Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

AiOP Website Designer + Developer Carey Estes honored at 18th Annual Webby Awards

By Matthew Morowitz

17honoree_site_bug_lrg

Art in Odd Places (AiOP) is proud to announce that our very own website designer + developer, Carey Estes, was officially announced as an honoree at the 18th Annual Webby Awards for his work on the 2013 AiOP: NUMBER festival website.  The Webby Awards, presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS), is the leading international award honoring excellence on the internet and is hailed by the New York Times as the “Internet’s highest honor.”  This year’s awards received over 12,000 entries from over 60 countries and all 50 states; fewer than 15% of these entries were awarded this honor and deemed an Official Honoree.

Carey by day is the Multimedia Developer at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) and by night a freelance designer + developer.  Before moving to NYC, he taught design classes at Mississippi State University.  He has been a part of AiOP for about three years; according to AiOP’s founder and director Ed Woodham:

“I met Carey in 2011 at a FEAST Brooklyn. He took on the development and redesign of the Art in Odd Places site and the annual festival sites with a generous enthusiasm. Since then, he’s made his incredible design aesthetic available to each year’s festival curatorial team as they realize their vision.  Most important, he’s a brilliant collaborator. It’s inspiring to see him receive this well deserved honor!”

myGlamourShot-withoutCarlton

Carey Estes.  Photo courtesy of Holly Senter.

Carey also shares Ed’s enthusiasm for his work with AiOP, stating:

“It has, undoubtedly been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It is rare that you find someone like Ed who gives me free reign with design and development of the AiOP brand. When you have that type of trusting relationship with an organization, you fall in love with it very quickly. I work freelance for other clients, and when I complete a site, I give it to them and I disconnect. However, AiOP feels like my child. I want to nurture it, protect it and watch it grow.”

He also found that the ideas and environment that AiOP supports was another factor that allowed him to develop a successful site.  Carey is keeping this, along with his recent honor, in mind while designing the website for the 2014 festival.

“Working with AiOP is wonderful, because it is a playground for design and development. The environment can be quirky and fun. AiOP is about shaking the world up, and the goal of each collateral we create is to do that in some way. With this in mind, it makes each piece a challenge to be better than before and try to push boundaries. Being a Webby honoree simply makes me want to be a nominee, and that’s what I am shooting for with the 2014 AiOP: FREE site.”

All of us here at AiOP once again congratulate Carey on this honor and look forward to seeing what he will create for this upcoming year and hopefully many more to come.

The Kite Collective: A Lookback

By Matthew Morowitz

In December of 2012, Art in Odd Places (AiOP) ran a feature on The Kite Collective, a collective of kite enthusiasts and makers.  Back then, the Collective was running playlabs in NYC, working on installing kite machines, and had organized their “Kite Relief” initiative to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy in Far Rockaway.  Recently, we were able to catch up with Whitney Richardson, one of the founding members, to see what the collective has been up to since we last spoke with them.

Chicago

Since speaking with The Kite Collective back in 2012, their operations have mostly moved from NYC to Chicago.  In their time there, the Collective has been working on new programming and events.  Plans are being made to build the Kite Machine Chicago out of an old dresser, which will then be moved around to different community farms and gardens within the city and potentially some cultural centers, as well as to Harold Washington College in the Chicago loop.  The machine itself is being constructed by Ben Newman, a woodworker and friend of the Collective, and the public should “expect peepholes, wind documentation, spontaneous assembly (of kites, performance, etc.) and items that grow to complement the build out.

1779818_619032108172290_2003317482511281532_n

Chicago kite machine in progress.  Photo courtesy of Maureen Walrath.

Future Hits and “Flying Paper”

Last fall, The Kite Collective partnered with Future Hits; Future Hits is a fun (yet secretly educational) music group marrying literacy & harmony-making.  Kite Collective joined them for a series of events, exploring live altering of environments through art and play.  The Collective also co-hosted a screening of the documentary “Flying Paper” at the Peanut Gallery in Chicago.  This documentary, shown as part of the Chicago Palestine Film Festival, tells the uplifting story of Palestinian children in Gaza who are on a quest to break the Guinness World Record for most kites ever flown and highlighting their resilience despite the difficult realities they face in their daily lives.  Pictures from this event can be found on the Collective’s Facebook page.

Conceal + Carry

1532000_576319549110213_1451120245_n

Conceal + Carry Kites at the Concealed Carry Exhibition.  Photo courtesy of Maureen Walrath.

The Kite Collective was also involved in the Concealed Carry Exhibition that took place in Chicago at Experimental Station back in January.  On January 1st, 2014 the Carry Act passed and went in effect in the city.  As a result of this change in firearm legislation, gun owners can now carry concealed firearms in public spaces, unless explicitly and conspicuously disallowed by property owners.  Many artists, including the Kite Collective, feel this shift in public policy will have a radical impact on public spaces and in response created this exhibition to relay information about this issue.

1528710_566896813385820_2044869440_n

Concealed Carry poster.

For the exhibition, The Kite Collective issued 100 “conceal and carry” kites as part of the exhibition installation as a means of pointing out the paradox of arming individuals to create safety:

“For the installation taking place at the Experimental Station throughout the month of January, the month the legislation takes effect, the Kite Collective shall issue 100 “conceal & carry” kites in response to the Concealed Carry Act – arming urbanites with kites as a nonviolent tool for processing and perspective. These “conceal & carry” kites will be crafted with intent to begin distribution at the opening.  The materiality and procurement of the kites will explore the paradoxical nature of arming individuals with violent means to create a safer environment.”

More notes on the Collective’s “conceal and carry” kites, as well as their thoughts on the recent legislation can be found on their Tumblr.

Why Kites?

The Kite Collective’s Maureen Walrath recently gave a talk addressing the question “why kites?” while also leading a kite making demonstration.  This talk covered ideas that included:

  • Symbolism behind the kites.
  • The motivations of the Collective.
  • The use of kites as more than a recreational tool.

Included below is a scanned image of Maureen’s notes that go over these ideas in greater detail.

The Familiar Diamond Kite_OpenWallTalk copy

Maureen’s notes.  Photo courtesy of Maureen Walrath.

Other initiatives

1904241_596798550395646_1857934346_n

Pueblo Semilla.  Poster courtesy of Victoria Thurmond.

  • Work is being done on developing apprenticeships and collaborative learning programs, as well as doing performative exercises at music events with kids.

1376643_537730952969073_694784100_n

The Kite Collective at Co-Prosperity Sphere.  Photo courtesy of Lily Schmall.

  • The Collective is now officially collaborating with Sunhouse Craft.
  • Recently, the Kite Collective signed a lease on a space at the Kimball Arts Center in Chicago to July 2014.

For those interested in keeping up with the latest news and activities of The Kite Collective, be sure to look at their website, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Tumblr and Twitter (@kitecollective).

Dandelions-We Don’t Die, We Multiply! #RISEOFTHEDANDELIONS and the voices of the Freedom Harvest Collective, Part 3.

By Matthew Morowitz

In our first feature, we looked at the Freedom Harvest Collective, its formation, and the need for their #RISEOFTHEDANDELIONS event.  Our second one focused on the specific works presented by the members of the Collective, as well as the pieces they found to be the most memorable at the event.  For our third and final feature in this series, we will be addressing the dialogues that were created by this event and the future of the Freedom Harvest Collective and #RISEOFTHEDANDELIONS.

“The dandelion is now seen through a different light due to this event.”- Jermond Davis

 599616_151245841703199_1107359843_n

Table set with plates of dandelion greens and vases of flowers as part of installation speaking to impacts of incarceration and state violence on the family.  Photo courtesy of Ashley Blakeney.

The #RISEOFTHEDANDELIONS event was created with the original intent of using art to create a space of resilience and reclamation for communities facing oppression from the Prison Industrial Complex.  The general consensus of the Collective was that this event helped create this kind of dialogue, but also brought more to the table.  According to Patrisse:

“A lot of different types of dialogue I think; a lot of people came to me after the event, it was really powerful and really grateful and people were really impacted by how the art that came out of the event space because I think because we were talking about abolition, we were talking about incarceration, people were giving speeches, people were on panels, just to have an event full of art that was about inspiring our community and that was kind of leading with inspiration and resilience versus leading with ‘we’re living in terrible times and oh no! Everybody run!’ This was about let’s actually build, we’re going to have to make a new world, this new world is going to have to come from us.  A lot of people really felt ready for a new world and a lot of people felt ready to take this conversation around the criminalization of black and brown people in particular, and the criminalization of our communities and of our history.  I think people felt really impacted that we named that as part of this conversation, there is a very specific target when talking about the prison industrial complex and to kind of highlight that and actually be in conversation about it is super huge.”

Gonji also reflected these sentiments while affirming the need to rise up against the corrupt prison industrial complex:

“Much of the dialogue around the PIC has been centered on inmates as downtrodden and the sheriffs as pigs. That night shifted the conversation to focus on the resilience of Black and Brown people, both who are locked up and who have loved ones behind bars. We talked about the strength of our communities, our ancestors who have our backs, and our commitment to free the US 2.7 million and shut down the Twin Towers. That night had us stretching our imaginations in a hopeful way that made a world without jails possible and necessary.”

Jermond’s feelings were similar to Gonji’s, but he also found the event was important for solidifying the symbol of the dandelion as a rallying image for the movement:

“The dialogues this event created, from my perspective, was consciousness on the PIC (prison industrial complex). The dandelion (weed) expressing metaphorically, oppression of people of color, but how we rise stronger and multiply.”

577057_151251288369321_1824939548_n

Artist share-outs with audience on process and intentions of their art for #RISEOFTHEDANDELIONS.  Photo courtesy of Giovanni Solis.

However, despite all the talk of resilience and resistance, another dialogue that was reiterated during this event was the original message that jail violence is tied to state violence and the oppression of Black and Brown communities.  For Jasmine, this event helped really hit home to the participants what this kind of violence looks like and how it impacts communities, families, and individuals:

“This event through the different performances and installations brought to our audience/community what does state violence look like, feel like? What is violence? How do we define violence? Is it only physical? How about poverty, lack of healthy food, [a] mis-education system that continues to be tied to prisons and criminalization, absence of health care, lack of public transportation, unemployment, police terror, lack of housing, criminalization of homeless. State violence is all of these things.”

Jasmine in turn found that this event helped spread the message that jail violence and state violence is a multi-faceted issue and these many factors need to be taken into consideration when looking at the subject:

“In dialogues around state violence and mass incarceration, it is necessary to acknowledge all the other factors and that these factors contribute to the “crimes of survival” that lead to our peoples’ being incarcerated. Because we live in a culture of policing, it was important for us to open a dialogue about how we each are affected and impacted. How we can be accountable to each other is also another part of the conversation.”

As for Shruti, the biggest question that came out of the event was not whether it had succeeded, as she believes it created a space for healing, but how would the Collective be able to keep the momentum that came out of the day going:

“I think we really created a sort of opening, like a ‘freedom portal,’ on that day.” Shruti Remarked.  “None of us really knew what to expect, but with all of the different pieces coming together it really created this opening for folks to heal and shift.  I think it’s really powerful when people can come into a space not just to deconstruct something but also the way with [planting] the seed of something new, something that’s growing.  I feel like that’s what happened, we had this almost emotional opening where people were healing and afterwards it was sort of like ‘how do we maintain this consistent space for people to come to who really need to engage and there is so much healing that needs to happen.’ How do we sort of provide more of that space?  As a collective I think we were sort of like ‘wow, we created that and now we really have to think about how we don’t just leave our people hanging, how we really support that in that long term way.’”

Patrisse also felt that this event really helped address some of the questions and conversations that sometimes get left out of discussions on violence and oppression.  For her, #RISEOFTHEDANDELIONS helped set the groundwork for the necessary and often overlooked dialogue on moving forward from the impacts of state and prison violence:

“I’ve been doing this work now, just the work around social justice issues for many years, the last decade, but what had been missing for me and a lot of the work that I’ve done was just this real candid conversation about the impacts of the prison industrial complex has had on my own livelihood and my community’s livelihood.  How do we talk about those impacts and how do we actually say, what’s the vision? How do we see something more than just the impacts as well? Identify those impacts, be clear about them, and then what? What do we do now? What is the move forward? I think that’s part of this conversation for me.”

575060_151246441703139_1144409452_n

Real8 and Patrisse Cullors sharing an embrace after #RISEOFTHEDANDELIONS.  Photo courtesy of Ashley Blakeney.

In order to move these conversations forward, Patrisse and the others are looking to obtain nonprofit status and combine the “Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. County Jails” and the “Freedom Harvest Collective” into the larger “Dignity and Power Now.”  The hope is to keep the conversations going, keep up the production of art related to the message, but also provide support and the impetus for healing and transformation to the current and formerly incarcerated, their families, and their communities:

“I think that part of our conversation, the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. County Jails is a broad coalition but we’ve decided to get nonprofit status.  The larger nonprofit we’re going to have, it’s called “Dignity and Power Now” and our goal for this nonprofit is to both have kind of the ‘what are we changing in our policy?’ but also “how do we develop and massify our work and bring it down to both L.A. county?’ and ‘how do we make it an international movement of art work?’ and ‘how do we make sure that folks who are directly impacted [by] state violence, the prison industrial complex, are leading the art work?’ and also developing the art work and, in this case, the rise of the dandelions.  So many of us have been impacted by prison industrial complex state violence, some of us were formerly incarcerated, so that’s a really important development for us.  And then we have a whole piece around radical reentry, where we really want to experiment with the idea that ‘ok someone gets out and what are all the resources that they are going to need beyond just finding someone a job?’  Because the reality is if you’ve been impacted by state violence that means you are dealing with a whole lot of trauma so what’s the actual kind of wrap around care and support that someone needs, including their family members, to build their capacities so they can be the fully endowed human being that they deserve to be?  For us, it’s both how do we transform the community that person came from and also how do we transform the individual from that community as well.”

“We will continue to bring disruption to the hallucinated reality that is pressed against us and create art with a purpose; art to heal, to free and art that speaks to the necessity of prison abolition.”- Jasmine Wade

When asked what the future held for the #RISEOFTHEDANDELIONS, there was a unanimous agreement amongst the members of the Collective that this event will be repeated, though in variations on the original, and that they would surely participate again.  “We have hopes of taking this show on tour to create a freedom portal wherever we go.” Remarked Gonji. “I would feel honored to participate in an event like this, and hope that it will happen soon.”

“Yes, I will definitely participate in an event like this again. #RISEOFTHEDANDELIONS was Freedom Harvest Collective’s debut event.” Jasmine enthusiastically declared. “We are loving, living and creating in the legacy of those that came before us, with clear intentions to challenge state violence and liberate the minds, bodies and spirits of our peoples and communities.”

426535_151245945036522_343771045_n

Rey Fukuda Salinas and many others holding conversations after #RISEOFTHEDANDELIONS.  Photo courtesy of Ashley Blakeney.

Jermond felt the same way:

“I’m always open to repeating this event in various areas to share with the world #freedomharvest. I’m most definitely open to repeating it again.”

As for how the Collective is looking to repeat this event, Patrisse was able to offer up some specific examples of how the work from this event has continued and plans that she has been pursuing:

“We plan on reinstalling the [performance] in front of the jails probably in the fall [of 2013]; parts of it have already been happening, I’ve done “Pushing The Envelope” a few times, Mark Anthony has done ‘The Crop’ a lot now, we’ve shown the mashup a couple times.  Different pieces of it have been spread across the county, but I think the full installation will bring back up in the fall and then we want to tour it, do an L.A. County tour similar to what I do with “Stained;” kind of put it on a year and a half track tour and then develop new work.  We want to meet with local community groups and artist collectives, also we want to meet with community groups and artist collectives across the country and encourage them to develop their own #RISEOFTHEDANDELION piece and share with them our own thoughts on the process and have them do a community show and then install it in front of their jails.”

Shruti also mentioned the possibility that #RISEOFTHEDANDELIONS might also be brought to and adapted by different college and school groups as well:

“We have talked about doing a tour in the fall [of 2013] to different colleges and school spaces.  If there are schools out there who want to bring our project out we definitely are looking for different outlets.”

63014_151245931703190_1499674999_n

Community and audience members gathered around center installation, which included a large vase of water, candles, dandelion images and cushions for seating .  Photo courtesy pf Ashley Blakeney.

Patrisse hopes to also bring this event to other jail violence groups and has even started conversations with a couple that exist in other parts of California:

“We’ve talked to a few groups across the state in San Diego and Santa Cruz.  Those have been really fruitful conversations; I think that we need to follow up with them.  Folks are so bogged down with the work that we’re doing that having initial conversations with those groups and folks have been really excited about the work we’re doing here in L.A. and how we’ve been able to move folks forward.”

Ultimately, this is an event that is dependent upon its volunteers and anyone else who wants to get involved, and it will need this community support in order to continue into the future.

“It was an event where there was so much connection between people happening throughout the whole process, through the event and afterwards to we have this whole collective and community that didn’t exist before but that exists now.” Shruti reflected.  “We’re all supporting each other for all of our stuff and that feels really important for continuing to fight what we’re up against here.  A lot of the stuff that we’re doing, the heart of the work really comes from members and volunteers.  It definitely helps to have a large community to be supported in.”

544361_151247985036318_1578002060_n

Trey Breazell and Damon Turner (Real8) sharing an embrace after #RISEOFTHEDANDELIONS.  Photo courtesy of Ashley Blakeney.

#RISEOFTHEDANDELIONS was an amazing event that brought people together to find strength, healing, and help change some of the dialogue surrounding the issue of jail violence.  The event would not have been possible without the artists and volunteers that contributed their time and created works inspired by the cause and the mission.  The Freedom Harvest Collective has compiled a list below of these artists’ names, the names of the works they contributed/were a part of, and brief descriptions of the works.  To learn more about the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Country Jails, be sure to visit their website, like them on Facebook, and follow the DIGNITYANDPOWER WordPress.  Also join in and follow the conversation on Twitter @PowerDignity.

Artists and works that were part of the #RISEOFTHEDANDELIONS event:

Eden Jeffries: Mash-up “Rise of the Dandelions”

Mark-Anthony Johnson: Poet “The Crop”

Patrisse Cullors: ” Pushing the Envelope”

Damon Turner: Poet

Jas Wade: Installation

Rey Fukuda and Jermond “Set” Davis: Dandelion Song

Three Breazell-Olivas: dance/performance artist

“Dinner for One” to Frank Ocean’s “Crack Rock”

Di Flores: Poet

RHIPS: Poet “Ghetto Geology (Where I’m From)”

D. Edwin King: visual artist, “Rise of the Dandelion”

Ana Ruth Castillo: visual artist, “The Cosmic Womb II”

Shruti Purkayastha, Haewon Asfaw, Gonji Lee, Almas Haider: performance, “Seeds Spreading”

Feelin’ Blue: Kaitlyn A. Kramer, “Blueologies,” and the intriguing concepts and creations that came from a color specific show.

By Matthew Morowitz

photo 1

Exhibition view of Carmel Ni’s “Folded Relativity,” 2013. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn A. Kramer.

In the late hours of January 24th, 2014, I was heading back to my friend’s place in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, when on the way he became interested in music and activity that he had noticed coming out of what looked like an abandoned corner store on Nassau Street.  After inquiring what was going on, my friend and I stepped inside what we were told to be an art show.  Though a cold night outside, as soon as we entered we were immediately hit with the heat from the mass of bodies milling about in what turned out to be a diner space (I was told later that the space used to be the best diner in Greenpoint before the health department shut it down; it now serves as a social club and event space).  On the wall space above the booths there were artworks (drawings, paintings, prints, poems, etc.), as well as in the corners of the room.  Above the kitchen area was a projection screen, though by the time I arrived any multimedia was already finished.  Intrigued I inquired more about the event and was introduced to one of the curators, Kaitlyn A. Kramer, and after we chatted agreed to sit down and discuss this show further.

One week later I met Kaitlyn in a French restaurant in Long Island City to talk about the show.  A small girl with long hair, turtle shell glasses, and lots of black clothing, Kaitlyn at first appearance seemed like she would be the sullen and introverted type.  Yet as soon as she started talking I found her very warm and personable.  Originally from California and exhibiting that relaxed and casual demeanor one finds in west coast natives, Kaitlyn and I chatted about her life (she moved to NYC on a whim), her plans (she is currently finishing a Master’s Degree in writing at the School of Visual Arts), but most of all her involvement with the show.

Called “Blueologies,” the show was focused on the color blue and was organized by her and her creative partner, Spencer Gauthier (who is the brother of AiOP 2014 curator Dylan Gauthier).  “We had been wanting to curate a show together for a while,” recalled Kaitlyn.  “We attended undergrad in Los Angeles together at UCLA together and a lot of our friends were in the art department.  He had curated several shows featuring their work and many of them were interested in being exhibited with us in NYC.”

Blue

Originally, Kaitlyn and Spencer did not have a specific theme in mind when they decided to do a show together.

“We originally took a strange approach of having this range of artists and attempting to see a common strain in their work and developing a theme that way, I don’t know if it’s that uncommon.”

However, this strategy proved to be a bit of a fruitless effort as “it produced these really vague concepts.

Instead of finding inspiration for the theme from the works and artists, Kaitlyn was eventually able to discover it through her own personal explorations she was undertaking at the time.

“I had been reading a lot about the color blue, which was sort of incidental and kind of clouding my judgment on how I saw things, so I just kind of thought, ‘you know, what if everyone gave us work that correlated with this idea of blue? What if we sort of solicited work for the show through this concept rather than looking at individual bodies of work and choosing pieces hoping to eventually find a theme there?’”

photo 2

Exhibition view of Elizabeth Sultzer’s “The Wanting,” 2014. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn A. Kramer.

Proposed almost tongue and cheek, Kaitlyn and Spencer were shocked to discover overwhelming support for this idea.

“We kind of laughed about it and then when I posed the idea-I think I reached out to about ten artists–they all kind of responded really positively, really intrigued, sort of ‘tell me more, give me these reading, why?’ because it is a very broad and sort of mysterious idea–this notion of just blue.”

“Blueologies” was born from a personal pursuit, a semi-serious suggestion, and the conversations going on between Kaitlyn and Spencer.

“That’s really what came about, I was reading Maggie Nelson’s book length poem ‘Bluets,’ I was reading Goethe’s Theory of Colors, William Gass wrote a book about blue.  It spawned from my own personal interests and then we developed the feel for the rest of the show around conversations we were having together, Spencer’s input was necessary in shaping my initial wonderment into something feasible.”

Yet, I was curious why Kaitlyn, like so many artists, writers, and other creatives, was so attracted to the color blue.  When I proposed this question to her, I was surprised to find how the color the color just kept coming back to her, in spite of her own confession about not liking color in general.

“What I found interesting was so many people, out of all of the colors, write specifically about blue.  Within writing, blue really stands out; especially the Maggie Nelson text, which really resonated with me.  It brings together all of these outside sources of other philosophers and theorists, artists who contemplate blue, so that kind of became a point of reference. It was like one thing lead to another in a natural progression; I like the color, but I don’t particularly like color that much, but I saw it as something that has more emotional, psychological, physical, almost human ties than a color like green or red.  I guess when you get down to the primary colors they are really natural and present, but blue just stood out, it kept coming back to me.”

photo 3

Exhibition view of Christine Haroutounian’s “Untitled (No Sigh),” 2013. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn A. Kramer.

Another factor for Kaitlyn was also blue’s visual appeal; she drew on her own experiences with the color grey as a way of highlighting how some colors function better on a physical level than others that may be more interesting conceptually.

“I collaborated with designer Michelle Lin for the Los Angeles based publication ‘Young Cloud,’ which gives writers and designers the freedom to work together to produce an object whose form and content are in a mutual dialogue.  I wrote a piece about grey, not necessarily the color but more the concept of grey.  I think within the visual arts it made more sense to pursue blue as a retinal experience.”

The Show

“A lot of the work surprised me I think because I think several of the artists took the idea really personally, almost nostalgically.”  These are the words Kaitlyn had used to describe her overall sense of the show.

“For example,” Kaitlyn recalled.  “Carmel Ni’s piece, it felt very intimate to me.  The pastel colors and carefully considered lines in the drawing, the photograph of a relaxed arm resting atop a quilt, and the postcard mediating between the two works convey this unspoken yet overwhelmingly present emotional and personal connection to the artist. This work, and other pieces like it, really interested me.”

“Blueologies” as it turned out faithfully stuck to the theme.  Kaitlyn was surprised; although she had put this theme out in the call for proposals, she was also sure that some artists were going to take liberties around what actually constituted “blue.”

“I didn’t have any specific expectations about the work. I considered the possibility that some artists would not specifically use blue as a color, or might challenge it by contributing a work that was maybe green. I was mostly intrigued with how the artists would interpret the pieces individually and how these works would speak to each other.”

photo 4

Exhibition view of Hannes Wallace’s “On Translation, Blue,” 2014.  Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn A. Kramer.

What really stuck out to Kaitlyn was not the kinds of works that were represented (“We had photography, drawing, installation work, there was a video piece, the performance elements.  It surprised me in a really pleasing way.  I was very pleased with everything.”), but mainly the strong concepts that surrounded them.  For example, Hannes Wallace’s project, which combined color, software, and text, was a powerful new look at the ways of using technology to marry visual information with the written word.

“Hannes Wallace’s produced eight poems through a script they wrote using an architectural program that would use Goethe’s Theory of Colors to decode a digital representation of a painting containing various shades of blue. That piece, aesthetically I thought it was beautiful; conceptually it was above and beyond what I could have hoped for. As a writer and a curator it was something that I really cared about and responded to.”

Venue

The choice of space for this show was a unique one in itself as well.  As previously mentioned, the space used to be a diner but now serves as a social club and event space for artists, writers, and other conceptually focused professionals.  The space is run by Dylan Gauthier and part of the reason why this space was chosen was the result of this family connection.

“So the health department shut the space down a few years ago, and I believe the male owner passed away, but the female owner, she still lives in the building, she rents it out to Dylan and he runs a social club out of the space and uses it for events.  The social club has a membership that funds the space.  They have readings, lectures, and get-togethers to talk about potential concepts over chef-prepared meals.”

However, the appeal of putting this show on in a diner space, as opposed to a traditional gallery or even warehouse setting, was something else that really stuck out Kaitlyn.

“I didn’t want to use a traditional space; I’m not fond of the white cube. I didn’t want the work to be thrown onto three white walls. I’ve gone to some openings in Chelsea lately and that experience doesn’t work for me anymore, it’s just not what I look for in an art going experience.. Spencer and I were also really interested in the show being a one-night venture that kind of had this mystery to it.”

blue 6

Attendees at Blueologies inside the Luncheonette.  Photo courtesy of Dylan Gauthier.

The intimacy the space would provide for viewing these works helped solve a logistical problem raised by the works.  Many of these works were not very large in scale; having them arranged around the old diner booths would force people to engage with each piece as its own moment within the confines of these seating spaces.

“Once we saw the venue, it just clicked for the theme of the show, I thought the work really needed that space, especially because a lot the work ended up being of smaller size and I thought that it would be really interesting for the pieces to have their own particular viewing moments within the booths.  The experience of seeing the work became a site-specific situation; it would be very difficult for me to go back to having a show that existed on blank walls.”

Another factor that was taken into consideration with this show was the social component.  Though the show took place on a Friday night, and by the time I arrived everyone was milling about, listening to music, drinking, and talking, Kaitlyn stressed that while the atmosphere became more relaxed towards the end, the point was not that this event was a party.

“I knew that it was going to be a social event just with the whole concept of it being on a Friday night, and we had a DJ perform (Leo Emerald), who had written some original music for the show as well.  I had no idea that so many people were going to come, it actually surprised me. Regardless of attendance, I wanted people to talk about the peculiarities of the work, that it wasn’t a solo show, it wasn’t just a recent works show, that it had more of an elusive theme to be uncovered in talking about it over the works themselves.  That was something I really wanted, I didn’t want it to simply be an opening party. I hope we were able to walk the line between providing an environment for people to gather and talk about the art critically and simply enjoy their surroundings.”

Much to her relief, Kaitlyn saw that for the most part the people in attendance were engaging with the works and the space, curious about what was going on and how everything related, as opposed to ignoring the art for a chance to shoot the breeze.

“From what I saw it seemed that people were really engaging with the pieces and really curious, even if it was just being curious about the space or questioning the idea ‘is this an art exhibit, it’s in a diner? What is the function of the work on the walls compared to the position that you’re encountering the work?’ You were almost forced to be in the space of the work to even see it because the tables physically distance you from the work.

Performance

While I was not present for this part of the show, Kaitlyn informed me that there was a performative aspect that was important to exploring the concepts and ideas surrounding the theme.  The performance, which involved a panel led by an actor portraying a Sotheby’s art advisor, focused on the valuation of art, more specifically “blue art,” and what kinds of criteria would be used to accomplish this.

“Spencer really came up with the performance, and I thought it was a perfect complement to the art and the space. We wanted it to be this out of place lecture and panel on purchasing blue artwork.  Kind of an absurd idea, that in this diner we’re going to have this Sotheby’s art advisor and this professor (also an actor), talk about what it is to buy blue artworks or what the value of certain blue art works were.”

The performance occupied this dual space between parody and criticism; initially conceived as an absurdist satire, Kaitlyn and Spencer found humor in the idea of having a professional from the art market come in to give a lecture on valuing art according to a specific color.  Yet, the reality of the commercial art market is that elements in works, such as the color blue, can actually affect the value, price, and appeal to the potential buyer.  Thus, this performance became an interesting way to address this contradiction.

“It was just kind of a silly notion of having this panel about what decisions art collectors should be executing in a room that had probably no art collectors in it, and it was in a diner on a Friday night at 10pm via Skype. That was an element that people were responding to and it kind of gave the attendees insight into the history of blue in art and kind of the absurdity of looking at just one particular color when considering the value of an artwork.  It really is an absurd idea, like asking ‘what’s the blue in this?’ It is a weird criteria for valuing art, but then on the flipside when you’re actually connecting with a work the blue can really mean something. I guess the back and forth was what was strangely provocative and relevant.”

blue 5

Performance of ‘Sotheby’s art adviser’ Mark Oberhoff on Skype.  Photo courtesy of Dylan Gauthier.

After my discussion with Kaitlyn was over, it became apparent to me that what I experienced at that show was only the tip of the iceberg compared to what actually went down over the course of the evening.  However, our conversation did leave me very impressed; I was surprised how such a simple theme was able to draw out though provoking concepts, critical dialogues, and a new exploration space and interaction.  Yet, it is not just this theme that lead to this success, but also Kaitlyn and Spencer’s ability to bring in and think about how the different elements of the show were able to communicate with each other in creating the overall experience.  When asked whether this show would be part of a series or just a one time event, Kaitlyn informed me that a series focusing on different colors is a possibility that is not completely off the table, but she is more motivated to work more closely with some of the specific artists that were featured as opposed to continuing with new or related themes.

“For right now, I’m a little tired of color [laughs], especially blue.  I’m not sick of it, I’m just a little tired of dealing it, but I could see maybe red would be an interesting theme for a show, maybe I’ll do a primary color series eventually, but for right now I think I would want to take a different approach to curation that didn’t rest so heavily on theme. Spencer and I will definitely be planning shows for the summer.”

It will be interesting to see what these two have planned next, but according to Kaitlyn one thing is for certain.

“I’m actually thinking I want to do a series of exhibitions at the Luncheonette, whether or not they are based on a color. I’m not done with that space.”

AiOP 2014: FREE: Applicants Walk With the Festival Curators Across 14th Street

By Matthew Morowitz

With the deadline for the Art in Odd Places (AiOP) 2014 festival: FREE just around the corner (April 5th), curators Juliana Driever and Dylan Gauthier wanted to do more to help people who were thinking of applying understand how to relate their work to the site itself.  From 1-3 pm on Sunday March 23, 2014, the pair led a group of applicants on a walk along 14th street from the west to the east end, stopping at points along the way to discuss the use of space, restrictions, and even check out the remnants of projects from past festivals that were still standing.

The day itself was a little chilly but sunny and a little over 20 people showed up for the event, which began with a talk delivered by the curators in 14th Street Park near the Hudson River and ended with Juliana and Dylan outside of Otto’s Shrunken Head by Avenue B, answering any questions applicants came up with along the way.

Hearing from the curators after the event, Juliana found the event not only helpful for the applicants, but also a good icebreaker for AiOP:

“The experience of walking 14th Street as a way to introduce both the festival and site itself struck me as an incredibly engaging way to begin a project like Art in Odd Places. Being on 14th Street, completely immersed in the changing sensory experiences of it, helped to galvanize some insightful and productive conversations about site-responsiveness, temporary interactions with the environment, and the nature of working in public space. Open call processes can feel a bit cold, particularly if you don’t know or haven’t had access to the people making the decisions. Taking the time to speak informally over the course of an afternoon created an important social connection, which, in my view helped to bring about greater transparency for all involved at this early stage of planning.”

For Dylan, this event was a chance to renew and reinvigorate affections for 14th Street, instilling in him a greater sense of how the festival and the site relate to each other:

“I loved experiencing 14th Street again through the eyes of a small nomadic group of artists, looking for footholds and inroads in unfamiliar territory. Though I lived on the street in the early 2000s, I’d forgot in time how much mystery, magic, and even art is happening there. It’s such an amazing, evocative, and liminal site, between all of these more or less well-defined enclaves. All of those competing visions for the city playing out at once. I understand more now why it is the perfect site for this festival.”

Overall the curator’s walk had a positive and encouraging effect on the applicants, instilling within them a better understanding of the area and how to move forward with their project proposals.  Be sure to scroll down to check out more images from the walk and more views of 14th Street.

13436995225_e083583da0_b

14th Street. Photo courtesy of Natasha Ballack.

13437137013_1bb8496114_b

14th Street. Photo courtesy of Natasha Ballack.

13437004045_4276925d9e_k

Applicants on 14th Street. Photo courtesy of Natasha Ballack.

13437141733_d0ee75db82_b

14th Street. Photo courtesy of Natasha Ballack.

13436964935_1094c2a085_b

Applicants on 14th Street. Photo courtesy of Natasha Ballack.

13437375134_37be8b2821_b

Mosaic project from AiOP 2013 NUMBER still standing on 14th Street.  Photo courtesy of Natasha Ballack.

13437099683_27a5a8248c_b

14th Street. Photo courtesy of Natasha Ballack.

The deadline to apply is currently still open and more information about this year’s festival, as well as the application, can be found on the AiOP Website.