Gallery view of Jenny O’Dell’s ‘Infrastructure’ (February—March 2014) at Intersection for the Arts, curated by Kevin B. Chen (photograph by Dorothy Santos)
There is so much more to say about this issue. As an SF native, I have been a patron and supporter of Intersection for the Arts for a long time. I recently published a news story on the online arts publication Hyperallergic. If you would like to join the conversation, please feel free to leave a comment on the Hyperallergic site or consider joining the open group on Facebook called After Intersection. I wish I could say “enjoy” this write-up, but it’s more to share the news on a national platform and help spread the word about how we as a community can better support and keep apprised of our beloved grassroots arts organizations. Thanks so much for reading. Please share widely.
Prior to cinemagraphs, comment threads, 140 character limitations, and photography, there were Broadsides. Serving as the primary mode of communication for artists and writers around the turn of the 18th century, it was a way for the artist and writer to relay messages to the public. Although one-sided, broadsides gave the viewer an experience of art regardless of their socio-economic status in that broadsides were posted in public spheres where anyone with the ability to read had access to text and image. With no digital divide or privileged information, the broadside may even be considered an early form of urban art, one based heavily on its environment and region. One example that comes to mind is the consideration of the location and posting of broadsides being dependent on the most highly trafficked areas of a city. However, physical location doesn’t mean too much in regard to the information we send and receive–the constant and instantaneous feedback and engagement of the audience seems to be a facet of social interactions, which spill over into contemporary art. Thus, the importance of showcasing traditional and new forms of interaction in the scope of art and literature is valuable and reflective of how communication has progressed and evolved.
The exhibition, “Broadside Attractions and Vanquished Terrains” curated by Maw Shein Win, Megan Wilson, and Intersection for the Arts director, Kevin Chen, included twelve pairings between artists and writers. The task incorporated a process of interpreting the craft of the broadside based on a film, a piece of music, and a place (real or imagined). Printmaking, drawing, sculpture, painting, and various tools of technologies (i.e., sound, digital photography, etc.) cover the spectrum of mediums used by the collaborating teams. The exhibition does not only explore the concept of the broadside but opens the viewer up to the remnants and byproducts of the creative process of artists and writers, and the relationships between the two. As the viewer reflects on this particular mode of communication, the images, text, space, and performances commingle to revitalize the broadside as the attraction by asking the artist to create an accompanying work show alongside the broadside. With a nod to the “new” technology, it was possible to use your smartphone to access the information the artists and writers used as grist for their mill.
Artist Eliza Barrios projected white, sans serif, block text words in the center of a corner seam of the gallery. Angled rectangles line both sides of the vertical text. These angled boxes contain moving images that led the viewer’s eyes to the words ‘SAINT’, ‘LEAVE’, ‘ANTICIPATION’, and ‘DOMINATRIX’ amongst others. Barrios’s piece served as the signal to the Broadside, it provided the reader with text and images to take on Myron Michael’s words and somehow contextualize them in their imagination. As a minimalist collaborative work, the strong text and non-conventional projection onto flat surfaces created something astute and concise.
With the pervasive use of social media and re-creation of traditional film cameras for the digital age, the stop-motion photography created from the application, Hipstamatic, brilliantly works alongside Cortez’s written work based on time, loss, and memory. Misa Inaoka and Jaime Cortez works were rich in mystery and poignant. Each line of Cortez’s piece, Untitled, tells a story that builds and evolves. In the opening lines of Untitled, for instance, the story of this enigmatic man sets the tone,
It was the 30th of May.
He weighed 300 pounds.
He was 6 foot 3 inches tall.
The water temperature was estimated to be 60 degrees.
The police made the rescue call at to the fire department at 12:30 pm.
Seems like an awful lot of numbers divisible by three for one little suicide.
Similar to Cortez’s text, Inaoka’s stop-motion video tells a story that warrants an almost infinite loop of observation. In the content of each frame, Inaoka seamlessly tells an equally mysterious yet engaging story of miracles and memory through simple transitory compositions. Viewers may find themselves reading the text or watching the stills over and over again to capture something that may have been missed as they gain a different meaning each time.
Karrie Hovey and Elise Ficarra (along with Evelyn Ficarra) created a large-scale sculptural piece tmade up of incredibly organic shapes and forms that wrapped around the spiral staircase near the Intersection for the Arts gallery entrance. Walking on the spiraling stairs, forms of deer, antlers, and branches made from felt come into view. Translucent words were sprinkled throughout, and sounds from nature emanated from embedded speakers. The sense of hearing something natural against concrete and metal was reminiscent of the urban landscape where humans try desperately to preserve a sense of the natureal with our rooftop gardens atop corporate buildings and parks surrounded by cars. Hovey and Ficarra’s piece harked back to days when people found themselves outside of the home learning more about life through the written word and their physical environment rather than through a virtual world.
Lastly, audience participation played an integral role in the collaborative work of Liz Worthy and Jenny Bitner. As an exercise in relational aesthetics, Worthy and Bitner take on the idea of Sunday tea complete with friendly interaction. Yet, within the physical space and the objects, such as the tea cups, the table, the dishes, and the cookies, the piece calls upon something deeper from the participant – an intimate moment. Whether the intimate moment was with a friend or one of the artists, an exchange rooted in a reading of Bitner’s piece,Confession expands the idea of intimacy in that it asks the reader to question their own relationships both “real” and “online”. The work uses a sense of whimsy and playfulness as it asks participants to ponder their own idea of interaction and engagement with others; in this space, the viewer is asked to engage with objects and people in real time in actual physical space.
The commonality of each collaborative work in the Broadside Attractions and Vanquished Terrains reminds us that even with the endless ability to scroll, “Like”, and reblog the tiny windows we have into each other’s lives, there is something wonderful about returning to a place where our physical senses as well as the mind can engage in concert to create not just a retinal experience but a sensorial one. This exhibition examines and dissects the important relationships between visual artists and writers. The symbiotic nature of these relationships and method of communication prove to be far from blips in the virtual universe. These works reclaim the vanquished terrains taken over by parklets and sky scrapers and asks the viewer to re-imagine a time when you could touch and even feel the written word on paper.
I asked a dear friend about her attention span. She was candid in sharing that if 200 characters don’t entice her, you’ve lost her. She is an intelligent woman and I completely trust her opinion. Now, that’s not a lot characters to lure someone in. Yet, it speaks to the culture we live in. Granted, this post (originally posted to zero1‘s blog) is pretty lengthy but the show resonated with me because words are important to me (duh!). Being a writer is difficult and challenging work. I constantly wonder who might care but as one of my great mentors shared with me…this is why you write…because you give someone something to care about. Okay, enough, enjoy the piece AND if you make it through the entire piece, I will send you something in the mail (promise). 😉
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Technology often conjures up images of mobile devices, machines, and programming. Yet, technology, according to Wikipedia, “…is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function”. With all the taxonomies and ever evolving nature of art, new technologies present themselves everyday. Yet, the barrage of images in the media are not the only thing that inundate us. Language is ubiquitous. What limitations do we experience when we’re forced to use only 140 characters? What does this impact the way we communicate? Or how do we make sense of the words that make it into our vernacular in such a fast paced environment? In Other Words, showing at the Intersection for the Arts, showcases the work of contemporary artists interpreting our collective relationship and understanding of language. Kevin Chen, Intersection for the Arts program director, gathered artists looking at the written word to extrapolate human behavior and creativity, re-configurations and semantics of language, the tactile nature of typography and script, and the physical placement of text.
Imagine the networks and visual spaces we visit. What would those lines, images, and words look like meshed together? Emanuela Harris-Sintamarian answers this question through her visual metaphors of social media. Her work forces the viewer to realize that it doesn’t really matter where you look because it is all within the same space. The habit-forming behavior of constantly checking our e-mail, looking for new tweets, and compulsively looking at peoples’ photo albums online is the basis for this work. She shows how we open ourselves up to a world hoping to find something new but it is all the same material. The same people in different places. Harris-Sintamarian’s work is a testament to how our minds might synthesize and re-appropriate the world.
Christine Wong Yap’s work looks at Optimism and Pessimism in human behavior. Inspired by the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Yap’s drawings are interpretations of his notable sayings and statistical analyses. The replication of scientific text through drawing and handwriting solidifies good habits in the viewer as well. Yet they serve as meditations for the artist. Her well curated info-graphics and carefully written text are worth the attention. In this digital age, people will find Yap’s work refreshing because it serves to remind us of our capacity to create.
Katie Gilmartin Queer Words re-contextualizes the relationship between words and images. Although seemingly mundane and innocuous, words such as ‘bear’ may conjure a wild animal, yet take on a completely different meaning within the queer lexicon. The vernacular and pictures Gilmartin employs are humorous and overt. She plays into both our collective consciousness and gender constructs.
Speech and language take on a physical form in Alex Potts work while Cassie Thornton re-interprets the television as a form of purely textual communication. Past the main entrance, visitors see a spiral staircase with multiple white waxed cornucopias inviting the viewer to engage and experience space, form, and sound. Potts work with audio and feedback based on the participants’ engagement with the work is integral to comprehension of what language may sound like from one person to another. He creates the forms but relies on the active listener and participant to bring the piece to life. In Education Delivers People (2011), Cassie Thornton re-interprets Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman’s work, Television Delivers People (1973). Thornton’s piece seems to translate, to a certain degree, a similar message but tailored to a contemporary audience. Simultaneously, the work reflects history and how it relates to the current state of the economy. Through stand alone text, without all the images and superfluous media, the viewer becomes enlightened.
Textile work, “She wrote love letters in 1971”, by Julia Goodman, the viewer is left to imagine love letters. Goodman layered and folded memories together to create a simulacra of memories in a piece with very little text. The piece serves as a testament to how the imagination creates the stories, words, phrases, and tales perhaps much richer in the mind devoid of spell check. “Wear your biggest smile. (2012), by Annie Vought, is based on a collection of dreams culled from the Internet. She visualizes a particular order by precisely cutting away to reveal a translation of virtual to physical.
Lastly, physical engagement with text in space is seen in the work of Meryl Pataky. Your Company (2012) and Say It Out Loud (2012) made with steel, brass, and computer parts displays our digital waste and re-configures the refuse into physical three-dimensional language. The shapes and bends of the material simulate how we may perceive the world in which we work and find ourselves confined to. Pataky creates a bit of mysticism in his deconstruction. We see the words but don’t necessarily have to understand the etymology. We see them in space and that is all that matters. In contrast, Susan O’Malley sprinkles plaques throughout the venue coupled with larger sandwich boards adorning the center of the gallery space. O’Malley wants to lead the viewer to an experience of art through a playful hide and seek of text which serves as a metaphor to the hidden meanings of language we encounter on a daily basis. Overall, our relationship to language is multi-faceted and constantly evolving as seen in these works. Chen’s selection of artists not only illuminate the complexity of language but evoke our senses and reactions to them.
This past Wednesday, I went to the opening, In Other Words, at the Intersection for the Arts and snapped a few photos on my phone. I really need to start lugging around my fancy camera. Although mobile devices may come in handy, art (all forms) deserve the prestige that tons of pixels can actually deliver.
One of my art heroes, Christine Wong Yap, was a featured artist in the show. She is one of the artist-writers that gave me the resources and guidance towards art writing. I appreciate her and constantly feel inspired by her work, work ethic, and writing. Her art looks at human behavior related to optimism and pessimism. One of my writing projects includes a lengthier write-up about the show, which is forthcoming. For now, please click here to view more of her work.
Here’s a short bio for Christine Wong Yap. Text Source: Artist Website ~ Interested in a full bio, click here
Christine Wong Yap is an interdisciplinary artist working in installations, sculptures, multiples, and works on paper to explore optimism and pessimism. Her work examines the paradox that mundane materials or situations can give rise to irrational expectations, emotions, and experiences. Major touchstones are language, light and dark, and psychology. Her work has been exhibited extensively in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as in New York, Los Angeles, Manila, Osaka, London, Newcastle, and Manchester (U.K.). Born in California, Yap holds a BFA and MFA from the California College of the Arts. A longtime resident of Oakland, CA, she relocated to New York, NY in 2010.
Susan O’Malley makes you stop and look (and read) and wonder. There’s an interesting dialogue that occurs when you’re confronted with a sign. Typically, signage is up high on some awning or words and images on a billboard but you look. It’s part of our environment. You’re probably thinking, “Why is a sandwich board in a gallery considered art?” Well, the short answer is that it leads to an interaction. From this piece, I learned sandwich boards are prohibited outside of the premises, which O’Malley found interesting considering all the wonderful things happening inside the San Francisco Chronicle building (I’m referring to the placard that explains a bit more about the works).
Here’s a bio for Susan O’Malley. Text Source: Artist Website ~ Please visit her site here
I am drawn to simple and recognizable tools of engagement—offering a Pep Talk, installing a roomful of inspirational posters, distributing flyers in a neighborhood’s mailbox, conducting a doodle competition at a high school— in order to offer entry into an understood, and sometimes humorous, interaction of everyday life. Ultimately, I am looking for a moment between you and me, a diversion from our lives so that maybe we can understand each other better.
I received an MFA from California College of the Arts’ Social Practice Area. My work has exhibited in Bay Area galleries, including Southern Exposure, Mission 17, Ping Pong Gallery and CCA’s PlaySpace.