3 Flags by 3 artists

Revised US Flag by Maya Misra. Cunt Quilt by Coralina Rodriguez Meyer. Artist’s Arm by Jevijoe Vitug. // Source: ChristinaFreeman.net

While I like Creative Time’s Pledges of Allegiance artist-designed flag project, it seemed like a missed opportunity to not include more emerging artists. Air Rights, a project flying artist-designed flags curated by Christina Freeman at Flux Factory, is just the right antidote. The artists were less well-known. The flags were weirder. And it was in Queens.

Sights

See: Air Rights @ Flux Factory, Queens

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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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Ann Hamilton’s “Fly Together,” part of the Creative Time-led project, Pledge of Allegiance. // Source: creativetime.org // Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli

On June 14 (Flag Day), Creative Time launched Pledge of Allegiance, a new project commissioning 16 artists to create flags fly simultaneously at 12 art institutions around the country.

I love the project—there are flags, new artists’ commissions, opportunities for artists to make topical political statements, opportunities for art organizations to self-organize and take risks.

Caveat: NYC’s public art programs can host some of the most exciting and ambitious art here, but it’d be nice to see them take more risks with emerging, non-blue-chip artists, especially with new and auxiliary programming.

Sights

See: Pledges of Allegiance

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Projects

New Values: Changing Terms in a Psychological Classification

Unintended consequences of making art around recent positive psychology.

Christine Wong Yap, Character Strengths Signal Flags, 2015, linen, twill tape, letterpress-printed ribbon, rope, wood, flagpoles; 24 flags: 12.5 x 12 inches each; edition of three; flagpoles: 72–84 x 12 x 12 inches each; display: 73.5 x 20.5 x 27 inches. Photo: Anna Ablogina.

Christine Wong Yap, Character Strengths Signal Flags, 2015, linen, twill tape, letterpress-printed ribbon, rope, wood, flagpoles; 24 flags: 12.5 x 12 inches each; edition of three; flagpoles: 72–84 x 12 x 12 inches each; display: 73.5 x 20.5 x 27 inches. Photo: Anna Ablogina.

 

From 2013 to 2015, I designed, printed, and sewed Character Strengths Signal Flags. Each flag represented one of 24 character strengths in psychologist Martin Seligman’s and Chris Petersen’s Values in Action classification.

Recently I revisited the VIA website, and noticed that some of the strengths have been renamed. Those are listed below.

The new names relate to the old ones, but I can’t help but wonder: What is gained and lost with the linguistic updates?

  • Open-mindedness  Judgment
  • Persistence  Perseverance
  • Integrity  Honesty
  • Vitality  Zest
  • Citizenship  Teamwork
  • Self-Control  Self-Regulation
  • Appreciation of Beauty  Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence

I’m not a psychologist, but as the classification is aimed towards the public, the researchers are probably interested in accessible language. Here’s how I interpret the updates.

Some changes seem relatively minor—persistence and perseverance, and vitality and zest are phrasings many people would use interchangeably. Witnessing excellence can be beautiful; I can see the kinship in the appreciation of of the two. Psychologists might distinguish between self-control and self-regulation, but I don’t think general audiences would.

I believe the most dramatic change is from open-mindedness (withholding judgment) to judgment. In an era of snap judgments and constantly streaming opinions, I wonder why the researchers abandoned the self-assured open-mindedness, and then opted for judgment over the more measured critical thinking. Also, swapping integrity in favor of honesty seems complicated, too. To me, integrity implies a higher order of ethics and self-concordance than honesty.

The shift from citizenship to teamwork could inspire much deconstruction. The former implies geopolitics, nationhood, and the problems of inclusion, exclusion, and rights.* It’s too limiting for the meaning, which I interpret as the spirit of civic and social engagement.  On the other hand, teamwork originates in sport, but is now correlated with the workplace and management. This identity shift, from a (presumably) contributing member of a (presumably) democratic society, to a (likely, immaterial knowledge) worker, hits a nerve—it appears to be another instance of neoliberalism’s pervasive effect on our identities, where the corporation overtakes the state as the primary force organizing social relations.

While I don’t mean to conflate positive psychologists’ research with pop psychology writing, I did find a passage from Louis Menand’s essay on self-help business books (“The Life Biz,” New Yorker Magazine, March 28, 2016) to be relevant:

“It’s not surprising that every era has a different human model to suit a different theory of productivity, but it is mildly disheartening to realize how readily we import these models into our daily lives. We apply technologies of the self to our own selves, and measure our worth by the standards of the workplace.”

——

Addendum:

Justin Langlois‘ comments on citizenship (in “Questioning Citizenship at the Venice Biennale: Responses and Interventions,” C Magazine, Issue 128, Winter 2016) are too good not to cite.

First, the urgency of the question of citizenship:

“The idea of citizenship, and who gets to grant it, receive it, retain it and who has to give it up, is clearly one of the most pressing issues of our time.”

Then, a call to action to practice citizenship:

“Our citizenship relies on the testing of its very boundaries. And more often, it relies on a series of small and not-so-small gestures that secure or resist it, and that help us to exercise our capacity to measure, record and produce social and civic life together. Art provides an inventory of expanded practices and poetics that might offer us clues on how to do this, but we must work to hone our own actions and activities towards more complicated expressions that can evince our agency in the world. If we await an invitation to perform our citizenship, we will never get around to producing it ourselves.”

While of course I value cooperation and the ability to work well with others, what teamwork doesn’t account for is the desire and responsibility to “evince our agency in the world.”

 

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Research

Inverse Flag Designs

I love an inverse flag design.

I think it goes back to an old Muay Thai t-shirt design from around 2001. I always felt like I should be better at Muay Thai before sporting the shirt outside of the gym, so I never got it, but I always remembered its wonderfully peculiar use of color….

Designer unknown, Fairtex Muay Thai t-shirt design, circa 2001 (the Clementina Street days).

Designer unknown, Fairtex Muay Thai t-shirt design, circa 2001 (the Clementina Street days).

Black tees are the obvious choice for this audience; yet even with only two colors, the traditional white stripes could have been preserved. Instead, the usually-blue canton (flag-speak for upper quadrant) is white, with the black text knocked out (designer-speak for not-printed).

Flag orthodoxy would decree this manipulation of the US flag a desecration. But to me I sort of see it as an immigrant small business’ version of a folk artist’s flag:

R.A. Miller, Miller Family American Flag, enamel paint on tin // Source: GainesvilleTimes.com.

R.A. Miller, Miller Family American Flag, enamel paint on tin // Source: GainesvilleTimes.com.

So when I stumbled upon this image, I got very excited:

Afterimage US flag from the Exploratorium. // Source: Exploratorium.edu.

Afterimage US flag from the Exploratorium. // Source: Exploratorium.edu.

Of course, it’s from that world-class hands-on science museum in San Francisco, the Exploratorium. It’s from one of their classic science exhibits on perception—this one is about afterimages. Stare at the image for 15 seconds, then look away to see the US flag in red, white and blue.

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Impressions

Armory Art Fair fly-by

I visited the Armory Art Fair yesterday, thanks to the largesse of HWT (general admission, $30). I was glad I went—I saw some work I liked, some materials that might be useful to know about, and got to see what galleries are participating. Of Bay Area galleries, Wendi Norris moved from the Modern pier to the Contemporary pier; Silverman Gallery had a nice booth with staff smartly suited and booted; Haines had nearly the same location and similar works as last year. I liked the conceptually-oriented galleries Ingleby, Sies & Höke, Max Wigram and Tanya Leighton (European, no suprise). I also noticed that there were quite a few works related to flags; whether this is a trend or a result of finding what I’m seeking is hard to say.

In no particular order, some hasty snapshots of artworks that caught my eye.

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News

BOOOOOM! Irrational Exuberance Flag Raising Ceremony

The past 48 hours have been incredible.

The exhibition, Happiness Is…, is finally open at Montalvo Arts Center’s Project Space Gallery!

Curated by Donna Conwell following the suggestions of M and S, the show has come to fruition after months of preparation, Skype conferences, and then, for me, 5.5 weeks in residence at Montalvo’s lovely studios. After a brief stint back home in NYC, I returned to Montalvo with a trunk-load of Dad’s vintage tools to changeover the gallery. We fueled ten days of install with good tunes (Elton John and Journey), good snacks (clementines and wasabi peas), and even better friends (Leah Rosenberg and Susan O’Malley) and helpers (the not-one-complaint Kellen).

We developed the exhibition—making over a dozen new works, as well as determining the pacing for the works, lighting and paint schematics that conveys our ideas, and the how to enact spaces for pleasure, reflection, participation, and investigation. I am unabashedly proud of our accomplishments, hard work, and good collaboration. Huge thanks to Donna for bringing us together and giving us so much freedom to follow our visions, as well as for the wise guidance and hard work around the show and all of the programming. Montalvo’s support of this project is remarkable, and I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity.

As part of the opening festivities of Happiness Is…, many volunteers and supportive attendees helped to actualize the Irrational Exuberance Flag Raising Ceremony on Saturday, January 26. The morning started out overcast and still, but blue skies and a light breeze set the perfect scene for the event.

The ceremony begins with a flag procession from the gallery down to Montalvo's flagpole. Flags range in size from 4x4' to 4x6'.

The ceremony begins with a flag procession from the gallery down to Montalvo’s flagpole. Flags range in size from 4×4′ to 4×6′.

Flag bearers in position at the event site. From left to right: Education Co-ordinator Lauren Baines, Elizabeth Travelslight, Curator Donna Conwell, Leah Rosenberg, and Lucas Artist Residency Program Fellow Rick Maciel.

Flag bearers in position at the event site. From left to right: Project Manager of Education Programs Lauren Baines, Elizabeth Travelslight, Associate Curator Donna Conwell, Leah Rosenberg, and Lucas Artist Residency Fellow Rick Maciel.

Leah waves her flag for the voting process.

Leah waves her flag for the voting process.

Lucas Artists Residency Program Director Kelly Sicat distributed mini vinyl flags for the public to use for voting.

Lucas Artists Residency Program Director Kelly Sicat distributed mini vinyl flags for the public to use for voting.

The people have their say.

The people have their say.

The littlest volunteer hoists the flag.

The littlest volunteer hoists the flag.

The people's choice: the first official Irrational Exuberance Flag is raised!

The people’s choice: the first official Irrational Exuberance Flag is raised!

The ceremony ends in a procession back to the gallery, with attendees following.

The ceremony ends in a procession back to the gallery, with attendees following.

Thanks to flag bearers Donna Conwell, Lauren Baines, Leah Rosenberg, Rick Maciel and Elizabeth Travelslight; the Sicat family mini flag distributors; Susan O’Malley for the photos; Dan North for flagpole maintenance; and all who attended for their exuberance!

Happiness Is… continues at the Montalvo Arts Center Project Gallery in Saratoga, CA until April 14, 2013.

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