Saturday, February 26, 2011

Marina Abramovic Talk at SCAD deFINE Art Series audio transcript

Marina Abramovic, The Artist Is Present, MoMA
Thursday was SCAD's keynote talk for its deFINE Art series of artist talks featuring performance artist Marina Abramovic, who pioneered the use of performance as a visual art form. A Google search will tell you more about her than I ever could.

The main purpose of this post is to share an audio recording I made of the talk. She thought lecturing on her past work to be boring, so she decided instead to give a two-hour lesson on performance art. She shared a curated selection of performance video clips structured by body part (head, hands, feet, torso, body drama, etc.) from a wide variety of artists including herself, along with her thoughts on each. Video recording was not allowed, so without the video clips much of the impact will be missed, but she mentions the title and artist's name for many of the clips, so independent research can fill in the visual gaps.

[Edit: ArtRelish has the full video available, embedded after the jump]

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reading List - Art and Work

I thought it might be interesting to share some books that I've been reading.

The first, and the one I've been using most often recently, is The Artist's Guide to Public Art, by Lynn Basa. If you're interested in finding and getting commissions, I couldn't recommend it more highly. It's full of actually useful information, from where to seek out RFQs and RFPs (don't know what they are? read the book!), to how to write proposals, to what to do after you've won. Contracts, insurance fabricators, it's all in there.

I skimmed the whole book first, because if you're new to the process it'll sound like a lot of gobbledygook (I don't need to know about insurance yet, I'm still looking for proposals to write for, etc). I then went back and used it as a reference when I reached each phase in the proposal process.

Recommended to me by public artist Gregor Turk and also the Fulton County Arts Commission.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Okay To Bleed

IT'S OKAY TO BLEED IF IT GETS ON YOUR FINGERS was one of my more technically challenging pieces, and it evolved quite a bit from the original design due to material behavior in initial tests. I've got a ton of in-progress pics.

When I was first envisioning this pice, I saw it as a 9' square platform, with clear letters serving as open containers. They would be filled with fake blood, and the viscosity of the corn syrup (principle ingredient in many fake-blood recipes) would create a surface-tension bubble above the container's surface. The rendering below shows the first conceptual draft.
An early rendering. The initial idea was that the piece would lay on the floor.
I wanted to explore the resonance between the cognitive (textual language) and the visceral (fake blood). The fact that fake blood is a human-constructed analog for real blood specifically for entertainment purposes bridges the gap between the two. It's visceral in that it is "blood," and yet the fakeness of it means we created a convention when there was none preexisting to have a culturally-accepted form for communication (in this case, communicating that it's supposed to be real blood), similar to language.

Sketchbook pages showing original explorations on left,
to the final fabrication layout on right.

So to build this thing, I needed to find a suitable way to affordably fabricate clear dimensional letterforms at five inches deep. I decided to experiment with the traditional method of letter fabrication, vacuum-formed plastic. That meant I had to build a vacu-form table. I spoke with someone who had made their own table for advice on different construction methods and thermoplastics. I eventually modified a few different plans I found on the internet and added my own twist to some parts here and there.

Mechanical Bloodlines

I took the photographs that would become Mechanical Bloodlines (formerly Nick Plus Dad Equals) over Columbus-Day Weekend in 2004. Nick was four at the time. This was the same weekend I took the Family Portraits. I had borrowed a Holga from a co-worker at Laptop Magazine.

While I've had the Family Portraits printed since 2004, I only recently went back to the negative box and scanned these images of Nick amongst our father's machinery, after I realized that even back then I was beginning to explore concepts of family structure and bonds.

The idea at the time was to find connections, and a big one was my father's plethora of vehicles and machinery, which he uses to maintain the campground that my family owns and operates outside Cooperstown, NY. I'm not sure if I was consciously using Nick as a surrogate for myself or not. You might notice that my father isn't in any of the images, even the one taken inside the house with the rest of the family. He was usually out and about doing this or that around the campground or running errands to town. To this day he refuses to get a cell phone because it just means people will constantly be calling him to do stuff.

I've included a few outtakes from the shoot. While I really like the images, three pics of the firetruck is redundant.

I may end up including this one in the series. There's something about the double exposure and the expressions on Nick's faces, from exuberance to crankiness. Nick had a cold at the time so he was constantly carrying around a handkerchief with a rocking horse on it. He had rubbed his nose so much that it was becoming red and inflamed.

It's interesting that at the beginning of my quest for an artistic voice, I sought out my family, and it took another six years to come back to them. Sometimes we need to explore the world before we realize there's no place like home.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Life drawings from the archive

Found some old life drawings from my SVA days. Not the greatest pictures since I didn't have a way to evenly light them in my Queens apartment at the time. Here they are anyway.
Seated Woman. Graphite. 30x40
Nude Man. Gouache on Acetate. 26x40

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Emotional Baggage Claim proposal notes and words as sketches

I've been working feverishly on my Flux proposal, a performance and installation called, It's All My Fault Emotional Baggage Claim, I thought I'd post a page of notes from my sketchbook. You might notice (especially as I post more pages of other projects) there aren't many drawings for a visual artist's sketchbook.

I came to this realization myself not too long ago. I wondered why I didn't draw more in my sketchbook. Isn't that what artists do when they're sketching? Mostly, it has to do with the way I think and they way I translate what I think to formats others can understand. Language is not natural or innate. It's a constructed convention that, while wildly successful in communicating broad and even nuanced ideas, still falls short when relating to non-tangibles.

I ask myself questions a lot, both technical and conceptual. What am I trying to get across? What do I need to achieve that? How can I layer content and meaning into various aspects while maintaining a visual simplicity? What ideas should I try out? Will this work? Will that?

I see the visuals in my head usually clearly, so it's often not useful for me to spend time fiddling with rudimentary drawings, unless I need to share my idea with another person (as I did in the above image). However, I don't think as naturally in words unless I'm working out how to translate ephemeral core concepts or themes into language. Words end up being my sketches. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Here it goes (again?)

Making the transition from commercial art to fine art is no small task. In NYC, sculpture was never really an option. It was difficult enough carrying a flat portfolio through the subway, can you imagine trying to navigate the city with some bigass hunk of metal with sharpened edges? Unless you've got a shop, a truck and ample storage space, it just isn't realistic.

However, now that I've made the move to Atlanta, and have a house, a workshop and a vehicle, the world of possibilities suddenly seems endless.

I've started uploading images to a new portfolio site, that will focus on my fine art, and will actually be updated regularly as I make new work. I've had for ages, but haven't touched it since the early 2000s. My TShirts and music are still there, but that's about it.

I'll be using this site as a way to explore my process and influences so it can hopefully be shown that, for example, my decision to use fake blood as a material may be slightly less creepy that it first appears.

Maybe not.