Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hong Kong

Survived a full day in the air. Now waiting in noodles shop at Hong Kong airport for 9 hour layover (with free WiFi! Shame on NYC airports).

Friday, October 7, 2011

If this is Friday

Back from Tampa! Thanks so much to everyone who helped and supported me!

Now packing for Indonesia, leaving tomorrow. Will be a long journey
NY to Vancouver: 5:50
Layover: 1:15
Vancouver to Hong Kong: 13:19
Layover in Hong Kong: 9:00 (hmm. enough time to go to town?)
Hong Kong to Surabaya: 4:47
Surabaya to Ijen via car: 8 to 10 hours

Total journey: 10,150 miles in air, 150 miles of rutted mountain roads, 42 hours total (assuming all connections are made, and the car doesn't get stuck).

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Heading to Indonesia next week!

Here's some information/links about the area we're exploring.

We'll be in the area of Bondowoso

Here's some weather links:

In town
On the volcano

Info on the Arabica Homestay (our base)

Some interesting photos of the miners

I hope to post my own pictures once we're there!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


The opening of my Tampa mid-career retrospective is tomorrow, October 8. It's up until January 8, 2011, so hope lots of friends can come down and see what I've been up to for the past ten years!

Wet Exit Documentation

Here's a link to a 5 minute video, showing highlights of the WET EXIT performance on Saturday, September 23, 2011.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Performance this Friday and Saturday - Under Manhattan Bridge

I'm very excited about this performance, hope you can make it! It's in the park right outside Smack Mellon in DUMBO.

WET EXIT / Multimedia Performance by Janet Biggs

Friday and Saturday, September 23 & 24 at 8:30pm, weather permitting. Free!

Waterfront Amphitheater in the Brooklyn Bridge Park,
entrance at Main and Plymouth Street.

Smack Mellon presents artist Janet Biggs' premier of Wet Exit, a multi-media performance that looks at loss, chaos and control. Wet Exit combines projected video images, vocalist and musicians, with choreographed kayakers performing in the East River.

Press release and more information >

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Garbo Talks!

I was interviewed by "This Week in NY" - check it out!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

L Magazine

L Magazine Review of show at Winkleman

Exploration Art: Janet Biggs and Duke Riley Scout Forgotten Islands and Dark Tunnels
by Benjamin Sutton

The artist as not just an aesthetic explorer, but an actual traveler discovering uncharted or unauthorized places, is a notion that by necessity involves not just performance but storytelling. We see this, for instance, in land art like Michael Heizer's 1969 desert incision "Double Negative," wherein the piece becomes inseparable from the artist's labor and subsequent visitors' pilgrimages to discover the work. Two young artists doing away with the artwork at the end of the journey, Janet Biggs and Duke Riley, turn the act of exploration and discovery into their medium. Biggs, in a trio of documentary videos on view at Winkleman Gallery, uses a very dramatic mode of presentation. Riley's two mock-historical installations at Magnan Metz Gallery, meanwhile, acknowledge the strange, nearly kitschy novelty of becoming an explorer at a time when Google Earth and similar tools let anyone travel to the farthest reaches of the globe. Both artists document enigmatic journeys in rarely-traversed waters towards obscure islands.

Biggs's first solo show at Winkleman Gallery, The Arctic Trilogy (through March 12), follows three different sorts of explorers in the little-known Svalbard islands in the Arctic Ocean. The shortest, "In the Cold Edge" (2010), shown in an appropriately cavernous rear alcove, follows a spelunker into a seemingly endless glacial cave. Though copiously edited, it's the least complex documentary of the trio. The two larger projections play in alternating loops in the main gallery. "Fade to White" (2010) follows an arctic explorer navigating a 100-year-old sailboat and his kayak through icy waters. Biggs edits the short so that it seem as though the explorer is the only person on the vessel, and conceals whatever research mission is behind this solitary, slightly insane excursion—despite the bearded man's calm demeanor, one can't help but worry for his safety when he's kayaking in icy rain and heavy snow, or near polar bears. This extreme flâneur's Arctic wanderings in majestic, serene landscapes beneath stunning mountains are intercut with countertenor John Kelly—dressed in white against a white backdrop—whose ethereal voice emphasizes the journey's metaphysic rather than scientific power. Not the conventional excursion into wilderness for the sake of self-discovery, "Fade to White," as the title implies, involves a kind of self-erasure.

Its companion piece, "Brightness All Around" (2011), is the best of this very good exhibition. Linda Norberg is a coal miner working several miles beneath the frozen tundra at reinforcing the ceiling of a newly excavated tunnel. She operates a heaving, clattering, buzzing machine in a science fiction setting barely lit by her headlamp, water gushing down all around her. Biggs cuts between the mining machinery's incredible clamor and vocalist Bill Coleman, all in black leather against a black backdrop, singing about near-death experiences over an über-masculine rock guitar instrumental. Biggs inverses the gendered dynamics of exploration in these two major videos, portraying a male traveler as a passive, vulnerable figure in an all-enveloping white landscape, while Norberg drills and transforms the black depths of the planet. The juxtaposition of pristine landscapes in the former and a moon-like mining operation in the later further complicate the exhibition's power dynamics by underlining its environmentalist resonances.

Unlike Biggs, who remains almost completely absent from the excursions she films—she appears at the end of "In the Cold Edge" firing a flare over a frozen lake—Duke Riley stars in his projects. The expeditions brought together in Two Riparian Tales of Undoing at Magnan Metz Gallery (through April 9) involve the cities in which they were first presented: Cleveland and Philadelphia. In the former installation, titled An Invitation to Lubberland and occupying the front half of the gallery, Riley explores the grid of tunnels beneath Cleveland to rediscover an ancient spring called Kingsbury Run, long ago buried beneath the city. Stylized videos of Riley's sub-urban exploration done in Chaplinesque costume and with silent movie title cards lead visitors through a circular hallway lined with mosaics made of glass, tile, coins and cigarettes portraying the homeless communities that inhabit the Run, and the string of murders that led it to be condemned. Part clowning explorer—filming his costumed companion sliding down the gushing tunnel on his belly and marching back upstream—Riley also does some earnest anthropology, rediscovering and dramatizing the practices of the displaced communities that lived along the Run.

Reclaiming the Lost Kingdom of Laird, first shown at the Philadelphia Historical Society, concerns the fate of a small island in the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Camden. An Irish immigrant named Ralston Laird occupied Petty's Island for the second half of the 19th century with his wife and ten children. They were eventually joined by several other immigrant families. He farmed and raised cattle until his home burned down mysteriously, forcing the Lairds and other families to leave the island, which was being eyed for industrial development. The Venezuelan oil company Citgo has occupied the island for decades, building large oil silos on its north end that are now abandoned; Hugo Chavez announced plans in 2009 to donate the island to New Jersey, though contamination clean-up issues have left the island in limbo and off-limits—Riley wrote Chavez an open letter in the Huffington Post demanding that the island be returned to the Laird family. In the meantime he and the Laird Kingdom Liberation Army made an expedition to the island by kayak, retrieving archaeological objects from the burned-down home and—as shown in an informative short documentary—painting a portrait of the forgotten king on the roof of an abandoned Citgo silo. Nearby hand-written charts and faux-historical drawings remind of Treasure Island, although here the island itself, and the curious story that lies buried within, are the treasure.

For both Biggs and Riley, then, these journeys are primarily about strange, little-explored places and the people who seek them out—Werner Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World continually comes to mind, especially in the Arctic shorts. But both are also telling fascinating stories that conflict with official histories and dominant narratives. Linda Norberg, piercing her way through frozen rock in search of raw fuel, is the epitome of the phallic woman. Riley's fond rediscoveries of a homeless-inhabited waterway and immigrant-governed island reveal little-known havens that are both countercultural and profoundly American. Their solitary, enigmatic journeys document fascinating new frontiers of human endeavor.

Friday, February 18, 2011

New York Times Review

The New York Times' Holland Carter has written a lyrical review of my Arctic Trilogy show at Ed Winkleman Gallery.

Art in Review
JANET BIGGS: ‘The Arctic Trilogy’

Published: February 17, 2011

Winkleman Gallery
621 West 27th Street
Through March 12

The three short, related videos that make up Janet Biggs’s debut show at Winkleman were filmed on glacial islands between the top of Norway and the North Pole. Playing on separate screens and in overlapping sequence, the pieces can be viewed in any order, though a gallery news release, which I assume represents the artist’s intentions, suggests starting with “Fade to White,” which was filmed mostly outdoors and serves as an atmospheric scene-setter.

It opens with a shot of an antique schooner. On its deck a man suits up against the cold and launches a kayak. For most of the rest of the video we travel with him through ice-floe-clogged waters, catching glimpses of bears and other wildlife that make up the Arctic’s fragile ecosystem. As if to emphasize fragility, these scenes alternate with studio shots of the performance artist John Kelly, dressed in white and singing a mournful Baroque madrigal. The video moves back and forth between the singer and the seaman, until the kayak heads toward the horizon and the screen goes white.

Most of a second video, “In the Cold Edge,” is a space-distorting tour of an ice-cave interior, its fantastic forms illuminated only by the lights of mining helmets. The third piece, “Brightness All Around,” takes us deep down into the earth where a solitary coal miner and machine operator named Linda Norberg oversees a thunderous array of drills and extractors. As a counterpart to their unearthly clamor, Ms. Biggs has folded in shots of another performer, Bill Coleman, dressed in black leather, and delivering a demonic, death-tinged chant.

As I said, the viewing sequence is optional. I watched “In the Cold Edge” last and was glad I did. It concludes on a stirringly ambiguous note. After we emerge from the ice cave to a terrain as bleakly beautiful as a moonscape, a woman — Ms. Biggs — shoots a flare into the sky. The sudden flash of color, heat and energy comes as a relief in a frozen world. At the same time it implies a condition of emergency, which takes us back to Mr. Kelly’s rendition of a love song that sounds like a lament.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Arctic Trilogy on View

The arctic work will be exhibited at Winkleman Gallery -- see info at !