Friday, May 6, 2011

On invention

Administrator's note: This is an excerpt from an email I received about last night's performance; my response follows:

"The show was a great chance to get a better understanding of your work by seeing examples made from different stages of your method development. Three years ago, I remember having no idea how you could do something new with the theme. I still don't. But I've no doubt you will find another way to go with it. Does it feel like the entire burden of invention is yours alone?, because generally it takes a society to make something new from what is already there. Where does your input come from when you invent a new way to complete a panel? Is it from all of the books you read?"

As usual, Emily, your correspondence inspires. Often I am not moved to consider a piece "post" but in this case it is an on-going continuum of "pieces" - this you are aware of - that remains within the "system," and thus retains whatever "meaning" is to be found by residing within that system.

The practice of the artist is his/her system. Definitions, meanings, responses, refutations and, most importantly, discourse emanate from their practice. My actions upon text, inextricably bound within my readings and teachings of linguistics, semiotics, structuralism and post-structuralism, issue forth from a simple methodology (bisected text) but are evolving from my imagination. In speaking on it with those who are interested, I find myself describing what seems a logical progression - from "static objects" to games, to participation through deciphering, to "real time" transcription. This has lead me to new recognitions - on "public vs. private," on spatio-temporality, on performance, on memory - yet it somehow always returns to the discursive site; the "locus of meaning."

Although I completely understand what you mean about how we bear the "burden of invention," I prefer to speculate that once one's art practice has gelled, the "invention" and evolution of that practice should easily generate "invention." If ideas are machines that make the art, then that process naturally evolves new/different versions, or reactions, or even methodologies. I am constantly considering CAD work, although I remain currently pleased with my immersion in personal and shared "hand-made" objects/installations. The energy that comes from both the partner-performers (like yourself) and the viewer-participant very readily "completes" the "work." Duchamp said it best: "The spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualification and thus adds his contribution to the creative act."

Other possibilities for me (and you) to unravel: the idea of "public art," which has not been fully unpacked, i.e., the role of interaction/participation to make artworks truly public; the contextual specifics of the multiple "sites" where art is found, including the discursive; the "ethics" of spectatorship in the production of art and its "exchange use." All these and more will consume me in the time that remains to explore.

I thank you for your comments. Watch this space, as always, for continued information and conversation.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Show Images

Mark Cameron Boyd

Reuben Breslar - tape installations
Diane Blackwell - partition (left middle)
Ken Weathersby - paintings (far right)

left to right, David Williams, Diane Blackwell, Reuben Breslar

left to right, William Brovelli, Ken Weathersby

Ken Weathersby

William Brovelli

left to right, David Williams, Diane Blackwell

left to right, John James Anderson, Meg Mitchell

Meg Mitchell

John James Anderson

left to right, Meg Mitchell, Cat Manolis, David Williams, Diane Blackwell

left to right, Cat Manolis, David Williams

left to right, Reuben Breslar (binder), Diane Blackwell, Reuben Breslar

Diane Blackwell

all photos courtesy of Reuben Breslar (c) 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Response to Anonymous

I find art and science to be more like cousins rather than distant relatives in the current state of the world. Interdisciplinary approaches to thinking and creating impregnate both fields and I have found great resource in people who have cross pollinated their chosen medium to embellish an even greater "becoming." A few artists, happenings, and books come to mind...

Mark Dion - "Dion's work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world."
MD on methodology Watch the complete Art 21 : Ecology with him in it-- great!

Natalie Jeremijenko - " artist and engineer whose background includes studies in biochemistry, physics, neuroscience and precision engineering."
NJ on Science NJ on The Environmental Health Clinic

Thomas Thwaites - Contemporary Designer. Watch "how I built a toaster"

Art and Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light
by Leonard Shlain
An easy and in-depth read written by a surgeon who realized his extreme love of art while trying to explain it to his children. It covers A LOT of territory in and outside the field of art with fascinating anecdotes along the way.

Mind, Life, and Universe: Conversations with Great Scientists of Our Time
by Lynn Margulis and Eduardo Punset
A Wonderful read encapsulating some of the world's current top scientists and their theories and philosophies on life, living, and meaning.

Between the Folds, 2008 (film)
"...depicts a cast of fine artists and eccentric scientists (from MIT and NASA) who have devoted their lives to the unlikely medium of modern origami."

Conflux A festival about art and artists in the public space.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Postconceptual Panel Discussion Response to Anonymous

I love the comparisons but Oh no no! For me it has not been wise to choose ANY problem at any time. I multi-task with the best of them but I would get nothing done if I didn’t focus. My focus is deconstructing the everyday things in my life to achieve a new or better understanding instead of coasting and assuming. In choosing a lab, you have chosen the focus of your efforts. Sometimes it is a matter of putting your actions and thoughts on hold for a more fruitful environment. These scientific problems of yours can germinate until you feel comfortable presenting these to your current lab so they become incorporated in their aims or until you have other opportunities. In that way your science is a bit like art. An idea comes to mind but there are so many other things in progress that it cannot be addressed at the time. It is put on hold. (That is what notebooks are for. For me, if it is not written down it can be forgotten but I find the more determined ones resurface. Also, when ideas don’t “drift by” it is high time to wake up and look for them.) By the time the idea is addressed, it has modified and is richer for the aging. (Are you hearing the terms “conceptual” and “malleable”?) You do want results and it doesn’t matter to those looking at the final product how you did it. It matters to you and that is why the final product is successful. Focus does not have to be an exclusive activity but it does require prioritizing tasks. Far from “horrible,” decisions and restrictions become freeing.

Joseph Kosuth

Art After Philosophy (1969)

One and Three Chairs

Sol LeWitt

Sentence on Conceptual Art (1968)

Wall Drawing #1113


The Creative Act (1957)

Bicycle Wheel

Lucy Lippard

Six Years, The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972: A cross-Reference Book of Information on Some Esthetic Boundaries. (also @ Amazon)

Martha Rosler

Decoys and Disruptions: Selected Writings, 1975 - 2001

Semiotics of the Kitchen

Monday, March 21, 2011

Continued Discourse on "Postconceptualism"

Administrator's Note: The panel discussion we held last Thursday, March 17, launched a series of emails that we collectively decided to post here. First up, "Anonymous" weighs in with comments for MCB (the curator) and the artists on the panel, Diane Blackwell, Reuben Breslar and David Williams:

@Diane: Conceptualism requires the artist to focus on following the original rules set forth before making the artwork. Postconceptualism is a reaction to that extreme. While still considering the importance of the original plan, it allows the artist to change it based on how they respond to the materials and art making process.

I was trying to compare making good artwork to making good science because I am a new scientist by career and people sometimes surprise me by saying 'i don't care how you do it i just want results'. Based on what I understand from you, I think sciencemaking and artmaking are the same. Both add a small part to a collective body of work. The originally planned procedure often evolves as new problems are discovered every day- problems with gadgets not being compatible and samples being unmeasurable. Usually discoveries build slowly. Only a very specific circle of scientists will care and elaborate on your trivial finding, which is still very important because slow steps build over time.

And sometimes, a simple technology, once it is dreamed up, can spread like fire in many applications. Rubber- in tires, airplanes, shockabsorbers, machine belts. Spinning technologies (wind tunnel vacs, separating things of different densities in lab, dryers). DuChamp- His urinals forced conceptualism on everybody. I have to read this Kosuth guy who discusses DuChamp's revolution :)

The difference is that in art, you can choose ANY problem you want at any time. In science, you are restricted to the aims of your lab. I don't know what is worse. It is both horrible. Decisions and restrictions. Yuck. Ideas should just sorta drift by.. :)

@Reuben: You make many different projects and wondered if that compromised your 'grand statement' as an artist. Well, since you are not an artist alone in the world, why do you feel pressured to make one statement all on your own rather than make several statement-starts that build into what the rest of the artistic community says? I do that all the time and apparently it means I'm not an artist. Also, I work in groups, not alone. That makes me twice less an island of thought.

@David and Professor Boyd: There is always a solid plan that precedes the artwork making begins in Postconceptualism, correct? That is the impression I got from your work :)

Postconceptualism: The Malleable Object runs through April 8; Hours: Mondays-Thursdays 10:00am-8:00pm; Fridays 10:00am-6:00pm; Saturdays 11:00am-5:00pm; call 301-314-8493.

Image: "Paradise" by Cat Manolis; Copyright 2011.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Postconceptualism: The Malleable Object

As originally posited in the 1960’s, Conceptual Art focused attention on the idea behind the art object and questioned the traditional role of that object as the conveyer of meaning. Subsequently, those theories cast doubt upon the necessity of materiality itself as conceptual artists "de-materialized" the art object and began to produce time-based and ephemeral artworks. Although total dematerialization never occurred, the art object became flexible – malleable – and that malleability, coupled with semiotics and process, has resulted in the postconceptual object.

The possible dematerialization of the art object was always a threat to its exchange value. Conceptual Art questioned the status of the object as commodity and it was no longer possible to insist that artistic value lies solely within the object. Postconceptual artists elicit inquiry on the ability of an art object to contain any value, including “use value” and “exhibition value,” without the contextual support provided by supplemental texts (essays, lectures, reviews) and institutional validation. The successful postconceptual artist explores and defines use, exhibition and exchange values. The tenuous nature of value attribution through that cultural validation makes it doubtful that cultural values are “guaranteed” to any art object.

Postconceptualism: The Malleable Object explores the work of nine artists who individually extend and expand upon the theories and ideas of Conceptual Art in unique ways. As postconceptual artists, the selected artists approach the art object as the “always already” signifier it never ceased being. Yet they use process to circumvent aesthetics, approach perception through deciphering, reconfigure commodity through intention and convert data into form.

Postconceptual art remains suspicious of the art object as commercial “product” and frequently disrupts this commodification and its static nature. David Williams reconfigures the artifice of commercially manufactured product containers to “transcend the original consumer intent of these materials” and re-envisions their temporary “rubbish” status as a metaphoric re-contextualization through the exhibition context. William Brovelli mocks the historical ideal of paintings as precious, fixed entities through his contractual “interaction between the artist and the collector” that extends the act of painting by prohibiting his object “from permanently settling into a static condition after purchase.”

Postconceptual art trumps “taste” by adherence to process and eliminates subjective judgments by the artist during the making. As Sol Lewitt said, “To work with a plan that is preset is one way of avoiding subjectivity.” Information is conveyed through language and Meg Mitchell shows us that a “non-discriminatory body of data” resulting from her Google search can also yield form. By using erasure as both action and critique, John James Anderson memorializes the interminable “disappearance” of newsprint journalism and newspaper culture as we succumb to ubiquitous digital media.

Intentionality in postconceptualism often benefits from an artist’s procedural transformation of a pre-conceived idea through functional, environmental or intellectual designs. Cat Manolis radically alters modular and environmental design processes to consider our “spatial relationships with the natural world.” Manolis creates a space in which gridded “tiles” merge with architecture to “become a visual/physical/psychological navigation system” that provokes our perceptual experience of space. Diane Blackwell’s screen, The Word, quite literally transforms “the basic elements of language” as both contextual and supplemental support of the art object. Originally conceived as utilitarian “furniture,” Blackwell’s object is “deconstructed” through a definitive metamorphosis as “art” supported by language. Recent work by Ken Weathersby resurrects painting through a negotiation between the intellectual and physical properties of the support. Weathersby subverts the “language of painting” through a three-dimensional manipulation that disrupts our perception by creating a “no-space space.” Reuben Breslar documents his “personal experiences” through multiple medias that ultimately reflect upon art objects as ways to visually interpret our procedural engagement with perception.

My own contribution to this exhibition continues my exploration of participatory art through spectator perceptions. My installation is conceived as both a literal and contextual stage where art is accessed through action and memory. Initiated through performance, the site becomes activated by participation as viewers are invited to decipher language heard moments before as spoken word. The site is time-based, to be continually modified by spectator contribution throughout the exhibit, and temporary. When the site is dismantled its contextualization as art is also “erased” as its physicality evaporates. The perceptual experience of immateriality is realized through art’s transcendence from objects and further evidence of the dominance of concept.

Postconceptualism: The Malleable Object champions the assembled artists, their individual visions and their commitment to the continuation of key theoretical ideas of Conceptual Art. The best of our ideas generate art objects that not only expand upon the transformation of the object within the context of art but also refocus the object’s critical potential within the contemporary art experience.

Postconceptualism: The Malleable Object opens March 10, 2011 at University of Maryland's Stamp Gallery.

Image: Space is Language is Space (detail); wood, urethane; dimensions variable; © Copyright 2011 by Meg Mitchell.