The MDW Fair has come and gone, and unlike most art fairs I actually had a pretty good time at this one, despite the frakkin’ chilliness of Bad at Sports’ area (note to self: next time bring space heater) and the general lack of hot liquid nourishment available. Thank god for Eric May’s hot dog stand and that Tiki bar (which I think had drinks??) at The Hills Esthetic Center area downstairs – the hot dogs rocked, but regrettably I did not have time to partake in any drinks. We were on the 3rd floor, where the panel discussions were held, and which gave me great access to the public conversations but felt a little, I don’t know, cold? in comparison to what was happening on the 2nd floor, which in general felt livelier and brighter and — for God’s sakes!! — so much warmer!! — than upstairs. We got some really nice recordings during MDW’s run; as long as we didn’t eff up the sound, look out for excerpts on Episode 300 of the Podcast. Thank you to everyone who stopped by Bad at Sports’ booth to hang out and/or record an interview! You were all awesome.
My personal take on MDW was skewed by the fact that I was sitting at a booth and took only periodic spins around the other floors, often in search of food and/or coffee. For what it’s worth, Floor 2 seemed like the most convivial and fun place to be; Floor 1, which housed the indoor Sculpture Garden, was expansive and lofty and a tad empty-ish in feel but showcased a number of terrific sculptures and installations that really needed all that elbow room; and Floor 3 was a tad quiet, which was necessary given that the public talks were taking place there. Floor 3 did have Steve Ruiz’s Chicago Art Review booth showcasing a really nice project by Philip Von Zweck. Von Zweck asked a number of artists to produce drawings that could be photocopied on demand and distributed for free – the result was a lovely little exhibition of the original drawings, each of which could also be “taken away” gratis, albeit in editioned, xeroxed form. Reminiscent of Stephanie Syjuco’s Copy Stand: An Autonomous Manufacturing Zone at 2009′s Freize Art Fair, Von Zweck’s project reversed many of the terms laid out by Syjuco’s endeavor (appropriately so, as the fair contexts in which each project was shown are polar opposite in nature). The results of Von Zweck’s collaboration were more homespun and less cynical in feel than Syjuco’s (though I love her concept equally, for different reasons). I especially liked the anticipatory aspects of translating an original artwork to xerox multiple — the speculation of how well the drawing you chose would come out in pure black and white tones, seeing the results slide out of the machine….plus I am a sucker for this kind of freebie art giveaway. I like stuff, and since I could not afford a piece by Melissa Oresky otherwise, this’ll have to do me.
I only had time to attend the full duration of one panel discussion: the conversation on New Chicago Visual Arts Advocacy moderated by independent curator Britton Bertran. Panelists included Abraham Ritchie, Chicago editor of ArtSlant and Chicago Art Blog blogger; Elizabeth Chodos, Associate Director of Ox-Bow; Laura Fox, a marketing specialist and board member of Intuit; Steve Ruiz of the aforementioned Chicago Art Review; and Barbara Koenen, an artist and the Director of Chicago Artists Resource. The panel explored the types of visual arts advocacy that will be necessary — and feasible — under Rahm’s reign. Their discussion was certainly more raw than cooked, which is appropriate, given the advocacy group they are planning to build is still in its early stages. As all of the panelists stressed, any advocacy group’s ability to move forward depends upon obtaining a larger community consensus about the critical issues to push, and the panelists laid out a basic framework for a discussion of issues that would be ongoing. Some key issues on the table–but certainly not yet finalized– include advocating for more live/work and exhibition spaces in Chicago’s industrial areas through changes or adaptations to the city’s current zoning ordinances; the need to articulate the importance of street artists and street art to the creative revitalization of communities (and to distinguish their activities from those of taggers); and the overall need for visual artists to better articulate how their activities benefit the city/neighborhood communities as a whole–true dat on the last point, though shouldn’t it be obvious? The rest is still on the table and ripe for hashing-out; this is a group to watch, and to ally yourselves with now if you want to change the landscape of creative production in Chicago for the better.
Enough with the half-baked notes; the following are a few snapshots taken by a decidedly un-professional photographer over the course of the two-day event.