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Monday, May 8, 2017

Walking (and biking) Can Spark Creativity...Is Nashville Listening?

A great walking city is a place where creativity can thrive.  Cities are places of connection and opportunity.   They are where people naturally observe and learn from others.  Read about artist's and how they work and you will quickly find a theme:  a daily walk, a ritual of biking to the studio.  Nashville prides itself on being Music City, a major hub for creativity, and yet we have lousy infrastructure for our pedestrians and bikers.    For richer productivity, for more lyrical praise, for more complex connections, for safer streets, we need to push Nashville towards high-end walkability (and bike-ability).  Our lack of sidewalks is not a new issue.  We have waited long enough.  It is time!

https://art21.org/artist/liz-magor/


Below is a piece I transcribed from Art in the 21st Century.  I really like what she has to say.  And, how does she get to her studio?  She bikes!  

Liz Magor




What I like about Vancouver is the fact that it is on the edge of the continent.  If I look west, I know it's empty.  I call it breathing space.  I live on the east side which is very industrial.  Big ships come in, get loaded up with containers.  I like that feeling of the world coming and going.  Vancouver is an entirely and completely different place than it was when I was a child.  And, Coal Harbor especially was a wild, filthy, muddy, cranky, beautiful place.  Then, by the time I came back to look at it for this public art project, all that was erased.  And, all these places people lived - in squatter shacks or little crappy float houses - all of it was gone so I built this little wooden building, put it up on 4 pilings that are tilted because I wanted it at the moment of movement, I wanted it to be alive.  Then, we sent it to a foundry and they cast every piece separately.  A first view is that it is a pretty ordinary piece of woodwork but if you go up to it and you see that it is aluminum, you realize it is an extra-ordinary piece of foundry work.  So, that flip is in the manufacturing.  You think one thing, so simple, so disposable and you realize it's another thing and you think, 'how remarkable.'  With Light Shed, I thought consciously about keeping the past alive.  Taking an old thing and keeping it vivacious.  Keeping a complex tapestry of stuff in the world.  

I live not far from my studio.  I TAKE MY BIKE.  The studio is my priority over everything else.  I try to get here everyday so that I can follow the continuity of what happened the day before.  Often, I am here all day, you know eight hours, trying to stay focused. I'm seeking that place where my brain stops spinning around and stops wanting things that I don't have, so that I can follow this very faint thread that I am laying down as to what each sculpture is supposed to be.  The objects come 1st and objects flow through systems, we can use them, we waste them, we wear them, we throw them out and they come out the other end.  They call it the waste stream.   



I'm not an animist but I do feel the objects that have been in the world a while, they have all this stuff in them that comes out.  

Gloves are interesting because they are quite a complicated copies of the anatomy.  They are very easy to fetishize them and I am not the only person who has fetishized them - the glove!  Casting is like photography in that you have the real, the actual, and you make an impression of them that you call a negative.  Then you pour into that negative some system of making a positive and then you have a copy of the real.  So, if there is a trapped air there and I demold it, there would be a bubble in the thumb for example.  It's my favorite part.  

I like the color.  I like the creaminess.  It's a bit like playing with your food, we all love that.  And, I am so accustomed to trying to kill air that it is like a game on a computer.  This is my computer game, to kill air bubbles!

Making a mold, doing all this process to that, the thing that I picked up and all the slowness of it, that is how I kind of get to know it.  So, in fact the fullness of this process serves the slowness of my intellect and actual awareness.

Demolding is like opening a present.  Ah, it's good!  It has a few bubbles here.  You know the image your going to get but it's always a surprise.  My main talent is my ability to pay attention.  There are many things in the world that live in the nether zone - this non-zone, this not needed zone.  And, so, I pay attention to these things and through that effort I'll change their status, I'll resurrect them from the dead and bring them into this quite a high status act that I'm involved in of turning them into a sculpture.  

There is a big process of me making it.  I want a big process of me looking, too.  I'm not sending a message.  I'm creating an experience for looking.  Objects, when they are in their heyday, they arrive in our life with a bit of celebration.  If your in a really pretentious store, they make a bit sort of theatrical event of wrapping up your purchase.  They fold it, then they wrap it and they put a sticker with their logo on it and then they lift it like it's a little premature baby and then they put it in a box.  Inside that box is some sweater that is mass produced but this gift, this offering, they mimic a personal transaction between 2 people who care about each other.

Douglas fir trees grow hundreds and hundreds of feet tall and they grow for hundreds of years and, at one point, that was everywhere here.  They were a source of the wealth of British Columbia, they still are.  It's a big logging industry.  So, I made this proposal for this column - I don't call it a tree - it's a column.  It's a hundred feet tall and 5 feet in diameter.  It's made of panels that are cast.  Vancouver today is developing very quickly and it's sort of like a gold rush for condominium building.  Each development is supposed to have a public art component.  You want to find a way to make something that is for that site but is also a good work of art - that's the hard part. 

In 1968,  was 20 years old.  I went for 2 years to New York to study design and I started to go to galleries.  So, there was lots of time in galleries where I got this feeling of focus, it's like feeling a muscle of attention and observation so I thought, 'art is interesting,' but I didn't quite think I was going to do it.  

But, when I dropped out of the design school and came back to Vancouver, I was hanging around a lot of artists, they were all guys, they were all painters - all guy painters - and so I worked along side my friends, watching them.  They were making real art, I was making little things.  Then, I started to focus on them more until they became more interesting, more complex.  They started to rival the kind of paintings my friends were doing. 

Always, below the radar, are these impulses that I'm looking for all the time.  These are things that exist in our daily life and they are with us.  We wake up with these small worries and these small concerns.  One of those worries or anxieties is the stuff that you have around you.  Can I pay for it is a problem but, then, when you get it, there's the storage problems, maintenance problems, dusting. Maintaining the conditions that are good for this kind of not very logical, not rational, uncalled for, nobody is asking me to do this... I'm barely asking me to do this.  So, to maintain that over years, I've really tried to overlook the relationship between my making of something and its journey out to exhibition.  I don't want images of people liking or not liking.  I don't want to know about it.

I would be surprised if 99% of the artists you talk to don't say that, 'death really interests me'.

Part of the work of being an artist is that you are always contemplating the beginning of something and the end of something.  There is a whole bunch of births and deaths every day in the studio.  Some people sort of die before they do die.  They die while they are still alive.  So the question is, 'is there life before death'?  That's really the question.

So, if I look at that, the different choices around how you spend your life, it seems interesting to find a way where you hire yourself - not quite hire yourself - but where you give yourself your own program.  I'm doing my own assignments.  That's my definition of art actually.  Art isn't a material, it's not a medium.  It's not a certain product.  It is the choices I've been able to make.  




Do you know someone who has perished while a pedestrian in Nashville?

https://www.nashvillepedestriandeathregistry.org







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