Sunday, February 28, 2010

Practices Now

I like your past posts, and was thinking about doing that ArtHouse project, too. (I can't believe they've moved to NYC.) I also was equally as enthralled by the William Kentridge exhibit at the Norton---I can easily say that it was the best, most engaging and worthwhile show I have seen in the past 5 years. His studio video installation is currently up at the MCA for their show Production Site: The Artist’s Studio Inside-Out, exploring artists' practices and interpretations of "the studio."

It's funny...although life seems to be even-ing out a bit, I feel like I'm busier than ever. Although I'm still thinking about a lot, I never make time to write. Maybe I need a new assignment or a different line of questioning?

A few weeks ago now, I attended a few lectures at the CAA Conference, which was good critical thinking fuel. Here are some highlights I think you might like:
My first session, LifeLoggers, focused on artists who chronicle the everyday as part of their art-making. In line with a lot of art that we already subscribe to, like Danica Phelps or the blog "obsessive consumption," these artists are using their personal lives as material. Stephen Cartwright began tracking his daily location with his GPS device, data with which he uses to make a variety of forms--sculpture, video, dynamic charts and graphs. One of my favorite projects of his, entitled Family Tree/Life Location, was informed by collected data of the locations of his family members over their entire lives thus far. Much like our interest in the networked mapping and experimental line projects we did for Drawing is a Verb, these products reveal interesting space relationships over time. Check out the video: Although his work comes across as rather clinical and serious, the way he described the process of acquiring all this data was very lively. From the time he began logging his location, he needed to retroactively log his life from birth. To do this (as well as to find the locational data for his family members from their birth) he pieced together clues--his sister's birthdays, holidays, and other momentous occasions, studying old pictures and other remnants of the past, including the collective memory of his family, until he had a weekly account for everyone. I find this project most interesting because it didn't stem from a tedious mechanical log, but a complex and relational negotiation of memory. Another artist, Renato Umali, journals his own life in quantifiable terms, making terrible (his words) Excel spreadsheets and charts--the personal in the forms of business culture. The irony of content and form is very humorous, rating his alcohol consumption comparatively to his mood, or meat consumption in relation to talking to his parents. You can view some of his "Statistical Diaries here: As part of his presentation he reenacted an on-going project: The Umali Awards. The make-shift award show mimics popular award shows like the Academy Awards, yet celebrates daily life. "The nominees for Best Eggs are...Scrambled (and a powerpoint slide will show a picture of scrambled eggs), Fried with Rice..." and so on. There is a category for "Best day of the year" for which he allows others to vote, and DIWITTY (Day In Which I Talked To You) for which one person is awarded for having the most exchanges with the artist. It's funny stuff, and most importantly creates an intimate celebration of the everyday.
My other fave session was "Artist Citizen: Catalysts, Collectives, and Utopias," which included artists, social researchers, teachers, historians and critics on how art operates in the social sphere. Cause Collective discussed their projects and interests in the dialogical process of making of art in public, showing excerpts of their video installation "Along the Way" at the Oakland International Airport. Liena Vayzman brought lemons to share with us all the way from her backyard in California, as an introduction to her talk about Food as Art as Sustainability Activism. Jim Duignan of DePaul University discussed his founding and continuing efforts with the Stockyard Institute in Chicago. It's an alternative education-based project that often works with disadvantaged youth, breaking all the traditional rules of education, in favor of artful pedagogical experiments that empower young people to think for themselves. I would love to get involved with this! Finally, Sheryl Oring, an artist I think you will really like, shared some old projects and current "Creative Fix" Campaign. (In line with our recurring themes of old-fashioned letter writing---her website is really good, too.) For her project "I wish to say" she dressed up as a secretary in a public office and hand-typed postcards on a typewriter from individuals from the public. Posing questions about the freedoms protected by the First Amendment, she asked people, "If I were the President, what would you wish to say to me?" You can read many of the postcards on her site or the project blog: In a similar process, her current project "Creative Fix" facilitates and elevates others' voices on the subject of our current socio-political predicament. Believing that artists and other creative thinkers can play a legitimate role in big decision-making, as individuals who have valuable solutions to today's problems, she poses another question to this particular public: "What would you do to fix the country if you could do anything at all?" See some of the responses (from the seriously poetic to the beautifully absurd) here:

Whew! Enjoy the links. I have more to come.

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