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.
Uferstudios courtyard facing NW. The complex used to be a rail yard for horse drawn carriage rail, then eventually a depot for electric street cars and cable cars. At that time new buildings for the transport station. The architect, Jean Krämer, designed them using using a combination of expressionist and Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity, or without ornamentation) styles.
Uferstudios courtyard facing SE. The complex used to be a rail yard for horse drawn carriage rail, then eventually a depot for electric street cars and cable cars. At that time new buildings for the transport station. The architect, Jean Krämer, designed them using using a combination of expressionist and Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity, or without ornamentation) styles.
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:
Gabriel Dawe’s plexus no. 5
Gabriel Dawe’s plexus no. 8
Gabriel Dawe’s relic from plexus no. 4
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.
photo taken during the process of filling in the gaps of Mehran’s design with paprika
paprika and black “sand”
transfer of paprika and black “sand” to another surface
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.
a pitted, fissured, and chipped brick wall
pencil rubbing, razor cut, and punctured paper
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.
Walking in the Spirit World by Lawrence Yuxweluptun
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.
Images from the archive cannot be made public, but I took these photos in the public area.
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.
I found this postcard by Tatiana Witte in a shop the day before I left Berlin.
6) an excursion in the city to create work in response to nature found there
grey and black Hooded Crows eat Pizza on the Tram tracks
tiny green tree beetle tears
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.