During the television broadcast of Art in the Twenty-First Century, Season 6—Art21′s latest PBS-broadcast season of the Peabody Award-winning series—we invited viewers to submit questions for a few of the season’s featured artists. Published here are responses from artists Catherine Opie, El Anatsui, and Marina Abramović.
Q&A #2 with Mary Reid Kelley and assume vivid astro focus: Viewers are invited to submit questions for Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley and Eli Sudbrack of assume vivid astro focus. Watch videos featuring each of the artists and submit your questions on PBS.org. The artists will respond to select questions, which will be posted here later in the month.
CATHERINE OPIE Q&A RESPONSES
From Leungs via PBS.org: What influenced/inspired you to photograph in a minimalist theme in the Surfer/Ice fisherman series? How did you come up with the idea to use the bodies of people as pieces of landscape themselves?
Catherine Opie: I think the stillness for me comes with the sense of waiting for such great length[s] of time in both places to accomplish the photographs. I am using an 8×10 format to photograph with and there is much patience that comes with shooting in this format, which [is] translated to the work.
In 1998, Paul Schimmel organized what is now considered to be one of the definitive exhibitions on performance art. Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object was the first major museum survey of performance art, covering practices in the US, Europe and Japan, and opening up the door for a slew of museum exhibitions in more recent years that feature performance. MoMA’s Marina Abramović show (2010), the Guggenheim’s Tino Seghal exhibition (2010), this year’s Whitney Biennial and the soon-to-open SFMoMA exhibition Stage Presence, not to mention many smaller museum exhibitions featuring performance art, were undoubtedly enabled by the precedent set by Out of Actions. Perhaps the most telling shift has been MoMA’s decision in 2008 to amend the name of the Department of Media to The Department of Media and Performance Art, clearly signalling that in the intervening decade, performance had found its place within the major art institutions.
Influential as Out of Actions continues to be, as an early experiment in the institutionalization of an inherently experimental medium, it did not go without controversy, even within the very space of the museum itself. As Michael Rush noted in his review of the exhibition for Performance Art Journal in 1999:
For “Out of Actions,” two L.A.-based artists with long track records in performance and multimedia, Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy, were invited to “introduce” the exhibition in what would inevitably be a controversial manner, given their proclivities. . . . To the museum’s credit, they let stand what is essentially a debunking of the exhibition’s very existence, which, in Kelley’s and McCarthy’s eyes, is an attempt “to sway the construction of the history of performance art in the direction of a materialist art-historical reading.” “Museums,” they go on to say in a printed statement available in the gallery, “continue to find it difficult to present work whose . . . form and subject are time, memory, perception, spoken language, sound, human action, and interaction. . . . This prejudice creates an object-oriented history of contemporary art. Many significant works of art do not reference the genres of sculpture or painting and are not meant to be seen within the physical framework of the museum.”
Certainly in comparison to exhibitions such as Abramović’s and Sehgal’s, in which the experiential aspect of the work is relayed by hiring live performers to stage, or re-stage as it may be, the works within the space of the museum, an exhibition that focuses on the material remains of performance–photographs and videos, sketches and scripts, paintings and sculptures made through performance–may seem tame. And presenting such work as indicative of the entire spectrum of performance art may be misleading, but at the same time, performance that operates within the field of the visual arts must always, in one manner or another, grapple with the issue of the art object. Even the pointedly ephemeral work of Tino Sehgal, who insists on leaving no physical traces of his artworks (to the degree that he even refuses to make sketches or take photographic documentation), is still conceived in reaction to the art object. Not only do individual works like Kiss directly quote historical artworks by Courbet, Rodin, and Koons, but Sehgal’s entire practice is conceived as a reaction against the impulse–manifested most incisively within the artworld, but applicable to our greater economic reality–to create more things in a world already groaning under the strain of material production.
The new Season 6 educators’ guide is now available as a quick and easy downloadable PDF. As we celebrate the broadcast of our new season, I thought this week might be a good time to highlight some of what the new guide has to offer educators interested in teaching with contemporary art.
First, the new guide has a lot of the same great introductory features from previous seasons. You get to learn about Art21 and the philosophy behind the organization of the guide in the first three pages. Simple, straight up and to the point.
Also within the introduction, on pages 4 and 5, there is a short description titled “What Is Contemporary Art?” and ideas for utilizing contemporary art in the classroom and community.
Each of the Season 6 programs is organized around a theme and all four themes, along with the artists featured, are described in the thematic introductions. A broad overview of the theme is presented in addition to introducing the artists with some foundational discussion questions.
Then, beginning with Marina Abramović’s page, each artist is given the star treatment complete with information about the artist, questions to share before, while, and after viewing, along with suggestions for creating different kinds of work in response to the segment.
It’s hard for me to have “favorites” because I wrote our new educator guide with the blessed help of my colleagues Jessica Hamlin and Flossie Chua. But when I reflect on the artists featured this season I just know I’ll be using artists like Ai Weiwei, El Anatsui, David Altmejd, Glenn Ligon, Catherine Opie, Rackstraw Downes, Tabaimo and Sarah Sze in the classroom… probably sooner than later. I think about how artists like Ai Weiwei and Tabaimo can broaden student understanding of what an artist does. I think about sharing the passion David Altmejd and Rackstraw Downes have for their work. I think about the way Catherine Opie and Sarah Sze speak to what students already know about their world.
I sincerely hope you get the chance to spend some time with the new guide and episodes from our new season. Once you have, please let me know your thoughts here on the blog or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks! See you next week.
Art21′s latest “Exclusive” video has just gone live: check out Marina Abramović: Embracing Fashion on Art21.org! This is our first Exclusive to feature a Season 6 artist, and our first in HD.
Filmed at her New York office in 2011, Marina Abramović discusses how her relationship to fashion and femininity has evolved over the course of a 40-year career. In the 1970s, Abramović relied upon stark, neutral performance uniforms that were always either “naked or dirty black or dirty white.” She reached a turning point in 1988 after the dissolution of her artistic collaboration with Ulay Laysiepen, which culminated in ”The Great Wall Walk” (1988). Abramović’s subsequent embrace of fashion and femininity parallel her re-emergence as a solo performance artist in the 1990s and 2000s.
Marina Abramović is featured in the Season 6 (2012) episode History of the Art in the Twenty-First Century series on PBS. Watch full episodes online for free via PBS Video or Hulu, as a paid download via iTunes, or as part of a Netflix streaming subscription.
CREDITS: Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Charles Atlas. Camera: Paul Gibson. Sound: Mark Mandler. Editor: Lizzie Donahue & Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: Marina Abramović Archives & Sean Kelly Gallery. Photography Courtesy: ELLE Serbia, Givenchy, Museum of Modern Art, Dusan Reljin, Mario Testino / Art Partner & V Magazine. Special Thanks: Danica Newell & Sidney Russell. Theme Music: Peter Foley
For a Limited Time: Ask the Artists
Ask the artists a question! Viewers are invited to submit questions for Marina Abramović, Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley, and Eli Sudbrack of assume vivid astro focus. The artists will respond to select questions, which will be posted on pbs.org in May.
Submission deadline is May 3 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
History—featuring Marina Abramović, Mary Reid Kelley, and Glenn Ligon—premieres tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). The full episode will be available online the following day.
Three ways to participate:
Leave a comment below or at pbs.org. Be sure to indicate which artist—Marina Abramović, Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley, or Eli Sudbrack of assume vivid astro focus—your question is directed to.
Tweet a question using the button below. Be sure to include the hashtag #art21qa.
Submit a question using the Ask the Artists form on pbs.org. Questions will only be published if selected.
In this week’s roundup, a Catherine Sullivan collaboration in Chicago, Mark Dion is in the record, Marina Abramović and Eleanor Antin perform identity, Cai Guo-Qiang and Hiroshi Sugimoto blur the line between art and commerce, and more.
- Catherine Sullivan and Company’s Inaugurals is now on view at the Logan Center (Chicago). The two works in this exhibition, The Last Days of British Honduras and Ice Floes of Franz Joseph Land, were filmed in Chicago and in locations that opened themselves to creative interpretation. These works feature Catherine Sullivan in collaboration with other artists. This exhibition is on view through April 22.
- Mark Dion and several other artists are featured in Miami Art Museum’s The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl, a group show that digs into the relationship between vinyl culture and contemporary art. Through sculpture, installation, drawing, painting, photography, sound work, video and performance, this exhibition combines contemporary art with outsider art, audio with visual, and fine art with popular culture. The show closes June 10.
- Mark Dion is also profiled in the March 30, 2012 issue of the New York Times’ Style Magazine from this past weekend.
- Judy Pfaff‘s work was selected for Tandem Press: 25 Years of Printmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Created to foster research, collaboration, experimentation and innovation in the field of printmaking, Tandem Press produces museum-quality fine art prints by nationally recognized artists. The exhibition will run until May 11.
- Allan McCollum and Laurie Simmons have work in Blondeau Fine Art Services’ (Geneva) Last Exit: Pictures. The show explores the rivalry between photography and painting, as well as appropriationist theories which were fiercely debated at the time. The title is a reference to a Thomas Lawson work, which was released in 1981, advocating the importance of painting in the emergence of this practice. This work is on view through April 21.
If Print/Out: 20 Years in Print is any indication, those in the business of print criticism, scholarship, curatorial work, and production will soon be the rarest of breeds. In his highly anticipated survey of the state of the medium, recently-minted Chief Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books Christophe Cherix posits the end of printmaking’s singular identity, announcing a future in which prints “will simply be called ‘art.’” (Print/Out: 20 Years in Print [New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2012], 27). With these words, he predicts the integration of printmaking into contemporary art practice – a future in which the medium’s essential “reproducibility, capacity for distribution, and … collaborative nature” (ibid.) serves the aims of artists of any ilk (even those who would shun the idea of making prints) while the traditional approach to printmaking as a specialized art form produced in limited editions under the wing of a professional workshop, will fade in importance.
Though Cherix states that the exhibition “embraces the versatile, global, and even muddled nature of contemporary art in the last two decades” (ibid., 15) it in fact presents a fairly unilateral view, privileging conceptual work and unconventional uses of materials. Due to the fact that most of the works are deeply steeped in ideas, a considerable investment of time and contemplation is required of visitors (reading the catalogue essay is mandatory to arrive at a meaningful level of understanding). For example, the first objects to greet the eye are four altered screenprints by Martin Kippenberger titled Inhalt auf Reisen (Content on Tour) (1992), part of a handful of interrelated projects in various formats created in the late 1980s and early 1990s through which the artist questioned the notion of appropriation – following the full trajectory of this work requires an advanced level of mental gymnastics. Depending on one’s proclivity, this can be either thrilling or tiresome; critic Ian Volner of Capital New York, for example, hails the exhibition’s ability to “dilate our sense of print’s potential on and off the page.” This may indeed be the case if one invests the effort required, but even then, there are omissions and questions – when thinking of artists who have stretched the meaning and uses of printmaking in recent years, Richard Tuttle and Nancy Spero come to mind, as do Swoon and Nicola López, but none of these artists, nor any others working in this vein, are represented.
Over the past few weeks I’ve thoroughly enjoyed talking and e-mailing with two more of our current Art21 Educators, Jethro Gillespie and Jack Watson. Jethro teaches Studio Art, 3D Design, Ceramics and more at Maple Mountain High School in Utah while Jack teaches 2D Art and Art History at Chapel High School in North Carolina.
Similar to Julia Coppersmith and Maureen Hergott, whom I interviewed a few weeks back, Jethro and Jack have an infectious passion for the the things they teach and accomplish with students. Both look for ways to better engage their classes on a consistent basis and avoid “window dressing” projects that may look pretty but aren’t necessarily about very much…
Since participating in the summer institute, could you describe a significant change, improvement or extension of your teaching practice? Has the experience also in some way affected your own art making?
Jack Watson: There are lots of little ways that the Art21 experience works its way into my classroom – visual brainstorming with post-its, discussion prompts, the “parking lot” – but I think the most significant change to my pedagogy is reframing my curriculum within central questions, as opposed to objectives. Like most teachers, I was trained to construct lessons rooted in standards with clearly defined objectives. This is useful if you want your students to produce the same result, but frustrating and limited for working with open-ended ideas and contemporary art practices. A framework of central questions opens the space to dialogue, ideas and possibilities.
As for my own practice, I’ve learned to embrace chance, and to focus more on the process than the product. I think in particular of our visit to Oliver Herring’s studio in Brooklyn. His work is so process-oriented, and he made such a strong impression on all of us that week. I was most surprised that his studio was devoid of any of the trappings of a traditional artist’s studio: no easels, paints, etc. Aside from some photos and a pile of TASK artifacts, I remember it being an open space full of possibilities- much like the classrooms we’re trying to create. He might resist this metaphor, but it left an impression on me!
Jethro Gillespie: The most visible change in my own teaching since the summer institute is the inclusion of TASK parties. I’ve organized various TASK events with my own students at school and at 3 different conferences for fellow art educators since the summer institute. And to echo what Jack said, meeting Oliver Herring was for me probably the most memorable and inspiring part of that experience.
For me, TASK is so simple and so brilliant- I think the underlying, formative ideas behind TASK have to do with the relationship of the participants that engage with it, and also focusing more on the process than the product. As a teacher, having a TASK party with my students (right at the beginning of the school year) demonstrated and nurtured a genuine trust between me and my students, especially when it came to issues of power and control in the classroom.
In my first few years of teaching I tried to “manage” my class with some admittedly top-down, almost militant strategies in order to try and ‘control’ different situations. This ultimately left most kids feeling dis-empowered and often led to power struggles that I didn’t want to deal with. I’ve since tried to examine and focus my teaching practice on building a healthy and generative class environment in order to help students feel more empowered- especially when it comes to creating meaningful student art projects. Being involved with TASK has really helped me to re-examine my own teaching practice concerning these issues of relinquishing control in order to form relationships of trust with my students. And as an art teacher, TASK has also helped me shift my focus away from simply getting students to produce things, and towards getting students more involved with the process of creating.
Collaborative duo Cupola Bobber, comprised of Stephen Fiehn and Tyler Myers, work slowly. When the SAIC graduates, who have worked almost exclusively in performance until this year, first chose to make work together, they decided to spend two years on every project. Those of us who live in Chicago during the decade they showed the resulting full-length performances here were privy to their attentive, obsessive, matchlessly substantive explorations of the night sky and railroads, the mythology of the sea and dust bowls, and the infinite space of libraries. This last subject, taken up by 2011’s The Field, The Mantel performance, is also explored in the ongoing projects seen in Cupola Bobber’s current exhibition at the independent art space ADDS/DONNA; in the meantime, the duo moved to New York (they were offered a residency at the Manhattan Cultural Council for this spring).
Since their move, Cupola Bobber have begun a number of interrelated and massively formidable projects that require indefatigabile persistence–even for them. For The Dictionary of Endurative Actions, in which they plan to record an endurative action written by hand on index cards by friends and strangers (anyone can contribute) for every word on dictionary.com, the first question they asked themselves was “What tree should we grow?”– that is, the tree to get the wood to build a 24-drawer card catalogue-desk to house the cards. The temporary home of the dictionary is displayed in the ADDS/DONNA show, where visitors are encouraged to provide definitions and new words.
From March 1st through March 4th the National Art Education Association will hold their annual conference right here in New York City. Over 3,000 art educators from all levels, including myself, will descend upon The Hilton and Sheraton hotels in midtown and have the opportunity to attend hundreds upon hundreds of workshops offered by colleagues from close to everywhere across the country.
Here at Art21, we have a few very special things planned….
On Friday, March 2nd at 8:30am Art21 is proud to present Janine Antoni’s keynote address, “Circuitous Path”, in the Hilton Grand Ballroom. As many of you already know, Janine Antoni employs a variety of mediums including performance, sculpture, photography and video. Her primary tool for making has always been her own body and she is known for using extreme processes and unusual materials. As an educator, Antoni is interested in teaching people ways to develop their individual creative process and will discuss her own art making as an example of the circuitous journey that one travels to arrive at a work of art.
At 12:00 noon, I will be co-presenting an offsite workshop at the Museum of Art and Design with Catherine Rosamond that focuses on teaching with contemporary art on film and in the museum gallery. While the workshop is already sold out, it never hurts to inquire at the NAEA information desk about any cancellations if you want to be in on the fun. Last year’s workshop with a similar focus at the Seattle Art Museum was wonderful.
Later Friday afternoon, at 3:30pm, we are excited about the “supersession” titled “Sown Within: A Performative Workshop with Janine Antoni” at the Sheraton’s Metropolitan Ballroom East. This workshop, led by Janine herself, will focus on the body as a tool for exploration and certainly promises to be a unique event!
To cap off Friday, Art21 is proud to participate in NAEA’s film salon and offer preview screenings of two new season 6 episodes. “Change” and “History” feature artists Ai Weiwei, El Anatsui, Catherine Opie, Marina Abramović, Mary Reid Kelley, and Glenn Ligon. All screenings will take place at the Hilton’s Concourse G- Lower Level. Check it out if you want a sneak peek at some of the segments before national broadcast.
On Saturday, March 3rd at 9:00am in the Hilton Mercury Ballroom, Lois Hetland will moderate a conversation featuring a few of our outstanding past and present Art21 educators including Julia CopperSmith, Maureen Hergott , Anna Dean and Jocelyn Salaz. Participants will discuss case studies they created and changes in their teaching practice since taking part in the Art21 Educators program. This should be an excellent way to become familiar with the program for anyone interested.
Then, starting at 11:00am and continuing through 4:00pm on Saturday, Oliver Herring will kick off a huge TASK party in the Sheraton’s New York Ballroom East. Join Oliver and fellow educators for an unprecedented collaborative art experience. TASK is an improvisational, open-ended, participatory event with a simple structure and very few rules. It creates almost unlimited opportunities for a group of people to interact in a given space. TASK parties have been held throughout the world at museums, galleries, and schools but this will be the first-ever TASK event at an NAEA conference. Stick around afterward with Oliver and guests (including Dennis Greenwell, Karen Melvin, Kendra Paitz, Emmett Sandberg and Jack Watson) for a conversation moderated by our own Jessica Hamlin that focuses on “What is TASK and what can you do with It?” Teachers will share their experiences both participating in and organizing TASK events.
Finally, on Sunday, March 4th at 10:00am in the Hilton Gramercy Suite A, artist LaToya Ruby Frazier will discuss the collaborative work with her family over the past nine years as well as her role as daughter, photographer and filmmaker. LaToya Frazier is currently featured in Art21’s new documentary film series, New York Close Up.
Looking forward to seeing everyone in just a few weeks…