From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Posts Tagged ‘particapatory art

At College of the Redwoods

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img_1958Today Between the Lines (experience exchange) went up with the help of the head of the Black Student Union and the Professor heading the Book of the Year project. There are always hiccups, but now it looks exactly as it did in my mind and even though the official opening isn’t until Thursday it already had some participation.Some of the students who will get to participate are taking correspondence courses from prison, and I’m so glad I was able to get something of the piece to them, because having a place for their stories to be told is important.

My interview for the local NPR member station is here.  It doesn’t have the image and specific link yet, but it is the Feb, 21 one.

The piece works much like Scales did. Participants write a response to a writing prompt on a hand-painted paper and exchange it for someone else’s.  Then they read that person’s response and tie it to the frame which they feel it belongs most to (Repression, Expression, Privilege, Opportunity, Love, Hate (fear), Resistance, Compliance, Accepted, Suspected, Hardness, and Openness).  Being asked to place it not only gets them to read someone else’s experience, but it also gets them to think about it in the context of the themes in the book.

I wrestled a lot with the themes and questions.  I had to tailor the themes and questions for people who might not have read the book yet (half the students read it in the second semester), and also to make it approachable.  So much of what is wrong with the world that we need to change is things we cannot bring ourselves to engage with.  My job is to engage people, so I find myself walking the line of bringing up difficult issues in such a way that people can approach at their own speed, even in a way that seems fun and colorful.

I’ll show more about this new work later when I have more pictures of participation, but tonight I’m thinking about the screening of 13th at the college and the thoughtful, powerful discussion moderated by the Black Student Union afterwards.  The students I have met here have been wonderful and I am honored to be here.

in-process on “Between the Lines (Experience Exchange)”

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sprectrum-side These are the first set of “pages” for participants in Between the Lines (Experience Exchange) to write on.  The materials are translucent acrylics on vellum with bookbinding thread sewn into the tops to tie them into the structure.

The piece was commissioned by the College of the Redwoods for their annual Book of the Year celebration.  This year’s book is Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The structure of the piece is a large sculpture created a s a physical framing of some of the book’s core concepts  (I saw them, but also based  on interviews with the author, reviews, and discussions with other people).  The questions also derive from the book, and will ask participants to respond with their own related experiences.

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Thoughts on Performance Art- my Ritual Space approach

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img_0414-2So I have a lot of thoughts on performance art.  Many of them come down to the idea that when you push it to the extremes (which is one of art’s natural habitats) it becomes about enacting extremes on the body.  Extreme pain (so many), extreme pleasure (Seed Bed comes to mind), sex, nudity, privation, stillness, repetitive motion… so many extremes of what the body is and what it can take.  An extension of that is the extremes of emotional exposure as seen in and through the body.  There are many interesting, important approaches to this, but I feel like it is ground well covered, and not what I’m interested in for my own work.

My work isn’t about me or my body or extremes, it’s about creating a platform, structure, even a ritual space for others to engage with ideas I present: with each other, with themselves, and now, possibly with me.

Ritual space is something I have been interested in for as long as I can remember. It was central to my studies in my first undergrad in History of Religions. I took a wonderful anthropology-based (Turner-centric) course on Ritual, but I saw ritual in everything from folk tales to architecture and football games. Ritual space is throughout our secular and personal lives- the ritual space of a hot bath with candles, a classroom, a bar, a gallery or a public library. These spaces have forms, rules, and roles which set them apart from other spheres and spaces in our lives and they create feelings and thoughts unique to those spaces. In these spaces we are ourselves, and yet ourselves in a specific role or character to fit the space, observing certain rituals of that space (a 3rd grade teacher will be themselves at both a bar and their classroom, but different selves).

In #DadaTarot I am creating a ritual space for the action to happen in. That action requires a mediator with a certain level of otherness and authority. A slight change of clothing and demeanor is enough to create this. I am still very much being myself, but I have given myself certain rules (some of which I specifically gave myself permission to break).   The rules, the clothing, demeanor and the simple object of a table give me the structure of a ritual space for the piece to work in.  Given the nature of Dada I didn’t even allow myself anything fancy for the table- it is a ready-made cocktail table and the covering was the first plain black piece of fabric on the top of my fabric pile, not sewn or tidied in any way.

For this piece, the Role of Barker/carnival worker has to be there to set the interaction apart from other gallery interaction, but also to get the participants to enter in a questioning way. These roles are known for being untrustworthy.  I want people to come to this project with skepticism. For this piece I would absolutely not dress in any kind of clothing associated with actual fortune-tellers with very good reason: my role does not actually involve doing the fortune-telling. That I leave to the participants. The barker’s role is to bring bystanders into the action and tell them what the rules of the game are, which is what I do.

Me in the role as artist would to explain the piece and how it fits into my work. In the case of me performing in this piece (as opposed to someone else performing the piece while I stand next to it as Artist) I mostly steer clear of this. If they press, I mostly answer as Barker, not artist as to the nature of the piece.  That said, I am remaining myself.  This performance allows for expressing what I want to say, holding back, and then allowing myself to be pressed for an opinion, even as I say I should not really be giving it… which is what good Barkers do too.

I suspect more of my work is heading in this direction. Most of the participatory works need some kind of “baby sitter” during interactions to explain the interactive process to people and to keep people (especially drunk people) from breaking them or walking away with parts of the art.  Mostly the ritual space of Gallery with the role of Gallery assistants covers this. Now that I am looking this aspect of my work in the face and acknowledging that what I am creating with my installations is ritual space (inside the ritual space of gallery/museum/etc.), it logically follows to incorporate ritual roles for certain works.

*note:  I am fully aware that not all performance art involves extremes, and there is a lot of performance art out there (physically extreme and not) which I admire.  A lot of it is politically extreme and I applaud that too.  This studio blog post is about my own artistic path.

 

Endangered Languages Piece- participate!

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capture of UNESCO's interactive map of endangered languages from http://www.unesco.org/culture/languages-atlas/en/atlasmap.html

capture of UNESCO’s interactive map of endangered languages from http://www.unesco.org/culture/languages-atlas/en/atlasmap.html

I am gathering endangered words for an artwork and I need speakers of endangered languages to participate in my project.

I have been invited to be part of an exhibition on Endangered Languages curated by Hanna Regev which will begin at Root Division in San Francisco.

I need to collect audio samples of certain words in endangered languages for the piece I will include in the show.  There is a physical element to the work, but the text and the sound of each language are essential to it.

I am looking for words that say something that isn’t easily translatable into more commonly spoken languages, possibly words that hints at the culture. For example: “tattybogle” is a lovely Scotts word (a language on the endangered list) but it directly translates into the English “scarecrow” so I would not count it. The word “tingo” (Pascuense , Easter Island) is better. On Altalang.com it is translated as “the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.”  This is a word which gives you a window into a culture that would produce such a word and takes a clever sentence to translate into a more  commonly spoken language.

What I need for my work is words like that from Endangered languages, spoken and explained on audio by speakers of those languages. Amazingly I’m already finding a fair few… on the internet. Mostly at this point it is friends of friends, but I hope to expand. If you speak an endangered language and would like to be part of the piece, please contact me at contact@marymarch.com with the subject heading “endangered languages”.

One component of the show is the effect of technology on languages.  Are dominant Languages like English, Mandarin and Spanish just taking over because of media and the internet or does the internet create opportunities to connect and encourage speakers of endangered languages? My thought is probably both, but I am finding that the internet is fantastic for connecting with people who speak endangered languages- something that may itself become part of the piece.

UPDATE (12/1):  I am still collecting Audio samples through the end of November. Please contact me if you can contribute. You may remain anonymous in the public project information if you like.  It’s basically a 15-30min Skype, Google Hangouts or Facetime call (which you can turn the video part of off) where I record the word or phrase, your translation and a personal thought or story about them. 

INFORMATION

To see if a language you speak is on the endangered list see Wikipedia’s Lists of Endangered Languages by area.

The United Nations has an interactive map of endangered languages here.

Another great interactive map is here on the Endangered Languages Project site.

For more information on me and my work as an artist, see my website at www.marymarch.com (I suggest the installation and “About the Artist sections in this case).

Living Guestbook- Materials

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MATERIALSThese are some of the materials for my next installation.  The swatches at the bottom are some dye, starch and ink tests.  Each of these base colors (including the white) will be over-dyed in small strips for the piece.  If I don’t get the color variety I want with these base colors in the first few rounds of dyeing, I’ll go  back into the process with more fabric.

The physical format will be similar to Dream Blanket and Transparency: a weaving with the empty warp, structured with a grid of weft, with the main weft made out of strips of this fabric.  Visitors to this collector’s home will be invited to respond to questions about memory, impressions and experience.  They will then get to write these on a strip of dyed dupioni silk that has been starched for structure and to better take the ink.

Visually I made the piece to fit the rustic quality of their vacation home in Vermont.  It will even include existing objects from the house and grounds.  I really love work like this.  Working to specific spaces like the theater and this home is wonderful.  I like making a piece in a way I might not have thought of without the constraints or benefits of a certain goal and space, or without the interaction of other people involved.  I enjoy collaborative work, and I consider working with a curator, institution or collector to be another form of collaboration.

I’m looking forward to this piece!