fJohn has 71 post(s)

A new permanent work by Berlin-based artist Aram Bartholl at the Thomas Leeser-designed Museum of The Moving Image in Queens, New York bridges the gap between digital and physical space, challenging the intangibly of today’s world of cloud computing and instant downloads by adding a sense of materiality to data-transfer. Engaging a medium that is quickly becoming as outdated as the Laser Disc, DVD Dead Drop, a slot-loading DVD burner embedded in the exterior wall of the museum is ready to burn you a hand-picked digital art exhibition, media collection, or another piece computerized content curated by Bartholl. Just insert a blank DVD-R and let the art begin.

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The archivists requested a donkey, but what they got from the mayor’s office were four wary black sheep, which, as of Wednesday morning, were chewing away at a lumpy field of grass beside the municipal archives building as the City of Paris’s newest, shaggiest lawn mowers.

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It was fortunate that we were at about half the class this past Tuesday. It felt like the first time we weren’t rushed to talk about your work.

Folks who came to class this week are excused from class discussion this coming Tuesday — however, I do want you to come for Megan’s lunchtime lecture at noon.

Those who want feedback on their progress may come anyway or post updates to the website. For those who were not in class last Tuesday, come to class prepared to talk (and show!) progress on your projects and where you think you’ll end up by the end of the semester.

If you’ve finished proposals, post them to the website for the class and myself to review.

If there are any questions, don’t be afraid to ask.


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Current Project

  • likes to show the process of the projects—”very physical in that way”
  • distracting dynamic windmills
  • currently working on a video piece cited at Mass MOCA (installed 2015), which is a video inside an installation
  • figuring howw to make the boulders (you need a lot of understructure to get a good looking bolder)
  • currently using the waterfire building to build the boulders


How does this thing start? What are the initial conversations? How far down the road are you?

  • was making really big stuff in undergrad
  • working with a lot of scaffolding because it’s actually quite cheap (companies don’t think to source it to students)
  • $400 for a large-scale project using scaffolding
  • loved the idea of just getting together with friends and making a big-old thing
  • went with a friend to a city with massive sheets of paper and spontaneously put on a paper cape parade
  • was on the line between design and fine art for a long time
  • working on a video game with robots and aliens
  • a big fan of one-day shows, since the audience really only shows up for the launch anyway
  • the scale kept getting larger and larger
  • appreciated compromising where you’re willing to do it but might not be able to do it perfectly but you keep on going
  • appreciated being blindly ambitious
  • the Museum School is very horizontal, while RISD is quite vertical in organization
  • everybody he know who’s just gone for it really just goes for it, rather than just committing some energy to the work they want to do and committing other energies to a backup plan (e.g. like begin a business minor)
  • being comfortable with things not being perfect
  • they love casting friends and fellow artists because they tend to just be more comfortable
  • when you work with theater people they tend to want it to be more about them
  • one of the major benefits to working in providence is the availability of cheap space
  • prefers to be very deadline oriented
  • one of the things that shocked him getting out of school was the lack of deadlines
  • in the beginning they had to apply for shows but now they’re in the position where a lot of the curators will contact them for creating shows
  • generally have shows and exhibitions and will design back from that
  • curator tells them there’s a show in two years and then they create a set of deadlines back from that point
  • very materials oriented, very resources oriented
  • “walks into space and sees there’s a gantry and then ask what can you do with a gantry; we’ve got some weird materials on craigslists for free, what do we do with that?”
  • a big trick with this stuff is that you work with an engineer
  • they have a small community with an engineer, a performer, musicians
  • like a small circus, a small cabal of friends


How does the economics work?

  • recently transitioned to a model that’s more sustainable
  • used to write grants for projects they didn’t fully develop (tended to be paper thin)
  • if you want one grant you write ten (they have 18 now)
  • gotta get used to getting rejected
  • the new style has projects that are two years down the road
  • get the horse before the cart
  • a lot of business happens at openings
  • it important to build a community and be part of a community
  • not a naturally social person, but realized it was important to get out there and socialize and build these communities and have people who can play these roles


The Suspended Room

  • elitism vs.socialism
  • ever heard a joke and didn’t feel the joke coming? if you don’t have the setup you can’t get to the moment where you can hopefully go someplace
  • likes the intersection between video art and sculpture
  • wanted work to survive past one night
  • it’s a bold thing to show a curator her own space and say “hey, you wanna do this” and sometimes it works
  • all sorts of people who have to sign off on these things, that’s why he builds 3-d models
  • the Mass MOCA project is first time they’ve been building off site
  • getting really specific and needed all the answers
  • taking the time to make models and the sketch models and all these things is really important. the further you get into this the better chance you have of it being accepted.



  • made a big mistake of not going to HD earlier
  • their rule is that no matter what they do they don’t go into debt
  • did calculations on how much they’ve spent on art projects in the past 14 years
  • most of their expenses were covered by grants
  • try to recycle materials
  • just getting to the point where they’re paying performers
  • teaching is what pays their bills


Do you see sculpture moving out of your work and video taking over?

  • their work is more dance oriented
  • doesn’t think he can compete with film (much larger scale)
  • it’s been hard to know what their scale is, what’s their media
  • doesn’t really care about his audience
  • appreciates the sleekness of the way his work looks when it gets on the lens
  • likes the one take, the building, the community of people involved
  • these are shot in one or two days
  • never asking people to do things that they technically can’t do themselves
  • knowing what their limits are
  • not really too pure though, as their work has a lot of intense editing
  • they push and pull videos in a way a purist would never, but at the same time their work is still very physical
  • “an awkward in between of accepting some limits while rolling their eyes at other limits”
  • he’s anti-loop because of his performance background since performances had to be in a loop, whereas he always like to arrive somewhere


Where does the Japanese influence come in (e.g. the Japanese tea house in the bolder project)?

  • “it just feels right and I don’t know”
  • his mentor from school is a Japanese man
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  • the people who do this the best are professional artists who make a life out of applying for grants and residencies
  • a couple smaller projects, includingblank books that were made, paid for, and sold by them
  • center for abandoned letterhead (secured through microgrant funding)

Mies Book

  • went through many stages
  • initially came out of a desire to work collaboratively with Lana Cavar and Natasha Chandani
  • natasha had seen first hand, working with architects, how they pull things together last minute and her role was to make it look good
  • then realized she could make content herself
  • so they wanted to take control of the process
  • thought at first to make a simple 6-month magazine, something fast and fun
  • she works in Lafayette Park in Detroit
  • the magazine grew into a bigger project
  • trying to publish a magazine is really hard whereas a book is a little more concrete
  • during the process of applying for grants they switched to book mode
  • hardly got any outside funding to do it
  • spent a year-and-a-half applying for grants
  • felt like they wasted their time and felt naive about it
  • for example, they applied for grants that required that they already have a publisher which they didn’t have at the time
  • their publisher paid for the printing costs
  • got some money from the university where she teached
  • their publisher wanted to print in China but they wanted to print at a place in Croatia and the Wayne State money helped cover that
  • met in 2009 with a publisher called Revolver Press but they required them to pay for the printing
  • they were able to get them to write a letter for a grant they applied for
  • wrote to Princeton Architectural Press and they said they were interested
  • but the more they heard about Princeton, they realized they often say their interested but don’t go forward
  • they would have to pay for printing, there were serious limits to format, etc.
  • agreed to write them a letter for grants but would officially sign on as the publisher
  • they had also asked for money from the owners of the towers as a corporate sponsorship, but that didn’t work
  • decided to stop applying for grants and to just go ahead and make the book
  • fall 2011, they had a preview done; printed a copy in croatia
  • contacted a friend at Metropolis Books if she knew other publishers, but it turned out that Metropolis Books was actually interested
  • when they looked at the people who were getting the sorts of grants they applied for, they found it was serious Mies scholars and architects
  • realized that they were out of their expertise
  • bulk of their expenses was in flights for Lana to come from Croatia
  • never made a magazine version of it, but they had the proposal they were circulating
  • the thing that’s ultimately useful is producing narrative about your project
  • shaping that initial text you repeat is useful and very important
  • helps you to organize your thinking

Is there something about Detroit that bring this work out in you?

  • before she moved to Detroit she didn’t do projects about place really
  • but when she got there she felt callous about doing formal projects like her Excel book
  • a city that you have to confront in a way; forces to confront the effects of late capitalism

Is the Van de Rohe book a comment on that?

  • felt sheepish about living in Lafayette Park, since as an artist in Detroit you can have a huge property, whereas she’s living in a really manicured controlled place
  • while she was there she started to hear that Lafayette Park wasn’t really Detroit
  • but she began to take issue with that, because the neighborhood is one of the most racially integrated neighborhoods in the city
  • felt like it was important to show that there’s actually people living in Detroit, countering the “ruin porn” images that were bandied about
  • also it was unusual to see this German architect’s work existing in this majority-black city

Is it a model for what could be or could have been? Would the Corbu vision have been good for Detroit?

  • the planner was a communist who was actually blacklisted
  • the place demands a kind of political agency
  • the people who lived there tend to get very involved in the neighborhood and city politics
  • because it’s Detroit and values are so low, the modernist vision isn’t quite as out of reach, though the property is still somewhat expensive to build

Could you speak to your relationship with architects?

  • one of our strengths as graphic designers is to take content and put it in a form tht everyone can access
  • they were contacted by architects and gave talks at architecture place, yet they felt out of place in those venues
  • but the architects told them that architects can’t really make a book like that and appreciated how it humanized the subject-matter

It seems like you made the book speak specifically to the people who live in Lafayette Park. There’s a real beauty in speaking from the vantage point of a non-specialist. It says in form what you want to say in content.

  • wanted to involve all kinds of people
  • as graphic designers you can figure out ways to involve them
  • they had a neighbor who archived a lot of things and they brought that into the project
  • designers can make things seem “official” or “polished” or “accessible”
  • but what happens when you’re coming to a place from the outside?

Do you feel like there’s a finite number of designer-friendly grants or did you have to look to places that usually wouldn’t give grants to designers?

  • applied for an artist fellowship recently in Detroit where two years ago she wouldn’t have felt comfortable
  • these things tend to be open-ended so there’s oppotunities there for designers
  • internal grants at Wayne State, IREX travel grants, residencies (you go and work on your project intensively somehwere)


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Y Tuesday’s class

Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 6.24.46 PM
RISD MArch 2012 Greg Nemes shared a proposal he put together to use the projectors at the Granoff Center at Brown. He said they are open to projects that use the seating areas in the stairwell as well as the projectors overhead.

His proposal is here

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Y Signup Sheet for Tuesday

Each year, GdNyc offers a fellowship to graphic design students, which supports the research, design, and publication of a collaborative design research project. The fellowship provides a modest stipend, advisory support, and a production budget to publish research findings. Upon completion of the project, students will have an opportunity to lead distribution and publicity of the project in consultation with GdNyc.

More information at

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Safar 7 Urban Landscape Lab

  • Central Park as “Disneyfied urban natural condition”
  • began work  on a proposal for a signage system for national parks but got distracted
  • opted for audio signage system instead, treating the 7 line as an urban park
  • interested in the weird animal conditions along the seven line (snakehead fish–invasive fish that can walk) and weeds and trees growing out of the sidewalks
  • people wanted to get involved so they made up projects for them to do


Ceation of a scaled model at studio x

  • making it global and doing a megaexhibiton of urban nature in several cities across the world (jeanette spent a year try to get grants to do it)
  • managed to get three grants to do it and they all ended up falling through
  • Beijing grant was only $10,000


Were you able to distinguish your own identity as a form or as an aesthetic from the project?

  • realized that if they were going to work with people they wouldn’t be able to do everything in their own way and make things look super great
  • they pushed against their definition of what they do
  • there was a fight against themselves to have aesthetic control
  • no one else in the process thought there were problems with it visually, since they talked more about what the work was supposed to do than what it was supposed to look like
  • found that inviting people to participate requires a more casual graphic language
  • much more possible if it seems accessible rather than if it’s super-branded
  • when they started the studio they didn’t think that all of their projects necessarily had to have clients, as “projects without clients will eventually find clients”
  • working with other people is still an important part of the culture
  • they try to make it about what other people want to do in the studio framework
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