Thursday, April 11, 2019

Listening to the materials as a riddle

She brings flat affect and flat materiality into the storefront.
She brings in spools of yarn that are made of silvery, plastic industrial waste leftovers for knotting and knitting.
She brings in splatter-painted, mat-finished canvas for carving out ancient bird-like creatures to hang in the window as a shadowy effect.
She brings in bags of discarded clothing for collective wearing and sharing, recirculating the not-yet-dead fibers.
She brings in stuff.  

The ineffability of the materials placed in her hands, as she knots, threads and tears, creates openings for her to be made by and made with her materials (Bennett, 2010; Ingold, 2013). Listening to the materials as a riddle, she plunks herself down in a chair with a cup of tea, figuring, “threading, felting, tangling, tracking, and sorting,” making fabulations, making worlds, and making stories (Haraway, 2016, p. 31).

She is in a mode of making that anthropologist, Tim Ingold (2013) calls an alchemical process where the “experienced practitioner with knowledge of the properties of her materials,” senses what is possible, and uses knowledge made “out of a lifetime of intimate gestural and sensory engagement in a particular craft” (p. 29). Potential in this case, leaves a palatable and physical trace, trailing along the floor as a silky blue spool of yarn waiting to be taken up.

She belongs to a we-that-makes together. The ‘We’ is made up of a collection of public school art teachers who inhabit a storefront in a northwest neighborhood in Chicago. Here, a city block of storefronts was acquired as part of eminent domain two and half years ago by a local university.  Now, frozen buildings stand in a city block, glossed over with a vellum coating in each storefront window, arresting time and development. Nothing is happening and yet, something is being made and lived inside 3412 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Teachers in our collective find they are being asked to “do more and cost less.” The sense of fatigue and demoralization is felt most palatably as teachers come into this space yearning for a social latch and place of release. Doing nothing at the storefront is a radical gesture.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Exhausting the whole of the possible

The philosopher Gilles Delueze (1998) in his essay "The exhausted" says:

"Being exhausted is much more than being tired," It's not just tiredness. I'm not just tired in spite of the climb." The tired person no longer has any (subjective) possibility at his disposal; he therefore cannot realize the slightest (objective) possibility. But the latter remains, because one can never realize the whole of the possible; in fact, one even creates the possible to the extent that one realizes it. The tired person has merely exhausted the realization, whereas the exhausted person exhausts the whole of the possible." (p. 152).

Exhausting the whole of possible means that we come here exhausted and exhaust possibilities in the space of the exhausted (a storefront left vacant for two years).

Deleuze further states that there are 4 ways of exhausting the exhaustable:

1) forming an exhaustive series of things
2) drying up the flow of voices
3) extenuating the possibilities of space
4) dissipating the power of the image

With this criteria in mind, viewing Devin's writing to "Dear Lost Man" exhausts the whole of the possible through layered entries and additional hand written scrolls of her entries to her husband on the inside of the space. She keeps a journal of her entries and writes them down at all hours of the day.

Each day she comes to the storefront she heads up to the front window and writes her entries to her lost husband.

Inspired by the French conceptual artist/provocateur, Sophie Calle who invited 107 outside interpretations of a "breakup" e-mail she received from her lover the day he ended their affair, Devin brings her private ruminations into the public realm.

Unable to speak directly to her estranged husband Devin writes: "Dear Lost Man . . ."


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Inside meets outside, outside comes in

We have been offering various invitations for the public to engage with us or delight in spontaneous play. 

Taking a clay sculpture

Touching the googly eyes on the post-its

The porousness of the outside world is always 
there whether its through activities in the back alley, or bodies pressed against the window, or visits from 
University folks to the space.

Mike from the university inspects our leak

Monday, June 4, 2018

Composing, de-composing, re-composing a life

On May 12th Megan Pahmier, an artist and teacher from Brooklyn, NY visited us at the storefront. She invited us to think about the space through the following prompts:

• Activate existing phenomena (wind, gravity, light . . .)
• Connect 2 things to one another
• Create a line (a path, a fence, a column . . .)
• Mark a site (a landmark, a memorial, a space for  . . . )
• Change the viewer/participant's perspective
• Play with scale (the size of the things in relation to one another)
• Make something visible that was previously invisible

We spent the day making at the storefront.

Watching a video of Merle Ukele 
talking about her "Maintenance art"

Liz drawing

Bridget talking with Gloria

Agnes Martin drawing

Mountains from the outside

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Marking the space

Yesterday (Thursday April 19th), the space called out to me to mark it and so I did. Germania, (a collective member who will appear at the next meeting) joined me in this marking. We both took black charcoal sticks and walked the circumference of the space dragging our chalk, tracing the contours of the space, passing by each outlet, marking just above the trim line. Walking in and out of the different rooms with our charcoal stick felt like the first visible transgression of the beige walls. How could such a simple gesture free the body and mind?

Bridget sketching

Bridget's monsters on the door
Peeking through the frosting

Germania's poem

Bridget came to the space Monday night with pink foam insulation boards and began gluing and cutting the material. We talked about social practice as she sprayed the words OPEN on the foam board. Her beautiful dog, Dizzy guarded the space with intermittent growls as shadows passed by in the frosted window.

Bridget uses a hot carving knife by the back door. We offset the smell of burning foam with Mexican incense.

Bridget using the dry carving knife to work with the foam

Bridget's door deconstruction 

Jia came to the storefront this afternoon (Saturday April 21st) with materials and a project in mind but then the ideas were interrupted by other material offering in the space. 

I asked Jia to help me take the frosting off of the old door downstairs in the basement. We repurposed it on our front door although it's mounted in a haphazard way. The effect of the frosting on the door from the inside feels like a soft blanket of snow covering the ground. Now we are insulted from the outside world except for a small opening at the top of the door. This softness quiets the space. I understand how frosting in a landscape of buildings acquired through eminent domain has a softening effect. It wipes out the memory of people inside. 

Jia fills in various spaces with semi-dry acrylic paint.

Pat plays the singing bowl in the meditation space
by the front frosted windows

Last week Melody and I attempted our taxes at the space. Before diving into the taxes we talked about a book she is loaning me called The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. It's hard to say if Maggie Nelson's word set me in motion marking the walls or if I just felt it was time to break with the clean and naked walls of the space. 

Melody sets up a writing center

Earlier on Sunday morning Donna came by with a dress form. This form appears to have been for a man, straight waist line and no breasts but as I read The Argonauts I think maybe this form doesn't have to be limited to a man's body alone. 

Donna pinning her form

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

We're in the new space - 3412 W. Bryn Mawr

Listening through the window 

to the world outside our space

Open, but not quite public yet. 

We're still in a place of going inward.

An adult says to a child as they walk by, 

"plants and animals die too . . . "


Chasing the solemnity of the sunset down the street,

the light installation in the front window is dimming for the night


Can open space clear the mind?

Can a neutral palette have an anti-spasmodic effect on the body in contrast to our over-stimulated environments in our schools?

What does a surveillance window (behind the table) invite for our site-specific work? 

Chairs for listening to the outside world seeping in through the windows.

Students scream with delight. 

Spring break is here.