Monday, July 30, 2012

Geneve Journal: The Kickstarter Campaign

Here it is. I've launched my kickstarter project. The details are, of course, in the video and on the kickstarter project page.
Here it is.
I've launched my Kickstarter project.  Details about the project are in the video above and the accompanying narrative over on the Geneve Journal Kickstarter Page .....and added history and reflections on aspects that are at the core of this project can be found in Geneva related posts on this blog.

So I knew I had to return this year -- and make a project of it.  I don't have the liberty of time as I did back then, but the gesture of a return, accompanied with a broader comparative look between the creative response to place and moment of the 20 year old artist and the 40 year old artist might be interesting.  Of course, It would be interesting to me - that's core driver to all my work, but the challenge would be to address the more universal aspects of revisiting a past and tracing the tracks of paths taken.  

I make my work for myself, without regard to whatever audience might exist (this is only partially true as my work develops, not in a vacuum, but in environment shaped by my interactions with the world.  Of course, I hope and expect that someone, somewhere might share a vision similar to mine - and may well react to it positively.  I bring things into being that I would like to see.  When I develop a project, it's done in a similar manner, intimately scaled and certainly dependent on the resources at hand. 

With this Geneva return, I thought I'd try opening up the process.  Put the project on kickstarter and see if it might be possible to scale beyond my own limitations, just a bit.  I'm seeking to raise $5000 which will help fund the airfare, accommodations, material expenses - both for those incurred on the trip and those that are part of the cycle of everyday expenses back at home.   The Kickstarter route is a challenge because it is an all or nothing bid:  Reach $5000 and get funded.  Don't reach $5000 and NADA.  Now I'll be going to Geneva either way, but, if successful, this Kickstarter campaign will, in the end, buy me additional time for delving more deeply into this project and distilling that reflection into new work.   

Is this a simply an indulgent submersion into nostalgic impulses?  Well, sure, to an extent, but only about this (-) much.  But that's what I do; indulge impulses of all sorts, reflect on them objectively, then critically then tweak them by way of responding visually.  This kind of "indulgence" is what I've generally tried to center my life around, and it is the life blood of my work.  In this case, I'm seeking a little help to see what can be realized in the process.
I think it's well worth indulging a nostalgic stirring now and then just to see what poking around in there might draw out.  
I've always looked at this endeavor as a self-engineered residency, however, Bettina Edelstein, through a conversation I had with her, got me thinking of this as a means of creating a memoir.  Bettina was in residency with me on Norton Island earlier this month and she herself is working on a memoir that follows her rediscovery of her love of flying. This rekindled flame has just recently led to change her career and relocate so as to transform this passion into a vocation.   
A multi-media memoir.  That's truly what it this is.  My objective in this memoir is to focus on this location of Geneva, Switzerland and the folks I encountered and will encounter soon, through the filter of my memories and my artistic sensibilities.  And I hope, ultimately, to produce a body of work that responds personally, but also universally as an address to the notion of aging, remembering and returning.

But much of this, I've said in the video and accompanying narrative on the Kickstarter page.

Fortuitously, my Summer reading has included two memoirs, which even before I considered regarding as my undertaking as one, have certainly informed my thinking about returning to the past and conveying meaning through the telling of a personally experienced account.  The two works are, our current Art Book Club selection, Just Kids by Patti Smith and Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov.   I expect you'll hear more of these books from me soon.
In the meantime, I invite you to come along with me on this adventure and partake in some of the spoils I seek to unearth.  But, if you want a ticket to ride, don't wait too long - August 25th is the final day of Judgement.  Either the goal is reached and we share an experience, or else......Choose your reward!


Sunday, July 29, 2012

NADA returns to Hudson, NY.

a view of NADA Hudson in 2011 in Hudson, NY

NADA Hudson is happening in Hudson, NY again this year.  I won't be able to make it up, but my Dead Hare partner Matthew Slaats is up there with a booth for his PAUSE project.  Stop by and say hi.

We visited last year's NADA Hudson and devoted an episode of the Dead Hare Radio on it - Episode #20.  I think collectively, we were impressed with how it was structure, and with the casual, bootstrapped feel of the thing.
Listen to the episode Here.
One great bouncy house.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Geneve Journal: Tongue untied

Mireille and Robert talkin' french.

In conceiving the plan to revisit Geneva, obvious to me was the need to polish up on my French speaking abilities that have remained largely unused since I left Geneva the first time. Looking to regain some capacity of speaking French reminded me of how the base of my French skills was formed. Aware that I should have some grounding in the language prior to departing for CH, I took a semester of intro to French. The curriculum of the class was based on the "Capretz Method", a concept of total immersion in the language - no English was spoken in the class - based on a schedule of classes that revolved around a series of videos which followed a narrative featuring a young American, named Robert studying in Paris and a French girl named Mireille and her family. In searching online for the Capretz Method, which originated at Yale and created by Pierre Capretz, I learned that the program was involved in a sexual discrimination lawsuit brought by two Yale students,, in 1990, charging an objectionable sexualized depiction of Mireille.

That in the videos, Mireille appeared largely sans bra was a detail not lost on the male students of the class, nor, perhaps, anyone else. I have a dim recollection of commentary on this detail (universally favorable, I think) from fellow male students. Far from being objectionable to us, this detail, served to focus our minds on the objective at hand.....and in my case, served as a reminder of the original imperative to learn the language in the first place.

I ended up in France/Switzerland, with barely a grounding in the language; an insecure grasp on the present verb tense and simple future and past constructions, some basic grammar - and nothing else. Anxiety of actually implementing my new found tool was great in the beginning. I preferred combing the aisles of the Migros market for my lunches to minimize the language based interactions needed to attain what I wanted.  My fear of spoken interactions prevented me, for the first week or so, from entering a bakery and actually ordering a sandwich terrified by the perplexing - and thereby embarrassing - exchange that surely would follow. Eventually I got over that and after a month, my conversational abilities were such that I could get by comfortably. I'm not a stickler for perfection - in any realm - and I gather that, the form of pigeon french I was able to produce, though not pretty, conveyed what I needed it to convey.

The ethos of immersive language instruction feels natural to me - and it mimics what can be said to be my broader philosophy of learning - study the basic specifics of what is needed to know, then jump into a sink-or-swim situation of application that I believe will more firmly embed practial lessons in my mind/memory more profoundly.  I think I'm more of an experiential learner - or I'm lazy...but I want that experience to be real and "functionable" not theoretical excercise.  

I studied Spanish for 6 years - from junior high to college.  Any practical grasp on the language was tenuous at best.  That knowledge was/is in this head somewhere, but it took living in Miami - living and working among a population who spoke it predominantly, if not exclusively, to make that knowledge funtional. Even then, those 6 years amounted to but a skeletal amrature upon which I would reapply all that I needed to relearn in an on-the-street scenario.  Those six years were necessary for laying down a grounding understanding, but it needed a real world situation to activate it.

I must amend the statement that my French has been largely unused for two decades. That's largely true, but even unused, some remnant of it has remained just below the surface - I was told once in Miami that I spoke Spanish with a French lilt (cant' imagine how unfortunate that must sound; and American speaking Spanish with a French inflection) and this subterranean french struggled  to let itself loose whenever I tried to speak Spanish.
My french and Spanish, together, came to be very useful in 2002 on a stay in Umbria with a friend, interacting with folks in a conversive situation that was largely non English.,  My frustration of being locked out of the conversation led me to feverishly forage in my toolbag.  I ended up throwing up as much French and Spanish possible to see how much might stick and how much pose as a "false friend."  This strategy allowed me to cobble together, in short crash course form, a limp, but generally usable Italian, for which I'm very grateful.

One of the great thrills for me was returning to the US after those months spent in Geneva  to realize that, at a low level, I had come to think and speak in French as a default.  The language had climbed to the surface, and predominated my more incidental thoughts, tasks and small conversation around the house - for a short time at least.   Short, indeed, was this altered state and within a week I was very much just another speaker of American, but that short period of living inbetween two tongues - a sort of natural form of disequalibrity was pleasingly un-mooring.  There's a freedom in that that is akin to walking that divide of the recognized and the unrecognizable.  It make everything more discernable, but abstract, in a way, too. 

So today my attempts at sensitizing myself to French have been focused on listening to podcasts.  Namely, Coffee Break French has been my main refresher tool.  I also started listening to a Francophone radio program by SBS coming out of Australia, although my habit here has dwindled.  What has replaced the Austrailian program is one from RFI - Journal en francais facile, which is a daily ten minute news cast.  It's hard to keep up with the daily frequency of this podcast, but it's a good short shot of French and by the nature of news, each there's a good amount of evolving repetition reinforcing what I hear.

By chance, since the spring, Angelika has been watching French films at home and I've boosted the number of such films that I've placed in our Netflix queue.  Being in a Geneve state of mind - and being sensitive to moments of synchronicity, I've started capturing images of the mention of the city and region in these films (granted, there've only been two.  But that's on the way to being a group.  
La Belle Noiseuse, 1991

A bout de souffle (Breathless), 1960
A page from Vladimir Nabokov's memoir, Speak, Memory (although this mention referred to his location in Montreaux, it is on the lake, so close enough, I say.)

BTW: My Geneve Journal Kickstarter campaign is in full effect until August 26.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Geneve Journal: 2 forks, 20 years, and 3 days

I was treated to a blast from the past this past weekend.  Mathias Aubert is a musician, composer and video artist/filmmaker from Geneva.  Mathias is the brother of Magali Aubert, editor and publisher of the Paris art/culture/fashion magazine Standard.   Magali stayed with my parents as an exchange student for a Summer which is what got that whole Geneva thing rolling.   I, in turn, stayed with the Aubert family in France the following Summer. Catching up with him in NY is auspicious given my plans for a working trip to Geneva later this year (for which I'm just now launching a kickstarter campaign.)  I last saw Mathias 20 years ago when he was a 15 year old music student, admirably committed to his violin and his practice schedule.   That Summer, he and I attended the Paleo Festival in Nyon, Switzerland with the single aim of seeing Jethro Tull which was one of the headlining bands.  I was a huge Tull fan at the time - a fact that feels slightly embarrassing for some reason...  I still enjoy a lot the older Tull music and the experience of the concert was pretty great - even euphoric for me....maybe that there is the source of the embarrassment.  
We were standing down front, center stage, no more than two bodies back from the stage.  I spent most of the show, sketchbook open, pen in hand, making gestural stick figure studies of Ian Anderson's onstage antics.  The people around us would occasionally lean their heads in to check out the progress of my scribbles.  I have a memory of one Euro-dude telling me to throw my sketchbook on stage, and I had the worry that if I didn't, he might.  I just held on to the book a little tighter.

So Mathias and I met up several times over the past week and compared notes on the progress of our lives.   We attended the Ghosts in the Machine exhibit at the New Museum, where I had two sightings:  The first was Jerry Saltz taking a picture of a couple of tourists out in front of the museum, and the second, Jodie Foster making her way through the 2nd floor galleries.  The exhibit is a sprawling presentation of artist's responses, over the past century +,  to the mechanized march of technology.  A bit dry at times, I ultimately found it a fascinating show, and one to which I'm grateful because it taught me who Rube Goldberg actually was.  In all the years I had heard his name, and references to his overly complicated mechanisms to easy solutions, I never knew anything about who the man was or where or how his machines came to be.  That he was an illustrator for 50+ years and his contraptions lived in the ink and paper of his comic strip was a revelation.  I feel just a little more whole for knowing this now.

Mathias came up to Beacon on the weekend and we spent four hours on Saturday at Dia.  I had a blast getting his particular musically based perspective on contemporary art.   Incidentally, he's the first person I have met who had heard of Jean Luc Moulene prior to actually seeing his work on view at the museum currently.

Walking home from Dia, Mathias found a flattened fork on the street.   Later, flipping through a sketchbook full of drawings I made while staying with Mathias' family in France, we came upon a french cousin of the fork he found earlier.  The flattened nature of the Beacon fork lent an appearance of extension to its tines that matched the sketch.  

The sketch was made on July 19, 1992 - 20 years and 3 days from the discovery of the Beacon fork.  The image above shows the kin united on the page.  I don't remember the details of where and what meal of that french fork, but I have a memory of holding it, heavy, in my hand.  I can feel the balance of it, the exaggerated tine-length.  The memory is meaty.  Felt.  Sitting here on the train, I can nearly feel the pressure of the phantom fork in my palm, even though that palm is facing down, fingers open on this keyboard.   But given the elasticity and impressionability of our memories, I wonder if they're not truly felt fabrications of this current moment.   I guess I've read this; that, as we access the files of our memory, they replay, not as recordings of an incident, but as if completely fresh embodiments of experience and as they do so they are corrupted and overwritten slightly with each play, altering not only how we read them, but how they exist in the present, each time further removed from the moment of first record.

I'm realizing with this post that the 20 years ago trope is getting tiresome.  I think I've sufficiently established the span of time which frames this track of reflection, so I'll work on referencing it far less explicitly so less often.

In any case, the kickstarter campaign had just gone live and will be running until Aug 22.  The gist is that I'm raising funds to help subsidize this working trip to Geneva which I'm planning in the fall.  I'm looking at it as a self engineered residency in which I'll explore anew a place I knew long ago.   I'll post more details here shortly, but details can be found on my kickstarter page.

Swimming with the fishes

The clear, warm, dry days that typified our stay on Norton Island, as it turns out, are not typical of this slice of Steven King's heaven.  The heavy mist rolled in and out all day Sunday, - our last full day, and it hung on as we departed the following morning.
Seven souls with all their baggage and a week of shared existence crossed over the foggy nothingness of the reach on a flat bottomed skiff as if crossing bouy festooned Styx with Charon (Rob) at the helm and a single headed Cereberus (Daisy) on board pointing the way pointing the way forward. 

Without the outboard running, the scene could have appeared as if ripped out of Hitchcock's Lifeboat.

I ventured out one last time to do a little more tinkering on the beaches on the second to last day.  As I was hammering lengths of driftwood against an edge of rock in order to cut the pieces to desired length, I felt as if I was cast in a Bear Grylls-like survival show, dropped on an island with limited tools - with not survival as the objective, but to litter the shore with bits of crafty flourish.

Exploded Stone
 By chance, some of the material I took with me to the island was some amount of my own beard and hair cuttings...disturbing as it is even to write it...let alone to look at it as a viewer with that knowledge, I'm sure.  But I'll own it.
.....It's all part of the island's DNA now.

 Another split rock, this one sits just outside the Art Barn.  It was improved upon by the other visual artist, Lilach Schrag with the addition of a rusty bolt, below.

Shell Game:  one of three placed around three different beaches.
The buoy tree arranged by my fellow residents.

So how did I spend my time when not combing the beaches? Well it took sometime to unwind strands from the ropes that washed ashore. That was a tedious job that I got bored with quickly, so I only did enough to create the sampler above.  But I do dig the rich colors that were not initially apparent on the beach.  Additionally, I worked on some oil paintings that were part of the intentions I brought with me onto the island, and I made several small watercolors and drawings in response to the island environment, some of which can be seen in the studio shots posted previously, like the exploded buoy drawings (the more colorful geometric ones.)

A week, or ten days is just about enough time to acquaint oneself to the environment one is in.  The work I created while in the studio was small and largely observational, getting the lay of the land, as it were.  Much more observational - although certainly abstracted - but definitely of a representational, ilk .  Feeling out the place, taking it in, and responding in an immediate way.
It's fascinating to me to see the process by which a place moves from being foreign to known.  Within days, shortcuts between vital locations are identified and made habit, and in a process that is  undoubtedly repeated with each new group, place names are given to geographic features, as if for the first time.  Within a week's time we adapt and a sort of experiential propriety falls into place.
My time in the studio mimicked this process, and given another week, I can imagine the results would begin to turn more toward a more internalized digestion of the environment.
So I did several small drawings, a bunch of small oil paintings - the beginning of a project I had come prepared to work on, several things that made it into my sketchbook, and various other things, many of which can be seen in the studio photographs in earlier posts.  I also did some brushed ink drawings of fissures in the boulders along the shore - which amounted to not much, but good exercise.
I had intended to finish working on Friday and leave two days for relaxing and reading - and preparation for the "art show"/open studio scheduled for Sunday.  But I just wasn't done and I yet had ideas and material to process, so I kept working - though leisurely - through Sunday.  This last bit of effort rendered a batch of collages that combined some "orphaned" paper I brought from home and bark from a particular tree on the island.  Embarrassingly, I'm not sure what kind of tree it was....either I forgot or I never knew it's name.  These collages are all 9"x12", I believe.

Angelika brought this mouse/note pad back Germany for me.  It essentially translates to "Is it art, or can it go?"  Which greatly sums up the position of alert I'm constantly in.  On a ground level, it's the unspoken question always in the air as I'm moving through the studio (and when I'm attempting to clean the studio) and even through the streets.  A sort of hunting and pecking for significance.  Of course, by using the term art, I never seek to invoke the grand, Corinthian columned, carved in stone, notion of the monument of art.  It's a compromised place keeper of a word that stands in as representation of some thing that seems worthwhile and worth experiencing....but that's definitely not right either.   Still working on it.

Regardless, this German phrase,combined with Ray Bradbury's quote "By doing things, things get done." (which I believe I quoted here before) together can serve as a shorthand bible for my studio pursuit.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

In the studio today

This is the last day on Norton Island and I'm wrapping up a few loose ends - and relaxing today.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In the studio today

Of birds and men

In my last post, I referenced Ana Mendieta in relation to the group of tiny 'land works" I did on one of the beaches yesterday.  Not quite an appropriate reference, but she immediately came to mind, particularly her figurative earthworks she made.  A much more accurate comparison to my activity of gathering and arranging would be that of the bower bird which was very much fore in my mind.  More fitting too since, I've brought David Rothenberg's Survival of the Beautiful as my reading material on this residency.  A perfect book for working in and reflecting on a setting as perfect as this.  

Last night, prior to dinner, a fellow resident reminded me of the most obvious human analogy to this activity is in the work of Andy Goldsworthy.  I was stunned that I simply hadn't even thought of him once during that morning's beach excursion (for I went out to tinker again yesterday morning) or during Monday's for that matter, which is really funny since those resulting actions are virtually a direct copping of his M.O. 
It's crazy to me that Goldsworthy was washed from my mind and an artist like Mendieta, whose work I might be able to respect, but don't have much time was the one whose work rooted itself in my brain. Goldsworthy's work, which I find entrancing, entertaining and inspiring is not loaded with angsty-feminist conceptual underpinnings which one would rightly assume would make it even more amenable to my own preferences - which it does.  That just doesn't explain why she, and not him, was in my head when I was essentially channeling him.   
It might be a sign of the influence my oft-environment has had in altering my thinking - namely the types of work and rhetoric I'm surrounded by while working at Bard's Curatorial Studies Program which is more concerned generally by Mendieta's flavor of gender identity politics and other such stuff from other such artists.  

Synchronously, David quotes Goldsworthy in Survival of the Beautiful:
I am not a bird and I do not mimic the things I see that birds and animals make.  However, there are parallels to be made.
The sculptures are a response to place, light, atmosphere, the daytime.  But it starts with the material.  That's the beginning and if there are a lot of branches that have curves in them, then that takes me in a certain direction.  It allows me to work with the material in particular ways that I cannot with a straight branch.  

That sums it up the motive/process nicely.  
I revisited one of the works made the day before to see that the tide placed a small rock in the center - improving the piece.
I went out again yesterday, early, and messed gently with the landscape on other shores of the island while also and for more trinkets to bring back to my own temporary bower.  It was a real man-bird hybrid of production.  I found myself compelled to touch and arrange these objects as I went along.  Whatever I couldn't/didn't want to carry along with my, but still intrigued me, I included in some little gesture.  They're not really compelling, but great fun to do, and I understand that upon discovering these little leavings on their own walks, some fellow residents created their intervention of their own...which I have yet to go search out.  
 I lassoed this great boulder and tied it down to a small tree found on the shore.  It felt too much like a clothesline to me, so when I passed it again on my way back to the studio, I altered it.  I removed the tree and anchored the boulder to a small rock I wedged into a fissure in the granite shore.  Though not adequately expressive, I liked the idea of the large, large stone being anchored by the small, small stone.

The Watcher
I spied this great strong bit of geometry in the sides of a crushed plywood box.  A very modernist bit of flotsam.  I had to find an appropriate perch for it. So I tried various plinths and contexts to best suit it as either a hard edged framing device or reductive formalist sculpture:

In the end I returned it to the first pedestal I tried, and it worked well enough there.
I found this disposable cup in a crevice.  The hole appeared as a silhouette of  a flower.  It seemed beautiful (I brought it back to the studio.)
Short Pant and Shoe