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Insta(llation)gram (the final project)…

Putting together my final installation was challenging. 

At first, I tried to find a screen to fit a cool, ornate empty farm I have that usually hangs outside the front door of my apartment. It’s 27″ diagonally, so I was looking for a 26″-28″ screen. No go. I didn’t have one, nor could I find one that was affordable, in the context of a project for a class. Plus, I’m not sure the people who run the Art Barn would like me mounting a screen on their wall. Nor did I really have a way to mount a heavy screen. 

So, I went with my second option. Use my iPad. I bought a simple, cheap 8×10 frame, and set about mounting the iPad within…

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I had to try several different things…

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One of the problems I came across was the actual orientation of the screen. Instagram, as it turns out, is only an app for smart phones. There isn’t a tablet app. So, I scoured the app store looking for another photo sharing app that might work. No go. I couldn’t find anything worthwhile. But, I could pull up Instagram in my browser, so I decided to go with that. 

Only now the problem was that the way Instagram displays pictures is not really conducive to the conception of the project. I figured there might be a slideshow type mode that gave the actual image most of the screen space. But, there isn’t. Instead, like most social media feeds, there’s a column on the side to display poster information and a space below each picture for captions and tags. 

I worked on figuring out a work around for awhile, to no avail. Running out of time, I decided I would just have to go with the current setup and explain the ideal, which is a full frame picture that features poster/tag/caption information in a small box on the bottom of the screen in its own box over the picture (see notepad). 

Another problem I ran up against was that Instagram, either in the app or the website, didn’t automatically refresh/update. So, the notion of a continuous feed of pictures was dashed. For the presentation, the screen has to be touchable (not behind glass) and I have to hit the refresh button while continuing to explain the bigger concept. 

It’s not perfect, but I like where it’s going and should be okay for the presentation…

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And here’s the final product, posted in the gallery space…

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Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction (my final installation project)…

Some very basic notes…

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Tom seemed ornery yesterday. And I get it. There have been frustrating moments for him in this class. This is a department that, though it offers an area of study that purports to be all about the arts (Aesthetics Studies) it doesn’t actually attract a lot of artists, real, wannabe, or otherwise. So, there are people in the class who are new to these concepts and sometimes present ideas that seem to miss the point, or don’t seem very well thought out. Of course, listen to me talking down to other people when it’s actually a major fear of mine. Like I’ve written, my thought process is largely internal. Sometimes it looks like I’ve thought hard about something, while other times it doesn’t. I always do, but perception…

Class did not start out great for me. Having had what I thought was my final project made invalid, I was searching for something new while most other people were adapting something they’d already done for a previous assignment. Not to paint myself as some sort of victim, but nevertheless…

I went into class with several ideas. I didn’t feel great about any of them. I decided to go with the whole first thought, best though thing and present the one I came up with first. 

The concept…

I’ve really gotten back into reading the work of Walter Benjamin, especially his seminal essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. I followed this thread to John Berger’s book/series Ways of Seeing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pDE4VX_9Kk).

By requiring that our projects take place within the confines of a gallery space, I decided to analyze the gallery space in a way that considers my observations throughout the class that challenge the idea of the social scripts that go along with placing art in a defined artistic space. We’ve been taught throughout this class to challenge the classic notion of this space and go for site specific stuff (a la Kaprow), yet now we have to operate in the space.

So, I challenged myself to think about a question I once posed asking how do we use the existing artistic space in a way that gets the audience to unconsciously react to its contents in a way that remove them from being defined by the space. 

Then I took this notion that mechanical and technological reproduction of images has led to the dilution of meaning and the lessening importance of the artistic space. In other words, I’ve seen the Mona Lisa a thousand times, but I’ve never been to the Louvre and seen it with my own eyes. The necessity to do that is negated by the fact that I can simply google an image of it and look at it from my phone.

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So, why not subvert the notion of the lessening importance of the artistic space via technological reproduction by technologically reproducing art in an artistic space. 

My idea is to place a screen in a gallery, bordered by a traditional ornate painting frame, that via an instagram type interface, people can digitally post pictures of art from other galleries to. This would have this Jean Baudrillard type simulation effect that all at once comments on the digital reproducibility of art and images and at the same time gets people to treat the artistic space in a natural, different way. Additionally, the audience become co-curators, co-creators of the installation. 

As usual, class discussion and feedback really helped flesh this out. I went in with a fairly basic concept, and the very constructive discussion made it clearer. Again, I think this speaks to all the noise in my head. Everything I want to say about it and want it to be is in there, but it takes others helping me to focus to fully vocalize it. 

Also as usual, the class seemed more enthused than Tom. Again, I get the feeling I’ll someday be considered the best of the posers…

A hiccup (etude 4 &5)…

Our assignment in Performance Installation this week was to write about the space our final performance takes place in. Given the success of my online performance installation, I emailed Tom asking about using the internet for my “space”. I was excited about the proposition. 

Unfortunately, in the context of the class, we have to be able to present our final project in the Art Barn gallery space. This, of course, goes against a lot of what the course has taught us. We talk so much about going site specific and the death of the traditional art space and whatnot, but at the end of the day this is a class and we have to present something tangible for a grade. So, I’m kind of back to square one…

Therefore, I approached the assignment to analyze the space in a very literal way. I went point by point and tried to answer the specific questions asked in the assignment, while also throwing random thoughts in a long the way…

Walter Benjamin – Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Postmodernism

What’s next?

Connection

Communication

Digital barriers to communication

We live in time where we’re the most connected we’ve ever been, via the internet, social networking, and smart phones, yet also the least connected we’ve ever been because we experience this connection through digital barriers.

How can I subvert the digital barrier, the idea that anything worth seeing or experiencing can be found on a screen?

How do I address a world where a ‘friendship’ can be established with someone you’ve never actually met? What is it that causes this connection? Similar interests? Mutual connections? Randomness?

I guess I kind of want to lull people into a sort of ‘unawareness’ as a means of eliciting an authentic or honest reaction to the stimulus of the art/installation.

I can do this by drawing them into something familiar, and either slowly or traumatically pulling the rug out from under them. Or maybe it’s a slow reveal.

Traumatic kernel of the Real vs. slow realization

IDEA: Paint the Mona Lisa

Set up a print of the Mona Lisa. Then set up painting stations, complete with a canvas on an easel, a basic set of oil paints, brushes, etc., and a brief how to guide on oil painting. Allow people to attempt to recreate the famous painting. The results will reveal two things. First, that art is, in fact, hard. And second, that everyone has artistic-ness inside them, if only they’ll access it every once in awhile. Hmmm…

Step it up by doing the same thing with a Pollack action painting. Maybe even

Art, since it can now be digitally reproduced or viewed, invites multiple meanings (subjectivity), thereby diminishing (diluting) its meaning – paraphrase from Ways of Seeing

The digital barrier can cause a change in perspective/loss of context

The atmosphere around us (sounds, setting, etc.) can change how we see something through a reproduced/digital lens. (Looking at art from the MOMA while sitting at a bar).

 

 

Kris Noteboom studied Performance and Rhetoric at the University of North Texas, and Aesthetic Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, earning a Masters and PhD respectively. Starting in the theater at a young age, Kris has spent most of his life pursuing art and knowledge. Unfortunately, in his estimation, this pursuit coincided with the deconstruction of traditional art as we understand it. The move into postmodernism, bringing about relativism and poststructuralism, created an artistic atmosphere in which everyone’s expression is given equal weight, thus diluting the core of the arts and causing broad public abandonment. Starting his academic work studying satire and irony, noting its prevalence in the age, Kris has moved from this mindset to one of a search for authenticity. In a world where everything is hyper-conscious, he wonders what the next explosion of unconsciousness will bring us. His performance work seeks to challenge the notions of self-awareness and culture as a pastiche of the past. His work often aims to create a situation whereby his audience is, briefly, separated from consciousness, anticipation, and self-awarenes, in favor of a moment of pure authenticity. And honest reaction to something, not immediately compared to its antecedents, but taken unconsciously as something spontaneous and new, and thereby inviting the question, is such a notion even possible right now?

 

 

 

Part 1

Choose a space within the art barn: Not sure. Could be anywhere. Classic white walls of an art gallery preferable. Instead f going for the alternative or edgy space, go as traditional as possible.

How do I relate to the space…

Visually: It’s an art gallery, which automatically establishes a frame of expectancy
Aurally: Industrial mixed with a hushed sterility
Scale: Large, expansive rooms, meant to be moved around
Sense of Proportion: Purposely attempting to take proportion away
Physical Relationship: A art gallery necessitates purposed, yet flanier type movement
Personal Memories: Limited

What is the history of the space?
– Built to be like a Black Mountain College type artistic enclave and display space. Currently threatened by demolition

Are you a privileged informant?
– Probably
What is your ethno-self-analysis?

Who are you? How would you describe yourself?
Artist

What are the criteria, definitions, systems, by which you define yourself?
An artistic/Academic level of competence in my art

What does the telling of the history tell you about yourself and perspective?
Even as an artist, I don’t access as much art as I should because I come from a culture that doesn’t access, or even value, art.

How does time relate to the space?
There are no clocks. Nothing to mark the time. Like a Vegas casino, galleries are often mark less and serpentine, allowing the spectator to get lost in them and lose time.

What implicit or other meanings embedded or bundled with the space?
Entering into an art gallery immediately creates a frame of expectancy, or even a barrier. And going to see art is not so special occasion anymore due to the mechanical reproduction of artwork into our world. Therefore, there is no immediacy to visit an art gallery, thereby creating the assumption that the only people who do visit an art gallery are high minded artistic and society types. Both of these things work together to keep people out of art galleries.

What meanings are real, imagined, or imposed?
This is really a subjective answer. The feeling that art today is somehow impenetrable, perhaps due to the loss of meaning brought forth by reproduction, simulation, postmodernism, relativism, etc. can be all three of real, imagined, and imposed. I think the average person imposes this meaning more often than not, but even as an artist, seeing a piece of performance art of installation that does little but to perplex makes it feel real.

Cultural, Social, Economic, Personal?
Again, this real is a ‘pick one’ type situation. Cultural, social, and personal would seem to overlap quite a lot. For instance, the anti-intellectual, anti-art movement of right wingers could easily be said to stem from cultural, social, and personal issues. Religion versus art. The economic question is, perhaps, more interesting. Art does have an economic barrier stigma, whether true or not.

The average person’s interaction with art usually either consists of hearing the exorbitant selling prices of famous works quoted back to them on the news, or seeing the bad examples of art and performance held up as an indictment of the entire field. How do we get them to see the in between?

What are the collective memories?
Like with art, I’d say this is largely subjective. Especially given my narrow frame of reference. I know what the space wanted to be, and in some ways achieved. But, it is still largely self-contained, filled mostly by artists most of the time. Does that change the collective memory? Also, it is both a gallery space and a workspace. What effect does this have?

What meanings are stable and which are not?
Well, apparently the building itself isn’t stable and that’s what is leading to its inevitable closure and demolition. Yet, I had to take a class in the actual building to learn that. Despite being in the middle of campus, students are unaware of it. It hinds in plain sight, as it were. Does this diminish its meaning? It has nurtured a lot of talented and successful artists? But, when it’s gone, will anyone remember or even know?

Which memories speak – who walked through the space and what are they saying? What would they say?
Because I see the building as just as much of a workspace as a gallery space, I immediately think of the artists who have passed through the building, toiling away in the workshops and labs creating perfect pieces of art to display in the public spaces. And I can’t help but wonder, would the audience have a better sense of the meaning of the building and the creation of art if they had access to the workshop?

What are your expectations?
To foster a dialog about art, creation, perception, connection, etc.

What are you psychophysical reactions?
Over the course of the class, what I’ve noticed, is that the space becomes more of a workspace for me, rather than a gallery space. When I first walked in the building, it was with that hushed reverence, as if I was entering into something hallowed and high. Now, I walk in casually, as if I’m going to work. This intrigues me.

What is the implied worldview?
Art, and especially art galleries and museums, evoke a certain kind of worldview that, at least to the casual observer, holds itself above the common man. It is a hallowed place to be revered, with the work of complex geniuses adorning the walls and floors. It’s impenetrable, in a way. The frame of reference that surrounds it, lampooned in popular culture, implies a, well, snooty, worldview.

What are the attributes and burdens of your perspective?
The burden is that this obviously isn’t true. At least not universally. Or anywhere close to that. But growing up straddling both the art and non art world, I know I’ve heard enough of the reactions to art that are negative to understand that the needle isn’t exactly pointing towards the artists on the public’s favor. Arts funding and education are routinely cut. And unfortunately, due to the rise of relativism and deconstruction of the academy, to a certain extent, bad art gets lumped in with otherwise good art to poison the well. I’m not sure exactly how this shakes out in attributes and perspective, but I generally get the sense that the perspective is negative to the bigger culture and adored by the culture of people who would actually visit a gallery.

How do the components of your observations interact?
I can’t help but get on this line that there has to be a way to deconstruct the frame/barrier of the gallery while also reaffirming the creation of true art. How do you disarm people enough to get them in the door and then reinforce how difficult art creation is once they’re in? Or maybe it’s not that? What about simulacrum and simulation? What if we play on the notion that they’ve seen it all before, disarm them that way, and then get a truly unconscious reaction from them that reveals something about the art and themselves? But, how to do this?

What takes priority in the space?
I’m starting to think the workshops do.

What is its core?
The remnants of creation. The process.

What are the systems of objects that composite to create the place?
I like the contradiction between the clean gallery space and the messy workshop space.

 

I have several ideas I can propose. I’m not sure which one I’ll go with…

The performance (cyber)space (reflections on part 2 of etude #3)…

Now, here’s some notes…

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Notes from journal…

Luckily, a woman from class, who has her own private studio at the Art Barn with a couch and coffee table setup, allowed me to use it for my installation.

I had the phone on a side table, but ti didn’t play a part in the installation, really.

The laptop was on the coffee table and had a Facebook page that I’d created for the space (Installation Room) open. I also brought my portable Bose speaker, but the lack of an outlet made it practically useless. 

I had a volunteer sit at the couch. From my iPad, I Facebook messaged him from my iPad under the character name I’d created for the installation (Annie Anderson). We had a brief conversation as I explained the piece. 

It went over okay. As usually happens with my work, my fellow students seemed more enthused than my instructor. I swear I’m destined to be a popular artist that the academy looks at with a quiet disdain as a pseudo-intellectual. Anyway…

Class discussion, however, was again very constructive. And the concept changed even further.

Now, the installation is completely online and completely run through social media. 

Here’s my concept:

There is a website that serves as the “box office” of sorts for the performance. Given that it’s moved online, the performance can now accommodate more than one person at once. What happens is the audience member buys a ticket for the performance. Then, they’re given a list of the characters and all their social media profiles. From there, they can go friend/follow/etc. the characters. Once the performance starts, which will play out over the course of something like a couple of weeks or a month, it takes place on the audience members social media feeds. There is a general narrative between the characters in the performance, but again, the audience can interact with these characters and effect the course of events. 

This still plays with the same themes I’ve previously written about. What has changed is the space. 

I’ve written about the question of what comes next for art after people like Kaprow essentially blew the box up. And this seems to be an interesting answer. The internet as a performance space. 

I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of it or even do it, but my interest is certainly piqued. 

Hopefully a performance like this can help the audience look at their carefully curated online social lives in a way that examines context and how exactly we craft and define the roles we play online versus who we are in the real world. 

The scripting process will be kind of crazy. I’ll have to develop full social media pages for my characters, going into great detail crafting them and who they are. Second, I’ll have to script a general storyline, even if specific lines aren’t written down. I think of it like a commedia del’arte situation. I’ll have a carefully constructed schedule in which different characters will post different things. From there, they’ll react to the comments from audience members and other characters. And these situations will have to be fluid based on where the audience, the spect-actors, take it. I imagine a gargantuan, annotated, and organized scripting system that has dossiers for each character, a collection of situations, and a schedule of postings. It’s a huge project, but one people seem excited about it. And it’s something that genuinely interests me.

The idea of taking performance/art to the online space is intriguing, despite my relative lack of social media experience. I’ll have to do a lot of work and studying. Especially when it comes to making a website to serve as a mission control for all of this. I’ve never seen anything like it. 

Exciting…

Performance Installation: Week 4

Our reading for the week was the book Essay on the Blurring of Art and Life, a book of Allan Kaprow’s writings about his work edited by Jeff Kelley.

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My original reflection on the reading…

I’ve had experience studying Kaprow before, in Performance Art and Performance Theory classes during my masters.

Kaprow’s signature contribution to art is the Happening. 

Happenings are tough to define, partly because Kaprow’s own definition shifted over time. Basically, they’re a art performance or installation that happens outside the bounds of the traditional art sphere (i.e. galleries, theaters, etc.) 

That’s really broad. Winnowing down, Kaprow was concerned with the question, “What is art?” His solution partly involved taking the elements of what makes art, consciously, art, and instead using everyday locations, objects, and actions to challenge the perception of art itself. Starting with more scripted events, Kaprow eventually got to a point where events only happened once, they weren’t promoted, and there was a chance the people participating in them weren’t even aware of their intentions, meanings, etc. To Kaprow, art was the actual creation and execution of art. Not necessarily the creations themselves or the spaces they’re contained in. 

I’ve been a part of happenings before, typically of the more scripted variety where the audience was aware of their participation. 

And what this reading does for me is raise the topic of the conscious versus the subconscious. 

Once we’re conscious of something, we automatically assign culturally curated symbolism, meaning, and definition to it. As such, people in a gallery will behave the way people in a gallery are “supposed” to behave, and they’ll automatically register the gallery’s contents as “art”, because that’s what’s in a gallery. 

By leaving the safe confines of the curated, controlled space, Kaprow was able to get a more honest, perhaps visceral reaction from his audience, which in a way, is art. 

I remember taking a class on Dada and Surrealist art at the Nasher Sculpture Center. One time in class, I made the, tired, statement that art is subjective. My professor, a curator at the center, corrected me. She said, our reaction to art is subjective. 

Such a small change in the statement makes a big difference. It acknowledges that something is art if we call it art, taking the power away from the art academy and placing it squarely on the spectator. And there’s something to that. Think of things we interact with everyday. A chair, a table, a toilet (Hello, Duchamp!). All of these things had to be designed. They are, in their own way, art. But, because they exist in our everyday lives, and perhaps because they serve very practical purposes, we don’t immediately identify them as being artistic. The Dadas and Surrealists plead their own part in challenging these notions. Duchamp’s readymades specifically did this. Especially his work Fountain, a urinal turned on its back and signed, as a work of art would be. 

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Collage and some of the Dada sculpture would also fall into this category.

But, Kaprow took that a step further. After all, a lot of these Dada and Surrealist works were still displayed in galleries and exhibitions where they were defined as art. Kaprow took his art outside of the gallery, noting in the book that in order to get to the heart of what is art, you had to un-art the art, or basically strip it of the signifiers that identified it as art. So, take it out of the gallery, don’t sign it, don’t advertise it as art. Just let it happen, as it were. 

This, in turn, will elicit a spontaneous, unconscious reaction from the audience, which can then reveal the true definition and nature of art. 

I totally dig what Kaprow is saying, to an extent. We live in a socially constructed world and follow script throughout our everyday lives. So, when someone walks into a theater or a gallery, they’re playing the role of audience member, art patron, etc. Due to these roles that we take on, we behave in certain ways, and look at the contents in a certain way. We perceive the art as art simply because we’re in a place that houses art. Not necessarily because it actually is art. Confused yet?

I like the idea of getting your audience into an unconscious space. Getting them to react spontaneously and authentically to art really is, perhaps, one of the most interesting aspects of art.

However, what the Dadas and Surrealists played a big role in starting, and what Kaprow furthered, is this postmodern notion of deconstruction. And while there is a way in which deconstruction can be a very good thing, what happens at the end when we’ve torn the entire academy down?

By deconstructing the notion of “What is art?”, we tear it down to its parts to such an extent that we invite a total relativistic outlook on the form as a whole that in the search for meaning can dilute it to the point that it has no meaning.

As Hakim Bey suggested in TAZ: Go into the lobby of a Citibank, drop your pants, take a shit on the floor, and walk out.

Sure, you can identify that as an artistic expression. Especially in today’s world where there is such distrust of the large banks. But, if no one else knows about it, is it art? Is it enough that the 20 people in the bank perceived the action and questioned in their own heads what it meant?

I agree that we should find ways to break down the social scripts that can, arguably, sometimes limit art. But, how far can we break them down before there is no script left? Are we truly living in an age that’s so subjective that it’s enough if just one person unconsciously perceives it as art? 

And think of it on a practical level. It’s fine when you’re the one leading the charge on these movements, but what happens to artists who come after? I feel it’s safe to say that the world needs art and artists. But, we let those who came before us tear down the academy to a point that we’ve entered into a time of cynicism where everything is considered trite or derivative. Everything is been there, done that. 

Kaprow was great, but he got to work in a time when the art world was still somewhat strong, so his abstraction meant something. But, his development of the Happening, in a way, can play as him pulling the pin on a grenade on his way out the door and making it more difficult for everyone who comes after him. The grand narrative (or meta narrative) of art has been broken down to a point that to participate in the traditional art world these days is considered tired. As Tom Riccio said to me during a meeting, “Theater is dead.” (For this example, consider that theater can mean art in general). Now, Tom didn’t mean that theater itself is dead. That’s obviously not true. Broadway posted record ticket sales last year. What he meant is the “box” is dead. The traditional theater, with its proscenium seating and coherent, self-contained narratives, is dead. To participate in this old form is to be living in the past, to an extent. 

I, in all my amateurism, disagree. I think it’s still possible to work within the box (whether that be a theater, a gallery, or whatever else) and create great, progressive art. The key, as Kaprow’s work gets at, is getting the audience to truly unconsciously react to the art within. How to do that? I’m not totally sure. But, I’ll keep working on it.

I know going into this class, that Tom is a fan of site specific artistic work. His group, Dead White Zombies specializes in site specific performance. And, I think it’s really cool and results in really visceral, honest performances. I like the notion. And it’s something I want to do with my work. Which leads me to the assignment (etude) for the week…

Grip

This is the short film Joe and I made in 2009. It was our first foray into film. We were amateurs. We still, technically, are. But, we’ve come so far. This was a valuable learning experience, and a fun footnote in our path…

There’s another scene, also on vimeo. It was the opening scene. Eventually, I split it form the rest of the film because, through no fault of the actors, it just never quite worked.

Of course, the film doesn’t quite work. But, it was fun and educational nevertheless…

Etude #2: Everything ends up in a box…

Our second assignment in Performance Installation class was called “High Points of Your Life”

The basic premise was, choose seven high points from our life (good, bad, or otherwise). These high points had to, essentially, manifest in an object (found or created), a sound, a video, a text, has to be performed, and consider spatial relationships. Shape all of these to a perspective and take a point of view (implied that it’s other than our own).

So, here are my notes on the assignment. Again, you’ll notice they’re somewhat brief. Sometimes the things that happen in my head go too fast to write down…

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And, here is the finished product…

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As you can see from the notes, I began with very practical life events, but soon moved to more abstract concepts. 

But, at one point I realized that I had a major dividing line in my life. It was in 2009 amid the depression. I’d recently moved, and it had been before I had another place to go. So, I put all my stuff in a storage unit. However, even after I found a new house, I was so busy and I knew the move was only for a year, so I left most of the stuff in the storage unit. Int the meantime I had started a business (an art gallery I co-owned with an artist friend), and the recession had hit – closing said gallery eventually. And here’s where I ran into a problem.

The recession was hard. I wasn’t making very much money at the gallery as most of my labor was essentially sweat equity. Also, I ended up getting screwed over by departing roommates and stiffed on rent. Because of this paying bills became a sporadic event. That said, I knew my storage unit was most important, and I tried to pay the bill as often as possible. 

At one point, I’d sent a check that would cover two months and any late fees I’d accumulated. However, a couple of weeks later I got a phone call from them. My storage unit was about to be auctioned off unless I paid in the next couple of hours. I asked about the check I’d sent, almost certain that I’d seen it clear the bank. They said it was $14 short of what I’d owed and weren’t sure if I wanted it applied to my balance or wanted to send another check for the right amount. Mind you, they waited until right before they were going to auction it to tell me about this issue, which is real flimsy in the first place. Of course apply it to the balance. Then, call me and tell me to send you $14 more dollars. But, this was a setup. I got the money together and called them back, but no one answered. I called a dozen times over the next few hours. Never an answer. 

About a month later I got a check in the mail for $175. My cut after the balance owed was paid off of what they auctioned it for. 

Doing the math, that means most of what I owned, most of my life, was worth less than $600. 

Furniture, clothes, hundreds of DVD’s, hundreds of books, a lot of my masters notes, papers, etc. Keepsakes, gifts, mementos. All gone. Stolen, essentially.

But, I was so low at that point there was no fight left in me.

The gallery closed soon after. I had a falling out at grad school. Got screwed over by friends. Had the absolute worst breakup of my life. And then got most of my stuff stolen by a shady storage place. I’d lost everything. I was at rock bottom.

I moved back into my parents’ house and went back to work in the family business. The very thing I thought I’d escaped from just three years earlier was once again my resting place. 

I realized of the big events in my life, losing that storage unit might have been the biggest. Because I essentially had to reboot everything. 

And I did. 

Though I had to work a day job to pay down bills, I decided to fully devote myself to the pursuit of art. The thing I’d always let others convince me could never be anything more than a hobby would be my life, come hell or high water. 

To that end, I’d met and started writing with my, now, closest collaborator Joe, and we soon had a script for a short film completed and a production company in Austin that wanted to produce it. 

Since then, it’s still been an up and down, sometimes rocky road on the path to being a working artist. But, it’s getting there. I eventually went back and finished grad school. After living at home for three years, I was able to move into a dream apartment (a converted warehouse loft space catered to artists), and I wrote and co-directed promotional videos that aired on national television. And I eventually went back to school to work on a PhD in the arts, which eventually led me to this class. 

Now things are happening faster than ever. I have a lot of irons in the firs that are ready to strike. It’s taken six years, but I’m getting close. 

So, I built my installation around a box. The point of view is that of the auctioneer, auctioning off all my belongings to the highest bidder. The perspective, theme, or whatever you want to call it is simple. Everything (and everyone) ends up in a box. No matter what we accumulate it life, it’s all temporary. And the ability to let go is a experience that can transformative. 

For the performance aspect of the piece, I prepared a manifest on my yellow notepad (to give it the look of a ledger) and read this prepared script…

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An accounting of the contents:

1. The American League Championship trophy replica is from the Texas Rangers 2011 season. Despite being an “artist”, I love sports. Hey, I grew up in Texas, after all. And above everything else, I love baseball and the Texas Rangers. And during the 2011 playoffs I was at Game 6 against the Detroit Tigers when Nelson Cruz hit the walk off grand slam to send the Rangers to the World Series. In fact, the ball even landed near us. Even remembering it now, it was an emotional moment. I’ve never in my life experienced that much shared jubilation and euphoria. It may be the most positive feeling I’ve ever had in one single moment. And I shared it simultaneously with 50,000 other people. It was amazing. To me, it represents happiness.

2. My masters hood from the University of North Texas. I experienced the highest of highs (being named Outstanding Graduate Scholar, the top non thesis award in the department), and the lowest of lows (being passed over for a job I felt I deserved and my advisor being hit by a car on her bike). I took nearly two years off at one point. But, Tom Riccio (of all people!), played a big role in convincing me to finish. I gutted up, took one more class in which I made a complete fool of myself, took my comprehensive exams, and graduated. It was a big moment for me, in the end. I’ll never be the academic that some of my classmates were, but I feel like I had a great overall experience and it made me a better person. It represents hard work and accomplishment. And a book end to the rough patch of my life (graduated in Fall 2011).

3. Two burned DVD’s from two plays I was in at Duncanville Community Theatre. They were The Diary of Anne Frank and The Curious Savage, in which I played Hannibal (a role once also played by Spalding Gray!). As a theater critic, I don’t get to do much theater. But, DCT doesn’t get reviewed and I have a lot of close friends there. So, I sneak down occasionally and do a show. My best role in the last few years was as the title character in The Nerd! This represents my continued pursuit of art stemming from that reboot.

4. Two Criterion Collection Luis Buñuel films, “The Exterminating Angel” and “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”. I included these because of my love of film and desire to make films, but also because, due to my earlier compromises in life, I’d never actually studied filmmaking. So, part of my reboot was essentially trying to teach myself. I bought books, watched and studied films, listened to interviews, etc. But, a major tool of my education has been the Criterion Collection, which is known for being, essentially, film school on a disc. And through that exploration/education, I feel in love with the films of Luis Buñuel. This represents my drive and desire to make films.

5. Film wasn’t the only thing I took up study of. I also became a (renewed) student of theater. I’ve done theater pretty much my entire life. From the moment I could get on a stage, I did. Yet, I rarely studied it. I took 1 1/2 years in junior high and two years in high school before switching to choir/show choir/musical theater because of schedule considerations. I stayed in choir in college, but got back into theater late. Over my last three semesters of undergrad I did about a dozen plays. That said, it was too late to take any classes. My graduate work (in performance studies) had gotten be back into that world at least tangentially. And coming off of that, and getting a job as a theater critic for Theater Jones (www.theaterjones.com), I decided to enhance my studies and learn more. To that end, I included the books Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic edited by John Willett and Martin Esslin’s The Theatre of the Absurd. These show both my continued education and specific interests, and represent how big a part of my life theater is.

6. During my reboot, like I mentioned, Joe and I got our first film made. It’s called Grip, and it’s not great. We were novices. Didn’t know what we were doing. And then we had issues with the production company and the edit, and ended up finishing it on our own, without all the footage. However, it was a major milestone and started my forays into making films. It’s important and will, hopefully be an amusing footnote moving forward in life. It’s playing on the iPad in the box. 

7. Finally, I included my Canon 7D, DSLR camera. It represents the evolution of my film/art making. I’ve shot several little projects on it and have several more planned. It represents the future. 

The box is labeled as “Random Stuff”, because in the end, that’s all it is to anyone else. It means something to me, but it’s temporary. And that knowledge has a dual effect on me. First, it actually makes these moments mean more to me. Because they are so unique and special to me. They’re rare and personal. That makes them mean more within the context of myself and my identity. However, it also helps me to not get to tied down to anything. Always be moving forward. Don’t fall back on sentimentality and certainly don’t ever get contented with the the easy path. 

 

The project went over well. I liked it. It’s the kind of thing, I feel, if I had more of a portfolio and display history, would be taken seriously as an installation piece. 

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