Single click thumbnails to enlarge and view as slideshow. All images copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Reid
All images copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Reid
The three week residency was incredibly rewarding, fast paced, and challenging. Courses took place at Uferstudios in Berlin. They typically ran from 9AM-6 PM, then students and staff reconvened at 7:00 for an hour and half presentation session. For these, the student body split into two rooms where three students gave a 15 minute overview of their work and goals for their MFA studies, followed by a ten minute Q&A Session. In addition, each Friday morning, practicing professional artists from around the world would give a 7 minute presentation of their work (Pecha Kucha). Afterwards, groups of eight students would go with one of the artist’s to present their work and get feedback. On the weekends, studio tours and vernissages of student (MFA and PhD) exhibits in Berlin galleries took place. To learn more about those events, see my other posts. The course descriptions below are only a small sample of the options students have for the residency.
Michael Bowdidge’s, The World as Sculpture, course for MFA and Certificate students
Inspired by the book The World as Sculpture: The Changing Status of Sculpture from the Renaissance to the Present Day by James Hall, Mr. Bowdidge exposed our interdisciplary class of artists to methods of making our work more sculptural. The course was exciting and felt very productive. By default, we received a thorough survey of the history of sculpture. Not only did the professor bring examples for each discussion, but asked us to also bring images and physical work to enhance the conversation. The following examples of some of the reading assignments and activities we did in the four day course.
1) Discuss reading assignment : Sculpture and the sculptural by Erik Koed
2) Work with a partner to combine two objects together in as many ways possible. Photograph the different iterations. Several minutes into the exercise, classmate and dancer, Jeca Rodriguez suggested giving a theme to the juxtapositions such as to make one the oppressor and the other the oppressed. My partner Claire Elizabeth Barratt, also a dancer, and I came up with over 20 ways to combine her hand with my umbrella.
3) Bring an example of artwork that is not sculpture but has something sculptural about it. I brought the links to Gabriel Dawe’s string installations:
4) Select an artwork from the previous class discussion and make it more or less sculptural.
Classmate Nethery Wylie shared Laleh Mehran’s installation Entropic Order http://www.lalehmehran.com/Entropic-Order, in which a programmed machine moves around a track on the ceiling, all the while, dragging a pendulum with it to draw traditional Islamic patterns in black “sand” on the floor. A motion detector senses people entering the room and moving about, which disrupts the action of the pendulum so that the perfection of its efforts is thwarted. Straight lines become wavy, shaky, and distorted. Therefore, this artwork functions as a way to comment on the futility of attempting to enforce a dogma, religious or not, because once human interaction comes into play, the static nature of “rules” is replaced by dynamic forces. It also reflects the instability of the Middle East.
I imagined adding spices commonly used in Persian cooking – paprika, cinnamon, and cumin to “draw” outlines to the negative space in the designs. Then using a piece of paper covered with double sided sticky graphics film to do a “rubbing”. What would hopefully remain on the adhesive tape would be an impression of the design from its sand and spices. The red and brown hues represent spilled blood of those who suffered within a turbulent and violent landscape. By transferring the image onto the graphics tape, the new image can also represent those who have migrated to flee the regime. They are only able to take a fraction of their culture with them. These steps are not meant to enhance her installation, as it needs none, but a way to help me achieve the goal of the exercise by playing with processes and materials. I have made a primarily subtractive process into a more sculptural work by using an additive (spices), subtractive (taking away with the tape), and replication (a copy of the original design). It was not unlike forming a sand mandala, and the same ideas of displacement and lost culture expressed in my response to her could be said for other cultures who make sand drawings, the Tibetans and Native Americans.
DAY TWO: Additive processes. Discussions of Modeling vs. Assembling.
1) Bring a sculptural artwork you have made and feel is not quite complete, then discuss how to make it more sculptural. I created this illustration created for a world music compilation I also selected the songs for. I infer three-dimensionality by layering origami fold lines for a pine tree on top of the world map image. In response to the exercise, I stated that to make it more sculptural, I would fold (model) the illustration into its intended shape. The pine tree can then be set upon the set list to transform from packaging design to sculptural artwork.
2) Assemblage is a term used by curator William Seitz for a MOMA show in 1961, called “That Art of Assemblage”, featured works by Duchamp, Schwitters, Cornell and others who combined things like trinkets, household objects, newspaper clippings, and train tickets to create compositions, combined with or without traditional mediums like paint. Seitz felt the term was more descriptive than “collage” for that particular body of work.
Reading assignment: Assemblage by George Marcus and Erkan Saka. Summary: Assemblage as a way to talk about chaos of modern world despite the daily structure which most of us live by. There are many possible ways to approach investigation into realms beyond clearly defined boundries. Discourse on temporary societies, a self-reflective description of an object, or a stage in a process are all examples of how assemblage can be used to explain intangible concepts. The ability to materialize such abstract ideas has had an influence on areas outside of art such as anthropological research. Marcus and Saka credit the success of the integration of post-structuralist ideas into social sciences to analytically detailed writings by theorists Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. This essay goes on to quote several social scientists who discuss how their work has been influenced by the theories of Deleuze and Guattari.
Finally, the writing expresses urgency that assemblage be handled carefully as to not become too structural or it runs the risk of losing it’s ephemeral quality. It is noted that during our current phase of globalization and rapid technological advancements, which are creating new behaviors in society, assemblage has a great deal of material to refer to and in a unique way from its original use in the early to mid 20th century.
3) Create a “Guattari and Deleuze assemblage”, meaning one which illustrates a step in a process. This is the train of thought that many conceptual artists use to develop their works. I thought about the process of coffee. The goal of coffee drinkers is to be more awake and sharp thinking. Therefore, I coffee stained a square piece of paper and origami folded it into a crystal (diamond). Further discussion was spurred regarding the fortune made by coffee moguls who do not practice fair trade and how the crystal (diamond) is not “clear”. It is brown, or “muddy” representing the possible side effects of drinking coffee vs. other types of beverages such as matcha tea, or physical practices which render us more alert such as yoga, improving our diets, or simply getting more sleep.
4) In the vein of Allan Kaprow’s 1967 installation “Yard”, which was a room of tires for people to interact with by jumping through, sitting on, standing on, or even throwing them, the class did a performative installation. First we each passed a piece of paper around that we had written one word that reminded us of the Transart summer residency, and then passed it to the person next to us until everyone had written their word on our paper. We chanted the following list in rounds during the performance: succinct, iconoclast, join, concepts, humid, tsunami, pleasure, becoming, awake, microcosm, fluid, flux, coffee, turnip, tinted, sprudel. To view the performance, visit: https://vimeo.com/106896282
DAY THREE: Subtractive processes. Carving, deleting (what this means in the digital vs. analog world), erasing
1) Inspired by Rauschenberg’s “Erased de Kooning” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGRNQER16Do), bring an artwork you have made and are willing to allow a fellow student to practice a subtractive technique on. After receiving each artwork, we parted for about 45 mins. then reconvened for our destructive surprise.
I built a diorama landscape study and my partner was the dancer, Jeca Rodriguez, who is originally from Puerto Rico. She turned my diorama into a performance! She was really nervous to do her idea, but I assured her whatever she wanted to do was okay. She took the assemblage outside and mangled it something fierce to make it look like her home after a hurricane. Then she had everyone take turns, like the community on her island, to try to repair a little bit at a time. It was really touching and even brought a tear to my eye.
Photos below taken by Michael Bowdidge.
I was given a silk scarf by artist, Dana Zurzolo, who silkscreens guns into clothing as a way to prompt conversations about guns in America. I cutout machine gun spray shapes resembling those found in comic books, drew hearts, blood, and tears in glitter pens, then also cutout bullet holes in the heart. Because this clothing was meant to appeal to a woman, just as hot chicks with guns are supposed to make women feel empowered, I changed the text about a school shooting that was printed on the scarf to read as if the atrocity was made by a woman. The text was also changed to draw attention to the language of guns and their reference to female body parts.
2) Inspired by John Cage’s 4”33, bring ‘nothing’ to class, but in a meaningful way that can be justified with regard to size / quantity / duration
DAY FOUR: Replicative processes. Copying, casting, copying, sampling
1) Replicate something in the nearby surroundings.
2) Replicate another artists work without directly copying it. Taking a que from Lawrence Yuxweluptun’s painting below, I sketched a still from a scene in my short film where a woman is dancing in Azteca clothing in front of a graffiti wall, except I drew the graffiti on her body.
3) Reading: The Precession of Simulacra by Baudrillard, which gave the four phases of abstracting an original object as the reflection of a basic reality, the masking and/or perversion of a reality, the masking of the absence of a basic reality, and the absence of any relation to reality.
4) Work from an image/sound/clip/movement and find ways to replicate it which allow you to traverse or reference the four phases. My idea will not translate well here…
Caroline Koebel’s, Wild Urbanity, course for MFA and Certificate students
Inspired by her sighting of wild foxes in Berlin, Ms. Koebel designed a course around combing art with nature in the city.
1) discussion of Joseph Bueys hare and wolf performances
2) viewing of the film “A Rabbit in Berlin”
3) readings from Darwin, da Vinci, and the thoroughly enjoyable The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature by David George Haskell
4) a tour of the archives of the Naturkundmuseum. Sad and fascinating highlights included: seeing Charles Darwin’s signature in one of his journals; blown glass sculptures of medusozoa and other small flowery looking sea creatures; rooms of skulls, skeletons, horns, and taxidermy; cases of nests and birds; lockers of skins; cardboard boxes of taxidermied animals, some with holes cut in the side so that stiff legs of a fast running feline can poke through; plastic bags of bats; weight lifting a fossilized dinosaur bone that must have been about 20 lbs although only 1.5 ft; a 4 ft long narwhal tooth; glass room of fish, snakes, and foxes preserved in alcohol.
5) lectures by scientists who study the wild boar and fox population in Berlin. FUN FACT! Some of the boars have been seen waiting at the traffic lights, for cars to stop, before crossing the street.
6) an excursion in the city to create work in response to nature found there
Anna Faroqhi’s, Double Lens, film essay workshop for MFA and Certificate students
1) screening and discussion of several historial film essays: “Ghosts for Breakfast” by Hanz Richter; “11 Variations on Rain” by Joris Ivens; “Night and Fog” by Alain Resnais; “Les Mains Négatives” by Marguerite Duras; and “Serious Games” by Harun Farocki, the instructor’s recently deceased father.
2) Each student was given a line from the German Expressionist poet, Jakob van Hoddis, to film a 30 second to three minute clip to be edited together. Some lines are missing from the film or slightly altered to suit the artists. My line was, “Into the tender green of the trees.” https://vimeo.com/106867894
In the Morning
A strong wind sprang upwards,
Opens the bloody gates of iron heaven,
Beats on the towers.
Brightly ringing loud and sinuous over the brazen plane of the city.
The sooty morning sun. Thundering trains on dams.
Golden angel-ploughs plow through the clouds.
Strong wind over the pale city.
Steamboats and cranes awaken by the dirty, flowing stream.
The bells of the weathered cathedral beat sullenly.
You see many women and girls going to work.
In the pale light. Wild from the night. Their skirts flutter.
Limbs made for love.
Into the machine and tedious labor.
Look into the tender light.
Into the tender green of the trees.
Listen! The sparrow is crying out.
And outside, in the wild fields,
larks are singing.
All images copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Reid.
Selected works from Mila Kunst Intermezzo #1
Selected works from Mila Kunst Intermezzo #3
Selected works from
Lindner Project Space
July 27, 2014
Selected works from Lindner Project Space
August 9th, 2014
a beautiful dance performance with a rocking chair about motherhood by Jeca Rodriguez
amongst other objects, book artist and Columbia College professor, Miriam Schaer displayed throughout the gallery, baby clothes embroidered with stinging quotes such as, “Your child is the best art work you have ever made. You don’t need to make any other art,” and “Your not having children is the biggest disappointment of our life. These clothes were put on baby dolls and photographed for her book, “The Presence of Their Absence”. To see more of her work, visit: http://miriamschaer.com/
a haunting performance, “The Maternal Line” by Valerie Walkerdine which is about learning to speak with ghosts by allowing them to have a way to speak, even if they do not exist, their memory still exists within us. Her work posits how art can help us what is being transmitted to us. How can we feel with the other as the womb conveys sound? She often uses threes in her work, for example a performance will begin with 1) a lost spirit not at peace, 2) entering the underworld as a half-being, 3) release. Her opening to this performance was to slowly walk through the gallery towards the winding staircase leading to the basement, all the while singing solemn atavistic sounds similar to Lisa Gerrard. When she reaches the ground floor, a projection of close ups of dancers moving around on the ground is screened behind her. Suddenly, the image is flipped to look like they are crawling around on the ceiling. Valerie sings and shouts eerily as if in turmoil. A new scene forms and the focus is on a torso shot of a young woman in a red leotard being pushed back and forth between other dancers in black. They gradually work her into a frenzy until Valerie screams and pleads for it to STOP! STOP! The scene fades away into white with a blurred figure dancing there. Now in a white leotard, Valerie dances in front of the screen, which creates strange juxtapositions between her brightly illuminated limbs and her silhouette. The mood lifts as she boisterously sings, a song about her Chiquita being sweeta, singing to her burro and how people will think her a fool. She stated that she uses songs that are important to her mother and grandmother in her works, so maybe this playful song was one of their favorites.
photo collages created by Deborah Dudley ~
All images copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Reid
We didn’t see the entire museum, but instead spent a good deal of time in the upstairs film installation room and the following exhibition:
The End of the 20th Century. The Best Is Yet to Come. A Dialogue with the Marx Collection (part of the museum’s permanent collection from Erich Marx)
Warhol of Joseph Beuys with diamond dust
Landscape of Beuys’s basalt sculptures
a giant Mao painting against Mao wallpaper in a room of violent images – Elvis with guns, electric chairs, knives, a car accident death, pointy-toed spiked-heeled pumps
A film room 1920 William Kentridge from South Africa “Journey to the Moon” brought back to mind the films that inspired me to begin film making in the early 90’s. Special effects in the pre-digital era required a great deal of experimentation and imagination. Almost a century later, they are still effective as poetic storytelling devices. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPf63b6Glz8
A variety of Rauschenberg’s works such as Pink Door, Mule Deer, and collage prints described by John Cage as looking at several TV screens, on different channels, simultaneously
A Cy Twombly room featured several works including “The School of Fontainebleau” and “I am Thyrsis of Etna”, but my favorite of his works being shown was, “Empire of Flora” with its exciting treatment and colors of flowers. It has the sense of playing in a garden, getting ones hands dirty, pulling weeds, bumblebees, blooms and water streaming from a hose.
This wing ended in an Anselm Kiefer gallery where the astounding “Lilith amroten Meer” commanded serious attention but only after visiting his less weighty work “Ways of Worldly Wisdom: Armenius’s Battle” on the side wall.
Rachel Whitereed – Untitled with Thomas Struth – San Zaccharia time lapse photograph
The last exhibition we visited was the reason we came to the museum that day. Our film teacher, Anna Faroqhi, had to bow out of instructing our film workshop because her father, the film essayist, Harun Farocki, had died during the residency just a couple of days before the class was scheduled. We wanted to honor his memory by going to see his exhibition. The Hamburger Banhof was showing several of his works at the time, so instead of class we went to see some of his projects. On either side of the viewing room entrance two small monitors, and a viewing bench with headphones, invited visitors to relax and take in the show. However, the first essay was “Inextinguishable Fire”, a disquieting reenactment of the development of napalm at the Dow Chemical Plant and the atrocities committed by its use. **WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK. It gets a gory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JBbgWSBTdA
That foyer lead to a large room with four screens staggered throughout and showing the shorts from his, “Serious Games” series. These films explore different phases of soldier training from video game simulation, a live action simulation which took place in a small fabricated village with actors pretending to be the inhabitants, the creation of the video games, and post traumatic distress therapy. I found the post traumatic distress therapy to be useful in developing a conversation to have with my teenage brother should he still be considering joining the military.
Upon exiting, a compilation segments of at least three of films could be filmed on the other monitor. of his 1995 film “Interface” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsA5E5qIgm4 , which gives a first hand look at how the artist worked in his editing room while comparing and contrasting film and video; “Workers Leaving the Factory in Eleven Decades” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPGSmvtmaWY, which touches on the historical uses of the factory as a control mechanism for the population; and “zwischen zwei Kriegen” (between two wars), which can be ordered along with his other works at the online video data bank http://www.vdb.org/artists/harun-farocki. I urge you to take some time to familiarize yourself with the catalogue of this prolific artist and eloquent, insightful writer.
All images copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Reid.
SomoS is on the 1st floor of corner building in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of Berlin. It is a large space flooded with soft natural light and a relaxing gathering room with bar in the back. The show on August 2, 2014 featured artists from 1st, 2nd, and graduating MFA classes, as well as, work from artists represented by tète gallery in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood. Putting work in the show was optional for students and were were asked to bring simple, fun works. First year students were told about the show shortly before it happened, so our work was either made in Berlin or was work that had already been brought for presentations at school. Considering how impromptu it was, I think it turned rather well! Sadly, I did not get images of all the work in the show, but this is a sample.
Here is the description of my piece (first of images below) which I created while I was in Berlin:
This drawing is from a series of scribble circle drawings, which began from an exhibit poster I created for my friends and I in The Yeah! Club Collectiph. The theme was to submit works made within 16 Seconds. The exhibit space was called Big Red Sun. To mirror the theme of the show, I scribbled a warm colored vortex symbolic of an experience I had while staring into the sun and it transformed into a portal. During the show, I created two other scribble circle drawings by only using each color for 16 seconds or less. To see those pieces, click below:
This piece called “The Earth and A Pine Tree” is the third in a group of covers created for compilation CDs, which I carefully selected songs for. This 2D series converges with 3D when one imagines the overlaid origami patterns folded to change the paper from the flat to the multi-dimensional. The other pieces are called “The Sun and A Lion” (for a Leo) and “The Moon and a Lantern”. To see those pieces, click below:
Video footage of performances by Andrea Spaziani and Lynn Book can be seen at the links below. *Please excuse the flicker, I have never experienced that issue before. I either need to adjust the firmware on my camera or adjust the frame rate during filming in Europe next time!
Andrea sent postcards to participants who had previously expressed interest in her community dance project. Each card had a one sentence description of a type of dance that could be performed. During the course of the opening at SomoS gallery in Berlin this summer, she performed her own versions of each instruction. Here is a short clip illustrating one example. https://vimeo.com/106878394
Attendees were treated to a live performance by Transart advisor, Lynn Book, of the Dada vocal sound piece Ursonate (primeval sonata) written and developed by Kurt Schwitter between 1922 and 1932. The poem was a favorite of Transart Institute co-founder, Klaus Knoll, who suddenly fell ill earlier this year and passed away just before the summer residency began. Book honored his memory by flawlessly guiding us through sublime and comical terrains. I was captivated throughout the journey. To see an excerpt, visit: https://vimeo.com/106879231
During the Transart Institute MFA Summer Residency in Berlin, we were given insight into the art world there by going on a gallery tour on July 26th. The tour was organized by the school’s Initiatives Coordinator, kate hers RHEE. This was an excellent way to begin the program. Most Berlin galleries set up at the major art fairs such as Cologne, Miami, Basel, and Hong Kong. Feel free to report to me any errors in this post. All images copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Reid.
Gallery Stop 1: Esther Schipper
Exhibit: “Paper Work” featuring works by Ceal Floyer and Karin Sander created with office supplies. The former artist created a series of gradated circular ink blots make by pressing grey pens onto the center of blotting paper sheets until the pens are out of ink. Whereas the latter artist utilizes objects such as a hole punch, clips, or tabs on A4 paper to make patterns.
Gallery Stop 2: Kühlhaus Berlin.
This is an approximately 18,000 sq feet historical building that was a cooling station before refrigerators were readily available. The courtyard in the photo below, with the whale hovering in the air, used to be a market and train station where people could come and buy foods that had been kept fresh in the kühlhaus. Several people recently purchased the warehouse for cultural activities and are remodeling the building to code, such as making cement stairs. The Berlin Art Prize, an annual art competition between local contemporary artists, was held at the Kühlhaus earlier this year.
Exhibit: Four floors of the gallery contained student works from the school of high art, Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee in the GDR (German Democratic Republic), or East Germany. It was explained that arts funding is highly competitive since the conjoining of East and West Germany because now there are two major art schools in Berlin, the other being Akademie der Künste, in the west, which has a history going back to the 1600’s. None of the works had labels, therefore I am unable to provide the names of the artists whose works are shown here, except for a sculptural installation in front of the building which is the result of a performance given by a Kunsthochschule Weissensee affiliated artist, Elena Kaludova. Elena wore a t-shirt with the slogan “STOP BORING ART!” printed on the back so that it could be read as she drilled holes through the wooden sign. The sign had the words “BORING ART” carved out of it. The artist drilled through most of the letters until only the “O” and “R” were left intact.
Gallery Stop 3: Schwarz Contemporary run by Ann Schwarz
Exhibit: works by several artists represented by the gallery
Gallery Stop 4: Wentrup Galerie by Jan Wentrup
Exhibit: Works by other artists represented by the gallery were also on display. The gallery represents 13 artists.
HB 55 (Herzbergstrasse 55) Räume der kunst (rooms of art). This historical set of buildings used to be a margarine factory.
1) Aleks Slota (no images): It was explained to me that Aleks uses a megaphone to recite speeches, that were written but never read, out of his studio window. One example was the speech written in case the U.S. astronauts never returned from their first trip to the moon.
2) Art photographer, who makes commentary on the fashion world and beauty, Ivonne Thein http://www.ivonnethein.com/
3) Louise Gibson is a sculptress from Scotland currently working in Berlin at a studio near a scrapyard. She embeds discarded clothing and electronics in resin castings. In addition, she melts, morphs, and varnishes large appliances and building materials into blobs of color and sheen. http://www.louisegibson.co.uk/?work-cat=current
Living Symbols Series, Volume 1: The Eternal Flame Elegy
Student and collaborator roles – Stephanie Reid: Production, Videography, Animation, Editing; Jeff Johnson (DaShade Moonbeam): Sound recording; Enrique Cabrera: Poetry and Recitation; Laura Yohualtlahuiz Rios-Ramirez: Poetry and Recitation, Dance; Orion Garcia: Soundtrack remix; Atlas Maior (Charlie Lockwood – oud, Joshua Thompson – saxophone; Theodore Camat – drum kit and percussion); The Ravaan Persian Dance Company (Geeti Shirazi Mahajan, Ashi Damvar, Azadeh Poursepanj; Bia Ali)
Lynn Book – Studio advisor; Victoria Hindley or Caroline Koebel – Research advisor
Description of proposed project:
My plan for the first year at Transart Institute will be a set of motion graphics short films that I will complete during my second year of the MFA program. My goal is to tailor the degree to Photography and Media Arts, as my previous practice has been.
The films will seek to be informative about world cultures and illustrate a commonality amongst them. Some of my influences here are the film “Baraka” and the photography book and exhibit “The Family of Man”.
Many visual artists, poets, dancers and musicians live in my home, Austin, Texas. We are supportive of each other, but don’t often collaborate. I wish to create interdisciplinary work that allows this community to connect in a meaningful way. My last photography series was very solitary and required a great deal of precision and control. I need a break from that. Therefore, another reason for collaborating is to relinquish some control over the end results.
In that last series, I explored ideas in the works of Carl Jung, symbolism, synchronicity, and collective unconscious. To continue working with those ideas in motion, the name of the series “Living Symbols” while the name of the first volume is ‘The Eternal Flame Elegy’ – the eternal flame references the artist’s passionate quest to immortalize their spirit through creation and inspire the next generation of artists. Most of the artist’s I will be working with also work with youth in some form. The symbol running through the veins of this volume will be the phoenix, known by many names around the world.
The phoenix is of particular importance to me personally because of a metaphysical experience I had with that entity. In addition, it is a protective symbol for Cherokee people. Our ancestor, Sequoyah, invented a syllabary that was later used in the first newspaper published by Native Americans, called The Phoenix. Cherokee is one of the few Native American languages that has increasing numbers of speakers, and has avoided extinction because it was written and disseminated in that way. More universally it represents the sun, purification, and rebirth. Flight is a metaphor for freedom and imagination, so the mythological bird embodies the arts.
To add depth, it will be necessary to touch on the stages that we must go through to reach enlightened states from their opposites – consumerism, spiritual crisis, and death. The elegy here is authored by the flame, a sentient being which mourns its part in the destruction of each mortal incarnation of itself as a phoenix, but whose solace is giving birth to another.
As with much of my work, homage will be paid to tradition, but with a contemporary spin. The sacred bird will be explored in the context of various world cultures with each one reincarnating into the next. Technology, the evolutionary path of the raw element fire, will weave its way through the tapestry of this journey.
For example, the film I have begun already will compliment the poetry of my friend, the poet Enriqué Cabrera, who is of Navajo and Mexican descent. His poems speak poignantly of sacrifices immigrant families make when leaving behind their homelands. They are somewhat heavy poems, so I would like the visuals and some of the music to counterweight that. A well-know Austin DJ will remix songs all of the people involved in the film have selected.
The “firebird here” will be Quetzalcoetl, the Aztec serpent / bird sun god of the underworld who in legend self emolates and is known as the morning star and the evening star. I have filmed a traditional Aztec dancer in feathered headdress to represent Quetzalcoatl, as the morning star, Venus. The dancer, Laura, is eight months pregnant here and the song is about Tonantzin, the mother goddess. Later, I will film her when she is more athletic and layer the two images so the dance together. One example of how I plan to express the idea of the otherworldly, will be to transform her into dancing lines that form Native North American patterns, which dance and flow, then morph into a whirling rainbow (rainbow around the sun). I will achieve this by using After Effects to make the bright colors of her clothing remain on the screen while the rest of the scene will fade to black, then those bright shapes will be animated to create the playful movement of the ancient patterns.
For the next film I will complete a video with a Middle Eastern flavor. A short interpretation of the classic, “The Conference of Birds” will be the backbone of this film. The band Atlas Maior, which consists of has an oud player, saxophonist, and a kit drummer, agreed to provide the soundtrack and the Ravaan Persian Dance Company will provide a performance of flowing movement much like birds gliding on the currents. Papercut and 3D animations will be prevalent here.
I would also like to do one of Asia and either Europe or Africa. The journey will end with meeting a contemporary interpretation of the icon in “neo-Pangaea”, the world that exists through blending cultures via the worldwide web, travel, and immigration.
Description of project report or thesis: My research paper will compliment the studio work by focusing on universal experiences of archetypal symbols, how that symbolism has been used in descriptions of alchemical psychology and synchronous experiences that when approached consciously can have a positive effect on the symbolic interactionism in society. (AKA how creative communities thrive when they value individuality and progressive thinking)
Anticipated results: Short films to be posted on the Internet, film festivals, events such as Art Outside near Austin, the Fusebox Festival, the Austin Film Festival, at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard in Austin, and projected onto public buildings such as the Mexican American Cultural Center. Installation elements may be included at some sites.
Jung, Carl G. Man and His Symbols. Dell Publishing: United States of America and Canada, 1968.
Laughlin, Kiley Quincy. “Phoenix Rising: A Comparative Study of the Phoenix Symbol as a Goal of the Alchemical Work and the Individuation Process”. Rebirth & Renewal; Rebirth and Renewal – IAJS Conference (2014). Peer-reviewed paper
Díaz, Gisele, Alan Rodgers, and Bruce E. Byland. The Codex Borgia: A Full-Color Restoration of the Ancient Mexican Manuscript. New York: Dover Publications, 1993.
Blumer, Herbert. Symbolic Interactionism. University of California Press: United States of America, 1986.
Nicholson, H.B. Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl: The Once and Future Lord of the Toltecs (Mesoamerican Worlds). University Press of Colorado, 2001.
Attar, Farid. The Conference of the Birds. Penguin Group: London, England, 1984.
Hypothesis or question you pose? Why do certain symbols reappear in throughout cultures and history? How can these ancient archetypal images, specifically the phoenix, be utilized in contemporary art to engage a new generation of viewers so that its essential messages can be absorbed?
Formulate entire project in 2-3 meaningful sentences. Using animation and experiment film techniques, I will use the symbol of the phoenix to illustrate the universal story of the eternal challenge to purify the mind. The result being a more harmonious community, which is beneficial both for the individual and the group. For this project, I will collaborate with dancers, poets, and musicians in my own community to demonstrate this ideal and the issues caused by its opposition, apathy towards or ignorance of it.
Choose three artists works to compare and contrast. Seyed Alevi’s installations, Canticles, Remembrance, and Renunciation; Camille Rose Garcia’s 2D series, Subterranean Death Clash and Tragic Kingdom; and James Roper’s paintings from the two series, Paroxysm & Into the Fold and Exvoluta
Provide one to three themes, questions, topics, issues, etc. to discuss, compare and contrast which are relevant to your work. Usage of symbolism to convey ideas concerning elevation of the mind and the forces working as an antithesis of that state.
Formulate in a paragraph. I will study, compare and contrast, the methods in which three visual artists utilize symbolism to convey ideas concerning elevation of the mind and the forces working as an antithesis of that state. I will describe the different approaches that Seyed Alevi uses in his three installations, Canticles, Remembrance, and Renunciation from that of which Camille Rose Garcia uses in her two series, Subterranean Death Clash and Tragic Kingdom or James Roper uses in his paintings from the two series, Paroxysm & Into the Fold and Exvoluta.
How do these artists able to draw their audience into various states of mind ranging from peaceful to disturbed through their choice of symbols and technical choices? How do those artists use symbols to express an idea without the need for further explanation via titles or descriptive text?
How will this research support your creative project or practice in general? I chose these three artists because I tend to work in a fairly linear and representational fashion. However, they use very different styles from myself and each other. Studying how they work in relation to their usage of symbolism will broaden my knowledge base for other ways to express my ideas both conceptually and stylistically.
In my mind, the Enchanted Forest will forever be the heart and soul of Austin, a secret landscape in the middle of South Austin where artists, musicians, dancers, teachers, and mind explorers from all over the world have come to commune for over a decade. I remembered entering the forest in the fall of 2005, in response to their spray-painted-sign-on-a-sheet calling for help with the annual Haunted Trail event. Halloween is my favorite holiday and I’d been itching to be an actor in a haunted house for years. I’m always the one in the front of my line, blocking and dodging demons so my screaming friends can get by, so I figured I’d be good at scaring people, too.
I’d just moved to South Lamar and the Enchanted Forest, Zilker, Flipnotics, and my workplace, the Dougherty Art School were all within an easy bike ride away. My rent was $399 including giant community gardens in the courtyards. So, I rolled over there on my imitation BMX from the junkyard and took them up on their friendly invitation. The volunteers had convened inside a patio and I recognized some people I knew. Baruzula, a legendary Austin fire spinner, textile, and body artist and Johnny Slug, another well known character in town, who was a DJ at my favorite early 90’s industrial and electronic music club, Ohms. Hurricane Katrina had just brought many refugees to Austin and several street performers and musicians from New Orleans were staying at the forest in tents. I imagine this made the environment even more circus-like and stimulating than it already was. Plus, a Cajun cook was ready and willing to prepare delicious food for everyone!
For the next few weeks we prepared to freak people out. The event ran for a few weekends and I got to be four different characters. Some of the highlights were as follows. Imagine walking through a pitch black tunnel in the Forest at night, someone may or may not jump out at you, but either way you rush to get back into the moonlight. When you emerge, a path leads you to stepping stones over the stream towards a shack where a country woman is rocking herself on the porch. As you get closer, you see shelves of apothecary jars containing formaldehyde and creepy looking things, bones, claws, and innards. She stands up and you can see it is a man disguised in a straw bonnet and dress, sharpening two large knife blades together, beckoning you, blood curdling wailing and pleas for help come from behind the shack. As he/she walks towards you with the knives and you scurry down the path, from the direction you are heading, a shirtless man with piercings and scarification covering his chest and a white haired, twisted faced mask starts his chainsaw chases you shrieking down the path…You stroll along and catch your breath as you walk upon an alter attached to a tree in the middle of the path. A shelf is nailed to the tree to hold voodoo baby dolls, dead roses, and other manner of eerie accoutréments. The two trees flanking the alter tree hold two scarecrows. Beyond the trees is another wooden shack. Reluctantly you creep towards the building as the path goes through the entrance door and out the exit door, which you can see from where you stand. Suddenly a deep growling voice calls you by name and demands to know, “What are you doing here?!!!” You hear, “Get off of my property!” as one of the scarecrows leaps from the tree and continues to angrily berate you as it edges you into the dark tiny house. A bathtub full of blood awaits and a reanimated corpse of a girl emerges. You jump to the other side of the room and slink towards the exit as she beseeches you with outstretched dripping bloody arms and hands to come closer and bring her favorite toy with you. She cries like a dead-eyed doll as you leave without appeasing her. You soon encounter a John Wayne Gacy look-alike in a black light illuminated tent spray painted with fluorescent obscenities. You block out what happens inside and emerge feeling as if your consciousness has just blacked out temporarily. You almost forget you are on a haunted trail until you come upon a skeletal witch doctor with shrunken heads, toadstools, and a steamy cauldron that she wants you to stir. She seems harmless enough so you allow her to coax you into assisting her. She tells you story but never finishes because in mid-sentence the cauldron tips over to reveal a heathen man grabbing at your ankles to pull you into his pit of despair. They both cackle and curse as you get away by running across a metal bridge passing over the creek. When you are halfway across, a troll bangs on the underside of it with a hammer, which almost give you a heart attack! Just as you cross over, a human sized raven jumps out from behind a tree, croaking menacingly at you for waking it up. It practically pushed you out of it’s territory and you see the exit is near, but one last dreamy surprise awaits you before you make it to the end…A stilt-walker in large billed bird mask tries to envelop you in its shroud so you can never leave.
It was the best haunted production I’ve ever seen and it was a total blast. I never knew I could do those things with my voice. I scared myself a little as I played a tortured girl behind the shack, the scarecrow, undead girl in the tub, and raven.
Halloween parties were hosted for days. Shows consisted of fire, hula hoop, and Butoh style dancing. A suspension ritual from a high tree was undertaken by the Cajun cook. Vaudeville musicians and jugglers in black and white stripes made us laugh. DJs spun as we danced under the stars in our costumes…til the next event…
Art Outside, the festival now held in Apache Pass, Texas was started right there at the Enchanted Forest on Oltorf. In the spring, the spooky took a backseat the fresh ideas and collaborative efforts of artists all over town. Installations, bands, and food sampling were sprinkled throughout the woods for guests to enjoy in the dappled sunlight. At night, mysterious Baruzaland shadow puppet shows were presented on a giant screen with live instrumental accompaniment. Afterwards a lively dance party broke out as, The Emeralds, a rambunctious surf punk outfit who were visiting from Japan, rocked the stage.
I only experienced the Forest for a short while, but those were my favorite months in Austin. The Enchanted Forest was the last bastion of free spirits in our beloved town before it became what I see it as now, a pretty big city. Shortly after my time in the Forest, I ran off to Paris with one of the French NOLA refugees and then to live in Asia for three years. When I returned to Austin, it was shockingly different than it had been in the past 15 years I had lived here. It took me a very long time to find a full time job, despite knowing people all over town, and rent prices were unfathomable to me. I considered going back overseas, but my family of friends are here and I didn’t want to lose touch with my home for any longer than I already had. I made the decision to tough it out because although it’s getting more crowded and expensive, the arts are still alive here. Culture and nature are still valued. It just doesn’t feel as loose and free-spirited…especially now that the Enchanted Forest must close its gates. We fear for the trees and the water there. We are sad that the wildflowers will lose yet another patch of soil to grow as it wills. The birds will still be able to perch in the heritage oaks though. It would be illegal for the new owners to cut down hundreds of years old trees in Austin. (See https://www.austintreeexperts.com/blog/austin-heritage-tree-ordinanace/)
Since I returned from my sojourn, friends of the Forest, including myself, met with city officials, trade members, and community spokespeople, to try to come up with a plan to continue hosting events without getting fined by the city for code violations of this or that sort. The expense of readying it was too much and the property taxes got too high. The most generous proprietor, Albert tried to find a non-profit or community organization to purchase the land, but none could pay a price to sustain him and his family. He has grandchildren now and is planning to start a small farm just a short drive out of town. Eventually he agreed to sell it to developers, who could afford to pay the price he needed for his next chapter. So despite the loss, we are happy that his lovely family’s future is still bright.
And so it goes…I spent the evening of the last Enchanted Forest Easter in this gem of a green space. To allow the forest creatures to convene in the forest one last time, the Forest family threw a big Easter party. I didn’t arrive until nearly sundown, as bunnies are wont to do, but I could tell from the crushed cascarones and confetti strewn about everywhere, that it had been a huge success. Rowdy children wanted to smash watermelon rabbits as if they were pumpkins. Adults lolled around on a bright AstroTurf blanket pleased with the perfect temperature and absence of mosquitoes. I said goodbye to old friend wishing it a positive future as I wandered through with Himalayan protection incense, ring
Now the hardest part comes. Even those who don’t live in the Forest, but are sensitive to its presence, will have a grieving period as bulldozers and concrete take it over. For those who do live there, it must be agonizing. I see in their eyes that they are still trying to release it, some with more ease than others. We have to get used to the fact that Austin will never be the same as it was pre-2006. Many of the people, such as artists, craftspeople, restaurant workers, and gardeners, who made this city appealing to the people who moved here in the past 1-5 years, are getting pushed further and further away from the center. Rents are just too high now. Wages are not getting higher congruently. Many jobs for artists are now being done with free labor known as the unpaid internship. We are not able to make a living in our fields as easily as we were able to before. However, there is a lot of talk lately by the city and grassroots organizations about getting more affordable housing for artists and musicians, initiating rent control, and putting regulations on unpaid internships because what will Austin become if we can’t live here anymore?
This is a call to all who value community, culture, art, music, poetry, nature, health, and good food to be sure you are nurturing those treasures as often as possible. Teach people, who are not familiar with their value, to open themselves up. Welcome them. Show them there is a way to be free. Let the spirit of the Enchanted Forest infiltrate the city, so that the healing powers of creativity and authenticity rule the great city of Austin, Texas y’all!
These floral art pieces were created from plants I grew myself in my garden. They were meant to accompany the photo scrolls I created earlier this year, but nature has it’s own timing, no matter how well we try to schedule things.
They are inspired by amazing floral artists around the world, who showcase their work
in the compilation http://www.floralannual.com/