In the spirit of the spookiest, most ghastly holiday of them all, the ghouls have summoned my powers to spotlight one of Milwaukee’s most cherished art events, GHOOST $HOW. Having just completed its 9th iteration this past weekend 10/27/18, GHOOST $HOW is a well known, annual tradition shared among Milwaukee artists, performers, curators, organizers, goblins, ghosts, monsters, and evil spirits alike. Shrouded in mystery and clouded with ominous energies from beyond the grave, the annual spooky themed art event exists between multiple venues and exhibits work from local and national creatives - which can range anywhere from 20-70 participating artists, performers, and filmmakers each year. Beyond the hundreds of participants and multiple venues the one night only art event has encompassed for nine years, GHOOST $HOW relies on a team of hosts that are called upon by evil spirits to jury, curate, and organize the artwork each year. The ghouls communicate through their hosts and do not hesitate to cast spells on those who attempt to reach them. I was lucky enough to be granted passage into the ghouls’ creative minds by way of an interview with their various hosts - but under the cost of my immortal soul. Their responses underline the presence of a thriving art community in Milwaukee —one that encourages participation, embraces alternative spaces, and supports fellow artists and organizers.
Firstly, can you expose thoust ghoulish identity by naming yourself? How long/how many years have you been involved with 00000 Ghoost $how (either as an organizer/venue and/or exhibitor)?
You have summoned the Ghouls. Unholy spirits of 00000 GHOOST $HOW shall grant ye audience at the cost of your immortal soul. We are unnamed, wretched, and tormented souls.
The Ghouls have inhabited the souls of different artists through the years. When we first descended to Milwaukee to wreak havoc on Riverwest in the fall of 2010 we possessed the spirits of three weak mortals, Sara Caron, Bradly Fischer and Ashley Janke. Other collaborators - Joe Acri, American Fantasy Classics, Sam Biallas, Stephanie Lane Gage, Carly Huibregste, Kayle Karbowski, Sally Nicholson, Lara Ohland, Tim Stoelting, Alec Regan, and John Riepenhoff (to name just a few from a long list) have performed our ghoulish will in following years. The Ghouls require their hosts to be willing to organize a large, unwieldy exhibition with no money and with the volunteer labor of their friends. None of these hosts go willingly in the abyss of Ghoost $how.
What can you share about the history of 00000 Ghoost $how - how did the first iteration come about?
In the beginning, the possessed beings who believed they originated Ghoost $how of their own free will were friends and collaborators. Brad and Sara ran Small Space in a vacant storefront on Holton and Ashley ran nAbr in a meticulously built out space in her apartment attic. At the time of the first Ghoost $how the structure of the exhibition, across multiple galleries, spoke to this generative spirit and served as a vehicle of pure chaos and mayhem for The Ghouls. Brad framed the show as an event more than an exhibition. From the beginning the show has been a way to get as many artists and spaces involved as possible as a means to build a community around these spaces. What hasn’t changed much from the first iteration to the most recent is that most of the work that’s submitted is accepted, with a few exceptions from time to time. It’s a forum for young artists to gain experience showing work and to see galleries and possibilities they may have been unaware of and for other artists to excise their most demented creative impulses. Over the years some of the work has been pretty weird, maybe bad? Every year the show gives that whole range of spooky art a context.
00000 Ghoost $how VII at After School Special
What are your observations of the growth of 00000 Ghoost $how over the past 9 years?
We Ghouls do summon the spirit of Bradly Fischer to answer this question:
“After working in New York’s gallery scene for the past 6 years, every time I see online that the Ghoost $how is continuing for another year I feel so happy and also relieved. Relief that there is still a community of smart, talented artists somewhere in this country organizing events that exist outside the toxic overly capitalist art market dictated by a minority of oligarchs. Maybe we can save that conversation for another time...”
We Ghouls peer into our burbling cauldron deep in our lair, the steam clears the horrid brew and we see the obscure visage of Ashley Janke, our most loyal, familiar, longtime organizer:
“00000 GHOOST $HOW happens each year like magic, despite the fact that there have been years none of us want to exert the energy to pull it all together. I was sure the fourth would have been the last. Many of our spaces had closed and Milwaukee was in the lull it can kind of get into, but the moment summer weather shifted to fall, I began to receive messages asking about the next ghost show and realised it wasn’t a choice, it needed to happen. The project is truly a spirit. A haunting untied to a physical art space. Each year it is summoned by artists and so it returns. I left Milwaukee to pursue my masters in 2016 and despite my doubts, I was pleased to see it continue for three more years. Next year will be a decade of 00000 GHOOST $HOW, just wait and see what we have instore.”
00000 Ghoost $how VII at After School Special
A door slams in the empty house, Sara Caron, originator and sometimes organizer, sometimes exhibitor feels a sudden chill and is compelled to speak:
“It seems so natural to me that the exhibition has continued. Sometimes it’s on a larger scale, sometimes on a smaller one but there’s always some gesture towards it this time of year. We didn’t start it with any grand ambitions. As Small Space, nAbr, and Imagination Giants closed other spots like Horses, After School Special, Gluon, The Open, Peeler’s, and Open Kitchen opened in the same spirit. Ashley has been the most consistent organizer since the beginning, I’ve drifted in and out, but even when neither of us is interested at all any more I think it’s a timeless form and someone else will take up the mantle. It’s fun and goofy and there’s no way to mess it up. Because of the inclusivity and the general attitude of the project there’s never been a version that ‘failed’”
Maps designed by Reece Ousey (left) and Nate Pyper (right), printed by Martian Press for 00000 Ghoost $how VI & VII
In the reflection of the full moon on the filthy Milwaukee river we see an image of Stephanie Lane Gage emerge, the horrible figure croaks through the rippling tide:
“The first Ghoost $how I experienced was maybe the second or third—the first year was before I had moved to Milwaukee. It was a pretty exciting introduction to the Milwaukee art scene, and the mystery of it continued for me a few years before I actually got to know some of the organizers of the show. Before that, it really was this kind of strange entity that just appeared every October. It definitely seemed like an incredible fixture in Milwaukee and I was always looking forward to when the next October rolled around, hoping that it hadn’t fizzled into the abyss. Ghoost $how’s inclusivity and embracement of more comical/whimsical/satirical artwork was really refreshing in a time when all I knew about art was a more serious white-wall approach. Its celebratory, unpretentious nature was super formative for me as I was coming into my own as an artist and a curator, so I couldn’t have been more pleased when the ghouls from the afterlife possessed me to pick up the mantle for organizing the show in 2016.”
00000 Ghoost $how VII at After School Special
In your opinion, what is the most interesting aspect of hosting and/or organizing a multi-venue, one night only art exhibition/event?
These foolish mortal artists and organizers in Milwaukee seem to be less interested in competition than artists in other parts of the underworld. The more we can spread our demonic rhetoric, the better! More spaces allow us to exhibit more work of our mortal playthings, and allow for a night full of ghastly glee, overtaking the puny city of Milwaukee for one evil night each fall.
How do you think 00000 Ghoost $how has impacted the art community in Milwaukee over the past years?
We Ghouls haunt this land for a brief time each October. We desire only to descend and lay the seeds of bedlam. We call again on Stephanie, a being cursed to have witnessed the disorder we sowed:
“I think Ghoost $how displays the true spirit of the Milwaukee art community and serves as an exciting and long-running tradition to allow artists that have never exhibited before to take part in a celebration of ghoulish work. It also celebrates alternative gallery spaces, and is something that encourages these gallery spaces to continue operating and beginning and flourishing. It’s truly a showcase of the nature of the Milwaukee art scene. Allowing a tradition to possess new souls as it has continued for 9 years and will continue on into the veil of the future.”
00000 Ghoost $how VI at Horses
How many exhibition venues/spaces in Milwaukee can you estimate have been utilized for 00000 Ghoost $how over the course of its existence? How many artists do you estimate have participated?
Easily hundreds of artists have shown in 00000 GHOOST $HOW, some show every year, some just once, at least a dozen venues have participated, the largest ever was probably 6 different locations with over 70 artists.
Here we troubled spirits conjure an incomplete timeline of spaces and organizers:
2010- Small Space and nAbr
2011- American Fantasy Classics (Alec Regan, Olliver Sweet, Brittany Ellenz, Liza Pflugohft), Center (Cody Frei, Mike Senise, Tyler Roberts), Sara & Ashley
2012- Imagination Giants (Ashley Janke, Lara Ohland, Tim Stoelting), Nomadic Arts Center and 516-TJK
2013- Imagination Giants
2014- Ashley, Sam Biallas, Carly Huibregste
2015- Ashley, Sam (BORDERLINE) juried, Spaces included: BORDERLINE + ASS + GGW + HORSES + Lucky Cat + Blue Dress Park + The Triangle
2016- Stephanie Gage + ASS, Spaces: Blue Dress Park, BORDERLINE, GGW, Chamber, Open/Oven/Outlet, Trustfall, The Triangle, The Squat, ASS
2017- Kayle Karbowski + ASS
2018- Gluon, Grapefruit, Green Gallery West, The Open, Peeler’s, Open Kitchen
Do you have a favorite memory/artwork/performance piece/venue that has been part of any nine iterations that sticks out in your mind that you would like to mention?
There are too many for the spirits to choose, but among our favorites include the performance by the band ‘The Ghosts’, the ‘Anti-social Room’, ‘Ghoul Car Wash’, and the ‘Wound Bin’ which still haunt our dreams. Wes Tank’s haunting performance in Grapefruit Studios in 2015 and Xav Leplae and Richard Galling’s black-crust-pig’s head-pizza that was belched from the hellfire of the Oven in 2016 also stick out in our mind.
This year Rosie Brandenburg’s video “Climax - The Demon Jolia” and Stephanie Lane Gage’s “Cursed Object Trading Cards” pleased the twisted minds of the Ghouls.
Thanks and damnation to all the participating artists and spaces over the past 9 years these dreaded Ghouls have reigned!