A empty white walled room with a bright window in the back corner. Two tables and two office chairs. light brown carpet.
Art & Development, Research

LMCC Workspace Residency: Update #1: What, Who, Where, When, How, Why, and What I’ve Been Up To

About the first third of a nine-month residency.

In October, I started the 2019-2020 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace Artist-in-Residence program. It’s a huge honor. I first applied like 10 years ago. The application pool is quite competitive. I’m very humbled and grateful that it’s working out this year.

What

This year’s Workspace residents receive:

  • A semi-private studio space.
  • Weekly salon evenings consisting of studio visits with curators and arts professionals, studio visits with the cohort, professional development workshops, cohort-led activities, and more.
  • An open studio in June 2020.
  • A materials stipend of $1,300.

This is pretty typical of the program, with some variation in the fee depending on funding, and slight differences in timeline and studio space, depending on the space available.

A empty white walled room with a bright window in the back corner. Two tables and two office chairs. light brown carpet.

My studio, before move-in.

Who

This year’s cohort consists of 10 visual artists (learn more on lmcc.net). (The number of residents depends on the space available. LMCC residency programs are usually open to dance, theater, and literary arts, too; check for next year’s application in mid-January 2020.) An on-site assistant, who was a Workspace resident last year, also has a studio.

I really like the cohort! It’s an interesting group of artists working in sculpture, installation, performance, works on paper, and textiles. My cohorts are clearly invested in their practices and in building a respectful, serious, and friendly community.

The program is managed by Bora Kim. Other LMCC staff and interns help out with the program as well as marketing and events.

Where

Building & Location

The studio is located in a corporate building near Wall Street. The building itself is quite impressive. The guards and maintenance team are friendly and helpful. It’s secure and clean.

An ornate, gold, orange and red interior. Lots of embellishment on every surface. The ceiling has built-in light figures that make geometric rays of light due to the bas relief in the ceiling. The walls have a matching louvered paneling in gold. There are multiple spaces defined by transoms with ornate floral grillwork. The floors have a checkerboard of yellow and cream marble with black and white marble interspersed and used as a border. There are touches of gleaming metal.

The gorgeous Art Deco lobby at 70 Pine. View towards the mailroom and elevators.

LMCC encourages residents to learn more about lower Manhattan. One salon evenings was a walking tour led by a member of the city’s landmarks commission. I especially loved visiting 70 Pine, a stellar example of Art Deco. (As a landmarked building, there is a public mandate to make the lobby accessible to the public. Anyone can visit. Don’t miss the bas-relief on the elevator doors.) I’ve also been going on walks, exploring Oculus, the 9/11 Memorial, and longtime neighborhood businesses.

The transportation options are ridiculously convenient: the N/W, 1, and 4/5 subway stations are all very close. I’ve also taken the ferry, rode Citibike, and walked to the studio from Queens.

The Studio

The cohort shares a large carpeted office space, which is divided into studios with tension-pole partitions sheathed with Homasote.

My studio is about 16′ long by 8′ wide. It’s sunny, with a large window facing east. LMCC provided two work tables and two office chairs.

a office with carpet and two folding tables side by side, with an office chair. there's a small ironing board with a bandana on top, and an iron. There are drawings on the wall, and various clipboards, pencils, colored pencils, etc on the table.

A view of my studio, recently.

Two residents have enclosed offices with glass doors. In a large open space in the center, we’ve put a table and chairs to gather for meals. There’s also smaller lounge areas and a conference room. There’s a kitchen with a fridge, electric kettle, microwave, dishes, silverware, and sink (there is no separate work sink). There is a computer and scanner/printer available (it’s been useful for me lately for making copies of drawings to do quick color studies). Residents occasionally work in common spaces when they need to spread out. It feels like there’s plenty of space.

Carpeted office space divided into artist studios with office chairs around a table in the middle. Various art studio supplies: shop vacuum, bin of fabrics, dolly, etc around.

LMCC Workspace studios, one wintry day.

Having an art studio in a corporate building entails a little extra coordination when moving large items in or out, and using the one small, staff-operated freight elevator. LMCC has a dolly we can borrow, which helps.

When

Our first day was October 7. We received immediately received IDs, access codes, and permission to move in. (I love it when there’s no delay!) The program ends after the open studios at the end of June 2020.

Residents have 24/7 access to space.

Salon evenings are held weekly, except on holidays. I’m happy to be there each week, especially because a former resident told me about how much he looked forward to them. There’s a great variety of programming and cohort-building activities.

How

I really like the program for its combination of space and programmatic support. They invest in community-building. The first salon evening was speed intros, where residents got to introduce ourselves and our practices to each other via projected images of our work. Some LMCC staff attended too (which is nice considering that it’s after work for them). LMCC often supplies refreshments, which help lend conviviality.

LMCC asked us to suggest potential guests to invite for studio visits. The final line-up includes many curators from major NYC institutions. Studio visit evenings usually feature a few guests. Each guest are scheduled for four, thirty-minute, one-on-one visits with residents. Residents may have one to three visits per evening. When you aren’t paired with an outside guest, you do studio visits with other cohort members.

Early in the program, when a salon evening was canceled due to a holiday, I asked the cohort if they’d like to have a potluck anyway. We did. It was fun to get to know the other artists in a more relaxed setting. I’m really grateful everyone shares an interest in getting to know and support each other.

A computer printout pinned to a white wall. Text reads:

Skill Share Pictionary Set Up instructions

I had the opportunity to lead an activity one salon evening. I made up an activity called Skill Share Pictionary (learn more on my Glint Project Instagram takeover).

Fellow resident Naomi Safran-Hon initiated the idea of having a group exhibition in the foyer. It was pretty impressive that the cohort organized our group show in about 20 minutes. I appreciate our group’s cooperation, initiative, and flexibility.

Why

Here’s why I applied, as written my application. (My brevity is due to LMCC’s strict word count limits.)

I’ll develop new works exploring resilience, vulnerability, authenticity, and connectedness.

I’ll research and present findings via calligraphy, sign painting, and drawings. Then, I’ll create garments with pockets that reveal or secure aspects of one’s identity, and hybrid books-games-interactive objects in textiles and paper for fostering brave spaces.

WHY WORKSPACE?

I need different perspectives to ground these subjective concepts, and mutual support and rigorous feedback.

WHY NOW?

It’s time to grow my craftsmanship, my fluidity between thinking and making, and my ethics of social engagement.

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS?

To grow. To do my part to cultivate authenticity, vulnerability and connectedness.


What Have I Been Up To?

I started by trying to define what I meant by resilience, and how it is connected to authenticity and vulnerability. These latter two concepts are things I kept thinking about in my projects on belonging. Being able to express yourself authentically, and being able to be vulnerable, were often characteristic of spaces of belonging. At the same time, belonging allows you to be more vulnerable, and more authentic.

Dozens of small pieces of paper tacked to a white wall. Some of text on the paper are headers written in a black calligraphy marker, such as adversity, risk, exposure, discomfort, pain, loss, failure, fear, blame, shame, othering, disconnection, vulnerability, hopelessness, depression, anxiety, authenticity, hope. Then there are numerous small pieces of paper written in pencil but it's too small to read. Then there's yellow tape lines connecting various parts.

A mind map on resilience.

I have been working and re-working a large mind-map, trying to see these connections and fill in what else I know about related concepts about hope, growth mindset, belonging, sports psychology, shame, etc.

I’ve also been reading more mass market books by psychologists with academic affiliations or longtime clinical practices. I’m proud to say that this year I’ve been more intentional about supporting indie booksellers and libraries.

Cover of a book, with a big red heart on an ivory background. The title and author name with subtitle:

Emotional First Aid, by Guy Winch, PhD

I read Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch, a longtime NYC therapist. I loved that it explains the logical sources behind squishy feelings (violation of rights results in anger, or a fear of violating other’s rights or standards results in shame) and logical responses to those feelings (reflective writing exercises that reframe situations, or deliberate, detailed strategies to repair relationships). (I first came across this book at the San Francisco Public Library, in the Chinese section. I wish more mental health books were translated into different languages. BTW the English version is available at the Queens Public Library.)

Cover of a book with a photo of a gnarled tree atop a rock. Subtitle: Seven keys to finding your inner strength and overcoming life's hurdles.

The Resilience Factor, by Karen Reivich, PhD, and Andrew Shatté, PhD.

My suspicion that resilience relates to optimism was validated when I stumbled upon The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich, PhD and Andrew Shatté, PhD via the Queens Library. Reivich and Shatté were students of Martin Seligman, whose book on optimism was the first positive psychology book I ever read, way back in 2010. Reivich and Shatté build upon Seligman’s explanatory style—the idea that people explain adversities with beliefs, which shape consequences or actions, therefore different responses become possible by examining the beliefs. This book organizes a lot of mental habits and strategies that I find insightful and worthy of sharing. I’ve been working on some drawings (see a few sketches on Instagram), with my Positive Signs series as an early predecessor.

Cover of book, no images, but there are three bars of color: purple, blue, green. Mostly white background. Updated Edition. Subtitle: The new pyschology of success: How we can learn to fulfill our potential. sticker: 2 million copies in print. list: parenting, business, school, relationships. small blurb.

Mindset by Carol. S. Dweck, PhD

I’m also reading Mindset by Carol Dweck, PhD (which I got with credit from selling books at the Strand). This is book has had a huge influence on education and I’ve been meaning to read it for a while. People with growth mindsets are willing to take risks in order to grow. People with fixed mindsets are afraid to be exposed as inadequate. I’m starting to see through-lines between optimism, resilience, vulnerability, and courage.

To take a break from reading, I practiced a lot of hand lettering and calligraphy using markers, dip pens, and brushes. It was  fun to dive into different letterforms (my reference book: Hand Lettering by Thy Doan, also from the Strand).

I also just got loose in my sketchbook inspired by Syllabus by Lynda Barry (Strand), which I’ve expounded upon in a previous post.

All this note-taking, lettering practice, and drawing added up into completing a 250-page sketchbook in two months—a record time for me.

Fancy handlettering on a dot grid sketchbook page in pink, blue and black marker. Text reads: Resilience is a mindset that enables you to seek out new experiences and to view life as a work in progress.

Sketch book page: lettering practice with a quote on resilience by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté.

My proposal mentioned sewing. I have some ideas about textiles and garments. I’m letting those ideas marinate as I synthesize all this information and lettering forms. My sewing machine and materials are at the studio, and I’m looking forward to diving in over the next six months.

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Impressions

Top Seven: Syllabus, Glass Blowing, Parasite, Color Pen

Seven things I’m loving right now.

1. Lynda Barry’s Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor

The simultaneous experience of looking, reading, and thinking in this mostly-hand-lettered and hand-drawn notebook explaining her curriculum and lessons on leading classes combining image and word made me want to reach out for my notebook and pencils and fill every page with abandon. I’ve been using exercises in my own studio to loosen up, and filing away other ideas to try with future workshop participants. Syllabus is published by the illustrious Drawn and Quarterly. I am working my way through it, to savor each section.

You can see Lynda Barry’s Face Jam Exercise on the NewYorker.com. It’s from another book of Barry’s, Making Comics.

Parasite_(2019_film)

Poster for South Korean film Parasite, theatrically released on May 30, 2019. Source: wikipedia.

2. Parasite (Bong Joon-Ho)

You don’t need me to tell you that Parasite is masterful, and very much worth viewing on the big screen. I’ll say it anyway, since I’ve been enjoying more films lately, especially films by people of color. It’s also really cool to see a foreign language film embraced by US audiences in record-breaking numbers.

A man wearing sunglasses using a gas torch on a molten ball of glass.

Still from Blown Away. Source: Netflix.

3. Blown Away

This Canadian reality TV series was released on Netflix this summer, and I just binge-watched it this week. Despite the fact that it’s a formulaic competition show with goofy hosts and oddball challenges, I loved it.

There have been other artist reality shows before, but none have necessarily revealed so much craft and skill. My heart went out to the glassblowers. Many were extremely skilled, and really deserved honors for their accomplishments, which were not afforded by the structure of the show.

My only other qualm is that the show didn’t show enough glassblowing technique continuously. They could have followed each individual project from start to finish for a half an hour and I would have loved every minute. The makers are casting for season 2. I hope they reconsider having students as assistants—it’s far too much pressure on the competitors and the students.

Blown Away made me yearn to blow glass again. I only did hot glass for two semesters in undergrad. It’s very addictive, like wheel throwing—once you get the bug, you just want to be blowing glass, challenging yourself, and being in the zone all the time. I miss that sense of being in sync with the material. Also, there were tools and techniques I never saw as a beginner glassblower that I wanted to try. I never pulled cane, or used a soffietta!

4. Pentel Color Pen Markers

The other week I was using markers from my set of 36 Pentel markers, when I realized that I’ve probably had this set of markers since 2015 or 2014. That would make these markers nearly 5 years old. All of the markers are still going strong. Granted, I don’t use them often, and usually only in small bursts for lettering, not for coloring. But still, that’s pretty impressive. I’ve had many ballpoint pens, gel pens, and calligraphy markers dry out or stop working; it’s refreshing when art supplies last.

set of markers in a yellow case.

Pentel Color Pen Fine Point Marker 36 Set. Source: uoduckstore.com

I just found, that on the Pentel site, you can purchase individual markers for 99¢ each. So even if one of the colors did run dry, you could replace it and not have a horrible gap tooth in your rainbow palette.

5. Feeling Good, Mel Day’s Wall of Sound Project

Mel Day is a California-based artist who as been collecting videos of individuals singing and compiling them into installations. She’s been scaling up (way up!) lately, by partnering with San José Athletics, Marching Band, Choirs, athletes, fans, students and community allies to create a new, “evolving series of participatory massed choral video works and half-time live singing events” around Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.”

You can contribute by recording your video from the comfort of your own home. You don’t have to be a “singer” to sing! Learn more at wallofsongproject.com.

6. Museum of Capitalism at the New School, on view through December 10

Spoiler alert: The Museum of Capitalism is a speculative project that invited artists to imagine the artifacts leftover from capitalism in a post-capitalist future. I saw the original iteration in a sprawling Oakland building a few years back. (I am still moved by Packard Jenning’s installation of a guided meditation for riot police de-escalation.)

A new iteration was is on view at the New School, including contributions by friends Related Tactics and Nyeema Morgan.

When I visited the exhibition, it felt to me that I hadn’t seen anything like it in NYC, that I hadn’t been in conversations in NYC that envisioned post-Capitalist perspectives.

There’s only a few more days to see the show. Find the address and hours here: https://www.museumofcapitalism.org/museum-of-capitalism-new-york-city

7. Batalá NYC

Batalá is an “all women Afro-Brazilian Samba Reggae percussion band. Batalá New York is a part of a global arts project made up of over 30 bands around the world.” I recently heard them play as they accompanied an Afro-Brazilian dance class. Wow! The beat is palpable in your chest. There’s something so cool about seeing women embracing power and massive volume, with unity and coordination. Check out their videos on YouTube.

Batalá NYC are currently raising funds to travel to Brazil. Consider supporting their GoFundMe.

 

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Research

Resilience through Sports Psychology, Heartbreak, and Mindfulness

Three books related to resilience.

I’ve been interested in resilience since 2016. I wanted to learn more about how people recover from setbacks and major changes in identity.

I started by thinking about athletes recovering from major losses, enduring injury, or facing retirement. This was partly fueled by my own participation in athletics (competing in Brazilian jiu-jitsu last year, coping with chronic aches) and as a spectator (the mental or psychological preparation or fallout in Rhonda Rousey’s loss to Holly Holm, Rose Namajuna’s self-management which helped her dethrone Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Megan Rapinoe’s sense of self-driven purpose).


Jim Afremow, The Champion's Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive.

Jim Afremow, PhD, The Champion’s Mind (2013)

[Find on IndieBound.]

I highly recommend this book for anyone who plays sports and wants to be more mentally prepared for competition. Practical, helpful tips for having the most conducive attitude in practice, in competition, in the face of loss, etc.


Competitive athletes face winning and losing on a regular basis. But loss is inevitable in everyone’s lives. We will all face grief. When you love, you can also lose your love.


Cover of Guy Winch, How to Fix a Broken Heart

Guy Winch, PhD, How to Fix a Broken Heart (2018)

This is a great little book written by a NYC therapist based on 20 years of treating clients. The focus is on heartbreak following the loss of romantic love, and heartbreak following the loss of a pet. Dr. Winch is keen to challenge social assumptions that provide accommodations for physical pain but not psychological pain, especially around these heartbreaks, which can be deemed insignificant compared to divorce or loss of an immediate (human) family member.

“We have been dealing with broken hearts for millennia and yet most of us know only two healing agents: social support and time.”

He explains: if other people deem our loss insignificant, they’ll withdraw social support, leaving us with only time,

“a variable over which we have no control, which is why heartbreak makes us feel so helpless.”

Dr. Winch describes several client stories of heartbreak and the unhelpful behaviors they engaged in. I found much of this very relatable.

He explains how love is neurologically like addiction, how heartbreak activates the same parts of the brain as a drug withdrawal. He goes over strategies informed by cognitive behavioral therapy, for things like moving towards closure and increasing self-compassion.

The book is published by TED Talks and is eminently readable. (I read most of it on two long subway rides.) Highly recommended.


What if resilience is a matter of preparation? What if you could train your brain to withstand setbacks—and the emotions and beliefs that follow—by becoming more mindful?

Like any job, my day job can entail stressors like shifting priorities, unexpected changes, long hours, and challenging personalities. Different tolerances and coping strategies are on full display (including myself, of course). I noticed that my co-worker D doesn’t let his feathers get ruffled. He doesn’t seem to get frustrated, upset, or impatient. I asked him about it, and he said, “A lot of meditation and prayer.” He keeps in mind a bigger picture and doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

This month, I gave myself a mini-mantra and suggestion: “Be Kind. Unwind.” I just wanted to give myself space and permission to feel and acknowledge my feelings (there are A LOT of them this month) instead of rushing from thing to thing—task to task, distraction to scrolly-scrolly to ruminations. In practice, I am trying to be more mindful.


Cover for Christophe Andre, Looking at Mindfulness: 25 Paintings to Change the Way you Live. International Bestseller. Illustrated with a painting by Caspar David Fredrick of the back of a man at a mountain summit looking over a cloud cover below him.

Christophe André, PhD, Looking at Mindfulness: Twenty-five Ways to Live in the Moment Through Art (2016)

[Published by Penguin Random House]

André is a psychiatrist and meditation practitioner who runs meditation groups for hospital patients. This is a beautiful book that uses old European paintings as inspirations for discourses on mindfulness.

“When we cling to our painful thoughts by ruminating on them, we solidify them. We ruminate on our ills and turn them into monsters. Rumination is the solidification of our mind’s chatter. Without meaning to, we turn an ordinary reaction into suffering.”

This next quote seems especially well-suited for striving New Yorkers. Or competitive athletes. Or artists who feel disempowered by the art world.

“We should go on making choices and pursuing goals, but without merging them, without obsessively clinging to success or perfection… We must do our best, in awareness and presence, but without seeing our effort, which depends on us, as less important than the final result, which does not depend on us alone…. We must stop thinking of our lives in terms of victories and defeats, seeing them instead in terms of the experiences that make us who we are.”

This is also about not being defined by your last project or bad review or win or loss. It’s about not tying your self-worth to an external indicator.

One question I keep coming back to in my work is “How do we keep our heart open?” To not become numb, scarred, hardened, or detached from the innumerable scary and traumatizing things in life. André writes,

“It’s true that access to these worlds of the present moment is made easier by external gifts [such as nature, beauty, etc.]… But it also requires a decision on our part to open ourselves up as often as we can to being touched, contacted, and struck by life. This is an act of deliberate awareness.”


 

I borrowed some of these books from Queens Library. I resolved to use the library more this summer, after “The People’s Guide to the Queens International” (my collaborative project partly situated at Queens Library branches) and probably the Marie Kondo effect. The more I use the library, the more it becomes habitual and convenient. Just yesterday, I used the bookmobile near my subway stop for the first time. I also like the enforced timeline of a loan—it motivates me to read.

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I loved this show! I love Maurice Sendak’s drawings, hand-lettering, and the whimsy, compassion, heart, and sensitivity in his work. This exhibit features Sendak’s sketches, watercolors, storyboards, and dioramas illustrating his designs for the theater. I really makes me want to draw more, and explore absurdism.

I can’t stop thinking about these sketches for costume designs. The first is from Where the Wild Things Are. The second is from A Love for Three Oranges.

Sendak-wild-things

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Study for Wild Things costume, with notes (Where the Wild Things Are), 1979, watercolor, pen and ink, and graphite pencil on paper. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.103:19. // Source: TheMorgan.org.

Drawing of costume designs. Three figures. The two figures on the left show the front and back of the same person, "prince" in a body suit showing organs and bones. The third figure is a man a boat.

My photo of a page in the exhibition catalog, “Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet.” // Find it in the Morgan shop.

There’s something just nice thinking about these drawings together. About bringing the inside out (your beastly feelings becoming a monstrous suit you wear and control), or making your outsides show your insides (the soft, vulnerable organs we’re all made of).

Through October 6
Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet
Morgan Library & Museum


 

Also, if you’ve never listened to the Teri Gross’ interview with Maurice Sendak on Fresh Air, give it a listen. It will break your heart.

Sights

See: Maurice Sendak at the Morgan Library

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Art Worlds, Research

Watch: On Why Art Belongs in the World

A beautiful work of storytelling and advanced learnings about sharing art.

Kristy Edmunds’ keynote speech at United States Artists Assembly 2019 is stirring, smart, and compelling. I highly recommend it. Watch the video, which includes an intro by Ann Hamilton.

Person holding a bowl in one hand, standing at a podium.

Keynote speaker Kristy Edmunds. // Source: UnitedStatesArtists.org.

Edmund’s speech comes from her perspective as curator and artistic director, facilitating relationships between artists and institutions. She’s particularly pro-artist [which is something you might assume people working in the art world would be, but actually, some are anti-artist, H/T Shannon Stratton].

Edmund’s perspective was especially interesting to me as a social practitioner, in thinking about partnerships with organizations, institutions, and communities, and also as an artist who thinks about my work less in terms of objects to be owned, and more in terms of aesthetic experiences and engagements.

Below are a few highlights.

On partnerships between artists and institutions

The quality of invitations to artists and audiences matter.

Artists are not to be treated as vendors. A public is not to be treated as consumers. Do not transact poetics and people, ever.

She said that requiring measurable outcomes facilitates gatekeeping and hinders bridge-building.

On how art lives in the world

When introducing performances, Edmunds feels compelled to tell audiences:

We have a job together, which is to make a memory. We will be the living archive for this artist, in this moment, in this time. We going to become its permanent collection.

I love this idea. She explains:

Art belongs in the world. It is informed by the maker, its place, city, community, culture, conditions—everything through which it is made—but it isn’t owned by the organization that helped facilitate it. Nor, once it is given by the artist, is it exclusively owned by them. It become owned by a public, in the world, in a memory that we made…

Ownership as a fixed idea is transformed into something else. To me, that transformation is a participation in belonging to the work, to the experience of it, to the acknowledgment of its maker, to the cultural assets that stand with it, and also to us, fleeting or long.

The future completes our work—how it sustains or endures. What is forged in our cultural memory connects us uniquely.

For me, when an artwork exists that way—as a shared memory or an experience ingrained in the body—that’s whats most exciting about working in the realm of aesthetic experiences. That’s why I keep going back to making projects with people, inviting participation, gathering stories, and sharing emotions and experiences.

She also shared this tidbit:

…Art needs to belong in the world because it is how we practice, in the words of Deborah Hay, “the deep ethics of optimism.”

 


Tangent: On “The deep ethics of optimism”

*Since I’m obsessed with optimism I wanted to learn more about what this phrase meant. I found an interview with choreographer Deborah Hay. She said, “A friend of mine who is a poet talks about ‘the deep ethics of optimism.'”

Then I found an interview with writer Zara Houshmand:

Issues of social justice matter to me very much but over time I’ve been more inclined to look inward at deeper sources of change—the mechanisms of empathy, breaking down prejudice, embracing the other, fixing oneself at the root in ways that create a more viable relationship with the rest of the world. In other words, doing the spiritual work to make yourself available for the work of social justice. It goes beyond finding a balance of contemplative and active life, or marshaling limited resources to prevent burn-out. Rather, it’s about what it means to commit to impossible tasks wholeheartedly, the deep ethics of optimism.

This relates to ideas that I keep coming back to, as well as new ideas I am currently discovering:

  • What I’m trying to achieve in my art is space for connection, for people to be whole-hearted, vulnerable, and authentic. Through my work, I am trying to ask, “How do you keep your heart open?” I think this is connected to optimism and embracing the abundance of the world and human goodness, which informs your ethics and how you move through the world and relate to change.
  • What is the relationship between social change and personal growth? This came up a lot in my recent Belonging Project at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. I focused a lot about how belonging feels. Then we looked at how to relate this to how belonging (and othering) happens on institutional scales, on a societal level.
  • I’ve also been thinking more about what it means when “the personal is political.” When are acts of self-care or self-actualization empowering and radical? When are they self-indulgent and afforded by privileged? For whom? In what conditions?
    • Self-care can be radical for people subjected to systematic violence. I identify as a woman of color, and, I’m also East Asian, educated, with sources of income that allow me to pursue being an artist, cis, able-bodied, neurotypical, with birthright citizenship and fluent English.
    • I am encountering my own ageism, ableism, and fat-shaming and the loss of privilege afforded youth, ability, and control over my body. I want to challenge these biases to work towards social change and inclusion, AND to accept myself for improved mental health. I recognize that this latter reason is completely self-interested; that this is how privilege works (I didn’t have to think about this before, I could be un-empathetic and uninformed about those affected); and this is how bias works (I couldn’t ‘see’ it until it affected me directly).
  • I’m reading adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy (AK Press [an anarchist worker-run coop🤘🏽], 2017) and “doing the spiritual work to make yourself available for the work of social justice” seems very related.

 

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Works

Points of Reference: Good Grief, Fruit and Other Things, Archive as Action

Socially-engaged artworks and events that reveal relationships and faith in humanity.

Claire Titleman: Good Grief Workshop
Mast on Fig, LA

Next Saturday: May 25, 2019

Once, during grad school, I installed my art in a corridor, and an artist named Emily Mast visited, saw it, emailed me, and now I’ve been aware of her goings-on for over 10 years. I try to reach out and email artists whose work I like, sometimes they’re responsive, sometimes they’re not, but I try. She’s opened a space in LA and this upcoming workshop sounds amazing.

Mast on Fig is ever so pleased to announce its second “Intimate Experience” by Claire Titleman! Intimate Experiences are performative experiments (concerts, classes, demos, meals, conversations, workshops, readings, meditations, etc.) for 15 people or less that will take place on a weekly basis over the course of this summer.

Claire Titleman
Good Grief Workshop
Saturday, May 25th  6-8 PM
Mast on Fig
4030 N Figueroa St LA 90065
RSVP here
Limit: 10 people
$10 suggested donation

What would happen if we passed down the legacies of our loved ones — not just to our family but to strangers? Good Grief will be a space for communal grieving, an opportunity to celebrate those who passed with people they never knew. Share something of them, whether it’s concrete or ephemeral, rational or absurd. Play us or teach us a song they loved, read a letter they wrote, do show and tell with an object you inherited, bring in a food they made for you, including its recipe. Mimic their laugh, teach us how to move our hips the way their hips moved when they walked. In this way, instead of creating a legacy that goes in a straight line, we scatter it out into the universe.

The last line is such a beautiful, wonderful gesture. To me this kind of relationship-building, experience-making, trust, and reciprocity are the essence of social practice. If your story can live indelibly in the minds and hearts of nine other people, art objects and documentation are immaterial.

Grief and loss are inevitable in life. And yet death is taboo in our culture, which makes grief feel all the more isolating. You don’t want to “burden” anyone with your sadness. (This is a double-edged sword of positivity.) I love this idea of sharing a joyful memory with strangers you trust because they share grief in common with you.


Lenka Clayton & Jon Rubin: Fruit and Other Things
Carnegie International, Pittsburg

[Last Fall/Winter]

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see this project in person, only online. It’s a beautiful concept that resonates with me regardless. Here’s the premise:

10,632 paintings rejected by the Carnegie International are painted, exhibited and then given away, in alphabetical order

fruitandotherthings.com

First of all, what an achievement to sum up a large social-practice-and-object project in one simple sentence. Learn more on their project website.

Watch this two-minute video to hear from the artists about their motivations.

For me, the best social practice projects have an elegance, as if the solution to how to develop this project was the most logical solution (yet only the artists would even think to do it). Fruit and Other Things has this sense of elegance, consideration, and completion.

There’s care, craftsmanship, uncovering history, a gesture of acknowledgment and kindness to other artists who faced rejection, generosity, ambitious scale, and distribution (the artworks living in the world). (Not to mention one of my faves, hand-lettering.)

I also like the exhibition design, with the poster board on a pallet (progress towards the 10k posters done made physical), worktables, and the open-top frames on the wall that allow easy change-outs of the artworks. It makes the process of the project self-evident and accessible.

Plus, there’s the democratization of collecting, with the collectors being asked to register on their project website and send in a photo. (This is something I have asked people to do in past projects, with less success. What do audience member-participants owe? To whom do they owe it? What is the nature of the transaction? What does their fulfillment or failure to fulfill their obligation say? What is a reasonable rate of fulfillment: 15% 50%? What do artists receive? How does participants’ completion of the feedback loop support the completion of the project? What do participants receive? How does it enhance their investment in the project or their aesthetic experience of participation?)

Last, I just want to acknowledge how many people are involved in this project. The artists are supported by a large team. All these people ought to be paid for their labor. This type and scale of social practice project requires tons of institutional support. The artists are giving away the artworks for free, and the aesthetic gestures are  conceptual and relational, it may be tempting to think that social practice can happen on shoestring budgets. But actually this is a site-specific commission and live performance which also requires ongoing administration. So congrats to the artists but also to the curators and Carnegie International team for this vision and investment.


Calcagno Cullen, Amanda Curreri and Lindsey Whittle: Archive as Action
Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati

Through June 16, 2019

This exhibition makes me happy because:

  1. Amanda Curreri is a grad school classmate who’s one of the smartest people I know and her relational actions have a high degree of open-ended-ness and exploration that I find very risky and admirable. She is attempting to do nothing short of re-writing social relations and experiences of power.
  2. Calcagno Cullen is a like-minded colleague from the Bay Area alternative art scene who founded Wave Pool in Cincy, which does super interesting things in community-facing art.
  3. It’s an exhibition of socially-engaged art and all the artists are women.
  4. Though I can’t visit, I got a sense of the exhibition from Sarah Rose Sharp’s “The Potential of Participatory Museum Exhibits” on Hyperallergic (May 14, 2019) to learn more about what viewers experience (H/T Nyeema Morgan). The artists’ practices seem to cover a spectrum of participatory art, with objects to be manipulated, objects as interfaces that collect contributions (artist-as-gatherer?), and objects as props for shared physical experience in real time.

We can all be World-Makers

I am so grateful to know artists who are world-makers. They saw that certain spaces, practices, and institutions didn’t exist in the world, and they decided to create those them. It takes blood, sweat, tears, and huge amounts of guts. Emily Mast doesn’t have to host events in her studio open to the public. Cal Cullen didn’t have to create and run Wave Pool as a different model of a gallery. Before social practice became a legitimized field, Jon Rubin and Harrell Fletcher were doing projects in the CCA library that almost seemed like extended practical jokes. Now they’ve gone on to found programs and nurture future generations of social practice artists. Ryan Pierce wanted artists to experience a different relationship to nature and collaboration found in your typical residency, so he co-founded Signal Fire, which is now celebrating its 10-year anniversary.

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