Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bust Up + Student Collaborative Videos

The collaborative videos, based on a literary source, created by Lawrence University Intermediate Digital Processes and Electronic Composition students considered the intersection of visual and aural. Students worked for several weeks of Winter Term 2012 under the direction of filmmaker Cathy Cook,  composer Professor Asha Srinivasan, and visual artists Professors Shimon & Lindemann who provided critique and feedback as cuts of each video were vetted. A formal screening with a Q&A session on Monday, March 5, 2012 at Lawrence's Warch Campus Center Cinema provided the ultimate venue with most videos also posted on student YouTube chanels. The project was sponsored by Lawrence's Department of Art & Art History and the Fine Arts Colloquium.

Still from "Apple(s)" by Mari Ayala
Apple(s) by Mari Ayala  (2012, 3:11, HD video, color) with soundscape by Jesse Simonsen 
Apple(s) by Mari Ayala  (2012, 3:11, HD video, color) with soundscape by Tashfique Mirza
The symbol of the apple contemplated from temptation to decay.

Still from "What Wouldn't Have Been"
by Jessica Meismer

What Wouldn't Have Been by Jessica Meismer (2012, 3:08, HD video, color) with soundscape by Peter Mohr & Zach Joseph. Inspired by a letter received over 80 years ago that could have changed everything.

Still from "Sweet Snow"
by Rachele Krivichi
Microdystopia by Rachele Krivichi (2012, 2:54, HD video, color) with soundscape by Connor Vliet. Winter anxiety and the feeling of cold.
Microdystopia by Rachele Krivichi (2012, 2:54, HD video, color) with soundscape by Kari Spiegelhalter. Winter anxiety and anguish. 

Still from "I Am Who Am"
by Ali Scattergood
 I am who am by Ali Scattergood (2012,3:11, HD video, B&W) in collaboration with Rebecca Salzer with a soundscape by Adam Readinger
I am who am by Ali Scattergood (2012, 2:56, HD video, B&W) in collaboration with Rebecca Salzer with a soundscape by Alexander Babbit
Dance performance exploring the relationship between essence and life force.

Still from "Handwritten"
by Sara Sheldon-Rosson
Handwritten by Sara Sheldon-Rosson (2012, 3:12, HD video, color) with soundscape by Alyssa Herman. The tactile quality of a handwritten letter surviving through the generations versus ephemeral text messages.

Still from "New Salem" by Paul Smirl
New Salem by Paul Smirl (2012, 2:25, HD video, color) with a soundscape by J.J. Anshus + Marcello Grieco. Rebellious and brash, a young Abraham Lincoln takes on the pain of modern times.

Still from "Bust Up by Cathy Cook featuring Holly Brown
Bust Up by Cathy Cook (1989, 7:00, 16mm, B&W) with music by John Lees. Teatime will never be the same! This tickling thriller about an afternoon tea features Holly Brown, who spontaneously transforms into several female personas that startle and entertain her surprised guest. Brown's characters are obsessed with formalities of etiquette, pedigree, and hospitality while spoofing sex roles and stereotypes.

Journey Form & the Encounter

Appleton, Wisconsin Food Desert Map as depicted on
When we heard that the USDA identified a neighborhood near our campus as a Food Desert, we designed a "journey form" project to check into it as we read Nicolas Bourriaud's 1998 book, Relational Aesthetics. The USDA website revealed their mission to identify and help urban or rural areas without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food define a food desert. In these zones, fast food restaurants and convenience stores provide the only food option, which ultimately contribute to a poor diet leading to higher levels of obesity and diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. We gave five students (Maria Ayala, Rachele Krivichi, Jessica Meismer, Sara Sheldon-Rosson, Paul Smirl) a crisp $10 and asked them to use it to purchase the healthiest food they could find on foot within the Appleton food desert. The students documented their journey and encounters with photographs and videos then gave the food they bought away or shared it with friends and strangers.
$33.29 from Blurb
Together we compiled a book titled One Hour and Ten Bucks in a Food Desert available online from Students also posted 30-second experimental videos on YouTube. Mari Aylala's "Oh, Melet!", "Rachele Krivichi's "Division to Badger Street", Jessica Meismer's "$10 in a Food Desert", Sara Sheldon-Rosson's "Dinner in the Desert" and Paul Smirl's "Food Desert Shopping" communicate five perspectives on their individual experience in the food desert one mild day in January. Mari gleefully tripped upon a gourmet food market with mostly organic ingredients to make an omelet. Rachele heard a retail associate say, "We don't really have anything healthy here" yet found dates, Mango juice, and a banana among the hallucinogenic food posters that pulsated along her path. Jessica found a peanut butter granola pita sandwich, a banana, fruit smoothie, and a salad and got change back for her $10. Sara ended up at a convenience store that charged sales tax on items that normally wouldn't be taxed at a grocery store perhaps because they fall in the gray-area of "prepared food." Still, it's tough to consider canned Green Giant cut green beans and Del Monte sliced peaches prepared. Paul found his path strewn with Americana kitsch and trash but ended up with a loaf of wheat bread and noodles from an Asian food store. A feast, perhaps, for some.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Searching for Micro-Utopias, Quietly

Beehive Woodpile, Camp Tintype, Wet Plate Collodion Tintype © Nick Olson

Nick Olson visited campus on Monday and Tuesday, February 13-14, 2012 to talk about his experiences since graduating Lawrence University summa cum laude with a Studio Art Major in 2008. Trips to Europe and road-tripping across the USA ushered the way for his MFA in Photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2011. He continues to practice an antiquated photographic technology, Wet Plate Collodion, learned from tintype master John Coffer between his Junior and Senior undergrad year. He now teaches the medium on the road and most recently at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Says Nick of the process, "it forces me to slow down and contemplate the implications of time, place, an cultural shifts which have occurred over the past century." The resulting images are unique objects with a hand-wrought appearance. The mammoth 20x24 inch plates displayed under spotlights in Lawrence's Wriston Auditorium framed his peers in the idyllic Cranbrook grounds ever so isolated from nearby urban Detroit. Within Cranbrook's gates stand historic and charming buildings that transport the visitor to another time with the "real world" held at bay. The details of personal grooming and accoutrements of his sitters betray their contemporaneity. Olson will head to Mildred's Lane come spring where he will spend a few months building a replica of Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond cabin from a kit--although it should be noted that he has built cabins from logs found on-site. In his evolving pursuits, Olson seems to search and create the sort of everyday micro-utopias described by Nicolas Bourriaud in his 1998 book Relational Aesthetics (31).  Olson's gestures transform stacking firewood into sculpture and baking bread into relational art.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

But Is it Art? Artists & Books

Books by Ed Ruscha including Twentysix Gasoline Stations
From Ed Ruscha's historic Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963) to the more contemporary Maurizio Cattelan Toilet Paper Magazine, artists have used the printed page as a disruptive vehicle. Called "hotly subversive" by art historian Margaret Iversen in her esssay "Auto-Maticity: Ruscha and Performative Photography" from Photography After Conceptual Art (Wiley-Blackwell 2010), Rusha's books, she argues, are "products of rule-governed performances" like driving in a car along Route 66 and taking "neutral" black-and-white pictures of 26 gas stations. Cattelan's bi-annual, picture-based publication co-created with photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari pushes in another direction. "Every issue starts with a theme, always something basic and general, like love and greed," Cattelan told The New Yorker recently. Whereas Ruscha worked to make "neutral" photographs, Cattelan & Ferrari works toward "uncanny ambiguity". The "magazines" sell for a reasonable $10 on amazon, though reflect lush production values like full color bleeds, luxe heavy stock, and reviews in fashion magazines.
Cover of But Is It Art? by Joachim Schmid
The Internet has liberated books from the realm of functional reference books (e.g. catalogs, cookbooks, and manuals) to dysfunctional objects in service of an idea.Taking Ruscha's rule making to a 21st century level, German artist Joachim Schmidt mines Flickr for images following a theme often executed through a search then publishes them using the print-on-demand service Blurb. Schmid's But Is it Art? (2011) points to the ubiquity of artistic aspirations and how the Internet provides a forum for such aspirations. Like Ruscha's books with their plain white covers and bold typography, Schmid uses words rather than images on the cover of his books. Like Ruscha, whose books sold for $3 upon publication, Schmid makes his books available for around $13. Schmid's performance lies in cruising the Information SuperHighway to critique notions of originality an update perhaps on Rusha driving Route  66 nearly 50 years ago to "convey the results of his experiment." Writes Schmid "Each image shows people’s attempts at creating photography “after”, “based on”, “in the style of” or “inspired by” well-known artists, to varying degrees of success. As individual attempts these samples may be charming, hilarious or bold (and sometimes embarrassing), as a group they raise more interesting questions of originality and authorship." Diminutive in size (Ruscha's books are 7x5-1/2 inches while Schmid's are 8x5 inches), these nearly sacred projects provide an affordable and accessible space for exchange outside the art gallery setting.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Marriage of Sight + Sound

Promotional photograph for "June Brides" © 1987  Cathy Cook & Claudia Looze
Baltimore film maker Cathy Cook examined the role of sound design in an intensive video workshop presented on Thursday, January 12, 2012. The abrasive sound of sirens or buzzing flies set viewers on edge while the soothing sound of cascading strings evoke surreal fantasies. Cook described her long term collaborative relationships with sound artists such as Paul Dickinson who have worked on her films over a span of time. In June Brides, a 1987 critique of the marital industrial complex, Cook designed a score that revolved around the off-kilter voices of multiple women singing "Going to the Chapel" (originally sung in a finger-snappin' sugary harmony by the Dixie Cups) exacerbated by a drunken sax solo to communicate the bridal dream gone bad. This pop song that made the Billboard Top 100 in 1964, one could speculate, marked the emergence of Cook's own awareness of the staid roles of women in mid-century America and pushed her to push against the grain as many women of her generation did. The song became a "text" inspiring a visual and aural examination of the meaning of marriage twenty years later. Cook based another of her works, "Immortal Cupboard", on the poetry of Wisconsin poet and recluse Lorine Niedecker. Cook will work with Digital Processes and Electronic Composition students to create collaboarative videos inspired by literary sources with a screening on Monday, March 5, 2012, 7:00 pm in the Warch Campus Center Cinema.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Farther One Travels, the Less One Knows

"Strange God" copyright 2010 Estate of Bernard Gilardi
Gallerist and art historian Debra Brehmer of Portrait Society Gallery, Milwaukee drove home the point that Bernard Gilardi (1920-2008) focused his imagination in the space of a basement for four decades to express the world within his head. His identities as father, husband, Italian, war veteran, lithographer, Milwaukee, Wisconsin resident informed his work as reflected in an exhibition of his "religious" paintings on view at Lawrence University's Wriston Art Center Galleries January 6-March 11, 2012. Pop culture infiltrated and informed his nirvana from blow dried hair and unisex fashions to Jesus Christ Superstar and the Wisconsin State Fair. His art practice, though without support or detraction from the art establishment, enabled him to fully articulate an inner universe his family described as "primitive" in his obituary. "Inner Light", the old Beatles 45 RPM flipside of "Lady Madonna" written by George Harrison, drones: "Without going out of your door, you can know the ways of heaven" bringing to mind Gilardi and his sacred cosmic comic basement space.