Stephanie Rothenberg’s “Garden of Virtual Kinship” at ZKM Center for Art and Media
Stephanie Rothenberg, like many corporations, is interested in what you’re doing online. But unlike those companies that are collecting data for monetization, Stephanie uses API, virtual worlds and online transactions as a platform to make art and critique. Her project Laborers of Love/LOL took advantage of the recent phenomenon of crowdsourcing to have workers abroad cull images of sexuality and desire in order to create a collaged pornography; it was a critique on desirability as much as it was about digital labor. Her Creative Capital project, “Reversal of Fortune,” is a series of installations that both depend on and critique crowdfunding that happens between affluent Americans and developing countries. Elements of the project are premiering this fall in international exhibitions at The Lowry Contemporary Gallery in Manchester, England, and at the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Germany. We spoke to her just before her Manchester exhibition opening.
Jenny Gill: This work is really layered and complex—it’s making virtual transactions visible, it’s translating digital human interactions into organic plant growth. Can you talk a bit about the development of this project and the metaphors at work here?
Stephanie Rothenberg: I have always been interested in using art to raise awareness about particular social issues. Before this project, I had been creating interactive artworks that explored both the benefits and exploits of new forms of online digital labor. These performances and installations leveraged what is known as crowdsourcing—outsourcing work to a so-called online “crowd” of global Internet users. The majority of these online workers were, and still are, in developing countries. They perform online work tasks for little money.
Through these earlier artworks I became aware of a new online phenomena that was becoming more popular and was somewhat of a reversal of crowdsourcing. It is known as crowdfunding. Here the online crowd funds a project or business venture that someone wants to pursue. The most familiar example is Kickstarter, which is mostly used for cultural projects. But crowdfunding is also widely used by charity organizations as a social media platform for raising money to assist people in the developing world with small “micro” loans. Rather than cultural projects, these loans are for small-scale local initiatives such as purchasing animals for a farm or paving a village road.
Degenerate Art Ensemble, “Predator Songstress.” Photo by Joe Iano.
The Seattle-based performance group Degenerate Art Ensemble (2013 Performing Arts) is premiering their Creative Capital-supported project, Predator Songstress, with upcoming engagements at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco (Nov 5 & 6, 8pm; Nov 7, 5pm) and On the Boards in Seattle (Dec. 3-5, 8pm; Dec. 6: 5pm). Inspired by punk, comics, cinema, nightmares and fairy tales, Predator Songstress tells the story of a modern-day anti-heroine in search of her stolen voice. The piece fuses live music, dance and media to create an immersive art environment set in a world of hyper-surveillance, interrogation and data mining. Predator Songstress investigates personal power and the divine secrets of the human voice, engaging audiences in a stunning theatrical experience infused with otherworldly visuals, gorgeous vocals, incredible costumes and a singular butoh-meets-anime vision.
Degenerate Art Ensemble (DAE) is led by co-founders and co-artistic directors Joshua Kohl and Haruko Crow Nishimura. I connected with Joshua and Crow to learn more about this ambitious performance event.
Jenny Gill: Predator Songstress centers on a female character (played by Crow) whose voice has been stifled by societal forces. Can you talk about the oppressive forces or societal issues behind this concept that you want to bring to the foreground? In the end, how does the character find her voice and expression?
Haruko Crow Nishimura: There is a central female character in this modern fairy tale named Ximena, who is growing up in a totalitarian state, where the public sharing of people’s personal stories and struggles centering around voice are strictly forbidden. Her obsession with people’s stories and the source of people’s power gets her into deep trouble. She is sent away to a women’s penal colony and has her voice removed.
Postcommodity, a collective of artists scattered around New Mexico and Arizona, will install two miles of scare-eye balloons at the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona on October 9.
Next week, the indigenous artist collective Postcommodity (2012 Visual Arts) will present their Creative Capital-supported project, Repellent Fence, the largest bi-national land art installation ever exhibited on the U.S./Mexican border. The fence, which will be installed through a community action from October 9-12 near Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta, Mexico, is comprised of 28 tethered “scare eye” balloons, ten feet in diameter, floating 75 feet above the desert landscape to create a temporary two-mile-long sculpture that intersects the U.S./Mexico border.
The geographic location chosen for Repellent Fence is the center point of the largest and most densely fortified militarized zone of the Western Hemisphere. This border region and its omnipresent military and surveillance systems artificially divide people, cultures, languages and communities from themselves and the land, disrupting interdependent human, cultural and environmental relationships that have existed for thousands of years. The monumental Repellent Fence installation is part of a larger public engagement campaign that includes public programming, performances and the first cross-border art walk in Douglas and Agua Prieta. In this post, the artists of Postcommodity—Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martínez and Kade L. Twist—share the back-story behind this ambitious and timely project, nearly eight years in the making.
Next week, Holcombe Waller (2013 Performing Arts) premieres his Creative Capital project, “Requiem Mass: LGBT / Working Title,” in Portland, Oregon in conjunction with PICA’s TBA Festival. Waller’s Requiem Mass is a ceremonial choral work that explores contemporary faith, advocacy through art, and collective catharsis. Performed in historic Trinity Episcopal Cathedral with an all-abilities community choir drawn from all walks of life, the Requiem is an emotional and personal work invoking remembrance and peace for the dead who have suffered persecution for their sexual orientation or gender expression.
“Requiem Mass: LGBT / Working Title” was informed by research into the pivotal gay history from the 1980s through present day and by community engagement that has included working with experts in liturgical music, queer theory, faith-based equality initiatives as well as over 100 participants in a series of choral workshops with Waller over the past year. I connected with Holcombe to learn more about the Requiem Mass and the community he has built around this work.
Jenny Gill: Music has such amazing potential to reach people on a personal and emotional level. Are there any particular musical works—religious or otherwise—that have deeply affected you, or inspired you, or provoked you?
Holcombe Waller: A few of the first pieces of music that come to mind in terms of my Requiem Project: Roger and Hammerstein’s amazing activist show tune, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,” from South Pacific, definitely changed my world. In many ways, the “Dies Irae” section of my Requiem—which I’ve titled “What’s Next”—is rooted in a similar style of musical theater social activism, albeit with a nod to the Dies Irae of Verde’s Requiem. Continue reading
I am thrilled to share Creative Capital’s 15th Anniversary Publication, celebrating our long-term dedication to supporting artists in all disciplines across the country. We asked 15 people from our community—grantees, board members, supporters, consultants and other friends—to share their Creative Capital stories with us. I hope you will enjoy hearing what Creative Capital has meant to them.
Click the icon in the bottom right corner of the black bar to view full-screen, or download the publication here.
In creating this publication, it became clear very quickly just how many people have contributed to Creative Capital’s success over the years. Our community is really what makes Creative Capital unique and we couldn’t do it without you! We will be expanding on this publication with a series of other CC stories in the coming months. Click here to share your story, and you could be featured on our blog!
Katrín Sigurðardóttir, “Supra Terram,” 2015. Installation view at Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art. Photo: Jack Hems; Courtesy of Parasol unit.
Katrín Sigurðardóttir (2015 Visual Arts) is premiering her Creative Capital-supported project with “Supra Terram,” a site-specific installation at Parasol unit in London. Supra Terram (from the Latin term for ‘going above ground’) is a large grotto-like sculpture that extends through the ceiling of Parasol unit’s ground-floor gallery into the gallery space above. I connected with Katrín to learn more about this project and her ongoing exploration of duality and shifting perspective in sculptural installations.
Jenny Gill: Much of your work is site-specific and architectural in nature. Can you talk about the interplay between sculpture and architecture in your work?
Katrín Sigurðardóttir: I am primarily interested in the notion of place, and place is manifested in natural or man-made topography. I use architectural techniques and technologies to describe places; I am less interested in architecture as a means to solve problems, spatial or functional. And even if I am of course concerned with how materials build up, I see this as a basic concern in sculpture. I don’t know if I approach materials or structure in the same way an architect would. Continue reading
Maggie Nelson (2013 Literature) has made a name for herself as a border-smashing writer of books that straddle poetry and prose, academic writing and cultural reporting, memoir and criticism. Today, Nelson’s Creative Capital-supported project, The Argonauts, is published in wide release by Graywolf Press.
The Argonauts centers on a romance: the story of the author’s relationship with artist Harry Dodge, who is fluidly gendered. Nelson describes the complexities and joys of becoming a stepmother to Harry’s son, as well as her journey to conceive the child who they are now raising together. Writing in the spirit of critics like Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes, Nelson’s experience serves as a way to explore how iconic thinkers and theorists have tried to untie the vexing knots that limit the way we talk about gender and the domestic institutions of marriage and childbirth. I spoke with Maggie to learn more about the development of The Argonauts.
Jenny Gill: I’m curious how your writing timeline overlapped with and unfolded alongside the life events you write about in the book. When did you start writing The Argonauts, and how did the book and your life change or evolve over that period?
Maggie Nelson: I didn’t set out to write The Argonauts as a book. In late 2010 I wrote a long piece on Eve Sedgwick, which I gave as a talk at CUNY in March 2011, then in early 2012 I wrote a long review of Sedgwick’s posthumous book, The Weather in Proust, for the LA Review of Books. Then my son was born. Later that year I wrote an essay for artist A. L. Steiner’s November 2012 show “Puppies and Babies,” in which I developed some ideas about “sodomitical maternity,” a great phrase set forth by critic Susan Fraiman. All of these pieces were basically me challenging myself to say “yes” to occasional writing, since I usually say “no” (I can be kind of mono-focused on book writing, at the expense of smaller outings). During all this time, I was also writing more diaristically, about my son, my relationship, my thoughts about family, politics, queerness, sex, gender and so on. It wasn’t until fall 2012 when I looked at a lot of this work and thought, maybe this could or should all go together. At which point I started fashioning it into a long essay of sorts. Continue reading
Remember those zoetropes you had as a kid showing the silhouette of a galloping race horse? Baltimore artist Eric Dyer has developed the concept of this pre-cinema device to stunning results. For his Creative Capital project, Short Ride, he is building a massive tunnel you can walk through with thousands of moving parts. We interviewed Eric during his recent exhibition at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. To learn more about Eric Dyer and Short Ride, click here.
Emily Johnson/Catalyst (2013 Performing Arts) is bringing the expansive installation SHORE to New York this month, with gatherings and events throughout the city (April 19-26) and performances at New York Live Arts (April 23-25). SHORE expands beyond the theater to celebrate the places where we meet and merge—land and water; performer and audience; art and community; past, present, and future.
Throughout her work, Johnson asks: How can performance uniquely connect us to our land, our lives and each other? A native of Alaska who is based in Minneapolis, Johnson has spent the past four months working with community partners to plan this locally-specific version of SHORE in New York City, or as the Native Americans called it, Lenapehoking (“land of the Lenape”). She describes the events planned for SHORE in Lenapehoking: “SHORE moves, over the course of a week, from the dunes in the Rockaways, to the East River estuary, onto and into New York Harbor, over Minetta Creek, to the banks and buoyancy of Newtown Creek. We’ll listen to stories, we’ll work together, we’ll share food and this performance, taking care of what we need to care for. We’ll walk and bike and canoe and celebrate.” Continue reading