Posts tagged ‘art’

Well, excuuuuse me! “Bad Manners” at the Museum

Marilyn Lysohir’s “Bad Manners,” 1983.

Bad manners? I asked myself. The name of the work, which is part of the ASU Art Museum’s newest exhibition Bad Manners and selections from the ASU Art Museum collection, clearly struck me as more of a question than a first impression. Walking into the gallery and still too far away to read the accompanying text panel, I was bewildered. The work, a ceramic installation piece by artist Marilyn Lysohir, initially appears to be anything but “Bad Manners.”

Far from crass or revolting, as the name might imply, the installation is intricate, even delicate. The complexity of its construction is a thing of awe. At the very center of the gallery, so that everything, even the viewer, must revolve around them, sit four life-sized ceramic figures. Two men and two women are dining at an elegant table complete with tablecloth and decorative candelabrum. They lack heads but are pristinely dressed. The men wear slacks, ties and sports coats. The women are presented as elegant and proper in garments buttoning primly all the way up their necks and along their wrists.

     

The table itself is another wonder. Somehow not bowing under the weight, it is laden, if not overflowing, with a plethora of exquisite, glossy ceramic food. A whole roast chicken, a vibrant red berry tart, spaghetti and several elaborately decorated cakes stand out among a vast array of other dishes. Far from the sloppy connotations of “bad manners,” each individual piece is beautifully crafted. Beyond that the tender, painstaking care required to assemble such a detailed, complex installation is striking. “Bad Manners” seems like a misnomer.

However, up close and upon inspection, my first impression was proven very wrong as the distant appearance of elegance disintegrated. These aren’t mere headless figures. Looking under the table, the true extent of their inhumanity becomes apparent. The men seem ordinary, disguised by their slacks, but in the space between the women’s hemlines and fashionable pumps there is nothing but air. Then it dawns on you (or at least me): These aren’t figures at all; they are hollow, empty suits of clothing. A second inspection of the table reveals more incongruences disgusting in a scene so falsely elegant. A deviled egg sits atop an artfully decorated chocolate cake. There is a slice of pizza in the salad. Corn on the cob is haphazardly placed on a bowl of spaghetti and a hot dog lounges insultingly on the elaborate frosting of another cake. With each newly noticed unfortunate detail a nascent sense of dismay and revulsion grows. As much as you might want to look away, the conscientious care of each individual ceramic piece and the installation’s assembly draws you in. The work becomes both terrible and exquisite as you stare in fascinated horror.

Bad Manners stands, a glossy stark polemic against our increasing consumerist society. The four empty suits of clothing symbolize mindless consumption: the overloaded table critiques gluttony and excess. Through this work, Lysohir cleverly poses the fundamental question of what is really necessary in life. We undeniably look at excess with envy when we desire the glamorous lifestyles afforded to successful actors and musicians. The excess awarded with fame and fortune is alluring. How else can we explain the (unfortunate) enduring popularity and never-ending string of participants appearing on shows like the X-Factor and American Idol? Normally the best we muster is negligible guilt when we are reminded that we throw food away while people in other regions of the world live without even clean water. Bad Manners doesn’t provoke any guilt; it instills a sense of sheer repugnance at the excess it presents. It awakens a lingering sense of shame exacerbated by the initial pleasantness of the scene as we see ourselves seated around that table. The longer we look, the more hollow the suits of clothing become. They will never receive any satisfaction from the feast laid out in front of them, and no amount of food could ever fill their empty forms.

Bad Manners is a sobering experience, but it delivers its blow with an odd compassion. As much as it revolts, shocks and shames us as we recognize our own greed, these same feelings reaffirm our humanity. It is our very ability to realize and feel such dismay that defines us as more than just hollow suits of clothing. We don’t need to be empty.

-Karen Enters
ASU Art Museum intern

Images courtesy of the artist.

Bad Manners and selections from the ASU Art Museum collection is on view at the ASU Art Museum through Sept. 1. More information here.

August 8, 2012 at 9:27 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

Grant strengthens ASU Art Museum’s role in rethinking contemporary craft

A visitor to the ASU Art Museum sits on Brace, 2012, a new piece by Matthias Pliessnig. Photo by Tim Trumble.

A generous grant for Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking the Contemporary Craft Field has given the ASU Art Museum the means and tools to dig deeper and explore craft even further through research, travel and community outreach.Designed to fortify and advance the museum’s commitment to craft, Crafting a Continuum acknowledges the field as a noteworthy and integral part of the fine arts.

“The ultimate goal of the grant is to assess the current and extensive holdings in ceramics, fiber and woods,” curator of ceramics Peter Held said. “We want to move it forward by including younger, emerging artists working in new ways.”

The comprehensive Windgate Charitable Foundation grant, in the amount of $330,000, will be used to accomplish a two-year multifaceted project that focuses on both acquisition and artist residencies, invigorating the museum’s position in the field of craft. Along with community outreach, the museum has hired Elizabeth Kozlowski,  a curatorial fellow focused on contemporary craft, and will also publish a catalogue to go along with the exhibition.

“With these residencies, for instance, the artists are playing an active role,” Peter Held said. “They’re working with our students, (and) they’re working with our community. I think that’s a really powerful aspect of the initiative.”

So far, the Windgate support has helped commission a piece from Matthias Pleissnig, a visiting artist who combines furniture-making and sculpture. As part of the initiative, Pleissnig led well- and enthusiastically attended workshops in the School of Art, and along with giving a public lecture at the museum about his work, Pleissnig delivered a piece for the museum collection (currently on display in the lobby).

Above: Matthias Pliessnig works with ASU students during his visit to campus. Photo by Elizabeth Kozlowski.

“With the trend of contemporary artists using traditional craft materials to make fine art, disciplines are a lot more fluid than they were. The need to define the two as separate seems to have dissipated,” Held said.

Artists today are more concerned with using the appropriate materials to execute ideas rather than drawing hard lines between art and craft, and in support of this, the ASU Art Museum has an extensive history in presenting and working with artists in the craft field.

“We’re one of the few fine art museums in the country that started collecting  mid-20th-century studio craft. Now it’s becoming a more prevalent trend,” Held said.

The permanent collection of ceramics at The ASU Art Museum originated in 1955, and since then, the museum has consciously built a collection of contemporary studio ceramics at a time when craft based media was considered a lesser art form. The collection of works extends over six decades and contains over 3,500 objects.

In 1990, the museum co-sponsored the exhibition, Meeting Ground: Basketry Traditions and Sculptural Forms, which studied the relationship between traditional baskets and sculptural forms and also highlighted artists’ interests in hand processes and natural materials. More recently, the museum showcased Intertwined: Contemporary Baskets from the Sara and David Lieberman Collection in 2006, which charted the blend of ancient and modern basket making and baskets as sculptural forms. The exhibition traveled to five venues nationally.

Given one of the best turned wood collections in the late 80s/early 90s, the Jacobson Collection, the ASU Art Museum displayed the pieces internationally, and with the influential traveling exhibition and media response, turning became more established as an art form.

“We have a venerable past in contemporary craft,” Senior Curator and Associate Director Heather Lineberry said. “One of the things that is pretty unusual is that we have always shown contemporary craft within the broader contemporary art context.”

The museum is currently evaluating the purpose and quality of its collections, giving the museum the opportunity to rethink the recent history, the present and the future of contemporary craft as well as encourage interactions and connections with rising voices within the field.

The initiative’s exhibition will debut in the fall of 2013 at the ASU Art Museum and will then travel nationally to about five venues.

“As an institution, we are guided by the fact that we focus on contemporary art and that we are a university museum, and as a university art museum, we should be focusing on transdisciplinary issues,” Lineberry said. “We should be focusing on education… We should be experimenting. We should be exploring new ideas, new art forms, new approaches in the museum, and we should be as much about the process as the final product. With the Rethinking Contemporary Craft initiative, we have a real opportunity to reassess the field.”

Gustaf Nordenskiöld
Mure, 2011
Colored porcelain and climbing rope
20 x 16 x 12 inches

–Mary Richardson

June 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm 1 comment

We knew her back when: Lekha Hileman Waitoller

Last week, our friend and former colleague Lekha Hileman Waitoller began working at the Art Institute of Chicago as Exhibition Manager in the Department of Contemporary Art.

Her first big project: an upcoming exhibition of work by Steve McQueen, opening in October.

We’re impressed, but we’re not surprised.

Soon after arriving at ASU in the fall of 2008 to pursue an MA in art history in the School of Art, Lekha sought out opportunities at the ASU Art Museum and started as curatorial assistant. She worked closely with Senior Curator and Associate Director Heather Sealy Lineberry on a number of exhibition projects, large and small, from the collection and featuring international artist residencies and loans, exploring a range of disciplines and community programs and partnerships. In 2009, she curated the exhibition I Never Saw So Clearly, from the Museum’s permanent collection. The lively, smart exhibition focused on issues of identity and hybridity in contemporary art, informed by the research for her Master’s thesis on the work of Lorna Simpson and Steven Yazzie.

Then Lekha stepped in as interim curator in the fall of 2011. Her first big project was artist Jennifer Nelson’s Social Studies exhibition, Securing a free state: The Second Amendment Project.

Lekha handled the project’s challenging content and ambitious scope (both hallmarks of our Social Studies exhibitions) with her usual aplomb, demonstrating grace under pressure whether she was helping lead a tour of a sniper school in the desert or facilitating a series of intense, and intensely moving, workshops involving people whose lives have been radically altered by a violent encounter.

The Museum also benefited from Lekha’s curatorial vision and organizational abilities when we revamped the Americas Gallery, on the second floor, which showcases pieces from the permanent collection.

We look forward to seeing what Lekha does in Chicago — the Art Institute is lucky to have her!

June 6, 2012 at 10:57 pm Leave a comment

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

Last splash for “Performing for the Camera”!

As a university art museum, we benefit enormously from the presence of talented and committed ASU faculty. To help curate the exhibition Performing for the Camera, for example, a stunner that the Arizona Republic calls “delicious,” Senior Curator and Associate Director Heather Sealy Lineberry called upon artists and faculty members Betsy Schneider and Julie Anand, who worked with her and Ann Sanchez, curator of Stéphane Janssen’s extraordinary collection.

In this post, Anand, who is a Senior Sustainability Scholar in the Global Institute of Sustainability as well as an assistant professor in the School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, writes about the experience of co-curating Performing for the Camera.

The exhibition closes this Saturday — if you haven’t seen it yet, make a point of stopping by this week. The Museum is open from 11 a.m. til 5 p.m. every day except Sunday and Monday.

Last fall I was invited by Senior Curator Heather Sealy Lineberry of the ASU Art Museum to help curate images from Stéphane Janssen’s collection for the exhibition Performing for the Camera, which brought 50 works to the public.

As a teacher, I was thrilled to give access to the immediacy of objects that my students typically encounter as digital projections or small reproductions in textbooks. Artists creating imagery with such labor-rich and elaborate processes expand students’ expectations of photography in important and healthy ways. As an artist myself, being a curatorial consultant offered a window to see into both a collector’s passion and service, as well as the vital skill sets and perhaps best part of a day in the life of a curator.

The ASU curatorial team arrived at the warehouse, greeted by the insightful and gracious curator of the Stéphane Janssen collection. Surrounded by racks of crated works, we sat around a table poring over massive six-inch thick binders of small thumbnails of photographic artworks. The collection is particularly deep in terms of work that can be described by several terms — tableaux, staged, directorial mode and constructed. Often there were several pieces by a single artist/collective to choose from.

We each took notes as we moved through the binders individually, noting relevant artists, considering which works by those artists were most powerful and or thematically appropriate, and whether singular or multiple works, if available, were needed to represent projects. Conversation organically bubbled to the surface during this process as we couldn’t contain our excitement over discoveries, and as larger questions of thematic scope emerged through the details. We were also spontaneously treated to the unwrapping of Liu Bolin’s Roadblock image, which had arrived just days earlier. I appreciated for a moment the demonstration of direct support for artists this purchase represented and the creativity involved in pooling together artworks over the course of a lifetime for the ways that they make the heart quicken.

As curator, Heather described her goal of having the exhibition’s thematic premise be clear, but not airtight, allowing room for conversation. We agreed to attempt to distinguish gleaned photographs connected to the documentary tradition from crafted cinematically charged imagery — a distinction that artist Jeff Wall calls “hunted” and “farmed” imagery. Yet given that images are heavily influenced by their makers whether they appear to be so or not, and most image-makers’ processes function somewhere between these false dichotomies, this distinction was occasionally provocatively murky. Work by the artist Sally Mann, for example, though she directs her children as subjects, was deemed closer to the vernacular traditions of photography than to the staged end of the spectrum for the purposes of this exhibition.

We also agreed that we wanted to distinguish works created as art for the camera from primarily live art performances or embodied installations that had a secondary gallery life as photographic documents. In some cases, that distinction was somewhat nebulous in interesting ways; for example, both Shirin Neshat and collaborators Birchler and Hubbard make large-format still images that interpret their own video works.

Finally, as a variety of strategies within the staged theme emerged, we entertained the question of whether certain artists’ processes were so elaborate as to constitute performance outright in the absence of narrative, costumes, characters or pictured performers. The art practice of Vic Muniz, with his elaborate collaborative portraits made of garbage seen from far above, raised this “process as performance” question and was ultimately considered an outlier for the edit — although, like documented performance art, Muniz’s work may have raised interesting questions about where the “art” in artworks lives.

At the end of hours of thumbnail browsing and discussions around photographic cultures, I felt sated and fat as a tick, as when one leaves a museum surprised by the complete exhaustion that results from so much seeing.

These conversations eventually became the show, through Heather Sealy Lineberry and her museum team’s logistical feats and vitally sensitive placement decisions. The show includes works by artists from China, Brazil, the Netherlands, Russia, France, Australia, Japan, Iran, Norway, Germany and the United States, covering a wonderful international scope. Most of the objects are printed in saturated color, quite large with shiny finishes, a sumptuous visual feast that puts the viewer’s body in a 1:1 relationship with the crafted illusions.

Beyond providing sensual delight and exposing a range of directorial photographic art strategies from the 1970’s through the present, a rich subtext of the resulting exhibition is the fluid potential of identities and the body as a site of agency. We find Shirin Neshat’s image of a large group of Iranian women “searching for their own nature” near the deceptively seductive while entrapped Bride images of artist Kimiko Yoshida, who left her native Japan because of its “mortifying voluntary servitude.”

On the same floor, Yasumasa Morimura playfully and with absolute veracity becomes icon Brigitte Bardot, slipping into another gender, Western popular and fine art cultures like so many soap suds. Arno Minkkinen and Liu Bolin enact durational performances that dissolve their figures into charged landscapes — the former becoming buds and rock arches like a Nordic god; the latter, a yogi of non-violent protest under a repressive regime.

Upstairs, works by Zhang Huan and by Kwong Chi Tseng explore the artists’ own bodies in relation to globalization. Charlie White sublimates male insecurity through his character Joshua, while adjacent Pierre et Gilles ejaculate spectacle with fanfare. Their glitter-framed portrait mash-ups of religiosity and soft porn create a world where the Carlson twins and Saint John the Baptist occupy the same place and time. The exhibition beautifully illustrates Yoshida’s poignant statement that “art is above all the experience of transformation.”

Images, top to bottom:

Installation shot of the exhibition Performing for the Camera. Photo by Craig Smith.

Liu Bolin (b. 1973), Hiding in the City #51, Roadblock, 2007. C-print, 49 ½ x 61 ½”. Courtesy of Stéphane Janssen.

Kimiko Yoshida (b. 1963), The Silver Berber Bride, Morocco, early XXth Century, 2005. C-print on diabond and diasec, 47 ¼ x 47 ¼”. Courtesy of Stéphane Janssen.

Installation shot of works by Pierre et Gilles in the exhibition Performing for the Camera. Photo by Craig Smith.

May 15, 2012 at 6:59 pm Leave a comment

ASU Art Museum’s International Artist Residency facility opens in downtown Phoenix

Faculty, staff, students and friends of Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts gathered on April 26, 2012 to celebrate an important milestone for the ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program at Combine Studios in downtown Phoenix: the arrival of the facility’s first residents.

Clare Patey (England), Matteo Rubbi (Italy) and Miguel Palma (Portugal) are among the artists currently in residence at Combine Studios.

ASU Art Museum Director Gordon Knox explained to guests that the residencies are an important aspect of the museum’s work in advancing the role of the creative process of artists across all fields of knowledge and research.

“Having international artists here developing their work, interacting with each other and engaging with community members will provide a range of benefits and outcomes,” Knox said.

Combine Studios was recently purchased by artist couple Matthew Moore and Carrie Marill. Each unit was upgraded and furnished by Moore and Marill to provide a “homey” feeling that also celebrates vintage and mid-century aspects of Phoenix. Each unit includes a complete kitchen, private bath and work/study area.

Moore and Marill both had a positive experience at another international residency program, Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Italy, which was established by Knox.

“We’re thrilled to be able to bring this experience for international artists to downtown Phoenix and to work in partnership with the ASU Art Museum,” Moore said.

The ASU Art Museum is leasing six units to house visiting artists working on projects in partnership with the ASU Art Museum, the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and Arizona State University. The facility also includes a storefront gallery/classroom space, and a shared kitchen, common area and resource library for artists to dine together and meet with project partners and members of the community.

“Having international artists here developing their work, interacting with each other and engaging with community members will provide a range of benefits and outcomes,” Knox said.  “Already we have an ASU robotics team working with Portuguese artist Miguel Palma as he develops an image capture and projection vehicle to ‘bring’ the desert back into the city.  Italian artist Matteo Rubbi is organizing a massive bicycle swarming project to trace the Hohokam canals, which will work with history, archeology and other community partners.”

The relationships created between the artists and a range of partners here in Arizona will benefit ASU’s students and extend the work of the university through new, on-going relationships that foster a more connected global network linked through the ASU Art Museum as host and convener, Knox explained.

The residency program is made possible through a unique public/private partnership between the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the ASU Art Museum and Combine Studios, LLC, an initiative of artists Matthew Moore and Carrie Marill, and with generous support from the Desert Initiative and other partners.

For more information about the ASU Art Museum’s International Artist Residency Program, contact Deborah Sussman Susser at 480.965.0014 or deborah.susser@asu.edu.

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Photos by Sean Deckert and Peter Held.

May 11, 2012 at 10:19 pm 1 comment

A Better Future: “Emerge” at the ASU Art Museum

From March 1-3, ASU hosted Emerge: Artists and Scientists Redesign the Future. This spectacular campus-wide event combined the disciplines of art and science to explore the impact of technological evolution on the potential futures we are creating. The advancement of humanity and the advancement of technology have become inextricably intertwined. Participants in Emerge investigated the effect of this symbiotic evolution, addressing the transformations in our lifestyles, the landscapes we inhabit, and even how we define ourselves as humans resulting from the increasing prevalence of technologies in our lives. For more information about the event, read about it from these people in some of the great blog posts I’ve linked below.

We Alone on Earth

http://wealoneonearth.blogspot.com/2012/03/emerge-impressions-day-3.html#.T42xEWHr7lw.email

Julian Does Stuff

http://julian.tumblr.com/post/18661289878/emerge-asu-2012-design-fiction-workshop-a-set-on

An interview with keynote speaker Bruce Sterling as he explains the concept of design fiction

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/03/02/bruce_sterling_on_design_fictions_.html?tid=sm_tw_button_toolbar

Now if after reading all this you’re hooked, but you’re sad that you missed it, don’t be too sad. For anybody interested in experiencing this event, some of its fascinating projects are now housed in the Top Gallery of the ASU Art Museum.

I’ve experienced a significant number of the exhibitions featured at the museum, but nothing ever like this before.

Simultaneously eerie and poignant, the interactive exhibition is a beautiful, visually striking hybrid between a science center and an art gallery. The gallery is washed a sterile white onto which florescence glows. Texts in an assortment of bold, vivid colors are stamped throughout the exhibition space, glaringly obvious, almost lurid against the florescent white. The ambience is fascinating and somewhat unearthly. Entering the gallery feels like stepping into a world far removed from the one you inhabit daily. It sounds a little intimidating, but any first impressions of unease are quickly removed by all the gadgets to play with. These cool inventions and imaginings all present answers to the question of what our future might hold.

At one end of the gallery, a collection of View-Masters sits on display (I’ve included a picture below in case you’re not familiar with the View-Master). Clicking through the slides presents different views of the future as it pertains to Arizona. Having grown up in the 1990s I personally love this part of the exhibition. I remember these toys from my childhood, and really appreciate the irony of using them to ‘view’ the future.

An adjoining room showcases the vibrant headdresses created for Immerge a ‘unique interactive performance’ that occurred at the end of the event on the plaza behind the Museum.  Scenes from the performance with the actors in full costume are projected onto the gallery wall. Truly elaborate works of art, these headdresses are a sophisticated combination of feathers, wire and lights. Each seems so fragile a single breath could destroy it. Quirky descriptions of the characters represented by each headdress accompany the display, conveying impish, childlike personalities despite the artistic and technical intricacy.

While the exhibition is undeniably visually and technically just cool, it’s the interactive features that make it touching and memorable. The exhibition recognizes the importance of everyone’s input. We all have a stake in the future. It involves us beyond allowing us to just see ‘the experts’ (Emerge participants) ideas of the future by encouraging personal contributions. A table containing labeled glass tubes and marbles lets visitors vote on the topic they consider most important for a sustainable future. Clay for molding future inventions is supplied at a table in the center of the gallery. Alcoves along one wall house the imaginings of previous visitors. Colorful Post-its provided at one end of the gallery invite visitors to share their thoughts. The response is overwhelming; hundreds of these colorful paper squares adorn the walls around the gallery’s entrance.

While upon first glance the exhibition may seem cold and intimidating, closer inspection reveals how truly emotive and human it actually is. While some parts of the exhibition are undeniably rather dystopic (synthetic panda jerky anyone?) the contributions left behind speak of hope.

Some are funny:

Some are heartfelt:

Some are calls to action:

No matter their content, each and every one represents something someone was prompted to think and then cared enough to share. The quality and sheer volume of responses illustrates a prevailing mentality of ‘our future’ rather than ‘my future.’ Whatever future may unfold, this exhibition makes it evident that it will be one we create, share and face together.

Karen Enters, Intern

May 9, 2012 at 9:21 pm Leave a comment

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: Behind the scenes at the ASU Art Museum

Below: Gordon Knox (Director, ASU Art Museum) looks on curiously as Julie Thies, left, performs one of her TMS training sessions. Heather Sealy Lineberry (Senior Curator and Associate Director) also attends. Photo by Stu Mitnik.

Transitions are happening everywhere, from the changing seasons (which in Phoenix we call “hot” and “really, really hot”), to the updated layout on Facebook that caused millions to panic. The Arizona State University Art Museum is no exception to these recent shifts.

The art museum has recently made a transition from an unwieldy Access Database to The Museum System (TMS), a super sleek and powerful database, software which also graces the collections of such prestigious institutions as the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and the Metropolitan in New York City. The Museum System combines user-friendly features with a multi-faceted, innovative approach to adding in-depth details to collections and records.  With TMS, the simplest aspects of an artwork are easily accessible, such as an artist’s birthplace or the year a piece was made, yet it also allows for users to find pieces using ambiguous terms, dates and locations, because of its extensive database.

Julie Thies, an independent consultant who has worked with TMS for 12 years, says, “If I didn’t have TMS, there are some questions I would have a hard time answering.” She recollects an instance in which a museum goer called about a piece he had seen several years prior: “With TMS, I didn’t have to hunt through tons of filing drawers to try to find the answer. And I don’t think the answer was anywhere in a drawer.”

Julie, who was the collections database manager at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky for 10 years and who got her start using TMS as an intern at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and the Sackler Gallery, both of which are part of the Smithsonian Institution, came to the ASU Art Museum in December as an independent consultant to assist with the launch of The Museum System.  Without Julie’s expertise, the switch to TMS would have seemed almost impossible, as she was a beacon of hope and calm when we were caught in the tumultuous and dark seas of database conversion.

The breadth and intensity of the switch to TMS is almost hard to describe, but mentioning the numbers — a migration of close to 14, 000 objects as well as 14, 000 object images — it’s a bit easier to understand the magnitude of such an undertaking. Regardless of the time, energy and potential loss of sanity, however, the database conversion is a welcome and much needed improvement to the museum collection, one that is incredibly valuable, time-saving, in-depth, and a rescuer of busy museum professionals.

Each user of The Museum System is bound to have a favorite feature that makes their life easier. For Julie Thies, the Wisest of All Who Use TMS, it’s the endless possibilities that rank number one for her. “You can track anything about an object, where it has been, where it is and where it is going. You can manage exhibitions, images and artist information. Over the years it is nice to watch the information grow and develop, and you can see a real history of an object within the institution.”

A conversion to a new database system not only eases the collection process but helps people to better understand a collection as a whole, in parts, or as singular objects. With this understanding, our museum then becomes a more accessible platform from which to be involved in a dialogue about art. And in the end, isn’t that what a collection should do?

Aubree Jacobs, Assistant to the Registrar, True TMS believer.

Above, left to right, Gordon Knox, Heather Sealy Lineberry and ASU Art Museum Registrar Anne Sullivan take in a TMS training session. Photo by Stu Mitnik.

May 7, 2012 at 7:34 pm 1 comment

SOFA So Good

Our senior curator and associate director, Heather Sealy Lineberry, has been in New York City attending the annual SOFA (Sculptural Objects Functional Art) exposition and doing other research for the Museum.

Below, HSL visits with fiber artist Mi-Kyoung Lee (and a young friend) to learn more about her work installed at SOFA New York. HSL writes that “Lee creates uncommonly beautiful and expansive installations using common materials like black and red twist ties, gardening mesh and thread.”

 

Here’s a shot of ASU ceramics professor Sam Chung and grad student Tristyn Bustamante admiring the work of Danish artist Steen Ipsen, in the Lacoste Gallery booth at SOFA New York:

 

Below, HSL takes a break from SOFA, museums, galleries and studios for dim sum in Chinatown with Sam Chung and the group of ceramics grads on the trip with him, pictured here. The students will be giving a presentation about the trip at the Ceramics Research Center on May 1, at 6 p.m. — the talk is free and open to the public.

 

And finally, a photo of Dawn Kasper’s work in the Whitney Biennial — an open and active complete studio in the gallery. HSL reports that she “chatted with Dawn about operating with the confines of a museum space, interacting with the public and the fluidity of art forms. Shared with her our long running Social Studies series of projects giving artists a museum gallery as open studio or space for actions and interactions.”

All photos courtesy of Heather Sealy Lineberry.

April 24, 2012 at 7:08 pm Leave a comment

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