Congratulations to Stacey Kirby on her ArtPrize 8 Win!

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Excerpt from Stacey Kirby’s “The Declaration Project”

What would you do with $200,000?

That’s the question facing performance installation artist Stacey Kirby who recently won the $200,000 grand prize at ArtPrize Eight for her interactive performance piece, “The Bureau of Personal Belonging.”

Visitors to The Bureau engage with Kirby and other performers in the designated areas of the Bureau of Personal Belonging: the Department of Declarations, the Civil Validation Department and the Board of Elections and the Facility Permit Office. Each is occupied by a performer in the role of a government official and evokes an office setting tailored to represent the governmental process it critically examines – from issuing bathroom permits (in direct response to the infamous House Bill 2 passed in Stacey’s home state of North Carolina) to determining the validity of individual lives and experiences. The work culminates with participants’ handwritten responses being processed and mailed to public officials. President Barack Obama, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, various North Carolina Legislators and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder are among recipients of Kirby’s work.

You can visit The Bureau remotely through the video of her work below:

It’s easy to treat massive wins like this as though they happened overnight and miss the hard work and learned lessons that make them possible. To this end, Stacey Kirby was kind enough to share 4 lessons she learned that helped pave her path to the ArtPrize grand prize.

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Brittany Nelson Upends Tradition By Misusing Dangerous Photographic Processes

Nowadays, photography is perhaps the one artistic medium with which literally everyone has some experience. And that’s what makes Brittany Nelson’s work so important. Her Creative Capital project, Alternative Process, opens November 5 at David Klein Gallery. Typical of her process, the work shows the various way in which Nelson has been able to playfully experiment with and trouble outdated photographic processes to create abstract work. Unlike other mediums, photography, in particular, has a long history of perpetuating tradition. By experimenting with processes, Nelson challenges these traditions, which, as she explains, is a white male dominated art form. We caught up with Brittany to find out more about her work.

Alex Teplitzky: Can you talk about the show at David Klein Gallery: what are the themes that tie the work together?

Brittany Nelson: My Creative Capital project has really been a series of solo exhibitions this year leading up to “Alternative Process.” It was perhaps an unusual situation because I have been showing the work as I develop it. Starting with “The Year I Make Contact” at Morgan Lehman in NYC, “Controller” at Patron in Chicago, and landing in Detroit in November at David Klein Gallery; all new work was created for every exhibition, and each show centered around its own sub-theme. “The Year I Make Contact” centered around themes of evolution. “Controller” focused on the idea of mirroring and movement with ties back to very early astronomical photography, and “Alternative Process” is being created around ideas of time (as a physical quantity).

All of these exhibitions and the body of work at large center around major themes of communication/transmissions, future artifacts, abstraction as the philosophical ideal, and of course the history of photography. Alternative Process features a collection of tintypes on brushed silver aluminum that contain various recreations and reinterpretations of science graphics. I have been flipping through a large quantity of books on astronomy and theoretical physics, specifically looking at the graphs and charts that have been created as an attempt to communicate very complex sets of knowledge as simply as possible. I have been very interested in these modes of communication by both how succinct they are, but in the ways in which they fail to cause a comprehensive understanding. This segues into the thoughts behind designing the Golden Record that went out on the Voyager spacecraft, and how you design something for a brain and logic system you can’t comprehend. I think of the tintypes this way: as an alien or future artifact. In this instance, though, the aliens I’m trying to communicate with are the gallery patrons.

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The Artist as Activist: Planning for Impact

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Sonic conceptual artist Abby Dobson. (Courtesy of abbydobsonsings.com)

“It felt like I had been sort of treading water AND going around in circles”

Abby Dobson came to the 2015 Artist Summer Institute with an impressive resume; she had already taken her brilliant songs and sound—a kinetic alchemy of R&B, soul, jazz and classic pop to legendary venues like The Kennedy Center, The Apollo Theatre and The Tonight Show. Still, like many artists at a certain stage in their careers, she worried about stalling.

“I wanted to jumpstart myself creatively and build an infrastructure around what I do. I wanted to give myself a better shot to continue doing music, continue creating and not doing what so many of us do – stop.”

She sat down at the Introduction to Strategic Planning workshop expecting to spend a few hours thinking about her future, but was still surprised by exactly how far ahead the program prompted her to think.

“One of the tasks was to write our own obituaries, and it was a really interesting thing to do. I was challenged, in a new way, to think about what I would want said about myself and what I want to have done before I leave this earth.”

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Complex Movements Honor Decentralized Networks and Resilience

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Complex Movements on stage

“How do we build movements where there are many leaders?” wonders Carlos Garcia in a recent interview. That’s just one question at the heart of Beware of the Dandelions by the Detroit-based collective Complex Movements. The Creative Capital-supported project is a traveling, video installation pod which is activated through community and audience engagement, hip hop and science fiction narrative that mutates depending on where it’s performed. The collaboration started out of a conversation that stemmed from dissatisfaction that live hip hop was limited to the usual on-stage performance. The group—made up of Invincible/ill Weaver, Waajeed, Wes Taylor and Carlos Garcia—decided to explore social injustice they experience in Detroit and critical theory they were reading about through a multi-disciplinary project. Beware of the Dandelions has traveled to Seattle and Dallas, among other cities, but it premieres Oct 6-31 at Talking Dolls, as part of a “homecoming” to their native Detroit. An album by the same name is also available for sale. To get a better idea of what the project as a whole is, we caught up with the group.

Alex Teplitzky: Beware of the Dandelions places audience members in the middle of a science fictional dystopia. You’re from Detroit, a city I have read a lot about but have only visited quickly. To outsiders, the connection between reality and science fiction doesn’t seem far off. Is that a misguided judgment on my part?

Complex Movements: Many of the story elements of the science fiction parable Beware of the Dandelions are based on recent stranger-than-fiction events in our city and state, such as mass land grabs by billionaires speculating hundreds of acres of land under the guise of apple orchards (and tree farms), water being shutoff and poisoned, state of the art surveillance systems run by corporate moguls, and life extension seeking cryogenics facilities to name a few.

One of our project’s inspirations, (Detroit philosopher and activist) Grace Lee Boggs used to say “Detroit is what the country has to look forward to” partly because many of racist/colonial capitalism’s practices were piloted here, and subsequently, many of the community led strategies to address the crises created by those practices were also ingeniously created and innovated here.

Detroit is also a science fiction mecca including techno legends Underground Resistance and Drexciya, authors like adrienne maree brown and Saladin AhmedIngrid Lafleur’s Afrotopia project, and beyond.

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Turning thoughts into Actions: The Presence of the Brown Girls Museum Blog

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Photo Credit: Amanda Monroe Finn

Ravon Ruffin & Amanda Figueroa are consultants. Together, they’ve created the Brown Girls Museum Blog (or BGMB) which cultivates inclusionary practices for museums through social media, speaking engagements, collaborative partnerships, community advocacy, and content services. What started as a conversation, transformed into a platform that aims to solve the one of the most pressing challenges with the art world.

Hillary: Although you are both young, it seems as though it didn’t take long to transform a problem into an opportunity. Can you describe the development of BGMB and your current roles in its operations?

Ravon: The blog came about through individual interests, and then we discovered that we work well together. We both are determined and unrelenting in our desires for social equity in the humanities field, and bringing our individual skills together has been one of our biggest strengths. From the beginning, we’ve always had a clear vision of what we wanted the blog to look like, and we sort of fell into our roles from there. I’ve always been more of the content management and strategy type, whereas Amanda is apt in the technical and design aspect. Our academic endeavors are quite literally where we intersect.

Amanda: I think both of us have always been “problem solvers” — when we noticed what was going wrong with inclusion in museums, we immediately wanted to help fix it. At first, the best way to do that was just by speaking out, raising our voices and making ourselves be heard online, but as the blog continues, we’ve been given more and more opportunities to work on this issue in different ways. It has been exciting to be able to take our mission, and our work “offline” in live events like talks and workshops, but a digital presence will always be important to us. Right now, we tend to split our roles pretty evenly; Ravon handles a lot of our social media while I do a lot of the back-end design stuff, and we both collaborate on new projects as they come in.

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My Barbarian Brings the Audience into the Fold

My Barbarian (2012 Visual Arts) consists of artists Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon, and Alexandro Segade.  By using performance, My Barbarian dramatizes past and present problems and imagines ways of being together. Their Creative Capital project Post-Living Ante-Action Theater (PoLAAT) is a public performance and video installation, generated in close collaboration with local participants using techniques developed by My Barbarian as part of an ongoing project. Workshops and cultural research with participating artists have resulted in a visual, musical, theatrical and politically critical public demonstration.  Their project culminates with an exhibition and residency now on display at The New Museum through January 8, titled “The Audience is Always Right.”

Hillary Bonhomme: Can you describe how My Barbarian developed PoLAAT, the exchange of ideas between the collectives work and the product of the workshops, and how that helped develop this exhibition at the New Museum?

My Barbarian: My Barbarian’s Post-Living Ante-Action Theater, or PoLAAT, is the collective’s performance pedagogy, built of five techniques: Estrangement, Indistinction, Suspension of Beliefs, Mandate to Participate and Inspirational Critique.  The PoLAAT is a response to, among other things, Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed, Fassbinder’s Anti-Theater, the Living Theater of Juian Beck and Judith Malina, and other theatrical models that attempted to create social change; it is a means of addressing histories, often buried or overlooked, of critical and revolutionary theater from the 1960s and after, while situating its own enactment in (and against) the seemingly anti-revolutionary contemporary moment.  The PoLAAT occupies the space between memory and rehearsal, joke and laugh, commentary and critique; it is the theater that happens after an experience is lived, but before action is taken. It is a rehearsal. The title of the exhibition, which is shared by a recently published PoLAAT manual and how-to book, takes on a critical irony in this dangerous moment of political theater: The Audience is Always Right.” Except, of course, when they are wrong.

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Approaching the Gatekeepers of the Art World

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On October 4th, Sharon Louden begins her four-part webinar series helping artists figure out how to navigate the greater art ecosystem of galleries, curators, collectors — basically anyone that can help your professional career! In How to Approach and Engage with the Gatekeepers of the Art World, Sharon Louden will call upon the personal experiences and advice of many different experts in the art world. For more information or to register, click here!

Read the testimonies from artists who participated in Sharon’s last webinar:

“Sharon is not only full of strategies and insights for artists — she is also full of passion and energy. We feel her sincere caring. Her webinars (I have taken two) are organized, down-to-earth, and FUN! Sharon is well-known for her books, teaching, interviews, and dedication to clearing the paths for artists, as well as enlightening us about the lives of a variety of artists creating their way in the world.”                 Leslie Fry

 

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Know Your Rights: A Tool for Artists

Spencer Tunick, Arrow To Washington, NYC, 1995. Gelatin silver print, 48x60 inches. Edition of 6.

Spencer Tunick, Arrow To Washington, NYC, 1995. Gelatin silver print, 48×60 inches. Edition of 6.

We spoke with Joy Garnett from the Arts Advocacy Project at the National Coalition Against Censorship about a new artist education tool, Artist Rights.

Jenny Gill: How did the Artist Rights site come to be? Who compiled the resources and research available there?

Joy Garnett: Artist Rights was created to address questions that artists may have about their rights under the First Amendment. The site is a collaboration between the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). Previously, NCAC put together an art law database with help from a lawyer and five law students, and the CDT had built a site to address artists’ online rights. The Artist Rights site brings together the content of these two resources into one cohesive, easily navigable site.

The impetus for creating Artist Rights was an incident involving an artist who received a letter demanding that their work, which included nudes, be removed from an exhibition in a public space. The letter contained legalese that the artist found confusing and intimidating; had he been able to penetrate the jargon, he might have realized that the assertions in the letter were incorrect and that he was well within his rights. And so the idea for the website was born. Continue reading

Two Academic Writers Learn to Unlearn and Build on Their Own

From "On Larry Lee's 'The (Un)Timely Death of Multiculturalism," by Eunsong Kim

From “On Larry Lee’s ‘The (Un)Timely Death of Multiculturalism,” by Eunsong Kim

In May, we spoke to a few arts bloggers who had won Arts Writers grants to maintain their blogs. One blog, contemptorary by writers Gelare Khoshgozaran and Eunsong Kim, was just beginning at the time. As of August, 2016, however, their project is well underway with articles on artists and arts exhibitions, like MOCA Los Angeles’s “What is Contemporary?” Their stated focus this year on women of color and indigenous on and overall hope to reframe marginalized voices in art history and criticism struck us as particularly important, so we reached out to the writers for further comment.

Alex Teplitzky: Your blog will profile women of color and indigenous women queering the art world. Can you go more into specifics about who you hope to profile or hear from? What convinced you to start this blog?

Gelare Khoshgozaran & Eunsong Kim: We introduce contemptorary as a “cyberspace project covering: women of color and indigenous women queering the art world; queers disrupting white hegemony: immigrants and those displaced due to war, occupation and colonialism who breach all terrains.”

We wanted to create a unique space dedicated to those who have been historically marginalized (or inevitably auto-marginalized), tokenized and alienated. We wanted to assert our taste and bring into light the works of those whom we deeply value and have been inspired by, (re)introduce their works in a new context and see how their different voices resonate together cacophonously.

We started contemptorary because we didn’t see anything that was like it. We also made this decision because we have been students and practitioners of the arts and our previous education, our assigned reading guidelines have not been enough. They were curricula that consistently left us needing to: unlearn and to research and build on our own. So we’re carving out a cyberspace that holds what we want to learn about, what we want to read about, what we want to see and share.

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