Posts filed under ‘Desert Initiative’

Crafting Your Weekend: Art, Craft and Fun at the ASU Art Museum

We’re sure you’ve all been eagerly wondering since the start of the school semester, ”When is the ASU Art Museum going to have another awesome art party? And when are all their cool new shows going to open?”

Well, wait no longer, for the time has come! Hope you’re resting up this weekend, because we’ve got a full schedule lined up next weekend, Sept. 26-28 at the ASU Art Museum, and we want to see your faces there.

If you’re looking for something to do between now and Sept. 26, both Christine Lee and Del Harrow will be in the Museum creating site-specific works for the Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft show.

Lee detail

Christine Lee, “Piece by Piece,” 2013 (detail). Wooden shims, graphite.
Photo: Elizabeth Kozlowski.

Christine Lee started today and will be working through Sept. 26. She’s become a part of our community over the past couple of years as a Windgate visiting artist; she has taught in the School of Art and lived at Combine. She studied furniture making with the legendary Wendy Maruyama, whose show opens at the Museum on the 26th, and takes an innovative approach to working with wood. And ceramic artist Del Harrow will be installing in our lobby from Sept. 24-26, adding to Cabinet #3 (2012).

Harrow

Del Harrow, “Cabinet #3,” 2012. Ceramic, luster, wood. Photo: Craig Smith.

Here’s a rundown of all the happenings and can’t-miss events that we’ve got planned for the weekend of the big opening:

Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013: Kick off the weekend with what’s sure to be a great lecture from an internationally renowned artist. Jessica Jackson Hutchins will be at the ASU-Tempe campus as a featured speaker for the Jan Fisher Memorial Lecture Series, which brings established and emerging women ceramicists to the Phoenix community.

Hutchins, who currently lives and works in Portland, Ore., makes reference to everyday rituals and family life in her work, whichplaces her in the rich tradition of artists who combine the personal and the cultural. In her assemblage sculpture, she teases out notions of function and display by creating richly glazed vessels and locating them on top of or inside used furniture, such as armchairs, couches and tables, or balancing them on plinths of her own devising.

The lecture will be held in COOR 174 and begins at 7:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public. A reception with the artist will follow at the Ceramics Research Center.

Jessica Jackson Hutchins, "Venus," 2013. Photo: Nick Ash. Courtesy the artist and Laurel Gitlen, New York.

Jessica Jackson Hutchins, “Venus,” 2013. Photo: Nick Ash. Courtesy the artist and Laurel Gitlen, New York.

Friday, Sept. 27, 2013: Visual artist and Arizona native Paul Nosa joins the ASU Art Museum for a  two-day sewing performance with his Solar Sewing Rover, a portable sewing machine powered by a solar panel or a bicycle with an electric generator. Nosa will create original images, which are machine sewn on fabric patches, using word associations provided by our guests. Nosa’s goal is to inspire people’s creativity and to demonstrate alternative energy sources through his performances. This performance is co-sponsored by the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU.

Nosa will perform twice on Friday: from noon-1:30 p.m., in the GIOS Breezeway and again from 5:30-8:30 p.m., at the ASU Art Museum front entrance. His second performance will kick start the fall season opening reception, which we’d like to think of as Tempe’s art celebration of the season. The party is from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., with a special member’s preview at 5:30 p.m. Full details here: https://asuevents.asu.edu/season-opening-reception-fall-2013

Image: Paul Nosa,"Glow-in-the-dark piano on fire." Courtesy of the artist.

Image: Paul Nosa,”Glow-in-the-dark piano on fire.” Courtesy of the artist.

When you’re in the museum for the reception, you’ve got a lot to check out, and you don’t want to miss any of it. Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft, Wendy Maruyama: Executive Order 9066 and This Is Not America: Protest, Resistance, Poetics are all new and on view. And, if you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to duck into the Multi-Purpose Room for Plate Silk Stone: Impressions by Women Artists from the ASU Art Museum Print Collection to see a show co-curated by one of ASU’s undergraduate students and research interns, Emma Ringness.

Wendy Maruyama, "Tag Project," full installation view at San Diego State University. Paper, string and ink. Each approximately 11’ x 2’ in diameter, 2012. Photo credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki.

Wendy Maruyama, “Tag Project,” full installation view at San Diego State University. Paper, string and ink. Each approximately 11’ x 2’ in diameter, 2012. Photo: Kevin J. Miyazaki.

Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013: Don’t stay too late at the Museum having fun on Friday, because the day starts bright and early at COOR 174 with the “Flashback Forward: Rethinking Craft” Symposium, which will explore and discuss critical issues facing the field of contemporary craft.  Our keynote speaker is Jenni Sorkin, with a presentation by Guest of Honor Wendy Maruyama, and lectures by artists Garth Johnson, Christine Lee, Del Harrow and Erika Hanson. There’s too much cool stuff (and it’s all free!) happening to list here, but you can view the full schedule, as well as RSVP, for Saturday’s symposium on the event page: https://asuevents.asu.edu/flashbackforward-rethinking-craft-symposium

And, if you missed him on Friday – or just can’t get enough of Paul Nosa — he’s back again on Saturday with another performance from noon – 2 p.m. in the COOR breezeway.

Whew! What a weekend! We can’t wait. And while you’re out enjoying yourselves, don’t forget to tweet and Facebook us your photos.

Jarbas Lopes, "Cicloviaéra," 2006. Osier (natural fiber vine) over bicycle. Photo by Craig Smith.

Jarbas Lopes, “Cicloviaéra,” 2006. Osier (natural fiber vine) over bicycle. Photo by Craig Smith.

September 20, 2013 at 10:44 pm Leave a comment

Notes from Kosovo: Linking Phoenix and Prishtina

The relationship between Kosovo and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts owes much to the U.S. State Department’s Junior Faculty Development Program (JFDP), which brought multi-media artist and University of Prishtina faculty member Alban Nimani (pictured below) to Arizona State University, where his faculty host was Intermedia Professor Muriel Magenta. Nimani became involved with the ASU Art Museum’s International Artist Residency Program through a chance encounter with visiting artists Matteo Rubbi, Miguel Palma and me, Greg Esser, at one of Intermedia Professor Gregory Sale’s graduate classes. The rest, as they say, is history.

kosovo alban

On March 26, I met United States Ambassador to the Republic of Kosovo Tracey Ann Jacobson, who was at the University of Prishtina, Faculty of the Arts (Fakulteti i Arteve), to dedicate a new multi-media lab, funded as a partnership between the U.S. Embassy and the University of Prishtina. Nimani wrote and received the grant for the multi-media lab from the U.S. Embassy following his semester-long residency at ASU. Among other initiatives, Nimani is in the process of adding intermedia, public art and a volunteer component to the curriculum at his university based on his experiences at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

kosovo ambassador cutting ribbon

“There is no more important investment a country can make than in the education of its young people, its future leaders,” Ambassador Jacobson said during her remarks.

Jacobson spent time speaking with each of the students in Nimani’s class about the work they were developing on the new state-of-the-art Apple iMac computers the grant provided. Projects ranged from calligraphy to animated film to interactive video games. The facilities in the lab now rival the tools available to students in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

kosovo students

These new tools represent a significant advancement in the resources available to these students to pursue careers in design and the arts.

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, working with the new iMac computers, Nimani’s fourth-year students continued work on another aspect of Nimani’s grant and another inspiration from Phoenix, Arizona. Nimani and his students are frantically preparing for E premtja e fundit, or Last Fridays, inspired by the First Fridays monthly art events in Phoenix.

kosovo poster promoting first friday

With less than three days to go, students worked to refine projects, social media and a map that locates art projects throughout downtown Prishtina, including Mother Teresa Boulevard, the main public plaza and the pedestrian mall in Prishtina, the capital city. Last Fridays, or E premtja e fundit, is supported in part by the U.S. Embassy, the Municipality of Prishtina and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the ASU Art Museum. The free public event will feature dozens of temporary public art projects, installations, gallery openings, local musicians and local businesses all working together to bring art outside of the gallery and into the community.

We ended the afternoon with a traditional Albanian meal with Nimani’s father, Shriqy, who founded the Graphic Design Department at the University of Prishtina. Once an award-winning singer and former director of the National Gallery, Shriqy is an avid historian and author focused on Albanian culture and influence around the world, with dozens of published books and scholarly awards. I learned that Mother Teresa, who once took me by the hands and blessed me while I was working at the United Nations, is Albanian. The main road through the heart of Prishtina is named in her honor.

kosovo mother teresa boulevard

As both an artist and curator, I’m excited to be in Prishtina to help shape and advise on the first event of its kind here on behalf of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the ASU Art Museum.

Notes from Kosovo II – Plan B

kosovo snow on rooftops

Waking up on Wednesday morning, I discovered the city covered in snowfall. Most installations have been planned for outdoor locations. With less than 72 hours before the launch of the event, we immediately embarked on contingency planning.

Amid a flurry of radio and television appearances promoting the event, Alban and I visited Pallati i Rinisë dhe i Sporteve, or Palace of Youth and Sports, to determine if it might serve as an alternative location for installations.

kosovo Pallati i Rinisë dhe i Sporteve

Built from 1977 to 1981 under Communist leadership as a public project when Kosovo was part of Yugoslavia, the structure defines the landscape of the city center and contains a massive subterranean shopping complex with restaurants. A large section of the building burned and is currently vacant, providing an ideal canvas for temporary artist interventions. As snow fell on the city, many outdoor projects were relocated to this new venue.

In the afternoon, I provided a lecture for fourth-year students on the impact of the arts in Phoenix, the ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program and the Desert Initiative, all of which focus on the power and impact of collaboration and the power of the arts to transform lives.

kosovo students on campus

Posters promoting the event arrived at the Faculty of the Arts following the lecture, and students immediately began distributing them throughout the city. We ended the day at the National Gallery for the opening reception of a retrospective exhibition for deceased artist Engjëll Berisha, also known as Befre. Berisha was one of the early pioneers in building the arts community in Kosovo, a figure similar to artist Philip Curtis in Phoenix, who helped to establish the Phoenix Art Museum.

kosovo gallery opening

*    *     *

The Republic of Kosovo was established in 2008 following protracted ethnic conflict between Serbia and the largely Albanian population. Newly an independent nation with a deep history informed by numerous occupations, including the Roman Empire, 500 years of Ottoman rule (1455 – 1912) and Communist rule as part of Yugoslavia, Kosovo is today focused on a prosperous future and is a warmly hospitable environment for the first-time visitor or long-time friend.

*    *    *

The morning of Friday, March 29 arrived with cold, overcast skies and rain. At around 4 in the afternoon, the clouds broke and sunlight spilled down and began to warm the streets and buildings of Prishtina. As the workday closed, an optimism and energy was percolating throughout the city. With less than three hours to go, students, artists and musicians worked to put the finishing touches on their individual works and the overall event.

kosovo temporary street decorations

*    *    *

As with any group exhibition, the quality, intellectual rigor and execution of the individual artworks varied. Overall, the participants demonstrated exceptional teamwork, collaboration and experimentation. I was tremendously impressed by each of the students who moved outside of the classroom and well beyond their comfort range to create an event that was so much more than the sum of its parts. Works included projected animation, live painting, an interactive Twitter experience, an installation of umbrellas, dance, music, gastronomic work, an installation featuring the preparation and presentation of traditional Albanian foods, murals, a fashion piece made from black plastic bags, an interactive puzzle, a version of Tic Tac Toe with mirrors completing the pieces, transformation of a city bus stop into a representation of the future with sounds from NASA, a light and sound installation in a built environment on Mother Teresa Boulevard and more.

To get the full experience and variety of work, please visit the official webpage, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sites for the event.

Across the street from the Palace of Youth, nine emerging Kosovo bands performed to a packed house at Punkt. I haven’t witnessed the same level of energy since the early days of the punk movement in the United States, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. There was a range of young musicians with a palpable vibrancy and the first mosh pit I’ve seen in many years.

Notes from Kosovo III – Looking Forward

The headline in Sunday morning’s newspaper in Prishtina translates to “Last Fridays designs the future.”

The story, profiling the event, describes the energy and work of the students as well as the potential for the event to grow. Again acknowledging the numerous partners that made the event possible, including the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the story captured the impact that the students had, and will have, through their participation.

With the event behind us on Saturday, Nimani and his family graciously shared their insights on more of the region. We spent the weekend visiting the National Gallery of Albania in Tirana, the national enthnographic museum and the museum of Skanderbeg, one of Albania’s national heroes, in the mountain town of Krujë, and the seaside port city of Durres. We ended the weekend with a round of bowling at the Taiwan complex in Tirana in honor of the Phoenix art bowling group that frequently hosts ASU’s international visiting artists.

kosovo The mountains above Krujë, Albania.

Overall, this was a beautiful journey, if too short, hosted perfectly by Alban Nimani and his family and colleagues. I look forward to returning again soon to Prishtina to see how the E premtja e fundit event evolves and watching the progress of the students who were part of this first event. Nimani, in turn, looks forward to continuing his relationship with Arizona State University and seeing the event expand to other cities in Kosovo, Albania and other parts of Europe.

When you plan your travel to Kosovo, be sure to include a Last Friday in Prishtina. It will be rewarding.

Faleminderit (thank you), Kosovo!

Links:

As part of his residency with the Herberger Institute, Nimani composed short soundtracks for YouTube videos on two projects supported by the Herberger Institute, including Valley of the Sunflowers and Desert Initiative:

Valley of the Sunflowers

Desert Initiative

And see more pictures here:

Official Embassy photos

 Photos by Greg Esser

–Greg Esser is director of the Desert Initiative, which is housed at the ASU Art Museum in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

April 1, 2013 at 10:12 pm Leave a comment

Penny for your thoughts: ASU Art Museum Spring 2013 Season Opening Reception

On Friday, Feb. 8 we celebrated the season opening for our spring shows: Cu29: Mining for You, a collaboration between Matthew Moore (Phoenix) and Clare Patey (London); Traces of Japanese Life: Selections from the Melikian Collection; and, at the Ceramics Research Center, Born of Fire: The Pottery of Margaret Tafoya and a companion show, Re: Generation: A Survey of Margaret Tafoya’s DescendantsWe also said farewell to artist-in-residence Miguel Palma, from Portugal, whose exhibition Trajectory closed Feb. 9.

Thanks to everyone who made the shows possible — to the hard-working artists, to our donors, to our magnificent staff and advisory board, and to Target and Tempe’s own Cornish Pasty, for helping make it such a great party.

Coming up on March 22: The opening of Turn off the Sun: Selections from la Colección Jumex. Be there!

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Photos by Matthew Corbisiero

February 14, 2013 at 11:06 pm Leave a comment

Tales From A Distant, Not-So-Distant World

Click.  A photo of desert scenery. Click. Another photo of the desert. Is that the same one? Click. Oh, another! Have I seen this one already? Click. And another? This one’s probably different. Click. Is it? It is. Click.

The slide projector spins the wheel of slides. Each of the 50 some-odd photos are shots of the desert, a part of Miguel Palma’s latest exhibition, “Trajectory.”

The photos are projected onto a white wall by an old-fashioned slide projector set on a timer. The photos roll around, each a different photo of Arizona’s desert scenery.

Image

On the other side of the wall, there is an orange astronaut suit with one noticeable addition: several dozen small, black computer fans attached to the outside of the suit. Palma wore this suit as he traversed the desert, taking photos of the sights and scenery. The black computer fans were used to keep him cool during his expedition.

Click. Drip. Suddenly, I notice a new sound in the exhibit. Drip. Drip. Click. I realize that the sound of the projector isn’t alone. The sound is coming from a piece called “Bypass.”

“Bypass” is a device that Palma created. It takes water from a bucket, runs it up tubing into a chunk of wood, and then drips the water back down into the bucket. The natural and organic element of the wood and the water contrasts with the metal and silicone. There is a pump inside the bucket of water that looks like it was put there to bring water to the tree, but then the tubing and the metal cause the water to bypass the tree and return to the bucket. The manmade apparatus of tubing and silicone is depriving the tree of the water that it needs. The hunk of wood is supported in the air by metal and a hydraulic lift. The manmade system isn’t only depriving the tree of water, but it also supports the tree and holds it up. This brings up a question: is this what we’re doing to the desert? Are we trying our best to uphold it and support it, yet ultimately just depriving it of what it needs to survive? I arrive at more questions than I have answers. I have to move on.

Image

Along the northern and eastern wall, there is an absolute cascade of poster paper full of art and ideas. Each poster contains ideas about the desert and the culture of the people who live in it. Palma uses collages, images, drawings and commentary of our culture to show these ideas. As I walk and read each poster, I see themes connect and I begin to understand the corollaries between them. For example, Palma wrote about swimming pool shapes, and the purpose of each shape. He wrote about L-shaped pools. “The L-shape fits easily into a corner or around a house projection.” I see that phrase written multiple times around swimming pools and even around old desert photos where, presumably, a pool would eventually go. There are stories about the destruction of the desert, and how manmade tools changed the scenery into what we call Phoenix.

I notice one piece called “War Games.” It shows photos of the desert, with yellow dots painted over it. Each dot has a line pointing at a construction truck, many with Xs drawn over them. Palma seems to be trying to show that people are at war with the desert; our weapons are the tools we used to put ourselves into the desert with, like tools of construction, transportation and infrastructure. I have never thought of it like that. Are we at war with the desert?

Palma was a visitor to our desert, but it took me a while to connect the dots. He wasn’t just an explorer of the desert; he is implying that he is like an astronaut exploring unknown worlds with his space suit and his rover vehicle. It all became clear to me. His art is a tale of his exploration of the unknown territory, the Arizona desert. He charted our destruction of the desert as well; we have been using our war tools to build our L-shaped pools and destroy the beauty of the desert around us. Palma researched our history and recorded lives, not just our lives, but also the life of the desert itself.

But what does that make me, a desert-dweller observing Palma’s observations? I suppose I’m the Martian who lives on this strange planet of rock and cacti. I suppose we should all take a better look at the world outside our cities. It’s beautiful.

Image

“Miguel Palma: Trajectory” is on display at the ASU Art Museum until February 9, 2013

–Colton Robertson
ASU Art Museum Intern

Thanks to Sean Deckert and the Desert Initiative for use of their photographs.

November 2, 2012 at 11:33 pm Leave a comment

Want a sneak peek of the Fall 2012 Season Opening?

The ASU Art Museum’s Season Opening is this weekend — Friday and Saturday night, from 6:30-9 p.m. — at both the Museum and the Ceramics Research Center.

The events are free and open to the public, and there’s something for everyone, from the premiere of a video/dance piece in the Nymphaeum to a parkour team using the building as their canvas to food trucks in the parking lot.

The parkour group Movement Connections will perform from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Then, at 7:30 p.m., composer/musician Wayne Horvitz will premiere 55: Music and Dance in Concrete, his collaboration with choreographer/dancer Yukio Suzuki and video artist Yohei Saito.

You can get a taste of 55: Music and Dance in Concrete here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3x6OPYI6ZE4

Below are some shots by photographer Sean Deckert of Movement Connections in action, plus some photographs (also by Sean Deckert) from ISEA2012, in Albuquerque, where artist Miguel Palma presented his “Desert Initiative Remote Shuttle,” which will be on display at the opening as part of Palma’s show Trajectory.

Join us on Friday and/or Saturday night for the big show! So nice, you might just want to come by twice.

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September 25, 2012 at 10:51 pm Leave a comment

The Desert Initiative’s DI:D1 launches at ISEA 2012 in Albuquerque

The Desert Initiative is taking the International Symposium on Electronic Art in Albuquerque by storm — or haboob, to be desert-specific — where it’s kicking off Desert Initiative: Desert One, a.k.a. DI:D1, which runs now through the spring of 2012 and encompasses exhibitions and projects around the Southwest.

DI Director Greg Esser is participating in ISEA2012: Machine Wilderness, Sept. 19-24, as are ASU Art Museum Director Gordon Knox, artist Chip Lord (whose Ant Farm Media Van v.08 [Time Capsule] is on view at the CRC, and ASU Art Museum International Artists-in-Residence Clare Patey (England), Miguel Palma (Portugal) and Matteo Rubbi (Italy).

On Sept. 20, Knox, Patey and Phoenix artist Matt Moore presented at the symposium on the topic of extinction; Patey and Moore are collaborating on a project titled Rare Earth, to be unveiled at the ASU Art Museum in the spring of 2013.

Here are Patey and Moore pre-presentation:

Chip Lord will speak about the Media Van on Monday, Sept. 24 and Miguel Palma will be one of the featured artists during 516 Arts Downtown Block Party on Sunday, Sept. 23, with his Remote Desert Exploration Vehicle, a converted former military vehicle that explores desert surroundings during the day and returns to urban areas to project the desert imagery on buildings at night.

The Remote Desert Exploration Vehicle will be on view at the ASU Art Museum starting Sept. 28, as part of Palma’s exhibition Trajectory.

Here are some photos by Phoenix photographer Sean Deckert of the Remote Desert Exploration Vehicle’s trip out to Albuquerque:

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Join us at the Museum on Sept. 28 and 29 to celebrate the season opening of both Ant Farm Media Van v.08 [Time Capsule] and Miguel Palma’s Trajectory!

And if you’re wondering about those passports pictured in the slideshow above: Stay tuned…

September 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

Time capsules and popsicles: Ant Farm Media Van at the Ceramics Research Center

What are three things you could not live without? What are you looking forward to for this year? What is your obsession?

These are some of the questions pondered at the ASU Art Museum last Saturday, the 25th of August. Each of the buildings in the Arcadia Residential Community was given a blank filing box and told to build a time capsule out of it to be opened at the end of the year.

We were given sticky letters, tape, markers, oil pastels, anything we wanted to beautify this box with the other residents of our building. Each team deliberated on how they would make their time capsule stand out from the rest. Some people went crazy with tape, and others even wrapped their box in gift wrap, like they were assembling a present for their future selves.

Across the street at the Ceramics Research Center, art museum staff (clad in their awesome AMUSEUM shirts) gave away popsicles from AZ Pops and handed out pages with questions to be answered and put in the time capsule.

Some questions were easy, like the ones I mentioned above. But some really made me ponder: What do you expect to accomplish this year? In what ways do you hope to grow this year?

These were remarkably deep questions for the atmosphere of popsicles and friends in the Ceramics Research Center. But it was as good a time as any to take stock. What DO I expect to accomplish this year at ASU?

After deliberating on those questions, we left the classroom and found the Ant Farm Media Van. Now, this was interesting: an interactive exhibit dedicated to collecting donations from cell phones, camera sticks and other electronic devices.

Now, it looked just like a hollowed-out van with the windows painted over, but inside sat a small green computer, called the HUQQUH (pronounced “hookah”), with cords to fit cell phones sticking out in every direction. The goal was to plug in your cell phone, iPod, or camera, and the HUQQUH would randomly select a file, then copy it to make it an electronic piece of the exhibit. For the most part, it was just taking photos and occasionally songs.

On the wall behind the media van hung a huge poster with little thumbnails of the pictures, songs and files taken during the media van’s time in San Francisco.

It was an entire wall of memories, just little digital files, each randomly taken from someone, making up a collection of images from people’s lives.

I decided that I had to give it a shot. I sat down inside the Media Van and plugged my iPhone into the HUQQUH. It sat for a small time before a picture from my phone appeared on the screen on top.  A computer voice came from nowhere, thanking me for my donation and instructing me to unplug my iPhone from the HUQQUH. It spit out a receipt, thanking me for my donation with a little copy of the picture I donated.

The picture taken was a photo of my grandfather, with my little cousin — the last time I saw my grandfather before he passed away last fall.

And now that picture is stored inside the HUQQUH, to travel the country and become a part of the exhibit.

So on the day that we were decorating and putting items into our own time capsule, we were also contributing to a larger time capsule, set to continue its tour and continue to collect small bits of people’s lives. So while the HUQQUH wasn’t pressing us for personal questions, like what am I passionate about, it was still going through my personal phone and pulling out a very personal work about who I am and what I do. In that regard, this was a great day to take stock, and look at ourselves and ask, who are we and where do we want to be?

Oh, and my building’s time capsule? I think it turned out pretty cool.

Colton Robertson, Community Assistant for Arcadia Residential Community

Photos by Colton Robertson.

August 28, 2012 at 4:40 pm Leave a comment

Coming soon to a Museum near you: Miguel Palma

Above: Miguel Palma (left) with space research trainee from the ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration. Photo courtesy of the Desert Initiative.

Artist Miguel Palma (Lisbon, Portugal) was commissioned by the ASU Art Museum’s Desert Initiative to develop a mobile project that explores our connection to the desert environment.

In collaboration with ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) and other community partners, Palma has converted a former military truck into an exploration vehicle equipped with the technology to photograph and film natural desert environments. The vehicle will return to urban settings at night to project the recorded imagery on building facades and other sites.

The work engages issues through the lens of exploration: military history in Arizona and the Southwest, the military’s role in desert preservation, the history of Manifest Destiny and colonialism in populated places, strategies of adaptation and the role of technology in desert survival.

Palma’s “Remote Desert Shuttle” will be live at the ASU Art Museum on our season opening weekend, Sept. 28-29. In the meantime, here’s a teaser to whet your appetite:

July 31, 2012 at 11:16 pm Leave a comment

Serious play: Matteo Rubbi at the ASU Art Museum

Visiting artist Matteo Rubbi, right, explains the game of “Goose” to Museum visitors. Photo by Neil Borowicz.

There was a lot of clucking, growling, mooing and hopping at the ASU Art Museum on Saturday, June 2, and most of all, there was a lot of giggling. The source of the giggling – and all the other sounds – was an artist-led game of “Goose,” patterned after a board game that has been popular in Europe for centuries.

The artist leading the game was Matteo Rubbi, winner of the Furla Foundation Prize for 2011 and one of the first residents of the newly opened ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency facility at Combine Studios in downtown Phoenix, although you’d be forgiven for mistaking him for a gregarious and enthusiastic camp counselor. It’s unlikely that any of the dozens of visitors who played the game that day knew that Frieze magazine calls Rubbi one of the most interesting Italian artists today, and Rubbi isn’t the kind of artist who’d need to let you know that anyway. He’s much more interested in what he calls “social sculpture” and in pulling people into situations that force them to think creatively – and to become co-artists with Rubbi.

Rubbi’s game was  the featured activity during one of the ASU Art Museum’s First Saturdays for Families, which take place on the first Saturday of every month (except July, when the Museum hosts Family Fun Day) and  which are increasingly about artist-led experiences within the museum. (Don’t miss the next First Saturday, on Aug. 4 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

In an interview in Italian Vogue last summer, Rubbi was asked why it’s so important to him to involve the public in his work. He answered: “I believe it is the audience that brings a new dimension to my work. Eliminating the concepts of ‘viewer’ and ‘work of art’ from the equation opens up a brand new world, full of unexpected elements and possibilities. I always try to create the conditions for the audience and my work to negotiate their own relationship, which has to be improvised and invented on the spot (as in the case of board games that the public is encouraged to play). I believe this is the most challenging part of my research. It is always quite hard to ‘let go’ of something – an attitude, behavior – we have grown accustomed to.”

In fact, the international jury that awarded Rubbi the Furla Prize, led by artist Christian Boltanski, did so “for his capacity to interact with the viewer and to create new links between exhibition and public space.”

Click here for a clip of Rubbi explaining his work (produced in conjunction with his winning the Furla Prize).

Rubbi’s work is engaging on multiple levels, the most obvious being that almost every piece is a kind of invitation, sometimes a literal one. Shortly after arriving in Phoenix, Rubbi established a series of communal meals served in the Museum lobby for staff and invited guests; he called the lunches, which took place on Fridays, “Magic Friday.”

“Magic Friday” was about food and eating, certainly – each Friday brought a different international taste to the Museum, from Portuguese artist Miguel Palma’s sourda  to Rubbi’s own mushroom risotto, but more than that, it was about bridging communities, and about how communal meals knit people together in both expected and unexpected ways.

One Friday, Rubbi invited members of the Lost Boys of Sudan, who live in Phoenix, to lunch, and they prepared an African dish. One Friday, we celebrated the Ephiphany with a traditional French cake that had some beans hidden in it; those who found the beans got a home-made paper crown. At each lunch, the guests graciously shared their perspectives, as well as examples of their cuisine, and Rubbi has maintained a journal containing the various recipes as well as a wall of photos in the Museum kitchen documenting the events.

Rubbi’s work fits into and expands upon the Museum’s overall emphasis on social practice, an art form that is particularly appropriate for an experimental university art museum and one that the Museum has been at the forefront of developing, particularly in its ongoing Social Studies series.

In a very real way, Rubbi transformed the Museum lobby into a kind of public square, where people gather to meet and talk – which is what ASU Art Museum Director Gordon Knox believes the ASU Art Museum should, in fact, be.

“At its core, a museum should be a safe place for the exchange of ideas, a location where past and present can contemplate each other and people with different cultural or generational perspectives can communicate,” Knox said. “We walk into a museum with an open attitude – what will I learn here? This is a very different starting point from the more transactional one we have when walking into a store, a business, a city, state or federal office. Dialogue is possible in a museum and expected of a university museum; Matteo’s work, evolving out of art and action traditions centuries old, pushes this conversation beyond words and – gently – beyond comfort zones as audience and artist blend and as we all contemplate how much we are in this together, and that we are far more similar than different.”

Rubbi’s game of “Goose” exemplified the kind of creative investigation of the world that art encourages us to undertake. Nothing about the game was expected, or predictable, although elements were familiar – the rolling of dice to determine outcome, the pleasure of playing a game with others. The “spaces” were all drawings of animals made by visitors and the artist himself, then scattered throughout the Museum. Some were recognizable, like rabbits and snakes. Others were creatures from the visitors’ imaginations, animals you won’t find in any dictionary.

At one point in the game, a young boy landed on a “butterfly” space, and Rubbi instructed him to be a butterfly, saying, “Okay, you’re a butterfly – so be colorful!” The change in expression on the boy’s face, from expectation (clearly he thought Rubbi was going to tell him to flap his wings or something equally obvious) to genuine curiosity (be colorful? How does one be colorful? How do I express that in my movements?) captured the very shift in thinking that art allows us all, young and old: from inside the box to utterly outside, being a colorful butterfly.

Rubbi has now returned to Italy for a few months. Currently he is conducting workshops at the Castello di Rivoli, near Turin, but in the fall he will return to the Museum and to Combine Studios. We’re fortunate that Rubbi is one of the artists to inaugurate the International Residency. His openness and engagement with the Phoenix community underscore the enormous benefits that the residency brings, providing the opportunity for students and the public to interface with significant international artists – and for these artists from around the world to be equally affected by the people and places they encounter here in Arizona, forming connections that will ripple out from their origins in wild and wonderful ways.

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Photos by Neil Borowicz.

July 6, 2012 at 10:10 pm 2 comments

The Desert Notebooks: Charted Territories

“Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”
Aldo Leopold

Arizona is one of the most beautiful states in the Union, a diverse range of landscapes, each more breathtaking than the next, ranging from vast and desolate plateaus to hidden canyons opening into lush, green fields, from cactus fields to piñon forests.

Arizona was an even more abundant land before the arrival of progress and massive numbers of new residents and industries built on extraction.

Native communities thrived here for centuries before Europeans arrived. The canyons of northern Arizona are littered with large numbers of prehistoric ruins — sophisticated, multi-story masonry structures built into protective cliffs and along rivers. These structures were abandoned well before the arrival in the area of the Navajo, the largest Native community in the United States, who now trace their origin stories to this land..

The former abundance is reflected in the sheer number of these ruins, a mysterious precursor of the wildly expanding low-density sprawl we have in Arizona today. Matteo Rubbi found an aerial photographic map of Apache Junction taken in 1971 that shows a view of largely undeveloped that will never be reproduced.

Visiting artists Miguel Palma and Bruno Pereira Sousa, both from Portugal, and Matteo Rubbi from Italy and I traveled north this week on behalf of the Desert Initiative. On May 14, we were hosted on a visit to the Navajo Nation and other locations in New Mexico and northern Arizona by Phoenix artist Steve Yazzie (http://www.stevenyazzie.com). Yazzie and his family grew up on the Navajo Nation, and he had an opportunity to visit his mother while we were there. Yazzie’s late grandfather was a Navajo Code Talker, and Yazzie served in the Marines before dedicating himself to his work as an artist. One of his works was recently acquired by the Phoenix Art Museum.

Our first night was spent in Gallup, New Mexico, at the historic El Rancho Hotel. Gallup was once called the “Indian Capital of the World,” and about 30 percent of the city’s population traces its roots to Navajo, Hopi, Zuni or other Native communities.

The following morning, we had a meeting with Manny Wheeler, Director of the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, and learned about many of the exciting exhibitions, projects and commissions he is leading there. We previewed several new temporary public art installations yet to be unveiled as part of a collaboration between the Navajo Nation and New Mexico Arts, the state arts agency. The commissions will be inaugurated in Sante Fe, N.M. on Friday, May 18. Desert Initiative and ARID Journal partner and ISEA2012 Artistic Director Andrea Polli and Will Wilson are among the artists commissioned. For more information, including a map and texts in both Navajo and English, visit http://www.timenm.com/

After a traditional Navajo lunch in Window Rock, we headed southwest through the Navajo Nation toward Chinle Canyon, where we saw several of the prehistoric ruins and watched horses run across the canyon floor. We spent the night and following morning in historic downtown Flagstaff, where we also met with Alan Petersen, Curator of Fine Arts for the Museum of Northern Arizona, and toured his current exhibition, Shadows on the Mesa—Artists of the Painted Desert and Beyond. I highly recommend a visit. More information is available on-line at http://www.musnaz.org/exhibits/shadows/index.shtml

On the drive south back to Phoenix from Flagstaff, as the elevation dropped, the exterior temperature rose from 72 degrees to 106 degrees over a roughly 140-mile drive. We passed by the fires raging on the west side of I-17 near Sunflower, Arizona. At a certain point, smoke from the fires blocked out the afternoon sun and cast otherworldly light and shadows on the landscape.

I saw things on this short journey that I’ve never seen before and may not ever see again: Horses attempting to open the front door of house. The sun sinking through a red and black veil of smoke rising from the largely uncontained Sunflower fires raging to the south, at one point lighting up the previously invisible silhouette of the San Francisco Peaks like a volcano as it slowly sank behind the horizon. Through it all, the best moments were watching the landscape through the eyes of international guest artists and watching the creative process in action as everyone interacted and responded creatively throughout with vision, inspiration, laughter and friendship. My sincere thanks go out to Steve Yazzie, Manny Wheeler and Alan Petersen for their time and support on behalf of the Desert Initiative and ASU, and to our visiting artists Miguel Palma, Bruno Pereira Sousa and Matteo Rubbi.

GREG ESSER
Desert Initiative Director
ASU Art Museum

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Photographs by Steven Yazzie.

May 21, 2012 at 7:44 pm 1 comment


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