Over Again

This week Seattle welcomes visiting artists Alison Brady and Sarah Knobel as they prepare for their exhibition, Over Again, on view at the Kirkland Arts Center from January 7th, 2011 through March 3rd, 2011. Join the artists at the KAC between 6-8pm for the opening reception and a tour of the show. Then catch them again on Saturday for their visiting artist lecture on Saturday, Jan 8th at 2pm, at the Henry Art Gallery. Alison and Sarah will also be teaching a free workshop that morning on video art, preregistration required.

For their Seattle-area debut, New York-based Alison Brady and DC-based Sarah Knobel present a two-person exhibition of photography and video. Both artists work primarily in photography, creating personal and darkly humorous revisions of such classical formats as the portrait and the female nude. Brady and Knobel each contribute large-format, color photographs and, together, present a new collaborative video created for the Kirkland Arts Center exhibition. With the video,Over Again, the artists examine the process of transitioning from carefree to careful adulthood – how expectations, fears and desires alter. Brady and Knobel draw from their own experiences to present views on age, career, marriage, and motherhood.




From the Flat Surface to the Curved Mirror

Using variable media – taking on the form of tapestry and sculpture to performance, cinema, and stereoscopic imagery— Kentridge calculate(s) a not so obvious curve to create socially informed work that challenges the way we look.

In early October the Henry Art Gallery participated in a preview screening of Art21’s William Kentridge: Anything is Possible. To celebrate the upcoming release, the Henry invited local animator Tess Martin to teach an all-ages animation workshop, inspired by Kentridge’s work. The workshop allowed participants to explore the creative process behind modified base, a technique used by the artist in his many animated films. Following a brief introduction to the history of stop-motion, from flips books to Victorian parlor toys to Muybridge, workshop participants were asked to experiment with three mediums – charcoal/pastels, paint, and grain – to create a collaborative film.

Participants, mostly twenty-something adults, came from a variety of backgrounds including drawing, film, video, and digital animation. Pens and notebooks in hand, each brought with them a sense of eagerness and a variety of questions about the animation process. While many focused on the practicality of production, there were some participants who seemed more interested in the process of animation and what it means to animate an idea. This led to a later conversation around Kentridge’s use of animation, and his practice as a whole, as a tool for exposing the viewer to the act of seeing. Taking a cue from the film, one participant pointed out how Kentridge used found materials and familiar objects to create fantastical situations in which the viewer is made aware that they are looking and in-so-doing made aware that they have control of what they see and how they interpret it. This realization brought up an interesting correlation between this awareness of seeing and the socio-cultural context of much of Kentridge’s work.

In addition to his love of music and theatre, Kentridge was largely influenced by his personal history growing up in South Africa. His work uses elements of theatricality to explore themes of history, oppression, and social inequality in a way that calls into question the nonsensical nature of bigotry. Through a carefully crafted combination of humor, whimsy, and the absurd he is able to intimately address topics that might otherwise make audiences restless or uneasy. He does this not by masking the issue at hand but by creating a third space in which the viewer is better able to face the issue without reservation. In the tradition of many animators and artists before him, Kentridge has developed an uncanny ability to simultaneously call attention to both material and subject matter by creating a space for viewers to consider the act of seeing – getting just close enough to the subject to distort our discomfort and push us to make sense of what we are truly seeing, both literally and figuratively.

Art is often used as a means to convey material that is, for reasons of ill nature or physical impossibility, otherwise difficult to convey. Choosing to focus on the “universality of laughter “ over “the particularity of tears” allows Kentridge to communicate socially relevant subject matter in a way that is accessible. But what is it about animation that dissolves our natural tendency toward judgment? Why is it easier to confront a near facsimile of an idea rather than face it in the flesh? These questions were at the core of a discussion instigated by Seattle based artist and animator, Brita Johnson, during a performance this past summer hosted by the Vis-à-vis society, titled Why Cuteness? Why Failure? Why Now? During this performance Johnson, who taught a series of animation classes this past summer at The Henry, gave a lecture on the hypothesis of the uncanny valley and explored the relationship between the ideologically familiar and the conceptually foreign in animation.

The uncanny valley, was a term coined by roboticist Masahiro Mori in reference to Ernst Jentsch’s 1906 essay, On the Psychology of the Uncanny , in which the author explains the nature of the term uncanny, “Without a doubt, this word appears to express that someone to whom something ‘uncanny’ happens is not quite ‘at home’ or ‘at ease’ in the situation concerned, that the thing is or at least seems to be foreign to him. In brief, the word suggests that a lack of orientation is bound up with the impression of the uncanniness of a thing or incident.” Though often applied to the field of robotics, the hypothesis of the uncanny valley refers broadly to the inverse arc of cognitive dissonance that occupies that space between the real and surreal. The animated and the actual. The method and the material.

As a medium, stop-motion animation is method of deconstructing and reconstructing the reality it portrays, maintaining a dual sense of both the familiar and the foreign– allowing the viewer to critically assess both the content and context of the work without reservation. Though animation is only part of Kentridge’s practice, it is a rich example of his interest in, “Machines that tell you what it is to look, that make you aware of the process of seeing.” Kentridge’s machines and methodologies encourage us to be aware of how we construct the world through looking at it, and encourage us to consider “looking and seeing as being a metaphor for how we understand the world.”

“An art school, it would appear, does not teach art…

…but sets up the conditions necessary for creative production, and by extension the conditions for collaboration and social engagement.” — Anton Vidokle

"Figure 1. Curiosity as a function of information," graph from "Naive Set Theory," by Anthony Humberman, 2007.

Recently a young artist told me he believes Photoshop to be the most elegant synopsis of the process of artmaking and how we learn to use artistic talents. His theory is simple: proficiency breeds reserve. Photoshop is no different – once you become a master, the drop shadow tool becomes less exciting and more vapid. An ideal arts education would foster a student’s proficiency to be reserved. His claim is supported by a hypothetical solution posed by Dexter Sinister to use the Photoshop toolbox as a method for investigating and understanding the historical references and skills behind each tool. Though it is subversive in its re-appropriation of economized technology as the symbol for deeper understandings of art, this method is pedagogically recursive and intellectually emancipating. The opportunity presented to members of the arts community, and arts educators specifically, by incorporating highly conceptual forms and anti-conceptual work into their curriculum to support and motivate students is unprecedented.

Pieces of art theory that traditionally require a history of point and counterpoint can become incredible aphorisms in the modern age to inform the entire spectrum of education. It’s useful to instill in young learners the simple notion that the fixity of meaning can be questioned, or more importantly, that the creation of meaning does not have to take a predetermined form. This suspension of information becomes a part of the new toolbox for a new generation, irrational in everyday representation, but nonetheless informing and influencing the entire schema of thought within each individual.

In order to overcome conceptual alchemy and become a tangible object, art must be surreptitious in its tactics. A derived arts education will not hold up to the Internet and the radically cheapening status of the image. New methods are needed that are flexible and strategic – methods that provide multi-disciplinary, hands on, and truly empowering experiences. By providing a deeply considered program of exhibitions, happenings, experiences, and general chaos that parallels the real life of art, arts educators can help students to better understand the ways in which art can change and manipulate their lives and the world around them.

Corin Hewitt at Western Bridge, Seattle. Part of the New Year Project, 2010.

The benefit of arts education is generally twofold, employing both creative and kinetic practices to broaden a student’s synaptic frontiers. However, many programs make the mistake of setting themselves too far apart from the reality of the art market and process of artmaking. It is easy to point out differences between the practicing art world and the dominant educational model. We are of the opinion that the gallery and the studio play an essential role in arts education. Often, these spaces are more nimble and less controlled and as a result they have an advantage over the sluggish momentum of academic bureaucracy. There must be space within the institutional structure to provide for a variety of experience. A lack of this space is ultimately a lack of tangible experience and ultimately a lack of the “dangerous” ideas that inform the forward progression of art.

As both a process and an outcome, art is inseparable from the people and places where it is displayed, made, bought, performed, or destroyed. To leave this out of an education in the arts is to simply miss the most crucial component of art – experience. Situational understanding is crucial to the dialogic process of education and encourages learners to explore the dynamics between information and curiosity. Unlike the mediated learning space of the classroom, the gallery and studio offer practice-based experiences in the everyday world of art commerce and allow for teachers and learners to explore, replicate, and produce work in a way that is uncompromisingly accountable. If the art community as a whole is committed to improvement, a necessary step will be to energize current practicing artists to pass on their experience to the next generation and beyond. We don’t need everyone to become a professor, but small commitments to conversations, demonstrations, and introductions can make huge leaps in fostering critical minds and advancing interest in the arts. By encouraging collisions with the greater cultural community, students are exposed to non-topical platforms for exchange that expand their edification.

We believe that galleries integrating arts education and programming for patrons of all ages are absolutely necessary to avoid a prolonged cultural drought. So many art practices seem insular and unkind due to a lack of communication between the classroom and the gallery. Making this type of connection becomes crucial to solving a lack of appreciation for arts education and its flaws. Unsurprisingly, the contingent factor in the success of these programs is hard work. It requires artists, educators, and the associated art community to understand that we need relevant, engaging, and intelligent programming, including experiences that are not diluted, controlled, or otherwise mediated by the classroom. Programming that manifests itself as direct exposure to the process and products of art. The stakes are high in the information economy, and cheapening art reduces it to the status of mere image commodity.

Art risks everything if it attempts to dilute itself and ultimately become nothing more than a toolbox of icons. Certainly, we may start from a toolbox, but it’s crucial to dig deep and actually utilize each tool, gain a feel for it and observe its use. We need to be constantly and commandingly producing quality art activities in order to give the next generation the passion and drive they need, and to hone our own skills as well. It doesn’t pay to be alarmist, but the seeming condition of art and art education is grim, leaving one to hope this is the bottom of the curve. To kickstart the art cultural economy, and truly attack the difficulties of engaging different audiences, we need to embrace individual learners and empower students to articulate clearly the conditions and purpose of what they’re dealing with. The conceptual revolution gives arts education the tools to incorporate all learning into art, and further reinforce that learning with art. Harnessing this potential means creating citizens who care about aesthetics and are curious about art, even if they don’t directly participate in its production.

This article was written by both Whitney Ford-Terry and Jessica Powers. The collective will begin as co-curators of the Hedreen Gallery at Seattle University in late July. Programming will start in October.

1+1:Region 2

“It is thus my contention, which I really want to offer as an opinion, that the triad of notions, “attitude-practice-deconstruction,” is not the post-modern paradigm that supposedly substituted for the modern paradigm, “creativity – medium- invention”. It is the same one, minus faith, plus suspicion.” – Therry De Duve

Through the use of post-production audio and composited screen captures from iChat conversations and glitched out stills from the film Sympathy for the Devil, this video explores the intersections of three themes by way of three acts – to Appropriate, to Destroy, to Publish.

The film uses Command:Shift:3 composites of a region 2 DVD copy of Jean Luc Goddard’s 1968 Film, originally titled One Plus One, played on a laptop in a region 1 format. The result of this digital translation was a dysmorphic abstraction of the film’s opening credits. In the style of an animated .gif these stills were then edited together with a series of accompanying dialogical elements resulting in a multi-layered reflexive adaptation of the themes explored on the blog over the duration of the course.

Elements of the dialogue used in this film were inspired by a contemporary adaptation of Richard Serra’s Verb List Compilation: Actions to Relate to Oneself made by visiting artists Hadley + Maxwell during a lecture at the University of Washington last May. The Meta-abstraction used in this short video was a riff on a riff with a bias toward digital and web based art. The verb list compiled for the audio also appears in screenshots as the video progresses.

On the day of the final the video was published as a comment on every blog post made during the course of this class. This method of disbursement was both an act of distribution as well as destruction since its reception in multiplicity would render its content unpalatable to the repeat viewer – the way words lose their meaning after constant utterance.

In short the project appropriates the use and proliferation of common materials, visual and conceptual, provided by the course and destroys them by way of accessing a series of known formal systems- digital degradation and spam. In this way the class context and materials act as both the content and methodology by which the project was produced and distributed, relying upon the framework of socially mediated spaces, collapsing the intent of the blog back in on itself by crudely rephrasing common tools, mixing “basic skill ennobled with humanistic knowledge.”

The response to these acts was varied. Some saw the project as a performance and some as a method by which to provoke conversation. Some were offended by the influx of emails and comments on posts they felt didn’t relate to the content of their specific post.

Encountering the Numinous

Numinous (pronounced /ˈnjuːmɨnəs/, from the Classical Latin numen)

Though, they aren’t far off. Similar to a child encountering a lobster for the first time, an encounter with the numinous can invoke two parallel emotions, fear and fascination. According to Rudolf Otto this feeling of mysterium tremendum and mysterium fascinans is somewhat displacing and although it is often referred to in a non-secular context this form of engagement with something wholly other is not altogether unlike that feeling I get when I encounter a compelling work of art. Something with the capacity to transcend snap judgments and take you into the wake of differentiated thought. A work that allows you to encounter its capacity as a physical manifestation of thought or encounter. The sublime or numinous qualities of a work of art allow the viewer to see the space between the imagining of the work and the creation of the work – the liminal space between inspiration and inception.

This topic warrants a much longer explanation, but I feel this summation will suffice for the context of this class.

For more, check out this article by

Bernard X. Bovasso.

In conjunction with a recent lecture and panel discussion with Jonathan Middleton, Flint Jamison, and TARL –  I’ve come to find the idea of examining process to be extremely compelling and was glad to see it represented is such a realistic and tangible way. As ephemeral these discussion can get, its important to register the realness of process, collaboration, and creation. I feel these panelists were able to provide some latitude to this discussion, each in their own ways.

Also, I don’t have words for how unbelievably excited I am for Flint’s new space in PDX. It keeps blowing my mind and reassembling it in different ways. Stoked.

Things do not connect; they correspond.

“An art school, it would appear, does not teach art, but sets up the conditions necessary for creative production, and by extension the conditions for collaboration and social engagement.”
– Anton Vidokle

The idea of correspondence between thoughts and their manifestation as art practice is an undeniable theme in this class and was made quite evident in The Collected books of Jack Spicer. Unlike many traditional approaches to a making work, this idea brings about the concept that one, regardless of medium, can indeed “create poems with objects”.

If you have an idea, about say encountering space, you can fabricate that idea in any medium that would best suite its purpose. In opposition to the thought that a painter would paint an encounter with space or a photographer would photograph an encounter with space. The idea of a medium independent artist is one that I feel i greatly lacking in many formal art education programs. With the exception of a few, many academic institutions tech you the skills to create a work in a specific medium, or perhaps a number of mediums. However, it is not often that these programs invite students to be truly innovative in their exploration. Understanding of course that skill and training is a part of many people’s practice, these formal elements aren’t always needed to create a successful work of art. In many ways creativity, attitude, and innovation out-school talent and push the notion of a new emerging contemporary art practice, one that has surprisingly been in the works forever but is now gaining recognition in academia. In this way I truly appreciated  Thierry de Duve. I look forward to what the future of Art school truly has to offer, and I think institutions are starting to to realize their part in it.

Interested in more on info on Alt Ed Art School? Check out the Manifesta 6 reading list, it’s chalk full of readings from Olaf Metzel, Anton Vidokle, and more. This course pack came out of the Manifesta 6 biennial – which never actually happened.

More on the Manifesta International Foundation: “While our core business is the governance and production of roving biennials, the day-to-day activities of Manifesta include overseeing the publication of catalogues, books and the tri-annual Manifesta Journal, maintaining our ever-growing archives and staging symposiums, international cultural events and our own Coffee Breaks.”

Economies of Expectation

A product of my generation, unwilling to limit my intake, I have become an admitted media junky. After spending some quality time with Jan Verwoert’s  “Exhaustion and Exuberance: Ways to Defy the Pressure to Perform” this past weekend I stared thinking a lot about creative consumption, purpose, audience, practice, abstract thought, and the ways in which it relates to not only the production of art work but also in the manifestation of Musem Exhibitions.The process of developing an idea into a visually latent product is quite interesting.

“The capacity of abstract thought and work to invoke ideas in the most concise way is intrinsically linked to the impossibility of its exhaustive verification through positive facts. Whereby abstract thought and work insists on the latency of meaning not because it won’t disclose its immediate meaning (i.e. out of a coquettish flirtation with opacity) but because it can’t. If it could, it would lose its capacity to address the potential reality of all that is presently not given in actuality (i.e. all the possibilities that lie beyond those already actualized within the dominant mode of thinking and acting.)”

My thinking process usually involves an initial google search followed by an exhastive, and often simotaneously productive/unproductive, YouTube search which  led me to the above clip. In many ways the reading fit quite well with the film, by Dan Graham, which I had seen at the Henry Art Gallery a few months ago in conjunction with the Robert Mapplethorpe Exhibition. As an undergrad I studied film production and religious studies and have seen it many times, most reciently at the Whitney this summer and then again at the Henry.

Rock My Religion, 1982, explores the relationships between Religion and the development of Rock and Roll – and in so doing exposes the role of cultural consumption in teenage rebellion. Its rife with collusion and epic show footage. The clip above is only a preview of the film, you can watch it in all its awesomeness on UBU.

They relate, I promise. My brain is just melting right now.

Play Art Loud! ArtBabble.org
I'm also a contributor to the Henry Art Gallery's Hankblog and editor/producer of the Gallery's ArtCasts.

I'm currently working as a Wallace Foundation Fellow with emp|sfm to foster a new network for the NorthWest all ages music & arts community. Its called The Sound Board and you should totally check it out.

word bird.