Art Strategies – Final

As I mentioned in my previous post for my Art strategies final project I wanted to continue working with systems art and traffic routes. In this case we were also asked to consider a critical use of spectacle in our work.

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In my mind Times Square stands out as an intentional spectacle. To millions (billions?) of people this place  and the image of it represent New York City. However if New York City is a spectacle in in itself, as I believe,  TSQ is a fairly poor representation of that. My goal with this final project was to make a sort of Times Square-esq spectacle out of the lives of real individuals who live here. To make a truer representation of NYC. To make the case that the city itself, and the people and places who make it are where attention should be paid, rather than the baubles set up for visitors.

Basically, I wanted big lights for the big city that said something other than “buy American apparel” and “share this with your friends”.

The final vision for this project entails a large canvas that moves to various buildings/locations throughout the city and documents the travels of regular visitors/residents. At each location a map of New York is projected onto the canvas and the various destinations and routes are traced in EL wire (or some equivalent lighting technology). Hopefully this can be displayed in a common area, like a lobby, as that buildings routes are being added. As the canvas moves to new locations in different neighborhoods the routes begin to crisscross and pile up, creating a realistic representation of density and interconnectedness of otherwise disparate personal paths. Ideally each origin point (where the work is temproraily displayed) and it’s respective routes would be represented in a different color so that they are distinguishable across the map.  Each line would also be set on a timer to light up at the rough start time of each commute/journey, stay on for the usual duration of this trip, and then turn off. This creates a cyclical, blinking, light up board that creates a similar visual effect to TSQ advertisements.

Here is an image of the prototype (no blinking yet):

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The piece would stop traveling to different buildings and neighborhoods once a map/image of New York is easily recognizable through EL wire alone.

A major concern with this work was making sure I use a system to select which buildings I would set this up in, and what order. At this point I think It would visit and map from buildings in each of the city’s 59 community districts (which roughly correlate with neighborhoods) and the order of these would be selected randomly. Within each neighborhood I think I would try to identify buildings that are within the median height, use and age for the neighborhood and find property owners or residents from that list that would be accommodating. Basically I want to work in a typical building for each neighborhood. I would then trace the paths of as many people as volunteer within each building, I may also pay participants for their involvement.

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Ultimately I think this map will include trips to work, school, grocery stores and doctors offices and will involve a wide enough spectrum of people to be familiar to the vast majority of NYers. The process of this work can also be repeated with different building selection, cities, and should be relatively easy for an “unskilled” person to complete so theres a lot of opportunity for iteration in this work. I like this project because it literally highlights the ways in which mundane individual decisions, together, build the tremendous spectacle of The City.

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Art Strategies Final Proposal

For my Art strategies final project I’d like to continue to work in a similar theme to what I’ve made previously involving routes and paths through cities (mostly new york). I’m thinking it will be a sort of neon sign sign for my apartment building. I’m planning to use EL wire sewn onto a canvas to create a map of routes that people in my building frequently take (maybe to work, school, or a friend’s house). This is roughly what it may look like:screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-38-48-am

I’m hoping that the physical EL wire looks good when bunched up on the canvas to add weight to common routes. I found a similar use of EL wire in Anna Madeleine’s Submarine Cable Map (2016):

Submarine Cable Map
Submarine Cable Map

At this point I’m unsure of what else I’d like on the canvas. I’ve considered a simple reference map like I sketched out in the first image or maybe a full arial photography. I really like how these images look with the subway lines superimposed:

By Arnorrian
By Arnorrian

I’m going to post a sign up sheet in my building to collect some real destinations but failing that I’m going to try to make them up based on real data.

 

Additional thoughts:

Like a neon sign for beer in a bar window. This is what this apartment building has!

I think of this as presenting a “chicken/egg” question in reference to housing, place and identity or the idea that the destinations construct the origin.

Visualizing individual routes in the same way we might view subway lines is interesting to me – its sort of like using a microscope on urban transit issues.

I’d like to make a series of these on the same canvas. I think it could be really interesting to add new buildings and their associated routes to this over time. It would create multiple hubs and interwoven spokes that would make the people flows more distinct and make the broader system I am referring to clearer. This is especially interesting with no base map. How many buildings would I have to add before the form of New York becomes obvious? Is New York defined by the paths we carve through it?

Questions:

How big should this be?

What about the basemap?

Would other interactivity add anything to this?

How do I solicit this information from my neighbors?

Are there questions I need to ask myself about this?

 

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Art Strategies – Performace / Conceptual

I Initially had a hard time coming up with something for this assignment. However ideas started forming when I took the subway home one night during rush hour. The 4 train was totally packed heading up to 86th street from Union square and a group of people who ~behaved like tourists~ got on towards the front of the car. They were clearly very entertained by the crowded car and started trying to position their phones for a selfie that would also show the crowd. I was kind of irritated by this. While its somewhat rude in general to take a picture of someone without permission I thought this was kind of adding insult to injury. Most of the people on that train were not interested in entertaining guests when they stuffed themselves into an overcrowded train after working all day.

I thought about this dynamic for a while and came up with a few iffy concepts. Eventually I casually asked someone what they might do for a performance art project. They said they would probably just film themselves “performing identity”. I don’t think they were being completely serious but it really got me thinking about why I was bothered by the people taking pictures on the train and the sort of identity performances I go through on a regular basis. Once such recurring performance I’m very aware of is my identity as a native New Yorker. In retrospect I think this is why the tourists on the train bothered me the way it did; I feel entitled to New York and I resented them for staking a claim or having an opinion without my understanding of context. I recognized this attitude as something that should probably be challenged or investigated and I decided to work my project around that.

What I decided to do was travel through the major tourist sites in manhattan for a day and share my trip primarily on snapchat. I think in someways this is an act of jealousy. I didn’t think it would be realistic or believable to pretend I was actually seeing New York for the first time so I decided I would just consume the image of New York the way the visitors do.

Its worth pointing out that I don’t typically use social media or voluntarily visit crowded NYC landmarks on my own and that this was obvious to my snapchat audience (mainly other NYC friends of mine). Some of them texted me during my trip to ask if I was having a quarter-life crisis. I’m not completely sure I’m done considering this project or what it meant to me but I have to say that the trip was surprisingly difficult towards the end. There was a strange sense of familiarity and detachment as I mechanically crossed well know places off my list. I had never been to the 9/11 memorial or the new transit center and in this context I found those experiences very disorienting. By then end of my trip I was on the brooklyn bridge and was kind of fuming about New Yorkisms: zoning issues, the lack of public space, bicycles (really strong feelings on this one). Here is the documentation of my trip on snapchat:

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Art Strategies – Conceptual art / Performance art

While looking into performance artists I noticed an association with flash mobs and starting reading about them. Surprisingly I found that the “flash mob” concept was “invented” buy an editor for Harper’s Magazine named Bill Wasik; In his own description this was meant to be a social science experiment. However, after reading this week’s reading by Lucy Lippard and Wasik’s own description of the event It seems to fit in the cannon of performance and conceptual art.

The first flash mobs were organized by Wasik in 2003 via email chains. It seems that the basic concept was a criticism of a hypocritical conformist culture.

“I was pointing out that hipsters, our supposed cultural avant-garde, are in fact a transcontinental society of cultural receptors, straining to perceive which shifts to follow.”

Wasik makes clear that much of the project or “experiment” was meant to stoke the vanity of his participants by creating a sense that their special knowledge and conformity gave them a form of power over others who were out of the loop. Often it seems these displays of power were deployed in a self-ridiculing way (Wasik seems to have some contempt for the “hipsters” whom he considers his participants), such as the first successful flash mob which took place at the Herald Sq. Macy’s. In this case a large group following instructions quickly grew around a specific rug in the Macy’s show room and explained to staff and passersby that they were a collective from Long Island looking for a “love rug” and had to make the decision as a group. Wasik says that a major inspiration for this was Stanley Milligram’s body of work. Wasik writes, “The Milgramite tradition in art would be defined, I think, by the following premise: that man, whom we now know to respond predictably to social forces, is therefore himself the ultimate artistic medium”. This reminded me a lot of Lippard’s example of the artist who locked their gallery attendees in an empty room until they attempted to break out or the artist who mailed a list of orders to a dictator.

Wasik was able to keep his involvement in these flash mobs a mystery for many years until he sought out a corporatized adoption of the flash mob used as a promotion for a branded concert series. later, in a 2006 article for Harper’s Wasik then describes the process of developing the flash mob, its development of a international following, the backlash, and finally the corporatization as a piece in itself, calling each one a step. Ultimately Wasik considerers the moral implications of having introduced yet another instantiation of mindless youth conformity but then defends his work with the words of Stanley Milligram:

“Milgram relates the story of a young man who had been through the study in 1964 and six years later sent a letter to Milgram telling him that, as a result, he was seeking CO status to avoid fighting in Vietnam.

‘He was going to be sent by our government to Southeast Asia to drop napalm on innocent villagers, to despoil the land, to massacre. He informs me, as many others have done, that the experiment has deepened his understanding of the moral problems of submitting to malevolent authority. He has learned something. He takes a stand. He becomes a conscientious objector. Has he been victimized by the experiment, or has he been liberated by it'”

Works consulted:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Milgram

http://harpers.org/archive/2006/03/my-crowd/1/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_mob

Lucy Lippard “Six Years: The Dematerialization of the art object from 1966 to 1972”

 

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Art Strategies – Systems, Maps, Ethnography, Infrastructure

I’ve been interested in “density” as a characteristic of place since I was first introduced to the term. After reading the material for this week I realize that in someways I’ve really been interested in the system(s) of density for as long as I can remember. To this day I like to play city building games with the goal of creating as layered and self-contained of a metropolis as possible. Following this interest into the realm of known artists I remembered an architect named Paolo Soleri. Soleri is know for, among other things, his interest in “arcology”, a structure meant to host “very densely populated, ecologically low-impact human habitats”.

 

Babel IIB

Many of Soleri’s Arcology concepts appear in his book Arcology – City in the Image of Man (1969). The goal of these arcology was to provide a model for an alternative system of sustainable urban development and generally human life.

“Soleri bases his entire arcology neither on economic, social, or  industrial considerations but on a philosophical system. It is so all-embracing in its scope that it relates the arcological city unity to the entire evolution of organic life, from the proto-biological  primordial ooze to an as yet unevolved Neo-Matter …. Insisting that nature and human evolution work as vectors or parallel  progressions, he ties the future fate of mankind to the same  increasing complexification that has marked the rise of our organism  from the amoeba.”  —Sibyl Moholy-Nagy The Architectural Forum, 1970

The term arcology, which Soleri coined, is a portmanteau of “Architecture” and “Ecology”. Through Donella Meadows’ identification of leverage points this seems like a great (though apparently unsuccessful)  attempt to change the paradigm of urbanization, as these renderings, “take you outside the system and force you to see it whole.”

Ultimately, I am a bit conflicted about Soleri’s arcology. On the one hand this does seem to satisfy a desire for efficiency and system awareness that I feel is sometimes lacking in environmental or urban focused work. In addition, I think that there is a general bias, at least in the US, against large scale urbanization and planning that something like this requires. So I think mapping out a series of habitats like this is important. It communicates the subtle idea that humans don’t necessarily have to be in nature to work with nature. And that the systems that make existing cities so productive culturally, economically and politically can be harnessed in an intentional and pointed way. On the other hand, these arcology can be seen as further obfuscating the already “unconscious” role infrastructure plays in our lives and would deny the largely self organizing qualities of our existing urban systems. Either way, Arcology – City in the Image of Man is a totally beautiful book and Soleri’s ideas have spawned a whole community dedicated to this kind of vision.

 

Works consulted:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcology

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paolo_Soleri

https://arcosanti.org

Obituary

 

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Art Strategies | Procedural Art Prototype

This week I created a set of instructions for a drawing and sent it to three friends. The goal of this activity was to produce a meaningful representation of the conflict points in our transportation system. Ultimately the person following these instructions ends up with an original aethstetic work as well as a functional way of quantifying the failure points of a local system.

The Instructions:

Grab a sheet of paper, a pencil and a few colors to draw with. Think of a route you know well; maybe this is your commute, or the way to a friend’s house. Think of the busiest intersection you passthrough on your way, particularly one that involves multiple modes of transportation ( i.e. cars and buses or pedestrians and bikes, etc.). Using a pencil draw a rough top down view of this intersection with each right of way, route, road, or path extending to the edge of the page. Include things like sidewalks and multiple lanes of traffic and make sure to label each of these corridors in the empty spaces where buildings, fields or parking lots might be. Using a unique color draw your typical path through this intersection from one edge of the page to another. Using a different color for each mode draw all of the possible paths through the intersection from edge to edge. Draw a new line for each distinct path (its ok if they overlap a little).

(Optional) Continue your route on another page. Using a new sheet of paper repeat this process for the next or previous intersection you passthrough on your route. Try to maintain the same color scheme and scale as your original drawing but continue from memory.

Erase the pencil and draw a black dot over any points where two or more lines cross. There may be a lot of these. When you feel that you’ve finished, count each black dot and title your work with the total.

 

Results:

Melanie #1
Melanie #1
Melanie #2 Final
Melanie #2 Final
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Nick #1 Final
Jesse #1
Jesse #1
Jesse #2
Jesse #2
Jesse #3
Jesse #3
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Jesse #4 Final

I wanted to do something like this because of a frustration I have with our current infrastructure/transportation paragdime. In my opinion our transportation system mainly relies on intimidation and harassment to achieve a semblance of efficiency. I often think about how this could be re-engineered but given the scale and scope of this problem the better response may be to encourage others to think with me. That was the goal of these instructions.

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Art Strategies – Post #2 Aleatory, Procedural, Instructional: Life a User’s Manual by Georges Perec

After leaning about Aleatory, procedural and instructional art in class I spent some time looking into these strategies and discovered Georges Perec. Georges Perec was primarily a french writer who employed a number of constrained writing techniques while producing his novels in the 1960’s and 70’s. For example, he wrote a detective novel called A Void about “the disappearance of the letter E from the alphabet”, without using the letter “e”. Multiple sources have suggested that his writing is often autobiographical and the decision to remove the letter, while kind of comical given the plot of the book, may also refer to the loss of life during the holocaust and his parents related deaths. Perec stated that his writing concerned “a passion for the apparently trivial details of everyday life, an impulse toward confession and autobiography, a will toward formal innovation, and a desire to tell engaging, absorbing stories”, which suggests that he viewed these potentially gimmick-y/arbitrary writing constraints as a source of creativity, narrative attention and expression in itself. He may be best know for his collection of “novels”, Life a User’s Manual  which uses a series of complex constraints to tell the story of an entire apartment building at a single moment in time.

Georges Perec
Georges Perec

Life a User’s Manual has 99 short chapters, each of which centers on a specific room within a Paris apartment building. One of the primary constraints Perec uses concerns the progression of rooms and chapters in the book which is based on a graphic representation of the building (itself an object in the book). Perec sketched out the fictional building and imagined that the 100 rooms of the building represented a grid, he then traversed this grid following the path of a knight on a chess board. In addition, he developed complex rules regarding specific objects, ideas, characters, references and even falsehoods that would need to appear in each room/chapter. The central plot of the book revolves around a character named Bartlebooth who constructs an intricate life plan to avoid boredom, only to fail due to the complexity of his own design. This character’s death comes at the end of the book which both prevents him from completing his life’s goal and allows Perec to avoid the 100th room/chapter which would have represented his own completion of the book’s form and constraint.

A New York Times review of the english translation of Life a User’s Manual (debuted a few years after Perec’s death) described his writing: “To read Georges Perec one must be ready to abandon oneself to a spirit of play. His books are studded with intellectual traps, allusions and secret systems, and if they are not necessarily profound (in the sense that Tolstoy and Mann are profound), they are prodigiously entertaining (in the sense that Lewis Carroll and Laurence Sterne are entertaining)”. While I haven’t read Perec’s work it certainly does seem profound to end such a formalistically complex book with a sort of double statement on the failure of complex human systems.

 

Works Consulted:

http://www.dalkeyarchive.com/reading-georges-perec/

http://www.nytimes.com/1987/11/15/books/the-bartlebooth-follies.html?pagewanted=1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_a_User%27s_Manual

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Perec

http://www.associationgeorgesperec.fr/actualites/

 

 

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Art Strategies – Post #1

I thought the the intro and first two chapters of A Very Short Introduction to Modern Art did a great job of associating broader or related social systems, technologies and historical events with the changes in, and increasing popularity, of modern art over time. I thought the tension the author laid out between modern art and consumerism were particularly interesting. With this in mind I would say that three works stuck out to me: My Bed, Bottlerack, and Monogram.

My Bed
My Bed

My Bed was one of the first works I looked up when doing the reading and it was exactly what “modern art” conjures in my mind, which is why the author was using it to make a point. However as I kept reading I thought back to this work and how it clearly fits into the cannon that the author describes. It certainly seems to challenge “the public” with the idea as art itself and operates a sort of collage of mass produced human comfort goods (in a kind of iconoclastic way). Given that the work refers to a period when the artist was very depressed I thought the author’s notion that in “modern art”, “the complacent tyranny of ‘reason’ could be challenged and the floodgates opened to those unconscious drives whose acknowledgement … could make modern human beings whole”, applied nicely.

bottlerack
bottlerack

I had seen works by Marcel Duchamp before, definitely “fountain”, but this stuck out for me because I hadn’t really considered this kind of work in the context it was created. One perspective I’d never really thought about is interaction between formalist or naturalistic painting and the emergence of photography. I had always heard the story of industrialization told from the perspective of a shoemaker, or some other craftsperson, who transitions from their craft to working on an assembly line in a related factory – I understand now that a similar transition occurred in the arts. Bottlerack now makes me think of a modern artist as something like a worker on an assembly line, attaching discourse or meaning to the objects that come before them.  Reading further that the original was “mistaken as garbage” but that “replicas resi[de] in prominent museums” also seems to further the idea that “‘modern art is more a product of its discourses than of its vulgar artificers”.

monogram
monogram

Lastly, monogram. Monogram is different from My Bed, or bottlerack in that it doesn’t really flaunt ordinary consumer goods in the same way. Instead it seems to be focused more on its own highly specific (or unique) objecthood. However, I think that the scarcity of works like this still has interesting economic implications. In a market comprised of wealthy patrons and often intentionally esoteric and singular works it’s not hard to understand why critics would be concerned with avant garde art as sort of “theme park”.

 

 

Sources :

Modern Art: A Very Short Introduction – David Cottington

http://www.rauschenbergfoundation.org/art/art-in-context/monogram

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Bed

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bottle_Rack

 

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