I treated myself and purchased an audio transcript of this discussion back in March/April. On Thursday, February 2, 2006, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University hosted a panel discussion entitled “Post Post-Studio: Reconsidering Sites of Artistic Production + Intervention“. Panelists included artists Amy Adler, Conrad Bakker, Michelle Grabner, Gareth James and Dave McKenzie. Lane Relyea moderated. Following are my notes.
Lane Relyea started out by describing the topic at hand. His thoughts were focused on the centrality of the studio and a practice superceding it, rather then a discussion about Post-Institutional Critique. Mr. Relyea described MFA art curriculums as programs that give students a studio and say “have at it!” MFA programs do not teach students any skillset other than how to talk about their work to people who visit the studio. So the question was then asked, “If art has been existing in this post-studio condition, then why are grads still only receiving nothing but a studio?”
Mr. Relyea teaches at Northwestern and before that taught at CalArts. Post-studio practice owes something to Baldessari, Flavin and Kapraow. The favorite class at CalArts was Baldessari’s theory class. On a Friday a student would present their work and basically the whole school would tear into it and provide for one day-long critique. According to Flavin, “… contemporary artist is becoming public.” There was a backlash of the 60s in the return to painting and the massive retreat to the studio. Art theory justified this move as it had justified the break from the studio. Unfortunately for today, “Theory is now dead,” as stated by Mr. Relyea. The studio and crit class feels impoverished.
In the post-studio, the art object is shunned. Quoting Felix Gonzalex-Torres, “Without a studio, you take risks.” Project spaces, kunsthalles recreate 90s projects as institutional studios. As artists choose not to work in the studios, these spaces are the location of production and thus become the studio. So Mr. Relyea continues to question production. “Isn’t consumption the new production?” As viewed by him, consumption expands to include a mode of production. The value of this resides in the circulation rather than the sites. The studio becomes a disembodied virtual space.
Mr. Relyea closes with these thoughts. “Perhaps we are too afraid of art being integrated. Perhaps the studio is integrated.” As a possible solution he offers an artworld directory.
Michelle Grabner introduces herself by stating that she, “works between practice and promise.” Ms. Grabner describes basic human development, life from birth to old age. We start out with trust, then comes autonomy, initiative, identity, intimacy and finally we come to a generative state. These things, or levels, are accumulative. She asks how do we come to these without looking at perverse side of them. So mistrust, shame, guilt, role confusion, isolation and stagnation create a lack of or destroys the possibility of art.
Ms. Grabner reiterates her multiple titles and wonders if they are separate practices or do they all fall under one rubric? She describes how her multiple interests were informed by the scene of the late 80s. For her to take on those multiple roles was critically important. Today, she finds it suspect. If she sees someone doing so, they are probably just careering. She begins to define and unify each of her roles with her paintings. While talking about some projected slides of her work, she talks about them. Her curiosity of math lead her to construct abstract paintings dealing with counting and progress. The cosmos and counting beads are referenced. She is influenced by Froible and Montessori and their work in defining communication/ education with things before words. Froible is the person that introduced kindergarten and Montessori beads. So her work also explores sorting and creating hierarchy.
As a teacher, she advocates the mentality of shooting for a survey at the age of 65, not at 30. In her classrooms her students want nothing, dream nothing, believe nothing and hope nothing. This is “terribly disconcerting.” She reveals her experience as a teacher by asking, “Outside of putting forth a studio, giving them a location, how do we shore up those other things? From the abstract loftiness of the mind to simple practice? Coming to understand simple form in a Froible or Montessori like term?”
In preparation for the discussion, Gareth James read an article on Britishness. He came to the conclusion that, “If you need to ask, then you really don’t know.” He admitted to not being sure what post post-studio is. So was he poking fun of himself, Lane Relyea or both? But he plows through the topic intelligently.
His understanding of a studio comes from his experience of living in his. He has always had live/work spaces. Concerning the post Post-Studio he wonders, “Are we being asked to return to the materiality?” Mr. James attempts to define the studio. It is a place which is out of time. It is an eternal, essential place in the production of art. It is a space of deferral of value judgement.
He continues to explore the definition of the studio. One reaction to post-studio would be a return to materiality from the theoretical practice of the last 20-30 years. The other way to go would be to intensify the dissolution of materials into pure discussivity. Perhaps, “post-studio wasn’t post enough.” This made him think of David Harvey, a political geographer. A writer for 30 years, he criticized the tendency in PostModernism and Marxism to prioritize the temporal over the spatial. In “Spaces of Hope”, capitalism is described as using spatia fixesl in times of crisis to mask moments of contradiction. As Mr. James finds Harvey’s ideas don’t completely explain the post post-studio he moves on to Fukiyamas call of the end of history. But Greenbergian Modernism had already done so. So post-studio was supposed to be a kickstart to start history again.
Then he argues the studio as a metaphor of the fullness/formness of art. It is an empty vessel. But it is not without content. The studio is a surface for inscription. He uses the Base and Super Structure idea to further clarify and asks, “to what degree is the studio only pragmatic in an artist’s practice?” The base determines the super structure.
Somewhere after David Harvey, Mr. James admits to pulling ideas and theories from numerous sources, but doesn’t mention them all. The closing idea he uses is tripartite. In any system, there is always the dominant, the residual and the emergent. In any situation you must ask, what is it that persists? What is it that remains from previous systems? And what is coming up on the horizon?
Conrad Bakker also is unsure as to what is post post-studio. So Mr. Bakker describes his work in hopes that it reveals something about the topic. He constructs interactive containers against institutions. In “Untitled Projects: Donations” he carved and painted a donation box. In most institutions you drop some money in and never really know where those funds end up. So he includes this project in a number of shows and allows unwitting patrons donate from each location and the box contains all of its money. It is an institutional critique. In “Untitled Projects: Dumpster” Mr. Bakker constructs and faux paints the object that we find at restoration/renovation/construction sites, that block our pathways and that we usually ignore. The materials used all came from the recycling center.
From the studio to the exhibtion to whereever it ends up, production is apparent. The dumpster is made of wood and painted to look like a dumpster. As an impostor there was the question of function in its economy. What was allowed in this dumpster? Of course the authority of the artist and the gallery involved determined what could go in it. But there was the possibility that it might interact with other artists. Like real dumpsters, the possibility existed that it could be tagged. But if it was, would it be a real tag or tagged with “art graffiti”? A tag did come up. But was it an art student or not? Toward the end of the exhibition the landscapers had moved the dumpster to the edge of the plaza from the center on which it sat. And some of the graffiti was blacked out.
With post-studio, the role of productrion is extended into the world. Studio production has become formal investigations with extended spaces of production. Some artists believe that working with space diminishes some restrictions. They wrongfully believe that issues become automatically transparent to the audience. Works tend to be less critical about the spaces. The spaces tend to practice these extended methods of production.
Mr. Bakker then summarizes his work. They are objects to be inserted into an economy hopefully leaving an obvious trace of its existence. He wants to make an acknowledgement of “objects and spaces as problematic forms that can be both assertive and complicit in their engagement with the world.” They are assertive as they force themselves into the world. its how we make our marks. And they are complicit by exposing the structure on which we are dependent.
Dave McKenzie basically describes his studio as an office. It is where he invites people to discuss his work and its where he expects to discuss with others about related topics. It is a space where thoughts and ideas are shared.
Even with the ability to infinitely rewind and repeat a phrase, I took worse notes than the Consider the Alternative discussion. I think its because it was not multi-sensory. I’ll try to answer any questions. The panel discussion was inaudible as hardly anyone spoke into the microphone. So I’ll post my comparison as soon as I am completely caught up with the SeeSaws.
I’ll tell you ’bout what I sees.