Week 6 : Technology and Daily Life

Having moved from Southern CA to Boise, ID and now to Minneapolis, MN I have loved social media for keeping up with friends.  I really enjoy seeing pictures on instagram of my art friends current painting in progress or an installation they’re working on.  We often chat about the work and it makes us feel connected.  I like to see our friends kids growing up and all the funny and gross things kids do.   I don’t use Skype or FaceTime tons for just chatting because the often glitchiness and seeing my own face talking is an unwelcome distraction.  I do use FaceTime with a good friend in NY to look over our studios together and discuss work.  I like the fluidity of the instant connection.  

In trying to take a picture of myself or device I came across this picture I sent my friend yesterday when I was trying on clothes at the thrift shop… black dress, yes or no? The instantaneousness of a reply is still amusing, shopping with a friend across the country.  

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As technology impacts my creative life, I find I must have restraint when it comes to being on my phone constantly.  Of all the good things it provides, it also becomes a default activity.  I feel the desire to look at the gorgeous clouds, be in the moment, and not just instagram them.  I default to checking email or playing “dots” when I’m waiting instead of sitting with my own thoughts, or even boredom.  I remember as a kid feeling bored and them creating some interesting way to think or observe to entertain myself.  I’d like to have space in my life to do that now.  I think the biggest limitations I experience continue to reside within my own self-control and imagination… if I want to be in the studio being thoughtful and creating work my phone can’t really keep me from doing it.  I blame email often, but I’m the one getting entangled in email all day long.  I have the creative power to say enough is enough and turn it all off if I need to… 

I also often think about the “efficiency” of technology.  I find I do many of my old tasks more quickly and yet I’m also managing more devices, more and different types of files, etc.  I spend a ridiculous amount of time labeling, organizing and compressing to varying levels my art videos.  It can be overwhelming.  Trying to keep up with file types and preserve the work is also a troubling aspect of the digital vs the analog.  I wish I could print all my videos to film stock.  

So in the end I suppose I embrace technology but see limitations as well, as almost all lives experiences and possibilities bring opportunity and drawback.  It’s what we do with it that counts.  

 

 

Week 6: Technology, creativity and daily life

Having moved from Southern CA to Boise, ID and now to Minneapolis, MN I have loved social media for keeping up with friends.  I really enjoy seeing pictures on instagram of my art friends current painting in progress or an installation they’re working on.  We often chat about the work and it makes us feel connected.  I like to see our friends kids growing up and all the funny and gross things kids do.   I don’t use Skype or FaceTime tons for just chatting because the often glitchiness and seeing my own face talking is an unwelcome distraction.  I do use FaceTime with a good friend in NY to look over our studios together and discuss work.  I like the fluidity of the instant connection.  

In trying to take a picture of myself or device I came across this picture I sent my friend yesterday when I was trying on clothes at the thrift shop… black dress, yes or no? The instantaneousness of a reply is still amusing, shopping with a friend across the country.  

photo-2

As technology impacts my creative life, I find I must have restraint when it comes to being on my phone constantly.  Of all the good things it provides, it also becomes a default activity.  I feel the desire to look at the gorgeous clouds, be in the moment, and not just instagram them.  I default to checking email or playing “dots” when I’m waiting instead of sitting with my own thoughts, or even boredom.  I remember as a kid feeling bored and them creating some interesting way to think or observe to entertain myself.  I’d like to have space in my life to do that now.  I think the biggest limitations I experience continue to reside within my own self-control and imagination… if I want to be in the studio being thoughtful and creating work my phone can’t really keep me from doing it.  I blame email often, but I’m the one getting entangled in email all day long.  I have the creative power to say enough is enough and turn it all off if I need to… 

I also often think about the “efficiency” of technology.  I find I do many of my old tasks more quickly and yet I’m also managing more devices, more and different types of files, etc.  I spend a ridiculous amount of time labeling, organizing and compressing to varying levels my art videos.  It can be overwhelming.  Trying to keep up with file types and preserve the work is also a troubling aspect of the digital vs the analog.  I wish I could print all my videos to film stock.  

So in the end I suppose I embrace technology but see limitations as well, as almost all lives experiences and possibilities bring opportunity and drawback.  It’s what we do with it that counts.  

Robert Wilson & Performance

Already having mentioned Marclay’s “The Clock” in an earlier post (which may be edging closer to a “movie experience” than an immersive multimedia environment) I’m a bit at a loss to find a show up currently in the Twin Cities that fits the bill for the prompt.  I’ve been thinking about possibilities for a few days and what I keep coming back to is a Robert Wilson performance I saw at UCLA around 2000.

I believe it was called “The Dark Side of the Moon” but I’m having a terrible time finding any links to it online.  It was in a theatre setting but I’d consider it performance as it lacked a clear, logical sequential narrative as you might expect from traditional theatre. Also, the set was a surprisingly interactive sculpture that rotated, shifted and broke apart throughout the duration of the piece.  If I recall, Wilson used a lot of projection- both  colored light and shapes as well as moving image- and the entire piece was very dark.  A single main “actor” as protagonist within this simple yet dynamic stage space.  I wish I could watch it again now, and wonder why it is not documented at all online, maybe because it was at the cusp of the digital and not as easily uploaded everywhere.  One of the things I remember being completely taken by was the fluidity between the sound, actors movements, and stage sets movements.  It was incredibly synchronized.

I wish I could link to something… this is not terribly interesting if you didn’t see it but maybe someone can help me out here?  It was a remarkable experience that has stayed with me all this time.

Wildly Different Approaches: Considering the “Interactivity” of Three Different Artworks

Think of a work of art, (it does not have to be performance) with which you have interacted, or perhaps the first work of art that made you think about art as being interactive. Did this experience change your perception of the artist’s role? Of your role as a viewer? Did you feel more engaged with the work or did it alienate you from it? Provide a link to the artwork your referencing. 

In considering this prompt, three different works or pieces come to mind.  Of the three works, I have personally experienced two but only read about the other.

The first is Joe Scanlan’s Donelle Woolford “project”.donelle copyThis year’s Whitney was part of the ongoing controversy of this piece.  Scanlan basically creates/invents a black woman artist who he then promotes via his website (her website?) and acts as though she is real. She shows.  She is in the Whitney.  The problem?  A question of ethics: should Scanlan be allowed to co-opt the identity of another, should he be allowed NOT to disclose the “project” as such, what is the role of the women playing Donelle in the artwork?  This project also relates to earlier course discussions as Scanlan has used the anonymity and “authority” of the internet and social media in order to validate Woolford’s as a real living artist.  Institutions hosting her must decide if they are in on it or if they credit Scanlan.  I recently went to Woolford’s performance in conjunction with the Whitney, “Dick’s Last Stand” at Midway Contemporary in Minneapolis, MN.

The piece was carried out by Jennifer Kidwell, representing Pryor, also doing Mud Bone (pretty smart) with Joe Scanlan acting as stage lackey.will_the_real_Donelle_Woolford_please_stand-up_01Midway chose to promote the work as Woolfords and to my great surprise many people at the performance I spoke with did not know Scanlan was involved and had taken the invite from the gallery at face value as a piece by Woolford.  I suspect the authority of both the gallery and the name “Whitney” came into play here.

At the performance I went to, dogged post performance Q & A centered on the fact that Scanlan in his introduction of the piece,  invited the audience to “laugh and have a good time”.  Many in the “audience felt this was too much direction and ignored Pryor’s racist and often offensive jokes and the fact that a black woman is performing this work as an invention of Scanlan.will_the_real_Donelle_Woolford_please_stand-up_17In terms of interaction, I think Scanlan is savvy to the perceived authority of websites, museums and galleries, and the Whitney.  He uses this system of authority to heighten or reinforce our belief, and confusion.  In terms of the particular “show” I saw, his opening suggestion invited the audience to take a specific posture to the work… he shaped the tone of our interaction.  We were to be amused and wholly taken in by the piece as Pryor’s.  It’s a good question whether he should have just let us engage the work in discomfort.

Side note:  The recent Scanlan/Woolford scandals prompted Ryan Wong, writing for Hyperallergic, to post a piece claiming he, was in fact, Joe Scanlan.  I find the bit highly entertaining.  Hilariously, it also sent readers into confusion… was Joe Scanlan made up as well?!  For another interesting dialogue around this work, read Infinite Mile’s “Will the Real Donelle Woolford Please Stand Up?”.

The second project that comes to mind is Miranda July’s “We Think Alone”.   July describes the project:

I’m always trying to get my friends to forward me emails they’ve sent to other people — to their mom, their boyfriend, their agent — the more mundane the better. How they comport themselves in email is so intimate, almost obscene — a glimpse of them from their own point of view. WE THINK ALONE has given me the excuse to read my friends’ emails and the emails of some people I wish I was friends with and for better or worse it’s changed the way I see all of them. I think I really know them now. But our inner life is not actually the same thing as our life on the computer — a quiet person might !!!! a lot. A person with a busy mind might write almost nothing. And of course while none of these emails were originally intended to be read by me (much less you*)  they were all carefully selected by their authors in response to my list of email genres — so self-portraiture is quietly at work here.  Privacy, the art of it, is evolving. Radical self-exposure and classically manicured discretion can both be powerful, both be elegant. And email itself is changing, none of us use it exactly the same way we did ten years ago; in another ten years we might not use it at all. Thank you to Kareem, Kirsten, Sheila, Danh, Lee, Etgar, Kate, Laura, Lena and Catherine for their daring and diligence.   

– Miranda July

*All emails were written prior to the start of this project.”

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Above is a shot of my personal gmail search for “Miranda July”.  When I signed on to receive the emails I was invited to have a privileged view of the private space of others, famous and supposedly interesting people at that!  (…and they were!)  However July cleverly avoids the problem of emails being written with an audience (you and me and this project) in mind by requiring the emails to be found by searching for phrases within the participants email archives.  Pre-written.  Only the original recipient as audience. Private space becoming public without context or fanfare.  July’s form of interactivity for those searching their emails is only one of editing, hands a bit tied.  For those of us receiving the “We think alone” weekly email, we were like a fly on the wall reading  private correspondence and getting to know these individuals from afar.  July sent the emails weekly, did not archive them into a book or website, and limited the time frame so it felt very intimate to have been a part of “We Think Alone”.

July claims the only archive for the project is with the email subscribers.  In terms of interactivity I am now in the role of caretaker.  July has used the mundane yet personal form of email as a medium to structure her piece and our experience.  And I won’t delete them because I just really love Catherine Opie and think we would be friends : )

More to the literal point of interactivity:

The third and last is Tino Sehgal’s piece “The Progress” at the Guggenheim in 2010.  The best description I read was Lauren Collins piece for the New Yorker, “Primal Schmooze”.guggenheim-300x225

Sehgal’s piece requires, depends on, audience participation.  The museum goer begins up the quite famous circular ramp but will only experience the “artwork” if they are game for discussion with a random kid who crosses their path.  It’s a very interesting way to weed out who your audience is as an artist.  It seems Sehgal wants an audience who will engage with curiosity, thoughtfulness, and be flexible, unafraid of strangers.  I think of the distinction Robert Whitman drew between a piece being spontaneous (as the phrase “happening” suggests) or “scored”.  I think Sehgal has successfully found a way of scripting, or “scoring”, spontaneity.

Social Media as “Collective Narrative”

Reflect on this idea of the collective narrative, particularly as it pertains to your experience of social media. How does Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr constitute a collective narrative? (The idea of a participatory experience, in which each viewer contributes to the outcome of the work, is what I refer to as the collective narrative.)

In social media platforms, total editing power is given to each individual.  Starting from the idea of the individual, I’ll respond on a very personal level.  To my mind, social media presents more of an opportunity to “construct” a narrative than participate in the unfolding of real time experience.  Losing control of these image narratives leads to debate and lawsuit as seen in recent frivolities…  I love instagram and use fb, but find that they are not attuned to the trepidation, open narrative, or uncertainties of lived life in time.  Tension results from the fact that the instantaneousness of social media presents itself as an artifact that “tracks” with real time events and yet a significant number of choices will be made between the experience and the image or text that is presented to the world.

Starting with a thoroughly personal example: Though I am in generally fine health, my back went out last Monday.  For the past 8 days I have been in mild to excruciating pain.  I have a history of back pain and surgery, so that also triggers fear that I am somehow going into a chronic pain stage.  Though cognitively I know that I have the resources to manage the pain, I am still terrified by the suggestion that I am powerless within it– that I have to lay on the ground, which I have.  There is little more real to me right now than overcoming this experience.  However, there are no pictures of that.  Instead, here are my posts from this last week:

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Clearly I believe you don’t want to hear about my body giving out on me, and I don’t want to tell you!  If I tell you I admit it and so must face it more directly = more fear.  If I tell you, then you might feel sad or frightened of your own body and its aging or weaknesses…  will I feel awkward, guilty?  How would I respond to your kind comments of sympathy? Will I feel pitiful?  Do I want this to be a part of my social media history?

In terms of collective history, what I post shapes how I exist.  How you respond reinforces how I see or think about my “media” presence, my person, and my work.  How I post to you shapes how you feel, think.  Yet this is all deeply mediated, and I’m not sure we’re always thinking about the larger construct around the whole “collective” interaction.

So, in general, I’d prefer to look at the bright side… promote the good.  I think it’s a sort of social media etiquette.  We all have our intuitive categories: I’ll post random-silly-funny-inappropriate images to Instagram but not as often to Facebook.  I seriously curate the images on my art website while fb might be more personal or show works in process.  There is a time and place for everything and the only sorrow that seems appropriate on fb is serious sorrow: a death, last-ditch need of prayer or money, a plea to sign on for causes.  Only Instagram is sorrow-less.

All this to say that I’m not sure what to expect from Facebook, or instagram in terms of a “collective narrative”.  I try to remember that everyone is self-selecting.  I forget.  Some days I feel a little lonely because aspects I care about in my life feel static… no shows coming up, no grants accepted, no feedback or dialogue… and me laying on the floor. (smiley face emoticon here)  Most days I celebrate the amazing successes of those in my community… shows, sales, births, reviews, travel.

I’ll admit at first the prompt for this particular week made me feel a bit jaded and dismissive.  On a personal level, I really don’t see social media as a significant way to connect with other humans or debate meaningful ideas.  I open Instagram and see my friends’ art, kids, or beautiful homes/objects.  But as I close this reflection, I feel a little more human and aware of the image machine that operates around me and the way I participate in it… a little more aware that if I’m self-selecting what I post, so are you.  So maybe we’re all a little more weird, smart, sad, skillful, awkward, committed, and possibly even a little more joyful, than we let on.

In regards to social media as “happening”.  If Robert Whitman is correct (and I personally think he is) that most works are scripted or “scored” and not spontaneous, and that these works are also not happenings but performances, then we have a culture of performers in the truest sense of that word (in this context).  We have developed an innate sense of how to shape the image and “piece” that is our social media life.  If it were spontaneous why would we check some posts with our friends, co-workers, edit or remove them?  There IS a “score” or script.

PS: I am gratefully aware as I write this that the potential readers will be may be thoughtful art-types taking a class- that presupposes an environment of ideas being formed, a place of discussion and debate.  This has allowed me to speak more speculatively than I typically would post anything in the semi-public.  

Collaboration

How does collaboration fit into your way of working?

Though much of my work is about a sort of obsessive control (scale models, material use & repetition) I’m aware that I thrive through collaboration.  I worked with experimental sound installation artist Ted Apel on a 7 channel video with 3 audio tracks, Buran, in 2009-2010.  The Soviet space shuttle Buran completed one unmanned flight on November 15, 1988. In 206 minutes the shuttle orbited the earth twice. No further flights were to follow. The Buran shuttle was destroyed on May 12, 2002 when the hangar it was stored in collapsed.  It was an enlivening project.  I created scale model “sets” and video footage while Ted made the soundtrack and coded a software “countdown” that never reached “0”.  The installation of the work was a tower of 80’s era-appropriate media .

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The process of conceptualizing the piece, it’s form and materials, as well as presentation, provided the opportunity to meet up regularly and discuss with another artist whose ideas and inclinations were quite different from my own.  It was a positive disruption in my practice and challenged my thinking and use of space in refreshing ways.

A year and a half ago, In conjunction with the exhibition “Urban Lifecycles”, I was invited by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and the Ski Museum to interact with objects from their permanent collections in a way that reflected the lifecycle of the city of Ketchum.

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I installed a collection of models and dioramas depicting the industry, history, and development of Ketchum and Sun Valley over the last 150 years including a timeline of social and political events along with census information that raised questions about parity in relation to class and ethnicity over the last century.

This collaboration with a institution allowed me to pull from materials and research histories I may otherwise have never engaged with such curiosity.

I realize with each of these projects that the boundaries created from collaboration are incredibly useful to my decision making process.  Often in my own studio practice the “freedom” I have to do anything results in a sort of decision paralysis where I have three projects I’m passionate about partly underway but suffer from a kind of neurotic anxiety about which I’d like to carry out to completion first.  One benefit of collaboration is that it often forces a structure  or deadline.  Another is that when I have pooled my resources with another (materially, conceptually, in terms of skills) the project is often richer and can be more fully realized.