Posts tagged ‘project’

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos by Neil Borowicz.

July 6, 2012 at 10:10 pm 2 comments

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos by Sean Deckert and Peter Held.

May 11, 2012 at 10:19 pm 1 comment

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

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

We Alone on Earth

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

Julian Does Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some are funny:

Some are heartfelt:

Some are calls to action:

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

Karen Enters, Intern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 7, 2012 at 7:34 pm 1 comment

Realizing a Vision: Master ceramicist Don Reitz plans ASU residency program

Yesterday an event was held at the home of Sara and David Lieberman to raise awareness and support for the future Don Reitz Residency in the Arts.

On his 80th birthday, master ceramic artist and teacher Don Reitz envisioned a program designed to enhance artistic and creative experiences for students, faculty and artists nationwide. Considering himself a teacher’s teacher, Reitz wanted his legacy to be a residency program that transcends academic disciplines in a collaborative, inspirational space.

The artist was joined by 35 local patrons to learn more about ASU’s plans to bring about Don’s vision.

–Peter Held, Curator of Ceramics

April 16, 2012 at 10:52 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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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

MoMA acquires Brent Green film

The Museum of Modern Art in New York has just added Brent Green’s film Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then to its permanent collection.

Congratulations, Brent!

The ASU Art Museum is proud to have premiered the complete Gravity installation in 2010, with the film, videos and four houses in our top gallery. (Installation shots are here.).

Here’s a link to Brent’s blog — and watch for a new acquisition to the ASU Art Museum’s collection of a sculpture by Brent.

Heather Sealy Lineberry, Senior Curator and Associate Director

Above: Installation shot of Brent Green’s Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then at the ASU Art Museum, Fall, 2010. Photograph by Craig Smith.

February 21, 2012 at 7:05 pm 3 comments

Older Posts Newer Posts


July 2022
M T W T F S S
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Follow us on Twitter!

ASU Ceramics Research Center Library