Category Archives: Cultural HiJack

Space HiJack : An Untitled Trash Project

  Breakfast 4 Dinner 3 Dinner 2 Dinner 1 Breakfast 3 Breakfast 2 Lunch 1 Lunch 2

The Space HiJack Project was both frustrating and rewarding. I initially wasn’t sure what to do for my project. I presented the idea of using trash to my classmates. I received a lot of helpful feedback and suggestions, but ultimately decided to stick to a suggestion made initially, I believe, by Casper.

The idea was to have trash laying around the building in an orderly fashion, as if to suggest a story, inviting people to stop and think about what they were seeing. That sounded both exciting and challenging. We settled on making it seem like someone had a meal and left the rest behind.  I gave a lot of thought about what the meals would be. I ultimately settled on having the kind of meals I ate, using things from home. The installation was installed in three different parts of the building. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  1. For the breakfast installation, I placed a bowl with Cookie Crisp cereal — my favorite morning treat. On the side, a glass of orange juice; as well as a bottle of milk. The items were placed next to an emergency exit on the bottom floor of the building.
  2. For the lunch installation, I placed a glass of Diet Coke and a plate of stir fry under a water fountain on the first floor of the building.
  3. For the dinner installation, I placed a plate with leftover meatloaf and mashed potatoes next to a glass of milk. It was installed next to the front entrance of the building, under one of the path lights, as to make sure it was as visible as possible even at night. While the choice of pairing milk with meatloaf might seem odd, it is reflective of the kind of meal I have at night (provided I arrive home at a reasonable hour).
On the next day, as it turns out, two of my pieces (lunch and dinner) had been removed. It was ironic — but mostly rewarding. In part, you could consider their removal a failure. After all, whoever removed it, clearly didn’t think it was art. It was trash. In other words, the meaning that I was trying to attach to these objects — which would clearly point to this being an installation — was not conveyed as clearly as it should. The objects remained just that: objects.

On the other hand, I ask myself questions: Who removed this? Were they aware that people were installing art in the building that would be seen by students the next day? Perhaps the most important question of all: What do they think of as art? If I saw this installation in a gallery, I would stop and think about its meaning, what the artist was trying to convey. My father, on the other hand, would walk by it, laugh a little, maybe say something like “I could do that!”. This isn’t a supposition either, I’ve seen him say things like that before.

Let me now speak about why the removal of my pieces has felt to me like an accomplishment. I’ll try to explain it as best I can, because I don’t have a full opinion formed yet. I believe my excitement comes from the fact that someone engaged with my art. They picked it up, then they threw it out! They touched it, they walked over to the trash, threw it in. The pieces of it are now in a dump somewhere. Perhaps they’re being recycled at this very moment.

I don’t know why, but this interaction (an interaction not person-to-person, but person – to object – to person) has made me feel like the observer of the piece rather than the person who created it. It feels, strangely, as if this wasn’t an installation, but a moving piece (performance art, maybe?) that started when the art was picked up and thrown out, and ended when I found out it was no longer there.

Cultural HiJack: Brasil Slogan HiJack

Official Government Logo of the Brazilian Federal Government.

Official Government Logo of the Brazilian Federal Government.

First HighJack Attempt HiJack 1 HiJack 2 HiJack 3 HiJack 4      

I chose to HiJack the current slogan of Brazil’s Federal Government. The slogan, “Brazil: Order and Progress” was implemented by the illegitimate government of Michel Temer after the parliamentary coup of democratically elected president Dilma Rousseff. Its positivist message is reminiscent of Brazil’s former undemocratic governments and is meant to instill the false perception that politicians are fighting Brazil’s institutionalized culture of corruption in government. A year after the coup, Timer’s government has been wrapped in corruption scandal, censorship, as well as the implementation of measures that negatively impact the working and middle classes.

Thanks to class feedback, I was able to zoom in to two aspects I wanted to address with my HiJack: (1) allowing people to freely express their reaction towards the new government online, a place right wing  censorship has not been able to reach, as well as (2) associating a new image to the slogan, one that invites reflection on what it means, by allowing people to express anger and surprise at how the current government has been inept at living up to its promises of order and progress — presented clearly in the original image.

The images were edited in Powerpoint, without much alteration. Colors were changed through the use of filters. The emoticons were taken from Facebook’s new “reaction” buttons, which perhaps are worthy of a HiJack in and of themselves in the future.

When the project started, my first idea was to add an atomic bomb explosion to the globe of the original image. It quickly became clear through class feedback that that did not convey my message properly. Upon thinking more of how to get the point across — ultimately that this slogan was a propaganda piece not translated into policy by the government — I was able to find images that expressed my intention.

At first, I had a hard time finding a way to subvert my image. I underestimated the amount of reflection that must go into changing an image for a specific purpose. I also think that my strong and complex feelings towards the political situation in Brazil contributed to my difficulty finding one single message I wanted to get across. The current political situation is complex, but at the end, finding one single aspect of it to zoom into was beneficial.

I believe my Hijack promises a certain amount of replication and that people would be happy to use it in their Facebook profile picture to express their discontent with the current government. Facebook profile picture frames have been used for a couple of years now as a way to not only decorate your picture, but to get an important message across. Self-expression, and specifically political expression, are encouraged in online forums and social media: that fact is helpful in encouraging the kind of quick replication that would be much more difficult to achieve in the physical world. The virtual world can be used as a tool for greater and faster dissemination of politically subversive material.

I enjoyed this exercise very much. It was challenging, but the practical aspect of it has given me a deeper understanding of the process and reflection that must go into this kind of work. I plan to continue trying to get my Facebook frames to gather a certain amount of attention.

Cultural Hijack: [Scholar’s Library]

On the same day, I read both the beginning of Beautiful Trouble by Andrew Boyd and a piece assigned by guest artist, Mandy Morrison. Beautiful Trouble is a guide for artists who want to work in socially, visually, and performatively effective ways. The piece Mandy Morrison assigned was “Dancing with Twitter,” a piece in The Mobile Story written by Susan Kozel, Mia Keinanen and Leena Rouhiainen. Their performance, entitled “IntuiTweet,” (Farman, 81) explores the kinesthetic sensations of movement as transmitted over Twitter and realtime re-enacted by other collaborators. Beautiful Trouble’s piece on “Media-Jacking,” written by Patrick Reinsborough, Doyle Canning and Joshua Kahn Russell, discusses using an opposition’s media power and time to create a disruption in favor of your cause or message (Boyd, 72). In light of the recent rise of politicians using Twitter as their broadcast, I thought it would be appropriate to take back Twitter. This idea solidified as I reread Daniel Dennett’s Memes and the Exploitation of Imagination; one quote about replication stuck in my mind: “a scholar is just a library’s way of making another library” (Dennett, 126). That day, I started the Twitter “Scholar’s Library.”

twitter bg

Since then, Scholar’s Library has been a project that I have worked on intermittently, adding to the Library over several months. Each tweet is composed in a consistent format, both visually and performatively. My initial goal for Scholars Library is to:

  1. Interact with people, semi-organically in physical and digital space
  2. Detail an aspect of who these people are, and therefore how to read their contribution
  3. Produce a ‘fact,’ whether factual or otherwise

For a visual format, I wanted to take each of these into consideration and develop a finished piece that was both different from the physical interactions and exactly the same in its intention. I created a simple formula for this:

thing

The consistent performance aspect was initially unintentional. As I began speaking to people to create tweets, I found that I was very nervous and often couldn’t quite think of what to say. I noticed after the third person that in my nervous nature, I had repeated the same three questions every time:

  • Name? This is going online, so you can use your name-name or an alias.
  • Someone who you admire? It doesn’t have to be the person you admire most, just, someone.
  • What is a fact you know?

These questions acted as a small interview, which in turn formed the tweets.

The project continued as a simple side project to indulge my own creativity until mid-November. At this point, by the recommendation of my class, I began to focus more on Scholar’s Library as a conference project. This is when the library entered the real world. I developed and re-developed the presentation of the Library several times: initially, I considered projecting tweets onto the windows of the Sarah Lawrence Esther Rauschenbush Library during our finals week as a playful distraction, similar to the “99% bat signal” of Occupy Wall Street fame (Boyd, 273). However, as we did not have the ability to project on these windows (yet!), I had to rethink the physical aspect of the Library. I considered the qualities of the Library, the nature of the short-form tweet, and why I even wanted to present my Library in the campus library. Finally, I realized that what I wanted from the large-scale projection was two things: visibility and legitimacy. What is more visible and legitimate than the thousands of books in a college library? I started to rebrand the visual components of the twitter page. There were several versions of the Scholar’s Library icon. The basic design modified the book logo from Library of Congress, as it is an open source image. The color scheme also remained consistent as I intentionally chose a very stable and intellectual deep blue and white. The versions of the icon happened because, firstly, I could not decide what to put in the book! First it was a question mark, to reference the semi-factual nature of the project; after that, it became a simple S, for scholar; by the end, the symbols I chose were quotation marks, to honor the spoken component.   scholars lib blue circle scholars lib no bg scholars lib blue In critique, my class reminded me to consider one thing: replication. The origins of both the Dennett quote and Scholar’s Library was theories of how knowledge replicates. Replication is what lead me to the final icon, a book on a beautiful descending sea of identical books, fading as they moved farther and farther from their ‘source material.’

FINAL

With my new digital digs, I planned. I wanted to be sure that I distributed the tweets at a time when there would be high circulation of atypical books. Of course, the perfect time was our impending finals, when approximately 1,300 students rush to the library to write papers on niche subjects they moderately care about. The next issue was “where.” Deciding which books to store the tweets in became a sort of game. But again, I returned to the many knowledgeable artists of Beautiful Trouble: “Stay on message” (Boyd, 178). My focus wasn’t about windows, or finals, or even the delicious chai that they never have in the library cafe. It was about the process of learning and replicating knowledge. Therefore, it seemed most appropriate to install the tweets in a series of books with language or fact related to the tweet. This was paired with opening the Scholar’s Library page on any available computer in the library and setting it as the homepage, giving the Library both a digital and physical preference. At the installation, there were 20 tweets in the library. This resulted in 80 books.          lib map unnamed Installation was hilarious and taxing. Over the course of four hours, myself and my collaborator Wynn Heyward scoured the shelves for our 80 books. The list spanned all sections of the library, intentionally, and featured many silly or strange titles. Several students stared as we scampered through the library, tweets in hand, placing the small slips of paper logo-out in the books and turning them so the tweets stuck out in the aisle. There were a few books we could not find in this process; most were replaced with nearby alternates, but some were shuffled in with the extra tweets I had printed earlier. At the end, these extra tweets were positioned at the front desk, and after a long day of scholarly adventures, we left. slips books There are very few things I would do differently about this project, as I intend to do many different things with it in the future. I consider this the Opening Day for Scholar’s Library. It was successful in that I gained a few followers and noticed a few slips gone; it was unsuccessful in that I wished I had had more tweets, more help, and a generally larger production. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and plan to continue on with the Library. If anyone has a contribution, find this Scholar and we will let the world know.  

Cultural Hijack: [The Cocoon]

For many, many weeks, the only question people would ask me was: “so, how’s the cocoon?”

Admittedly, because of this, the cocoon felt successful before I had even installed it: people were talking about it, and that is the first step to public art.

This all began in a class as we discussed Heimbold, the visual arts building at Sarah Lawrence College. Heimbold has three intensely obvious characteristics: it is built with steel, concrete, and glass; the space is large and intimidating, with little emotional or physical access to the building itself; and, much like its typical occupants, Heimbold is suffocatingly white.

We framed Heimbold as a problem to solve. How do we work with and against the building itself to create successful, affective art? One student commented that “your eyes are welcome, but your body is not.” This comment is what created the cocoon.

3



Initially, the cocoon was a hug machine. Taken from another project series, the Hug Machine extends from the walls of the building it is installed in, and envelops the participant in a comforting, human-like hug. However, there was something incomplete about the Hug Machine. Andrew Boyd, editor of Beautiful Trouble (a text I read towards the end of my time with the cocoon), writes quite smartly in his manual to good art: “praxis makes perfect” (Boyd, 162). After trying to digitally construct The Hug Machine, it became clear that certain elements were more important to me than others; the softness, enclosure, and positive intent of the Hug Machine were what really appealed to me.
At a loss and needing a project, I reviewed some of the texts from the semester. I spent 90 minutes in a bubble bath rereading Edward Bernays’ Propaganda, a 1928 classic on the nature of Public Affairs, business, and the public. In Propaganda, Bernays gives several stories of companies working with the public in a sleight of hand; they would promote their projects through public works, contests, and academic studies. (Bernays, 70-79). He explains why this is justified:
“The development of public opinion for a cause or line of socially constructive action may very often be the result of a desire on the part of the propagandist to meet successfully his own problem which the socially constructive cause would further. And by doing so he is actually fulfilling a social purpose in the broadest sense.” (Bernays, 73-74)
Bernays’ idea of social uplift or change happening in conjunction with and for the intent of business made me think. Earlier, we also studied Nikeplatz, a piece by Mattes & Mattes.


nikeplatz

 

Nikeplatz was created as a reaction to people placing company logos, and therefore brand identities, both on their body through clothes and in their spaces through advertising. However, the piece itself was simply a performance of Mattes & Mattes unveiling a building-sized sculpture of the Nike logo in a public park and interviewing passing people about it. This proved much more effective than a simple statement like “corporate logos are bad” or “where are you putting brands?” Because Mattes & Mattes’ piece was not necessarily the construction itself but rather the reactions, people felt that their opinion was their own, and in natural reaction to the over-the-top commodity occupation. Much like Bernays suggests, the most potent propaganda isn’t direct, but conscious of how to influence social dynamic. I desperately wanted to join in on the fun.  

The Hug Machine’s redesign involved three necessary components: soft materials, a feeling of enclosure, and an enforced distance between participants and Heimbold itself. My mission was to redevelop Heimbold as a space, sneakily, so that people would feel both welcomed and comforted in a typically hostile space. The combination of these key elements are what lead me to the cocoon. Cocoons wrapped their occupants in soft, shapely domes that were produced naturally in high-bug/butterfly/worm areas. The metaphor of nature invading a deeply removed and unnatural space excited me, as did the easy recognition of the material and shape. It was going to be wonderful.

Silkworm_&_cocoon chrysalis_macro_close_up_cocoon_pupa_metamorphosis_transform_cycle-419018



For the cocoon, I studied many naturally occurring cocoons. The shape that appealed to me most (and seemed most iconic) was the shape of a moth’s cocoon; the silkworm’s cocoon had a texture that fit my ideal balance of softness and ephemeral weightlessness; finally, in considering how humans should interact with it, I referenced Nacho Carbonell’s Cocoon Seats, an installation that allows people to interact from the shoulders down with their heads in a cocoon. Although I wanted a singular experience for the cocoon, the way that Carbonell creates a simultaneously singular and social experience greatly appealed to me.

Nacho-Carbonell-Social-Sofa-Communication-Line-1-537x358



After a consultation with our fearless art leader, Angela Ferraiolo, I began experimenting with fabric. This featured a bucket of cornstarch, several fabric samples from the internet, and a tiny knife. My process was testing each fabric (felt, cotton, wool, and raw cotton) for two things: rigidity and fluffiness. I distressed each fabric by sliding the small knife into the surface layers of the fabric and pulling up small tufts; this proved most successful for felt and the raw cotton. However, the second test for rigidity eliminated the felt, as a few days after applying the cornstarch, the felt molded. In sight of my research, I ordered six feet of raw cotton batting for my cocoon.


wool unnamed 2

This is where the real construction began. I spent several days cutting the sheets of batting into two panels, designed so that when they hung together, they would look like the moth’s cocoon. To support and set this style, I also sewed in over 25 ft of copper wire so that the cocoon could bend in odd shapes and styles, but maintain its overall shape. There were two wire inserts other than the outline of the cocoon, which gave the piece its sense of depth and movement.

                 cut sewing

The final step, and my personal favorite, was the lights. To reinforce the ephemeral feeling of the light, fluffy distressed cotton, I sewed in four LED copper string lights, creating spirals and curves along the inside of the piece that later wove up the copper supports that held it in place. The lights were beautiful, and glowed just enough that they were visible from the inside but somewhat hidden from the outer world, helping to divide the conceptual cocoon space from the real world Heimbold Space.

                  scissors close spiral  

The installation itself both succeeded and failed, in my opinion. When hanging the actual cocoon, I ran out of the copper wire that I used to suspend it from the supports of the second floor staircase. Although tragic and frustrating at the time, I nudged, angled, and twisted the wire until it came to a satisfactory, semi-closed shape. The final touch was two small stitches that closed the cocoon from the back and a single red chair underneath, to encourage people to not only interact with the piece, but do so leisurely.

unnamed  inside outer2

There are several things I wanted to do differently in this piece, but I consider them lessons for future projects. My biggest regret is, like the cautionary tale that Seres Lu tackles in Graffiti vs. Street Art, my piece was art. There was something inherently limiting and classist about my piece being art, which was counter to the intent of an equalizing, sheltering space. Still, in my many trips through Heimbold, I caught several people resting in that red chair and staring up at the lights that twinkled around them.

As an artist, I see many conceptual and aesthetic flaws in my piece (namely, the uneven hand stitches that secured the wire within the piece and oddly bourgeois nature of art)— as a student, I thought that the cocoon was a perfect respite.

Cultural HiJack: Bathroom(s)

clean-your-hands-hand-washing-poster

This project began very sensitive; I wanted to discuss sexual assault and harassment on campus, which is quite personal to me. I came at the project initially from a point of anger, and conceptualized a piece where I would use polaroid pictures of places on campus to insinuate the viewer in the situation. I wanted to make it uncomfortable to be a bystander not doing anything. After a lot of discussion and thought, it became clear that the project needed to take a different form. I hadn’t consider that the piece would be upsetting to other people who have been assaulted and harassed on campus, and that it wouldn’t only be seen by those perpetuating the abuse or disaffected onlookers.

So I abandoned the polaroids, but I held on to the idea of gendered harassment, as it felt too important not to tackle. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I could appeal not only to the bystander and the perpetrator, but also to the affected parties, and how I could accomplish projecting a message that would be understood differently by different people. I looked a lot at Jenny Holzer’s work, and the ways that she abstracts ideas slightly into phrases and places them innocuously but obviously. The idea of humor was important in conceptualizing the form the piece would take, but ultimately abstraction became the most important element.

I decided on posters, instructional, in the vein of the CPR instructional charts posted in school cafeterias. The gendered bathrooms in Heimbold seemed the perfect place for the project – the concept of a gendered bathroom is loaded politically and emotionally, and even a public bathroom of any kind can be extremely anxiety-inducing for someone who experiences sexual harassment.

I found a hand-washing instructional poster and removed most of the text, finding the images useful for evoking the images of paranoia experienced both by those fearing harassment and those who are overly concerned with the genders of the people they share a bathroom with. I tried to draw attention to the ridiculous amount of thought people put into the gender of those around them and how that relates with their own gender – an angle I felt would be sympathetic enough to not be triggering for anyone but would still have the potential to cause someone to reflect on their own thoughts and actions. The actual process of installation terrified me – when I considered the placement of my piece, I put aside my own fears surrounding gendered and public bathrooms, but ultimately I was able to install. It was a positive experience, and gave me space to think, in relation to my project, about the arbitrary distinctions of spaces that are closed off by gender and class. The social constructions are baked in to the space, but that makes it easier to hijack.

Visual Hijack: What makes the postmodern home so appealing?

postmodernhome5

My project began centered around this image: a pair of jeans, $425, covered in faux mud. The image was to me a representation of the ways in which more privileged social classes desire the aesthetics of the working class without desiring any of the hardships that go along with them. These jeans, for instance, represent the marketability of clothes that look worked in, and that people will pay ridiculous amounts of money to achieve this look rather than to actually be down working in the dirt for an hour or two.

jeans

I had initially conceived a project in which I took obviously used objects, such as dirty/distressed clothing, safety gear, work gear, etc. and sold them as if they were designer. I felt that this could create a reversal of the image of designer clothes made to look lived in.

However, as I worked with this project, I found it incredibly difficult to pin down the visual/object based aesthetics of the working class in a way that was universally recognizable. I tried different approaches, but eventually the project moved in a direction that had tonally been done many times before – that of merely critiquing the ridiculous prices of designer items, rather than focusing on the commodification of working class aesthetics. I conceptualized a couple other ways I could get my point across – a box with supplies to distress jeans (dirt, rusty metal, sandpaper, paint), marketed with a sort of DIY twist; an online shop marketing things as thrifted or vintage rather than new designer.

In an effort to pin down the image vocabulary I was working with, I tried to place the images in a sort of mock “museum” setting. I had hoped isolating the images in a white box would make it easier to figure out how to represent the concepts I was working with, but it proved to be just as difficult as it was in a non-isolated setting. This section of the project permutated to represent the unattainability of the American dream, and I took a more clarifying approach to this permutation, collecting images that helped represent my concept and clarify the ways in which I wanted to present my ideas.

I then ultimately presented my concepts through altered images, finding modern equivalencies with new technology and old advertisements. These images went through multiple permutations, but the theme of technology seemed to fit the project best.

postmodernhome11

I think there were a few things in my way when I first began executing this project. I began with humor on my mind, but moved away from it when attempting to execute the piece. I tried to jump right in and create a physical piece of work, rather than using words or images to clarify my idea further than what I initially presented to the class. I also set up a barrier for myself when deciding that my visual hijack would take place in physical space, as physical projects require materials and space that I did not necessarily have the means to acquire, or that I did not know how to go about acquiring. When taking inspiration from our readings, I also felt torn between my agreement with Fairey and with Vallen’s critique of Fairey, which I think may have muddled my intent when it came to how to hijack my image.

postmodernhome22

Ultimately, I found clarity through achievable goals, a great deal of research, and realizing that my work didn’t have to agree entirely with Fairey or Vallen – I could take elements from both, in addition to our other readings.

Cultural Hijack: What I Learned From my Failed Kekistan Hijack

For my hijack i attempted to subvert the 4chan meme, the Kekistan flag. The history of the meme can be found here (http://bit.ly/2xCg1Tg), but why I chose it as my target was because it used by contemporary white supremacist and new fascist movements, currently known as the “alt-right.” To rob the power of Kekistan, my hijack must undercut its replication. To do require two somewhat conflicting processes. First it would educate the vast public of its ideological associations as a dog whistle. Secondly the hijack would interfere with the meme’s replication so it would not be used again the same way a joke dies when it is told too many times badly. The latter intention was inspired by Dennet’s “Memes and the Exploitation of Imagination” and how they reproduce themselves.

The iteration I used to hijack explicitly references Nazi imagery such as the Iron Cross and the three lines. In my attempt I used learned how to Gimp, which I learned for this project, to alter the image in a variety of ways, including fusing the flag with the Nazi flag and incorporating Lisa Frank iconography into it.

Unfortunately I came across several problems in attempting to subvert it.

  • The meme is steeped in a history of shitposting, so my first attempt to subvert through exaggeration, such as adding “Nazism is My Passion.” This led to an unclear message in the image, only affirming and promoting neo-Nazi idea;s for those unfamiliar with the original’s associations to Nazism.
  • The next drafts reference Lisa Frank’s colorful designs and it’s image connections to Nazi flags in order to the achieve my goals. Unfortunately, it still did not achieve the critical tone that is needed to be a hijacked. Instead the image just seemed to be another reiteration of the meme.
From this experience I learned that in order to visual critique and hijack coded memes and racist imagery, it must not incorporate the images. In order to hijack the meme, I must create a counter meme that educates and exposes those who use it for malicious means or figure out another way to bring hijack a coded meme.  I also learned how to use Gimp for this project and have that skill under my belt. 

The Esther Raushenbush Library’s Guerrilla Catalogue

FullSizeRender-6 FullSizeRender-2 FullSizeRender-3 FullSizeRender-5 For my conference project, I collected and catalogued all of the graffiti in the library. Each of these pieces was separated into one of eleven categories: Love/Sex/Relationships, Campus Life, Existentialism School & Education, Conference Work, Quotes, Drawings, Questions, Jokes, Sadness/Frustration, and Motivation. The purpose of this project was to give a critical appreciation for these small, anonymous acts of vandalism. I thought a good way to do that would be to catalogue them similarly to the library’s system. While at face value, they’re funny quips, cries of desperation and exhaustion from work, and divulged secrets are just the ramblings of twenty-something liberal arts students, I think there’s something more here. Even though they were technically defacing the library, the level of intimacy in most of these felt more like reading snippets of a diary than the words of someone with the intent to destroy property. A lot of the pieces were in conversation with each other. It seemed like an act in intimate expression, but also in bonding. I think this is one of the most special components of this project. This is a community of anonymous authors, speaking to no one or anyone, and engaging in a dialogue. Sometimes it’s witty banter, but often its words of encouragement; a number of these notes said “You can do it!”. I felt a special connection to each space. There’s also a strangeness to reading a conversation which is not logged and sort of presently happening, yet totally silent and without any sense of timing. It feels very alive and present. My intention was to connect this project back to the lessons we had learned on psychogeography, but giving people a new way of navigating the space through this alternate, guerrilla catalogue. It’s subversive and enticing, or as one anonymous author wrote “I’ve never done this before and it feels way better than I expected”. So it’s a catalogue that invites interaction and contribution. This also reminded me of the Situationists International, through the way they marked their city as a way of redefining the space. The Situationists also showed how they could challenge the dominant power structure through small acts of vandalism like this. I see a lot of similarity in these small pieces of writing challenging the power structure of the library, and its catalogue of thoughts. It subverts the nature of needing to be published in order to have a presence in the library. Ideally, the best placement for this piece would be in the library, next to the guide on the wall. Although, I didn’t notice a spatial connection between the writings and the collections of books they were near, I think placing this map next to these stacks might subtly suggest or encourage someone to write something existential near the philosophy section or something.

Conference Project Draft #1: Library Graffiti

6a00d8341c630a53ef011570e53679970c There are a number of different ways to navigate a library; the Dewey decimal system seems like an obvious universal method, if there’s a specific book you’re looking for. Or if you’re looking more for information in a more general way, the library is spatially separated into categories such as Philosophy, Religion, Anthropology, and Art History. But ultimately, the library is a catalogue of ideas. Sometimes those ideas are the end destinations for researchers with particular questions, and sometimes curious minds wander in with the goal of allowing any of the innumerable ideas fill their thoughts. Sometimes ideas are contributed by the library’s visitors, and that is what I’d like to focus this conference project on. There’s a lot of graffiti on the walls and desks, as I’m sure many of the other students who frequent the library have noticed. But it’s not graffiti like we think of it, as just names written as an attempt to say “so-and-so was here” in some sort of public, urban landscape. The graffiti in our library are uncredited ideas, existential crises, quotes. These are instances of students feeling so filled with information that they need to share it in anyway possible, or of students feeling so beaten down by heavy course loads with high expectations, looking for some sort of release from the pressures of synthesizing the brilliance of others. My goal with this project is to see what these illicit markings from students reveal about how the library environment inspires certain interactions from its visitors. I will catalogue the markings in public space and document them both spatially and categorically (I’m still working on the category system but I think it will include distinctions like ‘quotes from others’, ‘images’ and ‘questions’). This project hits on themes we’ve talked about in class, such as mapping the invisible, since the goal here is to deduce some sort of reasoning behind what inspires people to share their ideas or despair in certain areas of the library. I’ve taken a lot of this graffiti at face value and I’m wondering if more can be learned from these small rebellions. Secondly, the very act of marking up the library touches on the idea of playable landscapes which we covered through our discussions and readings on psychogeogephy.

Psychogeography of Historians

Today the Historians walked around the campus, from spaces around Heimbold to Marshall Field to the space near Tweed. As we walked, we discussed the unique histories of the buildings and the landscapes. We walked around Heimbold, considering what materials we would use for our sculpture. A few methods of traversing the campus that utilize its history (which we haven’t tried yet, but will potentially) -Finding a map of the school in the archives from several decades ago, and visiting various places on the map which have since moved, then re-imagining those spaces in their former glory. For example, the Pub has gone through several transformations before it became what we know today, such as the nurse’s office. -Talking to neighbors from Hill who have lived in the apartment building before it was student housing, and asking them how they traversed the campus. -Looking at William VanDoozer Lawrence’s plans for developing the town and visiting and reimagining the sites as he must have seen them.

Historians: Invisible Histories

Picture-16 (Pictured above: Inspirational piece by Monica Canilao) Today our group brainstormed on-site, about how we could apply our role as “historians” to the area next to Marshall Field. Though we’re still in the drafting phase, we cobbled together a few ideas from each member to come up with bones of our collaborative sculpture. Essentially, we would like to create a house-type structure which explores and pays homage excluded histories; narratives which are invisible from Bronxville’s manicured facade. While we are still not settled on whether this means private histories from a personal point of view, or an approach which regards class boundaries we see in Bronxville, we are certain that we want this project to feel like a welcoming celebration of unheard voices. The goal is to create an interactive house/hut-like structure which welcomes people inside and allows them to take or contribute to the structure. We see this as a challenge to the close-off, private properties in Bronxville, whose beauty can be admired from afar but never shared. So in a way, we see just the act of creating a space which invites one and all to share and take and contribute as a subversive creation to its environment.

Final Project – Feminist Ad Bust

January 15, 2015 caroline1 I wanted my final project during my intersession to address social issues that are relevant to me. My plan was to use an existing advertisement, paint it white, and then add text directly onto it. I decided to return to my initial idea of creating a billboard which advertised compliments that aren’t about physical appearance. I felt this is increasingly necessary especially in this area, given the number of times I was cat called in this neighborhood while I was here. The inspiration for this piece came from a post I read on angryasianfeminist. I decided to springboard off of this post, and add my own compliments, make it public and add a bit of humor. I brainstormed on compliments for awhile. Some of the rejected included things like “There’s no need for TV when you’re around” and “You’re the reason Kanye has self esteem issues” (I thought that might sound like bullying Kanye, rather than just being like ‘you’re so flawless’). I left two bullet points at the end open so that passersby could add on their own. I noticed that someone added “I LOVE YOU” when I went back to check (ironically on Valentine’s day). It’s a silly addition, not one I would have added, but I like that someone ws inspired enough to participate. The response online has been incredible. A photographer from the Philadelphia area snapped it and his photo was pretty popular on tumblr, gaining about 4,000 notes (‘notes’ indicate when another blogger has favorited or reblogged the original post/photo). I posted a similar photo and it got about 178,000 notes and counting. Even though this is dry data and doesn’t describe any impact the art may have had on these bloggers, it’s at least an easy way to numerically represent that a large number of people have appreciated the work enough to share it. My friends have even mentioned how they saw pictures of this piece popping up around various corners of the web. Suffice to say, the photo of this piece and its share-ability on the web is more important than the actual piece itself because it was able to reach more people. Overall, I consider this project a success. I was thrilled by the way the piece came out, inviting humor yet still attempting to challenge serious issues around catcalling. The fact that it went viral is a pretty clear indication that people want to see work that speaks to real issues. I think about that a lot when I think about the success of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh with her “Stop Telling Women to Smile”. Her project was incredible, combining street art and powerful messages about women reclaiming their agency in public spaces. Her work is obviously great, but I think the response to her work is the strength of the project. It felt almost like women had been waiting for someone to say this, so when Tatyana spoke the message people immediately rallied behind the project. I’m not suggesting my piece is anywhere near as good as Tatyana’s campaign, but I think the responses to our messages show how eager people are to see art that addresses these larger social concerns about the treatment of women.

Interview with Philadelphia Street Artist

12 January 2015 Before I set out to design and install my interactive art piece, I considered the importance of hearing about Philadelphia’s street art scene from an active participant. I managed to get in touch with a local street artist, who agreed to an interview if they could maintain anonymity. This artist uses found materials to create text pieces, that they then screw onto signposts. I had seen these pieces as well as text-based stickers by the same artist around Philadelphia on many occasions. The artist also has a bit of an internet presence. Since some of his pieces directly address the audience (the audience being pedestrians who happen to walk past it), I thought this person would be a good example of creating work that inspires interaction.   Here are some of the artist’s thoughts on street art, interactive art, and documentation: Why do you share your art on the streets? I get a thrill from the whole process of producing and installing the work, so that’s the selfish reason. But I also do it because I want people to actually be looking around them as they walk around the city. I want to produce something that catches your eye so that after you leave it behind, you’re starting to look for more things to catch your eye and snap you out of the everyday. Why anonymously? Well there’s the law, for one, and just the general sense that some people might judge me harshly for putting up street art. It’s easier to not deal with that. I know anonymous street artists who work for the government, or as teachers, or in finance, or in other fields where a morals clause in their contracts might mean that they could be fired for doing street art. So anonymity provides some protection and separation from a private life. But I think more importantly it’s more fun for the viewer if the artist is anonymous. It creates mystery. Fans are curious. Why does that artist do what they do? A nice side benefit is honest feedback. I’ve had conversations with people who don’t know who they are talking to, and we’ll start discussing my artwork, but they’ll think they are just talking to some random person on the street, or a new drinking buddy at an art opening, but instead they’ll be telling the artist exactly what they really think. Most importantly though is the mystery that comes with anonymity. It provides artistic freedom and excites fans.   What’s an ideal reaction you’d hope to illicit from your work? What the hell? This is terrible/evil/hilarious/eyeopening! I could do this. Hell, I could do better. I will do better. Is street art really this easy?   Is there anyone in particular you’re trying to reach? When I started, I was trying to reach people already in the street art community. I felt that Philly street art could be so much better, and so I was trying to inspire local artists to try different and better things. My work was a challenge to mediocre street art to improve. Now, it’s 80% that, and 20% geared towards anyone willing to notice it and think differently about their day or their surroundings.   How important is documentation to you? When I started, I documented 95% of what I did. It was essential to my practice. I was trying to create a street art persona online without producing amazing work or doing very much of it. My theory was that good documentation and social media marketing would make up for sub-par art. I was right. Now, I don’t document as much of my work myself, but I make sure to do as much of it as I can in places where I believe it will be documented by others. I recognize that internet visibility matters, and documentation is very important to day.   Is having a web presence important for street artists? Why or why not? A web presence isn’t essential to street art, but it is essential to street artists. What I mean is, to do street art in its purest form doesn’t require a web presence, but to use street art as a means for promoting your own art career requires a web presence, and these days, most street artists use their outdoor work as a way to get into galleries and museums rather than as a rejection of those systems.   Are you inspired by other texts artists? Other street artists? I steal my words from other text artists, and I find other street artists equally inspiring and revolting. In the few years I’ve been active, I’ve seen the Philadelphia scene mature slightly, and that’s inspiring.   What made you decide to start putting up your work? A frustration with the trappings of the mainstream artworld and general scenesterism have crept into street art, an artform intended to be anonymous and free.

Revolution Recovery – site visit & response piece

January 10, 2015 gene_smirnov_grid_rr_2 Today, my partner and I conducted a site visit to RAIR (Recycled Artists in Residency) located at the Philadelphia-based recycling plant Revolution Recovery. Revolution Recovery is an environmentally-friendly, sustainability-focused trash sorting center. Their main clients are predominantly large scale corporate and industrial projects that need to dispose of massive amounts of waste. The recycling center was approached by artist Billy Dufala, half of the art duo The Dufala Brothers and a former member of the popular band Man Man. Dufala proposed a partnership between the recycling center and artists who might want to use the material waste for sculptures and projects. Avi Golen, a co-founder of Revolution Recovery, was for the idea and thus RAIR was formed. RAIR invites artists from across the US to pick through the trash and the materials that are dumped at the recycling plant to create art projects that raise awareness about sustainability. While touring the facility and the artists’ studios, I got a sense of the social and environmental importance (and relative ease) of sourcing art materials from the trash. Dufala and Golen spoke at length about the kinds of incredible objects they’ve pulled from the trash: everything from expensive boots still in the box, a cheetah pelt, an actual shark fetus in a jar, and miles of christmas lights. trash The exhibitions RAIR puts on have included massive trash-sourced sculptures, Rube Goldberg contraptions, trash-bowling and much more. Currently, they’re in the selection process for their next batch of residents. In terms of my own project, I was inspired to appropriate trashed material for a public art project. I came across a peg-board which, though dirty, seemed like it had the potential to be turned into a fun game. I went to a hardware store and bought bolts. I cleaned and modified the pegboard in a small way, added a marker on a string, and created a fun little ‘connect the dots’ game. pegboard I was delighted by the fast response! Just hours after I installed it, people were drawing on the pegboard. To me, this was a success because it accomplished three of my goals: Create a piece which inspires people to directly interact with their environment in a positive way. Use recycled material (a la RAIR and Revolution Recovery) Create something which is accessible to a broad audience, that was not necessarily expecting to see art. So now that I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned from my site visit and my interview with a local Philadelphian street artist, I’d like to create a larger piece which addresses more important social concerns. This next project will probably play off of my initial inspirations. tumblr_nic1rsAkfV1qdozlyo1_1280

Urban Interventions: Brainstorm

This project will be carried out in Philadelphia. My goal is to create a piece of public art that encourages public interaction. I let a few people in the art scene here know that I’m looking for walls or spaces for intervention. While I wait for possible leads, I’ve started the brainstorm process for projects which would not require an approval process. This way, if I’m not able to coordinate a space in the short time allotted for this project, I am able to carry on with other ideas. The majority of these ideas are short-term interventions, and include adding a suggestion box to a public space (such as an unmaintained bus stop). Responses could be reviewed and sent to a community council member. Another idea would be replacing advertisements on the public transportation system (Septa) with art, quotes, history lessons; content that is based on improving the visual environment and passenger’s experience, and does not ask its audience for money as advertisements do. Potential ad takeovers could include short lessons such as game theory, why/how to encrypt data, or perhaps even riddles, brain teasers or philosophical questions. The goal would be to show that one’s time on the train doesn’t have to feel like time wasted, rather, it could be a space for contemplation. Another idea for a temporary ad replacement would be a list of compliments that are not about one’s looks. Multiple artists over the last few years have done a fantastic job of drawing attention to the issue of catcalling women, such as Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s “Stop Telling Women to Smile” street campaign, Hannah Price’s portraits of catcallers, or Rob Bliss’ video “10 Hours of Walking Around NYC as a Woman”. These projects are all highly effective in highlighting how these supposed compliments are a degrading action that make women feel vulnerable and reduce people to objects of physical desire on the street. If the counter argument (as flawed as it is) is that there is there is positive intention in paying someone a compliment, I thought a positive extension of this existing work would be to provide a list entitled “Compliments That Aren’t About Looks”. The list would include quotes like “You have a beautiful perspective on the world/humanity/etc”, “You have an incredible sense of humor,” “I wish more people thought the way you did about ____”, and so on. The purpose of placing this within the context of an advertisement space on public transportation is because a lot of these types of catcalling issues occur in these small-quartered, public spaces. Thus, this placement would connect with one facet of the target-audience who should think twice before they address a stranger about their looks. All of these ideas are attempts to reimagine existing public space as a place for audience engagement. Candy Chang, an artist, designer and urban planner, is an inspiration for this project as she uses her art to achieve this type of public engagement in a very direct way. A few of her more notable projects include painting an outdoor wall with the words “Before I Die….” then leaving a number of spaces for pedestrians to fill in the blank. Her indoor work has included projects such as confession booths, where audience members are able to anonymously write a confession on a provided card, which is then hung on a wall with other confessions as an exhibit. What I like about Candy’s projects is that they involve direct interaction between the audience and the art, and this allows the audience to take away a sense of self-importance from the work. One of my favorite projects that I completed last semester (Fall 2014) for Angela’s Remix the City course involved this same sort of direct connection with the work: I replaced an advertisement on the Metro-North train with an email address in order to provide people with a space to be heard. I was both surprised by the amount of positive feedback the sign received, and was encouraged to do more projects which gave people a space to feel heard. That’s where I am in the brainstorm process, more posts to come!