Saturday, November 21, 2015

Notes on a meeting on matching funds from the Knight Foundation 11-10-2015 (still needs to be cleaned up or updated)

Notes on interesting themes that came up during introductions:
A lot of talk about publications (Is this the next step from people creating local archives for a legacy like documenting the emergence of the ‘Jit’, projects about Grace Lee BoggsA moment in time?)
  • See: Graphic Designer costs vs. material costs... Maybe I may need to keep mine to online only, Knight suggests that blogs are a fine way of providing a narrative (mandatory.)
  • Detroit Research is very focused and may know its audience, also it has the benefit of being connected to CCS.

A lot of talk about residencies and discussions amongst people (bringing in influential contemporary voices? Staying personally connected? Storytelling and bringing causes to attention?)
  • Anders Ruhwald will have a side project that may be semi-connected where artists can come over as well

We are an organization that does THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS and THIS.
  • A lot of these projects could be combined, but could the matching funds bolster each other?
    I'm considering having Glasgow people keep in contact with those they met already, Cezanne Charles, What Pipeline, ‘CAVE, Simone DeSousa, Popps Packing, Halima Cassells, Piper (formerly 5E), Steve Panton’s space, writers such as Lynn Crawford who has worked with Steve Panton etc., curators such as Laura Mott (careful, people are going to be BUSY!)
  • Consider bringing in publications for distribution in Glasgow, Good Press, Aye-Aye, CCA, similar to what Laura currently has up at Cranbrook, satellite/daisy chaining connections.

Many personal projects by artists working solo are being funded, including one from someone from Mexico to put up imagery of important Mexican figures in Southwest (notexactly by Detroit for Detroit as someone said at the reception? But shouldthat really matter? Too much insider/outsider drama, becomes parochial)

Bigger name artists will be put out in public, maybe this was partly sparked by the successful use of D.I.A.’s reproductions that aided the millage.
  • Hank Willis Thomas
  • Louise Nevelson
  • James Turrell
  • J Dilla’s actual music equipment

Programs that sound really familiar

Why do these people do what they do? Altruism? Should/can “artists” be agents of social change?
  • Denis Newhouse is a passionate lifelong educator, Akram Hossain seems similar
  • Non-profits need these to survive and keep things interesting
  • Particular neighborhood (maybe they live there) is overlooked
  • It’s part of the mission statement, all part of the plan, strategic planning
  • Setting up others for greatness, but getting out of their way, thriving on the unknown
  • How many of us are considered ‘local celebrities’? How do we work against the poisonous ego habit?
  • Public funding is gone, who else is going to bring in our values into the future?

Not organized with a 501-C3? (That’s most of us?)
  • Fiscal Sponsorship!  (A tool for arranging non-taxable donations)
  • Miami Foundation has a very good admin fee, only 4% compared to 7 or 8% and matching checks mailed weekly, invoices on your behalf, takes care of taxes, good at streamlining Kickstarter campaigns.
Allaying fears:
  • An easy way to get started is by working on receiving 10% of the funds via in-kind donations (labor?)
  • 96% match rate (see Steve Hughes who personally described their flexibility) 2 years becomes 4…
  • Flexibility (no rules, no dictating, except they do request that all press  releases must be seen first)
  • Budgets can flex with good reasons/communication (think of categories as gen. buckets) Put in place in the contract is a 5% budget leeway
  • The deadlines for raising funds/getting everything finished is flexible within reason
  • The overall idea behind what you plan to do can change
  • You have worthy ideas and a great community, you will be fine.
  • Corporate structures are always looking for ways to write something off (Is there a time of the year in particular?), ways to achieve their mission statement in interesting ways to stay relevant, can partner with your project as free advertising for their business and frankly don’t want to be left out if it gets press. 

Informal ideas that may produce the best outcomes:
  • A strong cohort
  • Some non-profits offered assistance as mentors (Who was it that suggested this?)
  • Reminds me of when the local non-profits met together to share tactics and share resources, people I remember who were there: Diane Van Buren, Ryan Hertz, Phil Cooley... so many people from that initial introduction reached out to lend so much in in-kind donations from free studio space to scissor lifts and more!
  • Possible web-inar on budgeting (General consensus: our individual needs require individual attention! But it doesn't sound like that's possible?)
  • Look out for a “Top 10 matching ideas” from Knight
  • Guide Star templates as a spring board
  • Giving Day Playbook
  • Smallest Museum in St. Paul used revenue from a seemingly unrelated cup of coffee to provide the matching funds (same organization, and a portion of proceeds go towards the match, this is definitely not the same as personal income, it’s the business’ income?)
  • Works well in tandem with Kresge fellows and others who have attended Creative Capital meetings that talk about goal-setting,  Fiscal sponsorship, grant writing and rounding out the audience who may be interested in your project
  • How People connect back to the Kresge: Adrienne Brown, Anders Ruhwald’s wife Marie is a fellow, Cezanne Charles (Director of Creative Industries), Chase Morris,  Faina Lerman, Jonathan Rajewski, Kate Daughdrill, Lynne Avadenka, Marsha Music, Scott Hocking, Steve Hughes, Tiff Massey, Thomas Bell’s wife works for Kresge

Not a priority at this stage, but good to keep in mind:
  • Part of Knight’s contract is to support your Kickstarter/Patronicity campaign etc. and put it on blast. Although they request to overview all materials (slows things down) they can also streamline the process of having funds go directly to the Fiscal sponsor for quicker
  • Apply again!
  • With Kickstarter etc. if there are well considered 'rewards' it could really double as a productive way to produce something that I hoped to do anyways?

Things to maybe watch out for (and suggested ideas?):
  • How will all resources get shared (Google Docs?) Very diverse group of winners, good friction.
  • You do not get funds right away until after they have been matched, so maybe it is not the best idea to spend lots of personal funds just to setup the structure that will allow for matching funds to trickle in over a long period of time.
  • Have a separate bank account for the project (Piper’s suggestion)
  • It might not be worth having amounts under $10 that are being sent piece-meal to be matched with a check from the Fiscal Sponsor, but do they have a suggestion for how to pace this out?
  • Try not to over think how personal income may be a conflict by being used as matching or in-kind donations. It may be best to set a good price for yourself, $35 an hour for all of your labor? Keep track of it! Do you know how you can delegate certain work? Take a step back? Take a break?
  • You still have to pay taxes on any income that you planned on receiving from the matching funds, perhaps put this aside in another bank account, or even include it as part of the budget?
  • The financial ecosystem where we ask our community to put their money where their mouth is, however are we all dipping from the same pool of friends and colleagues? What about the elephant in the room, usual disconnect between the suburbs and the city (see train that stops at 8 mile), Walter Wasacz talked about the way that music draws people in and the informal ways that people feel comfortable, example I thought of: punk scene when kids came in from the suburbs, formed their own bands etc. it wasn’t voyeuristic, but it was about getting away.
  • 2 years becoming 4 is that better or worse for the project?
  • What if I just want to be a hermit or work on someone else’s project because it’s easier to do? How do I keep focused…

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A special night, thinking about what we need to risk for a real sense of collectivity

Tonight was not just special because my proposal just received matching funds from the Knight Foundation"Exploring life in two post-industrial cities by pairing artists from Detroit and Glasgow, Scotland, to collaborate on curated exhibitions".

Related: Images from Over, Over, Over, Judith Butler's description of a livable life, trying to fundraise projects that don't involve asking friends for their extra time and money.

But Michael Brown's delivery of the collective decision by the incarcerated men who are part of "The Writer's Block" to not simply accept the voter's choice award, but to give it away under the condition that the other runners-up get matched funding.... it really set a precedent. People around me were tearing up as Michael could not hold back the emotion that he was delivering such a meaningful gesture and almost none of us had a clue what he was moving towards. They did not ask that everyone including themselves should get funding, they asked that the other runners up would only need to come and visit and see what they're doing, and help in person.

Many thoughts were running through my head the moment that the Knight Foundation accepted the counter-offer on the spot:

  • Rachel's writing on the state of arts funding in Detroit
  • put up on Infinite Mile which was also awarded with matching funds from the Knight Foundation which then reminded me of 
  • Variant out of Glasgow which lost the crucial funding structure it used to have.
  • The surprisingly conservative response from Lucy Lippard when someone in the audience asked her if Detroiters should just 'take the money', short answer, yes.
  • Having fond memories of doing a close reading of Society of the Spectacle at the Hamtramck Free School with Steve Panton, Jonathan Rajewski and Michael Brown.
  • Oren Goldberg in a panel discussion with Ron Scott and Nick Tober, just being frank that us artists just want the foundation's money, not all the strings attached.
  • The moment right after Creative Capital told the inaugural Kresge Fellows not to do anything for free or that doesn't promote time for quality that it was then pitched that maybe the fellows could take part in a festival... I almost forgot about the drama until Erin McDonald reminded me at a Wayne State University panel discussion how much the immediate negotiation caught them off guard.
  • How Lawndale Market (Poloroid Liquor Store) used to have drawings and messages that came from prison that he prominently would display and how that has all changed... God Loves...
  • Halima talking about how brilliant it is that these inmates used their power to do this.
  • Thinking about the whole schools vs. prisons funding paradigm, the war on drugs but no war on poverty. Poisonous individualism that leads to fear based decisions...
  • Thinking about Anne Reinhardt first telling me about where she works when she was in Detroit and how it just seemed like a whole generation of younger artists had a strong moral compass unattached to religion or guilt or a degree in do-good-ery, but it somehow felt like that was just what was expected because of the artists that were here before us...
  • Thinking about all the wonderful people I know well in that audience as well as those local voices who probably vouched for this project sending positive vibes my way and all the conversations with Rosie Sharpe that helped to get the word out even further into Knight-land.
I also love that this will be a vastly different impression that being 'a creative do-er' isn't the priveledge of being a 'dreamer' at a time when people should be getting to work, but that a defining characteristic of many local people here is how far we are willing to go to support each other, and if anything, we all need better practice to do exactly what The Writers Block just did. 

See also: The entire USC Roski MFA class, The resignation of the President of the University of Missouri, The removal of the confederate flag on Charleston's state capitol, and the Open Letter to Creative Scotland, The Knight Foundation extends their matching funding program for 3 more years...

I thought I was going to be excited to talk about reflecting on the interactions and moments from when I put on an exhibition while Francis McKee and John Nicol were in town and my projections about what the matching funds mean for the future, but maybe this is all related.

Could we all take this momentous occasion to have more conversations about taking critical stances and how we can all support each other's projects, even with the ways that funding can seem like it creates a tricky level of competition where everyone's drawing from the same well, or our own personal energy becomes at risk of being immediately depleted, but here are some suggestions that I'll put out there:
  1. Don't start with spending your own money, start with finding similar projects and trace it back to perhaps those who should have funded this as they have the most to gain with the least risk.
  2. Pitch your friend's idea while having your friend do the same for yourself, we all somehow gain energy and focus when it comes to describing someone else passionately, even though we conversely can't find the same genuine clarity to describe our own activities.
  3. What does someone else think should be your own minimum payment who gets paid to do what you're about to do? How much money does that realistically leave?
  4. (too late but...) Start with having the matching funds in mind and plan accordingly so that maybe strategically you won't need to ask anyone for money.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Film Assignment Part 2, more research

In this particular part of Matthew Barney's master work, I found myself as pleased as I would have hoped, even considering my high expectations. It feels like it has a budget extremely grand for a single person and yet minuscule compared to a Hollywood production, so yeah, basically an earth work. The long filmed takes become something tangible like pulling taffy, it's as if the camera is attached to a mechanism that doesn't just witness an event but actually is part of how it physically unfolds. He makes film subservient to sculpture. 

From the opening sequence where a vague slice opens up into a bleeding monogram (logo?) it ignores what many associate with film today, editing to make perspectives disappear, a barely challenging game of a narrative that is meant to be pieced together, and a score and sound effects that are emotionally manipulative. This film takes that combination of time and subject matter that is the realm of sublime film and only uses 2 tricks for the entirety of the film, camera movement such as crane shots or zooming out and crescendoes of sound to build up anticipation of the action on screen. This simplification of what makes film 'magical' allows the viewer to get caught up in the living breathing diagrams that can be made out of honeycomb or buffalo or the properties of frozen water.  Everything becomes unbearably tangible but only viewable from a necessary distance. There are moments as if Matthew Barney is slowly bringing his hand across your thigh, reaching in such a way that he can graze between your legs and get a little bit of your cheese to help finish a sculpture he happens to be in the middle of making. It makes me appreciate that Matthew Barney doesn't use smells to express his kind of genius, because we would all be in a world of insanity if perfumes became his new obsession instead of drawing restraints.

His strengths as a director with a particular style in mind comes through in two particular scenes. The first is a triple frame slow pull out where you first see bees partially covering the Cremaster Cycle logo, which I have always assumed was a reference to the floor plan of a church. It pulls out to show the delicate audio balance between the calm swarming of bees to a very consistent, but hard-core drummer playing exactly what I think I would hear if a hardcore drumroll were to be  attempting to play an infinite song. This tempered endurance pace leads to the third and final reveal, the low guttural screams of a faceless (again hardcore) lead singer, covered in bees. At first I thought this would be too Richard Avedon-esque, but instead it feels more dirty like A Scanner Darkly. The drummer then seems like he's got the good end of the deal, at least he might only have to deal with a few escaped bees, but in between the sound booth filled with bees and the recording studio with all the sound boards and equipment and bees, the polyrhythms this drummer swirls up is actualized as a kind of acoustic glue that brings together all of the noise into a complicated intuitive sense of order to the sheer quantity of possible bees and sound.

The next breathtaking moment is when you see the artist himself ready to mount a bull in character as a serial killer. The foreshadowed context is that we are perhaps about to witness a spectacle, some form of corporal punishment. But it beautifully turns the energy into a farce where the animal handlers are able to make the bucking best come to a rest and the serial killer cowboy seems to melt into the beast as it metamorphoses into something that appears to be made out of felt. 

The real heroes of this film are not the makeup people behind the prosthetics, the graphic designers, the chemical engineers or the lighting assistants (I saw the Cremaster 3 in the Guggenheim first, so everything becomes compared to the first encounter I had with Matthew Barney's work and these definitely were major strengths) but I must tip my hat to whoever was involved with scouting locations, the solid use of sound design especially with trusting one person to handle all of the music and a nuanced use of logos and corporate brands that will need further explanation as well.

It may not make much sense, but considering that this was finished in 1999, I feel like this work is firmly situated amongst other art and artists in the 90's/early 2000s that were in a way doing their own take on Pop Art in the sense that the use of corporate imagery is meant to imply that large corporate entities should be understood as cults and implicitly related to all violence, potential or otherwise. When this phenomenon comes up in other artwork from this period perhaps it is didactic like Ron English or Vik Muniz or appropriating it's design-y sense like Shepard Fairey or Josephine Meckseper. But what's great about the decisions made in this part of the Cremaster is that just the right amount of tension builds up, and it feels much more about the journey(s) than the resolutions or even continuity for that matter.

The image of a dead gas station attendant with a vintage good year logo behind him is wonderfully morbid, and striking in how it seems impossible to do something like that today without seeming like it's trying to say something too obvious. But because the Good Year blimp and other icons appear strategically vague in his other films it does reach a convincing mythical status. A Ford Mustang represents exactly what it is suppose to represent as if it is somehow as timeless (or fixed?) as bees and mountains. The same goes for his use of what I believe are top of the line snowmobiles and all the shoes are Prada (at least according to the credits.) The American flags seem like a bit much, but at least some of them were digital (as were I assume the Mormon chorus). And how else can something scream 'Mormon' in any other place other than the credits?

The film felt more daring than striking, more nuanced than a spectacle, more bored with luxury than clever product placement. This is a work that deserves all the benefit of the doubt that it can get, and that's because it's restrained compared to what I have heard has become the major talking points of his other films (which I have yet to see) but that it is somehow a spectacle of an artist with all the money in the world (and at the time married to one of the most amazing musicians, Bjork) and that it's a visual encyclopedia of everything gross one can imagine, but the dialogue seems as absurd and stupidly necessary as seeing Gary Gilmore's tiny prick. The film makes you guffaw more than a few times, and when it's all over an overwhelming sense of dread re-emerges that was there the whole time. Remembering that in between this film and the next, 9-11 happened.

Film Assignment from Rachel for me

I told Rach that I was struggling with trying to figure out my art practice in LA. I asked her if she could make me an assignment because I missed being in school and deadlines always help.

This is what she e-mailed me. I'm working on this at the moment

Top Five Films and Two in the Bag

What films/videos of any genre would you place in your top 5 films of all time? Once you have named and gathered these films, watch them and take note of the following:

Why would you choose these films? How did the artist capture your attention? What relationship did the artist cultivate with the viewer? What filmic techniques did the artist use to engage you in the work? What genres do these films fall in to? What is the point of the film? (i.e. does the artist want you to grapple with the subject matter? What tensions –in the plot, duration, etc.-maintain the film?) What content does the video maker address? To what ends are they using this content matter? How were the works funded? Were there many extras? A crew? Or was the work made on a minimal budget? How would you make something similar? What kind of budget would you need and how would you raise the funds? Is the artist in the film? In what capacity are they in the film? In other words, what role do they play in the film?

Once you have listed your top 5 films and teased out why you like these films so much, look up similar directors/artists and schedule dates to view the work. Try to view 5 new films –writing up similar reports as to why you connect with these works—by April 1st.  Make sure to keep a detailed account of why you like this work.
In the meantime, deadline May 1st , you should have created two three minute videos that encompass some of the elements you like from your favorite top 5 films. Do not worry so much about content, but try to play around with very basic reactions to these works that you might want to try and mimic. Is there a scene you wish to try to recreate? Are there filmic tricks or elements you’d like to play around with, such as shooting something happening through a mirror? My response: In no particular order: A. Tampopo by Jûzô Itami
B. Ever is Over All by Pipilotti Rist
C. The Big Lebowski by The Coen Brothers
D. Night Street Touch by Graham Gussin
E. Gradual Speed by Els Van Riel

When I have the energy, I will go into why I picked these 5 films but I'd rather go onto the next journal entry where I view 5 new films by similar directors/artists:

1. The Cremaster Cycle (Cremaster 2) - Matthew Barney