Work by College for Creative Studies students Austin Brady, Megan Leigh Jessup, Sean Maxwell, Tom Burns, Fatima Sow, Andrew Mehall, Maggie Kozma, Benjamin Thompson, Eric Maurer, Kristina Sheufelt, Shaina Kasztelan, Jen Wang, Leucochloridium Paradoxum, Joanna Marie Care, and Jordan Stohl.
6018 NORTH is located at 6018 N. Kenmore Ave. Reception Saturday, 5-9pm.
Work by Anastasia Chatzka, BEERY/KARP, Carl Moberg, Catie Olson,EC Brown, Jonathan Ozik, and Tom Burtonwood.
New Capital is located at 3114 W. Carroll St. Reception Friday, 7-10pm.
Work by Marissa Lee Benedict and Brittany Ransom.
Chicago Artists’ Coalition is located at 217 N. Carpenter St. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Work by David Alekhuogie, Rashayla Marie Brown, Alexandria Eregbu, Christina A. Long, Hannah Rodriguez, and Cameron Welch.
Sullivan Galleries is located at 33 S. State St. 7th fl. Reception Friday, 4:30-7pm.
Work by Sam Jaffe.
65GRAND is located at 1369 W. Grand Ave. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
The Love Librarian is in. Another Valentineâ€™s Day may be behind us, but Detroit-based artist Chido Johnson still wants to talk about love. For the month of February, Johnson is the official Love Librarian of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), cataloging, digitizing, and facilitating public engagement with his ongoing project, Letâ€™s Talk About Love Baby, a growing collection of artist-made romance novels. Since its founding in 2008, the Love Library has expanded from Detroit to include branches in Chicago, Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia. Each chapter has its own resident Love Librarian whose task is to invite a group of artists, (who in turn have invited additional artists), to contribute a book to the burgeoning collection.
The current Detroit archive consists of works from artists and collectives who cross all media and cultural demographics, and their variable portrayals of love and romance range from the steamily satirical to the unnervingly intimate. â€œHeart Abortionâ€ by Suite42, (Danielle Julian Norton and Tarrah Krajnak), is an homage to art world-induced heartbreak bound in the pages of Artforum; Scott Johnsonâ€™s â€œGuilty Love,â€ is a volume whose pages literally reflect the reader-as-author bound in narcissistic self-love; and Ed Brown and Annie Reinhardtâ€™s dual volumes, â€œBirds + Shell,â€ consist of a cassette and player housed in a pair of two unassuming covers of Danielle Steele paperbacks. Each book when ensconced en masse is equally compelling, and upon closer examination, the works reveal maker, collector, and reader as agents bound by an affection for, well, affection, in all its mysterious and salacious incarnations.
The Love Library was born from a time of crisis. Creator Chido Johnson sought to address the violence and devastation of the current moment with a project that could serve as a generative counterpointâ€”love being a force that similarly leads to undoing and affect. Exploring a subject that many would consider taboo in the context of academia and fine art, Johnson ventured beyond the pop precedent of Robert Indiana, the unsubstantive sparkle of Damien Hirst, and even the digitally-networked quotidian community of Miranda July and Harrell Fletcherâ€™s Learning to Love You More. Indeed, Letâ€™s Talk About Love Baby is a different brand of cheese altogether. Johnson’s library reminds us that universality doesn’t preclude difference, and sometimes quirkiness can be found in clichÃ©.
I spoke with Chido Johnson, Love Librarian, in residence at MOCAD.
Sarah Margolis-Pineo: So, letâ€™s talk about love. How did this project begin, and how is love as a subject significant for you?
Chido Johnson: The idea for Love Library [Letâ€™s Talk About Love] began when I was teaching in Sweden in 2008. This was just when violence in the Gaza Strip was escalating, and when Zimbabweâ€”where I was born and raised, was going through a horrific time. An image that has stayed with me from that moment is news footage of a doctor amidst the shelling in Gaza being interviewed live by a friend who worked for the Israeli TV. While he was being interviewed about the conflict, he was told that his familyâ€”his daughters were just killed by Israeli shells. It was crazy. At that time, I was thinking that as an educator we donâ€™t talk about love, sex, or religion, and for whatever reason, these are all no-nos in an academic setting; instead, we talk about psychology and identity, and I felt like we were missing the meaty stuff of life. Later, talking about this issue with one of my colleagues in Sweden, I knew I wanted to address this idea. I was moved by it.
SMP: Why the form of the romance novel?
CJ: I was raised in rural Zimbabwe where we didnâ€™t have television. My mom was a medical doctor and for her downtime she would read Mills and Boons, which is the British version of Harlequinâ€” novels that are more toned down and more romantic than the very hot, highly sexualized versions that are over here. Really, it was the only form of entertainment, and I used to read at least one romance book a week.
This romance novel project is a way to address the cheesiness of loveâ€”how itâ€™s perceived as a cheesy subject, packaged in cheesy formats like the Harlequin novel and the top-forty movie. I had to address the work in a totally cheesy wayâ€”I embraced the cheesiness. The thing about the romance novel is you tend to discount this shelf immediately for its cheap paperbacksâ€”as a one-night stand kind of experience, but then, if you really let yourself go into the project, you can be caught. The love story is human.
My work has been always curious about othering and the formation of assumptionsâ€”assumptions of self and of other. The idea is to look down the shelf and see all of these homogenized objects. Itâ€™s only when you pick one out and spend some time with it that you realize that itâ€™s so different. It was really important to the project that this work was not made by me, rather, I invite people to participate in it. It had to be about the collectivism, and it had to be about the assumptions of the similar and the shock of the differences. We are enriched by our differences, not by systemized similarities. Thatâ€™s what I really wanted to push with the project.
SMP: Itâ€™s interesting, because as you rightly point out, thereâ€™s a distinct stickiness between numerous elements within the work including: fantasy and reality, serial and singular, and ephemeral and eternal. Can you speak more to the objecthood of this work?
CJ: Yes, this project definitely speaks to the book and its perceived temporalness. These objects here are very much alive â€”in touch, caress, smellâ€”yet in our present time, books have become the object of nostalgia almost similar to a hand written letter. So that physicalness was very important too, and I think thatâ€™s why I specifically called out to artists who would approach work so differently, but are very conscious of the physical nature of objects. Each book is a very physical experience.
Growing up, my father was an artistâ€”a political activist and a puppeteer. As a child, I really enjoyed making puppets, and for me, a puppet has a defined role and function. It has a purpose, a cultural function. So i see the work being very raw, naked to its actual role, thus very real, and not dependent on an existential narrative. Itâ€™s an object that is what it isâ€”it exists through a performative act, not through its fabricated narrative. I see traces of that here in the Love Library, and also in the project in the next gallery, [Laugh Detroit].
SMP: Iâ€™m also interested in the collaborative aspect of this project. Primarily, you solicit the participation of artists contributing to the work, but then you also have the continued activation of the project through the lending library and the physical interactions with the viewing/reading public. First, can you speak to the logistics of participation in this projectâ€”is there an open call, for example? And more generally, what does participation bring to your practice overall?
CJ: Thereâ€™s no open call, and itâ€™s up to the Love Librarians to extend the invitations to artists to participate. All the people who I initially called are people who I totally admire and respect. I called them individually, and then I told each one that they could in turn invite one person to participate. Thatâ€™s how it grew, and now in all the different chaptersâ€”Chicago, Addis Ababa, [Ethiopia], St. Louis, Harare, [Zimbabwe]â€”the librarians there can extend their own invitations to allow those chapters to grow. Itâ€™s amazing how it slowly creeps and expands. Looking at these shelves, I know everyone here is so intimately connected and thereâ€™s so much love and respect that exists here. I wanted to keep the project real that way, the feeling of a community.
On top of that, I guess, as any artist tries to do, I always try to question the ways we present work and how we interact with an audience. What I really enjoy about the idea of a library is that is that itâ€™s not an immediate, total experienceâ€”itâ€™s a changing space that has to be constantly interacted [with], and itâ€™s intimately interacted [with]. I like that itâ€™s not being perceived as art, so people can perform the work and have a natural experience rather than a trained experience. At first I thought that I would have the public check-out books, but right now, books are still coming, so Iâ€™m here every day cataloging. Iâ€™ve held back from checking-out books because now Iâ€™m very protective of all the books in the show.
Iâ€™ve been starting to think about that. Itâ€™s gotten to the point now where itâ€™s a project that I feel honored to be a part of, but itâ€™s a lot of work. I do everything: run the website, self-sponsoring, ship books back and forth, so Iâ€™ve been starting to think of what to do in the long term. Itâ€™s a responsibility I have nowâ€”itâ€™s not just a project, itâ€™s a responsibility, and these are really precious books.
SMP: What struck me immediately about this project is its seriousness. Despite the clichÃ© fantasy of romance novel, by in large, these artists presented very real, very moving, very intimate narratives through making these objects.
CJ: Thatâ€™s what shakes me up! A friend of mineâ€”that colleague in Sweden who I mentioned earlier, she passed away last year. Her book is a copy of Romeo and Juliet; she removed all the text except for the words that bind. The pages are sort of translucent, so as you flip through the experience of it is almost like a riverâ€”like water, but itâ€™s still mapped out as the pages were, so there is an internal order. She did this book in honor of a friend of hers in Sweden who was a Fluxus artist who passed away at that time, and since the artistâ€™s own passing, this has become a truly powerful piece. I remember sitting down in Ethiopia meeting a group of artists and introducing the project. In the beginning, I have my rap about the project: this is what itâ€™s about, itâ€™s all about love, etc. But then when the work actually happens, every time, itâ€™s totally moving. Itâ€™s then that the realness occurs. People tell their stories. Thereâ€™s one couple: heâ€™s in Ethiopia, and she is attending school in Texas. Since the day theyâ€™ve been married, theyâ€™ve been separated by a great distance with no funds to travel. Theyâ€™re book is a collection of emails sent back and forth across the globe during their separation.
Love is something thatâ€™s trapped in us. The world is in such a state now, thatâ€™s itâ€™s almost like we have to hold on to somethingâ€”some sense of realness. Weâ€™re at the height of crisis, and people become overrun with emotion. Really, we need love.
Chido Johnson is the head of sculpture at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, and was a 2009 Kresge Fellow. Currently, he is the Artist-in-Residence at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) as part of the Department of Education and Public Engagement Space Residency, where the artist has installed his Love Library and will be serving as head librarian. On Sunday Feb. 19, 12-4pm, Johnson will facilitate “I Love You and Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!” as part ofÂ Laugh Detroit, also on view at MOCAD.
This interview is part one of two. On Thursday March 2, Bad@Sports will post part two of Sarah Margolis-Pineoâ€™s interview with Chido Johnson.
September 8, 2011 · Print This Article
Leon Johnson is an artist and educator whose practice traverses poetry and performance, film and food. He is an avid researcher into the multifaceted nature of social relations, and seeks to engage with the world at large by cultivating situations that emerge out of myth and (re)enactment. If forced to fix a label to the liquid ebbs of Leonâ€™s creative work, Iâ€™d have to take a cue from Liam Gillick, (episode 220), and describe it as discursive practiceâ€”a method of art making that involves the dissemination of information, and it looks to the structures that underscore the sharing of ideas as a space of productive art practice. Operating within the discursive framework allows Leon to go beyond the scripted role of reflecting, generating, or denying a problem in his work. Rather, it allows for problems to be projected within concrete, albeit temporary realities, which become situation-specific sites for ongoing interaction.
In essence, Leon is engaged in â€œthe creation of new zones of intimacy and social possibility,â€ (to borrow from Okwui Enwezor), and he achieves this through installation, performance, video, photography, print media, and the production of discrete objects. Most recently, Leon orchestrated interactive spectacles in Detroit and New York, and he is currently working on a three-part film that will be shot in three locations. Leon is the operating Chair of the Department of Fine Arts at the College for Creative Studies in downtown Detroit, and is an aspiring beekeeper. We spoke over the course of the summer by email.
Discussed: Failure, problem-production, armies of unprepared debtors, beehives, Gatsby, Homi Bhabha, Naked Lunch, pleasure producing exploration
Sarah Margolis-Pineo: Iâ€™ve heard you mention that failure is a place to begin creative labor. Can you articulate on that statement, and express how it might relate to your current practice?
Leon Johnson: In that unholy mix of intention, aspiration, reference, mimicry, parody, pastiche, mastery – an alloy that forms the foundation for many of our creative embarkations – we can, at best, produce an iteration of where we have already been, or someone else has already been – there is in failure the possibility forÂ emotional contagion, produced by aÂ not-knowing, and aÂ non-recognition. Here is whereÂ the bodyâ€™s imagination takes over, and creative galavantingÂ for pleasureÂ begins. Failure is where problems worth having are incubated.Â Where am I? Today? This moment?Â What have I left behind? Left out? Left in?Â What scares me?Â What in the work has activated my emotional curiosity?
SMP: If Iâ€™m understanding correctly, you envision creative possibility in the failure to communicateâ€”it is where the systems of language, knowledge, reference and affect dissolve, where compelling work can be realized?
LJ: No, I am not a concerned about failing to communicate – that is never an aspiration of mine, to have people “understand” – but I am conscious of when “what I know” can no longer serve the act of creation – I am seeking for “not-knowing” to take over and lead me into new possibilities, new problems. Communicating, if at all, through process and problem-production rather than product and solution-production.
SMP: This notion of problem productionâ€”is this where mimicry, parody and pastiche are incorporated into your work?
LJ: No, it is where I hope to avoid those kinds of reflexes. The kind of traps one sees MFA art students lining up to dive in! Our job should be, in fact, the incubation of variables, and the production of difference. This suggests incredibly vivid spaces of making and learning, if we keep our processes porous and our conversations healthy and emergent via constant engagement.Â Sarat Maharaj states it beautifully:
“As we canÂnot quite know beforehand what form this will takeâ€“each instance is difÂferent and unpredictableâ€“we have to be wary about attempts to regulate artistic research, to knock it into shape of the academic disciplines, to make it a lookalike of their logic and architecture. What matters today is its â€˜differenceâ€™â€“the distinctive modalities of its knowledge production.”
For the most part art schools are habituated through non-distinctive modalities of knowledge production, and Â mimicry, parody and pastiche are set as default containment areas as institutions go about their primary business: the production of armies unprepared debtors.
SMP: These â€œnon-distinctive modalitiesâ€ have been so fundamental to theories of postmodern/postcolonial cultural production, and historically, have been related to difference in the deconstructuralist sense. How can the academia cultivate thinking and producing beyond the postmodern when that structure is indeed the default?
LJ: Students, faculty and administration have to be partners in, at least initially, de-stabilizing the default mechanisms of art history, notions of mastery, and the departmental silo system. We have to migrate across departmental boundaries often and pleasurably. We have to conjure new and exciting alliances – as mentioned above, more creative gallivanting for pleasure! Here, for example, it is critical that the art school be passionately engaged with the city of Detroit – with other artists and institutions, yes – but also with the urban prairie, the people and communities of the city, with gardens and with beehives, with retired auto-workers, bacteria and mushrooms, and all the other remarkable resources around us. Our world of ideas, and relationships, is infinitely richer than a few square blocks in Chelsea.
SMP: Iâ€™ve been interested in Nicholas Bourriaudâ€™s recent thinking on what he has termed precariousness, which, (borrowing from Zygmunt Bauman), refers to the liquidity of contemporary social life, and the fundamental instability that is integral to compelling works of art. In a recent essay, Bourriaud wrote: â€œA precarious regime of aesthetics is developing, based on speed, intermittence, blurring and fragilityâ€¦ The contemporary artwork does not rightfully occupy a position in a field, but presents itself as an object of negotiation, caught up in a cross-border trade which confronts different disciplines, traditions or concepts. It is this ontological precariousness that is the foundation of contemporary aesthetics.â€ Thoughts?
LJ: For me the speed and complexity of contemporary communications, that produce uncanny new alliances, destabilizes the suggestion by Bourriaud of an order, or an aesthetic location, called “precariousness” – an artist likeÂ Vik Muniz and a project like Wasteland convinces me of that. Bracha Ettinger, moving beyond the defaults of empathy and sympathy, calls it “besidedness” – fabulous, no? – that conjures the potential ofÂ “almost-impossible borderlinks”. This suggest a rather remarkable notion of what the “classroom”, the “studio”, or the “city” might be for us.
SMP: Iâ€™d like to get a better idea of your process. Was your most recent piece the work featured at Lemberg Gallery this spring? How did this work evolve, and what did it entail?
There were two concurrent projects most recently: the Lemberg project “DEN, PYRE, THORN” and a project titled “I CANNOT BE SAVED WITHOUT YOU” which was part of the Live From Detroit exhibition in NYC, at Fred Torres Collaborations. Both evolved together, both featured a meal for audience/participants, collaboratively produced infrastructure, and both featured variations on performance. The Torres dinner, prepared and served in the gallery, featured a custom built dinner table by Jamie Johnston, hand-blown glassware by Tim Southward and Dave Helm, commissioned dinner-bowls and pewter hardware, and a six-course dinner prepared by a crew of three, Christopher Biddle, Leon Johnson, and Leander Johnson, my son – for twelve guests. This project was initiated finally, after years of gestation, by a fragment of writing I did for a catalog being produced in Canada:
“A tentative intimacy of the kind sketched skillfully by Fitzgerald, as Gatsby regards Daisy; â€˜They had neverâ€¦ communicated more profoundly, one with another, than when she brushed silent lips against his coatâ€™s shoulder…â€™ – but the perfumed damage is not far behind, the sea-moist beard and the bile, the twelve-penny-dagger and the burnt-bone eyeliner.”
I imagined a dinner of intimate irregulars selected from the audience at the exhibition – for a kind of one-night-stand. At the head of the table, it turned out, was Alison Knowles one of the founders of Fluxus, and the author of the IDENTICAL LUNCH project. Amazing! The table with all the detritus, remained on exhibition for the rest of the month of the exhibition.
The Lemberg project marked the 25th anniversary of the death of the French author Jean Genet, and focused on three of his novels, The Thief’s Journal of 1964, Miracle of the Rose of 1966, and Funeral Rites of 1969 – each represented in the gallery by 15 first American editions of each book in a sculptural system including shelves and mirrors. I served a light dinner for 50 audience members, contextualized by a spoken word performance performed by Michael Stone-Richards,Â Morgan Marentic,Â andÂ Sound artist, Dan Steadman. The performers were served dinner in custom porcelain dinner systems produced by Marie Perrin-McGraw. The project evolved from my study, and love, of the work of Genet for over 30 years, and in particular his book Funeral Rites writtenÂ for the author’s lover, Jean Decarnin, killed by the Nazi’s in WWII.
SMP: Could you speak a bit more to your emphasis on multiple-fronts of collaboration?
LJ: I treasure the conversations I am lucky enough to be part of – and I actively seek to incubate new ones all the time. I consider the nurturing of convivial discourse not only pleasurable, but a critical creative act. All my work emerges from these conversations, all production is dependent on collaborative engagements – some 20 years in the making, and some brand new.Â The process of making work for me relates distinctly to the “performance” of memory, to traversing the space between the past and the future and, ultimately, the ability to then be heard – even by one other. Homi Bhabha puts it this way: â€œI use the term the right to narrate to signify an act of communication through which the recounting of themes, histories, and records, is part of a process that reveals the transformation of human agency. Narrative is a sign of civic life.Â Societies that turn their back on the right to narrate are societies of deafening silence: authoritarian societies and police statesâ€. To remember, to imagine, and to speak are all performative domains.
SMP: Bhabha was speaking to a decolonizing world, encouraging metanarrative and hybridity as acts of resistance. Do you conceive of a relationship between the postcolonial and the postindustrial in terms of cultural work?
LJ: If we book-end for a moment, my first twenty years of life unfolded in Cape Town, and my last 15 months in Detroit. Ok! In my cultural labor the experience of the place-after-colony isÂ always twinned – Â a dual site – Â the real and the imagined, or the reMEMBERED. The mediating forces between the real and the imagined is my work, often fueled by a vivid on-call-prejudicial-image-index forged in fire, absence, violence and resistance. A strong translation of this for me is the work of William Burroughs, and particularly his novel NAKED LUNCH, and the work done many years ago on this subject by my colleague Peter Playdon. Burroughs describes a market-place calledÂ Interzone, which is understood as: â€œa transitive state, a city resisting total identification either as aÂ vision of a real cityÂ or as anÂ allegory of a mental stateâ€¦neither an inner space nor an outer spaceâ€¦it is a between space, a crossroads at which textuality, alterity, and identity collide.â€Â This dismantling of psychic defenses is imagined as â€˜space-time travelâ€™, a process of displacing the unity of the self and its relationship to place into different temporal or physical locations.Â The relationships between these locations, asÂ social spaceÂ folds intoÂ mental spaceÂ suggests the production of a performative zone that is simultaneously real, symbolic and imaginary; what it produces is a material environment, a visual culture and a psychic space. I see it as the framework for negotiations I can work out as an artist, as a kind of social actor.
SMP: To what extent are your performances choreographed, and as the maker/maestro, how do you address the element of chance?
LJ: The performances inevitably develop as devised works: meaning the work emerges from other texts, sometimes many sources, and is orchestrated and re-calibrated.
A process described by DJ Spooky:Â â€œI guess thatâ€™s traveling by synecdoche. Itâ€™s a process of sifting through the narrative rubble of a phenomenon, an â€œindexical presentâ€ Like an acrobat drifting through the topologies of codes, glyphs and signs that make up the fabric of my everyday life, I like to flip things around. With a culture based on stuff like Emergency Broadcast Network hyper edited new briefs.â€
I will give an example of a work-in-progress.Â Â Bruno AbroadÂ will be, finally, a digital video shot in three locations, London, Prague and Naples featuring theÂ Renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno. Three psycho-geographical drifts through contemporary cities alive with the evidence of both vivid histories and media-saturated â€œbecomingsâ€; three dinners (which reference Brunoâ€™s dialogue, The Ash Wednesday Supper); at each dinner, three groupings of Renaissance visionaries, all victims of the political and religious orders of their time, with Giordano Bruno as principal guide. The three cities are imagined as temporary autonomous zones, Interzones, of radical discourse, ecstatic envisioning, and alchemical resistance. The project concludes in Naples the site of Brunoâ€™s death at the stake on February 17, 1600, in the Campo Deâ€™Fiori. This film aspires to track intersecting arcs of power and resistance and is not a historical representation of anything â€œrenaissanceâ€ except the politics inherited afterwards. The interests of the Church and the State, in our â€œrenaissanceâ€ context, to control discourse and, ultimately, to silence transgression has powerful implications for contemporary culture. It is critical to understand that these voices of knowledge, silenced almost 500 years ago, can resonate powerfully nonetheless. I will attempt to temporarily situate these thinkers in contemporary urban contexts, as trans-time specters in a celebration of the poetics of resistance. While not a â€œperiodâ€ piece, it is approaches the form of a multi-plane travelogue. The food, the actors and the locations will be formed and selected in each city – an improvised company – each time, and certainly to a large degree chance-based.
SMP: At what stage are you at with the filming of this work? Do you often use video to unite performances and create a narrative of sorts?
LJ: The skeletal script is complete, permissions to film at certain sites are in place, and the production crew of three is assembled. Then there are the dreams, visions, and psycho-geographical speculations Â – years of image-accretions, memories of the Nicholas Roeg film Donâ€™t Look Now, conversations with friends and colleaguesÂ – that will inevitably seep in once on site, and, happily, displace what is actually there.
SMP: Given the thematic arc of Bruno relating to power and resistance, how do you see contemporary artists addressing the notion of resistance?
LJ: I see people living fully, talking, cooking, making, raising children, growing tomatoes, writing books, being conscious of all the other endeavors of their communities, friends, lovers – lived resistance – I am not compelled by “notions of resistance” practiced by artists or art students.
SMP: Do you mean the notion that it is the artistâ€™s responsibility to create intersticesâ€”new spaces of visibility that can serve as sites of resistance?
LJ: I would think demarcating “sites of resistance” would merely make them precious, or targets, or boutiques. Or worse, installations. No, we must do our best work in alliances with convivial constituencies, with cities, ecologies and systems, and without privileging artists and art practices. I would rather have bee-hives in the Eastern Market, than another art interstice.
SMP: Youâ€™ve spoken quite a bit about your role as an educator. Iâ€™m wondering how your praxis as an educator influences you as a maker, or are the two not exclusive?
LJ: I am influenced directly, intimately, thrillingly. No, not exclusive. Many of the most compelling contemporary creative makers and thinkers understand that 21stC engagement is one, inevitably, of hybrid practices and multi-site conversations, and collaborations. So to, I believe, should the academy be thus engaged. Alas, not so – we still have the discreet silo model, perpetuated by faculty and administrators. Clearly we must foster pedagogical templates that are not only founded on the demands of one’s craft, but also explores an intertwining of trends, debates, and practices in the humanities, sciences, politics, and worlds of commerce and communications. Our place in the world and how we can create meaningful relationships between others and ourselves is the challenge that faces us, and should motivate us to action and certainly to change. Most of this kind of creative labour is happening between students and communities, not between departments and colleges – so yes, this informs the kind of work I want to make directly and, of course, feeds back into my classrooms.Â The pedagogical imperative for me is to have students understand learning as the conversation that creates our cultures – in real-time, no deferment – participate now. Their lives, loves, and labor defines culture, and culture leads commerce. I wish to operateâ€”and equip our students, citizenry, and colleagues to thriveâ€”at the nexus between art, culture, commerce, and science. I want to support and encourage students to become authors of new subjects in the world: new subjects that celebrate the unique qualities of their relationships and aspirations within families, communities and global networks.Â An open-ended, porous, responsive and pleasure producing exploration – what an idea for an art school!
SMP: Site seems to be a reoccurring point of engagement in your work. Can you elaborate on your decision to relocate to Detroit and what you find compelling about this locality?
LJ: Your question has been much on my mind at the conclusion of my first year in this remarkable place – or dream, called Detroit. My current thinking? I’m not certain it has to be, any longer, a question of “leaving” in a definitive way, to go somewhere else – maybe it is closer in spirit to expanding, or re-forming. The world offers us an amazing set of options, and technologies, to engage nomadic ways of working and living. It feels simply like matter-expansion, and a very exciting one. My family and I will be triangulating between Maine, Detroit, and New York. The best way to understand this past year might be in my “articles of faith”Â – the pleasure of working with 45 incoming first-year students over the last three terms – amazing group of citizens – I have produced three complicated projects with a range of collaborators. And in October we open Signal-Return, a storefront press and print shop in the Eastern Market, to be directed by my partner, MeganO’Connell, produced with Team Detroit.
Detroit, past, present, and future, and the opportunity to participate in reinvention and innovation in a field I love. Regarding location, the potential of place has always been a compelling force for me. What can I make of the past, of material history? What is just beyond the visible? What is the space of potential between the claims of the past and the demands of the future? I have made the acts of reading, walking and sensing place, priorities – I was born in Cape Town, remember… complex, volatile, vivid. Detroit looms very large for me.
Â Sarah Margolis-Pineo is a curator and writer. She is currently the Jeanne and Ralph Graham Collections Fellow at the Cranbrook Art Museum.