Home > Article > Nothing Always Happens > Tempests, Teacups, Tantrums, etc.


Dallas’ Central Trak launched this past week. It’s the latest incarnation of the UTD-sponsored effort formerly known as the UTD/South Side Artist Residency,
which was my entrée to the Big D three years ago. It limped along
without funding, was pretty disastrously mismanaged, and ignominiously
collapsed after only two years. The need for such a program here in
town remained however, so new partnerships were forged, and most
importantly, some money was rustled up. A search was conducted for a
director – in my continual hunt for a decent art-related paycheck
without having to move away, and since I was teaching at UTD anyway, I
was encouraged to join the cast of thousands who applied. Dr. Rick
Brettell, the primary impetus behind both programs, had once asked me
if I’d think about taking the helm at South Side. It was too far gone
at that point to even be seriously considered, and his asking was I’m
sure an act of pure desperation. I wasn’t called back this time, which
was totally fine. Really, why would they? I’m just an
“under-represented” artist and lapsed Zen monk with a somewhat
unfocused blog…

Word on the street was that the
final, quite promising-sounding shortlist included a Mexican curator,
and a woman from Boston, if memory serves. Then, last summer, I heard
from insiders that there was an “exciting late development,” which soon
turned out to be Charissa Terranova.
She jumped ship at SMU (to their chagrin), enticed over to UTD with a
tenure-track gig to include the residency directorship and a class or
two. Sweet deal. So, a few months pass, and I guess there was an
invite-only opening gala last Thursday. It’s all started off with a
bang, apparently.

Ted Setina
is a UNT grad who’s been kicking around Dallas the last few years, and
who’s shown at Road Agent. Yet another casualty of exactly the kind of
problems that sank UTD/South Side, he had applied in 2005 and been
promised a stint there into 2006. As the date closed in, he tried
ineffectually to get any confirmation that he was indeed going to be
able to move in. As it turned out, he got bumped by another artist,
without explanation or notice. The whole thing shuttered before he got

Cut to 2008 – he applies again, is
accepted again, and moves in not two weeks before the opening. He’s
told – rather, given the opportunity – to get a piece together for open
studios that night. The theme and title of the Terranova curated show
in the gallery is “False Space and Time of the Apartment” which I’m
told is a line from JG Ballard – another one of those names that equate
to insta-cred on the pseudo-intellectual street. It would be funny to
tally how many times he gets name-dropped in your average CAA
conference. In a weird crossover, my stoner friends back in the day
loved him. I seem to remember one of those RE/Search books on him and Burroughs that lived next to the bong. Don’t bogart that copy of Crash, dude.

Anyhoo, Setina, who has flirted with
a kind of neo-conceptual practice before, in relation to the theme had
what I think’s an inspired notion. He got a dj, and locked himself in
his new studio with a group of willing individuals for the length of
the opening. No one was to enter or leave, and the dj was to play so
loud as to preclude frivolity or pleasure of any kind. A kind of
sensory-overload endurance tank (in other words, your typical bar in
the West End).
They were all to be prisoners for those two or three hours, hidden from
the event outside, yet intruding upon and engaging it.

Someone I know attended that night (the Thursday night preview),
and not knowing anything about it told me later it was easily the most
interesting thing there – this pregnant question mark punctuating an
otherwise canned evening. He said that it was obviously too loud for a
real party to be happening in there, and without knowing if there was
really anything to get, he totally got it. Is there someone in there?
What are they doing? How can they stand it? Being/Nothingness.
Commentary on contemporary social interaction. A sort of faux-teenage
rebellious, Duchampian dance party; Schrödinger’s Rave…

Terranova was informed ahead of time
what was happening (locked door, noise etc), without exactly revealing the mystery. During the
opening she chose to just unlock his door without permission, actually
ushering attendees uninvited into the artist’s studio. The seal was
broken. Setina felt the piece was over, fucked; or was it? He called an
audible, turning over all of his furniture and making the place look
like the aftermath of a massive party. Everyone left, except the DJ,
who continued the deafening spinning. Nice. Let a local art legend

Later that night, in full parental
drill sergeant mode, Terranova supposedly dressed down Setina in front
of two dozen wine swilling stragglers, shouting that he was immature
and telling him to “grow up”. Nice way to treat one of your resident
guest artists in front of Dallas’ invited art world who’s who. Follow
up attempts at rapprochement were rebuffed. It seems to me that she
missed the point; which maybe makes the piece even better. It’s hard to
create a stir anymore. I’m jealous.

Other sources are reporting that some
other residents, a whole two weeks in, are disgruntled and already
drafting complaints about their experience so far. There’s always a
learning curve. I sincerely hope things keep getting worked out. But
you got to massage those artist egos. It’s probably something on par
with herding cats.

Now, I found out about all this only
after the public event for the hoi polloi on Saturday. I wanted to go
to show my support, but had to be cajoled by my wife due to a
premonition that I should stay home (or at And/Or, who btw had another great opening). Yet more proof you have to listen to intuition.

In a truly spectacular irony, there
was a dj in the courtyard outside the building, playing obnoxious
pumping club music way too loud, complete with spinning disco ball
casting primary colored spotlights all around. Feeling pretty well
trapped myself, I shouted to someone next to me “Whoops, forgot my glow
sticks!” which I thought was clever till 5 people came out and shouted
the same thing at me. So goes a cliche. Aerosol party in a can: whoo

I did get to catch up with a number
of my former UTD colleagues and students, one of whom has a studio in
the building and wanted to show me his new work. As we talked, an
unconvincingly smiling Terranova walked up, and without greeting or
preamble, butts in a bit too loudly to say “I’m glad you’re moving to
Chicago, Titus, so you can just get out of Dallas and go be bitter
somewhere else.” Ahem. Well, then…socially at a bit of a loss (I just
wanted to see the kid’s art and move along, fer chrissakes), I tried to
laugh it off in that discomfited way one does (”heh heh, yeah, bitter
ol’ me, heh…”), but she just kept stepping in closer and closer,
inexplicably repeating the same thing two more times with increasing
venom, I guess in case I missed that she wasn’t kidding around (which
is all especially weird, ‘cuz I’m actually not bitter at all. Lick me.
I dare ya. Sweet as candy.)

Almost speechlessly creepified, I
managed to get out “Charming as always, Charissa,” and walk away. She
dismissively yelled after me across the full gallery, “Why don’t you
just go blog about it?” Well, that is my little thing. Seriously
though; is this how the director of a visible new art center chooses to
roll on the big night? Is this public outreach, building bridges in the
community? Me, I’m just a loose cannon with more opinions than sense,
beholden to no one; except of course to you, dear readers.

Terranova is no doubt an asset to
Dallas in some ways, and she certainly keeps herself visible. Careful
attentiveness to human interactions, with a welcoming sense of
intellectual openness doesn’t strike me as exactly her leadership
style. I don’t really see a need for her to going throwing her
new-found weight around like this, in any case. But hey Dallas, she’s yours for now.
Bon chance and the blessings of the buddhas to all.

Which presents me wth the need, and opportunity, to explain that my wife just got a full-ride offer to the MFA program at University of Illinios Chicago,
which she’s leaning toward accepting, so we’re going this week to check
it out. Cocktails and power lunches for a week straight. I might once
again be polishing up my flat vowels and hard consonants, as I possibly
rejoin my Midwestern brethren by fall. Nothing’s final yet. But I like
Chicago. Such good hot dogs. Go Rex Grossman – you can do it! (I’m
practicing…this switching of football loyalties is the toughest part…)



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35 Responses

  1. a boy and bear

    Once the casting is done, does she then continue making formal decisions as she “paints” this form? Does she take this new point in the work and continue, using the original construction for input, yet tweaking and changing as she moves forward?

  2. theremin

    I don’t blame Charissa Terranova for pulling the plug on Ted’s passive-aggressive intrusion on the opening. His premise was insincere. In reality, he was just dangling his balls in the face of the curator, and all the artists in the REAL show. “So, I wasn’t picked for your coming out party? Well, I’m having my own party in here! You can here me, but you can’t come in… Fuck you, I do what I want”!!! Whatever… Yes, there are some weak sisters in the show. None are as weak as Ted Setina’s (or, is that Sativa?) territorial pissings. It is cohesive in theme, and much smarter than a teenage fanclub.

  3. lucky Girl

    My thoughts
    April 22, 2008 5:48 AM
    Time goes by so slowly
    Time goes by so slowly
    Time goes by so slowly….

    I never consider myself as a party girl. I feel comfortable infront of large crowds but in small parties i can get painfully shy….but last weeks something changed…I am trying to follow the night….i am trying to do everything just not to stay at home on weekend…i am trying to be the centre of everybody’s attention…

  4. theremin

    Well, if you do follow your wife to Chicago you should consider:
    1) Not being a mean-hearted, self-serving asshole who uses his blogs to lash out at others who are more successful (Charissa Terranova, Robyn O’Neil, and Kenny Goss, to name a few).
    2) Refraining from negative comments about people who were chosen for a job that you applied for.
    3)Or, Just going somewhere else to be bitter… 😉

  5. Veronika

    I Want to Party With:
    I love meeting other people who are confrontational and passionate about what they do
    Body Type: Slender
    I Am Here For: Friends
    Sexual Orientation: Straight
    Ethnicity: White/Caucasian
    Relationship Status: Don’t Ask!
    Religion: None
    I am Healthy Striver- i see mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning.Every failure makes me to create energy
    Makes Me Happy:
    my friends
    Makes Me Sad:
    a lie
    Final Words:
    In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story

  6. terranov

    Thanks Tetanus for responding to Rainey’s call. ‘Hope your meds kick in soon. Hang tuf, you can do it Little Guy!

  7. theremin

    I am not saying Ted isn’t talented, likable, or sincere – in most situations. I am saying that such a stunt like this at the premiere opening can only be seen as inappropriate, and one shouldn’t wonder why. I don’t see anything posted that would lead anyone to believe that drugs use was ever suggested by anyone, Tet – Anus.
    Snort (as in chuckle)…

  8. another tired cowboy

    Much to everyone’s loss, theremin is the only a mean-hearted, self-serving asshole posting here lately….ooops, didn’t see terranov’s post. The only thing more crass than pulling up her shirt for a
    ‘real ‘ bunch of assholes was Robyn O’Neil saying she was pulling down 6 figures. Get thee to Jenny Craig, Robyn!
    Good luck in Chicago, Titus. I hope it works out. If only I could pull down six figures! Forget the rack!

  9. terranov

    Why is it that no one is brave enough to sign in under their real name? Everyone knows that “terranov” is me, Charissa. We now know that “Curve” is Tetanus. I am sure you don’t have that much to lose. Why not come out and spew bile under your real name?

  10. another tired cowboy

    I don’t hear a thing, theremin. No surprises there. You haven’t illustrated, to my slim satisfaction, whatever it is that is your actual ‘ability’ or talent here . I myself, hate openings (even the quick easy ones) and I didn’t attend this one
    (which granted, sounds pretty awful), I and won’t attend the next one either.
    There are always too many pedestrians, noise, and tourists and of course, the bad, cheap, booze which abounds in Dallas and in Houston. Titus has been too chatty and self-absorbed at times but he wrote well to begin with. I remember that. He is young and he’ll learn and he’ll get better.

  11. another tired cowboy

    and in my low, base, cowardly, anonymous opinion, Terranov will not get better. She deserves Dallas.
    And how!

  12. theremin

    I am So Glad to see this has degenerated into the flame-fest that a blog post such as this deserves. Another Tired, Catty-bunghole: you are a mean old Queen without a country. I hope the last few years you have left on this planet are brighter, and more cheery. : )

  13. edward setina

    I would first like to express my appreciation for the generous review offered by Titus. That being said, I do not condone any public critique of personal character and discourage the use of this forum for any means excluding constructive and intellectual dialogue. The nature of art entitles each viewer to evaluate the level of success of each peice. I value this quality and endorse its application to my work. To anyone offended by the nature of Thursday’s performance, i offer my sincerest apologies and stress that this was not my desired effect. I would suggest that the community’s focus be on nurturing the success of the Centraltrak program, as the benefits of its contribution effect the reputation of the entire art community. I encourage the participants of this discussion to prevent further damage by deleting any subject matter that is not directly in response to the work. I welcome even the most negative critique of my art but am insulted by its use as a vehicle for personal agendas.

  14. Rainey

    OK, everyone: time to take a deep breath and rein in the nasty comments. We’ll delete anything going forward that crosses any of the many lines crossed below. Thanks and happy posting.

  15. tobrienwriter

    what happened to Charissa’s various comments?
    I found them indicative of exactly the kind of arrogance and weirdly impolitic manner revealed in events discussed above, and felt that they should have been kept for posterity, along with the rest of the gems.
    Rainey, don’t you care to comment on the accusations of you hiring out your dirty work?
    And somebody really ought to out theremin. This guy needs a serious dose of accountability.

  16. theremin

    Yep, you really learned to stand still like the blue buddha in that center. I want my posts deleted because (unlike you) I feel it is wrong to put Ted Setina in the middle of what seems to be your grudge against your obvious superiors. I listened to what he had to say on the matter, and I think it is the right decision. Now, kindly F O.

  17. tobrienwriter

    when comes the moment when you post the same diatribe 4000 times to try and overwhelm the site, like you did last time?
    do you really have this much free time? Are Kenny and Charissa really under such threat that they need this kind of defense? Am I really that much of a threat to you?
    you’re kind of freaking us all out dude.

  18. Sinner

    Dear Rainey,
    Why is it you forgive (erase) some of the sins (posts) here and not all of them? I think many lessons have most certainly been finally learned. (I want you to block my ip to this entire site after this post). Theremin asked that you to take it all away. And you didn’t, although you took the various sins of others away. So I have to wonder, why the special treatment for some? Ask yourself, ‘What would Jesus do?’ I’m asking you to Wash Us All clean as snow. Take it ALL away, (please take mine too.)

  19. theremin

    1) Freemasons rule the world for their lizard masters
    2) The world is as flat as a serving of Crepe Suzette
    3)If we make enough ethanol from food, we can simply outrun the starving hordes in our SUV’s
    3b) Before posting (and this goes for bloggers, too), ask yourself: “What would Brian Boitano do?”
    Honestly, I just don’t think it’s fair to put Ted Setina in the middle of this. But, I am sure people are smart enough to know this, even if nothing else is pulled.

  20. titus_obrien

    Rainey’s been occupied, but conveyed to me the GT policy. She will only delete comments when individuals with verifiable identities simply contact her to ask; she will comply forthwith. Easy enough.

  21. ryanfitzer

    Great post as always Titus.

    I’ve appreciated your candor on this blog tremendously. Hopefully you can keep it going from Chicago. I will definitely tune in.

    It’s really sad to hear about the troubled start of the second incarnation of the UTD residency. As an alum of the first one, I really got a lot out of it. There were surely problems but I would do it over none the less.

    While reading, I was expecting to hear a little more about the search process for the director. I remember the “exciting late development” (which seemed not only unethical, but uncertain legally) situation and right away realized the residency was going to face some major challenges and had learned little from the mistakes of the SouthSide.

    Hopefully the artists can squeeze the most out if while they have the chance, I know I did.

    Btw, please let us know what Raychael decides.

  22. terranov

    I am entering this blog because, as the Director of Centraltrak, I, Charissa N. Terranova, PhD, am responsible for setting the record straight and posting a more veritable account of the events that occurred last weekend at Centraltrak: The UT Dallas Artists Residency. It is my responsibility to make certain that the truth is known about the residency.

    Please bear in mind that the author of this blog, Titus O’Brien, did not attend the opening on Thursday night. Mr. O’Brien has written about events he neither saw nor experienced. His writing – or reporting – is based largely on hearsay and not empirical evidence or experience.

    Also bear in mind that Mr. O’Brien begins his blog with an account of his failure to attain the post of Director of the UTD artists residency. Please bear in mind, thus, that this, his failure to attain the Directorship, is at least in part his motivation for writing a blog entry that is neither constructive nor critical but destructive and divisive.

    There seems to be confusion about what constitutes criticism and its distinction from reportage and debased personal attacks. Criticism can be negative or positive, but it always opens new intellectual space. Even if dissecting it builds. Criticism is an intellectual contribution that furthers intellectual discussion and debate. To be “criticized” would have been fine: I welcome criticism. This – Mr. O’Brien’s blog entry about me — is not criticism. Mr. O’Brien’s entry is a personal attack and does nothing to further develop the Texas discourse on the arts. It is parochial and provincial – two things Centraltrak: The UT Dallas Artists residency is not.

    Mr. O’Brien: Please refrain from posting blogs full of lies and negativity. Not only are you doing yourself a disservice, but, more importantly, you’re misrepresenting the state of Texas. In your petty entries, you represent the state and more precisely the city of Dallas as ankle-biting, bitter, narrow-minded, and parochial – all qualities many of us are working diligently to erase and move beyond.

    When you’re ready to engage in an intelligent, cool-headed, critical discussion about the work in the show, False Space and Time of the Apartment, please contact me. I am open to meeting with you in person to discuss this. I invite you to a public debate at Centraltrak in the gallery to discuss intelligently the work in the show and the state of criticism and art writing in DFW. My schedule is flexible because the semester is ending at UTD. Let’s together on dates for a public discussion of your ideas and positions. Do contact me if you’re interested: terranova@utdallas.edu

    For the record, here are the falsehoods Mr. O’Brien presented in his recent blog entries:

    From Centraltrak entry:

 “He’s [Ted Setina] told to get a piece together for open studios that night.” I never told Ted this.

    “Terranova was informed ahead of time what was happening (locked door, noise etc), without exactly revealing the mystery.” I wasn’t told.

”Terranova dressed down Setina in front of two dozen wine swilling stragglers, shouting that he was immature and telling him to “grow up”.” Not true.

 I never said these things.

    “As we talked, a smiling Terranova walked up, butting loudly in to tell me she’s glad I’m moving to Chicago, so that I can just get out of town and be bitter somewhere else.” I told Mr. O’Brien that I was glad that he was moving because maybe he wouldn’t be so bitter in Chicago.


From Conduit Countdown entry:

    “Fully enacting the darker side of collaboration, co-curator Charissa Terranova apparently got mad at one of the artists and severed her own connectivity.” Not true again. This absolutely never happened.

  23. ryanfitzer

    I don’t read blogs for pure/objective writing. Not that they can’t do such a thing, it’s just not my expectation (my experience is that a lot of people feel the same). This blog has always represented itself faithfully as a witty, educated, gossip laden, subjective experience from Titus’ point of view. To suggest otherwise shows a lack of time spent reading this blog as well as a misunderstanding of the medium in general.

    On Bitterness and Jealousy:
    The first paragraph transparently discloses Titus’ relationship to the residency and the search for the director. Of course, by doing so, Titus has opened himself to the claims of jealously and bitterness, it crossed my mind as well. But he has also done his due diligence in making sure that the reader knows his bias. And the statement “‘cuz I’m not actually not bitter at all. Lick me. Sweet as candy.” reinforces this (and makes for a hilarious visual).

    A Great Idea:
    It would be great if the Centraltrak site had a blog (this goes for all arts institutions really) that could expose more about the current events and culture at the residency (the Fort Worth Modern does a great job at this). The calendar definitely helps but I would like to see something more lively and open. A proactive outreach/community aspect would give readers greater dimension to what is currently a very flat discussion. This would also give the director, currently Charissa N. Terranova, PhD, a smart platform to dispel this type of publicity in a way that is befitting of a director to a valuable community resource.

  24. anklebiter

    Wow. I’ve never seen someone say ‘bear in mind…’ so often. Charissa N. Terranova, PhD, must think most of us have short attention spans or ADD or ADHD, or maybe she thinks we just can’t think for ourselves.

    It tickles me to death to see the ‘PhD’ she has tacked onto the end of her name, like some sort of smallish trophy that she wants to make sure no one overlooks. PhD’s, artist catalogs, large cash awards, etc…. are all a lot like the small colorful ribbons and metals pinned onto the chests of military generals. Titles and lines on a resume are most certainly a soothing balm to the often damaged and fragile egos of artists and academics alike. (I actually know someone with a 30-page resume.)

    This didn’t read like fiction, although sometimes fiction is simply better reading. Nor did it reek of sour grapes and it didn’t read as a personal attack. It read as a re-telling of events, the sort you’d expect to find in a blog.

    But the best part of her response for me is when she says, ”In your petty entries, you represent the state and more precisely the city of Dallas as ankle-biting, bitter, narrow-minded, and parochial – all qualities many of us are working diligently to erase and move beyond.”. Doesn’t she see, she has just confirmed the label! And she thinks she is one of the chosen ones who is going to help ‘us’ move past our ankle-biting, bitter, narrow-minded selves.
    So far as I can tell, her writing doesn’t indicate that ability.

  25. aka mc gusto

    I am thinking these two should face off. T vs T. putt putt, staring contest, mixed martial arts, spelling bee, something “competitive” so there can be a winner and a loser. oh yeah and every one should take sides. just a thought. Ive got 2 dollars on……ah hell who am i kidding its just days of our lives.

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