Presentation Abstracts for Juried Panels
Active-active: MAKETANK's Oxford Kinetics Festival
Non-art centers (small communities) often suffer from an inferiority complex that is fueled by a genius complex that I aim to dispel. The creation of a community’s creative confidence can be the rising tide that lifts all boats. My projects require a “buy-in” that is not based on habit, such as the habit of attending openings on a first Friday. Instead, I collaborate with community members, kids, seniors, churches, town councils, cops, addicts, and small town business owners—it is a group that that art school never prepared me for.
Like many artists, I was trained in school (for me, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago) to be a genius, yet I soon realized that gallery representation and museum exhibitions could never connect with the population that needs art the most. Now my work is firmly rooted in social practice. I have evolved from making isolated, salable items to creating community art events that connect people who normally do not interact, that create opportunities to share skills, and that create confidence in individual’s sense of creativity. I co-founded MAKETANK Inc., a non-profit that produces the Oxford Kinetic Festival (the only kinetic sculpture event in the Midwest). The first iteration in 2010 had 40 participants, total. In 2013 there were 1100, and the growth has everything to do with trust. Trust is never given—it must be earned. My presentation will survey the development of the OKF as a dialogical art form and will focus on the relationships, negotiations, and practical psychology needed to win the trust of a reluctant community.
I am always trying to get to the bottom of things with my work, and I am most effective when I can convince others to join me to talk, eat, and drink. Artists flying the flags of “dialogical, relational, and situational,” work to communicate directly with a participatory audience. Criticized for “just hanging out and talking,” the most impacting and compelling projects employ strategy: artists must provide good food & drink, make a comfortable place to talk, ask guiding questions, document it all, and exhibit the results. Importantly, they cannot claim to change society.
I will discuss dialogical strategy by surveying seminal public projects and by enlisting audience participation. I will introduce my pandekegedialogerne project, performed in Copenhagen for one month while in residence at Christiania (it will have just ended before the conference) during which I will travel by (Danish) kitchen-bike to city centers to exchange pancakes/drinks for dialog on a specific topic, document the interaction, and create an interpretive installation featuring the content of others, thus showcasing the “bottom” of an issue. I am also in residence in Greensboro at Elsewhere during SECAC, so I’ll ride my (American) kitchen bike to the panel with free food (homemade pretzels/sauces).
Bottom-up: Artist initiated methods for the ideation and creation of public sculpture
An important shift is happening! There is movement from static sculpture to public interaction, from works that are commissioned by endowed patrons to works that are seeded by resourceful artist teams, and from the ideas that are the sole property of the “genius artist” to those generated by the community that will live with the work. A bottom-up artistic approach is an egalitarian one that takes the needs and wishes of the community receiving a work as the starting point, rather than a top-down market opportunity for the community intelligentsia. This can generate compelling work, but it is challenging. This panel is an opportunity to survey artists whose projects creatively and sustainably drive this evolution, academic sculpture/art programs that are canonizing terms such as dialogical and relational aesthetics and that offer MFA’s in Art and Social Practice, and unconventional funding systems. Participants will leave with resources supporting bottom-up methods for fresh, engaging public work.
Artists/collectives who have produced successful, dialogical public projects, who have creatively procured financial support for them, who teach this mode of public art generation, and whose projects have been considered valuable by scholars and critics are invited to apply.
This session will survey some innovative ways that artists who engage in dialogical work use as they rise to the challenges of community engagement in public sculpture, specifically when the public participates in ideation and realization. Panelists will discuss fresh community-based models used to ideate and generate public sculpture, resourceful funding methods, and the critical and theoretical basis supporting it all.
Lots of little papers pinned to the wall: Mapping dialogical art as it happens, not as it once was
Mapping allows the users of a system to visualize and understand something that is too large, too abstract, or to difficult to comprehend without it. Conventional maps are developed after a user interacts with a system, and therefore can be discussed as an accumulation of the residue of investigation or critique. This hindsight can be 20/20, but it can also devolve into a myopic approach. In dialogical art (unscripted artistic practice based on a community setting), maps can be drawn as the events develop, essentially becoming visualizations that are more formative than summative--the maps frame and drive the investigation rather than describe it. As the initial ideation and design charrette unfolds, users can create maps that can then structure and give form to the outcomes.
I plan to give examples of what I call formative mapping in the current field by describing dialogical art processes, by surveying artists and teams whose projects creatively embody this type of project development, and by citing academic programs that are canonizing terms such as dialogical and relational aesthetics and that offer MFA’s in Art and Social Practice. Additionally I present the formative maps of my own community-based artistic practice, the “pancake dialogs.”
Bottom-up: Artist initiated dialogical methods for ideation and creation of public sculpture
An important shift is afoot! There is movement from static sculpture to public interaction, from works that are commissioned by endowed patrons and affluent communities to works that are seeded by resourceful artist teams, and from the ideas that are the sole property of the “genius artist” to those generated by the community that will live with the work. A bottom-up artistic approach is an egalitarian one that takes the needs and wishes of the community receiving a work as the starting point, rather than a top-down market opportunity for the community intelligentsia. This is indeed quite radical and can generate compelling work, especially when the public participates in ideation and realization, but it is challenging. I survey artists and teams whose projects creatively and sustainably drive this evolution, academic sculpture/art programs that are canonizing terms such as dialogical and relational aesthetics and that offer MFA’s in Art and Social Practice, and unconventional funding systems. Additionally I discuss the successes and challenges of my own community-based artistic practice, the “pancake dialogs.” Participants will leave with resources and inspiration supporting bottom-up methods for fresh, engaging public work as well as the theoretical foundations for the movement.
From Need and For Protest: Motivations for Urban Gardening
Urban gardening and independent food production has become popular in the US, perhaps even hip, and this can be seen as a partial solution to the social and environmental impacts of impending climate changes. Vertical gardens, edible schoolyards, water harvesting systems, vermicomposters, rooftop beehives, and community gardens guided by Steiner’s biodynamics and Mollison’s and Holgrens’ permaculture blossom in urban neighborhoods. While all of these are radical, as they subvert a conventional system of food production and distribution that is both unfair and unsustainable, their impetus for promoting systemic change is divided, and potentially weakened. Two distinct motivations can be identified: need and protest.
Although the two are connected and may have similar instruments, individuals seeking nutritional need work for sustenance. The actors are often in marginalized socioeconomic groups where utility is prioritized and methods are practical. Conversely, those who produce food to protest traditional systems do so from privileged positions and their projects tend to be guided by aesthetic concerns, ideological zeal, and pursuit of novelty. The skills of both ideologies are taught—methods of need-based urban farming are often learned through family or community groups while the protestors are often educated in progressive art, architecture, and design institutions. By analyzing strengths and needs of both approaches, I discuss the potential for the creative community to integrate and effectively advance urban food quality and access for all.
Strengths and weaknesses of protest initiatives are identified as I discuss academic projects (SAIChicago and Miami University, Ohio) as well as those of urban guerilla gardeners. Organizations that work toward a goal of community agency, such as Growing Power (Milwaukee) and Dig-It (Lancaster) are discussed as effective, need-based models. Finally, projects that successfully integrate the two approaches are discussed, including Flood (Chicago, 1992 – 1995), Nance Klehm’s Greenhouses of Hope, and Futurefarmers’ Victory Garden.
When is it worth it? (panel chair)
Consider that art students at thousands of institutions, all over the country, from foundations to advanced studio, are consuming materials and producing waste in their pursuit of skill. In teaching students to make (paintings, sculptures, prints, photos, pots, and jewelry) we accept that learning inevitably requires the consumption of materials. From a practical standpoint however, institutions are trying to “green” themselves, therefore re-conceptualizing the “acquire/use/dispose” paradigm.
Proposals are sought from all disciplines, field specialties, and institutions that deal with making and generate waste. Subjects may include (but are not restricted to) strategies to include waste pathways content (such as cradle to cradle theories) in the classroom, closed-loop strategies of art and craft production, the research into and introduction of alternative materials for the classroom/studio, research projects focusing on sources of materials in current use within a field, re-use or reclamation initiatives for projects, responsible collaboration with local industries, initiatives to use the cast-offs of local municipalities or of other departments within an institution, constraint-based projects that limit students to only use responsibly sourced materials, collaboration with hard-science disciplines to find solutions, and projects that intersect with real-world problems in real time.
Patching the Rift: Cultural-creative Approaches to Making-based Education
When we take an honest look at our current environment, and then must go into the studio and teach methods that ultimately drive conspicuous consumption, many of us get frustrated. We are in an exciting, complicated, perhaps scary new world and things must necessarily change, including how and what we teach regarding making as well as systems that will direct our students in what they make, how they can apply/market it, what materials they can use, and the lives of objects. This paper first introduces systems thinking [describing systems as compositions of elements, interconnections, and purposes] and applies this to art, craft, and design. We then discuss how the application of progressive movements and approaches [such as Cradle to Cradle, and World Changing], realized products [such as the Rural Studio] as well as the documentation and presentation of these ideas in exhibitions/catalogs [such as Mau’s Massive Change and Design for the Other 90%] can be introduced in the classroom/studio and be applied, not simply surveyed. Ultimately our discussion will focus on ethical utilization of material with respect and understanding of the systems involved [including material sourcing, individual responsibility, and collaboration] and that we can truly design the world in which we live.
Making and Faking: Gestures of Resistance (also delivered in 2007)
Every consumer has seen it: the mark of artisanal process and evidence of the careful, often obsessive time spent by a craftsperson (planish marks, carved gouges, hammer blows) on mass-produced industrial products, and we have seen it since the industrial revolution. Many of these marks, however, have been machine-fabricated or applied quickly and often superficially. Importantly, their application was not the product of performance and it certainly didn’t drive the form. While this may initially suggest that many consumers are happily fooled, as they are not able to recognize craft virtuosity as readily as the craftspeople can, it is more likely that the marks of time-based craft processes comprise a set of appreciable visual codes that are read both on conscious and sub-conscious levels. The event of making and agency of the maker could be what is signified, however there may be an abstracted appreciation of craft codes without a reference to time at all. This paper first identifies and investigates these codes (distilled craft marks) in selected contemporary industrial products and, second, highlights some of the attractive attributes that lead to an increased consumption and therefore become “addable” values in the industrial sector. Finally, I propose ways in which this information can be useful both inside and outside of an academic purview, in both cases to provide a broader appreciation of the work we create for the consuming public where it is most needed.
The distilled marks are identified in two categories of objects. The first set includes items that are made from materials that are distinct from what is normally associated with such objects (such as injection molded plastic-ware in the Paul Revere school of Federal style silversmithing). The second category includes objects manufactured from their traditional materials but through a non-traditional industrial method (such as die pressed copper bowls with the marks of raising and planishing as part of the mold, or fabrics with weave patterns printed upon their surfaces). The read of these attributes drives consumption of both craft and manufactured commodity. The consumers’ decoding of the marks is investigated both on the conscious level (in which the marks are understood and become reference to process) and on the sub-conscious level (in which the marks become signs that are decoded without distinct allusion). For the latter, there is consideration that this lack of tangible reference creates simulacra, or perhaps establishes a definitive (synthetic) style in which the making-based reference becomes primarily decorative. In doing this I explore the reasons why craft marks are so attractive in the current market and the possibility of what can been called sympathetic virtuosity or vicarious craft. This paper also spotlights efforts to make the codes of mimicry palpable for consumers, users, and collectors. These come from craftspeople, including Myra-Mimlitsch Gray and Gord Peteran, designers, such as Smoove, as well as scholars such as Clive Dilnot and Bruce Metcalf.
Crossing Over: Synthetic Approaches to Teaching (panel chair)
Education is enhanced when tacit knowledge is enabled. With the movement to a post-industrial economy comes a realization that we are certainly not alone, and as the world increases in size our making and teaching strategies must logically keep in step. We see evidence of this as artists embrace hybrid styles and methods, as designers democratically facilitate collaborations between disparate social groups, and as teachers lead their students out of the studios to tap into real-time practical applications of their topics. In addition to increasing the number of influences on a student, this strategy of pairing distinct yet complementary, or even opposing, approaches, disciplines, and cultural domains may also contribute to a productive educational dialectic.
Papers will be presented from professionals in studio practice, art history, or design who are interested in presenting documentations of projects, classes, or pedagogical structures that focus on the connections between, but are not limited to, the following: teaching and application, theory and making, academia and industry, art history and hands on making, architectural study and building, and design and consumption. The panel will discuss the theoretical and practical implications of the dialectic that is inherent to such endeavors. Research will specifically focus on projects that innovatively cross social, economic, and labor domain boundaries.
Molyneaux’s Paradox, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education (FATE) annual conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (abstract not available)
3-D Fundamentals: Making-based Teaching
and Form Follows Fabrication (In That Order)
Not all sculptors are educators, at least not directly, however many in our field have taken part in the act of teaching at universities, community colleges, art centers and private institutions. Occasionally (when we are fortunate) we are able to teach what we do and how we do it in facilities that mimic our own studios. A more common position however is that we either direct curricula or actually instruct in a foundation capacity, preparing future sculptors to work across methodologies and to explore media to find something that can be called “home”.
Many sculptors, myself included, work tirelessly in their preferred medium and/or process (or type) to always push the boundaries of their own potential as artists. In today’s age of plurality, however, with distinctions between art, craft, and design constantly being made, qualified, disputed, defended and eroded, it is crucial to develop a strategy of bringing young sculptors into the fold with firm fundamentals of making that are not type specific. My research and proposal for the Tri State Sculptors Annual Conference promotes a making-based approach to foundation education that supports innovative sculpture by teaching from the method of making rather than the form desired. It is based on a textbook I am currently writing titled 3-D Fundamentals: Design Strategies for Makers in which I argue for a replacement of form-based foundation curriculum with a solid material science and method based course that deals only secondarily (although still actively) with formal issues. It is my hope to get the ball rolling through discussion with the individuals that can be the most effective in this push as well as those that can benefit the most from it—sculptors.
Often, the foundation curriculum serves a formal (and antiquated) god, and burgeoning sculptors emerge with an understanding of something as subjective and nebulous as the principles of design, elements of formal theory, and the ability to identify geometric versus biomorphic form with no idea of how these things could be made manifest, save using foam-core, wire, plaster, balsa and hot glue. While this may provide an understanding of content strategy, when it comes time to the actual making, ideas fall flat as things fall apart.
In my teaching at the Art Institute of Chicago I have found that content strategies are best delivered on top of a more making based structure of method and material science that can be applied to sculptors working traditionally, experimentally and even through contract or out-sourcing. It supports sculptors, designers, craftspeople, and architects. It does this by getting down to the essentials of how the things we make…are actually made.
Most sculptors agree that there are essentially four methods of making [subtractive, additive, replacement, and plastic deformation] (with many ways of arranging), however there are varying degrees to which the workmanship of risk is applied. It is may hope that as we instruct, we impress upon young sculptors not the difference in media or form, but the similarity in method. When makers understand the fundamentals of these categories, and are introduced to the myriad methods of operating within them, innovative hybrids are able to form and become new and fresh manifestations of artistic creativity.
While the subtractive method requires removal of material through attrition or cleaving, it should be noted (and taught) that this applies to carving, riving wood, abrading stone, turning steel on a lathe, milling ABS plastic, and carving a radish rose. This may be done by a skilled hand, by a machinist with analog controls, or by using a CNC 5-axis router.
The additive method requires the accumulation of material on an initial form. While we often see this as clay on an armature or steel upon steel, this method also includes bentwood lamination, sintered plastic, paper-lamination rapid prototyping, 3-dimensional printing, and even layering processes that involve phase changes such as stereo-lithography.
The replacement method (a favorite of sculptors as it is here we get to melt metal) most certainly includes ferrous and non-ferrous foundry-work and plaster casting but also includes slip casting of porcelain, injection molding of plastics, the casting of MDF and particle-board, the making of Hershey bars, and the forming of alginate dental molds.
The plastic deformation method, in which material stays in the shape to which it is coaxed, includes the forging of steel, the drawing of wire, the spinning of aluminum bowls, and the raising of copper vessels. But also include extrusion of play-doh (using a fun factory), pultrusion of curing fiberglass, cake decorating, die-forming, and the concentric throwing of a clay pot.
I will present this method of sculptural education, along with salient supporting examples of both traditional and contemporary products of art and industry, to the Tri-State Sculptors in hopes that a dialogue can be established. Additionally, I am always interested in feedback from sculptors whether involved in education or not. In an era where foundation pedagogy is in constant revision I hope that this radical change can be seen as one that can produce a more solid platform from which new sculptors can spring that will yield interesting confluences of ideas and materials.
The idea is a simple one. Teach artists how three-dimensional work is made and allow them to experience and practice within the four methods, but also familiarize them with the basics of each method as well as the variations that exist in the realms of industry, art, and craft. Do this at the foundation level, from day one. This will increase the breadth of our discipline, encourage the inclusion of non-traditional possibilities, and ensure fresh and innovative sculpture and design for generations to come.
Inclusive Architectural Design: Success and Failure in Symbiosis
Ultimately, there is no public art, architecture, or environmental design that exists to serve humans alone. As we enhance our social surroundings we also create environments that support cohabitation with myriad native and non-native animals. Historically, the response to this persistent co-existance has been the introduction of features to discourage the relationships and “drive a wedge” between species or groups through design. These often include bird spikes to inhibit roosting, sirens, mylar ribbons, caged eaves, chemical repellents, traps, and even eradication programs of certain (apparently destructive, or at least pesky) species. Architects have additionally applied these devices tho thwart “undesirable” human activities as they specify urban railings with spikes, graffiti-proof walls, fences around sculptures, low concrete walls with anti-skateboard lugs, and park benches that allow sitting but not sleeping.
My paper discusses the extrapolation of these “anti-animal” measures to the human animal and explores some of the social implications that result both from biophilia (the theory that humans have an instinctive bond with all other living things) and “animalizing” ourselves. Although many consider the human/non-human distinction to be paramount in art and architecture, these designs reinforce divisions between ideals of good/bad, healthy/sick, and wanted/unwanted while actually supporting the similarities between animals and humans. I use salient examples from art, architecture, and environmental design that reference animals, both metaphorically and physically, in their exclusion of the behavior of human sub-groups.