Monthly Archives: April 2009

darkSky at Art Chicago this weekend at ecoviz.org

darkSky 2009 is an interactive installation by Tiffany Holmes which presents a series of salvaged lamps that visitors are encouraged to turn on and off, and the resulting energy consumption is presented in real-time as an animation on a single plasma screen. This exhibit was recently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art MCA, Chicago, from April 4-26, 2009 and will be shown across from the Jean Albano Gallery Booth 549 during the Art Chicago event this weekend at the Merchandise Mart.

via darkSky at Art Chicago this weekend at ecoviz.org.

MOCA Catalogue Sale!!!

My favorite part of a museum visit is always the bookstore and a recent visit to see Dan Graham at MOCA was no different. Only this time, we are all the beneficiaries of MOCA’s recent financial woes. They are having a huge sale on MOCA publications. I got the above five books for just over $100, and that was after paying full price for the Dan Graham catalog. I only bought older catalogues that were 50 percent off, but others were available for 25 percent off.

As I’ve heard a few people say, the best part of a MOCA show is always the catalog. Beautiful designs, lush photographs, revelatory essays, smart interviews—it often seems that the show is the catalog. Will this level of catalog production continue in the future? I’m not sure, but for now, you can get a piece of MOCA’s lavish spending over the past 10 years for half off. Unfortunately, I think you have to go in person to get these discounts, but I’ve put Amazon links below. Often, the used book price is about the same.

Here’s what I got:

For $15 (Retail $30):
Cotton Puffs, Q-tips(r), Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha

For $25 (Retail $50):
Gordon Matta-Clark: You Are the Measure

For $10 (Retail $40 but it was marked down to $20):
Rodney Graham: A Little Thought

For $17 (Retail $50, but it was marked down to $35):
Zero to Infinity: Art Povera: 1962-1972

And then, the Dan Graham: Beyond catalog, which I paid retail for. (Shoulda waited and bought it for cheaper on Amazon!) I can’t really say enough about this Dan Graham catalog. Not knowing too much about him, the show was a bit mystifying until I got to later mirror and glass work. But this catalog has interviews by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and artist Rodney Graham! A Manga Dan Graham Story! Writings by Dan Graham! Essays by important essay writer people! I now want to go back and stick my nose up close to his work, especially the early stuff.

Go to Eco Art Blog

Emotional Appeal

Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink – there needs to be more promiscuity across different disciplines if there’s to be more fruitful solutions to environmental change. On Earth Day, Seed magazine published a well-toned article about economist Ben Ho, and suggested a need for joined-up thinking on climate change between behavioral economics (hence the reference to ‘Nudge’) and social sciences (erm… ‘winking’ is anthropological). And these latest understandings from the sciences about human behaviour bring big questions into focus for art practioners.

Do the arts understate their potential role in generating a more holistic understanding of contemporary life? And what are our expectations of art? What kind of insights do artists bring about in relation to social change and environmental change…? (The most talked about art book on this is Bradley and Esche’s ‘Art and Social Change’, which is worth reading in conjunction with Mute magazine’s in-depth discussion).

The idea that people’s decisions are governed more by their subconscious emotional responses than by an impartial rationality is well argued by behavioural economics (and the RSA projects, Social Brain and Design & Behaviour). And that the social sciences grew from analysising how and why people behave they way they do, prompted Ho to reiterate the ol’ ecological adage: “The only way to get anything done is a holistic approach,” but then he emphasises the need for productive argument “We’re all speaking different languages, and that leads to conflicts. But that has to be the way forward.”

And this is surely the way forward for the arts too – art benefits hugely from engaging with other disciplines and there is real need for productive honest progressive debate about the ‘use’ of the art in relation to contemporary environmental change, without returning to the entrenched positions of instrumentalism v art for arts sake. Isn’t it the case that speaking provocatively about personal ethics and politics enhances our understanding of artists’ work?

And if emotional appeal is now regarded, by the natural sciences, as a highly persuasive human resource, why has visual art appeared to move so far away from ‘emotional expression’? And if it hasn’t really moved away from emotional expression – but has transposed it into provocative gestures , such as Jeremy Deller’s work (see Michaela’s blog) – should artists feel any responsibility to make their own position explicit as part of a public debate? Art should still infuriate and delight us – so isn’t it time for the arts, and the discussion that surrounds it, to get more overtly passionate, excitable and intellectually promiscuous again? Wink, wink …

“Human beings’ decision-making processes, as individuals and collectively, are probably at least as complicated as the climate system itself,” Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change. From  Seed.com

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

The Environmental Health Clinic

Last month, Ian and I travelled to Houston for the Systems of Sustainability Seminar (SOS) hosted by the University of Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and Blaffer Gallery.  

Natalie Jeremijenko, of the Environmental Health Clinic, was a notable speaker.  Natalie is an artist with a background in biochemistry, physics, neuroscience and precision engineering.  She directs the xDesign Environmental Health Clinic, a clinic that prescribes action instead of medicine, and approaches health from an understanding of “its dependence on external local environments; rather than on the internal biology and genetic predispositions of an individual.”  

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Take a look at projects from the Environmental Health Clinic, including NOPARK, photographed here.  www.environmentalhealthclinic.net

Jeremy Deller: how art “digs into public life”

We have had my brother-in-law staying Jeremy Deller’s latest project, It is What It Is. We have been working with Jeremy on the Bat House Project. Both works provide a mechanism, a vehicle (literally in the case of ‘It is What It Is’) to encourage debate and engagement with particular issues.

Dragging a wrecked car from Iraq across the States is simply not art, said my brother-in-law very firmly, fixing his attentions solely on the object rather than the discourse generated.

An alternative to the car being in the States, it could have been on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square instead of Antony Gormley’s forthcoming project. But both works pull us members of the public into art that ultimately is process not product.

Why is it that many people just won’t have it that the purpose of art is to elicit participation from us, to open up thinking, to encourage us to review the human condition and to nudge or provoke a response? Why can’t they relax and just accept that artists can use whatever materials they damn well choose – be that the human body, a urinal, oil paint or bronze or a cork screw to actify that purpose.

The site is still up of the road diary by Nato Thompson that is part of It is What It Is, although the trip ended on 17 April 09. I urge you to read it and see what, as Thompson says, “digging into public life”, has revealed.

Meanwhile off line It is What It Is has provoked more conversation in our house than any more conventional piece of art over the past two weeks. This is far more important to me than convincing my brother-in-law that it is art. I did get a rueful smile from David when I noted that having argued for half an hour the night before, he came down to breakfast the next morning wanting to begin all over again. And then seemingly tangentially, we started talking about war.

After all the second part of the work’s title is ‘Conversations about Iraq’.

www.conversationsaboutiraq.com

EDIT. William Shaw adds: Here’s one interesting example of the conversation started by the Deller artwork, nicely reported by The Artblog.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Steve Lambert at Charlie James Gallery

{A billboard by Steve Lambert}

Chinatown had a coordinated Art Night last night, possibly as a response to my plea to reduce art driving (just kidding…). The best show was new advertising signs by Steve Lambert at Charlie James Gallery, including a massive sign with flashing lights declaring “Look Away.” The signs are just pure fun and pretty good to look at too. I wouldn’t mind having one around.

Lambert is gleefully playing with the role of commerce in art. Across town, Sam Durant has used a similar form of advertising strategy, the light box, but with different intentions.

{Sam Durant, This is Freedom, installation view at Blum & Poe.}

I’ve had a few discussions with friends about these light boxes. Although some people really hate this show by Durant, I have to say I like these light boxes (can’t say the same for the pencil drawings of protests which are the source material for the language and style of the signs.)

Yes, the light boxes are huge. Yes, Durant is using white guilt or something to make money….but given that these were originally made for the Sydney Biennial and displayed outdoors, I understand the scale. I just wish that Durant was willing to acknowledge (like Lambert) that what he is really doing is selling some awesome shit that lights up and flashes.

> Steve Lambert at visitsteve.com
> Everything You Want, by Lambert, is up through June 6 at Charlie James Gallery.
> This is Freedom? by Sam Durant, up through May 16 at Blum & Poe.

Go to Eco Art Blog

Rising Tide Conference REPORT

I was only able to attend one day of the three day conference last weekend in the Bay Area. Entitled Rising Tide, organized by Kim Anno, and jointly hosted by California College of the Arts, San Francisco, and Stanford University, there was a diverse mix of planning, art history, contemporary art, and design/technology.

A few highlights from the early morning session entitled Remaking/Reconceiving: I learned about Form Based Zoning Codes where the public participates in a greater way to decide what goes where in communities/cities. And, I was reminded by Amy Franceschini of the great work by former Super Mayor of Bogata, Enrique Penalosa, who encouraged performance based transformations in sustainability (like using mimes to direct traffic). Here is a short video on his vision for NYC presented last summer:

In the next session,
Bonnie Sherk (creator of T
he Farm), moderated a panel called Material Culture Sustainability. Panel description: What are new materials that artists/designer/architects are experimenting with? What materials have impacts on which industries? Where are the holes in research? What is sustainable business? How is culture sustainable? Stephanie Syjuco presented her Counterfeit Crochet handbags; Lynda Grose presented the work of young designers doing Slow Fashion in her program at Sustainable Fashion Design program at CAA. And, Banny Bannerjee, Director of the Stanford Design program, talked about how human’s are always trying to defy nature, stretch its limits, mimic nature, refer to nature, flirt with nature, evoke nature. He had a great saying: Doing Things Right, Doing the Right Things.

After lunch we got a dose of “Green Capitalism” with Amy Berk presenting her work TWCDC (Together We Can Defeat Capitalism). She showed several projects where they used signage to express anti-capitalist views like a road sign that said “Stock Market Crash Ahead” from 2000; “Capitalism Stops at Nothing” at a BART Station; and STOP BUS(H) in the bus lane in Oakland. She also presented her work bed-in-for-peace project, which she conceived in 2001 in Australia (based on Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s performance). Basically her position was that true revolution is guided by true feelings of LOVE . . . . . and she proves this by driving around San Francisco in a “FRYBRID” car that runs on moonshine and represents the ethos of Marx (Capitalist production only develops the social process of production by simultaneously underminding the original process of all wealth, the soil and the worker). Next on this panel was Simon Sadler who made some great links with Steward Brand/Whole Earth Catalogue, Buckminster Fuller (design is a scientific study not an aesthetic one), and “soft tech” (the limits to growth, and small is beautiful).

In the following session entitled Futures, Amy Balkin gave a beautiful presentation on her Air Park project. She outlined how she researched carbon credits and set up her work, presenting basically signage about her conceptual dealings around who owns the air. A description of the project: Public Smog is a public park in the atmosphere that fluctuates in location and scale. Built through financial, legal, or political activities, Public Smog is subject to prevailing winds and the long-range transport of aerosols and gases. When built through the economic mechanism of emissions trading, the park opens above the region where offsets are purchased and withheld from use. Public Smog first opened briefly to the public during 2004 above California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District, and was open over the European Union through 2008. Balkin is now working on opening the park again in West Africa.

In the final panel of the day Shelia Kennedy showed her portable light project, which is going to receive a big award in May (she couldn’t tell us which), maybe the Fuller Challenge? and David Buuck shared about his project on Treasure Island in San Francisco, a tour called “Barge” looking at the paranoid landscapes of post industrial real estate.

There was a great gathering of people and it was a pleasure to finally meet Ian Garrett and see Miranda Wright again, both from Los Angeles with the Center for Sustainable Practices in the Arts who drove up for the conference.

For those of you who attended Friday and Sunday’s presentations, please comment and fill us in.

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