Thursday, January 24, 2019

Public Forum: The Future of Work

In conjunction with the exhibition titled Currency: What do you value?, 516 ARTS presented a public forum on January 10 at 516 ARTS examining the future of work. Moderated by Shelle Sanchez (Director of Cultural Services, City of Albuquerque), the panelists were: locals Sarita Nair (CAO, City of Albuquerque), Solve Maxwell (blockchain entrepreneur and musician), and guests from Austin, Texas Steven Tomlinson (chaplain, seminarian and business mentor/coach) and Eugene Sepulveda (Capital Factory, Culturati, advisor to mayor of Austin). The packed audience included a mix of artists, the general public, people from the City’s Cultural Services and Economic Development Departments, and business and technology organizations that 516 ARTS invited including The BIoScience Center, CNM’s Deep Dive Coding, Cultivating Coders, FatPipeABQ, Impact & Coffee, New Mexico Technology Council and TEDxABQ, among others. The air was buzzing with all of these folks in the room together!

What big shifts do we see coming in how, where and why we work? Steven emphasized that automation and globalization are almost certainly going to continue, causing mass upheavals in employment and re-definition of work. If there is a guaranteed livable wage what will we do? Evidence points to very socially productive activity…spontaneous re-deployment, collaboration and engagement. The increased value of tech-enabled “high leverage artistic talent” presents opportunities for creative people to impact and express ideas on a larger scale, to create those things that only humans (as opposed to A.I.) can create. These changes present an opportunity to pursue meaningful work instead of just money.

Solve pointed out that this is a time to erase borders and collaborate globally, and that innovations like blockchain can provide intellectual property royalties to every contributor to a project, without clumsy and expensive contracts and middlemen. Artists are involved in constructing and communicating new realities in virtual settings.

Panelists Solve Maxwell & Steven Tomlinson
Within the emerging workplace, Eugene emphasized the value of putting the right people together in teams, and evidence was showing that successful innovation requires artists who see things in new ways. Stephen pointed out the challenge to artists in letting go of the anguish of personal expression when participating in the workplace, and instead channeling their prophetic vision in service to others. He highlighted the work of Allison Orr (Trash Dance) and her emphasis on the choreography of labor.

Sarita questioned the inevitability of these larger changes, and worried that the economic transformations suggested by the other panelists were yet another hurdle for those people (especially in New Mexico) left behind or disadvantaged by previous transformations (such as industrialization and white collar professionalization). Artisan and manual labor still play a role locally and could be emphasized in the future.

Sarita Nair
Are those with wealth/mobility the only ones who can afford and benefit from risk? Eugene concurred that there is reason for caution based on past inequities, but good reason for seeing abundance of opportunity in the current direction. Concern about risk may make us miss opportunities, especially since smart corporations are now valuing and mandating diversity and civic engagement at all levels. On the micro scale, Sarita wanted to see women and communities of color control and own their own production, and sees the City of Albuquerque’s role in providing tools to help these start-ups engage.

There was discussion of the need for bold experimentation and constant testing of innovative ideas by cities and civic institutions, and of the role of artists in developing those ideas and providing visions of change. Power and money are seen as only magnifying existing structures, while art, community dialogue, and personal contact are seen as the engines that connect us to our humanity and to a sustainable future. At the same time, Eugene pointed out that the workplace may be one of the last truly integrated places in our lives, where we intersect with individuals form other political, ethnic, gender, and religious groups, and emphasized the need to program civic, cultural and arts dialogue into the work environment.

Overall, panelists agreed that within the context of technological and workplace upheaval, definitions of success are being questioned. New emphasis is on community, connection, and the pleasure of shared experiences, with money seen as a tool to achieve these ends rather than an end in itself.

Panelists’ Suggestions:

Essential Reading:

Sarita: Secret Skin Podcast by Open Mike Eagle
Solve: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, Off the Chain Podcast
Eugene: Kara Swisher, Box Podcast
Steven: The Wealth of Humans by Ryan Avent

Favorite Economist:

Sarita: Amartya Sen
Solve: John Mason Clark
Eugene: Paul Krugman
Steven: Amartya Sen, Kenneth Boulding, Thomas Picketty

Favorite Artist:

Sarita: Wendell Berry, Prince, Barclay Hendricks
Solve: Thomas Christopher Haag
Eugene: Julie Speed
Steven: Wendell Berry

Currency: What do you value? is on view through February 23, 2019 at 516 ARTS
516 Central Ave. SW, Albuquerque, New Mexico    open Tue – Sat, 12-5pm
Instagram: @516_arts
Facebook: 516artsABQ

Video courtesy of Melinda Frame/Frame + Work

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Landscapes of Life & Death

Donna J. Wan

Landscapes of Life & Death
by Mary Anne Redding
Guest Curator

The exhibition, Landscapes of Life & Death, offers a poignant opportunity to look at life, loss, death and the fragile ecosystems we inhabit. Spanning emotionally fraught landscapes of human death as well as environmental landscapes of devastation and renewal, six contemporary photographic artists, Lynne Buchanan, Kevin Horan, Marietta Patricia Leis, Ella Sala Myers, Kevin O’Connell and Donna J. Wan, address the nuances of loss and grief, both for themselves and for the planet, by examining our intimate connections with nature. The idea of death generally makes people uncomfortable, especially when it’s the intimate experience of human death, the death of a beloved pet, or the mass destruction of life and landscape after a devastating fire. Yet many artists explore the shape of loss as a meditation, whether through contemplation of their own passing or through a more universal meditation on loss and grief. Many artists are exploring the no-longer-subtle effects of climate change on the landscape, and on those of us who inhabit altered lands. Photographs, grounded as they are in the “real”—or at least some approximation of reality given digital interventions—reveal a unique vision of the cycles of life and death, often in a public setting. How do contemporary photographic artists grapple with the nuances of loss, of death and life, on both a personal scale and the broader scope of a seared landscape or endangered wildlife inhabiting polluted waterways and lands?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Experiments in Cinema v12.3: The Cubano Edition

Experiments in Cinema v12.3: The Cubano Edition

Experiments in Cinema is an annual celebration of international, cinematic undependence. This Basement Films festival brings the global community of alternative moving image artists to New Mexico as a way of inspiring a new generation of media activists to recognize the value of their voices and to participate in shaping future trends of cultural representation. Experiments in Cinema screens approximately 100 films from over 35 countries in addition to hosting unique lectures, workshops and a regional youth program that features films made by New Mexican high school students.  

Expanding Video is a pop-up exhibit that mirrors the mission of our festival, offering attendees a cross section of works that speak to our understanding of the depth and breadth of the current sate of the (media) art. To this end, we try to be inclusive while also challenging our own aesthetic predisposition. Expanding Video, and the films and programs presented at the Guild Cinema (our other festival venue), are expressions of this mission. In this exhibit of media-based installation work, not only are we featuring works that embrace new technologies, but also those that look back to embrace what we like to call dead technologies.  And, at the risk of suggesting a false binary, we would like to think that we are also presenting works that study “everything in between.”  
The title, Expanding Video, is borrowed from Cuban media scholar Yainet Rodriguez. Rodriguez who is one of five Cuban scholars who Experiments in Cinema is hosting as part of our festival’s special focus on Cuban media art this year. Yainet is presenting a program that explores time-based installation work from that island country in conjunction with this pop-up exhibition. One might note that amongst the works in this exhibition is Three In One Flags by Cuban artist, Nestor Siré.

I am often asked to define undependent cinema (sometimes referred to as experimental, personal or the alternative screen), which is a fair question considering the dynamic nature of the form. Unlike a Western, romantic comedy or horror movie, the parameters and tropes of cinematic undependence are much more slippery, as they necessarily move and oscillate in challenging and unexpected ways. Consider how, back in the 1930s, Georgia O’Keeffe experimented with paint and canvas in terms of how one might re-envision the way a landscape can be represented on a rectangular surface. Or, think about how a scientist might develop a hypothesis and then stage an experiment to explore the validity of his/her assertion. These are all illustrations that suggest possibilities for assessing and interpreting cinematic experimentation. 

I consider undependent, cinematic practitioners to be the traveling troubadours of our day. In the most egalitarian way, these artists are invested in sharing the news of the day (literally and often metaphorically), from their perspectives and from their particular corners of the world. These are works that speak from the heart. They are not tainted by boardrooms filled with marketing executives, burdened by multi-million dollar budgets or assigned value by Saatchi & Saatchi. Too often, the moving image/cinema is thought of as something that necessarily costs millions of dollars to make. If one believes in the cultural importance of the arts, imagine if a painting necessarily cost millions of dollars to make, we would be culturally bankrupt.  The moving image arts have a responsibility (like all the arts) to deliver a vital, barometric read of the human condition. To this end it is the goal of Experiments in Cinema to offer works that speak to this responsibility, while also offering opportunities for engagement and, most importantly, participation. Go make a movie (that doesn’t cost millions of dollars to craft) or a time-based installation, and then share it with EVERYONE!

 Bryan Konefsky
    Founder/Director, Experiments in Cinema
    President, Basement Films

Decolonizing Nature

Decolonizing Nature
Chloë Courtney & Lara Esther Goldmann, Exhibition Curators

Decolonizing Nature brings together diverse voices to the conversation on geopolitical power structures, coloniality, and their severe impact on ecology and indigenous communities. Together the artists reveal the complexity, as well as the interconnected relationships between ecological and social injustices. Looking at the work of Allora & Calzadilla, addressing the military occupation and ensuing environmental and social injustices in Vieques, Puerto Rico, or the installation Return of a Lake by Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves, points to the continuous reproduction of hierarchical power structures. Return of a Lake represents both the artist’s research practice as well as her deep collaboration with the community of Xico in the Valley of Mexico, examining the impact coloniality (the continuation of the logics that made colonization possible) has had and still has on that community and its agricultural practices.

The relationships between many of the works reveal a broad concern with documenting, practicing, and revitalizing indigenous agricultural methods and ways of relating to our environment as an act of resistance. The work of New Mexico-based artist and activist Basia Irland meditates upon the historical, cultural, and environmental significance of various rivers that have been subject to industrial and political exploitation, destroying not only natural habitats, but also the communities who depend upon these rivers. Likewise, Guatemalan artist Sandra Monterroso recovers and restores both her own heritage as a Maya artist, as well as larger cultural practices, relating the tradition and process of dying textiles to the incremental but serious destruction of the land and water. Reconsidering these histories counters the systemic erasure of Maya existence and history in Guatemala. Similarly, the work of Carlos Maravilla Santos and Ehecatl Morales Valdelamar, a collective based in Mexico City, studies and collaborates with Xochimilco, a region which still reflects the canals, chinampas, and waterways that comprised the original structure of the city before colonization. Their community-based practice involves workshops, performances, and many collaborations with local advocacy groups to maintain these traditional and sustainable agricultural practices, reinforcing their importance and making them present within the larger urban environment of Mexico City. The importance of art and visual imagery as elements of social movements is abundantly apparent through the prints of Dylan AT Miner, which helped galvanize awareness and support for the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016, and point to the economic interests continuing colonial structures of power, and the consequences this has for land, water, and communities. The poetic photographs of Michael P. Berman allude to the physical displacement and fragmented identities caused by the implicit and actual violence of the borderlands, and the historical and continuing enforcement of hierarchies of power through structures such as race, religion, and capitalism.

The artworks included, with their potential to raise questions and provoke critical thought, show us a way in which we can begin to question the historical narratives and assumed knowledges that continue to dictate the conversations surrounding social, economic, ecological and political injustices. As such, Virginia Colwell’s installation destabilizes the parameters of predominant narratives of knowledge through its critical understanding of how museums, academies, and other institutions have systematically reified these histories, provoking a reconsideration of hegemonic thought and knowledge systems as well as which cultural practices are considered valid—or not.

In their various connections to specific communities and struggles of decolonizing histories, landscapes, and nature, these artists make the broad concepts of resistance, resilience, and revitalization tangible. The ways in which the works de-link from official narratives and recover memories, both individual and collective, remind us that art offers a powerful space from which to speak, and from which to decolonize.
We are incredibly grateful to the participating artists for sharing their work, which we strongly believe asks us to question hegemonic ways of understanding the world we live in, and pushes us as individuals to seek new ways of thinking, resisting, and connecting to the environment and each other.

The exhibition Decolonizing Nature at 516 ARTS was in conjunction the environmental justice conference Decolonizing Nature: Resistance, Resilience, Revitalization, organized by Subhankar Banerjee, Lannan Chair, Land Arts of the American West / Art & Ecology Program, UNM College of Fine Arts.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Karsten Creightney
Paper Visions 

His voracious curiosity about art’s role in history means we cannot avoid what Karsten Creightney has contributed to this moment in our voracious living history. Partly that’s because the scale of his offerings are dimensional not only in size, subject matter, materials. In his words, the heart of things is “worn on [his] sleeve.”

That advertisement for me advocates unabashedness combined with humility. Creightney refers to himself as a “very slow learner,” someone who in younger days felt worlds away from technical prowess of European Renaissance and Dutch masters, leagues apart from El Greco and Velasquez. Their times and subject matters appeared too far afield, a full understanding of what they portrayed or portended elusive. But it wasn’t much time before repeated open-minded returns urged by the safety of his family, his schools, their books, and those doors began to gradually swing open.

He discloses how aspects of his training, their emphasis on old ways of hierarchical mastery, are what turned him away from those previous eras of artistic practice. He strives instead to maintain a constant sense of autodidactism. “I never want to stop apprenticing.” Thus his tendency propels a commitment to liberal arts without fear of veering into unexpected or uncharted territories.

Retreats into the natural world also provide ongoing tutelage. Those and adventures in foraging, pulling materials from thrift stores and discarded books, layering them with matter and inquiry without caution about how they might transport him and his viewers into unexpected places. He says such improvisational impulses are in response, in part, to contemporary academic and art market fixations with conceptual art. The trick, according to Creightney, is not to fear ubiquity, not to fear subject matter if it veers hazardously close to derivative or what he refers to cheerfully as overplayed. (In fact, labels of all sorts be damned for their impositions and superficiality.) 

Arab Spring II, lithography, silkscreen,
ink & colored pencil on paper, 30 x 22 inches 

“If I want to paint flowers,” he laughs, “then gawd-dammit, I’m going to paint flowers.” 

Lightheartedness is part of how he renders what others might press into hackneyed imagery. How he’s capable of playing with and in contrast to a subject of conventional beauty the recurring flower figure in ways not prescribed by traditional precedents.

There were moments he wondered whether it was viable to fixate on a subject we find ourselves yawning at, glazed over at in a hospital waiting area or a sterile hotel room. It’s viable. With head-on pursuit of multiple mediums, offset and highlighted with multiple fields of information. With rabbit-skin glue to preserve the integrity of what others refer to as a canvas. With layers of pasted paper, thin mixtures of wax, varnish, linseed oil. With printmaking pressure that sinks one thin piece of Japanese parchment into a thicker base. It means great lengths to smooth it into a complete carrying vessel. And for work so antithetical to superficial, the surface is one of the essentials.

Speaking of precedents: What I read as (cheeky?) references to early Andy Warhol’s floral work, Creightney says are grateful and unabashed acts of homage. He loves, after all, that Warhol implanted a conversation with the culture of mass production still buzzing, loves learning through imitation by adopting some of the same processes that Warhol did in his frenzied pursuit of imitation. The Warhol way of making work implanted a kind of new dialect into the world of art, a license to give its practitioners, Creightney among them, an abiding lack of inhibition.

“It’s in his spirit that I’m stealing and borrowing.” (Again, laughing.) Such full transparency in methodology means weight and depth of his pieces manage to simultaneously wholly complement and counteract other forms of sincerest flattery or thievery. His Lagoon woman was “straight-up lifted” from Gauguin’s Woman By the Sea. (It had to be done. “She’s a gesture of pure beauty.”) There are also nods to David Hockney’s deconstructed Western landscapes photographs, though Creightney’s are an invocation of serenity, an idyll imagined rather than imprinted or constructed.

He’s considered making work more polished, more precisely packaged. Stints in academia instilled how to distill polished descriptives, but those exercises also taught him that those are “against my nature.” Rather he tries to exert a “push and pull between deliberate intention” and what materializes, morphed by reactions to the materials he collects and manipulates. Not immune to the manic barrage of political discourse that only seems to have picked up steam and vitriol and volume, “but it’s also so exhausting and infuriating, that I have to escape into my own worlds--peaceful worlds that only exist in the imagination.”

Karsten Creightney, Self Portrait as Walter Scott, 2016, collage, silkscreen, acrylic & wax on wood, 24 x 32 inches

Karsten Creightney, Lagoon, 2016, collage, silkscreen, watercolor, acrylic, oil & wax on canvas, 66 x 78 inches

And “I don’t want to shout,” he says, nor does he confront with aggression. Rather he extends an invitation, provides the space and time he’s been allowed in his own life for asking disconcerting questions, for expelling anger and frustration in compelling forms  rather than reacting. He’s seen people turn away hardened, lacking transformation, when they’re “immediately hammered with the point.”

His wariness of the potential of art to comment on civil society with exploitative methods is palpable. “I’m not living in the ghetto. Cops aren’t harassing me on a daily basis. Talk to me on the phone, and you’d probably not have any idea I’m black.” The question, then: Is the maker’s right to explore such subjects, to take any ownership, to benefit from an awful extreme?

A film that struck him, 13th, omitted Walter Scott’s killing by a Charleston police officer per wishes of Scott’s family. And yet a still frame trimmed out of the worldwide sharing of his visible death notice meant Creightney felt not only “fury” and horror, but that “as an artist it’s also my place to acknowledge countless things,” no matter how they incite feelings that simply cannot be contained. His Arab Spring II piece, for one: Creightney describes its background as a field of noise. But that field feeds crops, bloom bursting through what others see a desert. Not unlike the places he calls home, places that can peel  eyes open with drought or depletion, beauty brimming from a wilderness unaccustomed outsiders might overlook as too harsh, too brown, too barren. Too fertile to crave shelter.

Karsten Creightney, Outskirts, 2016, collage, watercolor, acrylic, oil & wax on canvas, 66 x 78 inches

— Margaret Wright
    Freelance journalist from New Mexico, residing in Washington, D.C. 

View the exhibition brochure here

Thursday, October 29, 2015

On the occasion of the completion of “Brainbow Alley”

by Suzanne Sbarge

I am pleased to announce the completion of “Brainbow Alley” by Larry Bob Phillips on the backside of the 516 ARTS building. In this piece, Phillips has created a mash-up of high and low culture, art history and comic books. The piece references Pieter Breugel the Elder’s masterpiece “The Triumph of Death,” in which a panorama of skeletons and humans are locked in an eternal battle. Unlike the anonymous, indistinguishable human faces that comprise Breugel’s macabre disaster-scape, the featured protagonists in “Brainbow Alley” include some familiar Albuquerque artists, professors, kids, grandfathers, dogs and community leaders.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Economics of Environmental Art Panel

By Sherri Brueggemann

At left: collector Chris Burmeister and curator/moderator Nancy Zastudil
I suppose for all artists the “new normal” has always been the norm for them – how do I fund my work? Regardless of if the art is object-based, performative or conceptual, there is always the question of how to generate meaningful revenue to allow oneself to be creative and obtain the materials, time and inspiration they need and seek. From sourcing extremely rare or exotic materials to visiting locations 100 miles down the highway or around the world, how do artists, especially those who are working in social practice or non-object based expressions, navigate the precarious balance between creative expression and capitalism? 

The October 3rd panel discussion at 516 ARTS on the Economics of Environmental Art was a brief but enriching conversation about that dilemma. With two artists, a curator, collector and gallerist on the panel, and a room full of the same as audience participants, the conversation provided insights into the nuanced values of art created about, and inspired by, our environment.

In David Throsby’s 2001 treatise on Economics and Culture (2001 Cambridge University Press), six distinct values of art contribute to its cultural value: aesthetic, spiritual, social, historical, symbolic and finally, its authenticity. Once a cultural value is established, the economic value is determined by either its private ownership value or its public good value. Environmental and ecological artists – or artists who are working within those subject areas as well as other political subjects – create art that can have both a private commodity value and public good value. According to the panelists, varying contributing factors affect both of these cultural and economic values and how environmental art is funded.

In describing a specific European artist who “sells” private conversations between himself and his patrons, panelist Chris Burmeister contributed the perfect metaphor for what I see most environmental art is at its core —a special conversation with an artist about the land, water, sky or nature on this planet, the third one from the Sun. First we must value the conversation with the artist before we can value the objectification or documentation about that conversation. As the collector on the panel, Burmeister summed it up well when he said, “…what provokes sells.” Environmental artists provoke, but how do they sell?

From left: Artists Ryan Henel, Jami Porter Lara and curator Patricia Watts
Patricia Watts, seasoned curator and non-profit arts director, provided a thumbnail overview of the evolving land art/ecological art aesthetics from the 1960’s to now, moving from objective (sculptural/materials/earth-based) to non-objective (didactic documentation only) and back again. While foundations, institutions and even government generously funded the non-objective, experience based art interrogations about, and remediation of, the environment during the 1980’s, more tangible outcomes are now expected. Foundations are asking artists to go beyond just “raising awareness,” they’re looking for art projects that will affect change, permanently. This brought up the question of permanent vs. temporary art, especially those publicly funded at the local level.

Artist Ryan Henel noted that cities and government agencies have implemented such highly developed infrastructure systems that often we no longer see the environment. Henel’s personal inquiry as an artist is, “How can the artist, and therefore art be holistically integrated into the design and building of these systems to help us keep seeing the environment?” Jamie Porter Lara, on the other hand is creating portable, easily privately owned, artworks that intentionally build on the continuity of environmental materials (clay) and cultural artifacts (vessels) but are transformed into an “activist object.” She makes things out of clay that this planet already has too many of —liter-sized plastic bottles, but in the ancient tradition of the Mata Ortiz pottery of Mexico. Her objective is to respect and carry on the ancient medium and process, but to leave “an ethical trace” as reference to who and where we are now.
Some of the best questions left on the group table, unanswered, include: How does an artist not become a “brand” that can eventually be at risk of going out of style and discarded while pursuing multiple scale objects that can be purchased by a variety of supporters? Is the subject of one’s art the “type” of artist they are (read, “label”), or is it how you work as an artist that defines what “type” of artist one is? Is making an object about the environment just illustrating the (environmental) problem? How is that different than reading about it in the news? And finally, how can an artistic experience be conveyed in ways other than the object that can still yield revenue?

Panel moderator and exhibition curator, Nancy Zastudil’s passion for answers to these questions clearly stems from her unending passion and desire to support artists. I share her sentiments and through these conversations maybe we’ll all find our most creative outlets to support artists, support art enthusiasts and support the growing need for all to live a creative and art filled life. Special thanks to 516 ARTS for hosting the panel and audience discussion amidst the incredibly inspirational exhibit, Knew Normal, up now through the end of October – go see this amazing art!

Sherri Brueggemann is the City of Albuquerque Public Art Urban Enhancement Program Manager and a member of the Advisory Board of 516 ARTS.