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Elisa's Reflections on Speakers

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Michael Sommer's talk was extremely helpful for me. We did two exercises that helped clarify some things for me. In one, we kneeled on the floor with a piece of newspaper on the floor in front of us. We then put our hands on the paper and began to move the paper slowly, animating it incrementally by pushing and crinkling the paper until it came off the floor and began to take life. This exercise reminded me that an intuitive and playful engagement with a material and its capacities gets me very excited. Then, we did an exercise in which we walked arm and arm with a fellow classmate and looked at random things and made statements of what sorts of thing they reminded us of. This exercise could be described as the practice of creating metaphors. I had much more trouble coming up with linguistic statements about material phenomena. I am much more interested in the possibilities of what material can do, and how it feels. In the process, the material also takes on metaphorical properties, but those are not based on the imposition of language on the material, but on the formal and active properties of the material. Inanimate material can fly, mold, float, zap, flutter, emerge, or fall.

Tasoulla Hadjianni's talk was also inspiring for me, and her thoughts on the role of craft in the homes and lives of different cultural groups in Minnesota made me consider the importance of the insertion of creative and artistic alternate realities into our daily lives. All cultures make art and practice ritual. Art has the capacity to give meaning and pleasure to our lives. In addition, craft can be a form of preserving memories and performing identity. Tasoulla and Michael's talks are making me think about how art has an important role in daily life as an insertion of metaphor, narrative, play, and joy. This insertion of an alternative layer of reality that takes us out of our daily experience, even as it is inscribed in the very midst of daily life seems to be an important function of art.

Finally, Mike Gould's art, in an extremely different way, similarly provides an alternative space removed from daily life even as it is situated in the midst of daily life, for the purpose of transforming how people interact with the world. By using familiar cultural practices like a dinner at someone's house, he changes the form just enough to wake up participants and show them that they have more power than they think over the world in which they live. I was inspired by Mike Gould's talk, not so much because he has an artistic practice that I would like to emulate, but because what he is doing, with earnestness and persistence, is finding innovative ways to promote dialog and community, evoke political change, and have fun in the process. I think that he is providing some excellent models for democratic education. As I think about how to teach students, I hope that part of my pedagogical practice can be to promote discourse and empower the voices of my students.

All of these guests, and the others we had the pleasure of meeting, were also inspiring because of their sincerity and integrity, and the generous and honest way in which they are intending with their practices and their scholarship to contribute to the world.

Reflections on Speakers

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Sam Gould - Red 76
I found Sam's talk particularly inspiring and revelatory in relation to how one might approach contemporary forms of art production. His idea of "incantatory democracy" and 'the accumulated space" reveals a sustained approach to investigating a uniquely american idea of participatory democracy. His projects make material the ephemeral, but also does so in a way that has a light touch and gets at what Gail Dubrow recommended in regards to "build on anchors - lightly". Sam's explication of the methodologies he uses in producing his projects was insightful of his own work and allows for me to attempt new approaches, a partial list follows:

  • adopt a familiar framework (bar, laundrymat, meal, etc)
  • seed and re-seed the conversation
  • learn to listen
  • create a context to learn more
  • find reciprocity
  • social practice - reciprocal, not generous
  • it's not the point to be dominant in the project
  • find how to skew expectations through visuals
  • define roles of participation
  • failure = research
Frameworks addition:
  • pedagogy
  • media
  • personal networks
  • public space
  • discursivity
  • questions/questioning
  • research
  • equitable space
  • mutliple forms of seeding

Mark Schwackhammer houmin.com
"inspiration is for amateurs" - Chuck Close
Mark's talk was great - i found it overall awesome because he was very prepared for our audience, knowing his subject but presenting it in a very visually forwarded way for a group of artists. His presentation was full of discrete information on particular projects but included a number of funny asides and diagrams that fleshed out further the ideas and thinking processes that went into their development. He proposed and outlined the way he looks to the iterative processes of nature as a point of departure in his own work. Knowing what we make and how we make it builds on an idea an old sculpture professor of mine gave me - "take care of your work and your work will take care of you" (Tom Ashcraft). He noted that a good way to explore working is to look for unlikely juxtapositions and opposing forces. I like that.

Blaine Brownell - http://transmaterial.net/
Blaine brought a great presentation on how research and development of new materials and their use in architecture can interact directly with many of the overarching global dialogues about the environment, energy, the use of space and food politics. He showed how projects small and large are finding ways to address these concerns through creative applications in architectural milieus. His presentation demonstrates how thinking within architecture has begun to open up to these larger concerns, moving from traditional materials to innovative use of new materials. Positioning these developments within these larger concerns, we can begin to also incorporate what we do when we try to create artwork within a larger global framework that engages these concerns and can contribute to moving us in new directions, to addressing concerns in material ways. I found the presentation highly informative and inspiring.

Guest Speakers

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Tasoulla Hadjiyanni

She clearly has a fondness for humans and a fascination for cultural side of human nature. During the lecture, when we saw ethnic houses, I was strongly reminded of summer situations at my grand uncles where we all cousins would migrate to play a big family with zero privacy (for us and our parents). Tasoulla prepared us to understand and analyze what were about to see. I really respond to that approach and I think it works well when an issue has multiple cultural, ethnic and economic layers. It then become easier to change and merge spheres within Minnesota's diversity. Tasoulla primarily asked us to concentrate on the issues of privacy within one's home, how to create personal space that speaks closely to the native environments. Finding what is missing and making it available sounds like activism in urban spaces, which then comes with a danger of making list of 'missing' and replacing it with 'solutions'. However, it certainly leads towards awareness of 'lack of home' within a home and it is extremely important at current stage of diversity in MN. The participants in her project imagined privacy whenever they needed, imagination can block noises during siblings play time or bring light to the room in darkness. The strength of imagination overrides physical needs yet physical demands of having a dining table overrides comfort in living spaces. I have began to feel that any practical solutions to small space issue has to have a layer of imagination or a very personal (almost a nostalgic connection) to make it successful.

Jack Becker

When young artists talk or think about art they think of big changes, challenge to change the society etc. And then there is Jack Becker finding spaces for public art within the jungle of rules and the new improved communality actually works. Jack helped me to understand the proximity and scale of opportunity for public art in Minnesota. I had many questions for him and I came home with much greater knowledge than mere answers. How to draft grant application was an important part of that conversation. It will sure help us all in the world outside campus. Jack put light on the business side of public art- how an opportunity is created and how the facilitation during the artist-sponsor communication becomes an opportunity itself to nourish experimenting nature in public art. I want to take advantage of Forecast's expansive library if access becomes available. Probably post-finals is a good time to request him about that.

Michael Sommers

His participatory demonstrations made me rethink about physicality of everything around us. Since I'm going away from digital zone and working more with physical objects in past 3 months, his strategy to study materials put me in a direction to narrow down investigation and look at material itself to inform a work. Materials are filled unexpected qualities and personalities. His approach reconnected me with my childhood fascination of molding weird materials to create mini-sculptures. Now I can definitely transform my collection of egg cartons, wood and newspaper scrap.