The Art in Brewing Beer: Arcade Brewery

January 30, 2012 · Print This Article

This post is part of an ongoing series about art and beer. 

Over the weekend, I met artist and brewer Christopher Tourre at his house as he and Lance Curran, his partner in Arcade Brewery, brewed a five and a half gallon batch of beer they call Oatmilk Stout. Tourre brews on his kitchen stove in big gleaming steel pots. At the same time that he showed me a page of obscure calculations made in composition notebook, the mash assembled by those same calculations steeped in a rough plastic cooler of the kind you normally bring iced and bottled beer to the beach in. A hardware store spigot juts out its front for easy drainage. Chris tells me that some home brewers get extremely scientific in their process, invoking hyper accurate measurements and fine-tuned equipment to get as close as possible to target flavor components like International Bitterness Units (IBUs). But even a highly trained human tongue can only pick out a range of a few IBUs. Add in layers of complexity like sweet flavors from the beer’s malt or extracts added to it and the exact measurement becomes even harder to guess at without equipment.

Taking the mash's temperature

For Tourre and Curran, this kind of ambiguity is an asset to be celebrated both in their beer and in the engagements they’re looking to build around it. The imperfect process and intuitive understanding a brewer have are just two things that make brewing an artful craft. While Arcade is certainly intended to function as a business, lessons that come from participatory art and event-making are also primary concerns. Last year, in a month-long residency at Spoke, Tourre invited the public to both sample his own beer and to share in the creation of original brews. He connected with foragers and garderners around Chicago to make small batches of beer and soda using ingredients they found or grew. He also gave free home-brewing workshops. At the end of the month, he hosted a tasting of all the different beverages crafted with his co-creators present to share the stories behind each drink.

Although the Public Brewery at Spoke was firmly planted in the realm of art, it also helped Tourre and Curran’s business prospects. The residency got them in touch with New Chicago Beer Company, opening soon at The Plant—an indoor vertical farm in the Back of the Yards. Arcade will be renting New Chicago’s equipment between cycles to brew their first commercial batches. But public events are not intended to shrewdly forward a brand and network. Tourre and Curran think of interfacing with the public as more than market research. As they shift from an art project to a business, they’re aware of certain values they want to hold onto. “Sometimes it’s easier as an artist to create a convivial spirit and atmosphere.” Tourre says, “How do you stay sincere when it becomes a business? How do you take something that I would do as an art project and convert that over to a money making endeavor? How do you keep the same spirit, legitimacy, and authenticity? That’s part of the challenge for us.”

Because the beer isn’t in the bottle yet, sincerity and collaboration with the public are mostly guiding principles at the moment. But Arcade does have a few plans for keeping audiences substantially involved in what they do. Public Brew sessions will work much like the residency at Spoke did: people can attend causal brewing sessions where Tourre answers questions and explains every step of the process. While Arcade will have certain beers available year-round, their seasonals will be decided by a process of public consensus. People will be able to submit, discuss, and vote on recipes to create seasonal brews they’ll share credit on.

Arcade is also developing some novel ideas for the design of the bottles too. They’re working with the writer Jason Aaron and the comic artist Tony Moore to create a six-pack design where each bottle will have on it a frame of an original comic that relates to the beer it holds. The central theme for Arcade seems to be that everything around the beer is as important as the beer itself. As Curran said during our brewing session: you don’t just taste the beer, you experience it. That experience manifests in the crafting of beverage and builds out to include the vessel it comes in, the type of things people do when they’re drinking it, and the understanding people have of what it is they’re consuming.

Episode 335: Kodwo Eshun

January 30, 2012 · Print This Article

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This week: The west coast bureau keeps on bringing it large! Patricia Maloney talks with the concept engineer and Otolith Group co-founder Kodwo Eshun.

Kodwo Eshun is a British-Ghanaian writer, theorist and film-maker. He studied English Literature (BA Hons, MA Hons) at University College, Oxford University and Romanticism and Modernism MA Hons at Southampton University. He is currently course leader of the MA in Aural and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Maurizio Cattelan: All

January 27, 2012 · Print This Article

It is easy to conceptualize of something incorrectly and not even realize it until faced with the reality. This is what happened to me last week when I was lucky enough to see the Maurizio Cattelan exhibition All at the The Guggenheim just days before it closed. I’d read a bit about this show, which is all of Cattelan’s tangible work hung (or perhaps strung-up) in the atrium of the museum. Considering what I’d read, I was thinking of this as a swan song of a retrospective, but the reality is that All functions as an exciting, unified single piece.

A few individual sculptures stood out, not just to me, but the hundreds of other viewers who were there with me. Possibly it was the adrenaline rush of staring death in the face, or even the perverse thrill of eluding the reaper, because by far the works that drew the most attention were the taxidermies. Squirrel, horse, cow, donkey, rabbit, pigeons (lots and lots of pigeons), and quite a few dogs. The first dog I came across startled me. So lifelike, yet obviously dead. Hanging from the ceiling, there is no way to mistake it for a living dog as might happen in previous gallery installations. As I stood looking down on it, trying to overcome the ick-factor, people passed by, stopped, and then talked fondly about their own dogs both past and present. Instead of reminding people of the lurking nature of death, Cattelan’s dogs reminded people of something they loved, perhaps even evoking life. (Pictured: Stone Dead, 1997)

Lingering in the middle of the mobile is a large, black granite tombstone, that references a wartime memorial. The catalog likens Untitled (1999) to Maya Lin’s memorial for those killed in The Vietnam War, but to me it echoes the memorial for The Great War that stands in front of City Hall in the town where I grew up. I expected to see names of soldiers engraved, but instead there is a list of all of the matches in which the English national football team was defeated. I have no idea what Cattelan is attempting to provoke from his viewer with this, but I immediately thought, These are men’s things. War. Football. Sometimes they are even treated as equals, but their losses, they are not equal. Both war and football delineate a place free of women, though sometimes we are allowed to trespass. Men’s conflicts. Men’s defeats.

Near to the bottom of the massive installation hangs a casket. Although I could see the casket from nearly every vantage point, what I couldn’t see was its resident. When I finally made my way down, there was a crowd gathered ‘round. The security guard stepped aside and took me by the elbow to get me a better spot, which I’ve never had happen before. There in the casket lay Kennedy, looking as perfect as if he had never been shot. Put simply, it was strange to see Kennedy there. I had to ask, whose loss was this? Kennedy’s? The nation’s? Now was made in 2004, but I wondered if Cattelan could see into our future eight years later. Here we are as a nation fetishizing this moment in history, arguably, one of our nation’s most devastating moments. But unlike today, it was a moment that was simple. Grief is simple.

For those who couldn’t make it to the show, The Guggenheim website has much to offer. There is a great time-lapse video of the installation, which is as laborious as any I can imagine. There is a reprint of the article from the brochure, by Nancy Spector. If you’re inclined, an “interactive, multi-platform app” for 4.99. Still, after shelling out for admission and fifty bucks on the catalog, somehow another five seemed steep. It looks great, though, with John Waters hucking it. Call me old fashioned, but when I want to re-experience an exhibition, I turn to the catalog for that.

The catalog for All requires special mention. This is written by Nancy Spector, Chief Curator. It is effectively a catalogue raisonné, but I wouldn’t count my chickens before they’re hatched in that regard. The book itself is lovely, and looks like an old encyclopedia volume. It is worth purchasing, or at least borrowing from the library. However, presenting the works individually does undo the singularness of All, transforming a unified whole back into discrete works. Still, All was a rousing salute to a life’s work and the catalog reflects this.

Finally, for a good time, do check out Amanda Browder’s previous Haiku Review of All.

Top 5 Weekend Picks! (1/27-1/29)

January 27, 2012 · Print This Article

1. Society of the Spectacular at Co-prosperity Sphere

Work by Eric Fleischauer, Jesse McLean, Steve Ruiz, Doug Smithenry, Theo Darst, Todd Mattei, Morgan Sims, Aaron Orsini, and Adam Rux. Curated by Jake Myers & The Octagon Gallery.

Co-prosperity Sphere is located at 3221 S Morgan. Reception Friday, 7pm-12am.

2. Schematized at Firecat Projects

Work by Justin Amrhein.

Firecat Projects is located at 2124 N. Damen Ave. Reception Friday, 7-9pm.

3. Tetragrammatron Archive: The Robert Joseph Bell Institute for the Advancement of the Future at Thomas Robertello Gallery

Work by Jason Robert Bell.

Thomas Robertello Gallery is located at 27 N. Morgan St. Reception Friday, 6-8pm.

4. Morbid Curiosity at the Chicago Cultural Center

Works from The Richard Harris Collection.

Chicago Cultural Center is located at 78 E. Washington St. Reception Friday, 5:30-7:30pm.

5. Not Cool or Stoic at Slow

Work by Chuck Jones and ACRE resident Matthew Schlagbaum.

Slow is located at 2153 W 21st St. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.

Episode 334: Kelly Kaczynski

January 24, 2012 · Print This Article

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This week: Philip von Zweck sits down to talk with artist and educator Kelly Kaczynski.


Kelly Kaczynski: Study for Convergence Performance (ice)
Jan.19 to Feb. 25, 2012

Study for Convergence Performance (ice) is the second work in a series that seeks to conflate the artist’s studio as a performative site of production, the space of display as the reception of image, and landscape as site for epic but apathetic metaphor. It uses the devices of the theatrical stage and the green screen; both of which operate as a “non-space” that allows the conflation of multiple contexts or sites. She uses imagery from landscapes that shift in time, such as bodies of water including glacier fields. The title of the piece refers to Robert Smithson’s idea of “the range of convergence between site and non-site” whereas the land from the originating site is placed in the container of the non-site. In Study for Convergence Performance, the site of origin and the sign of site converge as they transpose in a collapse of time.


Kelly Kaczynski is an assistant professor and assistant chair in the Department of Art Theory & Practice at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University.  Kelly is a sculptor and installation artist. Her work, while existing in a temporal-spatial platform, is deeply materials based. She received an MFA from Bard College in 2003 and a BA from The Evergreen State College in 1995. She has exhibited with threewalls, Chicago; Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago; University of Buffalo Art Gallery, NY; Rowland Contemporary, Chicago; Triple Candie, NY; the Islip Art Museum, NY; Cristinerose/Josee Bienvenu Gallery, NY; DeCordova Museum, MA; 123 Watts Gallery, NY; and the Boston Center for the Arts, MA. Kaczynski’s work was included in the Boston Drawing Project at Bernard Toale Gallery, Boston. Public installations include projects with the Main Line Art Center, Haverford, Pennsylvania; the Interfaith Center of New York; the Institute for Contemporary Art, Boston and the Boston National Historic Parks; and the Boston Public Library. Kaczynski has taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and University of Chicago.