“what it means to bother to know someone … is really a story about what it means to be known.”
—Mandy Len Cantron, “To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This,” NY Times, January 9, 2015
What, who, when, where, how and why my first NYC studio residency.
I just completed my first studio program in NYC! It was great to have a longer residency and stay at home, allowing me to balance personal and financial responsibilities, while at the same time building my community of fellow artists here in NYC.
What: The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council turns unused space into studio spaces for visual artists and performers. Process Space is a process-oriented residency located on Governor’s Island. It’s located in the upper floor of a former military warehouse. The space is several thousand square feet, which is divvied up by tensioned partition walls into smaller spaces of various sizes, each with three walls, facing one of two hallways. I received one of the larger spaces, lucking out with a great view of lower Manhattan across the hall and in the windows of my neighbor’s studio.
Process Space is mostly a studio program, with two Open Studio events. LMCC organizes one potluck and ranger-led tour of the National Parks’ historic sites.
Some of the AIRs self-organized our own work-sharing events and a studio visit from a curator.
Who: There were 20 artists in residence for the full duration, as well as performers who accessed the rehearsal spaces in shorter durations. Of the 20 longterm artists, most were visual, some were literary, and a few were performance. I was also very happy to see that women and artists of color were represented. I really liked my cohort—they’re very smart, with well-developed and unique practices. I think we got along really well and I felt a strong sense of allyship.
LMCC has an energetic staff. They take event planning and promotion of Open Studios seriously! In addition to presenting your work inside your studio, you can also propose a reading or performance, or exhibit work in the adjacent gallery. I didn’t elect to do either, mainly because the deadline for proposals snuck up on me, and I couldn’t dedicate enough time to develop anything on top of what I planned to show in my studio. There’s also a former resident who is a part-time on-site assistant, who has a studio on the island as well.
When: Each year there are two sessions: Fall and Spring. The fall session ran from early August to mid-December; our Open Studios were in late September and in early December.
(In hindsight I realized that the December Open Studio, because it’s on a weekday during the island’s closed Winter season, is less well-attended, but that was the one in which I had more work, and more finished work, to share. Since the summer season has more visitors, the Spring session has the small advantage of having more visitors at the end of the session. I couldn’t make the spring session due to travel, but for future residents this might be a minor consideration. But obviously, prioritize scheduling studio access.)
Where: The studios are located on Governor’s Island, a small island just a short ferry ride from lower Manhattan.
Governor’s Island is a unique partnership between a national park and the City. There’s historic, well-preserved military buildings, and then beautiful, new park lands that are continuing to be developed. There’s tons of programming during the summer, and it’s unusually interesting—a scrappy art fair, 1920’s-themed dance parties, vintage baseball games, VW bus shows, and lots of food trucks, as well as a beer garden. Many other art organizations ran programs there too, such as residencies, galleries, and public art installations, too. There’s also an outdoor tent for concerts, which is located next to the studio building, for better and for worse.
There are spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty from the island and the ferry. The studio building’s north windows overlook Lower Manhattan. When the sun set, the light reflected off the skyscrapers in directly onto my studio walls.
How: This program is by nomination only. I am grateful to my nominator, whose show I installed at LMCC’s Governor’s Island gallery a few years ago. That was my first and only visit to the island prior to the residency, so it was nice to complete the circle by returning as an artist in my own right.
The only access to the island—and thus to the studios—is by ferry. During the public season in the summer, the ferry runs from early morning to 7pm, and on the weekends. After the public season ends, the ferry runs until 6pm weekdays only. For artists whose work schedule lands squarely during the work week (including myself, at times), or who have childcare issues, this means that studio access is a real challenge.
Getting to the island is a big part of this residency experience. When I heard I was nominated, I reached out to two former residents seeking their advice. They were both generous in sharing their input and encouragement. (It was especially kind considering that one artist was a stranger, whose work I’d admired from afar.) Their advice to me basically consisted of two points:
- You’re going to miss a ferry by a few minutes, and then have to wait an hour.
- Keep your project simple. Don’t get too materially or technically involved.
Though I thought that being armed with tip #1 would help me avoid missing the ferry, I did, over and over, often by minutes. Some of the time it was my own fault. I learned that if I’m not focused on getting ready two hours before the ferry, I won’t make it. Some of the time, the trains were running slow, and I’d miss the ferry by three minutes. That was a huge test of my coping skills. Even worse, I’d sometimes try to run small errands, and then miss a second ferry in the same day.
Tip #2 was helpful. Focusing on research rather than production saved my back a lot of strain. While I kept my tools and materials to a minimum, even the minimum is a lot when it has to fit in a backpack, or on a wheeled cart that you’re carrying up stairs in the subway during rush hour. It’s possible to take a car on the ferry, but deciding to keep it simple meant I didn’t need to deal with the logistics that involves.
It was interesting to get to see more of the harbor, and become part of its rhythms. When the President and the Pope fly out of the heliport next to the ferry building, you learn about MarSec levels (as you’re not going anywhere… but then you get to see a Chinook). Oddly, I think I’m going to miss the ferry itself, especially the Coursen. It’s an interstitial space where the anxiety about possibly missing the ferry melts away. You can be calm, observe the light on the water, get some sun on your skin, and enjoy a short journey. I couldn’t help but envy the crew a tiny bit—it seems like a cool job.
Why: I conducted the research phase of my longterm project, Thought Experiments in Agency. In the beginning, I read a lot—reviewing Tom Finklepearl’s What We Made (again, the introduction is highly recommended!), and reading Julia Bryan-Wilson’s Art Workers and Greg Sholette’s Dark Matter. Later, I also read much of Mobile Autonomy (Dockx & Geilen, eds.).
For the first open studio, I conducted the Artists’ Personal Impacts Survey. I raffled off my Mini Irrational Exuberance Flags. It was difficult to part with them, but seeing how excited recipients were made it OK.
There were 112 visual artists who responded to the survey. There were 40 questions in the survey. There were about 30 questions that were quantitative, and many of those used a 5-point Likert scale. So I did a lot of number-crunching. There were 10 qualitative responses, and the written answers, once compiled, totaled 60 pages. It was great having a huge wall I could dedicate to just looking at the written responses.
I made a ‘zine, with a 2,000 word essay. Fellow AIRs provided me with great feedback, which was deeply gratifying. I haven’t done any “serious” writing in a while, so it was nice to receive encouragement and validation.
I also did some drawings. A funny thing happened—I finally had a need for the metal eraser guard I saw in other people’s tool boxes in art school. I never owned one or needed one before this, and adding one to my toolkit now seemed comical. I also hand-lettered some quotes, turning the wall into a mind-map of sorts.
I sewed a flag, and painted a t-shirt. See more photos, or order or download a zine.
I pretty much did everything I set out to do. Originally, I set a goal of spending spending 60 days in the studio over the 5-month period. A number of factors conspired against me: the session was actually 4.5 months, I moved houses unexpectedly, I got a job promotion, and some tasks were better done at home (where there was a computer monitor or sewing machine). In total, I spent 32 days at the studio. That’s much less than 60, but I exceeded other goals. Moreover, I feel prepared, focused and also liberated to move forward with other production.
I’m so grateful to LMCC staff, Hank Willis Thomas, Youmna Chlala, Saul Melman, survey respondents, ferry crew, Open Studios visitors, and fellow AIRs who participated in self-organized events, gave me feedback, or otherwise offered camaraderie. Thank you.
Christine Wong Yap was a participant in Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Process Space artist residency program.
Inter/dependence was developed as part of Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Process Space artist residency program in 2015.
New ‘zine on artists’ personal impacts out Friday; available for pre-order now. Respondents’ discount available.
Based on survey responses from 112 artists, this new ’zine explores the positive psychological benefits of art practice, relatedness, and self-organized activities via an essay and nine data visualizations.
The ‘zine will be launched at LMCC Open Studios with Process Space artists in residence on Friday, December 11, 2015. Can’t make it to Governor’s Island? You can pre-order your copy now via Paypal. Ships after 12/11/15 via USPS First Class.
20-page self-published ‘zine: $5 + $3 postage within the US
Survey respondents: Get your first copy at half-off for a limited time only.*
Pre-order at interdependence.christinewongyap.com.
*Inter/dependence would not have been possible without the contributions of survey respondents, friends who shared the survey, and help from generous colleagues. In gratitude and the spirit of artists’ interdependence, a PDF download will be freely available at interdependence.christinewongyap.com after December 11, 2015.
From the ‘zine’s introductory essay, an explanation of “interdependence”:
“Respondents brought up interdependence—“that sweet spot between independence and dependence shared with generous collaborators,” describes Steven Barich—as essential to their practices. One respondent notes, “I feel most in control when I can feel comfortable being interdependent, which is to say out of control and held in support by, of, and for my friends, family, and community.”
Simply put by Cal Cullen, “Artists need each other.”
Interdependence might be considered the intersection of autonomy and relatedness, which, along with competence, are the core needs at the heart of Edward Deci’s and Richard Ryan’s self-determination theory. Relatedness and autonomy may seem contradictory, but Deci—like respondents—insists that individuals can be autonomously dependent.”
Inter/dependence was developed as part of Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Process Space artist residency program in 2015.
Over the past few months, every book I’ve read has blamed our state of precarity on neoliberalism and Post-Fordism. So it’s dissonant to hear the reverence for Reagan in the presidential debates. Alas…
“Each of us thinks we see the world directly, as it really is. We further believe that the facts as we see them are there for all to see, therefore others should agree with us. If they don’t agree, it follows wither that they have not yet been exposed to the relevant facts or else they are blinded by their interest and ideologies. People acknowledge that their own backgrounds have shaped their views, but such experiences are invariably seen as deepening one’s insights… But the background of other people is used to explain their biases and covert motivations… Everyone is influenced by ideology and self-interest. Except for me. I see things as they are.”
—Jonathan Haidt summarizing the research of Emily Pronin and Lee Ross in The Happiness Hypothesis (2008)
[NB: I wrote this a few days ago, scheduled the post, and then forgot about it. I regret the timing of the auto-scheduling. The loss of so many innocent human lives in Paris yesterday warrants a pause for reflection.]
Two shows I like, and one I’d like to see.
A visually dense show of custom Jacquard tapestries embellished with glitter and toys, and an installation inspired by Jamaican dancehall dandies, shown in floral print-wallpapered galleries. There’s also a terrarium-like installation of the museum’s jewelry collection. [Full disclosure: I freelance here and helped install the show. And you know what? I really enjoyed meeting and working with Patterson—she was engaged, down-to-earth, and hardworking. Big points for learning the crew’s names and feeding us patties from Jamaica.] I’m excited about this show for MAD; I hope future programming reflects similar youthfulness, urgency, and color.
[This winter’s a promising time to visit. There are some amazing pots and insanely intricate minatures in the Japanese contemporary ceramics show. Takuro Kuwata’s pots are knock-outs.]
Through December 19, 2015
Higher Pictures, NYC
[The solo show of a super talented and skilled friend from LA. She’s good; you don’t have to take my word for it.] Quiet, meticulously-crafted photos of paper-crafted sets exploring the body. A triptych of photos of hand-painted lines forming warped grids conjures an industrial bathroom floor or the subway; the queasiness of the distortion in the leftmost image seems to offer relief of the more rationally ordered grid in the right image. There’s a mesmerizing film of the artist tracing her own shadow on the wall—she’s framed at a distance, and the gestures are controlled, yet the experience is oddly intimate.
[Also, while you’re in the foyer at 980 Madision, take a minute to enjoy the large Ed Ruscha painting of three masted ships, courtesy of Gagosian.]
Through November 21, 2015
Imperceptibly and Slowly Opening
Sector 2337, Chicago
If I were in Chicago I’d check out this show about how plants “trouble human structures.” It looks like a brainy show with a diverse array of approaches to this subject matter. While there, I’d also get to know Sector 2337, an artist-run gallery, bookstore, and press, as well as a modest studio residency program.
The tingling sensation of making connections in design history.
Martine Bedine’s classic Super Lamp from has been floating my boat lately. Maybe because making furniture has been part of my recent projects, or this object expresses so much exuberance, or I’ve been working in a design museum. Or maybe because it’s just super cute. Buy one, or just check out the production model’s wheels, which differ from the prototype pictured above, at the Memphis Milano store.
The Memphis design movement isn’t from Tennessee—it was a group of Italian designers working in the 1980s. Designer Ettorre Sottsass (1917-2007) founded the movement when he convened a meeting (during which a song about Memphis played, hence the name). Memphis’ most iconic creation might be Sottsass’ Carlton room divider. It’s sort of a slap in the faces of both classical and modern definitions of taste and design.
But I was even more impressed to learn that Sottsass also contributed another icon to design history: the red Valentine typewriter, which he co-designed for Olivetti:
If you ever have a chance to visit an exhibition of Olivetti posters, go! I saw a great introduction to Olivetti’s design influence years ago, and it still sticks with me.
Here’s what else has me looking up lately:
Harvester Arts’ new website. It’s looking great. You can see photos of projects by local artists exhibited in September made in response to my residency project in April/May. Excited to see their 2016 artist in residence line-up!
Temporary Art Review’s recent posts reporting on and following Common Field‘s Hand in Glove conference—connecting “connecting contemporary, experimental, noncommercial arts organizations.” Sarrita Hunn’s essay, “Artists for Artists’ Sake” is especially recommended [great points. Disclosure: it’s illustrated by Hunn’s activity sheet for Make Things (Happen)].
(And, putting ideas into action, learn more about Portland ‘Pataphysical Society at Temporary Art Review’s profile!)
I just received “Mobile Autonomy—Exercises In Artists’ Self-organization” from the Netherlands; looking forward to digging in deeper and getting more clarity. (The first chapter is an interview with Thomas Hirschhorn, the second is something like his manifesto. My understanding of his projects are slightly improved, though I found his responses evasive and his writing roundabout.)
Equity Gallery is open. It’s the exhibition space of the NY Artist’s Equity Association, an organization founded in 1947 by artists, for artists. Founding members include Ben Shahn, and Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, whose endowment makes the new gallery possible. In thinking about artist’s empowerment, it’s amazing to see the legacy of past progressive movements, which can feel so distant, continue on today.
My practice is always shifting, and right now it looks like data analysis.
I’ve celebrated nerding out in my art practice. I seem to be reaching a new zenith now.
Thanks to everyone for taking or sharing the Artist’s Personal Impacts Survey. I am now trying to get a handle on 112 survey responses. There were 40 questions in the survey.
Thirty-one questions were quantitative. Those questions used Likert scales of 5 or more options. To tally the data, I’ve been using Google forms with formulas cobbled from my experience with Excel (thanks to my first internship), Google searches, and M’s coding knowledge. I’ve translated the data into percentages, which I’ve drawn as bar charts in my sketchbook. (This is one of those rare occasions in which Moleskin’s 5mm gridded paper is coming in handy: 1mm=1%.) Stacked bar charts seemed like the best bet, and M, who studied with Nicholas Felton, agreed. I’m making my stacks via good old cut-and-paste. I hope that physically manipulating the information will help me understand it better.
Nine questions were qualitative, asking for open-ended responses. Many respondents took the time to carefully reflect and elaborate upon their answers, or articulate new distinctions to my survey questions. I’ve exported these answers, and they total 65 pages, or over 22,000 words. I’ve started categorizing the answers, and am encountering interesting findings.
Here’s one surprise from the process: A few respondents argued with the questions in their responses, or disagreed with assumptions underlying the questions. I was surprised and somewhat miffed, at first. But then I realized that it’s a good thing that respondents felt empowered to maintain their own perspectives. I take it as a sign that the survey questions were not “priming” them (at least, those contrarian respondents) to submit answers biased by my own interest in positivity.
My practice is shifting… I’m considering how working like this is experimental (in both senses of the word: trying new things, and akin to psychological experiments and studies), and experiential (taking participants or viewers through a process, or inhabiting a process through which I discover my own practice). It seems to be both oftentimes. The outcomes are yet to be determined, but I’m feeling good about the process. It’s challenging my skills and abilities. I’m learning new things. It’s concordant with my interests. That the process may not look like a typical studio process is relatively unimportant to me.