“I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long…
No one is dissatisfied, no one is demented with the mania of owning things…”
– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Two weeks isnâ€™t time to make much work. While I was at ACRE this summer as one of several residents, I quickly realized how short, yet how important the time was. I left my life behind with great expectations, all of which were just shy of fulfilled, but what I gained was so much more than what I had hoped. Two weeks, I found, is just enough time to figure out where you are, how you are going to communicate with the people of the life you suddenly left, introduce yourself to 50 strangers, start making work and realize you never what to leave, and then, its over. Its just enough time to take a chance on something, knowing that the end is right around the corner, but that youâ€™ve still made a commitment. Its enough and not enough — in our real lives, two weeks rarely means anything, because it never has a beginning or end, just bleeds from the past and into the future. At a residency, it is a liminal space and time, where all constants are upended without chaos. Any residency worth its salt can make your head spin with new ideas, old ideas seen new, new connections, blown minds, failed pasts and energetic futures yet to fuck up, and ACRE was no different — I am still reeling from the conversations and influence of the people I met there. But no where else is there a way of life that is not separate from art (at least not until the modern day Commercial Gallery gurgled and choked its way out of the murky banks of the Galapagos Island communal bathroom, where hundreds of exotic species of semi aquatic animals did their business). ACRE was about art, as a real and true way of life, that life could not exist without feeling your bare feet in the dirt and sand, your junk in muddy water and your mind in a swirl of whiskey, beer and camp fire, back again early the next morning, up with the rooster, a cup of coffee and a new book from the library to start fresh.
Photo by Lisa Walcott. Used with permission.
ACRE (Artist Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions) has just completed its fourth year as an artist residency based out of Chicago that occurs for three two week sessions each summer in the heart of the Driftless Region of Wisconsin. (Just a little east of the Mississippi on the bottom part of the state.) Residents utilize a fully staffed Wood shop, Screen printing studio, Recording studio and A/V Cabin while drawing from the sheer open space and beauty of the property. Rotating visiting artists, critics and presenters influence the space along with organic conversations that are a product of an artist bee hive. This model draws from the pedagogy of many graduate programs in art, yet ACRE removes itself from the institution due to its structure. Roughly twenty volunteer artists and musicians organize and run the program, volunteering 6 weeks of their summer (even more while planning the resulting exhibitions of past residents) towards helping others make art. Instead of focusing on their own work they facilitate the work of others.Â Right here, organization, politics and the board controlled interests typical of an institution are gone out the window, leading into a more natural system where everyone – staff, residents and visiting professionals – are interacting with each other the same. Communal meals, lovingly prepared by a dedicated kitchen staff, are perhaps the keystone of this success. Symbolically, class distinctions of laborer / patron are not just blurred but forgotten.
We started to see that money wasnâ€™t present at ACRE. Yeah, we all paid for the residency and it was understood that it was crucial to everyone getting there. But through generosity and time did everything exist in the space, in an ever growing forgotten area of Wisconsin. At ACRE, money was only needed in the neighboring town of Boscobel, which only sold cheap beer by the 30 pack. (At least, Iâ€™m pretty sure that was their major industry.) Creating a space where financial transactions were discouraged helped separate the real world from this special place. Class distinctions, power struggles and money were nearly eliminated at ACRE. With only two weeks, a society cannot be established, and with the staff insisting on doing all the work involved with operating the residency, a utopian model does not completely apply. (Not that utopia is what they are after.)
Utopia as a reality is impossible to sustain, as human drama will eventually overcome and surmount a perfect existence. Some asshole always finds a way to get his agenda to the top of our concerns. Instead, what may be proposed here is a part time utopia: a form that allows a brief exposure to a utopian system in a format that seems possible. Likewise, the temporal nature of the system actually allows it to thrive, as human nature never gets the chance to ruin it. Able to geographically remove ourselves from city life we could fit within a more fulfilling life in this part time utopia; a utopian model which recognizes the inevitable failure of utopias. In the span of a two week residency, utopia can exist. We started to get it. Hammering it home was Ukiah, a six person artist collective from the Bay Area, who leave their day jobs once a week to build a cabin out of fallen timbers and mud on a ranch property. What does it mean to have a part time or temporary utopia in the context of art? Does this mimic how art is often made, in spurts of spare time, extracted from the pressures of the real world? Could a model of a part time utopia be sustained on a personal level? Is the idea of utopia important to the creation of art? Is its manifestation proof that art can create social change, or merely a distraction from art making? Do you really want to live forever? Alphaville lyrics reprinted without permission?
Utopia CAN happen, maybe only once a week, for two weeks at a time or a few moments, which can be nurtured. Maybe with practice, it will be with you always. For me, utopia is drifting down the Kickapoo River on dollar store inflatables mixing warm Pabst with the river water. Its singing Stevie Nicks and Otis Redding songs with everyone around and not caring who hears you, but that you’re heard. Its playing a four string Fender Squire in an empty grain silo that is better than an amplifier. It is eating a meal with 50 other people each night knowing all the ingredients were carefully and lovingly chosen from the immediate region. It is a constant exchange of ideas, and ideas as commodity, where money is replaced by beer or help with a project. Its understanding why Nick and Phil never wore shoes, and wishing you never bothered to pack any. Where dinner is served overlooking the sunset, and each sunset is better than the last. Every night is a celebration of the work done that day. Even the mosquitoes are contributing to your existence, saying: You Are HERE, as the mall map markers of the rural midwest. Fuck yeah, ACRE: You promised me transcendence in an email, and in real physical sweating pissing reality you delivered it.
SINCERE thanks goes to ALL the amazing staff who made this experience possible, and every resident, who, without being wiser, went along with it. Thank you. Thanks also to Lisa Walcott, for lending a photo of her experience.
This week: After an inexcusably self-indulgent, alcohol fueled intro where Duncan, Richard, Dana and Emily and Nick from ACRE join us, we get on to an excellent interview. Part three of our St. Louis series recorded at the Contemporary Art Museum-St. Louis. This time we talk to Juan William Chavez and Kiersten Torrez about the Northside Workshop, bees, social practice, and record an advert for penicillin.
Northside Workshop (NSW)
Northside Workshop (NSW) is a non-profit art space dedicated to addressing cultural and community issues in North Saint Louis. Our programming focuses on incorporating socially engaged art and education with the goal of fostering social progress in North Saint Louis communities.
In 2010, a collaboration with the Old North Saint Louis Restoration Group, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation and artist/cultural activist Juan William Chavez began an intervention to regenerate a historic North Saint Louis brick building in danger of being destroyed. Two years in the making, this building is now transformed into a dynamic community art space.
Juan William Chavez
Founder and Director
Juan William Chavez (born in Lima, Peru) is an artist and cultural activist whose studio practice focuses on the potential of space by developing creative initiatives that address community and cultural issues. His projects include Urban Expression for the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, the Northside Workshop and the Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary. His awards include the Art Matters Grant, the Missouri Arts Award and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. In 2012, Chavez received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.
Director of Programming & Sustainability
Kiersten Torrez is an arts organizer focused on innovative sustainable practices. She has aided in developing community-based projects such as Beautification of Vacant Space, the Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary and Team Cookbook (creative workshops designed to community build through the sharing of recipes and stories in Old North Saint Louis). Torrez is currently planning a Year of Listening, a series of socially engaged events focused on coâ€“generating programs to address the physical and social dimensions of the Old North Saint Louis neighborhood.
Everyone knows that going to a museum or a gallery is usually more trouble than it’s worth. What, with all the disapproving glances, heady talk and questionable wine selections. Wouldn’t it be easier just to look at art while you shop? Or during your morning commute to the Loop?
Citizens of Chicago, have no fear. Murals and public commissions are popping up all over (and around) the city. Just this past week the CTA announced the seven artists commissioned to beautify North Side Red Line stations. Lynn Basa (renowned public artist and my former boss) posted this mock-up for her Byzantine glass mosaic that will adorn the Argyle stop on facebook. Basa, who [literally] wrote the book on public art commissions mentioned to me this weekend that she is elated to be creating a public work in her hometown.
Basa mock-up for the Argyle station.
As if the CTA commissions weren’t enough, some of my very favorite Miami artists from Jim Drain to Bhakti Baxter have been descending on the town of Rosemont to complete murals in a new mall scheduled to open sometime this summer. For reasons beyond my comprehension, the ever-relevant New York Times devoted print space to this “ambitious” project. What’s the T? has heard that the mall will also feature an Alvaro Ilizarbe piece that is “his sistine chapel” and worth the trip to the mall-seum. See you there?
Chicago artist, Josh Reames, working on the Drain mural.
Threewall’s ‘Power of Ten’ was a party for way more.
Those artists sure do clean up nice!
Screw Basel and Venice, the Threewalls 10th anniversary benefit this weekend was on point! The Power of Ten at Salvage One had everything – food, drinks, crazy antiques and baubles, steampunk-style old-timey tin-types, circus performers, drink, dancing, a silhouette cutting artist, music, drinks, and even some art.
Even though we still don’t know where they’re moving (do they even know where they’re moving to?!), here are ten fabulously done-up attendee’s in honor of the power of ’10′:
Threewalls Programming Director, Abby Satinsky with artist and curator, Anthony Romero. Abby’s dress is just killer and La Croix continues to trend.
Auction guest curators and Chicago fashion icons, Ben Foch and Chealsea Culp of New Capital with Threewalls Director Shannon Stratton.
Formerly featured on Who Wore it Better, the daper Daniel Tucker and Anthony Stepter.
Artist Jason Lazurus flanked by up-and-comers Raven Munsell and Jesse Malmed. LOVING the seersucker suit!
Face paint was definitely a big winner at the ACRE Block Party last Saturday, June 8th.
Consistently referred to as the worse post office in the world, the Roberto Clemente Branch of the USPS in Logan Square is a wonderfully ‘brick’ building, not in material but in shape. Thats not to say it’s shaped like a brick, but the bricks become different shapes. I say this because brick is on display, not for what it wants to be – sorry Lou Kahn – but for what it tries to simulate. It’s like when Neo sees Agent Smith shrouded in binary code – parts to whole, whole to parts, but without the make-up.
Post office exterior.
Usually used as a traditional building material, mostly flat and controlled through joining patterns, bricks do not become cylindrical columns, filleted edges, curves, almost tapestry like frames for tall beautiful window displays of people waiting two hours for a package, like at the RCPO. Opened in 1937, this building threw me for a loop because I dated it later, but the deco interior and amazing mural insice should have been more of an indication.
The mural in all it’s glory.
The changes in the bricks attitude is mad postmodern, but it was done at the mid-stage of American modernism, lending itself to the deco ideas of streamline. That would explain the curvaceous bod on this beauty, but not her brick dress. Beauty might be only skin deep, but when you use rounded bricks to complete a homogenous cladding of a building that could have been expressed in steel or another more plastic material, you’re trying to say something about normal buildings out there, namely ‘who cares what the brick wants to be.’
Located at 2339 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
SLAC studios take hold on Milwaukee Ave
Artists revitalize storefronts in advance of MAAF
If you live in Logan Square you’ve probably been wondering what happened to that garrish pink bakery on Milwaukee Avenue near the Spaulding Blue Line stop. Unwilling to let it lay dormant, Gwendolyn Zabicki, founder and director of the South Logan Arts Coalition is putting this and other vacant storefronts on Milwaukee Avenue to use. SLAC’s studios will be open to the public with exhibitions featuring a total of 40 artists during the 2013 Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival, June 28-30th.
What’s the T? caught up with Zabicki and some of the SLAC artists for sneak peek of what SLAC has in store for MAAF:
Location to Station: Help my ACRE homies fulfill their vision quest to super rad places like Cahokia. The artists are all super talented, and the “perks” for donating are real sweet.
ACRE Kitchen: ACRE does a lot of intangible things for the over 90 artists who visit the residency in Wisconsin each summer, but one of the most substantial and delicious parts of the program is feeding everyone twice a day. Anyone who’s been to ACRE knows the food is awesome, fresh, sustainable, all that jazz and the staff is tireless. Help ACRE help you! Plus it’s tax deductible. Hurry! There’s only a few days left!
1. RAPID PULSE, an international performance festival, is taking place this weekend and next week. The Chicago Reader just wrote a great something something, with the evocative sub-header “Wafaa Bilal wants Twitter’s help to inflate a giant head, and other oddities, at Defibrillator Gallery’s second annual Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival.” Find out more info about that here, or if you want, download the schedule of events via this link: RP13_poster-brochure.
Our friends at ACRE launched a Kickstarter Campaign for their unique Residency Kitchen Program. There (among other things) you can get a copy of the ACRE cookbook, and support a good program that feeds creative acts/minds all summer long. In their words:
We believe meals equal community and the ACRE kitchen strives to foster a place where residents, visiting artists and local farmers can cross-pollinate.
Funds raised through kickstarter will go towards supporting locally grown and produced agriculture and conscientious businesses, purchasing equipment that will make the kitchen more efficient and sustainable, our yearly cookbook KADABRA, a collection of recipes from each year’s residency, and will give us the support we need to keep creating a diverse selection of considered, artistic, and nutritious menus for our residents.
KADABRA VOL 3, Annual Cook Book
cover designed by Edie Fake & Daniel Luedtke
artwork and recipe contributions by the ACRE Kitchen Staff & Resident Alumni
3. THE FLOOD THAT NEVER CAME:
I often overhear and/or participate in conversations about cultural amnesia in the arts â€” shows and spaces come and go with out a trace. Despite material evidence, however, I believe finite works continue to exercise their impression well into the future. With that in mind, I responded to a recent call on Art21’s blog asking for articles about hindsight. I responded by writing a review of Heather Mekkelson’s show, Limited Entry, at a long-gone apartment gallery, Old Gold:
It was the summer of 2008. It was hot. And humid. Everything was green and/or sweating. People who didnâ€™t sweat stood out. Their reserve both enviable and mysteriousâ€”a contrast from everything else. Refuge from the heat was similarly impressive and constantly sought. Most apartment galleries were barely tolerable for their heat. At cooler exhibition sites, visitors inevitably took considerable time examining the works of art on display. That August, Heather Mekkelson had a solo show at an apartment galleryâ€”or what maybe we should call a basement galleryâ€”half a flight downstairs in Logan Square called Old Gold. With its dark 1970s style wood paneling, built-in bar and enough floor space for a pool table, Old Gold looked like an old rumpus room. It was anything but neutral and its unapologetic, undeniable character forced artists to continually incorporate the space into their exhibitions. Mekkelsonâ€™s project was no different. Limited Entry was based entirely on the unique environment. And at that particular time, it was significantly cooler than anything outdoors.
In order to access the stairs down to the gallery, one walked through a front gate and around the side of an apartment building. According to rumor, the landlord and upstairs resident did not know Old Gold existed. Being an unpredictable fellow, gallery directors Kathryn Scanlan and Caleb Lyons preferred to keep the professional aspect of their curatorial project discreet. They didnâ€™t advertise much and the only label on the door was composed from Home Depot stickers, appearing more like the absent-minded work of a teenager than anything formally significant. This place was easy to miss. (read more)
4. Longtime Chicago champions Elijah Burger and Deb Sokolow are featured in VITAMIN D2 (video courtesy of Western Exhibitions):
Chicago has had characters â€“ both architects and buildings â€“ throughout itâ€™s development as a place where things get built, regardless of if people want it or not. Bruce Goff, a transplanted Chicagoan, was a character and produced them. Goff was a child prodigy that started practicing architecture at 12-fucking-years-old and was doing weird things before they were cool i.e. Pre-PoMo; hell, pre-WWII.
The Bachman house was completed in 1947 and landmarked in the 1980s. This single-family home sports a straight-up sheet metal faÃ§ade thatâ€™s closer to a shed than a home. The sharp triangulation and peak of the Bachman House roof volume gets bisected by an even more acute triangle, held up by two symmetrical equilateral ones â€“ architects did love drawing with their triangles! The front and center in-your-face nature of this bungalow only gets weirder by placing it within a typical Chicago neighborhood laden with brick 3-flats and masonry walk-ups. Goffâ€™s fortress (many people compare his work to castles) does not embrace local flavor superficially. Instead, it totally engages with Chicagoâ€™s, â€œbuild first and ask questions laterâ€ attitude to architectural culture. Unfortunately, that approach comes with a disclaimer that the Daleyâ€™s and Rahm both espouse: â€œnothing or no one stands in the way of development.â€ Meaning not even landmark status can save buildings anymore in Chicago.
Maybe they didnâ€™t get the memo that architects are used to projects never getting built, let alone mostly working in virtual reality, so you can kill a building but you canâ€™t kill architecture.
Featuring work generated rounds of Harkins’ own game, Native American Fax Machine is on view through May 25th at Happy Collaborationists. If these .gif’s are any indication (which they obviously are), this show is definitely worth checking out. Bonus points for contributing to the landline trend! The instructions for your own round of Native American Fax Machine are included below:
A game played with 6 or more players.
Each player selects a card with a noun.
Each player has 3 minutes to draw the noun.
The players move the drawings clockwise.
Players then have 1 minute to copy the drawing.
Players pass the drawings until they have made the same amount of copies as players.
The last person to draw the noun has to guess the original noun on the card.
Composite of “caribou” from the NAFM
.gif of “caribou” from the NAFM
E-Dogz: ZomÂbie ApocÂaÂlypÂtic Refuge Center
Something to ease the loss of “Walking Dead”
When the zomÂbie apocÂaÂlypse goes down, weâ€™ll all have to think on their toesâ€“ watchÂing our backs as we hit the roadsâ€“ escapÂing the ravÂenÂous army of undead relentÂlessly purÂsuÂing our craÂnial tisÂsues. The livÂing will have to eat too and the mobile kitchen of E-Dogz will be a beaÂcon of nourÂishÂment in these end days. Eric â€œE-Dogâ€ May has teamed up with Rimas Simaitis to equip the food trailer to travel land and sea, feedÂing the peoÂple in these dyer times. The zomÂbie plague actuÂally began genÂerÂaÂtions ago, conÂjured through black magic by Voodoo priests on island nations durÂing the glory days of the high seas. To honor the zomÂbie resisÂtance of yore, E-Dogz: ZomÂbie ApocÂaÂlypse Refuge CenÂter will host a tiki party to ward off zomÂbies and serve up doomsÂday cuiÂsine and cirÂcuses. This event may feaÂture, but will not be limÂited to: Spam nigiri, entoÂmophagy (look it up), flamÂing cockÂtails, and/or coconut short wave radios.
Eric May & Rimas Simaitis present:
E-Dogz: ZomÂbie ApocÂaÂlypÂtic Refuge Center
May 13th, 5pmâ€“ 7pm Gallery 400
in response to Halflifers