I did a less formal version of the #DadaTaroT piece at this fall’s open studios. I am really enjoying this piece! A lot of people asked some pretty intense questions, and many interesting interpretations and conversations arose.
A few odd things keep happening: out of the (4?) times people have asked about Trump winning the election (the piece was made during the primaries), Elvis has been drawn three times out of the nearly 100 media cards. What is one to make of that?
Another thing that has happened at least three times is that pairs of friends have picked the same card after the entire deck was shuffled.
Two groups went as three people together instead of a pair.
In this iteration, a questioner asked about the nature of the artist as a child, and the person answering was actually quite right. Another person made an offhand comment that the questioner would get a tattoo on their hand… which it turned out they already had. A surprising number of people asking about their own mortality.
Narratives upon narratives.
Apologies… the notes on the two responses seems to be lost. I’m working on recovery and will post them when and if I get them.
Come be part of the creative process!
Join me for the Opening Reception at the Art Explosion
Friday night (9/23) only 7-11
2425 17th St, SF, CA
Studio 2A (keep right as you enter, studio door on right side in the first room).
More info at: http://www.artexplosionstudios.com/events/events.php
I take a different sort of approach to Open Studios than many artists- I actually work during it, mostly because most of my work is interactive and part of the process is input from many people. I like having many different perspectives other than my own when I create these pieces, and I like to road-test them, so the crowds of open studios are ready material. This means you can not only see art, but be a part of the creative process!
Right now I’m working on a piece about Access, and I can’t wait to see what personal experiences and reactions visitors will share. What I learn will almost certainly shape how I chose to make the future interactive piece.
#DadaTaroT (my most recent interactive and participatory piece) will also be up for people to experiment with (minus the formal performance). Unfortunately some of the cards were stolen at the Dada Here and Now show (no fault to the curators, they were fabulous), but perhaps the theft is part of the element of Chance. You can judge for yourself when you try it.
I look forward to seeing many of you there.
I created this project for a show celebrating the 100th anniversary of Dada. I made the #DadaTaroT deck out of two sets of images: 21 red wood and laser-etched cardboard symbol cards, and over 200 media image cards on laser-etched cardboard.
The method was simple: a pair of people (strangers, lovers, friends…) would be invited by the performers dressed in carnival-esque gear to each ask a question which they could not at that moment know the answer to. One person would ask (aloud or in silence) and then select one red card and two brown cards. The partner would then use the cards to attempt to answer the person’s question. Then they switch. I documented each one in rough and ready fashion with a photo and hastily hand-written notes. These are the results.
The Dadaists were coming out of the horror of WWI that left many of their generation feeling that life was meaningless and absurd: Religion, Government, Philosophy and Art seemed to have utterly failed to provide meaning in the context of that horror. The Dadaists embraced and exposed the absurdity.
I used Tarot because it seemed to be a perfect intersection of the randomness that a lot of dada art has employed through the use of games of chance together with a random assault of media and symbolism wherein we search for meaning. In the end it is about what each person brings to it and what they _want_ to find, but as in all interactions it’s not just our interpretations, but the interpretations of those around to us, or even close to us that have an effect. Our negotiation of those interpretations of our world together are what interests me as an artist. This exchange provided a platform for mini exchanges and negotiations of how we interpret our shared world.
So many interesting things happened during this project, only a few of which are visible in these records- the best of it was within the interaction. It is very much is about what people bring to it.
Doing the translation on the statements for Identity Tapestry at the Vögel Kulture Zentrum outside of Zurich is a very tricky process, one which is pushing against the cultural identity of the place and the German language. It is doubly hard because I don’t know German and must rely on how well I can convey what I’m after to translators.
There are always problems in translation, and even in English each word must be chosen very carefully. I have a very small space on the labels to get an idea across and I make use of the double meanings, ambiguity or clarity of certain words in English. “I just want to have faith” could mean religious faith or faith in oneself or faith in other things in English, but there is a leaning towards religious faith. In German it seems it is one or the other. The statement “I get attacked for my beliefs” is doubly difficult, first because in English “beliefs” is very ambiguous. The beliefs could be religious, political, personal, whatever, but apparently in German religious beliefs and other beliefs are different words. Secondly “attacked” in English can mean verbally or physically attacked (and I appreciate the ambiguity), but in German they seem to be more separate.
In this case, there were potentially two languages in play, Swiss German and High German (the Swiss speak French, Italian and German depending on where in the country you are). Swiss-German is spoken, but it is the casual intimate language, not the written one… until very recently. In the past few years it has shown up in text messaging, but as my translator put it “only to a friend you would invite to your wedding”, no one else. Originally I thought it would be wonderful to use Swiss-German for the statements, because it is the language inside people’s minds and more intimate but the problem is there is no standardized way of writing it, so it is very confusing to read. There are other problems; Swiss German is shocking to see written in a way that might overshadow the piece because it comes across as very grade-school and unprofessional, something people are very unused to seeing in that context and might change the meaning and focus of the piece. The thing that finally convinced me not to use it (after my poor translator struggled through all the statements in Swiss-German with me) was that it would just be too hard to read.
The final thing was that the specter of WWII kept rearing up. It is completely ingrained in the German language. Translating “I like to follow a good leader” becomes an issue when “leader” always carries meaning of “The Leader” (Hitler). Likewise “I have fought in a war”. There is only one war apparently, or that is the connotation. Ideas of cultural or racial identity are similarly thorny with the war (as if that weren’t bad enough here!).
Right now I have my first translator’s second pass at going from Swiss-German into High German which has been marked up by the very helpful curator for the show in red ink. We will have to talk on the phone at what will be 1AM for me tonight so I get a better idea of the thoughts behind her changes. The simple, literal translation of the words aren’t always the thing that gets at what I mean. In English I think of the statements more like poetry: carefully selected words arranged in a way that hits the mind a certain way and can contain layers of meaning. In translating to a language I do not know I feel like I am feeling around in the dark. At the same time I am finding a new understanding of the Swiss-German culture and language.
I’m nearly there! I just need some more blues in the medium darkness range of all hues. Here you can see on the white plastic sheeting some of the yarn I am dyeing over to create all the richness and depth of color in the yarn for the piece.
I am contemplating using a different size of plaque for the statements because of the nature of German (more text needs more space). This would bring the format closer to “hello my name is” labels, which I like, but I need to be sure I can find the right sized stickers for the look I want. I could physically do the text without stickers, but the label/name tag/address reference label stickers give is important to me for this piece. I may end up ordering metric ones.
From the first iterations of Identity Tapestry I’ve been wanting to create it both in a museum space and in another language. I’m pleased to announce that this May I’ll be doing both! Identity Tapestry will be up as part of the upcoming show “Identity” for four months starting this May at the Vögele Cultural Center in Pfäffikon (just outside Zurich).
I will be flying out for the install and I’m incredibly excited. Any iteration demands a look at which statements to include or leave or if new ones ought to be added, especially in a new area or situation. In this case the language use should be especially interesting because there are essentially two languages at work there: High German and Swiss German. One is the official language which is used for nearly all text, the other is the language of intimate conversations and the inside of one’s own head. Apparently it is only recently that the Swiss-German language has appeared in text, and then mostly in text messages, and only to very intimate friends. How I approach these languages and navigate translations will add new levels of complexity to the piece. Thankfully the curatorial staff is wonderful and I have a local Zurich-raised person who is willing to consult with me on language as well.
My problem as an artist has never been lack of ideas or even crafting skills. The real skill is deciding what is most important and when, what not to do, what to sacrifice, what to put the most time and effort into. Drawing itself is an act of selection- what line to place, what line to ignore, what line to emphasize, tweak, or ghost.
So right now I have a good problem for an artist- two shows at the same time. One I committed to months ago, but without a specific piece. Since I knew I could have more space for that show I prepared to spread out and create a larger installed environment. Then I was invited to be in a show in a museum just outside Zurich, Switzerland. They wanted a specific piece, and it is one I have to be there to put together. And they open two days apart.
Now that the Switzerland one is confirmed I’m turning back to the first one. Suddenly I have more constraints. Something that can run itself. Something smaller and easy to install. Still something interactive. In the case of this show, something both contemporary and Dada. I was intimately familiar with Dada before I left high school and I loved it then, but two more advanced art degrees have actually put me at more of a distance. So I dove back to the source. I re-read the manifestos, looked back at the beginnings and what motivated them. Suddenly an entire new interactive, small, easy to set up artwork burst out of my head. And it will work. And it comes right out of the unconscious pool of all the ideas I am constantly exploring. Better still, because the process of Dada involves some randomness, it will be fun and surprising to make. I’m excited.
When I have enough time and resources to do whatever I want without a burning idea starting in my mind and a place to put the result I do very little that gets finished. Give me a place, a time, and a single constraint or direction and suddenly my mind is on fire and my hands itching to create.