This guy... he was really great, Lee Walton. Calls himself an experientialist
He came here for this strange bizarre residency I was a part of in August
Only here for five days but he decided he really wanted to get to know the city
He does this thing called city games
He writes these sort of manuals for experiencing a city
So he decided he an afternoon to find out some things about Minneapolis
So we got together and we had a (?) and we came up with rules
We bought this Korean melon from this grocery store
And the rule was that we had to convince someone to carry the melon.
And to allow us to follow them and as soon as they were done they would just hand us the melon back and we'd have to stay there until somebody else would carry the melon.
And we would keep like wondering around as the melon got carried from
Person to person
And there was another rule... that if we saw a bus we had to catch and take it until it turned
So we wound up in the middle of scenic new falls (?) like down by the river talking to this family from Texas
It was just like this little thing to do... like this little experiment
What would this be like... it turned into this amazing adventure that was really kind of encapsulating of Minneapolis
That was what was really impressive to me about this guy, he was able to take this goal... and he turned it into part of his practice
I'm just in sort of art love with this guy
that makes sense to me
so many other things make zero sense to me, but that
I get that.
It was nerve racking this experience
We sort of swapped out who had to approach people
And I started saying we're playing a game... instead of like we're making art
Like trying to find a different way of trying to bridge that gap with people because I think it's really easy to get intimidated
I've always been artful but never really felt like I fit in the art world
I love objects, but I can't be object oriented
It's the experience of a space and what that is and how that can affect both the individual and the community
So I'm really interested in seeing how the larger conceptual art world can be almost infused or filtered through a community and kind of be for everyone
And I think public art just has this sort of watered down, ceramic mosaic quality
This very static concept of what public art can be
And I see all this potential for wonder
And reconnecting people with their environment and space around them because the world is really a fucking amazing place and it's something that we forget all the time
We miss all these amazing sensory experiences. How can this one glaringly beautiful accent... this one intervention become something that opens your eyes to the rest of it. And I'm not sure if that's even possible
Its not about the concrete object its more about your perception of that object and how can art change your perception of the things that surround you
It was kind of when I realized that that was the part of architecture and design that I was interested in... it suddenly made sense as a body of interest.
For me it was a moment in Millennium Park this summer, and I talk about this moment a lot, because it was like I just reached this enormous summit after ten years, it was like I'm here. Voila
Everybody was so happy and playing in this sort of dense space because there were a lot of things happening on many different levels but the experience of it and the way there were interacting was so playful and joyous
And this guy who looked like somebody I could have gone to high school with... he said this is the kind of place that makes you wish you were a kid
Like god I want that in my city. Cities needed places were you're just like that
We don't have enough of that. We don't spend enough money on that
It's why I try to do what I do
I spent so many years working as an architect trying to work really hard making these buildings for rich people to have their offices in, and it felt so sterile
Even though I was literally building the world in a sense it didn't feel like I was influencing the world
It was just like this commercial armature
I don't think of myself as an artist
That's a really tough thing for me
Maybe because I just seems like a loaded discipline... a loaded word
There's a certain way that artist operate in the world... see themselves in the world and I don't feel that way
And maybe it's just a misconception on my part or some sort of bias.
I do come from a family of engineers
I should probably get art therapy to figure out what I have such a problem being in the art world
I've always loved art and I think its this really crazy pursuit... its so deeply intrinsic to our existence that I thing questioning the value of art is ridiculous
But at the same time... I don't know, help me.
To a certain extent... just to be fair I don't feel comfortable being and architect or a landscape artist I don't feel like those labels work either
Maybe its practice art or public art or maybe I'm an experientialist.
No label feels very comfortable
I did this show last Friday, it was all dough based. It was dough-based art
I made pretzels and this board of pretzel words and this dough that expanded and fell it was a very kinetic. And there was this trade that I did. I traded sour dough for recorded stories
Food was an accidental medium for me. I hit upon it when I was working on my thesis project for landscape architecture, I wanted to create this really sensory carnival experience I saw as this big moment in space that would unfold and attract people and create memory that was particular to that place
Food is not necessarily the goal of what I do but is the medium by which I can achieve these goals. These sensory rooms, these collective experiences, this gathering together of people to make connections where there weren't any connections before.
I never intended to any kind of food based practice, but it turns out food is really rich in a literal and metaphorical sense
You can eat at the trough or you can just eat something out of the microwave
It can be this pure medium of self sustenance, because we all have to do it
...I baked 250 loaves of bread to use as modular construction forms, cultivated sour dough. I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface. I gave four dinner parties as a part of my thesis project... not even scratching the surface of what it means to share a meal, what it means cooking as a performance, cooking as a social transaction,
its endlessly fascinating
and I know that at some point I'm going to have to take all these I ideas and things I'm learning from food and do something else
unless I want to be baking bread chairs when I'm 50... well haven't baked a whole chair...that is very interesting.
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This guy... he was really great, Lee Walton. Calls himself an experientialist
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Unfortunately, the recorder (object/tool) and the recorder (operator/me) had a SNAFU after Kevin and I interviewed Beth. The perpetual circling of pixels on the little screen wouldn't stop and resulted in a file with no contents.... I guess I shouldn't have expressed to Kevin and Beth how great the recorder had been to me....murphy's law? or maybe I should have been knockin on wood.
here's my take from notes and memory.
K ~ Beth, why the MFA program? why now? (perhaps a "and now its your turn to answer this question" question)
B- I have always wanted to teach, except when I finished my undergrad, so I moved to England. Life happened but teaching was always something I wanted to do. My children are 19 and 17(I hope I didn't make those up Beth...) they are very independant and I have the attitude that they will do just fine. This three years is for me. Its my I won't feel guilty time.
I find this an interesting parallel with a vein of conversation which came up several times during our time together about youth experiences. Beth grew up with her father, Ron Dow, making film and photographs. To her this medium, process, and life was ever present during childhood development. Her father's life in art and image making shaped her and now, in turn, Beth's children are growing up with their mother making images (father too) and they are constantly exposed to thier parents experiences in this realm. So, if I may pose a new question Beth, what does this lineage, tradition, or recurrence mean to you?
Where do your ideas / projects come from?
B- I am highly distractible. Many of my ideas come by chance since I am susceptible to tangents and spontaneous thoughts.
Instead of struggling to put together cohesive sentences of Beth's response, I will summarize and reflect: Beth talked a bit about how she is constantly self-censoring. One/some of her
friends have said she is someone who would never have to do drugs to come up with something out of the blue, outrageous, or an intuitive but distant connection. The instances of absurd thought and realizations Beth speaks of point directly to the humorous and playful qualities of her work.
Talking Kevin Obstatz over mouthfuls of cookies and sips of coffee.
This is how the formal interview session between Kevin, Beth and I began...
B- How old were you when you first became aware of art?
K- (mouth full of cookie)- The whole question of art versus entertainment is central to where I am coming from. I can answer that easily with film. It first occurred to me that someone has to make movies for me to watch them at 12 or 13 years old. I took a summer class at 14 about how you make a movie and I was like wow, you can just do that yourself. I was aware of narrative way before I was aware of what fine art meant. I remember being actively un-interested in art museums, but stories would hold my attention.
B- When did you start realizing the moving image was part of that museum you ignored.
K- Midway through highschool I discovered in Stanley Kubrick movies for example the idea that a narrative has a set of expectations attached to it. A narrative is satisfying when it is checking off the boxes of those expectations. Somewhere in the middle of highschool I realized it wasn't necessary to follow those rules. You could make a movie that challenges a person's expectations and doesn't giving them what they need or what they want. Not until college was I exposed to any art films of an aggressively non-narrative formalist work. Even then it was a slow and gradual progression of interest for me.
C- What films or movies, or moving pictures were you attracted to when you were younger? Do any experiences stick out?
K- At some point I had this distinct memory of being a little kid and my parents were watching Back to the Future. I remember seeing the scene where the Delorean comes out of the back of the truck for the first time, there was spooky music, and fog from the fog machine and I remember having a visceral reaction to it.
It seems beth and I were trying to look in Kevin's earliest years for his formative experiences as an artist. Stories of experiences as youth are often interestingly evocative and easy for a participant or listener to relate to. We all have experiences when we realize the layers of media, ideas, and motive behind a movie picture. For Kevin it is the scene with the Delorean. For me it may have been when I was so bothered by Hocus Pocus I had to leave the theater. I knew it was just a movie but I made a deliberate act to avoid that experience.
At a later point in the interview Kevin explained another one of his formative experience as an artist and filmmaker. This time less freudian. After college, Kevin spent some time in France. He explained the culture he encountered of wonderfully small venues of experimental filmmakers. Dispite this culture he found himself not enjoying many of the films. After this he related his distaste with those films to his work. Kevin's goal isn't to make art that is difficult. Instead for him the idea of exploring what he can do with film, or the idea of committing to super 8, for example, is approaching film as an artist.