This is a continuation of testing of materials for the head shaped form that is part of the piece.
Tried variations for the papier-mache clay...these affect the texture. I want to have something that speaks skin texture, not clay texture. At this point the clay seems to have a lot of fiber. Probably due to the brand of TP I used (Kirkland courtesey of Costco). A little difficult to spread, but once covered and dry, I am sure I'll be able to sand it to desired smoothness. This is what I have so far:
The mixture of TP for paper, joint compound, white glue, and flour, is the basis for my Papier-mâché Clay. I got the recipe from an artist who formulated the recipe over 10 years ago. She has used it as the basis for nearly 300 works over that time.
I AM NOT...(continued)...
The concept of this piece was kind of eating at me. I could not wait to work on it..it was like a voice inside saying let me out...so I went ahead and simply set up some camera and lighting, and started shooting.
In an attempt to continue to develop a processes which will enable me to produce more work, and let that work also be more organic in its response to the medium, as well as other factors, I took some time to make a maquette of the head-shaped form.
The head form *wireframe* is a day from completion; laying on more tape, and filler for more detailed shape. The final form will not have lips, since the face will be projected on the final.
Upon completion of the wireframe, work left to do for the form will be application of the material that will likely be papier-mache clay, and then painting when dry. I will test the projection on white, and on a brown tint to see which I prefer, before painting.
I AM NOT!...
This is a video artwork that begins in full black screen.
I have written a short piece that is to be spoken, facelessly, on a black canvas (the screen), as a short passionate soliloquy examining my perception of the words "Black Lives Matter.",
Then, as my diatribe against the idea that there can be any invalidation of the meaning of those words ends, I begin to deny the many assumptions that one can hear being spoken in a simultaneously playing audible of hate speech, from many sources, directed at people of color.
In this black and white video, I envision myself, the subject, being backlit...the silhouette being barely visible at first, but the glow of light behind becomes brighter over time. Possibly ending with a faint light on my face...not sure yet. Hope to have a work-in-progress video available here by Friday.
Compose, Shoot, Edit...
Finish the poem first, then worry, if you have to, about being right or sane.
Seems to me that these words might be equally useful when thinking about making artworks that are not poems. Reading the book, The Triggering Town, I feel there is a lot about what was said that could be applied to making art.
I believe that pieces love the ridiculous areas of our minds...and that the poet artist not always get caught up in questioning his or her assumptions. Many of the guiding principles Hugo expressed resonated with what feels right to me, now that I've heard it, and I've only made it to chapter 4!
Working on Polizoms...
Yesterday was a great, and fun, day. Meeting up with 10 very supportive cohorts and friends, I was able to take this project a step further.
This morning we working on making some footage that will be used for the piece. There is already some learning going on in the making of this beta test shoot. There are a couple of filming angles that I'd like to make while shooting the main view. These additional angles might work in deepening the impact of the subjects performances, and thereby better express the thought behind the piece.
Got a bit more experience directing a larger group of subjects, learned more about my equipment and, more about how characteristics such as time of day will affect the piece. Here are a couple of clips from the shoot.
Learning My Process...
Clearly I am not lacking in inspiration...but, to keep from being spread too thin or being off on a tangent, I do spend time talking with cohorts, and my very small circle of people I entrust to care for my small flames as I examine them openly.
But I found that with my instructors, whom I trust a great deal, they really only want to discuss the inspirations when I have something to show them...that is a new twist on my process. Make something then discuss it...It does make sense, but...well...
I have worked as a software developer, and it was a gift of mine to be able to analyze the problem and draw it out right before my clients. They were usually amazed at how I could visualize the problem and chart/graph/flowchart it out so quickly. And now, I work in a very creative environment, in pre-production, and production, and we spend a lot of time planning and working toward the plan. We usually have to visualize all aspects of the process and the challenges. But then we do have a lot of experience doing what we do. I've been a part of it for 7+ years now, and the people that I work with have been doing it for 15-20 years or more.
In any case, this is great new experience. I am doing what I can to take the lesson to heart. I appreciate this new twist to the process for me...make maquettes, demonstration videos, etc...
I have been doing sketches for life, something that I enjoy when imagining a project (not saying they are good sketches however :), but in 2019, Professor Joseph Daun's had the design class make maquettes of cardboard chairs we would design and build. This seemed like a useful process. So, in keeping with that experience, I can and will apply this approach more often.
This piece continues to evolve. Core description can be read HERE.
The core concept remains, a crowd of subjects walking through the video frame, left to right and right to left. All are using their cell phone, and though initially interacting with other people they pass, they each become less concerned with their surroundings, eventually completely under the spell of the blue or red glow emanating from their respective phones. The world around them also becomes increasingly lifeless.
I am adding an audio track that is my reading of a quote from Pierre-Joseph Proudhon...
“To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.”
Formerly known as Societal Influence, this piece is a three dimensional form, with projection video, and a set of small screen devices (iPhones, android phones, etc).
The form is constructed of poultry-wire, duct-tape, and papier-mâché clay, and will essentially be made to resemble my head-shape, and colored to resemble my skin-tone. A slight shape where the lips and the eyes would be expected, however, the face will be my face projected onto the form. Inside the head, will be mounted as many iphones as I can fit, that will all be playing various video clips looping.
The largest challenge so far has been forming the wireframe shape. I am using wire and duct-tape to hold the form in place, and with then cover the shape with the clay. If the clay is a light gray I'll leave it and test projecting on that color.
I've made a post earlier about this book, however, having read a bit further, I have found it to be an exciting book, although it is also a bit intimidating, with no knowledge of teaching. I am glad it’s our book for this class as, on the other hand, it is my belief that studying in order to teach a subject also can be a means for building a stronger practical foundation.
This text is 300+ pages, which includes short bio's on each of the 50 contributors. The authors, Gregory Sholette, Chloe Bass, and Social Practice Queens, appear to have set out on a mission to promote the concepts and idea of using art as a pedagogical pathway for social development.
Dr. Gregory Sholette is a notable artist, writer, and social activist producing politically engaged art, and among a prolific number of other things, he documents and reflects upon decades of activist art that, for its ephemerality, politics, and market resistance, might otherwise remain invisible.
Chloe Bass is a Master of Fine Arts graduate of Brooklyn College CUNY, now teaching as an Assistant Professor of Art at the Queens College CUNY. She is a conceptual artist and works in performance, situation, conversation, publication, and installation. She produces work that examines intimacy, and investigates where patterns hold or break as group sizes expand in daily life.
Jointly, they run Social Practice Queens (SPQ) which is a partnership between Queens College of CUNY and Queens Museum. Together they are facilitating a unique and new MFA in social practice, integrating studio work with social tactical interventionalist and cooperative forms. SPQ is essentially the heart of the book Art as Social Action.
As part of the Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research for the MFA concentration, SPQ faculty coleader Dr. Sholette, and artist Chloe Bass, have written the book Art as Social Action, a textbook on socially engaged art practices.
Kicking off the journey through this textbook, the authors establish the readers understanding of their mindset with a couple of short essays on the subject of art and its pedagogical impact on social development. However, from that point forward, the book is largely a collection of lesson plans. It is chock full of cases where art was an intrinsic component of the social or cultural learning experience.. The first group of plans is eleven chapters with the core learning experience being about Art as Social Research, Listening, and Self-Care.
Each easy to follow lesson plan is introduced, explaining its source. The introduction is followed by a description of the assignment, a couple of paragraphs of the steps taken by teacher and students, a succinct description of what actually happened and the results, and then closed with an overview and suggested bibliography. The plans are clearly experimental and a change from the status quo.
Despite being focused upon a narrow subject within social development, this first group of plans were a great example of the breadth of ideas one could draw from. Each contributor's academic approach could be studied and perhaps one could follow up by reaching out to the lesson plan author in order to explore their additional work as it pertains to the subject of the section.
The purpose of all this content is, of course, the development of a social practice pedagogy and the authors do not leave that intention unclear. The book includes prescribed steps and methods supporting the goal. The Pedagogy Group, one of the contributors, give insights on teaching principles that educators with commitments similar to their own might find useful. As well, there are additional essays, there are interviews, and the sections continue with a wide variety of social action lesson plans.
What does it mean, Black Lives Matter? That's what someone I've known for the past eleven years asked me. Another person, who has called me a friend, posts on Facebook that BLM is a racist organization, not unlike or as bad as the KKK he said. The Attorney General of the United States says that "the lockdown" is a civil travesty only 2nd to slavery in this country. These are troubling questions and comments, to say the least.
I cannot even recall a day of the past calendar year that I could not turn on a news program or read in the Economist or Atlantic Monthly, or the NYT, or whatever, and not expect to hear about some new or ongoing protest. Largely they all seem to have a common thread. They commonly are protests by people versus the governments they have an expectation of. They are expecting the civil services of safety, security, and economic stability.
I have nightmares that stem from thoughts of all the protests, the fears I have about the possible outcomes, and there is no one to take these thoughts to. They're stuck inside.
So, lately, what I do when I feel something as troubling or exciting is have conversations with family, friends, and associates who feel the same concerns (though they may or may not feel the same about the cause, effect, or potential solutions). Almost invariably some thought on how I could present the feeling in a form that might resonate with others. If I were a cartoonist I'd make witty or sad cartoons. But, what I am is a feeling individual and am in search of a medium to express these feelings bottled up inside.
Forms and video are the first thoughts that come to my mind whenever I wish to create a representation for what I am thinking or feeling is worth the time an energy. While I may be a budding artist activist, I'm really just wanting to connect with others that feel what I feel...give us both something to focus upon, something that embodies the feeling that resoundingly affects us, even if differently.
I'm thinking of the many ways I can represent myself. A sculpture. I see a head that is a great representation of me...recognizable in proportion and contours. But I want it to be dynamic, to be expressive. The stoic face that everyone sees is not the person that lives behind that face. I'm sure we all can say that to some degree. The face everyone sees is not fully expressing what we feel or think. So my sculpture is a chance for me to expose that face, or those faces. Having seen some work by Tony Oursler, and other artist using screens and projection video, that would be the approach of my choice.
But, it cannot stop there...
Books have always been a wonderful thing for me. As a child growing up in a NYC ghetto, I used to seek refuge from the heat and the violence in the public libraries. I would duck the fare and sneak aboard the NYC subway to go to midtown Manhattan to go to the super large main branch...then I'd walk 40 blocks to the Museum of Natural History to spend the rest of the day looking for some of the things I'd read about. Yet, I have to say that I am amused at the child-like feeling I have at discovering a new category of reading. Books, a thing I have always loved, now mean even more to me, however,
as I endeavor to have a deeper understanding of my own passion to create, I find that considering the ideas and perspectives put forth by other artists is like adding compost to my own creative spirit. I used to get great joy out of reading science and reference books, but now find it an indescribable pleasure to consume information about art, artists, and history.
On this site, I have begun the list of books I have (or have begun to) consumed during my MFA education, and perhaps beyond if this blog continues. Click HERE to go to my bibliography.
Art As Social Action...
This wordy post feels like one of the least important, but necessary posts I have made thus far. I feel it is unimportant because I don't believe that I'm really attempting to respond to the book, and I am not taking the time needed to effectively communicate an worthy review of it. On the other hand, I believe it to be necessary in the sense that it is helping me to develop more of a practice of capturing my thoughts in general. Blogging feels somewhat unnatural to me, yet I am beginning to find a connection to my thinking process in it. I spend a staggering amount of daily time thinking about the purpose for my art, and the methods I want to use to express the ideas I want it to communicate. Unfortunately, I have not documented a lot of this thought. I have made scores of sketches, and had hundreds of conversations, and now I am starting to feel the desire to capture more of these thoughts and post conversation summaries. So without further ado,
I was more than ecstatic upon reading the Introductory Essays section. If all non-science and mathematics classes had taken the approach Chloe Bass talks about in her Where Who We Are Matters... essay, I believe there would generally be a significantly deeper and broader engagement by students. The idea of social engagement and any academic subject, I mean the idea of connecting the subject to its relevance in the lives of students is precisely what is missing from most classes. There is the academic concept of a subjects' relevance, and there is the discussion of relevant issues and then backtracking their connection to the academic subject. In my humble opinion, this is what is most effective about what Chloe Bass' example class.
The second and last essay in the section is Pedagogy as Art, by Mary Jane Jacob. In that essay, she refers to a lot of Joh Dewey perspective, mostly from one of his writings titled Education as Politics. In her discussion it is illuminated that public schools gradually placed less value in and less funding toward the arts as part of core curriculum. I lived through a period of public education in New York City, where I can say that was quite evident. In elementary school, I recall there being two art classes four or five periods per week. One would be visual, and the other would be musical. Then, by middle school, I remember having only the option for one or the other, and there being little to no support for it. If you could not afford an instrument then it was first come first serve, and there were only about 2 or 3 of each kind of instrument available in a school of perhaps a couple thousand students. So, by high school, I had lost interest in music...of course there is a lot to unpack in that conversation, however, the point is that I saw very very little emphasis and waning support from the school system during my years.
The next section of the book really stoked the fire in me. I am engaged in art for its value as my social action. While my aesthetic sensibilities are nearly as broad as a food critics palate, and I deeply appreciate the opportunity to experience art of any medium, I find art that is social, psychological, and some times political in nature to be most stimulating. I believe that I am engaged more when the art begins to speak about our underlying philosophical perspectives. And, to a great degree, I am finding these next chapters speaking to that person in me.
Had a conversation with Professor Wascovich this afternoon around 2:30p, but it took 6 hours for the thoughts to gel. Now, my hands are ready to act but I have trouble until I have a plan. I am filming and have to get my actors, etc. and they will want to know what the plan is. So...The gist of what came out of what we talked about this afternoon is that my work would benefit from an uncoupling of the components of one of my big ideas. It was too much like a smorgasbord, and well, nuff said, I will take that advice.
It occurred to me this evening that I have been working on these pieces for almost two years now. I've been picking the brains of Professor Wascovich, Merrill, and Daun's and friends who are studying art along side me, for even longer than that actually, and I have not forgotten any of the important stuff they have said.... So some of my ideas might seem well formed...but, I am doing all that I can to consider the current influences, and stretch my thinking that much more.
The first I'll work on is called Polizoms...
Originally, I envisioned Polizom as a piece that surrounded a couple of my other pieces. They are of the same conversation, just separate pieces.
However, this piece can be made to stand alone. It could be projected onto the exterior of many sides of a building (such as the church that one of my cohorts, Jareth Arcane, had found)...or a similar building. It can also be projected onto a holographic foil or simply a piece of material that acts the same as a rear-projection screen. The material could be left to hang free, and I can envision this material hanging from the eaves of any structure. For example, the covered picnic space would be interesting. Or!, if I could use some of the holographic foil I have discovered, I could project map the film onto the foil and it could appear as if the subjects are present at the picnic space we talked about in class.
Anyway, my general idea is outlined as this:
Influenced and Inspired...
To be frank, I think I might actually like blog posting, if I can figure out what I am supposed to talk about or how (more importantly) I should talk about it. I love to talk, and I do a lot of it, but how to make it short and sweet...does that matter...am I talking to myself, am I talking to a fan, or a random reader? Ugh... On the other hand...
Visiting the bank...
So...what I did not mention in the brief talk about my process is that I am always in process.
I am always thinking about art, I am fortunate that the general structure of my life, currently, somewhat supports that thinking. I spend hours talking with my closest friend, my wife, and hours talking with my 2nd closest friend currently who is a UNT MFA Documentarian. I think that talking about and looking at art are the most important part of my process.
It turns out that since, YTTW! was installed, and then COVID19 struck the USA headlines, there has been no shortage of inspirational experiences, and of course the protests have also inspired me to think on my reactions, and to come up with ways to unlock discussions about those feelings of mine, which I presume are similar to feelings of others. Or, perhaps they are in direct contrast to some others' feelings.
In any case, I had begun in late January to consider other works that I might labor to produce over the next 2-3 years.
Above is some of my 'Memory Boarding'...my way of reminding myself what key elements make up an idea...This is for Hacked or Polizoms...
Echos of the opening statement are resounding today. Calls for less government, or defiance in protest of what is seen as ineffective and corrupt government are in effect following the fundamentals written in this book by Henry David Thoreau.
HDT had a direct and unfiltered boisterous manner of communicating his point-of-view. Speaking out against self-indulgent, inept, or ineffective, and abusive government. He presented no uncertainty that his attitude was to stand up against such control over his livelihood. He defined good government that which is acted out by men of good conscience.
By that very point, it is noted that he operated on some assumptions which were probably not largely true then, and very clearly questionable now. His promulgations are premised upon the idea that there are corporate or government leaders who are of good conscience.
While I believe that his principles, such as .... are sound and respectable, I do not believe that they take into account issues or complications which have grown in proportion to his time. Issues and complications which exponentially magnify the difficulty in finding common ground solutions to the mounting issues surrounding our complex society today. For example, He does not seem to account for the cases where there are multiple 'good' men standing on multiple sides of an issue, all assuming that they are right while they are in polar disagreement with each other.
HDT was a proponent of the school of the "unbending will." And, not only was he a member, he was the 'Hair Club' President. Just kidding. His presentation did not appear to be one that promoted discussion of government issues as much as standing against the government that he believe was generally faulty. I did not feel that his considerations were inclusive, they appeared to be exclusive to his own ideals, and his own concerns. Essentially, I suggest, his philosophy was one of 'every one agree with me regarding the government and what is righteous, or you are a slave or follower of that which is lame.'.
Art & Activism...Make Work!
The Great East Texas Road Show.
(Exploring the concept of putting work into a space in the area known as East Texas.)
To recap, in my statement I mention that my work is a combined effort to do some deep introspective self-portraiture, and to talk about the complexities of contemporary America, focused on the divisive and fear-mongering nature of the two principal parties of our government. Today, I believe that everyone could and perhaps should be engaging in this conversation...for me, well,
I've been working on my 'process' for about a year now. Actually, whatever process I have is partly due to the years that I have spent problem solving as an operational software consultant. Developing software for many different types of corporations.
However, although the problem solving is important, it is not the part most people want to talk about I think we mostly like to hear about the creative aspect of an artists process. Which, for me, was firstly simply a matter of inspirational experience, and response to the experience. The response, to elaborate, was always a set of questions...what is it that I am feeling about the experience, what visually might summarize my feeling and embody the subject, and last but not least...is there similar work that I have seen?
For example, with regard to YTTW!, First was the experience; it was a television show that depicted an expression of stereotyping on the part of a law enforcement officer. I was not expecting my own reaction to the comment, but I thought about it more deeply than usual. The,, that week I kept on seeing more of the same from many people. So I thought, hmm, I should write a short essay on the subject, and how I think we have come perhaps innocently to a place where the kind of reference was not unusual.
At some point I realized wait, no one wants to read my essay. But maybe, I could put together something photographically that would speak to the issue. This thought took me through weeks, and then it occurred to me that I had seen an exhibition that presented people in a way that I thought would speak to my issue. That photographers name is Richard Avedon, and there was another that who had an aesthetic I like and also captured people in a way that uplifted them. His name is Irving Penn. Both had a clean and beautiful style....Avedon also had scale. I liked all of that and figured out how to say what I felt they said but say it my way.
From then on it was a matter of working on the envisioned piece.
I spent a lot of time, consulting professors, and a contact that I had who had previously operated a gallery, and asked all the questions that would be pertinent. Does my idea say what I wanted it to say, what did it say that I did not want it to say...and I considered those responses. Don't get me wrong, it is a very small circle of people. I heard it said once, keep you circle of insiders small. I'm a little adventurous, in that I asked people who were outside of the academic circle for their reaction...but my processes is to respond where I can, without loosing the core vision.
I don't know that I will continue this way, but so far it is working. I've got a bunch of ideas that I propose to potential audiences and consider their reactions. Perhaps only a little, but enough that I believe in the end that my work speaks what I hope it to.
You, Them, They, We!
Spring 2020 was the debut exhibition of this installation. I was given the opportunity to install this work at Brazos Gallery of Richland College, Richardson, TX,
A little more than a year in the making...my inspiration happened in a moment. Perhaps that moment was led up to by a lifetime of experiences and thoughts, but this work in a conscious thought came about in just one instant while watching a television program. ...
The processes that led to the installation was very clear in my mind. For one reason, perhaps, because I had spent a couple of decades as a consultant looking at problems and defining solutions and the action plans for them.
Initial inspiration: Examine the feeling and propose what to do with it
Each one of these parts came from thought about the above: Essay / Images / Video
In-situ experience, capture, next steps...
PHAFL: The Manifest Vision
It really did come to me one night. It was the night following a day of having a few images critiqued as part of the Business Practicum class for my BFA. They were photos I created after walking through a door that had recently been opened in my thinking. I go to a therapist who helps me understand more about myself, with regard to managing anxiety and Mild Bipolar disorder.
Well, it was between these new images, therapy, and hours of ruminating, that I discovered how PHAFL ...an acronym that I've come up with to describe this new vision... is how or why Art is Forward for me. PHAFL It’s what I think of when I muse about my purpose or my goals as an artist. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface, and I cannot stop scratching at it. It is my guiding principle.
One of my recent professors firmly put me on a path that has road signs. But those road signs are mostly questions, not direction or destinations. They popup just as I am about to take a step. I frequently see the one that asks “what is the guiding principle” at work, or being applied…
I’ve been asking myself this and many other questions about my thoughts and inspirations. I have many…it' is somewhat of a curse. I envy the artist that has deep focus. Two minutes of me sharing the breadth of my life’s endeavors and you will instantly understand what I mean. Now, I do not intend to imply that I have not had focus…I have typically excelled at all that I chose to engage in…well, maybe I should say I had good to great experiences with a great many things I have engaged myself in. I have also had some spectacular failures, some of which have left some deep scars on me, and even upon my family. But, I digress…
Tonight, I was looking at the latest video posted on YouTube under the name Carrie Mae Weems. I find her work triggering of inspiration in me. However, occasionally, a trigger may simply make me want to review my ideas and look them over for ways to get to a deeper place in the feeling that sparked them…or simply to rewrite them with a deeper understanding of what I want to say artistically, to review how I am saying it. Tonight I just found myself examining interconnected-ness of a few thoughts and ideas I’ve had recently.
I started writing at about 8pm while watching an episode of PBS Space Time on spinning black holes. Then I recollected that one of my professors offered the guidance that I should begin maintaining a digital repository of journalling and documentation of my processes.
12:52am now and feeling like I I can get a bit of sleep now. These days, since my blood seems like it has become like some source of creative energy…I find myself up for hours spilling ideas and thoughts on to paper, on to 3x5 cards, or the pages of yet another notebook. I’ve got boxes now. If I do not write down these thoughts they will not let me sleep. I will remain awake until my body wants to sleep but my responsibilities say…oops it’s time to get ready for work.
At this moment, I simply want to put it down for the first time, that the overarching message I want to express in the art I will create is meant to be a reflexive body of work speaking about my PHAFL. That is, it is about my Pain overcome by Hope, and my Fears overcome by Love….not talking about storybook love, but a love that I was born with; a love for the complexity of the universe, and simultaneously the simplicity of a cloud-free blue sky. I love knowledge..and it arrests my fears.
I am at a place in my growth as an artist that drives me to want to express vision and ideas in ways that compel others to think along side me…or perhaps recognize a similar vision or insight in themselves. Simultaneously, I wish to express the thoughts of my heart with respect to the pains and fears that I imagine I have in common with many others.
Sometimes if feels like a tug-of-war, sometimes if feels like they, these feelings these inspirations, they know each other, and they agree for a moment or two to work together. When they do, I try to share the thought or otherwise document it….preserve that syzygy of creative energy in the form of an object.
As I continue this journal, I will talk more specifically about what I do to encourage the sparks of inspiration that arise within me and how I work them into ideas I believe can be manifest. I will also begin talking about the current list of artists I feel influence me
OK, about time to recharge…
Rob J Phillips