pm, so the sun was starting to go down. It cast a firey light on the trees as we were walking. On the property, there is also a re-creation of a traditional Swedish village (that is part of the Västerbotten museum). It simultaneously feels magical and artificial.

Snowy Wonderland

Umea Forest

We ended the day with a delicious dinner at a restaurant in the town center with our gracious IASPIS hosts. We enjoyed the company of new friends. Apparently on Mary’s last visit to Umea she scared the locals by her desire to walk the river. Everyone continues to express concern and strongly suggests that we do NOT walk on the river now, which is “not quite ready.”

Tomorrow… we are going to the river.

Mary Falls (for Louise)

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Coble/Riley Projects Heads to Sweden!

Posted: January 27th, 2012

We’re back! We know it has been a little while since our last update. 2011 was an exciting and busy year filled with travel, there exhibitions and activism. As we move into 2012, stuff we are excited to apply our individual experiences to our collaborative practice. We are thrilled to be able to do this in February at a residency in Umeå, Sweden. We will spend a month making new work in the wintry north through the Iaspis Residency Program.

Where we are going:
Umeå is about 600 km north of Stockholm and about 400 km south of the Arctic Circle. In February the average temperature ranges from 12-25 F, there is roughly three-hours of daylight and A LOT of snow! During the residency we will also have a studio at the Umeå Academy of Fine Arts where we have been invited to give an artist talk and do studio visits with students.

What we’ll be making:
We don’t know yet! Since our work is often built out of our experiences on-site, we tend not to go into new situations with a over determined plan. Part of our collaborative process is about creating as we go,  remaining open to the environments we encounter and people we meet. Please join us during this process by following us on facebook and at our website where you can also see our past work. We’ll be blogging!

Mary and Blithe’s Updates from 2011

This fall Mary entered her second year teaching at the Funen Academy of Art in Odense, Denmark. Drawing on her experiences living in Denmark she co-edited, with Louise Wolthers, a zine playing with the format of a Danish language book called Dansk for hele verden (Danish for the whole world). With contributions from 7 other artists, this zine was a collaborative response to not only the language book itself, but to Denmark’s current self image and attitudes towards foreigners.

In September, Mary performed her first live work in Copenhagen. She presented the performance and installation Asylum at ALT_CPH 11: Encounters, an alternative annual art fair at The Factory for Art and Design.

In November, Mary performed Fighting Cocks as part of Commitment Issues, a FADO-supported performance in Toronto, Canada.

Throughout the fall Mary also visited Dublin, Ireland several times in preparing her installation and performance of Source (Dublin): Field of Water which was included in the Science Gallery of Trinity College’s exhibition Surface Tension: The Future of Water that opened in October.

Currently Mary is preparing for her first solo show in Denmark opening in June 2012 at Overgaden Institute of Contemporary Art in Copenhagen.

In June, Blithe completed her long-term project The Edna Experiments, a multi-media installation that explored the found diaries of a 1960’s rural housewife named Edna. The installation premiered at Gallery Aferro in Newark, NJ at the culmination of a six month residency. Excerpts from The Edna Experiments were also shown in two group shows, APOCRYPHA: Kenseth Armstead, Dahlia Elsayed & Blithe Riley at Ironworks Gallery in New Jersey, and Bridges, Trees, Skulls, Pies & other Treasure Trails at the Nars Foundation in Brooklyn.

Blithe joined the Occupy Wall Street movement in the fall. Looking to bring the discussions that were happening around economic injustice in OWS into the art world, she joined two groups, Occupy Museums and Arts & Labor.  Read more about her involvement in OWS.

In October, Blithe also participated in the billboard series at the Waffleshop in Pittsburgh, PA. Reading is Another Form of Height, was a text-based work in two-parts, a billboard and accompanying postcard.

Send us on our way!
Want to help us make our next project? Consider making a small donation!  While we are lucky to have our travel and board covered by IASPIS for this residency, we are faced with additional production expenses (primarily for equipment and gear for shooting video in wintry temperatures).

We look forward to sharing our latest adventure with you!

Mary and Blithe

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Gallery Talk at Hirshhorn Museum on Marina Abramovic

Posted: April 30th, 2011

We have had some inquiries regarding the talk that Blithe gave on behalf of Coble/Riley projects at the Hirshhorn’s Friday talk series on March 16th, 2011. We decided to post the notes from the talk on our website, as well as some additional resources. We were really excited to be able to discuss Abramovic’s work, since her practice is one that we both greatly admire, and also find challenging. The talk covered Marina Abramovic‡ and Ulay’s piece “Light/Dark” as well as discussed issues around “re-performance,” archive, and authorship in the artist’s work.


The talk and Q&A were 45 minutes.

1. Introduction.

– Here today to represent my collaboration, Coble/Riley Projects, which is composed of DC/Denmark-based artist Mary Coble and myself.
– Together we make performance-based video works that are interested in injecting gestures and actions into specific sites; in particular our work is interested investigating sites that are in a state of decay. You can come get a taste of our work at Conner Contemporary art where are showing our piece Ascension/Immersion, which is up until April 30th, 2011.

– For those of you who know Mary’s solo work, it is very much rooted in an “endurance” performance tradition. That same tradition that Marina Abramović and other ’70’s performance artists helped to coin. In our collaboration, that strategy of repetition of action and extended time is still very much part of our process- however it is mediated through video. When we formulate our work, we engage the tools of video to both frame the action, and also extend and transform the time of the performance through editing and looping techniques. So in our work video is a tool that we use to conceive the performance. This is very different from a more pure performance tradition where video is really a tool for documentation, and is not the final product.

2. Light/Dark

This distinction between documentation and what the actual work resides in performance is a tricky, and one that is central to discussing Abramovic‡’s work. This is also true of the work presented here, Light/Dark. To briefly introduce the work, Light/Dark was first performed in 1977 at an art fair in Köln Germany by Marina Abramovic‡ and her collaborator and partner at the time Ulay. The piece was then was performed a year later in Amsterdam and recorded, which is the version you see here. To be clear, the piece you see here is a documentation of the work, Abramović considers the work of art to be the performance itself. The recording here is a bit over 9 minutes. The original performance was twenty minutes.

– Some other things to note that are not immediately evident in the video. There are two bright lights shining on either side of the performers, so they cannot see the slaps coming. They are however not completely blinded, they are able to see each other’s expressions. This slight sensory deprivation is key to understanding the space they experienced in the performance.
– The slap is a very loaded gesture. I think especially seeing it in black and white, it conjurers up connotations of dramatic slaps in film (Godard’s Breathless).
– However like other work in this series, for the Abramovic‡ /Ulay, these works were not about violence, experiencing pain, or exploiting power dynamics within their personal relationship. This performance was meant to illicit an experience, to push the boundaries of the body. To quote Abramovic‡ she says “We never did things for the pleasure of pain. We were looking for a key, a way to break through the body, to open something up, which is a desire that comes from another side of truth or reality.”
– That said, as time goes by and we get further removed from the immediacy of the work, a work light Light/Dark can come to take a number of meanings without a backstory. It is difficult not to overlay readings of gender and power in the piece.

3. Re-Performance.
– At Abramovic‡ ‘s retrospective at the MoMA Light/Dark was not one of the pieces that was re-performed during the exhibition. Abramovic‡ is not willing to allow works that are violent or dangerous to be re-performed. She is very clear and explicit about that. She believes that performance requires a real set of skills, and cannot be done by just anyone. She refuses to re-perform anything that is dangerous.

– That said, if you go to YouTube and you go do a search for Light/Dark you get a number of re-interpretations from artists, student artists, fans, the works. Ironically this kind of re-enactment is exactly the kind of thing Abramovic‡ is trying to combat with her re-performance work.She believes that if you want to re-perform an artists work, you should get permission and even pay them for the use of their idea.

– I know my collaborator Mary Coble has also had issues with students emailing her documentation of her performance that they have re-done or modified, and it really bothers her. Abramovic‡ is trying to confront this problem within the field, and to have the same rules of authorship apply to performance as in other media. For her (as well as Mary) this kind of copy-cat performance strays from the artists original intention of the work. The purpose of MoMA retrospective and re-performance in general is really about preservation and archive of the work as it intended by the artist. Its about preserving the idea as its intended to be seen.

Additional notes about re-performance.

– For Abramović , without re-performance, the works dies. This speaks to her idea that documentation really fails to represent the true work.
– She wants to both train people to perform her work, and give permission.
– She believes that the work changes, people bring new presence to the work.
– She believes performers get the “gift” of ownership from the artist
– She believes you must give up ego in order to allow for re-performance.

The curator of the exhibition The Artist is Present, agreed to the re-performance with the idea that in a retrospective the museum has the responsibility to exhibit the work as close as possible to its intended presentation.

Open up for Q & A.
Notes from Q&A (written from memory, not a 100 percent accurate!)

Comment. The meaning in the documentation is valid. If Abramovic‡ chooses to show documentation, she has to embrace how the meaning of the work shifts over time.

Q: What is the difference between acting and performance? Why doesn’t she just hire actors to do the work?
A: An easy explanation is to think about in acting if someone gets stabbed the knife is usually fake. In real life its real.
Q: What is the Abramovic’s training method?
A: She hosts retreats where students go and do a series of workshops. She is talking about opening a school in upstate NY. She talks about this in the MoMA lecture.
Q: How will this work live on after Abramović dies? Are there a chosen few who will be able to carry out her work?
A: In a way yes. I think that is why she is so invested in education and training her method to another generation of performers. It is difficult to anticipate how this will hold up over time. Will these pieces actually be collected? How will there meaning become transformed and translated over time? All of these elements are fascinating and remain to be seen.


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Our installation in St. Louis

Posted: November 21st, 2010

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New Installation of “Pile” in Saint Louis, MO

Posted: October 16th, 2010

We are happy to participate in the exhibition Sweet Jesus on November 19 & 20th, ed organized by artist/curators Lauren Adams, cialis sale Juan William Chavez, Jake Peterson, and Kiersten Torrez. The exhibition venue is a great match for our work, an enormous old abandoned brewery!

This will be the first time that Pile will be shown in its full screen three-channel format. Blithe will be going to Saint Louis to install the piece, taking the unique location into account. We will also be participating in a panel discussion open to the public on November 20th.

The Location:
Lemp Brewery, Site of "Sweet Jesus Exhibition"Lemp Brewery, Site of "Sweet Jesus" Exhibition
Lemp Brewery, Site of "Sweet Jesus" Exhibition


Lauren Adams artist site:
Cosign Projects:

Juan William Chavez:

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Coble/Riley Projects now represented
by Conner Contemporary Art

Posted: June 25th, 2010

Coble/Riley Projects is now represented by Conner Contemporary Art. Conner, who has represented Mary for quite some time, is a prime venue for contemporary art in Washington, DC. We’re thrilled to have our collaboration join their amazing list of international artists!

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March and April Updates

Posted: April 27th, 2010

Things have been so busy since we left London! We are still finishing up the final edits of our installation pieces that we made, have applied for a grant to help tweak the sound, and have submitted a proposal to work on a new site-specific piece this summer. Over the last two months we’ve been spending time on our solo projects, but wanted to give an update of what’s been happening.

Updates from Mary: Mary has an upcoming solo show at Conner Contemporary  in DC. The opening is Saturday May 15th! Details below:


In Source, Coble presents three new videos, mixed media work, and a live endurance performance (to occur in the gallery courtyard during the exhibition opening). In all of these pieces, Coble addresses themes of purification and renewal in actions focused on the element of water. In her videos, the artist explores subjective states of uncertainty and futility. In her performance, she will raise social awareness about water quality and availability in the local and global communities. The exhibition demonstrates the depth and dimension of Coble’s art, which ranges from personal introspection to experience shared through public interaction.

Coble’s videos: Stand, Fall, and Swim document the artist’s endurance-based activities in a secluded lake. Working in an introspective mode, she explores what making work means to her personally, confronting challenges and opening up to discoveries that arise with that making. Her lone pursuits convey apprehension and doubt associated with uncertain journeys. These videos are Coble’s most Romantic works to date, as their natural setting, and her struggle against the elements, recall 19th century landscape painting.

Endurance is a consistent methodological factor in Coble’s videos as well as her live gallery performance. In each work, she also embraces water as a medium. The natural setting for her videos underscores the importance of the environment to the global water supply. The performance demonstrates that the abundance of water in DC doesn’t insure its quality. In the videos, water visibly affects Coble outwardly, as she makes an inward journey. Her performance calls attention to the internal effects of water quality. Whereas the videos reveal the artist’s self-examination, the performance takes its departure from her experience as a member of a larger community, and propels her outward into that community. To gather her material, the artist went door-to-door, collecting water samples from residences in all of DC’s 8 wards (over 127 neighborhoods). Coble crossed demographic boundaries to emphasize that water quality has differential effects across populations. The artist’s actions at the gallery will create a communal source of clean water, a condition which has historically given rise to gathering places.

Updates from Blithe:
Blithe has been busy making new work! She just got back from a very productive residency at the Institute for Electronic Arts at Alfred University where she worked on a surround sound audio piece for her ongoing project The Edna Experiments, as well as iris prints, and some 3-D documentation for Coble/Riley projects.

Mary and Blithe both finished an art edition of 25 frames for the Skowhegan Benefit Awards Dinner, where Blithe will be in attendance.

Happy Spring!

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Goodbye London and the Trip Home

Posted: March 8th, 2010

Blogging from New York! Still running on very little energy, but happy to be in my native time zone. Yesterday was a bit of a blur, Mary and I woke up to post party madness in the office. Last nights rave left bodies littered on the floor sleeping on couch cushions, and one final drunken art installation in the bathroom. Here are few priceless snaps of our post-party organizer friends.

Gadi waking up on the radio station floor:

Nathan sleeping on last nights dance floor

Remnants of a bathroom Happening

Mary and I headed to Camden to get gifts to bring home. We felt like posers getting tourist knickknacks since we never made it to the city center, so we mainly stocked up on the staples of our trip— tea, cheap biscuits, chocolate (although Mary did get a bad ass skull and crossbones british flag patch, and I bought a very bright purple I heart London hoodie.)

We then headed back to the estate to say our goodbyes. We said a final farewell on on the Market Estate radio, and hugs to Gadi, Chris, Nathan and Gaby, and to the building. I felt a little sad knowing that the estate will soon be gone, but we are also happy that we got to work on site while it was still there. This place was so generative and productive to our work, and we feel great about what we’ve left with. We only can hope that the future of this site is a positive one, for the new residents that will be housed in the next incarnation of flats built, and for the neighborhood overall. We look forward to following its progress from a distance, as well as future endeavors from the TallTales organizers.

Chris, the Market Radio Host with sleepy Mary

One Final Group Shot:

Gaby and Lihu helped us lug our bags to the tube as we headed to the airport. We were so happy to have them with us since we were re-routed and would have been terribly confused otherwise. Mary and I departed on the train, although goodbye for us just means until the next email or phone call. We still have work to do in our near future, finalizing our installation edits, and finding the right venue to show this work that we’re proud of. We look forward to showing what we’ve done, taking the time to process and reflect on the project, do some writing, and get feedback.

Thanks to all who followed us on our trip. We will continue to actively post, probably not daily, but regularly. Stay tuned for our finished pieces.

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Market Estate: Don’t know the day or time: Midnight oil

Posted: March 6th, 2010

Nearly 3 am. I am editing and Mary is sleeping. Still working on our piece for tomorrow. Ran into some technical challenges today- Final Cut made our videos look horrible at 33% scale when exported to DV. Since we don’t have three projectors, we are doing a mock-up on one screen. So now everything must go into AfterEffects… probably for the best, but more time consuming.

Excited to see the project come together and get a chance to relax a bit tomorrow.

To tired to say much, but here are some highlights:
Mary installed projector shelves despite a lack of powertools and decent walls.
Naya and Hans came over and we got a quick bite. It was wonderful to see them.
Gaby brought us homemade lemon poppy seed muffins.
Maria left us a super special bar of chocolate on our door.

Must get back to work. Many photos tomorrow.
Sending love to all the artists up right now. Birds are starting to chirp.

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Market Estate: Thirteenth Day, Compiling!

Posted: March 4th, 2010

Morning: We discuss the installation of our piece. Blithe wants it on the windows. Mary does not want to lift anything. Blithe offers to cover them herself. Mary says no way, ambulance prescription you must edit all day and night. Tension. And its before coffee. Not smart.

Blithe goes to edit. Mary covers windows.

Midday we meet with Gaby, ask who is liaison between the organizers for details regarding our residency. She is doing her MA thesis at St. Martins on the subject of artist residencies in “conflicted areas.” She is including the Market Estate project as one of these sites, and we meet with her weekly to talk about our experience here. Today we had a especially good talk about how our time here has been generative and fruitful, while challenging.

We MOVED! We no longer live in the Estate. We live about 20 feet away in the office. It has heat and showers! We are happy although are sacrificing a little privacy. However we knew that it was time to move when the vomit was cleaned from the stairwell. When it moved, we knew we had to also.

Mary and Gadi cooked dinner tonight in the office.

Gadi in the kitchen!

It was nice to sit around a table with everyone and get a taste of the community experience we have been craving. One thing that we have missed is getting quality time with the organizers and other artists and having a space for dialog. It was nice to have  a little of that tonight, if however brief.

The night closes with Blithe and Mary drinking and looking at edited footage. We make some clear decisions about the rough cut of the Corridor video. We will finish a cut of it tomorrow. Blithe did some bulk editing on our three channel piece, although we have yet to make any structural decisions. That will be also be tomorrow.

The organizers are working very hard. The whole place is buzzing with artists as projects are being completed.

Command Central:

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