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REST AREA: a collaborative installation

16 Sep

As part of the LA ROAD CONCERTS – Catalysis Projects’ Core Artist Kim Ye and collaborator Christine Wang give CP a sneak peak of their REST AREA project proposal. The project itself will be performed SUNDAY, 9/18/11 from 11am-2pm @ the intersection of Portia & Sunset in Los Angeles.

Abstract
In Los Angeles, where cars are a near necessity and filters many a person’s perception of the world around them, drivers and pedestrians often experience the city completely differently. Often more than just a mode-of-transportation-choice, this split may trace real differences in the social/economic/geographic position between individuals. How can we navigate this difference in a way that can generate a sort of shared experience?

In this experimental installation, we would like to explore options for a public space that unites the comfort and shelter of the car, with the public social space of sidewalks, parks, and bus stops. Through the creation of a temporary shared oasis at the boundary between sidewalk and street, we hope to propose an alternative function for the automobile, while simultaneously modifying the bodily experience of the pedestrian. Through this act we hope to explore how the unit of the automobile may create new relational possibilities for the interaction between human bodies.


Christine Wang & Kim Ye, REST AREA (test), 2011

Installation
Two identical Toyota Sienna minivans are parked directly across the street from each other at either ends of a pedestrian crosswalk. Both side doors are open on the vans, and a ramp runs through the middle of each van; this creates a tunnel that pedestrians must pass through in order to cross the street. As pedestrians pass through the inside of the vans, there will be music, air-conditioning, and refreshments offered to them. They can rest in the back of the van for any amount of time they wish, before proceeding on to their destinations.

Location
This installation was originally conceptualized for the crosswalk at Sunset and Portia in Echo Park, but can work anywhere with significant foot traffic and a crosswalk that can be parked in without obstructing traffic.

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The Life of Objects

9 Aug

NOTES FROM THE STUDIO – Catalysis Projects’ Core Artist Kim Ye gives a sneak peak of her proposed project THE LIFE OF OBJECTS for High Desert Test Sites

Background / Abstract

This project started as an exercise in processing the leftovers of family tradition. In January 2011, I cruised the streets of Los Angeles, picking up curbside Christmas trees in my minivan. Some pick-ups were planned, involving prior communication with the owners. Others were more spontaneous, where I pulled over upon spotting a tree trunk sticking out between a mass of pine needles, sometimes wrapped nefariously in an overgrown plastic bag. All in all, I collected 58 Christmas trees over the course of a month.

I am fascinated by the process by which the Christmas tree falls from preciousness to worthlessness. A symbol that takes its place at the center of family gatherings and acts as such a loaded, often sentimental, representation of religion and relationality is discarded in the same manner as common household waste, dust, and dirt. The trees I rounded-up were completely used up—abandoned unceremoniously by the very family units that had chosen them.

Why does the becoming of a Christmas tree involve such a degree of pomp and circumstance, while its ending is treated with the irreverence of a chore like taking out the trash? Does this say something about a larger tendency to avoid facing the material consequences of our culture’s socially meaningful—but economically and ecologically impactful—traditions? In an effort to confront these questions, I reorganized and modified the trees in stages, giving them a newly collective physical presence.  The first two configurations can be seen below. The third and final configuration is planned for the Wonder Valley desert in the vast stretch of land behind The Palms.

Kim Ye, The Life of Objects (Installation #1), 2011

Kim Ye, The Life of Objects (Installation #2), 2011

Installation / Location

For the desert installation, the trees are coated with strontium aluminate glow-in-the-dark pigment, and then fastened together in an organically chaotic arrangement. This configuration results in an object that is reminiscent of an overgrown radioactive tumbleweed—its size and luminosity confronting and activating the viewer’s body. The placement of the sculpture at The Palms puts it within the range of human contact—fitting since the sculpture’s conglomerated form mirrors the function of the restaurant, which acts as a rhizome that generates social activity and interaction.

As part of the Homestead Act, Wonder Valley has a history of being a site for new beginnings, redefinitions, and unavoidable endings.  Within this uncanny setting that is at once magical and unforgiving, hopeful and terrifying, is it possible for these glowing tree parts to embody the affective motivators that pattern human behavior? To realize the final stage of The Life of Objects in this landscape is to postulate a new function for the material byproducts of networked human relationships.  Perhaps these discarded symbols can act as a beacon that encapsulates the resonant activity inherent in all endings.


Rules are Stupid (An homage to Zarathustra):

22 Jul
Jeffrey Holmes: Blog for CATALYSIS PROJECTS, July, 2011.
The actions of being an artist are those of the exception to the norm, not the norm that the majority is engulfed within.  The only rules we are to follow are those of nature.  It is mankind’s instinct to try to govern and document those aspects of nature, all without mandate.  It is our hangover from a monotheistic aeon.  Prior to the spread of monotheism, mankind lived amongst nature and “worshipped” natural gods that provided explanations for natural occurrences that could not be explained by reason.  As monotheism encroached upon society, there became an irrational desire to separate from nature and dominate it.  The early Judeo-Christian liturgans chopped down trees to build wooden churches to demonstrate their dominance over nature, while the pagans lived amongst the forests in collaboration with natural elements.  This need for dominance all springs from a fear of the power nature had over their lives and their desire to control it, in order to ensure their own survival.  In our current aeon, we are generally unthreatened by nature in that same way.  Of course, we can be killed by earthquakes or the by the sea, or large storms, but we understand this scientifically and are comforted by the control we gain from that knowledge.  But most people are unlikely to get killed by a bear or wolf or band of marauders or something wild as they walk from their secure home to their secure vehicle (weather a car, train, etc.), to their secure job or through their secure life.  So some of us, the majority, are clinging to a divinity that dominates nature, but without the spiritual rationality of a reason for doing so.  This always leads to criticism of the minority, by the majority.  Criticism often leads to bias, and then to conflict and finally, attempts at extermination.  It is our political and legal doctrine in our post-modern era.

1. Rules are Stupid:

Historically we privilege the exceptions, and are bored with the norm.  My hero is Beethoven.  His value that we now derive from his actions is that of a progressive one.  This is why we separate him from his now generally considered “lesser” contemporaries like Dittersdorf, Vanal, Gottschalk, etc., all of whom followed conventions of their day.  Beethoven, however, is praised for breaking the rules and defying the norm, and that is why he is taught and studied…his exceptions, not his submissions.  In fact, in our current society, he would probably be ostracized for his adherence to his believes and unflinching integrity and his obstinate, brash personality.  Even late in his own life he was ostracized…having children throw rotten fruit at him on the street, being arrested for vagrancy, and his for his increasing social isolation due to his stubborn and offensive attitude.  It is no surprise that his main source of inspiration was always nature.  Even though his works do not reveal this on the surface through their titles, his journals reveal that his daily walks in the forest was where and when he conjured his ideas.

2. Rules are Stupid:

This brings me around to the point of sharing my thoughts.  I have been told by everyone around me, that I am bound by my employment, bound geographically.  Even if that has caged me into less of a fulfilled life than I demand for myself.  I have recently broken these rules and moved away, far away…to the top of a mountain.  When I was a lost and searching 12 year-old, I was permanently inspired and shaped by Fredrick Nietzsche’s Thus Sparch Zarathustra.  This fictional tale describes a thinker/poet who was not a part of the norm of society.  He chose to live in on a mountain-top, away from society, to regain spiritual and personal clarity.  When he returns to society ten years later, his impressions are profound.  It is no coincidence that Nietzsche’s selected name for this character “Zarathustra” is a pun on the word “Zoroastrian”, which is the name of the first mono-theistic sect in recorded history (that either Nietzsche or myself are aware of), and is an obvious illumination of the conflict between mono-theistic divinity and the natural order of our world.  So I have finally rejoined my 12 year-old self.  I have become Zarathustra, and have claimed my mountain-top.

3. Rules are Stupid:

As I embark upon a collaboration with fellow Catalysis Projects artist Quintain Ana Wikswo, I am reminded of the natural element in art.   We are creating a work that from my end is to be titled “Pastoral”, which is the evocation of nature.  This is not a literal depiction of natural images, that feat is only for God or Satan.  Instead, this is a symbolist portrayal of my internal feelings that arise when submerged in, or deprived of, nature.  From here upon my Zarathustrian mountain-top, my Beethovian artistic sensibility is free to roam.  Quintain is similarly progressing into nature.  She is creating her part of this work from the Catskill mountain range in New York.  Our two works are to collide into a third work, either unifying peacefully, or as Beethoven said “lying back to back, like two grizzly bears in a cave, unwilling to fight or to merge but somehow coexisting and informing one another”.

Like Zarathustra and Beethoven, we are adults and artists, we are exceptions to society, we do not need rules.

Noah Purifoy and the psychology of bricolage

11 Jul

NOTES FROM THE STUDIO – Catalysis Projects’ Core Artist Kim Ye makes a visit to the desert and muses on the psychology of found objects in art.

A couple weeks ago, I ventured out to the Mojave desert with friend/artist Thinh Nguyen for a visit to fellow CP’er Deborah Martin home/studio. While scouting possible locations for a project proposal for High Desert Test Sites we made a visit to the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture. Off a poorly marked dirty road, we pulled up to 2.5 acres of sculptures and installations suggestive of a post-apocalyptic amusement park. Giant monuments, stage sets, and elaborate scenarios fashioned from toilets, old clothing, scrap metal, foam, and other discarded, scavenged, and generally devalued materials haunt the arid landscape; wandering through, between, and into the structures, I had the eerie feeling of being alone in a crowd, as if my body were being displaced by the collective force of a culture’s material products.

In reading about Purifoy’s work, much of its conceptual underpinnings are traced back to Dadaist ideals of assemblage and the readymade, and the folk art aesthetic of using cheap, everyday materials to make works that are tied to the maker’s personal history. Accordingly, much of the discourse surrounding Purifoy contextualizes his work by emphasizing its relationship to natural processes of erosion and decay, its attempt to break free of modernist straight-line aesthetics, the artist’s political choice of using junked and scavenged materials, and his personal history as a African American artist and art educator in Los Angeles.  While all these factors may be relevant to a historical/contextual reading of the work, linking Purifoy’s formal choices to a commentary on inequality and urban blight seems like a neat and easy place to stop—conveniently collapsing the work onto the body of the artist. As an artist working with found and scavenged materials myself, I wonder if a more psychological reading of the bricolage process can be generative for thinking about works like these, allowing meaning to be made without having to rely on Dada or revert to romantic old hat like “art is all around us”.

According to an essay by Anna Dezeuze, the word bricolage was first theorized by anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss in 1962. Referring to a DIY process of making objects out of odds and ends or with quick-n-dirty solutions, bricolage comes from the verb “to tinker” or “to fiddle”—and the figure of the bricoleur can be likened to that of the mad-scientist, amateur, or hobbyist. The term is also used in biology and information technology to talk about structures that are cobbled together or built from the bottom up, such as biological organisms and strategic information systems. Like Levi R. Bryan I believe that bricolage is a type of methodology, a model of engagement with the world, rather than a formal category within the visual arts. The idea of using pre-existing materials acquired through collecting and scavenging mirrors for me a kind of mental process which depends on, glens from, and recombines (both consciously and unconsciously) information disseminated via cultural memes and direct interpersonal contact. It is an acknowledgement of the real material constraints that shape our desires, and behaviors.

In an era of increasingly dematerialized art practices, it may seem regressive to use the discarded remnants of corporate, mass-produced materials. Perhaps such a material-based practice can be read as being complicit with the structures of advanced capitalism, producing beauty out of its products even as they no longer serve their original function. Or even more cynically, that the artist–through an act of diversion–is literally turning trash into gold, aligning him/herself with the position of the industrialist.

But something doesn’t feel right about this reading. Not only does it give no consideration to the experience or position of the scavenger, but it also denies the existence of any imprint that previous owners leave on the object in question after it leaves the factory. As in the case of many scavenged items, there is a long period of time after its original purchase that it slips out of the commodity state and becomes a physical component of a person or family’s life. It functions as a domestic object, fulfilling a need or desire for the home in which it resides, but at some point, it no longer fulfills the desires, or somehow fails to contain the needs or expectations placed upon it by its owner, and is cast off into the street, where someone like me picks it up.

It is this string of desire/non-desire, and the evolution from preciousness to worthlessness that I find most interesting about the role of found objects in my current practice.  In a sense, objects are abandoned when there is the sense that no one can project onto it, that it is so used up and broken that it is impossible for anyone to identify with it at that point. The item is not taken to a donation center or even a junkyard, it is simply left outside—as if an immediate split had occurred which quarantined it from the rest of the home. I find something deeply psychologically compelling about this exchange of abandonment and salvage—almost as if one person’s shame corresponded perfectly with another’s fetish. In this way, the process of re-appropriating found materials is not about chance, it is about the negotiation of individual fantasy within shared material landscapes.

    Kim Ye, Gold Digging, 2011

Kim Ye, Surrogacy, 2011

Eco Amazons by DORKA KEEHN

2 Jun

Recommended Reading by

CP composer Veronika Krausas

I have just received a new book – it’s an absolutely beautiful hardcover by the San Francisco writer, documentary film maker and activist Dorka Keehn, who is definitely her own force of nature.  I highly recommend it!

Eco Amazons brings together for the first time the women leading the charge to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth. Through intimate interviews conducted by journalist and activist Dorka Keehn and arresting images by award winning photographer Colin Finlay, Eco Amazons calls attention to this century’s critical environmental challenges by focusing on the remarkable women developing solutions and guiding us towards a sustainable future. Their efforts demonstrate how individual concern gives rise to passion, how passion leads to action, and how action effects meaningful change—efforts that can be emulated by each and every one of us.
If you’d like to order one, they’re  on Amazon OR at a 30% discount is available on http://www.ecoamazons.com if purchased by June 5, World Environment Day (WED).
If you are in the Bay Area and would like to meet Dorka, please join us at Gump’s, 135 Post St, SF CA on June 16 5:30-7:30 PM. Rsvp: specialevents@gumps.com
Through decades of WED celebrations, hundreds of thousands of people from countries all over the world have been galvanized for individual and organized environmental action. For more information and activities, please visit www.unep.org/wed

Dorka Keehn

Dorka’s been a guest blogger for CP and here’s more information:
Dorka Keehn is a journalist and social entrepreneur. She is currently working on ECO AMAZONS, the first book on American women environmental leaders to be released on Earth Day, 2011, with images by Colin Finlay, one of the foremost documentary photographers in the world. She completed in November 2008,Language of the Birds, a large-scale solar powered permanent site specific sculpture for a new plaza in Northbeach, commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission, that was voted one of the best public artworks in the United States by Americans for the Arts. As a filmmaker, she has produced several films for television including the two-time Emmy award winning documentary, OF CIVIL WRONGS & RIGHTS: The Fred Korematsu Story (PBS POV 2001.) She is a founder of EMERGE AMERICA, the premier training program for Democratic women who plan to run for political office, and has been a leader in the women’s movement for over fifteen years. Mayor Willie Brown appointed her twice and Mayor Gavin Newsom re-appointed her to the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. Dorka was also the West Coast Director of Gloria Steinem’s Voters For Choice, the largest non-partisan, independent pro-choice political action committee in the U.S. And she has served on innumerable Boards of Directors of women’s, environmental, media and educational organizations.

a little late but still sort of funny …

31 May

Calgary Canada

photo by Veronika Krausas (May 21, 2011)

I’m up in Canada for a few weeks and Doomsday came and went …  roll on!

Musical Patois: Isaac Schankler’s event preview

30 Mar

I wanted to share with you all another upcoming musico-textual event (to coin a dubious phrase) organized by Elaine Chew and Alexandre François, and sponsored by Visions and Voices, the USC Arts and Humanities Initiative.  It’s exciting to see collaborations like this happening more often!

Musical Patois is a unique collaboration among a neuroscientist, a composer, a performer/engineer and a computer scientist, this event will boldly explore and transgress the boundaries between science, music, technology and art. The event is inspired by the research of neuroscientists Aniruddh Patel and John Iversen and composer Jason Rosenberg, which demonstrated that the instrumental music of British and French composers reflects the rhythm and intonation of their native languages. Patel, along with composer Peter Child, pianist-engineer Elaine Chew and computer scientist Alexandre François, will examine the influence of language on music through an evening of scientific presentation, musical performance, interactive visualization and lively conversation.

Thursday, March 31, 2011 : 7:30pm

University Park Campus
Alfred Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

Admission is free.

More information at the Visions and Voices website.

Lying in a Ditch on a Stormy Day: Quintan Ana Wikswo’s Notes from the Studio

10 Feb

by Quintan Ana Wikswo

This NOTES FROM THE STUDIO column features CP Core Artist Quintan Ana Wikswo, who creates work in text, photography, video, installation and performance.  Visit her work online here and here.

When I was a teenager, some fortuitous creature slid me a copy of Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.”

Since then, I’ve been mesmerized by the indefatigable pursuit for a practical space for private creation and cogitation, with a door that locks. My first studio was the lower limb of an apple tree – when I got older and heavier I graduated to a maple tree – then a steamer trunk, a closet, a semi-abandoned sweatshop, my lap, the bathtub, the kitchen table.

A studio is a great place for scraps.  It’s like the manure pile of art: mostly shit, but very rich in nutrients.

Nowadays my studio is located on an upper floor in a 1920s building in downtown Los Angeles, with huge chickenwired windows peeking into the bleached out well of a courtyard. I have always considered chickens to be my muses, and perhaps it is the chicken wire windows that draws me into this vista with fantasies of transcendence.

My view is all soot stains and articulated smog, the cool hues of concrete and charcoal asphalt, and a monochrome obstructed light. All the chemicals are in flux: every visible surface is oxidizing, peeling, rusting, dissolving. Somehow, I find this galvanic activity very exciting.

It’s because of Virginia. Her command for studio is unconventional:

“Lying in a ditch on a stormy day, when it has been raining, then enormous clouds come marching over the sky, tattered clouds, wisps of cloud. What delights me then is the confusion, the height, the indifference and the fury. Great clouds always changing, and movement; something sulphurous and sinister, bowled up, helter-skelter; towering, trailing, broken off, lost, and I forgotten, minute, in a ditch.”

Required qualities in a studio: confusion. Height. Fury and indifference. Great clouds ever-changing. The smell of sulphur. Everything sinister and lost. Broken off. Bowled up.

And I forgotten. Perhaps that is the most important part – the humility of beginning with scraps and growing shoots from the muck.

Next to me on my workdesk today is a glorious bit of deliciousness sent my way from a musician friend. It’s a rejection letter sent to Gertrude Stein by a publisher.

I think it’s very much appropriate this week, when VIDA released its new report about the shameful, bigoted disparities in “the publishing world” between female and male writers. As the Guardian writes, “The gender imbalance at the heart of the British and American literary establishment has been laid bare by a new study confirming that leading literary magazines focus their review coverage on books written by men, and commission more men than women to write about them.”

In essence, women are writing, but their work is not seeing the light of day in major magazines, including Tin House, where my own work has been published. Then again, many people think the name Quintan could only be attached to a man.

One argument – made by a rather smug and odious editor Peter Stothard of the Times Literary Supplement, suggested that women don’t read and furthermore don’t know how to read quality literature, so why allow them to review quality books?

I offer him a sulphurous and sinister “screw you.”

Guardian books editor Claire Armitstead writes: “My own feeling is that there is an issue of confidence among women writers.” Hm.

So must we believe that women don’t submit our work to publishers, but rather keep it locked away in our hope chests with our tampons, barbie dolls and cooking aprons?

These are hardly credible alibis in any editor’s quest for misanthropic absolution – publishing is still a segregated industry, with women writers consigned to women readers, and the male writer deemed best at representing the literary expression of humanity.

But as long as we’re on the topic, it’s important to “submit” work. Without being submissive. Gertrude Stein didn’t get where she got by listening to fools like Arthur C. Fifield, whose role in advancing literature is surely as pathetic as the creature at the Times Literary Supplement.

Shortly after I read A Room of One’s Own, someone gave me Alice Walker’s retort, with her call for all women (not only wealthy white women) to have studio space. Today is her birthday, and her consistent efforts to get all women to the table is especially resonant.

Let’s have all the chickens in studios.

From within the fury and bowled up sulphurous confusion of the studio, it’s good to be forgotten, but only while mucking around in the manure pile. Afterwards, let’s send all the chickens out into the street, squawking.

I love the ridicule of this rejection letter, sent in derisive rebuke of Ms. Stein, who shouted her poems into the streets of Paris unabashed, furious and sinister and helter-skelter. And look where it propelled us.

Studios should be locked and then unlocked. When the work is done, send it out, ladies and gentlemen.

Send those chickens out beyond the wire and let them spread their icky little feathers everywhere.

And to catch up on the hoo-hah about the VIDA report, check out these articles:

Listening in Technicolor

4 Dec

by Aron Kallay

Remember in The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy opens the door of her house after being thrown about by a tornado, and all of the sudden, everything is in color.  Not just color, but hyper-realistic technicolor.  Well, I had the musical equivalent of this experience a few years back, and it has colored (sorry…), just about every decision I’ve made in my career since.

While in conservatory, I had an aural skills teacher tell me to think of a minor second (the distance between adjacent keys on a piano) as the smallest distance between two pitches… so tiny that it’s impossible to squeeze more notes between them.  I was skeptical.  I knew that the octave (the distance from, say, C to C on a piano) is divided into twelve equal steps, which is why we call the tuning equal-temperament.  But, why twelve?  Why not thirteen, fifty-three, or even eighty-eight!!?  And, why do the steps have to be equal; could there possibly be any benefit to having steps of different sizes?

Of course, the answer is yes.  Not only is it possible, non-keyboard instruments do it all the time.  When a string quartet plays in tune with itself, each player is actually making micro-adjustments in pitch related to the other players (which is one of the reasons why it is so difficult for string quartets to play with piano).  And, the pitches that they choose turn out to be vibrating in small whole number ratios.  For example, if one player makes his string vibrate 440 times per second, another player may make her string vibrate 660 times per second; a 3/2 ratio.  This is the basis of what is called just intonation.  Not surprisingly, it’s been around for thousands of years.

So, what’s the big deal, and why should anyone care?  Well, composers (beginning with Harry Partch in the 1920s) have been using basic mathematics, such as ratios, to come up with different “flavors” of the same interval, making it possible to have dozens of closely, and not so closely, related pitches per octave.  Just imagine the panoply of emotional expression that becomes available to the composer using just intonation.  And, the pitches all fit together to create amazing consonances and clangorous dissonances.  Think tonality on steroids… uber-tonality.

Which brings me to the point.  The first time I heard American composer Ben Johnston’s String Quartet No. 4, composed in 1973, I knew nothing about just intonation.  Twelve equal steps was good enough for me.  Then, like Dorothy, I was thrown into a world I never knew existed.  [click here for an excerpt] The quartet, a set of variations based on the hymn Amazing Grace, takes us from 14th century Pythagorean tuning all the way to an experimental form of extended just intonation, where pitch relationships are so obtuse as to be, well… gritty.  But, the grit is never out of place, it happens exactly where and when it needs to in the context of the piece.  And, at the end of the piece, when the hymn comes back, stated simply as in the beginning… there is nothing quite like it in the repertoire.  Sometimes, when I need to recharge my spirit, this is the piece I listen to.  In comparison, equal-temperament sounds drab and lifeless.

In the Wizard of Oz, I think Dorothy got it wrong.  Despite the shortcomings of Oz–i.e., witches and evil flying monkeys–it is so much more satisfying than dreary old black and white.  Equal-temperament was a good thing.  We wouldn’t have a lot of the music we do today without it.  But, given my druthers, I’d much rather live in Ben Johnston’s world, in technicolor.

[Click here to listen to me play New Aunts, a piece in just intonation by Kyle Gann]

Happy Thanksgiving

26 Nov

Renée Reynolds: Turkey Day Drawing