Blog as a Medium

September 28, 2011 · Print This Article

I came across an article by Martin Patrick, Restlessness and Reception: Transforming Art Criticism in the Age of the Blogosphere, that discusses at length the role of art criticism today and — unlike most pieces I read about the state of the world — ends on a seemingly hopeful note. It thought I  could post something about it here because I find I’m often thinking about the web-context and what it means as a medium. I don’t especially feel like I have a handle on how best to exercise its talents, but I like chewing on the idea periodically, no doubt in hope of some Eureka! moment. “The web becomes a tool for ‘housing’ certain materials, indeed a virtual archive, or in Andre Malraux’s famous phrase a ‘museum without walls’ but then it is more important to ask how can newer arrangements, actions, conversations be created on the basis of these contextual settings” (Patrick).

I’ve seen a dramatic shift in Chicago’s critical dialogue. When I first moved here about seven years ago all anyone could talk about was the death of the New Art Examiner. Its demise added salt to the already throbbing (and ever hysterical) wound of Chicago’s second city syndrome. The Midwestern art market was not even capable of supporting a magazine that represented its interests and the rest of the country was disinterested in the activities of its midriff. While I’m likely misremembering the past (again, I’d just come to Chicago and did not yet understand its nuances), it seemed like that pang of insecurity propelled a number of other projects forward, as they insisted on creating modes of dissemination and representation. When I came here NAE had been out of commission for two years and its lament was continuous for the following four. Now, there’s an amazing vitality located largely on-line with artslant, art21, BadatSports (though I suppose B@S would resist the art criticism label standing somewhere between Vice and Cabinate) and many others. The mechanics of this phenomena are reflected in Patrick’s piece, as he points to the once-professional potential of The Critic (even in so far as it possesses archetypal potential); now much of the critical dialogue is activated and sustained by amateurs. Even those who are paid rarely expect a living wage and at best peddle together a variety of wages. “The blog—apart from the vast amount underwritten directly by corporate sponsorship—is most often an amateur/volunteer’s virtual space involving a greater probability of being generated and launched quickly, randomly, even haphazardly, and with more chance of rapidly ensuing back-and-forth discussions, responses, dialogue than a traditionally formatted journal, magazine or newspaper can generally allow.” That’s not to say the article is all positive.

This model of free labor is quite attractive to corporations. Additionally there some very real suggestions that the bite has been taken out of critical remarks (for instance, Mad Men’s ironic appropriation of the past that nevertheless collapses into a complicit reprise of old hierarchies, or how response to the Yes Mens’ NYTimes prank neutered the fake newspaper’s very serious critique message.) These aspects are also endemic to an Internet age, where we can constantly rewrite history. Then of course there’s the Internet’s shady origin story: “The origins of the Internet itself derive from the American attempt to establish a communications system in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack under the aegis of the the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) a wing of the Department of Defense, or ARPAnet[work]” (Patrick). Additionally the web facilitates a kind of sloppiness. (At this time I would like to retroactively apologize for my typos. If you want to be my editor without pay, give me a holler). But beyond slights of hand, on-line appropriation is fast, constant and cheap — it’s so easy, for instance, that images, text and ideas are borrowed, spliced, reiterated, misrepresented and so on and so forth. While on the one hand the frontier-like openness of this space, a space not yet settled and defined, is exciting; it lacks a codified rigor. It is still experimental and malleable and capable of much more. The question then remains: How to exhaust its potential as a response vehicle for cultural production? How do we embrace its shortcomings with its strengths? And does it truly challenge canonical ideas of art historicism?

“The internet offers a seemingly open public space that is simultaneously private, solipsistic, restricted. Within this reconfigured environment the digital archive acts as a kind of indirect critical mechanism and virtual repertory house for essential material to be potentially drawn upon by interested parties. That is to say, the accessibility lent to previously arcane and unusual avant-gardist phenomena goes a long way towards setting a tone for the integration of the wildly eccentric and experimental practices that are too long overlooked rather than solely the widely accepted canonical material which is in turn overexposed and despite its merits altogether lifeless. Thus the existence of new sites such as Kenneth Goldsmiths’ www.ubu.com facilitates the permissive and promiscuous notion of having experimental strands of poetry, prose, music, film and visual culture inhabit a treasure hunt/database ready to scavenged and relived via the use of mp3 files, YouTube-style streaming video, text files and so on means that Hollis Frampton, Marcel Broodthaers, Luigi Russolo and many more are incrementally closer to becoming household names” (Patrick).




Centerfield | “Multiple Possibilities” with Dan Devening on Art:21 blog

January 25, 2011 · Print This Article

Our latest “Centerfield” column is now up on Art21 blog. This week, I talked to Chicago artist/educator/gallerist Dan Devening of devening projects + editions. In particular, I wanted to learn more about the editions side of Dan’s project, because I often feel that artists’ multiples gets short shrift when it comes to contemporary art discourse. Devening Projects will be opening a new exhibition of artist’s multiples on January 30th alongside a new “Kabinett” exhibition featuring works by Andreas Fischer and Melissa Pokorny. An excerpt from the Art:21 interview is below; please click on over to Art:21 to read the full piece! Also, the Art:21 interview is excerpted from a much lengthier transcript. We’ll be posting the full exchange with Dan Devening here on the blog tomorrow.

Claudine Ise: Can you take us through the process – both the creative and production sides—of creating an edition/multiple?

Dan Devening: In most cases, when I propose the publication of an edition with an artist, I’ll show them a bunch of examples of recent work and use those examples to open a door to what’s possible within the project. Mostly, I’m hoping that they’ll take up the challenge and approach the process as an experience that can expose their practice to something new. Because there is the necessity that the work be an edition, the requirement that there be multiple copies of the work sets up a nice set of parameters. The artist may have some ideas about how they might proceed and if that’s the case, we’ll start talking about production methods or options. The great thing about doing editions with artists is that they’re artists; they’re trained to be creative problem solvers, so I’ve never been disappointed with the editions that have come out of these conversations. For example, a recent piece from Nathaniel Robinson called Dreg is a resin-cast styrofoam cup. It’s a one-to-one replica of the real thing—including teeth marks near the rim—that also includes a set of greasy fingerprints on the inside of the cup. I don’t know how Nathaniel made this edition of three and I don’t think I ever want to know. The mystery of this modest little object is its beauty. My only fear with Dreg is that someone will mistakenly throw it in the trash. (Read  more).

Nathaniel Robinson, “Dreg.” Pigmented polyurethane resin, acrylic paint.




Anne Elizabeth Moore : On Copyrights and Fulbrights

January 10, 2011 · Print This Article

I recently interviewed Anne Elizabeth Moore for the Art21 blog. Our interview ran over the prescribed length but I was still pretty fascinated in what AEM had to say. Thus, I’ve posted the extension of the interview here. First, we talk about copyright issues–what seems of real interest, given that making visual/creative work (especially outside of a stream-lined commercial business context) begs such questions. For instance, I’ve worked with authors who have insisted on using Creative Commons (not a problem with the GLPress since the author/artist always keeps the rights to whatever we print), and Creative Commons is awesome, maybe even preferable, but how to think about it? What does it mean? Well, Anne Elizabeth Moore to the rescue, because she has thought about it. ALOT. Maybe in part because her namesake created the first copyright way back when. Aside from copyrights, we also talk about her Fulbright and what she’s doing in Cambodia. Which is also well worth the read. So.

CP: How do you deal with copyright issues?

AEM: Depends on the project. I’m not a big fan of current copyright law and it’s ease for corporate abuse, but I’ve also seen how the copyright activists tend to be these loud, masculine players who are just as aggressive as, say, those corporations that virulently defend their copyright despite fair-use defenses. So let me say this once: demanding I give up my copyright as a matter of politics is just as shitty as suing me for using yours. I’ve been involved in some fairly big-deal copyfights, and I’ve just seen the same thing, over and over and over: the loud white obnoxious psuedoradical dudes, usually also the best educated and with the most money, consistently have the most say. It’s weird, right? That in this supposedly deliberate anti-corporate field of criminal activity, we’ve got the same problem as in boardrooms across America: rich white dudes grabbing all the power. So I started to look into it more, and it’s a pretty complex matter. Because copyright doesn’t actually cover all matters of intellectual property rights: there are a ton of things that we do, make, use, and create that we don’t bother to assign copyright to. Cooking, for example, and quilting and knitting and sewing. Traditionally known as women’s work. Most of this isn’t eligible for copyright because, in the theory that went into creating the law, they worked from the accrued common knowledge of a group of people and result in products that are intended for private consumption. So: the law is publicly acknowledging that some work traditionally identified as feminine doesn’t matter in terms of this law, which after all is about the right to have ownership over, but also profit from, your own work. This is therefore a law that is fundamentally flawed, in several different arenas. Fighting it on its own terms isn’t going to change the basis of our understanding about the kinds of work that matters and the kinds of work that don’t. And so also, Creative Commons isn’t going to challenge this law to the degree I feel it needs to be challenged. And look at the basis of the law: that the accrued common knowledge of a group of people working together on something? I’m all about that kind of work. You cannot tell me that it does not have value. Although I will hear arguments that its primary value is in creating corporate-resistant structures unacknowledged by our current legal system. But we get confused in the States. When the legal and corporate world tells us something has value, we don’t have much space to rethink that. Even the copyright pirates, right? The copylefters, a thing that I first heard about in zine culture: this is a proposal to freely re-use work, to open it up to any and all users, for any purposes whatsoever. This is helpful, but it doesn’t say, here are all the ways this law is wrongly established.

What I’m for is the first copyright. Some 1790-ish thing called the Statute of Anne, this first copyright law in the UK gave creators rights to their own work for a very reasonable period of 14 years. The end. It would be great if this applied to all created works–quilts, family recipes, etc.–and if the profit-making edge copyright has taken on especially in recent years were eradicated from the whole deal, so that creators would feel empowered to defend this work for this short time on the basis of its own merits and not for its money-making potential. But until copyright law is challenged fully and on all the bases that I feel it needs to be challenged, I will continue to respond to each individual project with a unique take on copyright that challenges it on the grounds I think it needs to be challenged on.

Like, a 2004 zine about Starbucks marketing and branding strategy in underground culture. Because they had recently tried to take Kieron Dwyer to court, an associate from my comic-book days, I assigned copyright of this very critical piece to Starbucks, and then distributed it inside Starbucks around the US. Actually it’s still in circulation, and I just got an email from someone who found it a few months ago. [ONLINE SOMEWHERE AT ANNEELIZABETHMOORE.COM] Or I will pirate things when I need to—the American Girl Doll cards, for example. I have yet to do a project where I needlessly copyright something created by a large number of people just to prove a point, but I do assign full credit within works I complete on their behalf, and don’t register them for separate copyright. And then here in Cambodia, there is no copyright law. So every single thing I do here is purely contributory, or could be, or hopes to be.

CP: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your Fulbright….

AEM: So I was invited to teach media and communications in Phnom Penh for the winter term, and I actually just gave a little intro lecture to my students yesterday. There, because the country’s been so poor in the past–it’s developing now, and rapidly–the way globalization takes hold is really, really evident. And because there is a visible middle class there now, whereas there was not three years ago (when I started working there, on the self-publishing project I mention above), there are also the markers of the middle class: namely, advertising. What I’ll be studying here with my students is the rise of advertising in a country where most of the nation earns less than $60 per month, often supported by young women in the garment factories, who of course unknowingly supply the world with clothes sold under brands like H&M, Gap, Adidas, Bennetton, and Nike. What happens in an insane context like this is, those same brands are being pushed on the makers of them, but no connection to the process of creation, or between their wages and the price point, is ever acknowledged. Yesterday I met a kid who proudly whipped out an iPhone he doesn’t know how to use. You may know I first came here right after my book Unmarketable came out, about the cooptation of the cultural underground by marketing forces. It was very well received, and this was all very exciting, but there I was in Cambodia where, like the town was getting excited about the very first KFC (called here Khmer Fried Chicken, of course) opening up. Unmarketable made no sense. I was asked to come give a lecture on it at a university here, and it was like, OK: but first I have to explain what a cultural underground is, and then I have to explain about what marketing is. And then I have to explain what resistance movements are. Now, in three years, Cambodia has caught up the our most globalized cultures in terms of advertising if not in terms of actual economic development. What’s up with that?




Caroline Picard is art:21’s newest guest blogger!

January 4, 2011 · Print This Article

Just dropping in to draw your attention to the fact that Caroline Picard is art:21 blog’s newest guest blogger. Caroline starts out with a bang with her interview of photographer Melanie Schiff. A brief excerpt follows; please hop on over to art:21 and check the full post out!

Melanie Schiff, "Self-Portrait After John's Party," 2008, Digital C print.

While always being aware of her work, Melanie Schiff snapped into focus shortly after I first heard about Ox-bow, the School of the Art Insitute’s residency program in Saugatuck, Michigan. Friends came back from a summer there looking a little wild. Melanie’s work–color-rich photographs of youths blending into trees, whiskey bottles glinting like a candle in a bath of morning sun–offers a portrait, not just of Ox-bow, but of a feral, post-adolescent youth. It would be inaccurate to distill her prolific energy into one characterization; her work is lush, well-composed and ever-sensitive to silky light. Those aesthetic concerns transcend specific subjects. In addition to empty skate-park landscapes and attic rooms, she has made self-portraits with bong hits, another with raspberry-nipples, another involves spewing water in the sun (always reminds me of Tony Tasset), or the one above, where she reclines in a sea of empty bottles glinting like a deteriorated Jeff Wall interior: these gestures position her-self-as-artist, approximately tied to a flanking landscape of, often exclusive, culture. Whether holding the Neil Young album before her head, or photographing a motel room once occupied by Kurt Cobain, her presence adds an idiosyncratic awareness to these cultural referents. In an effort to explore that affect, I asked her a series of questions, primarily about the camera and its gaze. This is one interview in a series of many that explores the self on either side of the camera, while thinking through the respective position of the artist. (Read more).




Centerfield on art:21 blog: “Sustaining Practices”

December 29, 2010 · Print This Article

Our latest “Centerfield” column is up on art:21 blog! Actually, it went live yesterday, while I was flying home from Los Angeles so…apologies for the late linkage here. This week, I tried something slightly different: a roundtable Q&A session that addresses the question of how different people sustain a cultural practice over time. It’s a question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and it seemed particularly appropriate to ask as the end of 2010 draws to a close and we look forward to a new year, new projects, new relationships–all of which need fresh infusions of energy, creativity and enthusiasm. The discussion was really meaningful to me, and I’m very grateful to Britton Bertran, Duncan MacKenzie, Caroline Picard and Philip von Zweck for sharing their experiences with us. I hope you find something meaningful in the conversation, too! Happy New Year everyone.

The following is the entire text of the discussion which appeared in yesterday’s “Centerfield” column for art:21 blog.  The “Centerfield” post had been edited somewhat for brevity.

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Lately I have been thinking a lot about sustainability and sustenance. Not the environmental kind of sustainability–the personal and emotional kind.  Chicago’s art community is rich in relationships, but like so many other ‘art worlds’ out there, it can be a bit less bountiful when it comes to monetary compensation, feedback, and consistent forms of validation. So I asked four longtime Chicago-based cultural practitioners–independent curator and arts educator Britton Bertran, artist Duncan MacKenzie (co-founder of Bad at Sports),  Caroline Picard, an artist who runs the small but highly-regarded Green Lantern Gallery and Press, and Philip von Zweck, an artist whose work often involves project-based collaborations–a few questions about how they have sustained their own practices over time, and especially after a project has run its course. How do they stay sharp and engaged and committed over the long haul? How do they keep on keepin’ on when the going gets tough?  Read on to find out what this group had to say.

Claudine Ise:  Describe the work that you do. What forms has the work taken? When its form has changed, what were some of the reasons for the change?

Britton Bertran: My work is cyclical. I started my “career” here in Chicago working for a well-known and very progressive not-for-profit art education organization.  It was hard and fulfilling programmatic work placing ‘teaching artists’ in mostly underserved Chicago public schools.  It was also mentally exhausting, especially the part when we all sat around and planned the future of arts integration.  Around 2005 I decided to open my own commercial art gallery (called 40000). There were many reasons why I did this but one of the main points was jettisoning the funk of non-profit work off of me and diving in to the wild world of working with artists for profit (theirs and mine).  Three years later, and a month before the great economic collapse of 2008, I closed the gallery. There are a myriad of reasons why I closed the gallery.  To this day, I am simultaneously extremely relieved for shutting down but will also ultimately regret doing so.  After that I worked for a local philanthropic foundation doing a preliminary report investigating the feasibility of opening a contemporary art space in Chicago. Meanwhile, the aforementioned economic collapse waylaid the philanthropic element of the foundation and hence the feasibility of operating such a space.  Currently I am working for another Chicago-based art education not-for-profit with a more encompassing, less intense mission that is equally as challenging but not laden with the philosophical conundrum of solving the world’s problems.  It’s very satisfying and comes with a real live paycheck.

Interspersed with the jobs I have had in for the last 4 years or so, I have also had a secondary career as an independent curator and instructor in the Arts Administration department at The School of the Art Institute.  Curatorially, I put together two exhibitions a year – one at a more Institutional level and one at an artist-run or alternative gallery space.  As an instructor, my classes revolve around the art business, institutional contexts and the history of both.

Economics and the highs and lows of professional frustration seem to be running themes in my personal work history.  The one constant is education.  Its also important to point out I am not an artist.  I don’t make work as “product”, but one of the ongoing mantras of art education (specifically in secondary school, but really at all levels) is the sweet dance between product and process.  What is each of these things in the first place?  Can you have one without the other?  Where does the satisfaction of learning make itself known?  Retention of information or basking in the glow of acknowledgment: which should take precedence or how should they be intermingled for maximum effect? These are the questions I have been working with throughout my “career” and I believe it will be a long pursuit.

Duncan MacKenzie: The work that I do has taken, and takes, many forms. The way that I work now is collaboratively, sometimes that means working on the  “Bad at Sports” project and at other times that work is with an artist named Christian Kuras on an object and image-based practice. As a young artist, I was trained in several really active communal print shops, a series of film sets and a small graphic design firm. Those experiences left me with a real strong drive towards communal working and a need to share broadly both the authorship and the result. This is a very different way then the traditional “heroic artist” locked in their studio wrestling with a canvas. I don’t love spending my time all alone working through a series of problems and puzzles which I’ve situated for myself. I like and need the energy colleagues bring to projects.

Before these current collaborations, I had thought of myself and worked as a… I don’t know, for lack of a better term, postmodern pop artist, and developed a “style” which was reflective of pop culture, post-structuralism and of other “conceptual looking” art practices.  That started to change when I confronted the reality of being a “print specialist.” The worry that was taking root had to do with how constraining a traditional printmaking practice can become and how that can limit its producers and their participation in a broader art world. Printmaking is so seductive in its process and its materials that artists attracted to it tend to become very invested in virtuoso printing and work in the closed community of international printmakers. I started to bump up against this boundary and began looking for other strategies with which to access the ways that I was thinking. Initially, I begin by looking at video and animation work and situating a practice of appropriation and collage there. Then that reach was extended out towards electronics, model building, and photography. Through those processes I began to engage sculpture and found that most of the ideas that I wanted to follow-up on needed a discourse that was more, or maybe less, lonely. Then, at roughly the same time, I started to collaborate with Christian on making sculptures, and Richard Holland and I started talking about doing a podcast about art.

Caroline Picard: For the last six years I have been running a non-profit gallery and press called The Green Lantern. During that time I have continued to work independently as an artist and a writer. I think these projects inform one another–in many ways I’ve thought about the Gallery and the Press as being significant influences on my own work; particularly when the space was in my apartment, I came to think of it as a kind studio-research. During the first five years, that’s where everything took place– in my apartment–I’m very interested in creating intersections for different artistic mediums, so it was a great place to experiment curatorially. I was also very interested in thinking about the intersection of public and private space and how that context might affect a viewer’s experience of contemporary artwork, whether it was poetry, or a painting exhibit, a music show or a performance.

After five years the city shut down the project because (and as a result of zoning) I did not have, nor could I acquire a business license. Last September I opened a second storefront space which will close in January of this year. As part of this second plan, I was trying to put together a business model which would sustain the non-profit gallery via a for-profit cafe/bar/bookstore/performance space. I couldn’t find that space, and after a continued accrued cost had to close up shop. The Press will continue and I’ll continue as its primary editor. We also have a very cool on-line indie-lit bookstore, (in my on-going championship of pipe dreams, I have a vague hope that said bookstore will serve as my primary income).

Philip von Zweck: From the early 90’s (as a student) until relatively recently most of my projects involved either producing a form for others to fill and/or making projects for a non art audience.  For 15 years I produced a weekly radio program of live performance and sound art recordings that were submitted for broadcast; I have an ongoing project called Temporary Allegiance which is a 25 ft flag pole that anyone can sign up to fly anything they want on for a week at a time; I ran a gallery in my living room for 3 years in which I presented solo shows by people I trusted with keys to my apartment; I’ve made books which are compilations of pages submitted by friends; for my show museum show a few years ago I made a chain letter and mailed it to the museum’s mailing list; I co-founded the radio art collective Blind Spot which produced 1-hour works live to air- the list goes on, but there was a set of politics I was really guided by, and adhering to them eventually caused me to feel distanced from my own practice. I got to a point where I just wasn’t as interested in doing those sorts of projects, or feeling like I had to do those sorts of projects anymore.  So recently, a few years ago, I begun showing paintings- I’ve always painted and drawn but didn’t show them because it didn’t fit in with the other projects and those took precedence.  I wouldn’t that I have abandoned the previous set of politics and I still really like a lot of those projects; it’s just that I’ve come to a different way of thinking about them and my role as an artist.

Philip von Zweck

CI: Can you describe one, or some, of the happiest and/or most satisfying period/s of production you’ve experienced thus far, and what made it so? In turn, can you talk about some of the “low points.” What brought you down? How did you pick yourself back up again afterwards and find the where-with-all to start fresh?

Britton Bertran: The opening night of the first exhibition I put together for 40000 was the happiest most satisfying 5 hours of my professional career.  A completely fulfilling experience that squashed a good six months of the most terrifying anxiety I’ve ever known.  Quitting my job to start my own business without any financial security or previous gallery operating know how was also one of the stupidest things I have ever done.  Looking back now – part of that happiness was pure obliviousness, but seeing 300 people come and pretty much stay that night had a profound affect on me.  The literal act of taking a space and preparing it for art looking is one thing, but preparing it for art socializing and art commerce is another.  I learned a lot that night (process?), through the literal and figurative haze, that I still employ today (product?).

My low point was realizing how screwed I was by the overall economic situation that happened not too long ago.  Either I was too arrogant to think I would never have work, or I thought I was just plain invincible, but that was the most incredibly depressing and scary 6 months of my life.  Part of my problem was the fact that I had convinced myself that I had paid my dues and that a job, in the art world please, should just come waltzing my way, take my hand and whisk me off to that thing called adulthood.  It was around this time (as I was selling my lovingly collected vinyl records in order to eat), that I realized I had built a solid network of individuals that could help me.  Pride swallowed I groveled, professionally, and just asked. Within two months I was working.

View of opening reception for "Artist Run Chicago" at the Hyde Park Art Center, curated by Britton Bertran and Allison Peters Quinn

Duncan MacKenzie: All of the most recent satisfying moments were times in which I felt very connected to our projects and felt like others were as connected to the result. One of the most amazing experiences, recently, was doing  “Don’t Piss on Me and Tell Me its Raining” at Apexart in NYC. What made it such a delight was to know and have tangible proof of what our project is meant to the hundreds of people who been involved in its production. It was amazing to feel so intimately connected to so many other artists.

The low points for me are almost always the same. They are the moments that I feel like the art world is either just like a clique-y, bitchy, catty high school popularity contest or like a fashion Mall and all the things we make are just as disposable as this week’s “Entertainment Weekly.” They are always the moments that make me feel like we are not a community but a bunch of humans who represent opportunities to each other and should just be used as opportunities. It seems so obvious that we should be advocates for each other and support an overall growth but the evidences suggests that despite working in “culture” we are hyper competitive creatures. So I guess they are moments when I feel disconnected and disregarded. Thankfully it is as easy to get out of picking up the phone and reaching out.  All it takes is a little reminder that we all feel alone, awkward, and like no one cares but everyone of us does this because we know how meaningful it has been to us and that we still share in it.

Caroline Picard: High points: I think my consistent favorite moment will always be the point an audience (of whatever sort) has settled into attendance–when the program has begun and the work is done–whether that’s the work of an administrator, or a producer. For me, those moments resolve the otherwise insatiable existential question (in my mind) of what art is for because art is precisely for that moment; at least that’s how it strikes me in that moment. That moment also demands a certain giving up–there is nothing left to do but allow the occasion to happen, and to try and be present for its happening. My other favorite moment is the deep concentration that happens when I am working on my own, whether writing a piece, or painting, or editing–this is my other favorite thing. That deep concentration–I don’t really know what else to call it, but it’s like everything else in the world gets quiet while I’m totally focused on exploring and developing a particular idea. That moment gives me a huge re-charge (you ask about this later). It’s maybe a little like meditation? I don’t know.

Low points include: Discovering typos in my writing, for instance–particularly if those typos point to some never-before-recognized ignorance–what are they called, lacuna? I think this space closing a second time is another one of those moments, despite my realizing that there was no specific failure involved–I am proud of what the last six months have brought, thrilled that I got to work with such great people and participate once more with the Chicago art community. Yet, I am conscious not fulfilling the larger, albeit abstract, vision I had undertaken. Why this, or realizing typos would inspire embarrassment, I don’t know–it must be some hangover of a waspy background, or a childhood fear of Scandinavian silence (my grandmother had a strategy called “deep freeze” that was remarkable). And then as far as how to get through that stuff–I don’t think there’s any trick beyond being patient and humble and adopting a sense of humor (I like to think of my consciousness like my grandmother–if it/she shames me I make a slew of jokes which, more often than not, work because they fail).

Audience attending a screening of "Now It's Dark" at Green Lantern

Philip von Zweck: The times when I am the most productive – and therefore happiest – artistically are generally times when everything else is going right; the times when I’m neither broke or pulled in a thousand directions (from taking on too many jobs or commitments), when I’m in good health, relationship, community, etc. When those things start going wrong it is really hard for me to make work, it becomes a feedback cycle- things not going well leads to being bummed out, which leads to not making work, which leads to being bummed out, which leads to…

Perhaps the lowest point came from doing a project in which I was treated poorly by the presenting organization. What should have been a great experience seriously made me never want to make work again. How did I pick myself up? I didn’t have a choice, I had already committed to do another project, and that one went swimmingly, actually way better than expected and that was enough- not that the previous experience has left my mind, but I’ve mostly moved on.

CI: All of you are engaged in practices that involve lots of other people (though I know that several of you maintain studio practices, too). I often think through my own personal quest for ‘sustenance’ in terms of introversion versus extroversion: sometimes, we recharge our energy by spending time with friends and collaborators, other times by being alone. So, how do you recharge — and how does it help you sustain those practices you most want to engage in?

Britton Bertran: The relationship between institutional and individual memories, as a conundrum, is fascinating to me – and worrisome.  In order to combat that, I have made a real effort to reflect on my personal and professional experiences (process) in order to better inform my future (product), especially when it comes to being a part of the immediate art world around me.  I also believe it has to be more than just taking pictures. The essential part that I concern myself with is finding ways to reflect, edit, and share those experiences.  As official memories, of the institutional kind, seem to be becoming more and more overwhelmed by the collective desire for the next memory, harnessing something that I would call “The Slow Memory Movement” might become more essential.  This Slow Memory Movement (akin to the Slow Food Movement) would emphasis the personal importance, or pleasure, of remembering and the sustainability of its impact on oneself.  (I also have been reading as much post-apocalyptic science fiction as I can get my hands on which, beyond the pure entertainment factor, does wonders for the reflective process).

Britton Bertran, Touching the Art at the Volo Auto Museum, Volo, IL. Photo: Bridgette Buckley.

Duncan MacKenzie: Recharge? I read crime novels in which wizards solve crimes, and comic books. It is the source of a small amount of shame, but a couple of years ago I felt like everything in my life was connected to art production and I needed to find something that I was not going to try and plug back into an art world.  Now it seems likes wizards are the order of the day and I am looking for novels about dinosaurs solving crimes.

Caroline Picard: Top 5 Ways to Recharge would include:

1) Deep and quiet thinking about a particular subject which is engaged through writing/visual work. The act of making something discrete–something very often totally “useless”–then makes me very happy.

2) Being with friends (of course), art-friends and non-art friends both.

3) Making Jokes, which I think I too easily forget. Making Jokes should probably be no. 1.

4)  I have to admit, though I will immediately disown this, I also recharge watching some sort of television-thing, preferably an episodic serial drama.

5) Making non-art things like food. Or dreams.

Philip von Zweck: I don’t ever consciously think “I need to recharge” but I spend a lot of time alone and- not that I ever set out to not work on art, but really- it is very hard for me to not work on stuff. Sometimes this can be recharging, working in the studio can be a good antidote to a day at the job. But I guess for me it would be spending time with friends. A lot of ideas and projects come out of just hanging out, I think this is why I’ve done so many collaborative and social projects, they are both rewarding and rejuvenating.

CI: Thank you all so much for sharing your experiences and ideas with me and with our readers at art:21 blog.