Grey Grounds: Gaylen Gerber at the 2014 Whitney Biennial

May 7, 2014 · Print This Article

By Kevin Blake 

Most visitors ride the oversized elevator up to the fourth floor and work their way down at The Whitney Museum of American Art. Most people prefer this method of viewing because most people, including myself, are too lazy to climb the stairs. Descent is much less daunting, however, there are benches for resting if this task becomes overwhelming. Most people don’t want to work to experience visual art.

When the elevator dings and the doors spread open on the fourth floor, visitors to the 2014 Whitney Biennial are faced with Gaylen Gerber’s contribution. Mr. Gerber is perpetually risking having his work go unnoticed. He concedes the center stage to other artist’s work as a means of activating his Backdrops. Often a delicate grey monochrome, his canvases mimic the architecture of the institutional spaces within which the work is shown, and can easily be mistaken for a painted wall. It is in this potentiality that Mr. Gerber’s work shines. His conceptual framework is rooted in potential and critique. He seems to be interested in the conversation between works of art that occur in the wake of their physical juxtapositions to each other and how those normative relationships are grounded in institutional critique. Understanding his aims requires a bit of work on the part of the viewer.

Installation View Gaylen Gerber with Trevor Shimizu 2014 Whitney Biennial

For over two decades, Gaylen Gerber has been working with a set of self-imposed restrictions that convey a minimalist trajectory but operate in an entirely different arena. By employing the work of other artists in front of or on top of his Backdrops, Gerber seems to ask himself the same questions that may be evoked within his audience. Our response to his work is predicated on the fact that Gerber understands how to be the audience and artist. He is aware of the possibility that his work could be unseen–that the audience will see the work that hangs on top his work and move on. He is also aware that one may round the corner as if to pass by his piece and notice the side of his canvas and stretcher bars–only by chance–that they had earlier mistaken for a wall. That viewer may, in turn, come back to the work and consider it anew. That is the potential that exists for every viewer–the possibility of dialogue spurred from intervention.

Installation View Gaylen Gerber with Trevor Shimizu 2014 Whitney Biennial

The potential for critical consideration and the ability of conversation to amplify meaning within physical objects are paramount in Gerber’s schematics, but the work feels genuinely concerned with the content of those prospective dialogues. The artists whom Gerber chooses to work with are a carefully selected bunch that act as the conduit that links his conceptual rigor with his sincerity and curiosity. In this iteration of his ever-evolving project at the 2014 Whitney Biennial, Gerber chose Trevor Shimizu, David Hammons, and Sherrie Levine to hang their work on top of his Backdrop. The first half of the exhibition opened with two paintings by Trevor Shimizu, and the second half saw work by David Hammons and Sherrie Levine–both later artists Gerber had worked with in years past.

It is through these works that one might distill meaning in his object, which is the backdrop and the pieces on top of it. The work by Trevor Shimizu is figurative, gestural, and two-dimensional and refers to a specific type of art historical conversation that alludes to the figure/ground relationship. Gerber understands the figure/ground relationship in Trevor Shimizu’s work as a way of activating the same dialogue with regards to the same relationship between Trevor’s work as “figure” and his own Backdrop as the “ground.”

Installation View gaylen Gerber with David Hammons and Sherrie Levine

In using Sherrie Levine and David Hammons’ work, which appears to represent two different art historical methodologies for dealing with abstraction, Gerber alludes to another interest of his own and spurs another new dialogue.  Among other possibilities, this specific pairing suggests that the idea of what an expression may be is multiplicitous. Expression may manifest as a material investigation through intuition and impulse, it may assert itself in a minimalist projection of time through a labor intensive application of paint, or it may be found in a grey monochrome painting that serves as the springboard for opportunity.

Gaylen Gerber has developed an artistic practice that manages to concern itself with his immediate interests while maintaining a strong relationship to the audience. His work blends an overtly skeptical view of how things work while accepting those parameters and making work to reflect his discomfort with normative boundaries. With this strategy Gaylen Gerber achieves new opportunities on old grey grounds that beg you to do a little work.

Skin and Bones: Taxidermy as Fine Art

May 6, 2014 · Print This Article

Brooke Weson, “Jonas Denver.”

This past weekend was the opening reception for the third biennial taxidermy exhibition at La Luz De Jesus in Los Angeles.  The exhibition included works from Jessica Joslin, Simone Smith, Divya Anantharaman, Emily Binard, Sarina Brewer, Kristin Bunyard, Kevin Clarke, Catherine Coan, Cindy Cronk, Bruce Eichelberger, Ai Honda, Katie Innamorato, Jeremy Johnson, Lauren Kane, Jeffrey R. Kibbe, Dr. Paul Koudounaris, Brian Poor, Emi Slade, Nick Veasey, VegA, and  Brooke Weston.

Emi Slade, “Arctic Merfox.”

The works in this exhibition span a variety of approaches.  Jessica Joslin’s constructions bring new personality to animal skulls by adorning them with glass eyes and vintage metal.  The adornments evoke jewelry, ears, wings, etc., and give each skull a new identity.  The titles of the pieces are these new characters’ names:  “Butch”, “Star”, “Annabel”.  The use of vintage metal, as with Chicago’s own Jason Brammer, draws inevitable associations with Steampunk, the subcultural aesthetic William Gibson brilliantly described as, “when Goths discovered brown.”  And it is admittedly difficult not to read Butch, with his underbite and spiked helmet, as one of the goblin guards from Labyrinth.  But these superficial associations, besides being inevitably annoying to the artist, are a distraction from the unique characters that are all Joslin’s own.

Jessica Joslin, “Butch.”

 

The word “charming” comes up a lot in attempting to describe the works throughout the exhibition.  It is a near universal that, like Joslin, artists working with taxidermy will create characters with an endearing personality.  Some, like Emi Slade, create threatening monsters that evoke the good old days of physical special effects creature features like Jaws or Critters.  But others go in the opposite direction, creating little animal friends with whom you’d be delighted to spend an afternoon.  Simone Smith’s “Dinner Underground” is a perfect example.  Taxidermied moles enjoy a meal of snails in their subterranean parlour.  From the upturned bottles and tilting glasses, it’s hard not to imagine that the little fellows have enjoyed a few glasses.  Sometimes art is about big ideas.  Other times, it’s as simple and funny as enjoying the idea of a couple of moles getting shitfaced.

Simone Smith, “Dinner Underground.”

Geoffrey Harrison and the art of pathology

May 2, 2014 · Print This Article

geoffrey harrison

Not many contemporary artists concern themselves too much with anatomy these days. It makes painter Geoffrey Harrison an exception to the rule. The Londoner is so familiar with the workings of the body and proximity of death, that he could teach shark pickler Damien Hirst a thing or two.

Both Harrison’s parents were medical illustrators. Last year he completed a residency at a pathology museum. And this year he is following that with a stint at a veterinary college. So while he might not be procuring corpses from a local morgue, he is quite at home with specimen jars.

“I’ve always been interested in anatomy,” he tells me by phone, “the gorier side of things”. But then he tells me he wants to “rehumanize” his responses to preserved body parts, saying: “I kind of want to get back some of the squeamishness that other people might have”.

Harrison is softly spoken and engaging . For a seasoned observer of the mortal condition, he is ready with considered responses, yet in evident possession of a sense of humour. Surrounded by the body parts and organs of humans and animals, he is working through a sense of desensitization.

At Barts Pathology Museum, this meant digging up a few facts on the owners of those disembodied organs one finds in jars. “In many cases there were background written about them. You just had to find them and read them,” he says.

“That made them much more emotionally powerful and emotionally charged as objects. That was a way to reengage on a human level “. But no matter how close Harrison has got to dead bodies, he is still perplexed by death.

“That’s a very difficult thing to actually really be honest about, or say we can cope with,” he says. So despite what he may have learned about pathology or animal illnesses, Harrison still finds the reaper “challenging”, and that is perhaps more honest than a bravura shark in a vitrine.

But Harrison is nevertheless drawn to the natural world. He says he really likes animals, adding: “They’re a great source of meaning and metaphor, which is why I think a lot of artists are drawn to animals. You can say quite a lot”.

“There’s a type of archetypal mythology with animals so you can, sort of by just employing the image of an animal, you can invoke a kind of coded meaning,” he adds. And never mind the fact that most of the poor creatures he gets to work with are long dead.

Harrison tells me about a recent drawing of a dog muzzle which had been sliced clean off. It seems a strange thing to aestheticize. “I want to make beautiful things. I still think that has currency. But I’m cautious about saying that I’m in the business of making beautiful things. I don’t think I am.”

“It depends on how closely you look at something,” he adds. But the artist also maintains that rather than beauty, meaning is the real currency of fine art: “Those hidden meanings… in what you decide to include in your painting and whether you’re aware of those meanings or not.”

But if a painted dog symbolises fidelity, as Harrison points out, what can a disembodied muzzle tell us? Not many artists traffic in the meaning of isolated body parts. Perhaps the meanings come to us only when confronted by a painting.

“For me painting seems to be this sort of process of allowing lots of accidents to happen and then leaving the ones that you like the most, compared with all the other accidents, and taking the credit for them as well,” says Harrison with a laugh.

Perhaps that is the difference between painter and surgeon. We don’t want our surgeons to leave things to chance.

You can watch a short film about Harrison’s work on Vimeo or read more about this artist at www.geoffreyharrison.co.uk

Top 5 Weekend Picks! (5/2-5/4)

May 1, 2014 · Print This Article

1. I want something more than my husband and my house at Chicago Artists Coalition

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Work by Oli Rodriguez and Jovencio de la Paz.

Chicago Artists Coalition is located at 217 N. Carpenter St. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.

2. SCAPE at The Franklin

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Organized by Sabina Ott with work by Alison Ruttan, Alex Tam, Assaf Evron, Joe Jeffers and Sabina Ott.

The Franklin is located at 3522 W. Franklin Blvd. Reception Saturday, 6-9pm.

3. FRACTURES AND DISLOCATIONS at International Museum of Surgical Science

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Work by The Excavating History Collective in Residence.

The International Museum of Surgical Science is located at 1524 N. Lake Shore Dr. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.

4. Wait for Now and Mmmmm at Comfort Station

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Work by Jessica Taylor Caponigro and Justin Petertil.

Comfort Station is located at 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Saturday, 5-8pm.

5. Land Grab at The Mission

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Work by Kasia Ozga.

The Mission is located at 1431 W Chicago Ave. Reception Friday, 6-8pm.

Under a tree and in a veranda with Aandrea Stang

April 30, 2014 · Print This Article

Guest post by Jacob Wick.

I met Aandrea Stang in her office, which sits waist-level with passing-by students on their way to the dormitory across the way, twice. The second time, I brought her a raspberry glaze cronut from the donut place near my house, which, like most donut places in LA, is called LA 24-Hour Donut or Donut 24-Hour LA or LA Donut 24-hour or something like that. Their cronuts are truly marvelous, and their donuts are great. Their coffee is terrible. I asked Aandrea about the program she now runs at Occidental College, a small, residential liberal arts college nestled the Eagle Rock neighborhood of northeastern Los Angeles. That program, OxyArts, is currently presenting We Will Show You Fear in a Handful of Dust, a participatory sculpture project by Los Angeles-based artist collective Finishing School in collaboration with artists Nadia Afghani and Matt Fisher (on view through May 9), and The Trouble Between Us: An exhibition organized by Kenneth Tam (on view through April 19). Watch a time-lapse video of the installation of We Will Show You Fear in a Handful of Dust, a full-size replica of a MQ-1B Predator drone aircraft that was covered in mud over the course of two days by participants from Occidental College and beyond, here.

The door to Aandrea Stang's office at Occidental College.

The door to Aandrea Stang’s office at Occidental College.

JW: Do you have free reign over all aspects of what you’re doing here?

AS: Do I have free reign to do whatever I want here?

JW: Yeah.

AS: Can you narrow the question please?

JW: I guess that’s just a really roundabout way of asking what you’re doing here. What is OxyArts? What are you meant to be doing? What is its relation to the school? It looks to me like it’s the sort of thing that an art institution—a museum—that’s attached to a college operates, like the Wattis [at the California College of the Arts] or whatever, but there’s no museum here—I mean I guess there’s the gallery, but…so is it an offshoot of the gallery?

AS: Well, the college president is really interested in the arts. He was at the New School before he came here, and he likes contemporary art—he has a stumbling-on-a-Jenny-Holzer story that he likes to tell. He really is interested in seeing the college’s arts programming be more visible, and he’s also interested in the college having a greater relationship to the arts community in southern California. So, as the one urban liberal arts school in southern California, and perhaps in California and possibly—I mean, I don’t know how many residential urban liberal arts schools there are—so the president really wants to take advantage of that and position this school as having a partnership/relationship with the arts community in southern California. There was a strategic plan written for the college several years ago and the arts were really strongly written into the strategic plan, and they saw my availability as an opportunity.

JW: What is the strategic plan a strategy towards?

AS: I haven’t read the whole thing, but it talks about where the college is ideally headed. Before this president came in, there was a lot of tumult; there was three or four presidents in two years. The economic downturn impacted the endowment. The school wasn’t in an ideal place, so the strategic plan was written to move forward—to aggressively move forward. [Occidental College president Jonathan] Veitch wanted to have the arts included. So I’ve been brought in to manage the brand of the arts, and especially the presenting component of the arts, on the campus, to the campus itself and also to a larger audience outside the campus. The overall list of things they want from this office is pretty long…

JW: Were you able to whittle down the list of things? It sounds like you’re asked to do everything.

AS: Yeah. For example they’d like me to be in charge of the college’s collection, which is currently housed in special collections in the college’s library, and given the pressing responsibilities the collection’s going to have to stay there until plans and policies are created. Additionally I am overseeing the gallery program and they are interested in seeing interventionist projects occurring on campus.

JW: Are you supposed to write any curricula or teach any classes? Or is it mostly an administrative position?

AS: For right now it’s an administrative position. We’ve talked about my teaching—and I adjuncted before I came here, teaching a class on how LA became a modern and contemporary art city—but it was agreed when I signed my letter for this job, while it was presented to me as a job description, that what I was signing was the description for my office, not for my job.

JW: It seems like you have some qualms—how much you’re being asked to do. Were you sort of trepidatious about working here, or…

AS: No. I’m not afraid of hard work, that’s fine. I was nervous about coming to an academic institution and what that meant—

JW: What does that mean?

AS: At MOCA, there was an acceptance that anything presented there was art. You know, you’re at MOCA, this is a project that’s being produced by MOCA, usually what I was doing was within the bounds of MOCA—not always within the physical space—but it was a museum project and therefore it was accepted as art. Here, the art department is small. Overall there are about 2000 students and I would say maybe 30 of them are art majors, or visual arts majors, so when you’re putting on a big project like Finishing School’s We Will Show You Fear in a Handful of Dust or Liz Collins’ Knitting Nation, people don’t necessarily know what they’re looking at. Since this campus is used so much for film shoots, half the time the students assume that an artwork is part of a set.

JW: Wow, ok.

AS: Welcome to southern California. This was California University for Beverly Hills 90210, and it’s been every college campus you’ve ever seen in the movies and on TV. Part of my learning curve is understanding that that’s the dynamic here.

JW: I noticed that the first couple of things you did here were in the gallery.

AS: The first thing I did was Liz Collins’ project, Knitting Nation, which I did with the sculpture professor [Mary Beth Heffernan] She and her sculpture students were very involved in the project—one of the course assignments was to work with Collins on the project. I was more involved in a managerial, administrative, logistical role.  Going into the project I didn’t know Liz, I wasn’t familiar with her work, but it was a good first project. We got on well and the collaboration with Mary Beth was a supportive way to ease myself into how things work at Occidental.

JW: How is OxyArts funded? Is it funded entirely by the college’s endowment or are there also private donors?

AS: One of my constraints here is budget, so I can’t do a lot of big programs until I have proper funding in place. Fortunately a generous family foundation is supporting an artist-in-residence program that’s starting this fall. Lucky Dragons is going to be our first semester-long artist-in-residence, which we’re really excited about. The foundation was interested in seeing the Artist in Residence program start last fall but since I had just started at Occidental I explained that it was too soon to put an effective plan in place. Their response was remarkable. They asked what kind of projects we could do for the coming year. We discussed these smaller residencies, which they were very amenable to. That’s when I began to consider what was possible.

JW: Do you think people receive these projects differently here than they would have had you done them at MOCA?

AS: Yeah, well the first gallery show [Devon Tsuno: Watershed] was really well received. It was comprised of lush beautiful paintings and other attractive elements. The show that’s up now [The Trouble Between Us organized by Kenneth Tam] doesn’t appeal to a general audience as much, but it starts an interesting dialogue. The students studying time-based media are mostly working in either documentary or fictional narrative, so this show has been an interesting teaching tool for their professors. I don’t know how the drone would have been received had it been sited in an art environment. It may have been perceived as didactic. Here I think it works. Here it is pedagogical. The artists understand their audience.  When I was told that there is one military veteran enrolled on campus, that made me that much more interested in doing this project. The airmen controlling the drones—or playing the videogames that control the drones—are the same age as the students here. And if there’s a class thing that you accept about who’s in our military now—that’s not the student body here. It is my assumption that the Occidental student body doesn’t have much of a relationship with our present-day military. I think making that actually tangible is an interesting thing. And there’s the whole making it tangible part, having people come and put the mud on it.

JW: To be part of this celebratory social experience of putting a drone in mud.

AS: Yeah, and having it be this sort of generous, barn-raising kind of moment where you’re patting down hellfire missiles. I think that has had a pretty provocative impact on the community here. On Friday I had an art history student in my office who was asking for some direction about a job after college. It wasn’t a conversation she was particularly comfortable having with me, a stranger.  We got to talking about the drone project, and her whole demeanor changed. She went from being very reserved to very honestly and comfortably expressing her excitement about the project. There’s a student in either history or politics doing a paper on it; one of the Diplomacy and World Affairs professors used it for her drone unit. It’s getting some traction. I think in a museum I might’ve pushed the artists away from a project like this.

JW: Because it was too didactic?

AS: Yeah. And here that gets flipped around and handled well. The setting of a beautiful college campus, the fact that every movie gets shot here because it looks like Joe College, that works to the advantage of this project. If you’d put this in front of something that looks like what we think a contemporary art museum looks like, how exciting would that be? I mean it’s still a big giant airplane covered in mud with Hellfire missiles, so it would still be exciting, but I think the setting…

JW: And it’s not even in front of an art building, it’s in front of an auditorium, right?

AS: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I think it works here.

JW: How would you say the work you’re doing here relates to the work you were doing at MOCA?

AS: Engagement Party—how to answer this?—it’s really interesting to look at this from the other side. You know, when we got the funding for the project I was really excited, and I had also been at the museum for eight years at that point, so…

JW: What had you been doing until then?

AS: Public programs. That had started to stretch into other programming. We received funding from the Irvine Foundation, as part of their Artistic Innovation Fund. At the time they were inviting the big cultural institutions in California—not just museums, but the symphony orchestras and the big theaters—to apply for projects that would be innovative in terms of both the artistic program—in how the institution interacted with its audience—and also innovative in a managerial sense. A lot was asked of this program. I had been interested in what we now think of as social practice for a long time. I had been looking at community-based art-making—what it was in the 1970s and 80s, what it became in the 90s, and how that transmogrified into what we think of as social practice. At the time of the application I was very involved in Allan Kaprow—Art as Life, working towards remaking his Happenings as part of the exhibition. For the year leading up to the exhibition opening I had been studying his work. As a result one of the things that I thought was important was to think about the idea of innovation broadly: how in a collecting museum do you support non-object-based work? On the managerial side of things, MOCA had always claimed that it was committed to hiring artists and other culture workers. That idea influenced how I selected the project team.  I chose either front-line or junior-level staffpeople—in some instances, middle-management—from most departments. This group collectively was responsible for both the managerial and curatorial oversight for this project.

JW: How long were people on this decision-making board?

AS: As long as they wanted to be. There were some people that were on it from beginning to end, four of us I think.  For various reasons other people rotated out and were replaced, usually by people from the same department. We tried to keep a representative balance.

JW: And it was a consensus-based decision-making thing?

AS: Yeah. And you know, museums are pretty hierarchical spaces and it was really hard for a lot of people to accept the flat management within the pyramid, to cut the line thorugh the triangle. It was interesting to me who wanted to be involved, who didn’t want to be involved, and which department heads were willing to have their people be part of the project. In some cases, the people who I thought were going to be totally behind it,  didn’t want to give up that much of their person’s time, and…

JW: How much of a person’s time was it?

AS: It was a an hour and a half meeting each week. With each cycle, as we drew closer to project dates, there were more things to do and more of the group members’ time was needed.

JW: How big was the group?

AS: The original group was thirteen people including one full-time staff person dedicated to the project.

JW: How did a typical meeting go? Was it you present a project and then talk about it and then vote?

AS: It was everything from soup to nuts. When we first started, I presented the group with the framework of the program, explaining that as a group we would have to complete the program design. At the same time—because of the limited timeline—we were working on the program design and making decisions about what artists we were going to be selecting. During the selection process for the first artists with whom we’d work, I was scheduled to go on vacation to Montana. I let the group know that while I was gone they needed to make a decision from the final two or three artist groups. It wasn’t a tactic on my part. I was going to be away, my voice was one of thirteen and we needed to keep the process moving. I got back, they had chosen the artists, and they understood that I was serious when I said that the program was a going to be a consensus-based management process and that they were really part of it. It wasn’t intentional; I was just going to Montana because I needed some time away.

JW: Where did the name come from?

AS: One of the educator’s husbands came up with it. We were trying to come up with a good name, and I asked widely for help. I don’t like having my picture taken and I can’t come up with interesting names for projects. Bonnie’s husband came up with it. Thank you William.

JW: It’s a good name.

AS: It’s a good name. It’s sort of a double-edged sword, though, because the artists doing the projects wanted to be taken seriously and if the work is part of something called Engagement Party is it really serious?

JW: Well, for one thing, there’s also political parties and those are pretty serious.

AS: Sometimes.

JW: But also I feel like something that’s nice about Engagement Party is that, at least in the social practice environment now, looking back at Engagement Party, it’s nice to see something that isn’t being weighed down by overly—it’s not couched in terms that are only accessible to people that are within this very small niche of social practice within the art world.

AS: That was the whole intention—and I think coming out of an education department had a lot to do with that. We thought a lot about and worked on how to present work that would garner the interest of the younger art world set, but would also will be something that a wider audience could participate in.

JW: Why were these audiences not already going to MOCA?

AS: They were, but the point was to try to get them more invested in the institution, not just as a place to visit but as something they were a part of, and what makes you feel more of a part of something than social practice?

[laughter]

AS: A place like MOCA needs to accept that it is an elitist institution, and I don’t mean that in a bad way—if you have an extremely limited amount of leisure time, unless you’re deeply dedicated to art, MOCA’s not going to be your first choice of what to do. Coming here was stimulating to me because that notion of audience is completely turned around, and I’m really interested in exploring that. Not everybody’s coming to the projects with any kind of aesthetic language, much less the same one—or they have an aesthetic language, but don’t know what it is, and I find that a really motivating challenge.

JW: How to make things make sense to people—how to make them intelligible as art?

AS: Does it matter that it’s an artwork? If a bunch of people are knitting on mechanical knit machines, and students are walking through the same space, what is their engagement? Are they there to watch, are they there because their economics professor wants—to talk about things, including labor…

JW: Like labor practices? Like people knitting as labor? Were they being paid?

AS: The artist was being paid, the non-student participants were being paid, and the student participants were there as part of a class assignment and were not being paid.

JW: Huh. Sounds like that would make a good class about labor practices.

AS: With Devon’s exhibitions, one room was painting, and one room had sculptural objects that looked very mundane, very banal, but were all hand-produced. I think Devon’s show was a really good moment with the students because I think they started to understand that a lot of things are artwork…

JW: Or a lot of things could be artwork…I guess maybe that’s the exciting thing about being here, is that a person can just walk by the drone and not think about it. Like inhabit the same space as it, but not notice it as art or even think to notice as art, not be an audience or a participant or a viewer or whatever—just be walking by.

AS: Last Friday, the senior media majors showed their final projects, their films. They had a reception beforehand in the plaza in front of that auditorium, where the drone is sited. Every person attending the event was forced to interact with the project in some way. Some people were just trying to move around it—in a  Tilted Arc kind of way. But many people were really engaging it.

JW: Is that something that you—are you always interested in what’s going to happen? Is that something you look for in projects? The possibility of a scenario where you don’t know what’s going to happen?

AS: Yeah. I think that’s interesting. Maybe that’s the product of too much time spent with Kaprow.  I don’t know how happy I would be working in circumstances where I know what the end result is going to be. I like working on projects that have some element of random chance. As a result, working on the exhibitions in the galleries has been interesting for me—exploring how that fits into what I’m thinking about. I like not knowing the outcomes of an art project. That said, I can appreciate people that go to the symphony to see the same piece of music many times. Whenever I go to MOMA I tend to go see the same works. And there’s comfort in that—but I don’t always like to be comfortable. Of course, I say this from this place where…

JW: We’re sitting under a veranda in comfy chairs with birds singing.

AS: Right, I find that a little—I don’t know. Look at what Pussy Riot is doing, or any number of political art groups—you know, they’re uncomfortable! I’m not uncomfortable.

JW: It seems like the experience you’re seeking here, with the projects you’re setting up, is this sort of aesthetic discomfort. Students walking into the gallery and seeing a milk crate that isn’t a milk crate introduces the idea that any milk crate might be a work of art, which is a different possibility. It’s a different sort of discomfort, which I guess is valued differently—because, you know, we like heroes and dying and all that—but it’s discomfort nonetheless.

AS: Yeah. I like experiences that force one to consider the aesthetics of their situation. Sometimes something’s just a shopping cart, sometimes it’s not. Donald Judds could be Donald Judds, but in a different set of circumstances they could be ductwork. Does looking at a Donald Judd make you look at ductwork differently? Kind of.

Aandrea Stang is the recently appointed director of OxyArts, a newly created multidisciplinary arts programming initiative at Occidental College.  From 2002 until 2012 she served as Senior Education Program Manager at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) where she developed and produced the museum’s public programming. From 2008 to 2012 she oversaw MOCA’s Engagement Party program, which offered Southern California–based artist collectives opportunities to make new artworks, interacting with the museum in unexpected ways.  Stang has held positions at local government and community-based arts organizations and served on the boards of several arts organizations. 

Jacob Wick is an artist, writer, and improviser who lives in Los Angeles. In 2013, he coordinated Germantown City Hall, an installation of civic space in a disused structure in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Germantown City Hall was a collaboration with Information Department and the Think Tank that has yet to be named…, and was commissioned by the 2013 Hidden City Festival with generous support from the Andy Warhol Foundation. His recording with guitarist Shane Perlowin, objet a, on tape cassette and for digital download, will be released by Prom Night Records on May 6th, 2014.