Posts tagged ‘community’

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

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

Redesigning the future with Emerge

What it means to be human is changing. Emerging technologies are transforming our minds, our relationships, everything we own and the very landscapes in which we live. What kinds of humans will we become? What kinds of humans should we become?

These are just some of the big questions that artists and scientists explored March 1–3, 2012, when Arizona State University hosted Emerge – an unparalleled campus-wide event uniting artists, engineers, bio scientists, social scientists, story–tellers and designers to build, draw, write and rethink the future of the human species and the environments that we share.

On April 10, the exhibition Emerge: Redesigning the Future opened at the ASU Art Museum. This unusual show gives audiences a chance to sample some of the futures imagined during the three-day Emerge event, and includes hands-on activities that make the viewer part of the project.

On Tuesday, April 17, we’ll celebrate the opening of Emerge from 5 to 8 p.m., at a reception sponsored by ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. The exhibition will be up through Aug. 25, and is free and open to the public.

Many thanks to the partners who worked so thoughtfully and so hard to bring this exhibition together, and to the sponsors and partners who made Emerge possible!

Exhibition credits

Emerge exhibition team

Daragh Byrne, School of Arts, Media + Engineering in the Herberger Institute

Sarah Davies, Center for Nanotechnology in Society

Aisling Kelliher, School of Arts, Media + Engineering and The Design School in the Herberger Institute

Cynthia Selin, School of Sustainability, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes

Lead developers of Emerge

Thanassis Rikakis, director of the ASU School of Arts, Media + Engineering and the Digital Culture Initiative in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

Joel Garreau, Lincoln Professor of Law, Culture and Values at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

Cynthia Selin, assistant professor, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes and the School of Sustainability

 

Sponsors and partners

  • Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
  • The Center for Nanotechnology in Society
  • ASU Office of the President
  • Intel
  • The Prevail Project of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
  • School of Sustainability
  • Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
  • ASU LightWorks
  • ASU Art Museum

Image above: A moment during Immerge, a performance on Nelson Fine Arts Plaza during the Emerge conference. Photo by Tim Trumble.

April 11, 2012 at 7:11 pm Leave a comment

The Movement of “The Precession”

Attendants of “The Precession” on Feb. 17-18, at the ASU Art Museum, took away not just an experience but a feeling. Artists Judd Morrissey and Mark Jeffery blend otherworldly and secular references. The performers seemed to allude to the working man, while the winged figures suggested a more ethereal source.

Morrissey and Jeffery began to work together creatively when they both became involved with Goat Island, a collaborative performance group based in Chicago. During that time, the artists started to forge their own collaboration, merging live choreography and large-scale digital text installations to create a strange hybrid out of the individual practices.

Moved by the celestial map memorial at the Hoover Dam that Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated in 1935, Jeffery and Morrissey decided to make a piece that responded to the engraved imprint of the stars. However, the work also presents others complexities. With Morrissey’s background in digital art and visual poetics and Jeffery’s experience in choreography and live performance, the two formed a complex piece about celestial patterns, the economy and contemporary issues.

Museum-goer and sculpting student Mikey Estes recounted, “The part that stood out to me was when the four performers were all doing separate actions. One laid on the floor with his face in a shovel, another was looking at the wall frantically as if he was analyzing it, another was making hand movements, and the fourth wasn’t in the room but I heard a lot of clatter …. The reason that stood out to me was because all these different things were going on simultaneously and rather chaotically, but it all had this calming unity about it.”

Though “The Precession” can be interpreted in many different ways, Morrissey and Jeffery offered insight into the creative process of their piece.

What inspired “The Precession”?

Judd Morrissey: We started thinking about this site at the Hoover Dam, a monument to the building of it. What we did is we each responded in our own way to the site as a creative starting point. One way in which I responded was by doing some writing and then taking that writing into the computer and coding it and playing with the visuality of it.

It started from that point, and it’s a very complicated trajectory. But it involves working both separately and together. Whereas I’m working on the screen-based components, Mark also develops his own interventions into the performance, so it’s an organic conversation we’re always having. A lot of the things that I do will come back and play into the physical structure of the space.

Mark Jeffery: This is a piece that’s been going for four years, so we’re happy for these natural intrusions to take place. The video actually is, for here, three websites that will be simultaneously playing. There is still video integrated, which allows for Twitter within a mile radius of the museum to be pulled in. So we actually have this live data that can be charged. The way we’ve been able to keep working is through our residency and an invitation to do an exhibition we’ve been able to feed a particular piece into the main work. For the three-month exhibition we did at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago, we opened on the winter solstice and closed on the spring equinox. It was important that we did it those days.

Why is this work called “The Precession”?

JM: We visited the Hoover Dam at the time that Obama’s campaign was going and there was a lot of this New Deal type of talk. There was a different kind of spirit in the air. A lot of people were digging back into the idea of fixing the economy and putting people to work. There was a lot of rhetoric circulating around the New Deal emerging. We decided to look at that. In the celestial map that’s engraved, there is a depiction of precession, and what it is in astronomy is the fact that the sky is slowly changing so that the pole star changes over thousands of years. Right now our pole star is Polaris, but a few thousand years ago it was something else and in a few thousand years it will be Vaga. So actually over time people will see a different sky, different locations, and will have to navigate differently. It’s sort of a representation of time at a monumental scale, and the reason the pole star shifts is because the Earth’s axis is gradually increasing its tilt by one degree every 72 years. It was discovering this concept and playing with the idea of the recession within the word “precession” and the economic cycles. The word has also been used in a lot of other contexts. The philosopher Baudrillard talks about the simulated overtaking the real as though it precedes it. There is also a concept in Buckminster Fuller that has to do with the way human behavior impacts other humans. He uses the concept of precession to discuss the effects of our actions on other people. There was all this strange research around the term. That’s some of the sort of density of our starting point.

MJ: You’ll see here that we’re very interested in research and we’re interested in looking at facts as a way to move a work on, but when people come to the see the work, you don’t need to know. There are anchors there but for us, the audience becomes another respondent to the work. How we like to work is from a number of sources whether that’s historical, personal, social or political. It’s that we’re giving ourselves a certain number of clues that shouldn’t normally be put together and we’re trying during this two or three year process to arrive at a moment of “Here we are, and this is the piece we’ve decided upon.”

“The Precession” seems to have evolved a lot. What changes have been made over the four years?

JM: It’s been quite strange. We started with a residency at Brown University at a gallery in Rhode Island, a little firehouse. We made an initial focus which involved both the projection of real-time text and performers looking at this form called the Living Newspaper, a 1930s style of theater funded by Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, which was designed to create jobs and also work theater and the arts, which now seems remarkable. These were socially-oriented plays designed to raise awareness around the economic plight of the farmer, for instance, and health epidemics like the syphilis epidemic.

So we were looking at those sources, and we got an invitation to make a piece for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. We developed, based on the Living Newspaper, a work where people were behaving as them. So instead of talking to the concerns of the 30s, they were channeling, through earbuds connected to mobile phones, texts from social networks where people were talking about different contemporary concerns they had. They were acting as puppets, in a way, by receiving texts and speaking them.

That piece was called “The Living Newspaper,” but part of The Hoover Dam memorial is these two winged 32 ft. tall figures that are seated within the celestial map so at some point these Living Newspaper people transform into that image with these massive wings. That was another piece where we started to develop — how do we put the real-time stuff that happens onscreen? How do we put that into people’s mouths and bodies?

Then later on we did another piece for the Museum of Contemporary Art, and we used that piece to develop another further component that would ultimately become “The Precession.” In this one, we interviewed museum visitors about their labor histories. We had them teach us gestures from their occupations and worked with a group of 10 male dancers to develop a choreography out of the interviews.

But returning again to the original celestial map at the site, the dancers’ positions within the choreography are determined by a map of the position of the stars over the building. This piece was mainly a choreographic piece where the dancers are both building and responding to this database of data gestures, but they are also being plotted according to the position of the stars.

“The Precession” is all of these things mashed up and choreographed together. All of these things are happening simultaneously or through a score, so it’s a very organic process. This piece was based on taking small components to specific places. Then when we got to Hyde Park we had an 80-foot 10-screen façade and giant gallery space we could put everything together and the piece became a 10-screen web browser installation. It’s fairly complicated, really process based, but we think the thematics of it come through to some degree. It sounds like it could be a mess, but I think it creates a very discrete vocabulary and certain kinds of imagery comes through. It sort of becomes a piece of visual art performance that is in some ways its own world and in some way rooted to these references. It’s somewhere between having the source and then no longer needing one.

Why do you think this project has been so successful?

MJ: Artists are interested in invitation, and in some respects, it’s probably because of the richness of the vocabulary we’ve discovered. We’re creating an exhibition around monumentality, but then what is it do to look at images that are rather discrete versus images that are semi-spectacle? One of the things about being able to work over a long period of time is that you got to let the world affect what you’re seeing. You’ll see the dam flood into the space trying to become a figure in the night sky. It’ll feel like the dam is flooding over this huge territory and landscape. There’s a sense of how those two things come together in a very powerful way. Because we knew we were coming here, we adapted it and wanted to investigate. A contemporary theme in performance art right now is how to make performance an exhibition. There’s a return to performance coming back into gallery spaces, so this is a test in some respect with doing it here for two days. There’s something about occupying and thinking about time and thinking about how to structure work in a museum space rather than a theater space.

JM: It’s an environment and in many ways immersive. I think the way we work is that we tap into iconographies that speak to the time we live in now as well as previous times. You get the history that communicates to people on a visual level, not just a logical level. I also think that when you make work that is process driven and evolves over a long period of time and has a specific vocabulary, people tend to interpret it within their own vocabulary or within their own lives, whatever narrative they’re bringing to the piece. It enters into that. With a certain kind of experimental work, people become embedded into the narrative. They may have their own sort of epiphany and they may find something that speaks directly to them. And it may not be some prescribed meaning that we’ve created, but it’s chance. Something we’ve noticed over many years is that people tend to get other things from the piece because they’re projecting onto the space, so it’s that network of the individual’s narrative patterns. The audience doesn’t always meet the narrative pattern we’re constructing, and I think these strange conjunctions happen, just in the sense that they’re open to creating your own reading. Not so much that you generate them, just so much that you have them.

Mary Richardson

“The Precession” was curated by Angela Ellsworth, with support from the ASU School of Art, Live Art Platform and Live Art Club.

All photographs by Sean Deckert

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March 12, 2012 at 9:03 pm Leave a comment

An Alternate Reality Check

The ASU Art Museum’s exhibition Performing for the Camera deserves an encore. The exhibition is a collection of large, glossy, striking photographs. This is no mere point-click-shoot scenario; these pictures are scenes, not snapshots of a moment in time. Every crisply displayed image is performance art at its finest. The splendor and exquisite precision of the images illustrates the same dedication and patience as a wildlife photographer entrenched in the jungle waiting for the perfect shot. However unlike the photographer who must ultimately rely on luck, the images in Performing for the Camera are the result of the artists’ talent and ingenuity. These artists have moved beyond the concept of the photographer and his camera as merely operator and tool. By expertly staging the captured image, these artists have used photography as a medium to construct alternate, imaginary worlds inhabited by the beautiful and bizarre.

Moving from one photograph to the next, the viewer will experience anything but the ordinary. Spencer Tunick’s work features hundreds of naked men and women, uniform in their nudity, distributed across the landscape. Individually and unclothed they seem strangely small, lost, and nondescript, but as a collective they form a striking human monument.

Charlie White’s work, titled Sherrie’s Living Room, toys with our sense of intimacy.  White’s photograph mimics a scene common in every home. In a (Sherrie’s) living room a nude couple reclines on the couch, bathed in the warm glow of dim lamplight. He lies on his side brooding and dejected as she comforts him. She is an attractive brunette, he is a humanoid puppet. It is as creepy as it sounds. Looking at White’s work, the viewer can’t help but feel unease and revulsion. The familiarity of this interaction between couples, combined with our perception of the home as a place of privacy and comfort, allows White to create a distortion disturbing to some intrinsic value within us. One can also not help but feel an odd empathy for the puppet. Despite our discomfort, the puppet is just human enough to symbolize the insecurity and alienation equally as intrinsic to us.

Some works in Performing for the Camera also overextend reality into a reflection of our hopes.

Duane Michals’ Grandpa Goes to Heaven is one such piece. This series of slightly unfocused black and white photographs depicts a boy waiting patiently by his grandfather’s bedside. From one photograph to the next, the child’s grandfather, displaying what is unmistakably a pair of wings, rises from bed and waves good-bye to his grandson before departing out the window. In the final shot, the child leans out the window and waves after his grandfather.

The presentation makes the images feel like a half remembered dream one can only hope is true. The old man got to wish his grandson farewell before going to heaven, and the boy, not yet comprehending death, only knows his grandfather is now gone but happy. The child’s innocent acceptance of his grandfather’s quite unusual behavior invokes an odd mixture of hope and melancholia.

This is a story we all wish were true. Yet with age and experience we cannot believe in such a miraculous occurrence like the child can. Do yourself a favor and see it. We might be tired, stressed, and jaded, but seeing Grandpa Goes to Heaven evokes memories of childhood innocence at which we can’t help but smile (even if just a little).

Duane Michals’ Grandpa Goes to Heaven. Courtesy of Stéphane Janssen

— Karen Enters, Intern

March 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm Leave a comment

Magic Fridays, continued: Crowns!!!

Above: Visiting artist Matteo Rubbi and his crown in downtown Phoenix.

You may have seen the earlier post on this blog about “Magic Fridays” at the Museum. They are the brainchild of visiting artist-in-residence Matteo Rubbi, from Bergamo, Italy, and his girlfriend, French artist Béatrice Bailet, both of whom have shared their fine cooking and their insights with the Museum staff and lucky visitors at several congenial potlucks served in the Museum lobby.

Earlier this month, “Magic Friday” coincided Epiphany (Jan. 6), and for the occasion, Béatrice made a galette des rois, or “king cake.” This delicious confection — thin layers of pastry with a frangipane center — contained two dried beans, and the finders of those beans each received a paper crown, and became king for the day.

That evening, which was also First Friday on downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row, Matteo and Béatrice took the tradition to the streets, making paper crowns with passersby outside the house in which the two artists had been staying.

Béatrice wrote a blog post about the event, which is on her blog:

http://beatricebailet.over-blog.com/article-c-r-o-w-n-96645968.html

And here is our own rough translation of Beatrice’s post, which was originally in French. Merci, Béatrice!

Every First Friday of the month, the center of Phoenix is swarmed by people.

Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, in the United States. It’s a city of extraordinary dimensions, with a density of 1,084 inhabitants/km2, and an overall surface area of 1334,1 km2 (Paris: 21,196 inhabitants/km2 for 105,4 km2!) It’s built in the Sonoran Desert, which allows it to expand without limits. This fact means there’s a good quality of life, with a private garden for everyone, but prevents those moments of meeting that occur in a city built on a human scale. In Phoenix, you don’t walk or borrow the rare shared mode of transportation. You have to take your car, even for short trips.

That’s why First Fridays are such a big success: In the arts neighborhood in downtown Phoenix, a kind of art market takes place in the evening, allowing the art galleries to stay open, the food trucks to gather, and musicians to play in the street.

It’s within this context that I suggested a crown-making workshop. Everybody was free to stop and make a crown with the salvaged materials we had available (paper, stickers, images, pens…)

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January 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm Leave a comment

Looking for miracles at the ASU Art Museum

Julianne Swartz and Ken Landauer are looking for miracles at the ASU Art Museum this January. As the Social Studies artists for the spring, they will be in residence much of January exploring the miraculous through people’s perceptions of it in their lives. Julianne and Ken will interview school children, ASU students and community members of all ages and backgrounds to gather a range of definitions and life experiences. Their findings will be combined in an installation of fleeting vignettes in video and sound playing on all of the Museum’s available equipment.

Andrea Feller, Nicole Herden and I have been doing advance work talking to teachers, faculty and community members about the project. We just received more than 100 student projects back from Tesseract School and ACP (Academy with Community Partners) High School, grades 5 through 12. The written stories, guided by questions from the artists, are heart wrenching and compelling. They include a child telling the story of his great grandmother dancing with the ghost of her late husband in his wedding suit to a child’s story of the miracle of her own birth to teenagers with siblings surviving near-fatal war injuries.

An incredible start to Miracle Report, the eighth Social Studies project at the ASU Art Museum.

Heather Sealy Lineberry, Senior Curator and Associate Director

For more information, or if you would like to schedule a session with the artists to retell your own miracle, contact Nicole Herden at Nicole.herden @asu.edu.

Here are the dates of the project and the artists’ mission statement:

Artist Residency: December 26, 2011 – January 20, 2012

Exhibition: January 21 – June 2, 2012

Reception: Friday, January 20, 5-7pm; Julianne Swartz will speak at the opening.

Mission Statement:

-We will spend our Social Studies Residency looking for miracles.

-We will locate the miraculous through other people’s perception of it in their lives.

-We will interview many local residents and ask them to “describe a miracle you have experienced”.

– Interviewees will be of varied ages and backgrounds. We will gratefully record anyone who wishes to retell his or her own miracle.

-We will record audio and video from these interviews, but identities will be obscured.

-The recordings will be edited into fleeting vignettes that attempt to establish “the miraculous” through many entirely subjective perspectives.

-We will seek to use all of the available audio and visual equipment in the museum’s possession to display the recordings.

-Our installation will strive to embody some beauty, some hocus-pocus, and some unexplainable magic.

January 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm 2 comments

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