Posts tagged ‘Desert Initiative’

Notes from Kosovo: Linking Phoenix and Prishtina

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

kosovo alban

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

kosovo ambassador cutting ribbon

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

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

kosovo students

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

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

kosovo poster promoting first friday

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

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

kosovo mother teresa boulevard

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

Notes from Kosovo II – Plan B

kosovo snow on rooftops

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

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

kosovo Pallati i Rinisë dhe i Sporteve

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

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

kosovo students on campus

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

kosovo gallery opening

*    *     *

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

*    *    *

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

kosovo temporary street decorations

*    *    *

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

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

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

Notes from Kosovo III – Looking Forward

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

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

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

kosovo The mountains above Krujë, Albania.

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

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

Faleminderit (thank you), Kosovo!

Links:

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

Valley of the Sunflowers

Desert Initiative

And see more pictures here:

Official Embassy photos

 Photos by Greg Esser

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

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

ASU Art Museum receives NEA grant to support program with visiting international artists

The NEA grant will help fund the artists residency program at Combine Studio that is host to artists such as Matteo Rubbi whose Magic Fridays at the ASU Art Museum is shown here.Photo by Sean Deckert, courtesy Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

The NEA grant will help fund the artists residency program at Combine Studio that is host to artists such as Matteo Rubbi whose Magic Fridays at the ASU Art Museum is shown here.

Photo by Sean Deckert, courtesy Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

One of 832 Art Works grants totalling $23.3 million in funding nationwide

Nov 29, 2012

Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), announced that the ASU Art Museum in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is one of 832 non-profit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant. The ASU Art Museum is recommended for a $45,000 grant to support its International Artist Residency Program at Combine Studios in downtown Phoenix.

“We’re immensely honored that the NEA recognizes and supports the work of the ASU Art Museum to serve as a catalyst for social change through the innovative vision and work of international artists,” said Gordon Knox, Director of the ASU Art Museum. “Art is a way of knowing and investigating the world and this grant allows us to build more collaborations and reach new audiences.”

The NEA funds will support the ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program at Combine Studios which brings accomplished professional artists from around the world to develop new work in partnership with the intellectual resources of Arizona State University and the diverse communities within Arizona. Through the program, artists develop work in collaboration with scientists, technologists, social agencies and community organizations that investigate the pressing issues of our time.

Greg Esser, director of the International Artist Residency program and the Desert Initiative, plans to bring four international artists to Arizona to develop new work. “This program represents an incredible opportunity for Arizona residents to engage with international artists and to deepen the impact of research and learning at ASU,” said Esser.

In March 2012, the NEA received 1,509 eligible applications for Art Works grants requesting more than $74 million in funding. Those recommended for grants span 13 artistic disciplines and fields and focus primarily on the creation of work and presentation of both new and existing works for the benefit of American audiences. Applications were reviewed by panels of outside experts convened by NEA staff and each project was judged on its artistic excellence and artistic merit.
For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at arts.gov.

Combine Studios is located at 821 N. Third St. connecting the ASU campus to the Roosevelt Row Arts District. The building, owned by Phoenix artists Matthew Moore and Carrie Marill, includes six residential units for visiting artists, a common kitchen area, resource library and a storefront gallery and event space. For more information about the international residency program, visit the Desert Initiative website.

 

Media Contact:
Deborah Sussman Susser
ASU Art Museum
480.965.0014
Deborah.susser@asu.edu

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December 18, 2012 at 10:31 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.

Image

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

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

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

Image

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

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

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

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

Image

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

–Colton Robertson
ASU Art Museum Intern

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

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

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

The Desert Notebooks: Charted Territories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GREG ESSER
Desert Initiative Director
ASU Art Museum

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Photographs by Steven Yazzie.

May 21, 2012 at 7:44 pm 1 comment


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