Archive for November 9, 2010

Our far-flung staff, cont’d…

“I had no nation now but the imagination.”

Derek Walcott

You may have read about our new director, Gordon Knox, in ASUNews recently:

What the article doesn’t mention is where Gordon was at the end of October – namely Nairobi, Kenya, at “Imagining Futures,” a conference hosted by Aga Khan University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences in East Africa Digital Expressive and Business for the Arts Program (an extraordinary mouthful that we will now refer to as simply Aga Khan University).

The goal of the conference was, in Gordon’s words, “imagining and developing a curriculum for a new liberal arts East African university designed to prepare students for the 21st century in a post-discliplary context ,” and he was invited to attend the conference by Aga Khan University because of his work at places like Stanford and in countries like Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan “providing creative practitioners opportunities to engage with technology, corporate research, education, social justice efforts on the ground and social change.”

“Here’s the kicker,” Gordon says. “When I got there, I said ‘I’m currently the director of the ASU Art Museum,’ and everybody was totally excited. They see ASU and the New American University as the absolute model for what they’re doing. Michael Crow is really a  rock star among the curriculum developers and the theoreticians moving forward with this.”

The group discussions Gordon participated in included an inquiry into the nature of art as an investigative tool and “as a system for challenging and advancing our assumptions on a cultural level” (which, coincidentally, is one of the subjects that Robert Atkins will be addressing in his appearance next Tuesday when he kicks off our new series Re-Thinking the Museum

“I took those ideas and applied them to the expressive arts,” Gordon explains. “It’s perfectly integrated into the mission and goals of the New American University, of ASU’s cross-disciplinary, focused approach designed to encourage entrepreneurship and creativity, to transform society through use-inspired research and empowered students.”

Each of the four working groups at the conference delivered an outline of recommendations for the curriculum. Next, the conference organizers will figure out where they want to go with those recommendations.

And ASU may very well receive a visit from a contingency of the senior people at the conference “to see what we’re up to,” as Gordon puts it.

“I’ve invited a few participants to come to present their work next spring, including Raphael Omondi, a 21-year-old street performer and organizer who developed a series of arts locations in different parts of Nairobi.”

Gordon believes work like Omondi’s holds important lessons about how the museum can engage communities.

“It’s where people meet the archive that the museum exists,” Gordon says. “The ASU Art Museum is energetically exploring and expanding that lateral reach into our communities, including the university and the Phoenix area, while energizing and making relevant the complex thinking embedded in the objects of our collection.”

November 9, 2010 at 10:49 pm Leave a comment

“The Museum as Knowledge Producer”

Next Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 6 p.m., here in the museum’s Multi-Purpose Room, art historian and social critic Robert Atkins will kick off our “Re-Thinking the Museum” lecture series in a talk called “The Museum as Knowledge Producer,” in which he will ruminate on the nature of art and the role of the art museum in contemporary culture.

Here’s some info from the announcement:

…Atkins argues for the necessity of transforming the museum’s primary function from conservator of artistic achievement to research-based producer of knowledge, aligning it exactly with the university’s mission. Achieving this will demand an understanding of art as both the most complex form of knowledge and as a crucial means of apprehending the world, a significant shift for a culture that trivializes art as therapy or entertainment.

Re-Thinking the Museum is a series of residencies and conversations with innovative, international museum professionals, artists, visual and material culture scholars.  The series is designed to provide a steady flow of acute perspectives on the role of art, critical analysis and cultural institutions, which advance the circulation of ideas.

Re-Thinking the Museum, conceived by a transdisciplinary team, spans three departments: ASU Art Museum, the School of Art and the Museum Studies Program. The visiting scholars and artists will share their knowledge and, in dialog with ASU faculty and students and the larger community, build a critical body of thought toward reinventing and creating models for the future of museums and museum practice.

And here’s more about Atkins, who will no doubt have much to say on the subject:

Robert Atkins is a writer, art historian and journalist.  Educated at the University of California and the London School of Economics, he has written for more than 100 publications throughout the world, ranging from the New York Times to Wired (Japan), and is a regular book reviewer for Art in America. He is a former staff columnist for The Village Voice, and is the co-author, most recently, of Censoring Culture: Contemporary Threats to Free Expression. His other books include ArtSpeak: A Guide to Contemporary Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords, its modern-art companion ArtSpoke, and From Media to Metaphor: Art About AIDS, based on the exhibition of the same name, the first traveling museum show of its kind.

He also teaches (most recently as the Roman J. Witt Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan) and lectures widely about contemporary art, culture and media. These interests have catalyzed more than two dozen exhibitions at far-flung venues including Between Science and Fiction, which he organized for the Sao Paulo Bienal, and Fusion! Artists in a Research Setting, for Carnegie Mellon University, where he is a Fellow of the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry. Beginning in 1995, he has participated in—and sometimes originated—pioneering online media, archive, and Wiki-based projects including the City University of New York-sponsored TalkBack! A Forum for Critical Discourse, Artery: The AIDS Arts Forum, the Media Channel, where he was arts editor, the Arts Technology Entertainment Network, a New York Times Video start-up company for which he was Vice-President/Editor-in-Chief, and ArtSpeak China, the first bilingual wiki devoted to contemporary Chinese art, which waslaunched early in 2010.

He is a co-founder of Visual AIDS <;, the creators of Day Without Art and the Red Ribbon Project, as well as 911—The September 11 Project: Cultural Intervention in Civic Society. He is a former board member of the US section of the International Association of Art Critics, and the recipient of awards for his writing from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Penny McCall Foundation, among others.  More information about him is available at

November 9, 2010 at 9:32 pm 6 comments

Peter Bugg in collaboration with Ryan Peter Miller – Open for Business

Peter Bugg in collaboration with Ryan Peter Miller
Title – Target Audience
Business – ASU Art Museum Store*

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Target Audience addresses the role of identity and participation in consumer propaganda.  In this performance, contemporary pop idols replace the iconic Korda image of Ernesto CheGuevara on t-shirt “uniforms,” underscoring the role of image appropriation in contemporary marketing.  Audience members are asked to enlist in a conceptual army and join one of three causes.  Target Audience exposes the lengths to which individuals will go to identify with a collective group, even as the identity of that group expands and diversifies.

*Originally proposed to two corporate clothing retailers in downtown Tempe, the piece offered a critique of consumers’ tendencies to follow trends.  Reflective of contemporary patterns of staffing in retail establishments, a lack of consistent managerial personnel at these two locations made collaboration with these businesses impossible.


Related Links:
Peter Bugg’s Website
Ryan Peter Miller’s Website
ASU Art Museum Store Website
Open for Business Printable Map
Open for Business

November 9, 2010 at 6:46 pm 17 comments

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