Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Halloween

I made this new piece for Rachel. I got bored and began rehashing an old way of working since we went to a dollar store and found colored hot glue sticks! This is was basically routed first... then some other stuff... and then I was done because it was finished and it looked cool.

btw, there's a sweet interview with me here

(oops I think it's upside down or sideways or something... or maybe it's fine...)
this is my attempt at trying to make this color blue that Rachel really likes, I almost got it.

also, I'm still in the midst of coming up with some interesting Fine Arts class proposals at CCS, I have a really fun formula I'm going with right now.

Ok, so let's say you want to make a really interesting holistic art class. In such a class let's pretend that there are always 2 teachers, a facilitator and an expert technician.

Make three bubbles and connect them to each other (trifecta!). Now fill them in accordingly: one contains an everyday activity that if practiced would enhance ones quality of life, another bubble is a particular art discipline and can be as specific as you'd want to get, and another bubble connects both that concerns a specific research topic to get content for art. This third bubble is about ideas not derived from experienced reality necessary, whether it's history, or anthropology or a specific topic of interest. Picking which ones goes with which becomes the art of finding what activities would balance each other out so that it makes a totalizing set of skills. I even tried to start with the balanced skill set instead of a bubbles and it got me into some interesting ideas. (Please keep in mind, this is actually an activity I've been going through to get a place to start, these are not actual classes that I may be teaching... however you'd bet I'd love to be in that theoretical class)

What if in a single class you were learning and tying in together ideas mashed up of...

Printmaking, Chess and Grant Writing

Methods in teaching special education, Urawaza and Painting

Singing, Cultural Anthropology and Architecture

Yoga, Strategies for taking notes and making Frescoes

Textile Design, How to make handmade soap and other common cleaners, and Science Fiction novels

Industrial Design, Music improvisation and Biology

Death rituals, Learning how to give an elevator pitch,  and Performance Art

Silk screening, History of Sexuality and Learning how to write clearly

History of Chaos & Randomness, Sculpture and Baking Bread

Woodworking, Occupational Therapy and Social Theory

Entrepreneurship, Photography and Physical Anthropology

Nano-Technology, Glass Blowing and Fixing Your Car

Art Education, Wine Tasting and Tufte's efficient diagrams

How to teach kids games, drawing from life and tending a farm

Ethnomusicology, Metalwork / Jewelry and Ethics & Citizenship

Curator, Raising animals, and the history of industrial agriculture

It's hard to describe how I'd envision the class running... perhaps one person was knowledgeable enough to do two of the concepts and the other person being able to handle the third, or it maybe it would take three teachers. I'm not even sure exactly how they would all work together in a single class, but just imagine what your life would be like if you could've taken a course like that!

I need to take a better picture, sorry.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thinking about Teaching...

I am awaiting it to become final, but I was offered to teach a course at the College for Creative Studies!
Concepts and Images.

I was first invited by Chido Johnson to give a lecture to his Seniors, which I was very happy to do, since I could talk about anything I wanted. I thought about how I wanted to recruit for and also help them think about how they're going to make the transition from art school to real life. Since I've never gone to an art school, I decided to just talk about what interested me in the moment, so I talked about my 'To-Do List' and my 'Stuck' list and about placebos and went on to explain how CCS is like one big placebo. One in which they payout lots of money and the more money the more it helps them believe that they are getting the best education in the world and if they truly believe it, they'll be something like 60% more likely to be successful in whatever they decide to do!

Well, I am REALLY glad no one told me that the new fine arts chair, Leon, was the one having some fun back and forth conversations with me the whole time. I politely asked that if I came back to talk about my work that perhaps I could get a free lunch out of it because I'm a sucker for free food and they said they'd be definitely interested in seeing if they might possibly be able to wrangle some money to possibly pay me an honorarium to talk next time as soon as I got back from Glasgow!

... insert Glasgow trip here ...

When I returned I got a mysterious e-mail from Gilda Snowden that there was rumor of having me teach a class and to talk to Leon as soon as I get back, couple minutes later an e-mail showed up from Leon about if I had 30 minutes to talk about something...

So now I'm thinking about what I've always wanted to teach, which is surreal, because I've always wanted to teach on a College level and here it is, possibly even competing with my idea that I just needed to go to graduate school! So my mind is running with possibilities! On a core level I will present what I think I could offer and what CCS students need more of with these ideas:
  • In order to teach inter-disciplinary practices one must engage with people outside of CCS, outside of Art. Or at the very least mix the rigid disciplines so that there is the possibility of hybrid works! Then again, this just may be the aesthetic that I'm personally drawn to...
  • Everything is simple, nothing is easy. Committing to a lifelong art practice requires finding those things that you can easily do everyday, that's the definition of sustainability. However it does require practice, and students will need to be able to identify how they can push themselves into making what is difficult but important to them, into something that's easy.
  • Students need to OWN their curriculum. An example: I foresee students being allowed to scour Detroit for events, happenings and locations, and then they get to make the rest of the class (professor included) an assignment, Miranda July style. This is inspired by a teacher I liked a lot, Robert Watson, now the principal at Northville High School, who had us write our own tests, and although they could be really challenging, it was such a great spin on the idea of what it means to learn in depth when you are the one making the test.
I have all these other ideas to prepare myself, like giving myself fake assignments to make captivating and interactive PowerPoints that deal with
  • Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and finding meaning (where am I coming from, where am I going, why?)
  • Bell Hooks "teaching community" and racism vs. privilege
  • Flow - happiness - inspiration - creativity - ideas
Everyday I want to be able to:
  • Create a comfortable studio environment where they feel like they bring something to the table.
  • Engage at least 5 students 1 on 1 for about 20 - 30 minutes
  • Shake up all of their thinking and preconceived ideas so that they find themselves in a heightened state of awareness. Facilitating what it means to think critically, to look at things in a critical way...
  • Exchange images, ideas, artists to check out and events
  • End on a positive proactive note!
"Teaching is all about managing expectations" - Andy T

Cartoon slipped in from the web comic: xkcd

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wait! Did I ever tell you about the time I got stuck in customs for 5 hours?

So, me being lost in Balloch for 5 hours has a partner story back in the states!

Two days after coming back to the U.S... I got stuck for 5 hours trying to transport artwork to a three person show in Sarnia.

Day 1: Unpack, edit my Fulbright's Project statement and personal statement then send my finished Fulbright packet to Michigan State. Also finish my application to the Glasgow School of Art (technically I hadn't finished either of them, but I pretended the whole time that I had finished it!)
Day 2: Bring artwork up to Sarnia for the show at Susan Kristjansson Gallery, easy show, mostly older work. Refinish some of the frames and re-frame some of the works... And when I get a chance finish getting letters of rec.
Day 3: Finish a new work of art for District VII, and meet up with my 'intern' to go over what to do next.
Day 4: Work for Vitamin Water, possibly put up my first pages in a while,

So perhaps I was trying to do to much? That's when this happened:

(Doo doo doo, got my passport on me still... hopefully traffic into Canada's not too bad)
What brings you to Canada today?
I'm going to a gallery!
Is that your artwork?
Yup! I'm an artist.
Will you be selling it?
Well, not me, but the gallery most likely will, I mean hopefully.
Ok, do you know how much all the artwork is worth?
Um... I don't know, I'm bringing a friend's artwork too, I think like $10,000?

At this point the border guard's eyebrow raised, which begins the sinking feeling in my gut that didn't hit me before even though one of my paintings was so big that it was resting on my headrest, partially careening over my head as I drove, probably it's own kind of safety hazard.

Wait, do I have to claim this or something?
You're doing it right now. (hands me a yellow piece of paper with notes scribbled on it that I have artwork worth 10,000 dollars.) Go over and park over there, they'll tell you whatever you need to complete the claim.

Um... well, ok.

First I parked then was told to talk with customs, they told me some crazy forms involved getting a 'bond' or something that even they doubted I would be able to get since I was an individual shipping artwork, blah blah blah, you're not supposed to be here, talk to S. M. Hewitt, they could help you.

This would allow me to leave my artwork unattended and for sale. At this point it was too late to say otherwise... Like, oh never mind it's not for sale... and oh... no I don't plan to leave the artwork in Canada.

 I don't even really know what happened, but this one lady who perhaps oversaw S.M. Hewitt, figured that I didn't know how to help myself so began getting out some gigantic binders to look some things up. During this time she sighed a lot and gave me these long looks that seemed to say, you have no idea what your getting yourself into kid. She summoned me into her office after I had to call and get Ian's inventory for all of his artwork to come through the mail, more awkward waiting...
It came through and she begins clicking and typing blazing fast. She was clicking the calculator, downloading forms, typing things in, re-checking numbers, getting things photocopied together, then stapling packets together and said to me very simply:

This form is what you will give to the U.S. side.
I'll show you where commercial goods come in, you give this to them on the Canadian side they'll know what to do with it. Also I'm kicking you back to the States to get this form filled out because otherwise they'll hassle you on the way back to the States for having a bunch of artwork in your car that you didn't have before. You're going to need to get this stamped before you get back into Canada. Goodluck.

The commercial customs officer all decked out in a bullet-proof vest, replaced my yellow tag with one that said I was being told to go back to the States due to incomplete paperwork and thus began an hour of waiting in line to get back to the States and back in. He let me know that he'll probably be gone by the time I get back and that I should drive in the truck lane (which is much slower) so that I'm right by their office to get everything cleared. Here's the kicker, when I come back, I'll be expected to pay 10% of the total value of the artwork as a deposit. The artwork at this point has been figured to be valued at 14,200.

Just so you know, it makes no sense, you have to TELL the lady that you give your 3 dollars to or whatever that you're trying to get to Customs. She'll then tell you to park your car right off to the side (there's only like 4 spots so that seems a little strange.) then you actually have to cross the lanes that the trucks use to get to the building. She radioed the people over in that building that I was on my way over and then told me to make eye contact with the truck drivers first to make sure it's safe to cross. It's 5 lanes wide, no kidding. I nervously mumble to the officers standing around that I have to get something stamped and they let me get in line. The line takes about an hour to get through with just 4 people in line, but I'm reading little bits of information, like how on an average, the homeland security intercepts 40,000 or so pounds of drugs. I'm watching a couple argue with an accent about how they didn't realize that the girlfriend had overstayed and wasn't allowed to come into Canada let alone be in the US. I just sat patiently in the room once it was my turn to sit and wait. It is something I feel like I've been training myself for years, accepting fate rather than getting upset. Another officer has my keys at this point probably counting the paintings and possibly trying to assess my ability to price my artwork? He gives it a little stamp and I'm back on my way on the bridge only 3 1/2 hours later! I get into Canada, I've paid to go over the bridge 3 times now, I get a new yellow note (they guy even recognizes me and my car and says, weren't you just here?) and I get stopped by a guard because I got out of my car too quickly and after she scanned the many documents over that I had been given over these few hours, I was allowed to go in and... wait with the other truckers. Handed off my paperwork when someone realized that I was standing in their lobby, I waited until my name was called and the same guy who said he was going to have left already, was still there.

I thought you were going to get to leave?
Well, I went to go do something else and so now I'm back.
Let's talk a walk, where's your car?
This one over here on this side.
Is this going to that new art center?
No, this is actually a new gallery in Sarnia, the one you're talking about is still being built.
Oh ok, well, I like art and you probably don't have thousands of dollars on you, so let's just say that it's great that you're bringing artwork into Canada and I don't want to cramp your style, and there's all these new tax laws that are changing so, you did all the right paperwork, but we'd have to do even more, so let's just say that it's not in either of our interests to go this route, ok?

And at that, he wished me good luck on selling a lot of art, took my little yellow piece of paper from me, and waved me goodbye.

Here's where my life lessons are shared with you! Read carefully and let's compile tips for easily moving art across borders without hassle!
  • Don't bring artwork that looks like artwork or like weapons or like... anything valuable.
  • If your artwork DOES look valuable or if there's too much to hide like in my case, print out a Certificate of Registration from the Department of Homeland Security, CBP Form 4455. Attach a sheet of paper that has all of the information about the artwork (this is important to prove that you did not 'purchase' the artwork while in Canada but you're just bringing it back so that you don't get hassled on the way back to the United States.)

  • Do not say that your artwork is for sale, if anything, call it what it is, priceless artwork, in other words: Cultural Exchange. 
  • Do not say your artwork is leaving your supervision. It's going to stay in your car, right?
  • Call ahead to find out what appropriate forms you'll need, I can't find them right now because I wanted to put all of this behind me, and so I don't have all the specific forms I was given to give to the Canadian side of the border.
  • Have your gallery arrange the acceptance of the artwork, if they have to pay a deposit, it should be their money, not yours. Large galleries probably have a broker of some kind.
  • So perhaps... Ship the artwork if you can. Or appraise your work at a very low price, hell, get it notarized or approved by some kind of appraisal professional to help legitimize how cheap it is.
Even when all is said and done, I did all the appropriate steps and it really comes down to the fact that you either get someone who doesn't care that you have artwork in your car, and someone that is easily suspicious and has this idea ringing in their head that your artwork is cause for alarm. It's possible that had I not been so calm, I would have had to put up that 1,420 dollars or the show would not have happened at all.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Gut Roulette!
Gut Roulette!
Gut Roulette!
Gut Roulette!

"To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target."


trying to figure out what constitutes my 'best work' for a very important upcoming show... I played a little bit of 20 questions at work today.
is it an animal, vegetable or mineral?
does it involve layering?
is it transparent?
does it come in units?
does it involve a projector?
would it be able to fit in your car?
would you need a cherry picker?
can you install it in four days? (oh wait, I have to...)
is it new or is it part of a new series of works?
does it continue onto the floor from the wall?
will it connect to another work of art you have?
will you need the vinyl cutter?
can people take something back from the experience with them?
will some part of it be outdoors or in other public spaces?
will it be in the background of performances?
would it help if you collaborated with others?
does it involve a fire extinguisher?
do you need paint?
will it go in a corner?
does it need to be contained in it's own room?

I know what you're thinking... you can't beat me...

It's a ________________ that ____________________ and represents your way of _____________________ !

Is this correct? Yes/No?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Who would you want to film a movie about Detroit?

This blog post from David Byrne really helped me decompress my thoughts about what I want to tell people about my trip to Glasgow...

Why am I so interested in Detroit and Glasgow connection?

Both are gritty post-industrial cities that once brought immigrants together in one place to build great machines and became symbols for their output. Today one city is doing quite well and the other we are hoping will follow in its success but along its own path.

Toby Barlow's New York Times Ops --> "Glasgows Miles Better" campaign?
Cranbrook and architect Saarinen --> Glasgow and architect Mackintosh
Kresge Fellowships -->  I can't find a specific name for it but there is a general high amount of support for arts organizations (although there was word that they are trying to fight to keep it that way because there's a good chance that 30% of the governmental budget to support cultural programs are in the works of being cut!)

Humble artists from both cities cite that being on a form of unemployment gave them the means and time to create work everyday may have been the REAL catalyst to rethinking the city as a cultural center. Although I do not believe that artists solely need 'just enough to live off of' in order for a sustainable arts infrastructure to go into place, that idea just assumes feeding off of what artists naturally do (community development etc.) in order for everyone else but the artists to become sustainable and paid for doing what they love.

For artists in both cities, try as hard as you might, most of everybody is working a minimum wage job.

I'm sure there's much more, but that's my homework!
I picked up 3 books I'm really interested in:
ARCADE - Artists and Place Making about "the role of artists in the context of urban environments... central to both art practice and urban planning... using the recent regeneration of the notoriously deprived neighborhood of... Gorbals as a starting point"
Who Belongs to Glasgow?
Glasgow Museum's towards an engaged gallery - Contemporary art and human rights: GoMA's social justice programs

Where we are lacking what Glasgow has:
  • Ann Arbor is no Edinburgh...
That city provides even more outlets for artworks and another art scene that has just as much to explore, still a decent amount of artist-run spaces and feels very connected.
We don't have a cheap train that people expect to take to enjoy Ann Arbor for the day or vice versa.
  • Consistent Critical Writing about Art and Life
I have about 14 publications / written articles from different galleries that I visited (in two days and two cities!) and six of them have catalogs or available critical writing about the shows. I don't want to get into how many paid writers we have in this city that write on a consistent basis about
  • We don't really attract international artists when we have art festivals. At least not massive art installations unless it's at MOCAD or well, let's be honest, Grand Rapid's Art Prize is closest.
  • Radiohead will play to a crowd of like 120 people there.
  • Tourism there is very easy, and they're mastering something I'd like to see develop in Detroit, "Artist tourism" As a city it provides many avenues for the kinds of tours artists would really want, do some couch surfing, go check out a band play here or there, be able to walk anyone you may want to go... Also you can actually run into Belle and Sebastian or Jim Lambie or whoever you fancy is the top artists of our day.
  • Other things that people in the UK are much more accustomed to that aren't just in this particular city: it's affordable to get multiple degrees or a PhD, there's healthcare

How we have more than what Glasgow has:

  • All that Glasgow has left of its previous industry is one small steamship building plant... we still have GM, Ford, Chrysler/Fiat trying to rebuild their empire probably through people producing or buying fuel-efficient cars, but can't we just not try to 'buy' our way out of problems?

(sorry that was secretly negative)

  • Public Art is powerful, i.e. Heidelberg Projects, and when the lights that said "Everything Is Going To Be Alright" drastically alter the psyche of the people that live here, so in a sense, artists are more powerful in this city than in others to create a commotion, set an idea in motion... less red tape...
  • But we do have a kind of cooperative feeling that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. This would be a good time to drop that I just got offered to teach a class at CCS! I was offered it by the new chair of the fine arts department after I gave the lecture I've always wanted to give and once again by putting myself out there doing, there's a new line that I found: Chance favors the connected mind. If there's anything more exciting than being in an incubation of creativity, it's being a part of the creation of such things! I love my talented friends, I look forward to all of us doing well together in a wonderfully non-competitive way.
  • It's not just about the arts too, the DIY scene is mainly made up of social activists, urban farmers, educators, musicians and young entrepreneurs. The more disciplines that get in on the fun, the better I say!
  • I like our food better. I like being able to get authentic Mexican food on one day and then authentic Japanese food on another.
  • I personally enjoy how small Detroit really is, there's something I've always enjoyed about the how much we can pack into such a small scene, and still there's tooooo many cool things to go do in a given night. Hopefully I will make it to some tonight.

Lastly, anyone notice how hard it's getting to keep up with all the movies about Detroit? There's Palladium Boots Johnny Knoxville one, then there's Requiem for Detroit, and technically if we want to include it we can say that Matthew Barney is making a film about the city. I want to hear who you'd love to see direct a movie that is filmed and about Detroit.

My vote goes to Bernadette Corporation or the Coen Brothers.