Vrindavan, India – 2008
I recently had to cut my artist statement down to 100 words for an application. It was hard to do, but now I think I like it better.
DO MORE WITH LESS!
I make art not by creating something new, but by reorganizing what’s already there. My process is resourceful, responsive, and playful. I spend as much time exploring and researching as I do making. I respond to my immediate surroundings, especially to found materials, so my work is often tactile and textured. Each material has unique formal properties, as well as historical, cultural, and environmental resonances.
My site and community based work keeps me grounded; I enjoy the challenges of working with and for a diverse audience. When making work for gallery settings, I enjoy greater focus and control.
Here’s a few more Grass Castles. All pics were taken in Vrindavan, 2008.
In April 2009, I had a pair of roller-skates altered to look like little cars. I gave them to a group of kids in Bangalore to play with.
Moving at a greater speed than a pedestrian and a lesser speed than a car or motorcycle, the kids negotiated their own path within existing traffic patterns. More playful than functional, these journeys provided an opportunity for non-linear uses of city-space and reflected on the dramatic changes in city planning and infrastructure to accommodate the increase in private vehicles.
You are probably wondering why one car is so much bigger than the other. I originally wanted to make several cars so multiple people could skate at once, and I was going to model them to scale after specific Indian cars! I ran out of time though, so we ended up with just two.
Thinking of using these on my Elastic City walk. They’re leftover from a sculpture I made in college. Little did I know that 8 years later I’d be using them for an entirely different purpose. Here is some context:
Viveiros de Castro was quoted by Graham Harvey:
‘Personhood and ‘perspectivity’—the capacity to occupy a point of view—is a question of degree and context, rather than an absolute, diacritical property of a particular species.'”
Diana Eck has written:
The central act of Hindu worship, from the point of view of the lay person, is to stand in the presence of the deity and to behold the image with one’s own eyes, to see and be seen by the deity… through the eyes one gains the blessings of the divine.”
In fact, a god is understood to be embodied by an image only when the eyes are added. Shops sell plastic eyes that can be attached to holy objects such as rocks, or to replace old eyes on existing statues.
Here are some holy rocks with eyes:
Here is a dung sculpture of Krishna at the moment when the artist is adding the eyes.
Here also is a remarkable earthwork by Shreyas Karle in which giant eyes were added to a mountain using stones and paint. With this action, Karle literally transformed the mountain itself into a god, or awakened the latent god within the mountain. Here, an object becomes a subject.
The Sandarbh Workshop for Site-Specific Art was one of the highlights of my time in India. It was founded by Mumbai artist Chintan Upadhyay in his home village of Partapur, in an attempt to show his friends and family what he does and what contemporary art is. (In India, contemporary art is more marginalized than here, especially in rural areas.)
The village hosts 10-day residencies a few times a year, bringing in artists from all over India and the world, and it’s mutually beneficial. The artists get to know the village in a way that wouldn’t be possible as tourists.
And the village residents are now so familiar with contemporary art that they’ve become good critical viewers of it.
The first 3 days are for getting to know the place. The hosts introduce you to different sites and communities, and show you where to get various materials.
You have the next week to make a site-specific piece. The hosts help you in any way they can.
I can’t think of a better way for an artist to travel.
Now Shreyas Karle is the director, and they’re branching out to other countries. They’ve just invited me to join them in Nijmegen, in the Netherlands this November, where they’re teaming up with a local arts org called Extrapool for another workshop.
I don’t know much about the Netherlands…..Amsterdam, Vermeer & Theo Jansen, global warming & flooding…. Apparently Nijmegen is the oldest city in the country, founded 2,000 years ago. But I guess I’ll know more soon.
P.S. Looks like Sandarbh India is accepting applications for a one month residency. See the link on their homepage.
This weekend is Wave Hill‘s “Festival Of Grasses”, and I’ll be leading a weaving workshop for their Family Art Project. I’d like to do some combination of a traditional dwelling design made from grass, with non-traditional materials worked into the grass. Kids will be making small patches in a separate room, which they’ll have the option of attaching to the structure. Here are a few things I’ve been looking at:
My “Temporary Monument”, 2006:
Taken in a village in Rajasthan, 2009:
Julia Sherman’s Room-A-Loom:
I just hung UV reflective curtains to block the summer heat.
They’re translucent during the day, and silver at night.
It brings me back to Partapur, where I patched together foil wrappers to make a covering for a migrant family’s house.
It was hot in the sun, picking the wrappers from a heap of trash. Washing them in buckets and in a lake.
Yesterday, riding on the air conditioned Path train, I looked over a woman’s shoulder at her magazine and saw my work looking back.
It’s a little blurb within a compilation: various things you can do, eat, drink, see, places you can go in New York to keep cool. I’m sure it’s the first and last time time I’ll see my work compared to Monet’s Water Lillies, Beekman’s Beer Garden, and ice cream sandwiches in the same breath.
Trees keep you cool. Can fake trees keep you cool?
“I wonder what is the source of this pleasure of ‘seeing the whole,’ of looking down on, totalizing the most immoderate of human texts.
“To be lifted to the summit of the World Trade Center is to be lifted out of the city’s grasp. One’s body is no longer clasped by the streets that turn and return it according to an anonymous law; nor is it possessed, whether as player or played, by the rumble of so many differences and by the nervousness of New York traffic.
“When one goes up there, he leaves behind the mass that carries off and mixes up in itself any identity of authors or spectators. An Icarus flying above these waters, he can ignore the devices of Daedalus in mobile and endless labyrinths far below.
“His elevation transfigures him into a voyeur. It puts him at a distance.
“It transforms the bewitching world by which one was ‘possessed’ into a text that lies before one’s eyes.
“It allows one to read it, to be a solar Eye, looking down like a god.
“The exaltation of a scopic and gnostic drive: the fiction of knowledge is related to this lust to be a viewpoint and nothing more.
“Must one finally fall back into the dark space where crowds move back and forth, crowds that, though visible from on high, are themselves unable to see down below?”
– Michele de Certeau, Walking In the City
1. Me – Last month – Jersey City from my studio window
2. Portrait of Margaret Bourke White, 1934, by Oscar Graubner (via What Every Girl Should Know)
3.. Still from the movie The Secret Of Kells
4. This Is Naive – Poscards From Singapore
5. Kathy~ (via Siege Fenetre)
6. Me – detail of Field Studies
7. Christie MacLean (via Siege Fenetre)
8. Me – Vrindavan, India – 2008