Posts tagged ‘artists’

Passion in motion: Elizabeth Johnson and Socially Engaged Practice at the ASU Art Museum

Above: Elizabeth Johnson, second from left, takes part in the “Mother-Daughter Distance Dance” at the ASU Art Museum on April 2, 2011, as part of Gregory Sale’s exhibition It’s not just black and white.

Art is active. And for those like Elizabeth Johnson, it can move them in more ways than one.

As the Coordinator for Socially Engaged Practice at the museum, Johnson uses dance in order to organize collaborations, promote dialogue, and investigate pressing issues of our time.

Part of how she does this by harnessing people’s natural movement and putting shapes around questions that people then answer physically.

It’s not as abstract as you might think.

“We move to communicate all the time,” Johnson says. “We improvise every moment we have a conversation. We have an idea, we have a vision and we act on that vision or we don’t act on that vision. I just offer ways for people to show that. It’s a very fluid process.”

Before accepting this position, Johnson had never worked for a museum before. Having received her BFA in Dance from Connecticut College, Johnson traveled around the world organizing community engagement events and projects, as she says, in everyone’s community except her own.

Johnson explains working at the ASU Art Museum has made her rethink what a museum is — especially this museum: “I’ve never been a person who felt like I could concentrate with something still on the wall, as beautiful as it might be. Now that I’m in a museum, I’ve realized that a museum is a place that can hold ideas and is a place for the public, not just the people who know about art.”

Johnson’s work uses unique activities to connect with the community and have people think about artmaking and relationships formed through art. She bases her work on the idea that intangible social interactions can constitute the core of an artwork.

“That’s why I’m here,” she says.

When it comes to Socially Engaged Practice, Johnson explains she’s not just a planner but also a practitioner of the process: “There’s a lot of preparation that goes into collaborative events. I tend to set up things, but I also get involved with them. I facilitate and coordinate but I also practice and do. I get myself involved in a lot of interesting things.”

Through dance, Johnson creates meaningful cross-disciplinary collaborations and builds sustainable partnerships.

“What art can do is hold complexity,” she says. “And I kind of believe that when you bring your body into this, it brings out this human experience that we all have and gives us the capacity to have compassion in a way that’s different than if we just read a newspaper.”

Johnson is currently pursuing an MFA in Dance from ASU with her thesis focusing on exploring women and crime, a subject she became interested in after collaborating with Gregory Sale for It’s not just black and white in 2011.

“It really had me think what it’s like for me to be in Arizona and for me to be in a community that was my own.”

Above: Elizabeth Johnson, left, and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief MaryEllen Sheppard talk with girls who participated in the “Mother-Daughter Distance Dance.”

Johnson considers curriculum integration the biggest and most important aspect of her job — how to create a program that trains the artists of the 21st century that gives them skills to not only hones their craft but apply it in multiple contexts.

Johnson currently instructs Socially Engaged Practice: Engagement and Community, but she is also in the process of designing a new program and curricula for a certificate in Socially Engaged Practice at the undergraduate and graduate level.

“I have a real passion for this kind of work and what happens when young people see how big art can be and how many possibilities there are,” Johnson says. “The actual engagement of young people is really interesting to me. And I thrive on it, which is why I’m in a university.”

Next semester she and the director of the ASU Art Museum Gordon Knox will teach the new class Socially Engaged Art, which will examine the role of the artist in society from an anthropological perspective. Knox and Johnson also plan to use the course to push students to think about how to use art to moderate conversations and assess the complexities of a given social situation.

Johnson explains she has learned more about socially engaged practice uses dance in a way to share, not perform.  “You combine your experience with somebody else’s and you see ‘Oh, it’s a more complicated picture,’” she says. “More interesting, more broad. [Working here] has definitely expanded what I know.”

Johnson’s intern Lindsay Henika, a senior studying Art Administration, has found her time at the museum to be an opportunity to learn about special event planning and media marketing. “It’s been so great to see how the museum works from the front row,” she says.

Johnson has her hand in many different projects, but her next upcoming event is At Home in the Desert: Youth Engagement and Place. The project partners the faculty and staff in ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts with community-based organizations, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan PhoenixThe Boys and Girls and Club of the East Valley, Girl ScoutsArizona Cactus-Pine Council, and South Mountain High School.

Johnson has been working with the Girl Scouts by studying the desert and making dances about what they find. The public event will take place on Dec. 1 at the Diane and Bruce Halle Skyspace Garden on the Tempe campus at 4:30 p.m.

To learn more about what the Socially Engaged Practice community is up to, check out its blog and Facebook.

Mary Richardson

November 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm 1 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.

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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.

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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.

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“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

Notes From Underground: Fall Season Opening

Guest blogger and ASU student Veronica Rascona writes about the ASU Art Museum’s Fall 2012 Season Opening Reception:

At 6:30 on the evening of September 28, the ASU Art Museum launched its 2012 season. People gathered in the darkness at the front of the building to talk, eat and watch a performance by the mixed parkour, martial arts, dance and acrobatics group Movement Connections. The group, dressed in white, took advantage of the museum’s unique structure as they silently crawled, leapt and ran all over the walls and stairs of the Art Museum’s entrance.

In a touching moment, a little girl got caught up in the mix and one of the performers invited her to perform a stunt with him—a simple handstand, nothing dangerous. After performing a few more acrobatics on their own, eventually the performers climbed up onto the cement pillars in the front of the Museum. They performed a few stunts and then began pointing toward the façade of the museum upon which a video was being projected. It appeared to have been filmed from the window of a car and depicted an expanse of desert landscape rushing by.

The video continued to play as Movement Connections wrapped up their performance. People then began to shuffle down the stairs, waiting for the next sequence in the evening’s activities. Some ventured into the Museum to look at the current exhibits on display, while others, like myself, sat just outside the doors, taking in the array of lights that filled the underground courtyard—part of the “55: Music and Dance in Concrete” performance that would start at 7:30 p.m.

I sat to one side of the courtyard and began to notice other elements—a video of an eye opening and closing and rolling around in its socket was projected onto the back of the pillars that outlined the courtyard. Above and below the eye was the phrase, “Don’t touch me!!” projected backwards. It was somewhat disturbing,and I did not know what to expect from the performance after seeing these images. Just before the performance began, the audience was instructed as to where to stand in order to best view the performance, but were also told that the performers would be moving throughout the space alternately providing various vantage points a better view.

The crowd gathered, and from my vantage point I witnessed three of the visiting dancers, each dressed in red, black and white, slowly fill the empty space between us and the Museum. I could not see what was happening on the other half of the courtyard as it was blocked by cement pillars and benches, but this was how the show was meant to be viewed: people seeing different parts of the show, each person having a unique viewing experience. The three girls on my side slowly moved into position.

The lights changed from bright white lines filling the space to a strange speckled effect, and music composed of electronic sounds, “from 55 improvised and 55 composed pieces” started to play. The dancers began to move. Their dancing was rapid; they moved convulsively, throwing themselves at the cement walls and against the floor as the lights continued to change and pulse. The effect was alarming and intriguing. As the dancers moved throughout the space, the crowd adjusted to watch each new scene; at one point the only male dancer shut himself behind a gate while a video of him stuck in what seemed like a jail cell played on the wall behind the bars. The video cut from scenes of him in the cell, to the real dancer performing similar movements in the real, jail-like space.

The music and lights continued to change as the dancers set and reset their stage, from one side of the courtyard to the other, to behind the bars, to on top of the cement benches, to at one point taking the elevator in the middle of the space up to the second floor where we lost sight of them for a moment. The performance, meant to engage the audience in sight, sound and movement, felt like a piece about escape; the dancers’ jerking movements gave the impression that they were almost trying to break out of their own skin.

What was most beautiful about the whole event, however, was not only the performances, but the interaction between the performers and their audience. I looked over the faces in the audience and everyone’s eyes were on the performers, completely captivated. The decision by both performance groups to use the space around their audience created an atmosphere in which we were all connected. Not only did everyone get to watch a fun and intricate performance, but they were encouraged to feel like they were a part of it all.

Thanks to Sean Deckert and Veronica Rascona for the use of their photographs.

55: Music and Dance in Concrete  premiered at Fort Worden as part of Centrum’s Reverberations series, in addition to premiering at the ASU Art Museum. The project received initial funding from the MAP Fund and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, as well as support from Arizona State University, and RBMA. The project is supported by the Japan Foundation through the PerformingArtsJAPAN program. The Centrum Artist Residency program is made possible by support from the Washington State Arts Commission and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. Additional support was provided by 4Culture Site Specific.

Miguel Palma’s Trajectory is supported in part by the FUNd at ASU Art Museum, the ASU Art Museum Advisory Board and Friends and Margarita and Willie Joffroy.

October 11, 2012 at 10:34 pm 1 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

New curator at the Museum: Julio Cesar Morales

As of Sept. 4, 2012, the ASU Art Museum has a new curator on board: Julio Cesar Morales, who comes to us from San Francisco. We are thrilled to have him here, and excited about what the future holds.

We hope you’ll join us at the Museum on Tuesday, Sept. 11 from 5-6:30 p.m. for a casual open-house reception to welcome Julio. Introductory comments will be at 6 p.m.; refreshments will be served.

Below is Julio’s statement on joining the Museum, and below that is some biographical information on Julio that gives a sense of the breadth and depth of his experience.

Hope to see you Sept. 11!

Statement by Julio Cesar Morales

My projects often place special emphasis on examination of the meaning and value of cultural difference, thereby strengthening the public awareness of how diversity preserves individual dignity and group identity, strengthens communities and increases respect among all people. With a deep interest in social change, my projects often address social justice issues relevant to both local and global communities.

Curatorial practice and art education have always been an important part of my overall artistic practice. I am particularly interested in art’s unique ability to engage in a social context, which can imbue daily life with meaning and significance. An important aspect of that is creating opportunities to draw on new models of engagement with both schools and students.

My interest in breaking boundaries between disciplines has led me to work as a curator and educator. I have been fortunate to exhibit and curate at an international level, and I bring these experiences back to a pedagogical environment, which allows me to develop programs, collaboration and enthusiasm within an art university and art museum level.

The ASU Art Museum holds an important place in the critical and contemporary art world, and I am honored to join the team.

Information on Julio Cesar Morales

Morales is an artist, educator and curator currently working both individually and collaboratively. His artwork consistently explores issues of labor, memory, surveillance technologies and identity strategies. Morales teaches and creates art in a variety of settings, from juvenile halls and probation offices to museums, art colleges and alternative non-profit institutions. His work has been shown at SFMOMA (San Francisco); 2009 Lyon Biennale (Lyon, France); 2008 and 2004 San Juan Triennial (San Juan, Puerto Rico); 2007 Istanbul Biennale; Los Angeles County Art Museum (Los Angeles); 2006 Singapore Biennale; Frankfurter Kunstverein (Frankfurt, Germany); Swiss Cultural Center (Paris, France); The Rooseum Museum of Art (Malmo, Sweden); Peres Projects (Los Angeles); Fototeca de Havana (Cuba); Harris Lieberman Gallery (New York City); Museo Tamayo (Mexico City) and UCLA Hammer Museum (Los Angeles).

He has received awards from Rockefeller Foundation, The San Francisco Arts Commission’s Public Art Program, The Fleishhacker Foundation, The Ed Fund, The Creative Work Fund, Levis Strauss Foundation and Artadia, among others.

Writing on his work has appeared in publications such as Artforum, Art in America, The New York Times, Frieze Magazine and Flash Art.

Recent curatorial projects include the retrospective exhibition Living in Studio Kuchar of influential underground film-maker George Kuchar at The San Francisco Art Institute (2012); Politica y Poecia, at The National Watercolor Museum in Sweden (2011), an exhibition of contemporary Mexican art that attempts to trace the lineage of political and poetic issues of migration and labor; and The One Who Sees Blindly, an exhibition that marked the U.S. debut of French artist Nathalie Talec at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco (2012).

From 2008-2012 Morales was adjunct curator at Yerba Buena Center for The Arts and created the ground-breaking program PAUSE II Practice and Exchange, a series of process-based exhibitions with artistsinresidence from the Bay Area and around the world. YBCA’s galleries act as a laboratory in which artists are commissioned to develop, experiment and translate new and existing bodies of visual artwork. These works include lectures, performances and workshops that transform the exhibition space into a fluid and active experience for gallery visitors. Other projects included the development of Crossfade, a forum for distinctive video compilations organized by guest curators based at art venues around the world, and an international residency program with Kadist Foundation. Artists included Xu Tan, George Kuchar with Miguel Calderon, Nina Beier, Jennie C. Jones, Allan deSouza and Koki Tanaka.

Morales is the founder, co-director and curator of Queens Nails Annex, located in the Mission district of San Francisco, which serves as a project space dedicated to presenting collaborative, site-specific and experimental works by artists. QNA challenges both emerging and established artists to work outside their “normal” practice in order to produce unique projects. Collaborative institutional projects include the 2008 California Biennale and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Bay Area Now. Exhibition highlights include more than 36+ projects with Archigram, Pedro Reyes, Suzanne Lacy, Mary Kelly, Yoshua Okon, Tony Labat, Mitzi Pederson, Sarah Cain, Jason Jagel, Stella Lai, Jennifer Locke and Miguel Calderon as well as curatorial collaborations with Hou Hanru and Lauri Firstenberg, among others.

Additional independent curatorial projects have been exhibited at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; Museum of Craft and Folk Art, San Francisco; The San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery; The Pasadena Museum of California Art; and Sonoma Valley Art Museum.

Images courtesy of Julio Cesar Morales.

September 5, 2012 at 8:36 pm 3 comments

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

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

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

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