Research

Points of Reference: Pockets, and Ways and Means

A new reference re-affirms a past project.

In 2015, I created Ways and Means. The public was invited to interact with activity kits housed in custom printed and sewn tool aprons.

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Christine Wong Yap, Ways and Means, 2016, letterpress, woodcut, linoleum cut, and screenprint on paper and textiles, mixed media, participation, dimensions variable. Exhibited at Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Jiajun Wang

Activities housed in canvas pouches, displayed on a wall. Participants can attach them to garments using the snaps. Supported by a Fellowship from Kala Art Institute and an Artist-in-Residence Workspace Grant from the Center for Book Arts. Photo: Jiajun Wang

Activities housed in canvas pouches, displayed on a wall. Participants can attach them to garments using the snaps. Supported by a Fellowship from Kala Art Institute and an Artist-in-Residence Workspace Grant from the Center for Book Arts. Photo: Jiajun Wang

I was trying to convey feelings of autonomy (deciding for yourself) and agency (being able to do things) by emphasizing mobility (being able to move freely).

Essentially, I wanted the tool kits to remind participants of the intangible tools they already carry—such as help they’ve already received, or their commitment to their own values—that allow them to express themselves fully, do things, and go places.

So when I listened to “Pockets: Articles of Interest #3”, an episode in a six-part series in  99% Invisible’s podcast, I was fascinated to hear this:

Avery Trufelman (producer):

Man’s great evolutionary advantage is the creation of tools. The problem is, we’re not marsupials, we need to carry them somehow. And this idea of who has access to the tools they need, who can walk through the world comfortably and securely; THIS is what we are talking about when we talk about pockets.

Hannah Carlson (lecturer at RISD):

Pockets speak to this question of preparedness, and your ability to move in public and to be confident. It’s really difficult to get around if you don’t have what you need, and it’s about, I think it’s about mobility and movement in public.

Trufelman and Carlson continue, and touch on the psychological security of ownership when your tools are closer to your body:

HC: If the formal question for me is, “What difference does it make?” “What’s the difference between a pocket and a bag?” And I think the key difference is that the pocket is internal. And it’s secret.

AT: A bag can be stolen. A bag can be lost. And then, that’s it. You don’t have your things anymore.

HC: With a pocket inside, you don’t have to think about it. You forget about it, but you still have stuff in there. It is seen as this territory of your own. That connects you to the objects you carry, in a way. Those objects become part of you.

They also dive into gender and the disparity of pocket size. Many woman will relate to the dislike of the ridiculousness of tiny pockets as an extension of patriarchy. It’s a great listen for general listeners and designers alike. Recommended!

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Community

Happiness Is… an inquisitive conversation with The Aphorists

My fellow Happiness Is… artists and I were guests on The Aphorists, a conversational podcast hosted by artists Jesse Houlding and Anthony Daniel Ryan. Have a listen to us talking

about Positive Psychology, skepticism, cake eating and making work that makes a difference.

Check out Episode #7 and The Aphorists’ past episodes on a variety of political and cultural topics.

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Art & Development, Research

Pop teeth

Artists are consumers themselves. They have their own elaborately constructed systems of valuation as subsets within larger realms of consumer value. No art is absolutely pure, or created in a vacuum outside those larger realms. (Gibson Cuyler on Libby Black’s Be Here Now, Art Practical 13, April 22, 2010)

Strange that this must be re-stated, but it’s often the case that criticism and radical opposition are considered equivocal. (Johanna Drucker argues that critics and academics best accept our complicity and move on to responding to the actual art in Sweet Dreams.)

To broach capitialism or material culture in one’s artwork is to risk easy, politically loaded readings. The work might be interpreted sympathetically as anti-capitalist commentaries, leftist/Marxist/politically correct indictments of globalization/consumerism/mass media/environmental destruction. On the opposite extreme lie allegations of consumerist gluttony, environmental sinfulness, aesthetic hedonism, artistic slumming, or naked ambition. Tsk-tsk! should art, which could signify genius and the sublime, muddy itself in base, money-grubbing popular culture.

I’m interested in work that doesn’t deny the facts of the world: capitalism, labor, production, material culture, popular culture. I think artists have the right to beg/borrow/steal from these themes without having being pigeonholed into positions of critical subversion or immoral kowtowing. It’s possible I’m a waffler. That I’m exploiting ambiguity by not taking a stand. If you were really cynical, you could argue that the only crime worse than politically incorrectness in contemporary art is being boring and didactic.

I’m looking at the catalog for Pop Life, the recent survey of Pop Art after 1970 at the Tate Modern. As I’m developing Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors), a shop-like exhibition of work on paper, sculpture and installation coming up at Sight School (opens May 14), it’s neat to think about Keith Haring’s Pop Shop and Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin’s The Shop. I also listened to the Tate’s podcast of Emin talking about The Shop, wherein Emin clicked for me: her personality, class, background, enmeshed in the world, results in work that is likewise enmeshed in the world and her life.

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