Class Comments

I definitely feel that I have gained much more than I had anticipated from this class; about art as a whole, definitely about conceptual art and collaborative art, and about my own art and how I can push myself further to create new and more interesting work. I definitely think I had pigeonholed myself into one kind of artist who essentially created "nice" work. Being in this class and working with everyone has taught me that its okay to think outside the box and create something a little crazy, its good to ask for help and opinions, and always always try something new. Before this class, I was really down on conceptual art; i thought it as just kind of weird and like most people I guess just didn't really get it. But now I am beginning to understand that you just truly have to look at something and understand the process a bit more, its not necessarily about the final object. Its more about appreciating not just looking.

I really enjoyed the Friday Gallery talks at the Hirshorn. So many of the pieces there need at least a little background in order to truly understand the concept and I think the Gallery talks are just a really effective way to open up a dialogue. Also, I learned a lot from participating (somewhat) in the Floating Lab Collective work and listening to the talk 3 members gave in class. It opened my eyes to how art can truly make a difference in a community and can open the eyes to bigger issues.

I think if I take the class again, as a studio, I would want to either develop or participate in a few more projects. Perhaps a chance to revamp our original team projects ( I don't know if that would have been feasible or even necessary, but just an idea)?

Thank you everyone! I had a great time getting to know and work with each of you, and hopefully we can collaborate again soon!

Fading Memories

Fading memories, I would have to agree with Nikki in that at the beginning of the project, I felt a little disjointed from the planning process. I didn't really know how the rest of Mark's pieces had worked, or how he installed them, or what the steps were, so it was hard to make suggestions. But once we got into it, I felt that we all had something to contribute, ideas on how to make the performance more effective. And in the end, as with most collaborative performances I feel, the art takes on a life of its own, leaving all of the planning behind.

One surprise that worked for our benefit was the smaller audience. I thought the fact that we, as the original writers, had to go back up and complete some of our own words, played up the "memory" part of the project, so I thought that was very effective.

One thing I would have changed would have perhaps been taking the time to read our new "mashed up" poem before we took the tape down. It did seem to have an interesting eloquence to it. I think because the poem Casey chose was a selection of short quotes, the new poem more easily took on a life of its own, as opposed to our practice writing that felt more disjointed.

I liked the overall aesthetic of the piece, I liked how after pulling off the blue tape we replaced the blue line with chalk and words. Also, the smudging where people thought that had figured out the right words and then changed there mind, seemed to add to the fading idea and the confusion and the overall haziness of the poem and the work.

I agree that this was a wonderful project to end the class on. I feel that we all got to participate, perform, collaborate, and simply enjoy the process of making art and we got to do it together. It was very inclusive, successful and fun.


Final Thoughts...

"Fading Memories" was a unique experience last week. It did not go completely as expected because I didn't know entirely what to expect. When I think about what I would change if we did it again, I would agree with Elana and Farolyn in that I wish I had spent more time reading the full text that we captured before the tape was torn down. There was something very eloquent about the line or so that I did read. While it was obviously not the full poem that Casey read, it did capture some essence of the poem, and offered a means of bringing back some of the words and phrases that had just passed through our minds.

I was happy that Casey did provide us with some context about the poem that was read, because, in the end, it felt like a necessary component to the piece. If there were no information about the words being read and transcribed, then I would feel like something was a bit more incomplete in the whole.

As I thought back on the piece, I also could not help but wonder how it would have been different if many more audience members had shown up. While we might have felt some initial disapointment in the small numbers, I think, in the end the absence of a large audience allowed us to absorb and further participate in the piece as a collaborative group. While we had collaborated to organize and enact the piece, I think it was during the last stage--reforming the words--that we had the most intimate collaboration of the day. Farolyn and Nikki formed a special tape detangling team and became engaged in piecing together words from fragments of tape.

Overall, the collaborative experience of Fading Memories seemed very different than either of our smaller group collaborations. I think it was a valuable experience on which to end the class. The performative nature made everyone's role clearly important, and took on a whole different element than the performative nature of "Airwaves" for example. This also leads me to consider collaborative art and the difference between collaborative planning and collaborative performance, participation, or enactment of an artwork. While our first projects were heavy on the collab planning, our last project was fairly equally weighted in planning and performance. I guess this is something that depends largely on the nature of the art, but Fading Memories was a good lesson in how the planning and implementation phases of a collaborative piece need to be totally in sync in order for success. If anything, this class has made me more open to the idea of collaborative art and more aware of the factors and committment that it requires.

On a side note, I had a pleasantly surprising revelation just this morning while teaching. While doing printmaking in my morning 9th grade class, I looked down to find two students (who happened to be in one of the more turmoil-ridden collaborative groups earlier this semester) sharing eachothers linoleum blocks in order to create more interesting print combinations. This came about without any mention of collaboration or print-sharing, and I have to say, it was one of the most creative and unselfish acts my students have engaged in all semester. I suppose I could be reading too much into it, but I'd like to think there was some subconscious influence from our earlier collab project going on. In any case, it was nice to see collaboration in action.

Tick Tock...My Turn

I recount practicing a week before the event. Excerpts from a book were read in an unhurried pace while each group member marked symbols on brown Butcher paper. The utensils included large Sharpies and colorful gel pens. The markings were smooth, rugged, and concise. The environment was very relaxed.

Fast forwarding to the day of the performance, I distinctly recall rapid heartbeats similar to the anxiety I experienced as a child before walking on stage. My eyes traced the strips of tape as Brianna stepped closer and closer to the end of the very last board. As I approached the stage, my brain was flooded with doubt and uncertainty. I feared making a mistake, my hand freezing mid-sentence, writing in an unusual language and breaking one of the few guidelines. Should I wait until the beginning of the next sentence? When should I begin writing? Do I have a second to breathe? How long is the poem? Why does this feel unordinary? I began writing, the chalk shattered leaving remains, I tried to catch up but I couldn't, his pace seemed deliberate, rehearsed. Was I not prepared? I paused in the middle of the board. Although, I had lost track Casey continued reading. The markings formed broken letters, fragmented sentences and indecipherable characters. A sigh of relief escaped my chest when I finally reached the very end of the board. I returned to a comfortable place in the studio and watched the upper half of the characters disappear. Why didn't I read the passage in entirety before the tape was removed? For some reason I could not remember the line of characters I wrote. Maybe this part of the performance was not intended to test memory but to build a community of collaborative art-makers.  


Jerry Springer's Final Thoughts

And so it's over. Graduate Collaborative Studio is coming to a close.

I must admit, this class has not been what I expected. I thought the course would be more concentrated on partnered studio executions. Instead, we seemed to focus more on appreciating and basking in the glow of collective artwork. I think of this class as an artistic Intro to Yoga; we didn't come to blow away calories, but to because mentally and physically equipped for something more. We now have a set of mental tools we may later employ to mediate, invent, self-enlighten, or even burn fat, if we so choose.

While not homework-heavy, this class has been, at times, intellectually taxing. It has forced me to increase my mental flexibility in ways I didn't realize I could- or should- be flexible.

If I may be very honest, I was skeptical about this second project. I was wondering if it was "our" project or just Mark's with which we students were assisting. I felt the students did not have much creative control, but rather served as a sounding board and toolbox with which Mark could flesh out and fix his conceptual idea.

Since it's execution, however, I feel differently. Sure, I still think the project was 'Mark's' more than ours, but it was not devoid of education for us students. (In fact, it was shockingly cool.)

Perhaps the whole intention of the exercise was to bring us to the truth collaborative spirit. That is, being in art collective often means supporting the team, not necessarily getting equal influence. After all, sometimes co-authors serve more as assistants and reinforcements. If all the work goes under the name of the collective, in this case called the fall 2008 Graduate Collaborative Studio, who cares who has the most intellectual input? Maybe Mark has been trying to teach us a lesson about the aesthetic greater good.

Then again, maybe he just wanted some free help.

At the Tootsie Pop owl says, "The world may never know," but if we choose to learn from this, who needs to?

final project

Today we wrapped up the final collaborative project for this semester. I think it was quite successful. Many thanks to Casey for sharing his poetry with us. The whole process made me think of a few things that we might change.

First, I think it would be interesting to consider hearing the entire poem before any writing started. It was very hard to hear the poem being read over the noise of writing on a chalk board - I know that is not very loud, but more so than expected because of a) acoustics and b) writing on a board and not a part of the wall creating echoes. I would have also liked to have heard the poem prior to starting because I was torn between reading what was being written or listening to the poem. I felt the poem really deserved my attention and dually wanted to see what was being picked up by the writer however, it went by so quickly that I felt like I had missed both. That being said, I probably would have taken a minute to look at the writing on the boards with the tape remaining. Looking back, it may have been nice to just take a moment to review what people had heard during the process- looking at the selective hearing of the participants.

I really enjoyed watching people try to put the puzzling words back together. I think that if we had taken more time there might not have been such confusion over some of the words in the end. On the other hand, I think this confusion was what sparked the furious tape sorting at the end. It's too hard to NOT know what is supposed to be up there. I was even more glad that there was some sort of tape unfurling as I knew that where I had written 'all' someone else had turned it and the word in before it into 'succession'. Don't ask me how that happened, I really have no idea.

Anyways, I thought that it was a really successful project. If it were to be performed again, I might change those things- but maybe not. They really made it a part of the moment and of the excitement in seeing the idea carried out. I'll write more as I process over the week...

back from bitterness

So, after being really down on collaboration the last week or so has really turned me around. While I was really feeling like I needed to own something I was working on, I think I found a happy medium between owning it and having help, opinion, and collaboration. In studio core I was pretty much stuck while working on my last sculpture of the semester. For those who don't know- sculpture is really not my thing. After I sliced right into my finger the first day of class I knew this semester wasn't going to be easy for me in that class. And it hasn't. I make some really ugly stuff that I usually spend hours on in and out of the class once I finally convince my mind to create in a three-dimensional framework (a task that takes longer than you could imagine).

Well there I was, stuck. With a part of a metal sculpture that also needed to include wood and plastic. Far from being done, I planned out how I might want to include the plastic element. I made it, pretty successfully, which had me stunned in the first place. Then I'm sitting there with part of a metal sculpture, an unassembled portion of a plastic sculpture and seemingly no way to merge the two. Then it hits me: I'll drill a hole and use a wooden dowel to connect them. Except I don't have a dowel, nor is there a cutter small enough to create one that will fit. Then my superhero Nikki pipes in- she's got a metal rod that's the right size, and here, why don't I use it? Awesome. It not only fits, but looks great. Now while this may have been a small collaboration, or just helpful in the process of creating, it really reminded me why I am in this program to begin with. After being so down on creating in the more public environment of a school setting, it had clicked back into place. I missed this. I needed reflection, opinion, other sets of creative eyes. It was the reason I came back to school, to not only be inspired again, but to have the time and ability to create outside of my comfort zone. To get feedback on this thing we call creativity. To be back in a working community of artists.

I know it seems like a stretch to have gotten all of that from just lending me some materials, and guidance, but with as hard as this first semester of being back in school and just being a grown up in this crazy world, it put me back on track- something I really needed.

Here's to an awesome semester behind us and three more to come.


Second Life Collaboration

As a young man the founder of Second Life, Philip Rosedale, desired to create 3D objects from his imagination. He states that the purpose of Second Life is for people to make stuff. The online 3D virtual reality program enables users to build and interact with a world of other users. Second Life is expanding quickly with 20,000 computers connected together in three facilities in the United States assimilating this virtual space. With more than 25o,000 people accessing the site a day and over 100 million members the virtual space has expanded to the size of San Francisco in depth and space. 

Second Life provides infinite possibilities for the users to create objects. The current members have collaborated to create a universe that consists of 100 terabytes of user created data. The members are able to transfer and manipulate data. Second Life is a social network that meets basic human needs. The members have control. They can buy, sell and trade property they create. Each of the 100 million avatars play an important role in the creation, maintenance and improvement of the society. 

"From the moment you enter the World you'll discover a vast digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. Once you've explored a bit, perhaps you'll find a perfect parcel of land to build your house or business."

To check out the lecture "Philip Rosedale: Second Life, where anything is possible" click here

Science Meets Art

Jonathan Duckworth is a multi-media artist and has teamed up with Peter Wilson, associate professor of psychology at RMIT University located in Australia. Nick Mumford and Ross Eldridge of RMIT University, Pat Thomas and David Shum of Griffith University, and Dr. Gavin Williams of Epworth Hospital in Melbourne were also collaborators who helped design Elements and set up the evaluation study. Together they developed Elements, a virtual reality workspace that helps Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) patients regain movement. TBI or acquired brain injury occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain such as a violent and sudden hit to the head by an object or an object piercing the skull and entering the brain tissue. Unfortunately, TBI is the main cause of death and disability in adolescents and young adults in Australia. 

Elements consists of a large horizontal table top graphics display,  a vision-based tracking system, and a user interface that incorporates sensor technology. I think this is the coolest part. The TBI patients are able to retrain movement and regain hand-eye coordination through the use of this sensor technology. Elements was tested on three male patients between the age of 20 -25. Their gestural skills improved as well as movement accuracy and attentiveness to tasks at hand. 

In the future, the team plans to collaborate with colleagues in London to develop a pediatric system designed to improve therapy for childhood stroke, cerebral palsy and TBI. 

To check out the full article click here

Working Together...Farolynian Thinking

I really enjoyed Nikki' s post on Farolynian Thinking. I was inspired to re-think my definition of collaborative art-making again. A few weeks ago I watched a lecture by Sugata Mitra. In the video,  'Can children teach themselves?' Sugata Mitra proposes the idea of a school designed to facilitate self-organized learning. In his ideal learning environment teachers would be unnecessary. Sugata proves through several studies that children can in fact teach each other without adult supervision. In one of his studies he places a computer in an impoverished community where the residents have no experience or knowledge of computers. Within days the students are browsing the Internet and so on. One of the first students to walk up to the computer was a adolescent male who dropped out of school. The first thing he noticed was the interactivity of the device. The computer responded to the movement of his hand. In a matter of minutes the students started teaching each other how to browse the Internet. The children organized an informal classroom with approximately 30 or 40 children. The children worked together to figure out a solution to problems they encountered. I began to form a connection between his study and the studio art classroom. Why is it a challenge for art teachers to get students to collaborate? What if a variety of art materials were given to a group of students without an explanation? Would the students interact with the materials and each other to create a collaborative art piece? Is it important to set the stage?

Fading Memories

Fading Memories is a collaborative work designed by Mark Cameron Boyd' s Collaborative Studio. Each group member in the class was asked to write one continuous line of text in response to a poetry reading by Casey Smith. The group was organized by height in accordance to six parallel strips of tape placed on the board. After the completion of the poetry reading the tape was removed leaving the lower half of the text.  The audience was invited to complete the upper half of the unfinished text on the board. 

The passage above is written in past-tense and will be displayed near the finished piece. Let me know what you think.

Have a good day.


GALs and a great group Corpse

Recently, many of us Collab Studio students have been posting entries that explore the very nature, frequency, subtlety, and necessity of collective endeavors. Our opinions on collaborations have spanned frustration, appreciation, submission, and apathy. In near-end attempt to cultivate collectiveness, we students have joined forces to create this week's blog entry. After all, couldn't a goal of this class be to gauge the worth of collective compared to individual works? Shouldn't one blog post from the fruits of joined labor be worth something equal the pithy efforts of five independent entries?

For this post the gang joined together to create an Exquisite Corpse-style story string. Participants include Brianna, Elana, Farolyn, Jenna, and Nikki. All writers authored equal parts and worked together to deauthor what we wrote. We bet you can't tell who wrote what.


XOXO, Graduate Collaborative Students of Fall, 2008

One sunny day five ladies were walking down 17th Street in Washington, DC. There names were Brianna, Elana, Farolyn, Jenna, and Nikki. While these girls appeared normal - awesome, but fairly normal- they were actually quite unusual. They were actually the members of a city-renowned crime fighting team! The team was called the Girl Art League. The Girl Art Leaguers (GALs) had super art powers that they discovered after being subjected to a mysterious 'gas' leak by the White House. The GALs decided to use their heightened art making powers to solve crime in their beloved city. Today they would have to use their powers again.

All of a sudden, the ladies' stroll was interrupted by a loud BOOM sound! They spun around to look at the Mall. There they saw the most terrible thing they could imagine: an invasion of geikos trampling the many outer-towners on mopeds. The GALs spun into action with Crayola gel markers in each hand. The laser girls were determined to fight the crime that submerged the city and surrender the geikos to the secret service men that stood in amazement. Once within reach of the ingenious creatures, the girls blasted into action using their super art powers to capture the geikos. Within seconds, the Gals nabbed the geikos and stuffed hundreds in neon printed canvas bags. They thanked the visitors for their cooperation and tapped their heels. As they turned to leave, the bewildered outer-towners exploded in anger. A 97 year old man yelled, "GET THEM! THEY HAVE STOLEN OUR CAR INSURANCE MASCOT!" The team was caught off guard. Out of anger the crazed visitors charged at the GALs. As five million geiko groupies stormed the mall, the GALS had no other choice but to activate their secret weapon of mass devastation.

While Elana, Nikki, Brianna, and Farolyn fought off the mob with clay balls, Crayola gel markers and chicken wire, Jenna teleported to Studio 88 located in Robot, NY in hopes to reach the world renown scholar, Mr. Mark Cameron Boyd. He is known for discovering the deadliest weapon of all time, pomegranate seeds. While Jenna attempts to locate the scholar she checks in with the team via hologram. The girls are comforted by her presence amidst the chaos. "We need help Jenna, we are running out of resources!" the team shouts. Jenna responds, "In a moment the glass shrine and yellow...." The connection is interrupted.

From their jail cell, the remaining GAL members wondered if they would ever be rescued. Where was Jenna? Had she successfully found the one person that could help them?! Every time the heavy wooden door creaked open to the holding cell the girls waited with anticipation. Every time they were greeted by another unfriendly guardsman. The girls began to despair. Concrete never seemed so cold. Iron bars and cement blocks surrounded them in gray. The GAL members began to think the world had lost its color permanently. Perhaps this was all a part of the master evil plan to run the world by controlling our automotive vehicles. Turning the entire world into a massive gray interstate. Paving our world one strip at a time in order to control our minds and our creativity. The GALs could not survive in a world with no color. Their powers would be useless in a land without creativity. But who could be behind this evil mastery?

As the girls sat in the cell pondering how to escape, Jenna and Mark's solution began to take action. Back in Robot, NY, a mixture of post-post-contemporary art theory and creative magic began to formulate into super power possibilities the GALs had never known. Though Jenna had lost connection, her plan was already in action and Nikki suddenly evaporated from the cell, leaving the other GALs in disbelief.

Moments later, there was a spark and the three others disappeared in rapid succession, before the guard could take notice. Shocked and steaming a bit, the girls found themselves in a new and strange place, all looking at each other for answers.

Farolyn pulled out some leftover gel markers and drew on the wall to illuminate the space. It was a dark and damp tunnel, with no end or beginning in sight. As the GALs began to make their way in one direction, a fuzzy static sounded from Elana's holographic transmitter. She pulled it out quickly and the GALs huddled around to see a blurry image of Jenna. "Where are we?!" they asked her. As Farolyn looked around at the tunnel walls, she began to see faded painting and drawings. Though Jenna was trying to communicate, it was difficult for the GALs to get a clear reception. Suddenly Farolyn made the connection and realized what Jenna was trying to say...They were in the infamous underground tunnel between the Corcoran and the White House! The GALs looked at each other in excitement--they had been wondering about this place! Just before cutting out completely again, however, Jenna gave them some bad news as well--the tunnel had been sealed for the past 8 years, and it was up to them to re-open the channels of creativity once again.

What were the GALs to do?! the Evil Mastermind Czar Zincat had set them up. He had planted the Geikos knowing the GALs would rush to the rescue. He had brainwashed and shipped in the 5million angry tourists knowing that the GALs could never defend themselves against such a formidable force. And now they were stuck in limbo between the white house and the source of their powers. Czar Zincat had already begun sapping the world of color and creativity. The brainwashed tourists would remain angry for all time without color. The anger would spread and without creativity and Czar Zincat would finally be able to rule the world! Things were looking pretty bleak to the GALs.

What Czar Zincat had not anticipated was the power of GAL creativity. Even without color, their joint creative superpower could defeat the Evil ruler. With the help of MCB, Jenna was able to locate the glass shrine which held the glowing yellow tube of paint. She had the power, but without the connection to her friends, she was losing the creativity of the collective. She didn't know what to do with this glowing key. She needed to contact the GALs, but how?!

Meanwhile, the girls in the tunnel could sense that the time apart could be sapping Jenna of her energy. They knew that they had been teleported and maybe if they reversed the streams they could teleport Jenna to the tunnel. Elana used her tech savvy to quickly rewire her hologram telecommunicator. The girls held their breath and turned on the device. Instantly Jenna appeared in the darkness. Even she had began to fade and lose her color.

Elated that they were reunited and in control of the magic paint. They began to paint the tunnel a glowing shade of yellow. The light emitted was so intense it burst open the doors of the tunnel and illuminated both the Corcoran and the White House. With the light came creativity and knowledge. The light awoke the President from his angry and lethargic stupor. With the help of his secret Panel of Corcoran professors, the President was able to find the evil Czar Zincat and lock him away for good.


Making Art

Making Collaborative art is a very interesting and intriguing process. On one hand, if you have a collective, it is easy to participate and the ideas always seem to be free flowing. At the same time it is harder maybe to get everything done in a timely matter, every detail has to be discussed, thought out, every opinion needs to be heard. But the collective is always there to push you forward to do more, exciting things. On the other hand, working by yourself, you really get to enjoy the process of just creating, whatever comes to mind just putting it on the paper. If you don't like it get rid of it, no need to discuss (except maybe with yourself if you've been in the studio too long). There is the satisfaction of accomplishment, an often tangible manifest of what you have been doing with your time, something tangible, almost like a trophy for a job well done. You could argue that you can get the same sense of accomplishment in a collective, but i just don't feel that way.

For example, growing up I was a swimmer, a very individual sport, always trying to beat your own personal best time. There was nothing better than pushing yourself having nothing to depend on other than your own muscles. And sometimes it is hard to push yourself to go to practice. But ultimately the struggle makes it seem even more like an accomplishment. Now playing on a soccer team, I do get a sense of pride when my team wins, but never the sense of wow I really worked as hard as I could and look at what I can do. Both are very satisfying in their own ways. I would not say I enjoyed one more than the other they are just very different feelings.

I feel the same way about the work that we have created this semester. I truly enjoyed working collaboratively, and I think the end result was definitely not something I could have gotten on my own, but I don't think that that feeling will ever fully replace my desire to just sit down with paint brush and create something that expresses my feelings. And I agree with Nikki, I often have a hard time pushing myself to sit down and just paint, especially with so many distractions around, but in the end again, I think the struggle makes the work even more satisfying. I truly hope there is space and time for me to work collaboratively and independently in the future.

Floating Lab Collective

This is now the second time I have seen the Floating Lab collective. Each time I see them I am more and more impressed with their ability to work together and speak collectively on projects. As in the class presentation each of them would start talking about a project, then say "oh I wasn't really that involved, why doesn't someone else talk about it?", but the first person had already given in depth background knowledge about the project. Each member of the collective seemed to be very involved, if n ot with each project, with what was going on within the collective. Each person seemed in tune with what the others were thinking and planning and everyone seemed to work fairly well toward a common goal. I was very impressed by the collective nature of the group.

I think my favorite work they did was with the day laborers Dream Houses. I think this project was really creative, exciting, and has the potential to make a huge impact on the community. it speas about the day laborers personally and as a group, showing that each person is human nas hopes and dreams and as a group of people they deserve to have rights to achieve those goals and dreams. ithink the end result could have a huge impact on government and policy. I can jsut imagine all of these dream houses being set up before the mayor of baltimore and it being a trully moving exhibit that has the ability to mak a change. And that is what I like about art and especially collective art such as the projects done by floating lab. Perhaps more so than individual art, it has the ability to become bigger than one person and oneidea and can truly make a difference. Same with the Protestors in Mexico. That project must have been hugely empowering to each individual who participated, but if iwas a government official i would have been concerned to see all of these people looking for an outlet to express their beliefs. I guess that is partially the nature of a protest, but I think that maybe protests are overused, easy to ignore. Just goes to show just how powerful and important art can be.


what do you say

...when you don't want a collaboration? Don't get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed this class and our collaborations. I think that it has opened my mind to new forms of art and ways of thinking. But what do you say when you really just want to do a project on your own? When you really don't want input from other people- at least not until the critique portion of art making. I am a photographer- by the nature of the art form, I am confined (usually by myself) to small, dark spaces. Maybe it's in my nature, maybe it's that I have been using a darkroom for printmaking for over a decade at this point- but I love that most of the time I am art making no body sees it until it is done. There is no influence, there is no last minute suggestions for change- it is simply my art.

This might seems like I don't want to collaborate on art projects any more, but that is simply not the case. I do! I just want some of the things I make to be all mine. Argue against it or not, but I (as all artists have) was once asked why I make art? My answer then and now; to make art. Sometimes it has a message, sometimes it doesn't. But I make it to make me happy, to fulfill an expression, to create. Though we are in an academic environment and are subsequently surrounded by art, artists, and art making there are of course going to be outside influences and others input. But I can't help but longing for a studio of my own, or an hour alone to create. I think that is why I chose primarily to create at home. My space isn't as big as I'd like, or even as I need, but it will suffice for now.


Farolynian thinking

Farolyn's last post about collaborative cooking has stirred up my thinking. Over the semester she has spoken about cooking, theatrical production, TV taping, news reporting, and other activities as being slyly collaborative endeavors. It appears many products in our world are the result of collective efforts.

All of this makes me wonder, what isn't collaborative? Do I do any fruit-bearing activity entirely on my own? And, is it 'bad' if I don't?

Let's look at a typical day is the life of me. What what products do I produce and what activities make them?

I get up, get clean, and commute to work. Products produced: pollution? Yes, that's collaborative, I suppose.

At work as a graphic designer I work in proximity with the client, the printing house, my boss, and other employees. I need input from all of those sources to enable an appropriate final product. Products produced: print designs (posters, brochures, etc). Very collaborative, now that I think about it.

Commute to school... more collaborative pollution.

At school I make art projects and contribute to class discussions. The art projects are made with concern for the preexisting guidelines and the comments of my peers as I work. That seems collaborative, right? Certainly the class discussions are collective performances.

Commute home... more collaborative pollution.

Next I cook dinner. I usually do the heating and stirring alone, but I certainly don't grow the vegetables and grains myself. If I'm using and recombining someone else's (collaborative) product like bread, is my dinner collaborative? In the art world, isn't that like drawing on or collaging someone else's images? Does the person need to be aware of the collaboration to be a partner in a project?

Finally I do homework that ranges from reading a book to working on a group project. I guess these projects' collaborative status depends on the individual activity done to create them. Then again, I can't remember the last time I completed a homework with some input on theories or grammar from a classmate or a friend. Even this blog entry is part of a collective whole.

Maybe I really don't produce anything entirely on my own. But, I think I'm OK with that. ...do I need someone else to agree with my here before my ideas are valid?

Floating Lab Collective

I also enjoyed hearing the members of the Floating Lab collective speak in class last week. It was really interesting to see the way three different members spoke about their work, and interacted so closely with one another. Like Farolyn, I also was most intrigued by the "Protest on Demand" project. I have never heard of anything quite like it. What I wanted to ask them was how they marketed themselves and this project ahead of time in order to get so many protest requests. This question came up several times in my mind as they kept saying how many requests they received. In the Mexico City version, it seemed like they just positioned themselves in a busy area and relied on foot traffic, but in the Washington DC protests, requests had to come in through the internet. I wonder about how it was marketed and what type of audience was attracted to participate and send in protest requests to an artist collective. One of the most important and also most tricky factors in collaborative, participatory art seems to be the element of participant(s). With the Airwaves project, the participants turned out to be surprisingly positive, productive elements of the collaborative project. With Protest on Demand, the same seems true. What would happen, however, if very few people participated in either project? It would determine a lot about the "success" of the project. I am curious about what steps FLC takes to ensure that there is success on the participant side of their projects?

Another thing I was struck by was how much of a commitment each member seemed to make to the group. I am impressed that they seem so dedicated to the group and their work together and that they are so organized in many ways--in terms of getting together to discuss ideas and also in more technical aspects such as funding and grant-writing. When I was reading Nikki's last post and her request to start a collective, one of the first things that came into my mind was, Why isn't there some sort of collective in place at the Corcoran already? or Is there a student collective that I don't know about? It seems like an art school is the prime place for an artists collective to start, as Floating Lab has done through George Mason. I would guess that one of the barriers to creating a collective is the practical aspect of time and organization. From the example that FLC gave us, it seems like there is definitely a solid requirement of time and organization in starting a collective. I like the idea a lot, but would not feel able to contribute much to a collaborative group right now. Maybe the key is flexibility, which FLC also seems to have down.


Thoughts on Floating Lab

I really appreciated the presentation about/by Floating Lab last week. Here's a roundabout explanation of why, and what I'm thinking about now:

I majored in studio art and art history in undergrad. The studio major I added because I love the challenge of art creation. I am a nerdy problem solver, not an 'artist,' per se. I have never aspired to be a professional artist. However, I will always want to continue making fine art.

Since graduation, I have been worried that personal art making would not play a big enough role in my life. Of course, in the future I will counsel others on art creation, but I want to stay active, too. My issue always is, I only really make artwork when it's part of an assignment. I need the parameters and constrictions as muses. I need something to nerd-out on. Without someone setting forth problems, I have no creative soil bed from which to grow out. I also love discussing ideas and experimenting with others.

As you may see, I think I have been designed to work in an artist collective; I don't want any personal credit, I believe 5 heads are better than one, and all I really need in life is a set of problems to solve- even if they're to enable someone else's vision.

The question now is, what ought I do? How do collectives get started? Floating Lab appears to be made of George Mason University affiliates. I wonder, how did they end up working together? In this academic program at the Corcoran, I am not often surrounded with studio nerds with the same artistic affections as mine. Nor are ads for wannabe collaborative artists common on Craigslist. Oh, and I don't even hold a particular vision or question in mind that I would like to investigate through collaborative art.

What's a girl to do? Anyone want to start a collective with me?

Collaborative art form

Cooking is a collaborative art form. I watch many cooking shows but did not realize this until I was in the kitchen this Thanksgiving holiday. I believe the Collab Studio class has helped me build a broader but more meaningful definition of collaborative artwork. On many of the cooking shows on the Food Network there is one chef delighted to shower recipes upon us but it takes a whole team of folks to document the show, set the stage, provide a script, assist with costume design, and the wonderful task of tasting the food. In my kitchen at home there is a team of three people. One person usually has a memory bank with a wealth of recipes methodically stored, another person is in charge of monitoring the temperature of food to prevent burning and last but not least a person is usually responsible for the tasting, dishwashing and storing of food. I always choose the latter, I may have to wash dishes but I am rewarded with early samples of scrumptious dishes.  

I initially thought this class would teach me how to create successful collaborative projects for the art classroom but I have learned more about being a team member. I believe this experience and knowledge will be useful when I do teach in a classroom full-time. As a team member and student I am becoming a better educator. I am deeply humbled by my experiences in the collaborative art world and look forward to many more joyous projects. 

Floating Lab

Before Floating Lab Collective entered the room I began to reflect on the collaborative projects completed in our class. As the group began to speak I immediately noticed the humility and sincerity of the members. I can not remember the names of the Floating Lab Collective members but I recall the ease and relaxed energy within the group. I wondered, 'How can a group this big function? How do they measure success? How do they finance the projects?' Floating Lab Collective seemed concerning with social injustice, world peace, freedom of speech and many more public and personal issues in the media today. 

I was most fascinated by the Protests on Demand. The group gave a voice to many concerns that remain closeted in the homes of many residents. The community had an opportunity to share their issues with the public. Floating Lab Collective is a resourceful group. A local artist created the colorful large heads for a thesis project and gave the heads to Floating Lab Collective to utilize. I enjoyed the color scheme which was intended to unify the group and set the group apart from the usual crowds in the district. 

Below are a few notes from the presentation, I was most concerned with the measurement of success for projects. I desired to know how this large group functions and how they gain the trust of community members. 

- Authenticity is key. In order to gain trust from the community the group must do what they promise. Never exploit the people of the community. 
- Group members must remember that there is more than one author or creator of a project. Everyone is building on each other's ideas. The project belongs to the group and not to one individual that may have initiated the thought or creation of a work.

- A group is stronger in comparison to one person. There is strength in numbers. People are always more accepting of a group than a single person. 
- It is always good to reach out to the community. 

- Always document work using voice and visual devises such as a camera or recorder.

- Keys for a successful project include coordination, participation (lots of people), inventory (ex. email results from Protests on Demand), and vision. If a project happens exactly how the group members envisioned, it is a success!


visiting artists

I found it incredibly interesting to see the dynamic among the visiting artists of Floating Lab. As a group of collaborating artists it was evident that they all have a clear voice in the pieces they make and an opinion on what and how the projects are/should be developed and produced. Art as social justice takes on a whole new meaning when put in the context of organized collaborations. Not only does the work have the power of one person's passion, energy and commitment behind it but it is supported and strengthened by the thoughtful presentation of the work by the collaboration. Having multiple sets of eyes critique, review and restructure the project enhanced its clarity and message, allowing (I feel) more viewers to experience the piece in connection with an artist, i.e. there is more of a chance that the viewer will see the piece in the same way one of the collaborators did. I think this is partially why the collective has such success in their work.

The ideas they showed us in class were creative and inspiring. I liked that although they each took charge in certain projects, they were all clearly versed and knowledgeable on what was being produced and who had been working on its inception and what roles each person was taking. I should have asked at the time if there are (or ever were) any conflicts of ego among the members? Is it possible to selflessly create art? I also thought it was interesting that people that initially turned down the opportunity to be a part of the collective were now active members. I wonder if there is any resentment from the founding members who took the risk?


more reflections

Now that I have a little more distance from our collaborative projects, I have even more thoughts and reflections. I think Nikki and I both learned a lot from asking others to engage in collaboration (whether they knew it or not). I found myself constantly having to explain different aspects of collaboration as my students worked, especially regarding the type of communication that should happen when collaborating with others. This communication between group members became one of the most important things for my students to learn and improve upon during this process. In the beginning, many of their disagreements and problems resulted from poor communication with eachother and lack of compromise. As they moved on, there was a noticeable change in language that indicated they were making an effort to consider the ideas of others.

One of my classes that participated in this project has recurring behavior problems and therefore became the subject of a staff meeting this past week. As teachers and faculty sat together discussing what to do about with this group of students, I was told that maybe I should not do any more collaborative projects with them. The reasoning given was that these students "were not ready for it." I was disappointed and I disagreed. The fact that I had seen improvement was reason enough for the project, even if there were some stressful moments. The communication and compromise inherent in collaborative work are important skills to learn, especially for these students. If they are never asked to do it, then how will they learn?

In comparing the experiences that Nikki and I had, I think one of the most interesting differences was student's behavior. Nikki's group seemed to have less problems working together than mine, and I think age could be a big factor. Overall, both groups produced some interesting artwork. If I were more adept with sound technology, I think it would have been more inline with our original presentation ideas to emphasize specific soundbites so that we could present the experience more through the audio in addition to the work. Personally, I got a lot out of listening to the audio, but might have been more effective if it were edited down for others.

Anyway...I'm glad we tackled this project and am excited to move on to a different type of collaboration.



While visiting the Greenbelt City Community Arts Center I had the opportunity to speak with an artist-in-residence. She is a professor at UMBC and works on the costume design for Prince George's Community College. By listening to her descriptive details of set design and costume design I was able to visualize theatre as a collaborative effort. At first one might consider the actors, playwright, and set design. The professor helped me to understand what happens behind the closed curtains. I was able to look at costumes and other work the artist created. The professor told me that the costume designer collaborates with the set designer as well as the lighting specialist. The production of a play is truly technical and multi-layered. Periodically the professor has to meet with the groups named above to reconsider color combinations, clothing patterns, props and much more. On a larger scale this collaborative work must be exhausting but yields great rewards. I imagine that the art department in primary and secondary schools must collaborate with other departments such as the maintenance crew to compose a successful play. 


Mission: Success!

A week ago, I almost considered my Lego Star Wars collaboration art/space station making experience a 'failure.' I was expecting a single, impressive, coherent space station-inspired sculpture, which is far from what I got. The sculpture wasn't a sculpture at all. Instead it was a seemingly unconnected mini-sculptures and several handfuls of single Lego bricks.

After a few days, I decided that collaborative Lego project was not a failure, I just had a bad objective. My (unverbalized) objective never stated "the students will work together to make a single Lego sculpture," nor should it have. Brianna and I intended to learn about the process of youth collaboration, not to necessarily to get academically perfect artwork. Beyond our collab studio project objectives, I wanted my boys to have fun, learn to work together, and think outside the box (or, in this case, the directions booklet). In these ways, the Lego Star Wars project was a huge success. My students enjoyed it, it fit seamlessly into my lesson plans, and Brianna and I learned a lot. Not to mention, I think the pieces that did come out of it are pretty darn cool.

Overall, I really appreciate Brianna's original request to make our project education-oriented. My interest in art education is more focused on the nerdy human development aspects of the curriculum, rather than necessarily preparing professional and revolutionary artists. Brianna's idea for our project really enabled me to explore and apply my nerdiness AND produce art rather than just go back and forth drawing with Brianna.


next project

I thought it was interesting on Friday to see how the projects manifested in reality. I thought that Nikki and Briana's projects were helpful from an art educator's standpoint for a number of reasons. First, to see what the differences in attitudes towards collaboration would be in wildly varying age groups. Though both groups of students were made up of kids with varying learning abilities and needs, they seemed to react quite differently. As we discussed in class, I am sure part of this has to do with being a school environment v. a fun Saturday class, age, being graded or not, etc. But I think it would be helpful (and it was for me) to give a great example to future teachers of what can realistically be expected of both age groups in working together, final product, and what can be accomplished in the given time frame. I also thought it was interesting that although the groups worked independently that we both incorporated sound in to the final presentation of the work.

I am really looking forward to working together as a group. We seem to be on a familiar page with each other and I think we will come up with some interesting art work.



The most memorable moments of the Airwaves project were filled with smiles and laughter. The participants were so engaged. Before the project began, I questioned how many people would be willing to climb or descend the stairway to participate in both works. The idea of a blank canvas, familiar utensils, and treats excited everyone. Airwaves was a participatory activity. All types of people had an opportunity to leave their mark on the paper. There were security guards, students, professors, employees, prospective students and parents of prospective students. As I reflect on the event I am also reminded of the impact Airwaves had on the mood of the participants. The participants appeared happy,energized, and lively. I remember one guy saying that Airwaves was exactly what he needed for the day. This project could expand and bloom into all sorts of directions. I can imagine a blank canvas hanging along the wall in primary and secondary schools as well as doctor offices or hospitals. The music combined with universal utensils such as crayons, markers, and colored pencils gave people an opportunity to become a kid again. Artists did not have to carry the burden of creating a impressive piece of artwork and non-artists were not pressured or intimidated by the imagery on the paper. I could not imagine asking a non-artist to add a mark to a image that resembled a realist drawing. The non-artist would immediately have feelings of defeat.

I can imagine this project blossoming with the use of other mediums or art disciplines such as photography, photojournalism, graphic design, and ceramics. If a person is giving a 1/2 pound of clay and is asked to react to the dissonant sound in their ears will they immediately smash the clay flat? ( now that is an assumption) And if that same person is given a harmonious sound to react to will they carefully handle the clay, calmly shaping and sculpting the surface? This all becomes extra interesting when I think about Nikki's Lego project. What if the Legos were substituted for clay, a camera, or a block of wood? Will potential participants view the clay as messy? So after considering all of my questions, I think the Airwaves project was a success because of accessibility to the location, familiar utensils, and a space to free oneself of inner inhibitions through the use of music and visual art.


I think that our first collaborative project was a major success. I loved that we were able to get such a variety of people involved. Also that the variety of people who were involved really seemed to enjoy themselves. I think that this just re-emphasizes why I love art and why I so look forward to being an art educator and will be able to get people involved in art on a daily basis. One of my initial worries was that having mostly art students participate that they would not follow the directions or purposefully draw an extensive line drawing not based on the music, or just do something out of the ordinary because they could. First, I found that letting go of the rules worked out much to our benefit. Letting go of some control and truly letting people express themselves i whatever way made sense to them clearly benefited our art work. Second, I found that most of the art students were very willing participants eager to help out, not looking to make a point. I was very impressed with everyones professionalism and willingness to participate.

One aspect of the project that I had not anticipated was the having to sell people to come do our project. I guess I almost forgot that there is ALWAYS something on the walls of CCA+D so people (students mostly) didn't exactly stop to look and see what the spectacle was. We were forced to stop people and ask them to participate. This was not my favorite part of the project, as I am not a very good saleswoman, but definitely with Farolyn and the rest of the class, we had many more participants than I had originally expected.

A few small details I would have changed would have been to only use CD players (and have more of them available) with the one track, that seemed to work best, and made the directions eve more simple; along the lines of press play and go. Also I maybe would have done it for a slightly shorter time, by the time 3pm rolled around we were starting to see the same people come and go, and it seemed as though the people who didn't want to participate felt a little uncomfortable.

The overall look of the two pieces is what astounds me. I'm not really sure what I expected, I guess something along the line of simple children scribbles or outsider art maybe. And about halfway through it definitely did have that effect. However, because we had so many layers and layers of lines and variety of lines each of the works definitely became a piece of its own and transcended into something with more depth and meaning than scribbles on the page. I am very happy with the outcome of the work and very excited to see where this idea could go next!


hard times for collaborative work in 9th grade

Apparently, collaboration among high school boys is more difficult than I even expected it to be. I think the particular group of students that I am working with are more resistant than your average 9th grader. I won't say too much here, as we'll talk about it in class on Friday, but I will say that I have learned a lot about collaboration from trying to "teach" it. In assigning a collaborative project, I had to consider what they would need to know/think about in order to work collaboratively. I had already witnessed a short group project in which the collaborative efforts were lacking at best. I have been surprised by what seems to be a lack of creativity in my students to use a variety of materials in collage. They seem to approach assignments fairly narrowly, only using a material if it is put in front of them. I have tried to provide several different examples of collage work in order to get them thinking about different options, but they are rather stuck on using magazine images and pictures printed from the internet. This has made me think about what would have stimulated the groups to better utilize eachother as resources--one of the biggest benefits of collaborative work. I think maybe they need to see actual collaboration modeled.

ANYway, more tomorrow. Concerning the Airwaves project last Friday, I was really impressed with how it went! I think we were all pleasantly surprised at the turnout and participation rate. It was really interesting to hear some of the commentary from participants. I was struck by how many people seemed to think the process was somewhat therapeutic. I too am curious to know what it would have been like with a different audience- one outside of an art school. I think the limits of providing a means of artistic expression in which it is difficult to "fail" is very appealing to most people, and so leads to a positive experience.

The simple concept of having a large sheet of paper on the wall has also made be think about how I might use that in my classroom. Perhaps I would end up with a more authentic collaborative piece if I just put up a sheet of paper somewhere in the classroom or just outside and left it up as an open space for expression. If the students felt like they could contribute something to it (or not) whenever they wanted or needed, I think it would be really interesting to see what resulted after some time. Maybe I can report back about that next semester...

Legos and Airwaves

On Saturday I had my first day (of this session) of Lego Star Wars and Motorized Machines. As you know, Brianna and I planned our collaborative project(s?) based on what we could do with our real life classes. I was to get my kids to make a collaborative Lego sculpture in a single class period. I did... sort of. But, I guess you all will hear about it tomorrow.

While I'm here I wanted to mention a couple thoughts I had about Airwaves. First, I have to admit it was more successful than I thought it would be. For some reason I thought people would avoid participation, or be skeptical or unoriginal are just draw simple lines. Clearly, I was wrong. tens of people enthusiastically participated. They filled both entire sheets of paper (and even spilled onto the walls). And, I really understand how the colors, line quality, and ambiguous flow of the papers reflects each of the soundtracks. However, I am biased. I wonder how people off the street would describe each drawing? Would they use descriptors like 'serene, calm, soothing, oceanic' and 'noisy, violent, angry, fiery?' Maybe we should try to find out.


take down

I was really expecting there to be some sort of addition to the works we left up. But, this morning I found they were just as we had left them. I am going to attribute this to 1. it being the weekend and 2. the community of respect and appreciate the Corcoran harbors among its students. I wonder what other students reactions were over the weekend without any sort of explanation to go with the pieces. Let me tell you, they look quite different after a few days of separation. They are in my locker at school, I'll be sure to bring them to class on Friday. Can't wait to see the other group's work- I hope it went smoothly over the weekend!


Collab at Amidon

Last Friday I spent my first few hours volunteering at Amidon-Bowen High Tech Elementary School. The 4th graders there have spend the last few weeks working on large community/autumn related project that will be posted in the school's hallways.

The class is working in groups of 8 or 9 students. Each group is working on a unique project (a tree, a human figure, or a building). The project idea, including the concept of working groups/'communities,' come from our group of MAT's. None of the developers have taken this Collaborative Studio class. But, the idea of collaborative project came naturally to them.

The Amidon group projects make me wonder about teaching and collaboration. I am realizing that several teachers make their students do group projects. I have usually assumed that the group projects occurred because school don't have enough tables, glue sticks, etc to give to individuals. However, I am wondering now if teachers also innately realize the creative value of collaboration, even without an explicit explanation of how collaboration yields different results than individual work.



We successfully completed our first show. Honestly, it didn't come out anything like I had imagined it would. In my head I think I had pictured something, well- neater? The outcome was surprising, but I liked it. The finished pieces are interesting to look at. I wonder if they are as interesting to look at if you weren't a participant, or if you don't know the premise. Hopefully we can get some feedback from our classmates and teachers who view it over the weekend.
I think one of the most interesting aspects of the piece was getting to watch people interpret the music. We all commented that we perhaps should have videotaped it. The dancing, bopping, quiet contemplation was perhaps the best part of the day. Many people commented that participating was therapeutic- an aspect I hadn't really considered until it was up. I can't help thinking that it helps people regress to childhood- coloring on walls.

Another interesting aspect that came from this piece was that the separate drawings really began to take shape and mimic the music they were set to. They are remarkably different pieces, though they are essentially the same marks and ideas set on paper. It was also interesting to see that the dissonant track seemed to confine people, that they reacted to the boundaries the music was setting.

I'm going to take them down tomorrow night, I wonder if there will be any new additions to them...

Image: Airwaves, interactive-collaborative piece by Elana, Farolyn & Jenna at CCA+D; photograph by MCB.


collaborative art-VIEWING

After being at the Hirshorn last Friday, I couldn't help thinking about the upcoming "After-Hours" this coming Friday night at the museum. Actually, I was doing more thinking back on the last After Hours I attended last spring. It was a new experience for me to be at a museum for such a big social/art-viewing event. The combination of lighting, music, crowd numbers, and of course, alcohol made for an almost overwhelming scene outside the museum. Once we ventured inside, however, I had a museum experience that was completely unique. There were so many people moving through the museum and the featured exhibit that the crowd was forced to move at a certain pace. As I thought back on this experience after being at the Hirshorn again, I realized how much it felt like some kind of collaborative art-viewing experience, if that exists. While one could argue that visiting any museum involves looking at art in the company of others (unless you have the museum to yourself), navigating the Hirshorn during the After Hours event was very different than the usual museum experience. I felt more connected to the others around me by both time and location. We were all participating in a specific event at the museum and our presence alone meant that some degree of advance planning had to be involved in the visit.

There was a stronger connection between us than I usually feel to other museum-goers. And so what does this mean? Did this "collaborative" viewing experience effect understanding or perception of the artwork? Did it effect the meaning of the art for some? I think it's an interesting topic to consider. I can't help but wonder if the artists ever imagined their work being viewed in such an environment?



I think the Hirshorn is my favorite Smithsonian museum. It has taken me some time but I have really grown to appreciate conceptual art. I think what most people don't understand about conceptual art is that, well, it's conceptual; that one needs to understand, or at least know, what the concept is to appreciate it. The design is not in the aesthetic like "normal" or picturesque art.

Going to the Friday gallery talks has really helped me to understand this. For example, this past week's talk. When you first look at the singular work, it is slightly underwhelming, but has an overal pleasant calming effect. But when you look closer you see that the "ripples" are made of numbers, which is intriguing, and made me appreciate the effort and time that it must have taken to create the work. But only after having learned the context of the work (that it is part of a life long series), and the nature of the artist does the artwork truly come alive. I like this aspect of conceptual art. The more you learn about it and the more you discuss it the more it comes alive. I think this is why I love art education. Helping people to ask questions and understand why works are as exciting as they are is really exciting for me.

Another work I found really inspiring from the art education context was the "Condensation Box". It just allowed me to imagine showing and discussing with a group of young students, how it was built, how the condensation stays in there, etc. Then being able to take those ideas and apply them to a science class. It helps me to see that art can be collaborative in many, many ways, and the more we collaborate, on specific works, in our own education, and while educating others the more rich each art experience will be.

putting all the pieces together

Well, our group's project is coming up (5 days to be exact) and it seems like it is pretty much coming all together. Having been in charge of the music portion of the collaboration I hope that the work I have put together meets with the expectations of the group. Though I suppose if it isn't- we've still got 5 days to hatch it out.

The art we saw at the Hirschorn Museum on Friday was pretty inspirational for me. I don't know what it was about the current show that was so eye-opening for me. Perhaps it was the full use of the room, scale, simple geometry? I'm not quite sure, but whatever it was certainly had me creating all weekend. After a pretty expensive trip to plaza I spent the better part of Saturday working on art projects that have been slipping through the cracks for the past few months. It felt good to get some new things out- well, started at least. Now they are staring me in the face so I have to complete them (not just sketches in pads and notebooks). Hopefully I'll get some done in time to bring to class for some input.


Participation (Documents of Contemporary Art)

I got an email from Amazon.com recently with computer-generated book recommendations. Coincidentally, the first recommended book was Participation (Documents of Contemporary Art) by Claire Bishop.

I read up about the book on Amazon's website (click image ^ to get link). From what I can tell, this book examines the evolution of collaborative art. It even discusses some of the theorists and artists we're already talked about in this class. These people include Allan Kaprow, Guy Debord, and Jacques Rancière.

I know we're already read about those people, but it seems like this book might be good to summarize their work and offer it within the context of the art world. Anyone who is really interested in collaborative art making and theory should check it out.

Product description (from Amazon.com):
The desire to move viewers out of the role of passive observers and into the role of producers is one of the hallmarks of twentieth-century art. This tendency can be found in practices and projects ranging from El Lissitzky's exhibition designs to Allan Kaprow's happenings, from minimalist objects to installation art. More recently, this kind of participatory art has gone so far as to encourage and produce new social relationships. Guy Debord's celebrated argument that capitalism fragments the social bond has become the premise for much relational art seeking to challenge and provide alternatives to the discontents of contemporary life. This publication collects texts that place this artistic development in historical and theoretical context.

Participation begins with writings that provide a theoretical framework for relational art, with essays by Umberto Eco, Bertolt Brecht, Roland Barthes, Peter Bürger, Jen-Luc Nancy, Edoaurd Glissant, and Félix Guattari, as well as the first translation into English of Jacques Rancière's influential "Problems and Transformations in Critical Art." The book also includes central writings by such artists as Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, Joseph Beuys, Augusto Boal, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Thomas Hirschhorn, and Rirkrit Tiravanija. And it features recent critical and curatorial debates, with discussions by Lars Bang Larsen, Nicolas Bourriaud, Hal Foster, and Hans-Ulrich Obrist.


apparently, I collaborate

A little background information: When living in Los Angeles I worked primarily editing and doing editorial coordination for a magazine. I love words, I love editing, I love the precision and the tone of voice, and gosh darn it- I love to read (oh my teachers would be so proud). that being said, an acquaintance of mine is writing a novel and asked me to read over it. In truth, its a pretty good book. Beyond the basics of editing and paring down sentence structure, voice, tonality etc, his female lead needed a bit of an overhaul. She was in essence a man in drag. Her internal dialogue a little- well, not how the women I know actually think. So the first few chapters were sent back with notes like "change her voice here" or "women don't actually say things like this" with advice to go sit in a coffee house and eaves drop, or even better to go get his nails buffed at a local salon and just listen to what women say to each other when they are really in the presence of friends. To notice their interactions and to see if he could tell who was fighting, who genuinely loved each other's company, and who were competitive with each other.

The following version was a little better, but was accompanied by a note that said, this took me all week to complete, can you please put a female voice to this so I can see what I need to do as an example? So I did. About 10 minutes after the email went through I got a text that said, 'you are now the female voice'. Apparently, he liked it. And so the collaboration has begun. In my head, this is really his baby. His project his idea, I am just lending what I know to the situation. Yesterday we met for lunch to talk about direction and progress and I was surprised to hear him refer to the novel as "ours". Though I care about the project enormously and believe it will be successful, I do not consider it my project. For me, this is an interesting concept to contemplate. Is it truly a collaboration if it is someone else's idea? Or does a true collaboration start, as we did in class, around a table tossing out ideas and deciding together? I know these questions relate back to the readings we have completed during the semester thus far, but it once again brought these issues to focus for me. Yes, I am helping him with his novel, but I did not really feel as if I had any ownership to it. And if it is the case, than I suppose that all novels (and published works) are collaborations, through author, editor, publisher, etc.

Those were just my thoughts for the day, more to stew over later.


Working in a Collaborative Group

     I am really enjoying the process of collaborating with other artists. Collaboration is something that I unfortunately rarely do. Sophomore year at the Corcoran I had to do a collaborative project. I chose to do the project with a ceramic artist, Antea Roberts. It was actually a lot of fun. She had some really great ideas. At the time, I limited myself to two-dimensional graphite drawings. Antea was creating three-dimensional self portraits using clay. I can not remember how or why we decided to create a drawing but we did. We both began drawing directly on the 18 x 24 paper at the same time. Eventually the lines of our utensils began to cross and what once was an individual adventure became a collaborative work. We developed a narrative and tried to merge our unique styles and ideas into one. After we started working the composition became important. The work was very colorful and filled with line work. We both were very proud of our accomplishment. 

     This leads me to address the need for collaborative work in the education field. I laugh at the idea of being an art teacher, who never collaborates but constantly encourages students to participate in group work. I think the collaborative experience can be a little awkward for some but learning how to communicate with others and appreciate other ideas besides your own is imperative for educators and students. Educators need to become comfortable with the idea of teamwork. With the collaborative experience outside the classroom, educators can truthfully explain to their students the importance of group work. I have met many art teachers who do not collaborate with other educators. Sometimes the teachers really are not working with the students but dictating how they want the foreground and background of a picture to look. Having the experience of collaborating with others broadens the educators perspective on the creative process in and out of the classroom.

collaborative thoughts

It seems that since this class began, I have noticed so many mentions of collaborative art-making. I guess I am just more aware of it in general now that I am in a specifically collaborative class. I see collaboration referenced in terms of both artwork that is being currently produced and in terms of using collaborative work with students as a valuable art education tool.

As I think more about our project, and the different levels of collaboration involved, I am feeling like there are so many different directions that we could take it in. I have been thinking a lot about how to structure the collaborative art that I ask my students to engage in. It is more complicated than I initially would think it would be to design a collaborative project. There are a lot of nuances of participating in collaborative work, and I think there are different nuances for different types of participants. High school students, for example, will approach a collaborative art assignment very different than graduate students or working artists. It seems that collaboration can mean so many different things depending on one's perspective. It could be frightening for someone who might not have confidence in his/her artistic ability, or on the contrary, it could offer freedom of creativity and expression to those who feel less pressure when working with others. In thinking about designing a collaborative activity/assignment for others, I have been forced to consider many subtleties of collaboration that I wouldn't otherwise, or only on a more personal level. Some of these subtleties are logistical (how will all my students work together on a drawing--it can't all happen at the same time) and others are more theoretical ( will my students be open to the idea of collaboration? what will they think of de-authorization? Should I present ideas/examples of collaboration before they work, or not?).

I am excited to be both engaging in a collaborative work and at the same time, introducing a collab. assignment to my students. I think it will present a really interesting parallel.


French New Wave + Colab = NYC Punk

Last spring I took a took an art history class titled Post-Modern, Post-Hong Kong, Post-Narrative Film (PoMoPoHoKo for 'short'). One of the first movements we studied in this course was French New Wave. I learned that this style of filmmaking grew mainly by untrained young men attempting to fill the void caused from previous filmmakers who had stopped working because of World War II.

These men worked to capture the feelings of shakiness, uncertainty, and instability their societies felt during, and in the aftershock of, the war. From a desire to achieve this 'shaky' aesthetic, and the general lack of training by new wannabe auteurs, French New Wave films were built from quick-cuts, vibrating camera work, blurred images, and confusing layers of sounds and sights. The genre grew to dominate the film discourse in much of Europe during the 1960s.

A parallel style occurring in our parallel English-speaking universe seems to have been punk. Punk began in Great Britain and eventually crossed over to the United States in the 1970s. In the US the Punk aesthetic mutated into something uniquely grotesque and disgruntled. It incorporated the violent subjects like torture and bondage into the thematic and aesthetic template of New Wave.

I was shocked when I read about Colab's supposed role in integrating New Wave to the US and assimilating into/to become "New York punk." Sure, now that I have thought about it, I can see the similarities between French New Wave and British/US Punk; the suspense, the instability, a general feeling of always being disjointed and uncomfortable (either with the story being told or with society and politics).

I do not think this article gave French New Wave enough credit. David E. Little seems suspiciously attached to the idea that Colab coined the New Wave/New York punk hybrid aesthetic. If I read Little's description of Colabian (the imaginary adjective form of "Colab") punk outside of the context of the article I would assume the author was describing a French New Wave film. Descriptions of X Motion Picture Magazine and the NYC punk aesthetic as a whole include: "crude, unfinished, amateurish," "self-consciously pasted," "homemade," "authentic," "assembled... by hand," "thin, [and] inexpensive" with "cut-and-pasted construction with unregistered lines, blurred ink, tilted photos, and overwriting." Every single one of those descriptive terms could have been similarly "cut-and-pasted" from reviews of French New Wave films.

Little does mention that (French) New Wave styles are from the 1960s. While he indirectly admits that New Wave precedes New York punk, I believe he does not pay enough respect to its apparent influence on Colab's "new" punk style. The author claims Colab "quickly integrated" the style with punk to exhibit "a more gritty and violent punk aesthetic." While the phrase isn't inherently malicious, I wish it was reworked to give more credit to the great tour de force that invented that beloved yet "crude, unfinished, amateurish" genre of French New Wave.

In short, if you a) love NYC punk and want to round out you knowledge of it or b) like its general aesthetics but don't have an interest in S&M, check out French New Wave films. I recommend L' Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year in Marienbad).


Colaborative Projects.

I enjoyed reading the article about Colab and their metamorphosis. I especially liked how in the beginning the group started as just meetings for artists, then bolstered by common thinking and mutual respect the group realized that they had a call to action. They had something to say as a group and the public needed to hear it. Despite being a large group with many different media, everyone could participate and add their creative thoughts. Colab was not only collaborative, they were building a commuity.

Another aspect I liked about Colab was their choice to bypass alternative spaces and to register as a non-profit agency in order to receive funding. Even as an alternative group they understood that in order to spread their message they would need to "play the game". I feel as though today artists who take pride in being "alternative" feel that a lack of audience validates their "alternative" status. But many times alternative artists are only reaching their friends and like minded individuals. I think it is even more impressive to be an alternative group and to be able to deliver an alternative message to the greater public. Maybe the public will disagree and maybe they wont get it, but the more people you reach out to the better chance you have of being heard. I feel like the fact that they were a recognized non-profit gave some validity to the collaborative. These weren't just some crazy artists with ideas that they were spewing out. They had funding, they had a name, they were organized and had the ability to work together to produce works of art and a message.

I also thought it was interesting, I read the Colab article and an article about a band "Of Montreal" on the same day. The band describes having to come up with different forms art in order to sell their music (beyond the traditional T-shirts and music videos). In a way this is kind of the same idea as Colab. A group gets together expresses their artistic vision in a variety of media. Maybe their are more collaborative art groups out there that aren't even aware of following in the steps of Colab.

0 Percent Positive

All Color News was my favorite portion of the article. The most exciting characteristic of Colab is that they function as a structured group that is involved in the community. The examples that they use to comment on social injustices, and social class barriers are poignant. I was really moved by the approach to the people on the subway from different socioeconomic backgrounds. A remote voice peaks through the stillness and attempts to address the non-interactive posture by telling the passengers to speak to one another. I wonder is the distant voice intended to mirror our self-conscious thought. I was recently talking to someone about the social structure of our society. How can people stand within one foot of each other on an elevator and not speak, smile, or deliver a kind gesture like holding the door open so the oncomer can get on safely? The person I was speaking with commented on a similar environment: the Metro. She said she often wondered why two people sitting so close to each other never exchange words. From reading the article, Colab commented on the different social classes of people clustered together like a mob. Probably so close, they can see little details. It sounds a little too close for comfort. With the mp3 player, cell phone, book or "Do not talk to me" blank stare as a shield, there is no need or desire to socialize with people that coexist in the environment.

I also enjoyed the comment about the mainstream news. There is rarely anything positive on the news. A few years ago I would watch the news daily. When school shootings like Columbine occurred I stopped watching the news. I was speaking with a friend about the news very recently. After agreeing that the news can negatively alter our perception of the world around us, we began to share ideas of how the news can become 100 positive. We both believed that the news should be more about uplifting the community. I would like to hear about Johnny making honor roll or Kim winning an essay contest for a scholarship. Or maybe even a 1 or 2% decrease in gun violence. I met a woman, who native language is French. She told me she never watches American news. She has cable and orders the French news. Apparently, the French channel is uninhibited. She told me the channel broadcasts news from other countries and news about America that is not shown in America. I do not speak French, so I can not validate my source just yet. But it is fascinating.

Colab was a sincere collaborative group that embraced people of both gender. The group was structured with a purpose. Colab opposed an hierarchy and welcomed a team-like environment. Each member worked together to ensure that their goals were accomplished and the mission was remembered. Colab impacted the community in a great way. They attempted to educate people about violence through the aggressive nature of the X Magazine and bridge separate communities together.


Inherent differences

In core art education class today, Annie made a statement that I found very interesting. She said, "Making art as an individual and making art as part of the collaborative are inherently different" This was a part of a conversation we were having on lesson planning and the enduring understandings our professors wished to impart in their classes. For me this really struck a chord. Is collaborative art truly different than individual art making? For me it most certainly is. Already in this course of study I have considered forms of art that I never would have explored on my own, whether it was because I thought they were uninteresting or that I was not good at them. I now have not only started to collaborate on pieces out of my comfort zone, but have brainstormed and began projects on my own that I would probably have never conceived in my old line of thinking. In other words, the collaboration has changed my view of art and my own personal art making. Who knows if this change will stick, what impact it will have on my most used medium (photography), or how it will effect the work I produce both in the darkroom and out, but it at least has me thinking differently for now.

Working as part of a collaboration has made me feel like my inadequacies are not as significant. Perhaps it's because I feel that among the collaborators at least one of us will have the natural talent or technical skill to pull off what we have envisioned (or at least many minds to think of a way around the obstacles that arise) As we continue through the semester, I am excited to see what we produce, I will be even more curious to see what other pieces my classmates produce this semester as this class weighs in on their psyches.


Exhibiting a painting?

I've been thinking about about John Baldessari's painting since it was discussed on Friday. Well, actually I've been thinking more about the frame of "Exhibiting Paintings" more than the paint itself.

My curiosity piqued when a Hirshorn staff member told an anecdote about the painting. Apparently a museum patron complained to an employee about the typos on the sign downstairs. Hirshorn staff later realized the "sign" in question was in fact Baldessari's painting.

I can begin to see how the patron mistook that painting for a sign. For this confusion, I blame the frame.

Consider this: if the painting was hung sans frame, it would reveal itself as a canvas. A canvas then signals 'painting.'

If the frame existed by was thicker, more ornate, colored differently than that "landlord" yellow, it would read more as a 'frame.' A frame then signals with a painting is within it.

However, "Exhibiting Paintings" was a presented with neither of these options. It had a frame- but it was hardly noticeable. It is a thin, less than one inch thick, straight-edge, wood frame. It is a natural light wood color, somewhere between the white of the walls and yellow of the canvas.

Ultimately, it is rather aesthetically insignificant. I would not be surprised if I was the only one there who considered its role.

The frame did not have the presence of a frame. It was indeed more like a signpost that houses an informational sign.

I assert that, by removing or replacing the frame, "Exhibiting Paintings" would register more as an exhibited painting. (One that note: I think if this piece was more painting-like spectators would be more understanding of the "typos" - like this blogger in particular.)

Now, the question is, who chose the frame? Is this frame part of the intellectual/aesthetic design of Baldessari himself? or a bizzaro choice by a Hirshhorn curator?