Most of my projects begin when I come across an interesting piece of information that sparks my creative process. This information can come in any form- articles, websites, photographs, anecdotes, maps and graphs are some of my favourites. I hoard these items in folders, and around my studio. A lot of my studio work is a direct exploration of these original sources while other pieces use collected data as a starting point for more abstracted works.
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Previously featured on Make Space back in August, Alicia now gives us some insight into her practice and process, as well as talks about her experience at ACRE Residency last summer. Check out her work IRL, along with Ellen Nielsen, Alicia Chester, Oli Rodriguez, Kate Hampel & Aiden Simon,
Curated by Alicia Eler
Opening reception: Friday, May 24, 6–10pm
3219–21 South Morgan Street
Chicago, IL 60608
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James T. Green is a designer and artist currently based in Chicago, Illinois. His art practice builds on an interest in self-identity, online engagement and our growing dependence on technology. His design practice focuses on making great things for the greater good. Both practices work in tandem.
Green will be showing in the exhibition No Gods No Masters. at Chicago Artists Coalition along with two other HATCH Projects artists Jesse Butcher and Christopher Meerdo. The exhibition is curated by Teresa Silva and opens Friday May 10 from 6 -9pm and runs through May 30th.
Green has shown works at the Chicago Cultural Center, Filter Photo Festival and the Museum of Contemporary Art, including a residency with the ACRE Artist Residency Program. He has designed with organizations including TEDxWindyCity, Black Girls Run, and Red Bike and Green. James T. Green loves to see how art and design interact to convert spaces and create conversations.
Beacon of the ‘Hood
The convenience store is seen as the central of many African American neighborhoods. A central meeting point for various activities and products. I went out to explore how the lights of a convenience store shine during the night time hours, emulating the purpose of a beacon of a lighthouse; reminding you of where you are no matter how far you stray away.
With technology, we are able to not only archive our lives, but create new stories with the power of editing. By the stroke of a mouse, we are able to create, edit, or delete a story that did not independently exist.
Using personal archived footage from 2006-2011, I attempted to create a new dialogue from within my family, as well as exploring the role technology has in the communication efforts of my immediate and extended family.
In collaboration with Gallery 400, Make-Space talks with Jennet Thomas, one of the artists in the current exhibition “I THINK WE’RE READY TO GO TO THE NEXT SEQUENCE: THE LEGACY OF HALFLIFERS”.
Artists: 23E Laboratories, Jason Robert Bell, James Fotopoulos, Kari Gatzke, HALFLIFERS, Lauren Marsden, Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, Bjørn Melhus, Shana Moulton, Caspar Stracke and MASTERS OF TIME AND SPACE, and Jennet Thomas
Covering more than two decades of work, I THINK WE’RE READY TO GO TO THE NEXT SEQUENCE moves beyond the retrospective format to re-examine, interpret, and pay homage to the extensive body of performative video work that the HALFLIFERS (the collaborative team of Torsten Zenas Burns and Anthony Discenza) have produced since the early 1990s. Employing a lo-fi aesthetic that amplifies the qualities of videotape and forms of its playback, Burns and Discenza perform as characters inspired by genres of speculative fiction, producing a sincere absurdity that reflects on the issues of anxiety and identity in our rapidly changing technological age. Included in the exhibition are the HALFLIFERS’ re-edit of the collaborative’s entire video history into a new one-hour loop and an alternative self-portrait that catalogs key materials, sources, influences, and other touchstones in a new book entitled THE LAST KNOWN PHOTOGRAPH OF THE HALFLIFERS.
Accompanying the HALFLIFERS’ works are sculptures, videos, drawings, installations, photographs, and paintings by a number of artists who have affinities with the collaborative and who have produced new works mining the HALFLIFERS’ oeuvre. By subjecting themselves to the reinterpretations and responses of others, HALFLIFERS question their present relevancy while, at the same time, continue to be relevant through their very willingness to adapt.
Amber Ginsburg exhibited work from her ongoing project titled “Past Present Perfect” at the Chicago Artists Coalition last February in a Hatch Projects group exhibition named “Value: Assigned, Transposed, and Imagined” curated by Happy Collaborationists. During the exhibition Ginsburg started collaborating with, previously featured Make-Space artist, Marissa Lee Benedict. In the gallery the two embarked on an exploration that combined Benedict’s experiments with bio-plastic and Ginsburg’s interest in using five hundred potatoes from a piece that was already on display.
Last month Ginsburg and Benedict met me at the CAC gallery to answer some questions about the collaboration and to show me the process of making bio-plastic in the gallery. Below you will find Amber Ginsburg talking a bit more in-depth about her pieces in the exhibition, later in the interview Marissa Lee Benedict joins the conversation about collaboration and bio-plastic, lastly the two show me how to make bio-plastic!
-Amber Ginsburg on her artwork at Chicago Artists Coalition-
Ginsburg’s “Past Present Perfect” project addresses an imagined future for dishware–exploring dishware as a relic of cultural practice of formal dining. Ginsburg considers the gallery as “a museum of the not-yet-happened, the works on display are encounters with fragments of dishware based on a future when we have forgotten their intended purpose. Abstraction implies the cognitive distance between a time when the actions around eating were understood and a future when an archaeologist attempts to interpret that knowledge.”
Amber, you talk about dishware and its intended purpose—do you consider dishware a tool? If so, how?
AG - The words you have chosen to ask about my work, “relic” and “tool”, speak directly to my interests in how objects function as cultural symbols and actors that provide agency at the same time. At one end of the timeline, which we will call the relic, the accumulation of past narratives about an object form a sequence, a kind of narrative DNA. Like memory, the knowledge that sticks tells us something about ourselves. Dramaturges, the folks that decided what objects are on view in a movie or play, have a particularly savvy sense of how dishes become symbols. In an instant we can discern era, class and sometimes even the emotional tone by glancing at the objects of the table. Dramaturges tap into our cultural understanding of dishes, the way in which we activate the “relic” memory in objects of the table.
But once in use, the role of the object changes and they simultaneously become a tool animated by the user. This is a switch in agency. As protagonists acting upon the object, we become as much the “changers” of the story as the inheritors.
Dishes, particularly more formal-ware, captured my interests as “transitional objects”. If objects can be narrators, dinnerware is at an interesting and confusing moment. Totally recognizable and a quick stand-ins for all sorts of ideas about home, family, habit and culture, they are simultaneously being booted out by the pace with which we live our lives. The way we use formal-ware is at odds with the ways we imagine their use. I am drawn to this flux in the use and understanding of dishware.
How is the work you exhibited at CAC—Toll, Drawing set for Eight, Break, and Charge—the next iteration of the Past Present Perfect projects?
AG – Past Present Perfect is an ongoing project playing with dishware, pulling out various behaviors and patterns associated with these objects. Exhibitions become moments to edit research and test new ideas. Two of the works, Drawing Set of Eight and Charge, in some form, have been exhibited before but the HATCH exhibition at the Chicago Artist Coalition also featured new works and re-orients the old. In this instance, Drawing Set for Eight is the trace, in graphite, of the actions of a formal five-course meal served at the Chicago Artist Coalition to the eight artists working with our curators, the Happy Collaborationist. It is a way of preserving a mode of dining – slow and choreographed for this group, freshly formed. This was a charmingly and somewhat awkward first date for us.
Charge, a cyanotype lit by 500 potatoes powering 100 diodes, is in its second iteration, but has changed. This work became the nexus of the show, combining elements of other works. Rather than isolate the Cyanotype, the residue or shards from breaking two person-high columns of dishes, was placed under and on the table where Charge sat. The dishes were an artifact of the 16 mm film Break. Charge also became a central element in the exhibition because it changed over the course of the exhibition. Thinking of the gallery as an auxiliary studio, the three-week exhibition became a time to contemplate and experiments with the shards and the potatoes. This was a subtle but important shift in the way I work. I have used the gallery as a site of production before, but always towards a more known outcome, like the production of 1000 replica WWI terra cotta dummy tests bomb at the Soap Factory or creating doorknob “worry stones” at the Museum of Surgical Science. In these instances, the exhibition became a site of production and accumulation through participatory skill sharing and making.
Working with the Happy Collaborationist, the very first thing they said was “You should do what you want.” I was inspirited by their rally to action and even though there was very little time before the opening, I took them on their word and created Break, a new work produced for this exhibition. Break is in 16 mm film, a material I had wanted to test. I have been collecting research on different cultural interpretations of plate breaking for a few years, as well as collecting dinner plates. I knew I wanted to do a project that isolated and repeated plate breaking over and over, but I could not settle on the form or the material of the project. I was at a talk on a work in 16 mm film and much of the discussion centered on issues of sentimentality, the archive, and the transitional nature of 16 mm film, which Kodak has announced it will discontinue. Listening to the debates about 16mm film was like an audio mirror into various ideas I had been exploring about dishware. I knew I wanted to pair plate breaking and 16mm film as an abstract material pairing – materiality fraternal twins in parallel cultural flux.
Projected on opposite walls was the image of people approaching a column of plates and, in anyway they chose, breaking them. Never able to see the two columns at that same time, the audience looked from one wall to the other, with 150 feet of exposed 16mm film looping in the center of the room. The exposure of this multi-variant action of the break, from anger to joy is visually linked by the exposure of the film slowly wearing away as it circles through the room between the images. 16 mm film is a new material for me. Not only will Past Present Perfect continue through bio-plastic research, but I am interested in finding out more ways to play with 16mm film to talk about transience.
Toll, a sound piece pulled from Break, greeted visitors at the door of the gallery. Slowing the soundtrack from breaking the dishes, drawing out each instance, produced an unexpected result — it sounded like bells tolling.
-Marissa Lee Benedict joins the conversation about bio-plastic and collaboration-
Amber Ginsburg said she felt like she wanted to work with potatoes and dish shards at the Chicago Artists Coalition, but was not exactly sure what to do. Knowing Marissa Lee Benedict had done some experimenting with potato starch as a basis for creating bio-plastic, Ginsburg invited Marissa to join her and started milking five hundred potatoes for starch. During the exhibition the two embarked on an ongoing and rigorous exploration that will continue until Benedict and Ginsburg develop a mixture that allows them to cast the bio-plastic.
Could you briefly explain the bio-plastic project?
MLB - The bio-plastic collaboration Amber and I are beginning to embark on is exciting as it is still in a stage of research and experimentation: the point where everything has potential and exists in a state of “becoming”. Many of my collaborative partnerships begin by chance — passing conversations that reveal overlapping bodies of research, shared material interests, etcetera – and are followed up by a desire to engage a collaborator more deeply on a personal, material and intellectual level.
My interest in bio-plastic evolved a few years ago, as part of an ongoing desire I have to generate embodied knowledge (the knowledge you gain by understanding something through sensory means, by touching it, smelling it, cutting it, making it, etcetera) about seemingly abstract materials (plastic being typically one of the most industrially produced, inaccessible, formless materials that we encounter on an everyday basis). A few years ago, I began playing with a homemade potato starch bio-plastic recipe I found on the Internet, posted by a young scientist named Brandon. Although the material was engaging – in particular because it is created through a very direct, accessible, domestic process – I never found an appropriate conceptual framework with which to discuss homemade bio-plastic, so I put it aside for the time being.
Amber’s invitation to transform the potatoes from Charge has been the perfect, serendipitous overlap in our practices, and is a chance to begin the conversation anew, in a different context and with a different set of relationships to draw on.
AG – On a purely instrumental level, I have wanted to work with Marissa for some time. The bio-plastic became the calling card.
MLB – I first met Amber a little over three years ago when she gave a talk at the Sullivan Galleries on her project re⠂pur⠂pose: A Work in Material Gestures, done in collaboration with Carla Duarte and Lea Rousset. I was immediately struck by Amber’s dedication to process, dialogue, generosity, collaborative exchange and material investigation. Since that first introduction, Amber’s work has continued to inspire me, engage me and resonate with my own interest in the intersection of material, making and meaning. Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of being involved in a few of Amber’s projects as a participant, so when this serendipitous overlap in our material and conceptual interests occurred, I jumped at the opportunity to work with Amber.
Collaboration partnerships have become an integral part of my studio practice. My engagement in “duologues” (a dialogue or conversation between two persons) is an extension of my desire to engage in a dialectical practice: a method of discussing the integral, and interdependent, relationships between pairs of apparently opposite or distinct things (re/action, dis/order, dis/connection, un/known, un/certainty, etcetera). I feel each collaborative partnership I participate in provides me (and hopefully my partner) with a new set of skills, a new perspective on artistic potential and a greater engagement with the world.
AG - Most of my work is collaborative. I tend to link with my collaborators in two ways. Either I work in parallel with people, studio mates or artists working on similar research and through conversation collaborative ideas emerge seamlessly. The other way is more calculating but ends up being open-ended. I often invite someone to join a project because they have a particular expertise I would like to learn. Inevitably, the specificity of the invitation melts away and the project changes and benefits from the addition. This is already the case with Marissa.
MLB – I have been talking quite a bit these days about Claire Pentecost’s proposition for the artist to act as a “Public Amateur”. In Claire’s words, the artist as Public Amateur “… becomes a person who consents to learn in public. It is a proposition of active social participation in which any nonspecialist is empowered to take the initiative to question something within a given discipline, acquire knowledge in a noninstitutionally sanctioned way, and assume the authority to interpret that knowledge, especially in regard to decisions that affect our lives.” As our world paradoxically becomes simultaneously more interconnected and more inaccessible – and the gap between abstract information and material knowledge become greater and greater – this position of the artist as a “Public Amateur” becomes an increasingly critical one, and one that is forwarded by the openess of a collaborative practice. By taking a material such as a “plastic” – which is somehow so abstract and nebulous in it’s origin (I’m thinking of Barthes’ essay in Mythologies on plastic or the 1958 documentary “Le Chant du Styrene”) - and “domesticating” it in the public sphere (in the gallery), I feel we are reasserting our right to material knowledge and history.
AG – I could not agree more with Marissa. I would add that the gathering information, social, within the sciences, in a kitchen or the laboratory all tend to be ongoing endeavors. The assumption is that the experience or the body of knowledge will be added to, passed along and/or shared. I am interested, both as a way propelling and perpetuating projects, and as away to offer agency to the audience, in providing scenarios in which things are not done. I think social scientists or domestic laboratories are useful terms for talking about projects that resist the authority of the finalized art object.
Does the process of making the bio-plastic act more of a facilitator for audience engagement and discussion than it is about making the actual product?
AG - I suspect the role of the bio-plastic will change over time. At the moment, I think it is an excellent fascinator for engaging the audience in a process and for opening up the gallery as a site of investigation. As we play, test and learn, that may change.
MLB – I couldn’t agree with Amber more. I believe the role of the material will shift over time, but I would guess that the process of making the bio-plastic will continue to take on the role of a facilitator or an intermediary: acting as a connector between Amber and myself, a conduit for audience engagement and curiosity, and — perhaps in a more literal, material way — a binder gluing together the shards from Past Present Perfect.”
-Step by step process of making bio-plastic with Ginsburg and Benedict-
Ben Murray is a painter and sculptor, who lives and works in Chicago. His work struggles to produce remembered images of places he has experienced, in an environment in a state of constant flux. He received his BFA from Herron School of Art and Design, and is a current MFA candidate at UIC (class of 2013).
Tony Lewis is an artist living and working in Chicago, IL. He is focused predominately on the activity of drawing. He received his BA from Washington and Jefferson College in 2008, and received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the 2012. He is represented by Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago.
The third floor of the Sullivan building at the School of the Art institute of Chicago is a white-walled labyrinth, consisting of rows of MFA graduate studios where the smell of paint and indiscernible noise emanate from behind canvas covered doorways. Steven Vainberg’s studio is near the end of the second hallway to the right. Last Sunday, my roommate and collaborator at the Plaines Project, Alex de Leon, and I stopped by to meet with Steven Vainberg and Steven Frost about their upcoming show at our space.
I couldn’t tell you what Steven Frost’s studio is like. He graduated with his MFA from the Fiber and Material Studies department at SAIC in 2010 and now lives in LA. We chatted with him via Google Hang Out from Steven Vainberg’s studio and when we talked to him, he was calling from a breezy looking patio in California, wearing a light cotton button down and sipping an afternoon bourbon cocktail. California livin’ isn’t all leisure though (or so he claimed). The two Steven’s met at ACRE this past summer and have been maintaining a consistent studio collaboration ever since.
The two artists come from different backgrounds both materially – Steven V is getting his MFA in painting from SAIC, and Steven F has fiber arts background, as well in content – Steven F’s work focuses on exploring queer history, often incorporating bright colors and a variety of materials while Steven V has a punk attitude and utilizes minimal symbolic forms in flat painted color fields in his work. Despite these different vantage points, there is a common ground between the two artists’ work. They are both exploring subculture, semiotics and their roles as egotistical males. After meeting at ACRE, they learned that they would be exhibiting at Plaines Project together and decided to collaborate, which became a starting point for them to develop work together.
Since meeting at ACRE, the Stevens have met every two weeks via skype to talk about the show. As a part of their collaboration, they made mixes for each other to listen to in the studio, the mix from Steven F to Steven V consisting of a lot of dance music, while Steven V’s mix listed mainly punk tracks. They also sent reading assignments to each other and began a tumblr page to share images that were interesting to them or related to the content of each others work. For their upcoming show they have selected their favorite images from the shared blog and are including them in a publication that will be for sale at the opening. Their tumblr, D.F.T.S.M., can be viewed here: http://drinkingfromthesnakesmouth.tumblr.com/, and contains some explicit content.
We talked to the artists about the work in their upcoming show. Every piece in the show is collaborative and consists of a range of sculpture, video, performance, installation, photography, and painting. Some of the works have been completed in the individual artists studios, but some video and photo works are being completed while Steven Frost is in Chicago this week. The work in the show takes the concept of peeing, both in act and form, as a jumping off point to explore ego, sexuality, and spirituality. The pee is seen as an expression of ego while at the same time as a release of that ego – peeing on something marks territory and status, but the act can also be release of control and a mode to build trust, as in a fetish community. The two artists try to find a tender place for the male ego in their work through this act that is at once gross and compassionate, as aptly described in Dr. Andy Campbell’s essay which accompanies the show. The peeing becomes a metaphor for their collaborative process, a symbol of trust in the artistic practice and a shared authorship of the work.
The collaboration has been beneficial to the individual studio practices of both artists. It offers a way for Steven Vainberg to step out of the bounds of his work and explore new ideas while connecting with an artist outside of the grad school bubble. For Steven Frost it has been a way for him to come back and re-examine the modes of working as a grad student and reconnect with a life style he’s been away from for a couple years. The artists described their collaboration “like a side band” to their individual practice and they plan to continue working together after this show.
Drinking from the Snake’s Mouth is an exhibition of new collaborative works by Steven Frost and Steven Vainberg. The culmination of a seven-month long dialogue initiated during their time as residents of ACRE, in rural Wisconsin, this exhibition looks at the crossroads between the tender, the holy, the profane, the creative ego, aggression, “watersports,” and punk rock through paintings, sculptures, videos, photos, and a Tumblr blog.
Coinciding with the exhibition, a small catalog –developed from a collaborative Tumblr, D.f.t.S.M [Contains Explicit Content]– will be published, including an essay by Dr. Andy Campbell (Senior Lecturer, Texas State University; Art Editor, The Destroyer Magazine).
Drinking from the Snake’s Mouth will run from April 14-28 at the Plaines Project – 1822 S Desplaines St, Chicago. The opening reception is from 4-8 PM on April 14, open hours after the reception are by appointment. To read more about Steven Vainberg and Steven Frost, check out their work previously featured on Make Space here and here.
Daniel G. Baird and Haseeb Ahmed
“Under the cover of darkness or masquerading as architectural conservators, artists Daniel G. Baird and Haseeb Ahmed collect fragments of architectural, ornamental and natural formations from around the world. They make molds on-site directly from their chosen objects. These disparate fragments are then reconciled to construct a single ‘universalized space’. For Baird and Ahmed, these installations become ‘reverse site-specific’.
For their project at Roots and Culture, the artists take inspiration from the architectural interiors of Frank Lloyd-Wright and the archive of historical artifacts at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago to transform the gallery space into an immersive installation. A mirror of this installation will be constructed at Hedah Gallery Maastricht from April 10-June 5.
This will be the fourth iteration of this collaborative project between the artists. The installation includes two collaborative works with Leipzig based artist Jeff Weber.”
Roots & Culture Contemporary Art Center
1034 N MILWAUKEE
CHICAGO, IL 60622
Opening Reception: April 6th, 2013 from 6-9pm
Open Hours: Thursday 4-7 pm, Friday 4-7 pm, Saturday 12-6 pm
Featuring work by Elana Adler, Jon Bocksel, Candace Hicks, Jason Kachadourian, and Adams Puryear
“To Preserve and Protect is a group exhibition featuring five artists who incorporate different time-honored trades and materials into their work, with the shared goal to revive these processes through contemporary art. This exhibition will feature ceramics, sign-painting and hand-lettering, wood-whittling, needlepoint and embroidery. While these techniques can be replaced by more convenient mechanic methods these artists prefer to sustain the craftsmanship and the mastery of skilled-hand production.
Although these techniques are historically revered as trades and reserved for commercial purposes or crafts, the exhibiting artists are creating new potential, incorporating these materials into painting, sculpture, and book arts, challenging their traditional execution.”
Booklyn Artist Alliance
37 Greenpoint Ave, 4th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11222
Opening Reception: March 16th, 2013 from 7-10pm
Open Hours: Thursday – Tuesdays, 12 – 5pm