I highly recommend this video of a lecture by Jeremy Deller presented by Situations UK. His background and practice form a welcome alternative to the cult of young, ‘bankable’ artists (he was 31 when he staged his first art show—in his parents’ house). He mentioned instances of his indifference to the contemporary art world’s reception and its isolation/self-regard, as well as being pleased when an art object lost its aestheticized status and returned to being an object. I also appreciated his candidness about failure, and its productive possibilities, as seen above.
A few weeks back, I posted about an assignment for artists to describe their own dream group show.
I came up with one version of my own dream group show—it’s local, site-specific and combines numerous interests. I was so excited by all the projects and artists, the only way I could keep my presentation under the six-minute limit was to read out a script of only keywords, and that’s what I’ll include here. Enjoy! And consider coming up with one of your own—it’s a fantastic, liberating exercise.
1,000 Single Steps
For Jeremy Deller,
art isn’t about what you make
but what you make happen.
Manchester Int’l Festival.
Workshop of the World.
Birthplace of Socialism.
Tradition of Banner-making.
Contemporary groups working with a banner maker.
Crown of french fries.
Even the emo teens.
Proposed Site: The Queens Way
Summer of public programming as grand opening.
• 3.5-mile portion of the abandoned Rockaway Rail Line
• community-led effort
• current status: feasibility studies
I am not a natural optimist.
Anxiety and rumination, humans’ natural states.
Exercise, surefire mood-elevation.
Importance of access to clean, green open space.
For Physical health.
For Psychological health.
A society where women can go for a run in their own neighborhoods without fear.
Improve quality of life for generations.
Artists and Projects
Susan O’Malley, Community Advice, 2012.
Based in California.
Site-specific variation on project.
What advice would you give your 80-y-o self? 8?
Collaboration with printmaker.
Wood type posters
Posted in the community.
Carlos Cruz-Diez, Transchromie Mécanique 1965, 1965
Immersive phenomenological optical installations.
Like Eliasson, but earlier.
Like Turrell, but happier.
Shadows underneath elevated tracks.
Transformed to spaces of light and color.
Michelangelo Pistoletto, Lunch Painting, 1965
Transition from gallery oriented art object to direct social engagement.
Do not touch.
Proposed exhibition copies as public sculptures.
Bob and Roberta Smith, The Art Party, 2011–ongoing
Artist mostly known for twee sign paintings on junk.
Recent years’ increasing activism.
Reaction to Tea Party.
Opposition to cuts in Art Education in UK.
Paintings, installations, videos, events.
Defense of accessibility of art education and therefore art.
Art is not elitist.
Everything is made.
Artist mostly famous for wheat field in Lower Manhattan.
Beautiful drawings of world maps.
Cube, pyramid, donut.
Depends on weather.
Makes it even better.
Fourth of July 2012: San Diego Pyrotechnic Accident
Curatorial influence of Jenns Hoffmann.
Contemporary art alongside historic art and artifacts.
Contextualizes art practice in wider cultural production.
7,000 fireworks in less than 60 seconds.
Or expectations exceeded.
I also recently learned about this other spectacular fun-but-relatively-safe disaster, which I love for the same reasons as the fireworks display:
James Turrell: A Retrospective is coming this summer, to be exhibited concurrently at three museums! This is super exciting. I love Turrell’s phenomenological light installations. They are very difficult to install and exhibit. Not to be missed!
May 26, 2013–April 6, 2014
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
June 9–September 22, 2013
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
June 21–September 25, 2013
Jeremy Deller’s retrospective at the Hayward Gallery in London was a brilliant, daring move by curator Ralph Rugoff. I missed this show at the Philly ICA last fall (and it seems like NYC museums missed this opportunity). The show has continued on, however.
February 1–April 28, 2013
Jeremy Deller: Joy in People
Contemporary Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO.
I love this quote from Jeremy Deller:
art isn’t about what you make but what you make happen.
In response, JL asked,
but do you have to void one to validate the other?
No. Still, I conceive of what you make happen to encompass so much more than what you make. To try to work out what I mean, I started sketching a diagram. This is what I’ve come up with (so far):
I’ll attempt an explanation:
Artists make objects. The very activity of manipulating materials with an openness to their possibilities is the development of our own practices. We use imagination, courage, and will to take creative risks and sustain activities and engagement that can lead to enjoyment and flow (see Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow).
Many artists make exhibitions, which are events/situations for engagement between the artist and viewer via the object.
So, largely, I think what artists make are objects, exhibitions, and practices that are opportunities for personal aesthetic, intellectual, and emotional engagement. (See Csikszentmihalyi and Rick E. Robinson’s The Art of Seeing for more on the four dimensions of aesthetic experience.) The engagement is personal—for artists, via our activity with objects and their display, and for viewers, via those objects displayed.
What artists make happen, though, seems to expand beyond what artists make.
Artists also make events/situations (which are not object-based exhibitions) happen. These are spaces—physical or psychological—for attention or interaction. Participatory projects, public interventions, and of course, happenings, are some examples.
Some artists also make possibilities, and some artists make possibilities happen.
Artists make creative possibilities happen in terms of their personal development (object + possibilities = practice). We also make creative possibilities happen in terms of the development of the field, when our object-possibilities are accepted into the cannon, and they shift what constitutes contemporary art, therefore advances knowledge (see Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity). In this case, what artists make happen is a result of what artists make.
But artists can also make the field’s expansion and evolvement happen. We do this by creating events/situations with openness to possibilities—from new opportunities for artists, spaces, viewers, and interactions, to cultivating new art worlds and displacing old ones.
When other artists or viewers attend these events/situations with reciprocal openness, new communities and dialogues can emerge. For example, Obsolete Californias, by Shipping and Receiving (the moniker of collaborative duo Torreya Cummings and Heather Smith) was part-exhibition, part-event space/social space/store/wrestling mat. Amanda Curreri‘s Jean Genet in the Aunque is a conversation in the form of a participatory reading; parts are available for all attendees.* These events/situations were more like platforms for artists and viewers to enact possibilities alongside each other. In this way, artist and viewer roles can be shed for the roles of citizens of temporary communities, or dialogists.
So what artists make happen are opportunities for shared aesthetic, intellectual, emotional, and communicative engagement and action. The engagement is shared, as there is mutual investment of attention and space for cooperative action.
This week, articles in the Village Voice and the NY Times bemoaned the vast influx of money in art. Art auctions, art fairs, and mega-galleries that show works collected by the 1% are part of the art world, but equating them with the art world (as the Voice writer did) or only reviewing those exhibitions and fairs (as some NYT writers tend) are mistakes.
As Csikszentmihalyi points out, our most valuable currency is not money, but psychic energy—in other words, our attentions.
There are multiple art worlds. In mine, art auctions, secondary markets, and multi-million dollar transactions are on the periphery. I focus my attention on the center, which is abundant with artists, especially those who make things happen.
*Included in The Aunque, on now through February 16 at Romer Young Gallery, San Francisco, CA.
She cites artists encouraging positive emotions: Michael Landy’s kindness-on-the-Underground project, Tracey Emin’s “trust me” neon, the title of Jeremy Deller’s upcoming retrospective at the Hayward.*
But wait, I think all of these artists aren’t so one-dimensional that their work could be considered “feelgood.”
I’m thrilled to bits to hear about artists considering psychology from non-negative attitudes, as well as the influence of positive psychology expanding into the arts and humanities, but Thorpe’s article is not that. I think Thorpe set up an annoying happy face in the headline and lede only to slap it down in the article. It’s simple-minded to call artwork concerning positive affect “feelgood” and “pick-me-up.” It’s a misinterpretation of Deller, whose work has been consistently class-aware and courageous. Thorpe acknowledges as much, after rankling readers into mild outrage in their aversion to unabashed sentiment. Desparate, newsworthi-fying journalese.
*Actually, this is grand:
February 22 – May 13, 2012
Jeremy Deller: Joy in People
Hayward Gallery, London
Deller’s a brilliant artist, I love his work and thoughtful approach to developing projects and working with people. Plus, the Hayward is an amazing space. I really wish I could pop over to the Southbank Centre this spring for this!
In response to the British government’s proposal to cut funding for the arts by 25 percent. Watch a sweet video by David Shrigley.
There’s something fun and funny about live houseplants in contemporary artworks.
Live plants takes the edge off of self-serious contemporary art. By growing or dying, plants challenge the static condition of art-hood and the illusion of timelessness. Their standardized pots clue the viewer in to their status as ready-mades. By referencing consumer culture, decoration and domestic life, there is an appealing familiarity. Houseplants strike me as unpretentious and welcoming.
Won Ju Lim. Ruined Traces, 2007. Installation with projections, vitrines and artificial houseplants. Patrick Painter Gallery, Santa Monica, CA. Image Source: Art Rabbit, feature on LA art by Courtney Shermer, Oct. 16, 2007. (Granted, these aren’t live houseplants, but I included them because they function the same. Plus, live plants wouldn’t survive an exhibition run such a dark space.)
Mostly trees, but there is a houseplant in the background. Image Source: Eastside Projects.
Down Over Up is on view at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh through October 31, 2010.
Image Source (and many more delightful photos at): This Is Tomorrow, thanks to NM. (I’m also loving the black, diagonal, paint roller stripes in the gallery.)
Image Source: Artist’s site.
Alejandro Almanza Pereda exhibits a larger iteration of this sculpture in The Heaviest Luggage for the Traveler is the Empty One
at Magnan Metz Gallery in Chelsea, NY, through October 23, 2010.
Tiny image, sorry. Image source: Paper Monument.
Also — Jeremy Deller said
I have a fantasy of lighting a concert with some tropical plants on turntables and a few lights.
As S. Barich pointed out to me, Jerry Saltz recently wrote:
“Like most people in the art world, I’m basically making this up as I go. The art world is about trying to invent new definitions of skill.” (Jerry Saltz, “Work of Art Season Premiere: Judge Jerry Saltz Recaps,” NYMag.com, June 10, 2010)
One of my skills, if I could call it that, is procurement. Even after all these years, I’m surprised at how much time and energy I spend sourcing materials.
Since I respond to the materials that I work with, I often can’t start a project until I have them in hand. Yet identifying and getting the right materials can take weeks. Beyond brushes, paint, paper, frames and the usual, Dick Blick and Aaron Bros aren’t much help. Besides, I’m too self-conscious a consumer; I know their target audiences are Sunday painters and scrapbook keepers. One must get creative.
As an artist, I’m constantly negotiating how to materialize my ideas. The frustrating thing is reaching limits persistently and pervasively — a recipe for pessimism, according to Martin E. P. Seligman in Learned Optimism.
For example, recently I envisioned producing a multiple: a circular, printed on newsprint in full color, of about 100 copies, at the size of a standard advertising insert, roughly 11×12 inches folded or 22×12 flat. This, it turns out, is not feasible. I’ve become a customer service nightmare, making ridiculous requests.
Digital printers don’t want to run newsprint (which is lightweight, only 16-18#s) in their machines; the lowest weight they’ll accept for double-sided full color jobs is 60-70#. Further, they’ll resist anything but standard sizes: 11×17, 13×19, 12.25×18.25. These sizes are efficiencies that work across multiple industries — paper mills, presses, reprographics — but not me, not now. What I need to use, like what I need to produce, are inefficiencies in the system.
Circulars are typically printed on offset web presses, the massive kind that fill warehouses. These presses take too long to set up to produce my piddly quantity. I could do it if I had to make like 5,000 copies, or had about $5k to spend.
Newspaper Club in the UK produces bespoke short-run newspapers. Too bad they don’t ship internationally. An article on Time reveals that Newspaper Club prints on large newspapers’ presses during their inactive times. I contacted some small, local papers to see if they’d bang out an odd job for me, and they courteously but firmly denied my request.
When I produced Sorted, a gilt badge, I contacted many vendors, who would only take on jobs with minimums of 200-250 pcs, way out of my budget. I finally found a vendor that specializes in badges for schools (such as “hall monitor”) that would make smaller quantities of custom badges at reasonable prices. So I took the same tack and looked up school newspaper printers. (I remember buying indie newspapers at Epicenter about home schooling; which couldn’t have had a large circulation.) But times sure have changed. It turns out the young whippersnappers today produce online school newspapers. Of course!
So maybe I have to do this myself. I could make a relief, intaglio or screen print. But that would mean four color separations and a week to produce the edition. The result would be Fine Art. Bummer. I’m just not interested in making a crispy-clean print to mat and frame for this project. I want to make a circular — a big, glossy, tacky, cheap, off-gassing circular. Viewers would handle it with bare hands. Gasp!
Now I’m thinking about freedom and familiarity, and how once again, even the most mundane materials are irrevocably tied with a feeling of constriction. That what I can imagine must be shoved through the machinations of capitalism and global manufacture, and it risks being extruded in unrecognizable form.
To make objects is to direct form-making. I don’t think twice about 8.5×11 inch Letter-sized sheets most days, but today, it seems oppressively inescapable.
To be optimistic is to take a selective perspective. I’m refusing to let these vendors’ limitations become my own. This project will materialize with the right materials, or not at all. Time to get creative.