Reading response: Report from Italy (by Anselmo Villata, The Brooklyn Rail)
It definitely strikes me as unfortunate that young students in Italy today are not exposed to much contemporary art. Obviously there is importance in learning about and witnessing the ancient works in this country, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of exposure to contemporary art. The lack of resources to delve into the nuances of the contemporary art world in Italy is of course a hurdle for institutions. “The commitment to make contemporary art increasingly public and shared should be the focus of critical and curatorial activity, so as to truly make it a public asset.” I agree with this quote to an extent, but also I feel that the situation for artists to get their work at there for free (or low priced) in a lot of circumstances is not easy to navigate. Accessibility to art and supporting artists and makers financially is difficult to balance, so it is true it should fall to critics and curators to adjust their lense on more recent or contemporary work.
Connecting Past and Present Booklet: I AM … HERE NOW
The first spread and last spread of my booklet create a frame for the rest of the pages. The first says ‘I AM’ and the last says ‘HERE NOW.’ These words are my favorite mental mantra for whenever I’m in the midst of big change, or just feeling disoriented/anxious in general. The pages between this mantra represent a stream of consciousness ( including memories, abstract reactions to spaces, a representation of an interior and exterior in Siena, words I have heard people say that struck me, etc.) All of these things can come to mind very quickly, even in one breath of I am here now. This booklet is also highly process oriented, I started with a lot of different ideas but eventually decided to just go with whatever reaction/memory was passing through me during the times I sat down to work on this book.
Reading response: Craft across Boundaries
“Someone, somewhere, made everything you own.” In our daily lives we usually do not acknowledge this simple idea. The reading talks about Aileen Orson Webb (founder of the Museum of Contemporary Crafts. She makes a really important point by highlighting that it is easy to look past this idea (quote above) in this age of technological reproducibility. With ease we can ‘carry’ knowledge from one place to another, not physically, but over the internet. It is an interesting idea for the hand of the maker to be more present in daily objects that we interact with, making the viewer/user “wonder about that person’s experience and the way it connects” to their own experiences. I think that, although craft is thought of often as being localized and specific, it could possibly speak to a wider range of people if it is presented in such a way that calls attention to itself, like Webb is suggesting.
Reading response: “When Art Defines a Social System”
My main takeaway from reading When Art Defines a Social System, is that art and architecture should have a job to do. It should seek to influence some kind of social change or evolution for the better. I agree that art “of the real becomes an instrument of meditation between the individual and the territory.” I think this means that context between the person/groups of people experiencing the art and the art itself (in its certain space) needs to create some level of awareness in the viewer as to the reason of its existence. The reading talks a lot about the body’s relationship to space, which then relates to emotional experience, because emotion is based in the body’s responses. For example, in the work of Carlos Garaicoa, a ‘sense of belonging’ theme is extremely important. This theme brings together the context of the space, the viewer’s body and the viewer’s internal/emotional experience.
I also can’t help but touch upon the subject of memory and fragmented consciousness in this reading and in my own perception of what art can and should be. For example, Gursky’s photographs “allow the view to enter the image as if it were an environment,” but without needed to “pack all the reality possible into a single image.” To me, this means that we do not need to concretely define a space or a work to have it get its point across or to create change in the culture surrounding it. We simply need to grasp at the viewer’s emotions. So even highly conceptual/abstract work can create a strong sense of environment and be equally as effective.
Blue of Distance reflection:
As I read The Blue of Distance, I found myself relating to the ideas in a really immediate way. Of course, everyone relates to the experience of longing, and distance, but there has been something of a similar theme (on the tip of my brain for some weeks now,) waiting to be articulated. I don’t quite have words for it yet, because it is something that I am in the process of learning, or have learned, one moment, and forgotten in the next. It is becoming clear to me now that this thing is not one that is learned once and for all, but rather, by the nature of the lesson, demands to be learned continuously. It is the idea that we are always ourselves (?). Possibly the biggest struggle in my conscious mind is the act of puzzling together how I might be able to “look across the distance without wanting to close it up,”(30) because time and time again, I reach a situation that I have idealized and romanticised for so long, but “something is always far away,”(32). The father I read in this chapter, the more I began the realize that it is less about the experiences of longing and distance, and more about self worth. This chapter could very well be interpreted as a commentary on the belief that humans are all separate beings with varying self-identified levels of ‘good enoughness.’ We elevate things that we do not have to such a degree that we are also putting ourselves down and believing that we are not whole as long as we are without the thing. We are always ourselves. We will never actually arrive at the blue horizon as long as we believe we are without it, and I suppose this is what I am beginning to learn (and unlearn and relearn.)
Intro Unit Project: Tempo Zulu
My Tempo Zulu stone would not really belong to me. It would begin as a wet piece of cement in a hidden corner of a side street or small alleyway in Siena. Anyone to happen upon me and my undried cement chunk during the installation day would be invited to draw an image or words into it describing a secret they are keeping. After the cement dries it would be kept under a layer of stone that looks like all of the other ones around it; concealing it, except for small hinges on one of the sides. In the future, anyone can lift up the ‘normal’ looking stone to reveal the art/descriptions created by people. This ‘Tempo Zulu’ stone could mean many things to many people, especially due to the fact that it would be created by those passing by the spot, not by one single artist. My own interpretation, however, places emphasis on the ideas of chance and secrets. It is by chance (to a large extent) that the exact individuals involved in the project are involved. The words/images are accessible if you are looking for them, if you are observant enough to lift up the stone on its hinges, and curious enough to read or interpret your findings.
Art – Craft reflection:
In my opinion, it is hard to define the terms “craft” and “art” without discussing culture, which of course is always changing. The judgements and definitions of these words are different from person to person, of course, and also between societies. Growing up in the US, with artists for parents, I have not only accepted the importance of art in my life, but have grown to crave it and romanticize it. In the western world, artists are praised and looked up to. ‘Artistic genius’ and ‘celebrity status’ are sought after by many, and those who achieve it have a certain aura, a cult following. For example, take the iconic Andy Warhol. He is not only famous for his pop art, but also for his eccentric personality and strange life philosophies. Essentially, in the western world, art is often about status and authorship; Who is creating art, and where do I fit into it and relate to it? How am I special? In contrast, an art professor I had at Mount Holyoke once told my class that in (her) Japanese culture, perfecting a craft is a more desirable path than being a ‘successful artist.’ She explained that this is because craft is not selfishly about the specific person who is creating it. Art from this perspective is not focused on the subjective experience of the artists or the representation of them as a being. Craft, from this perspective is looked at as keeping a tradition alive; raising that same tradition to a higher level. Personally, I am not quite sure where I stand in the discussion of defining boundaries between ‘craft’ and ‘art.’ I do, however, know that opinions on the two (depending on how they are defined) are highly influenced by cultural values that transcend ‘art’ and ‘craft’ completely.
Intro Unit Project: Walk of Destiny
There are clothes hanging to dry in the rain
Apparently laundry day is not to be interrupted or postponed
I am familiar enough with this path
To be able to guess where I’m going
This bothers me
I think of the girl who ran into the boy
And ran into the boy and ran into the boy
To continue hoping for the unknown
Means to accept that I have been here before
This bothers me
When I was little I’d lay on top of the radiator
That was when a boy lived across from my grandmother
I saw him last summer for the first time since then
And I heard my head say ‘impress him’
This bothers me
If it’s true that every time you speak, you learn about yourself
It may be true that every time we walk we learn about the world
I have never known balance to be stable
This doesn’t bother me
I used to think artists should produce an antidote to uncertainty
To create a space for solution
To provide a hand to hold safety
And while I am familiar with this path
I don’t know it
I am not certain of it
And I think instead, my job is to ask for more
And to listen
For this assignment I wrote a poem based on some thoughts that came up as I was walking. The stream of consciousness writing approach is a reference to some forms of Buddhist walking meditation and walking as art, both mentioned in The Shape of a Walk. On page 268 Solnit writes “language is like a road, it cannot be perceived all at once, because it unfolds in time, whether heard or read.” I included multiple fragments of stories I have heard and memories I often revisit, trying not to eliberare to the point of complete understanding. The process of writing this piece was highly influenced by what I know of philosopher and psychologist William James’s ideas on consciousness. He wrote “we have to be ready to live today by what truth we can get today and be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood.” While I was walking, I allowed ideas to come to me in a non judgemental way and wrote them with the same feeling of impermanence. I find this state of mind to be a natural one in which to create and one that agrees with Solnit’s idea of art being an “unbounded investigation into the relationship between ideas, acts and the material world.”
Cora Melcher, USA
My name is Cora Melcher. I am in my third year at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, studying studio art and psychology. I also love film theory and philosophy and love to learn about the ways in which all of these subjects interact. I recently have been interested in the complexities between a (seemingly) objective visual experience and the inevitability of a subjective interpretation of that experience based on thought and prior experiences. I have worked primarily with paint and collage in the past but I am interested now in experimenting with photography, film, or mixed media.