Citizenship, Sights

See: Processions (UK)

This checks all boxes that make me happy: DIY flags. Processions. Participatory art. Empowering women, especially right now. Check, check, check!

Join us on 10th June for PROCESSIONS, a mass artwork celebrating 100 years of women voting, in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London.

On Sunday 10th June, women* (*those who identify as women or non-binary) and girls from across the UK will come together to create a vast participatory artwork taking place simultaneously for one day. PROCESSIONS will be a living portrait of UK women in the 21st century.

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Flags made by Helen De Main and participants at the Glasgow Women’s Library. // HT: Rosie O’Grady (@OGradyRosie) // What’s not to love about this? You’ve got Helen De Main’s gorgeous design sensibility [Helen was a contributing artist to my make things (happen) project in 2014] and with participants at the only accredited museum in the UK dedicated to women’s history.

Check out Processions’ Make Your Own Banner guides for extensive downloadable PDF toolkits and school resource kits.

My only wish is that I could be there in one of those four amazing cities this Sunday.

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Sights

See: Mel Chin @ Queens Museum / Read: On Chin’s Prefigurative Politics

Rainwear garments made of recycled bottles, designed by Tracy Reese and sewed by a women's empowerment organization in Detroit. Mel Chin, “Flint Fit,” (2018-ongoing). // Photo: CWY.

Rainwear garments made of recycled water bottles, designed by Tracy Reese and sewed by a women’s empowerment organization in Flint. Mel Chin, “Flint Fit,” (2018-ongoing). // Photo: CWY.

I’ve been a fan of Mel Chin’s art since I learned of the Fundred dollar bill project (inviting students to color in bills, collecting them, and presenting them to Congress to request funds to fix local environmental injustices). And I’ve been a fan of the idiosyncratic artist since hearing him speak at the College Art Association conference in 2011. Chin’s a smart, collaborative, humble social practitioner and an unpretentious famous artist. He’s Chinese American and a through-and-through, singing, guitar-strumming Texan. He’s obsessed with the flawed human condition and environmental injustice, and makes art that earnestly and optimistically seeks change.

See Mel Chin: All Over the Place at the Queens Museum through August 12 (with auxilliary public artworks in Manhattan). I especially love the Flint FIT project.

Read an astute review, “Mel Chin’s Tongue-in-Cheek Encyclopedia of the World,” by Ryan Wong in Hyperallergic. This passage sums up some of the contradictions and poetics of working in social practice:

“Revival Field” and “Flint Fit” fill a unique role in the spectrum between art, social practice, and activism. In political terms, they might be called prefigurative — gestures that are both effective in themselves and utopian, albeit on a small scale. While Chin acknowledges that there is more work to be done in Flint, the project both embodies a new politics and gestures towards more. As he puts it, “You gotta show it can be done.”

The term “prefigurative” is intriguing. Here’s a definition from Wikipedia:

Prefigurative politics are the modes of organization and social relationships that strive to reflect the future society being sought by the group. According to Carl Boggs, who coined the term, the desire is to embody “within the ongoing political practice of a movement […] those forms of social relations, decision-making, culture, and human experience that are the ultimate goal”.[1] Prefigurativism is the attempt to enact prefigurative politics.

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Ryan Pierce, The Seal of Confluence, Flashe and ink on paper, 2017. 30 x 22.25 inches.

 

I love Ryan Pierce’s paintings. I’ve been a fan of the techniques, narrative coherence, Charles Burchfield-esque pulsing life, and the tension between hope and hopelessness in his paintings since we went to grad school together.

Ryan’s newest project, The River in the Cellar, sounds amazing. I love this combination of fiction, paintings, books, and geo-cached participation. It’s such a brilliant combination of Ryan’s interests in ecology and wilderness (as seen in his work co-founding Signal Fire, which helps artists and creative agitators engage with our remaining wildlands).

Ryan describes the project this way:

The River in the Cellar is a short fiction set in my painted world: a future of accelerated climate change and new forms of governance. The book includes eleven full-color archival inkjet prints corresponding to the storyline, and—here’s the participatory part—the prints will be cached throughout the Portland and Mt. Hood area, and it will be up to the reader to locate and assemble the illustrations while reading the book. The project is offered in a signed edition of 200.

There are a few ways to play: you can come to the reading event and buy the book and see the original paintings that comprise the color prints. You can order one from my website and assemble it another time. Lastly, you can skip the scavenger hunt and order the book with the complete accompanying print set for $50 here.

More info: RyanPierce.net

 

Works

See: Ryan Pierce: The River in the Cellar

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Art Competition Odds

Art Competition Odds: Elimination Tournaments

What would happen if you visualize an art competition as a tournament?

Though the tournament model differs from how artists’ submissions are usually juried, it seemed worth experimenting with it for understanding art competition odds.

In Unsolicited Artists’ Advice: Updated Tips from a Juror, I shared this data visualization:

The distribution of points, on a scale from 0 to 17 possible points, of 116 applications. The organization requested that I submit my top five picks.

The distribution of points, on a scale from 0 to 17 possible points, of 116 applications.

In this open call, only the top five of 116 submissions were awarded residencies. The points distribution reveals how even submissions that received pretty good scores of 12 or 13 still fell short. It also shows how receiving an average score of 9 or 10 is not even close to being competitive.

Here’s a visualization of a single-elimination tournament with 116 competitors. Every competitor has a chance to become the champion. But the champ will be the only one who wins seven increasingly competitive, head-to-head matches.

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A model of single-elimination tournament bracket with 116 competitors. The highlighted area is shown in detail below. // Source: Challonge.com

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Detail. Note the two stacked grey bars represent two competitors in a match. The match at the right is a quarter-final. 

If this tournament represented the residency call cited above, in order to rank in the top five and receive a residency, a competitor must:

  • beat four increasingly tough opponents,
  • get to the fifth elimination round—the quarter-finals,
  • advance to the semifinals or have the best score among four losing quarter-finalists.

If you think about these two models together, you can imagine that about half of the applicants—including those who received 10 points and under—never made it out of the first elimination round:

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Speculative visualization of competitors eliminated in first round.

Then, all but the top five competitors were eliminated in the second, third, or fourth elimination rounds:

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Speculative visualization of competitors eliminated in later rounds.

So to visualize it another way, the top five competitors’ advancements through the tournament might look something like this:

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Speculative tournament showing the top five competitors’ journeys through the brackets. All grey boxes represent eliminated competitors.

Artists’ submissions are practically never judged head-to-head as in an elimination tournament. But perhaps this model is useful as another way for seeing how competitive an applicant must be in order to see rewards.

What makes athletic tournaments so scary is the live performance—fear of failure, embarrassment, and disappointment. At the same time, even losing athletes gain experience that can’t be replicated. Eliminated artists, on the other hand, are cut out of that part of the process. Spared the anxiety of performance, we lose opportunities for evaluation. Artists scoring 3 or 13 points may receive the same rejection letter and generic encouragement to re-apply next year. When a staffer informs the applicant they were a finalist, or shares even a tiny amount of feedback, it is meaningful.

What can artists do? Espouse deliberate practice. Ask for feedback. If you can’t get feedback from juries, ask trusted colleagues to review your application. Make the most of professional development courses.

What can jurors do? Note remarkable artists. Ask for studio visits. Keep them in mind for exhibitions. Invite them to stay in touch.

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Art & Development

art competition odds: CUE Art Foundation’s 2018 Open Call for Solo Exhibitions

CUE Art Foundation received over 500 applications for its 2018 Open Call for Solo Exhibitions. Only two artists were awarded solo exhibitions.

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or 1:250, or 0.04%

The call has gotten more than twice as competitive since the program was inaugurated in 2011. That year, they received 120 applications and awarded one applicant, or odds of 1:120, or 0.8%.

See all Art Competition Odds.

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Works

See: Class Set by Jessalyn Aaland

Class Set, a risograph poster project initiated by Jessalyn Aaland.

Class Set, a risograph poster project initiated by Jessalyn Aaland. // Source: classset.org

 

To create Class Set, Bay Area artist Jessalyn Aaland invited artists to create posters featuring a quote by authors or activists. The artwork was reproduced via Risograph printing and offered for free to K-12 teachers, bringing art and inspiration into resource-strapped classrooms. Over 4,000 posters have been distributed so far.

Each of these artworks are also freely available for PDF download. Non-teachers can also purchase the set of 10 posters for a very affordable price of $100, which will be invested in a second round of posters.

Teachers can find more information about the authors and artists in a curriculum companion (freely available as a Word doc or PDF). It also contains activity handouts, including activities for students to make their own posters.

Sometimes I worry that being a project-based artist makes my work too ungainly to explain. Class Set is a great example of a project that is satisfyingly cohesive as a whole. The sum of its parts form compelling connections with audiences and constituents. The fact that the posters and curriculum are freely downloadable is an important part of the project—the posters gain life through their movements through the social imagination.

 

I love the inspirational messages in the posters. The following ones especially resonated with my current interests in interdependence, trusting the process, and courage in the face of vulnerability.

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“You are never strong enough that you don’t need help.” Quote by César Chávez. Artwork by Yetunde Olagbaju. // Source: classset.org

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“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.” Quote by Ursula K. Le Guin. Art by Veronica Graham. // Source: classset.org

 

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“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Quote by Nelson Mandela. Art by Jeffrey Cheung.

Skateboarding is such a perfect metaphor for the importance of failing (and falling) in the process of invention. If you don’t know about Jeffrey Cheung and Unity Skateboards, read about them in the NY Times.

For more info, or to download posters or the curriculum, visit ClassSet.org.

Participating artists: Jeffrey Cheung, Veronica Graham, Sarah Hotchkiss, Carey Lin, Paul Morgan, Yetunde Olagbaju, Grace Rosario Perkins, Sofie Ramos, Muzae Sesay, Chelsea Ryoko Wong

Featuring quotes by:
Sherman Alexie, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Stephen Bantu Biko, César Chávez, June Jordan, Corita Kent, Ursula K. Le Guin, Wangari Maathai, Nelson Mandela, Toni Morrison

HT: Susannah Magers (IG: @suzorsuziq)

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Meta-Practice, Uncategorized

Goals and Deliberate Practice

How much progress are you making towards your art goals?
Are you strategically improving weak areas?
How do you stretch out of comfort zones?

DELIBERATE PRACTICE

In “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” (London: Vauxhall, 2016), psychologist Angela Duckworth shares Anders Ericsson’s concept of deliberate practice:

  1. Set a stretch goal.
  2. Apply full concentration and effort.
  3. Get immediate and informative feedback.
  4. Repeat, with reflection and refinement.

This is different from going through the motions, or drilling what you already know or are good at. This is focusing on a weak area, and setting out to do something that is beyond your current skill level. Then you fail, ask what went wrong, reflect, and try again. It’s frustrating, uncomfortable, and painful, but Duckworth says you can learn to tolerate the discomfort and find gratification in the struggle.

GOALS & COMFORT ZONES

When I read about deliberate practice, my response was of simultaneous intrigue and resentment. I recognized that I need to be more strategic, and to stretch out of my comfort zone more often.

I usually set my one-year goals in the summer, so I’m about two-thirds of the way through my goal-year. I’ve made good progress… on the things I don’t mind doing. For example, I’ve applied to 5 residencies, and submitted my work to 6 open calls for exhibitions. I feel really good about that!

However, when it comes to tasks I dread, I’m excelling at avoidance. For example, to stretch out of my comfort zone, I set a goal of applying to three major grants, because I need to push myself to do more ambitious projects. In the past 8 out of 12 months, I’ve only completed one grant application.

STRETCH

Inter/de-pen-dence: A Game is now featured on playtime.PEM.org, the Peabody Essex Museum's site accompanying their current exhibition on play.

Inter/de-pen-dence: A Game is now featured on playtime.PEM.org, the Peabody Essex Museum’s site accompanying their current exhibition on play.

Coincidentally, “stretch” is a tactics card in Inter/de-pen-dence: A Game, now playable online at playtime.PEM.org.

Sarrita Hunn (my collaborator) and I invited artists Torreya Cummings (Oakland, CA), Malcolm Peacock (New Brunswick, NJ), and Ronny Quevedo (Bronx, NY) to play with us, and are posting the transcription of the dialogue-based gameplay weekly.

In Round 3, Torreya drew the tactics card, “Stretch” and shared how stretching, for her, is often a matter of asking for support from partner institutions. It followed after Ronny discussed the most significant form of support he received, and I gave an example of Ronny connecting me to Working Classroom in Albuquerque.

While getting out of comfort zones can be stressful, it’s a  trade-off for opportunities for improvement and support.

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