The Magic Box Complete

The Magic Box has been the central focus of Foxy-Wolff over the last three years. During that time the project evolved into more than we could have imagined when we conceived the idea in hotel room in Hays Kansas. To bring all that time and work together into a solid installation was the focus of nearly a year of that time.

The first step to bring the installation to completion was the show catalog. The size of the objects with their projections makes photography one of the most demanding aspects of a show like this. To get the images we felt we needed, we were fortunate to borrow the gallery at Colorado State University.

Magic Box Catalog (low res)

This was a dress rehearsal for installing the complete show and so required us to consider every aspect carefully. This meant pulling together and retesting all the tech, building the pedestals, and solving the problems set aside for later consideration. Once done, we were ready to set up and photograph the show.

Because projected video is such a crucial element of the installation, lighting the gallery was a central consideration every time it went up. For the catalog we lit the space far more than we did for the actual showings of the work, but even so the images were very challenging to work with.

One of the most incredible things about this project is how multifaceted it is, requiring us to extend all of our skill sets. This was especially true of the catalog. Most graduate students hire out this aspect of their MFA show, but because of my intermedia emphasis, I chose to do this myself. One of the long-term goals of my education was to become proficient in Photoshop and Illustrator. This was the first step on that road. Using some terrific online tutorials, I shut myself in the house for 6 weeks and got focused. In the end I had to learn Indesign as well, plus stay focused through repeated edits but it was a wonderful period of learning and we were really happy with the result. Here is a link to the tastytuts channel. It’s a fantastic resource.

https://www.youtube.com/user/TastyTuts

Once all these preliminaries were complete we were off to install the show at the Moss-Thornes gallery on the FHSU campus in Hays Kansas. Getting the work and equipment to the gallery was our next major hurdle. Our plan was to rent a truck but by the time we finished acquiring all the last-minute gear for the show we were way over budget on the project and so had to find another option. fortunately we were able to arrange the install with graduation weekend so my parents took it and us in their camper and we all stayed for the weekend.

We consider the blog and the website a central piece of The Magic Box. To bring those aspects into the gallery we used QR codes as gallery tags. We generated these through a Japanese company that allowed us to incorporate text and images into the codes design. Using these meant we could keep text and other distractions to a minimum in the space and worked beautifully with the overall content of the piece.  All the QR tags are shown in the catalog pdf above.

Once all the details came together the installation came down to the same effort and endurance required of all installation days. Though exhausting, this is one of our favorite aspects of working in the visual arts. With a couple of good hard days we had the show up and ready for visitors.

In addition to the show in Hays we were fortunate to be invited to show it at the Hoag Gallery at Colorado State University-Pueblo. It was wonderful to get to put it up and take it down so many times in a year, of course each gallery added new features and challenges to the work which really allowed us to understand the dynamics of the entire show.

 

It’s a thrill to see the installation complete and hear from so many people who appreciated the work. We have settled on our next large-scale project and will be developing clay bodies and concepts in the coming months, stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance Art with Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö

During the weekend of January 22nd to January 24 2016, Colorado State University Pueblo hosted a workshop with Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö. Focused on performance art, the workshop asked the participants to expand their understanding of art and consider new parameters in the conceptualizing of their own work.

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The workshop began on friday evening with a slide lecture and a question and answer session. There, Luke Turner introduced us to the the MetaModernist Manifesto, which he wrote many years ago. In the manifesto Turner identifies the essential nature of the world as one of oscillation. Life, art and its energies  move from one pole of awareness, represented as the naïvety of modernism to another, the cynicism of post modernism.  MetaModernism moves effortlessly between these two poles, creating sophisticated art that is complex and intelligent with a sense of humor, yet still seeks beauty and honest emotional engagement. Read the manifesto here.

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The conversation revolved around the collaborative works, inspired by the manifesto, of LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner. While this work was familiar to me, I did not realize it was performance art.  Part of the reason for this confusion was that one of the collaborators, Shia LaBeouf, is an actor with massive media presence, so that work of the performances are usually shrouded in reports of the actor loosing his mind etc. Joining the conversation half way through via Skype however, the participants could see him through the lens of art rather than celebrity and found an honest and vulnerable person and not an object for worship or disdain. In his own words, the art that he has made over the last several years has given back his human citizenship. I took this to mean that he could see himself as one among the human community and not finding himself placed above and beyond. A place that would inevitably cause the loneliness and isolation that has been a characteristic of much of his life. Through the works of Labeouf, Rönkkö and Turner, he has been able to connect deeply with people on the most basic level, his presence on the other hand, gives the work a visibility and relevance that it might not enjoy without the star power he brings. This circumstance seems to encapsulate MetaModernism perfectly, simultaneously embracing and rejecting celebrity as one of the basic tenants of our culture and from the turmoil of holding two opposing beliefs at once, making new work, and a new way of seeing.

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Nastja Säde Rönkkö was the primary guide of the workshop. We met early Saturday morning to a room of desks in rows. There, Nastja unpacked more deeply the underpinnings of performance art and showed us some pieces via photo and video that she found inspiring. Her assertion that intuition is a primary tool for relating to the self, and ones culture and society resonated particularly with me, as it seems the essential impulse to all art making. That this work was in fact coming from the same fount and tradition as that of object makers, only that the forms have changed to better reflect culture and society. If self could be defined as all things, then art too is all things.

So then as we began to think of performance in more formal terms, we were given to understand that composing performance art is within time, and words that relate to time, such as rhythm and impulse are of particular importance to its creation. This combined with the body, its feelings and perceptions within time, become the structure of the work generated.

While I had a good deal of academic experience with performance as a byproduct of my study of video art, I have practiced it only very little. This lack of real experience with performance was common among the participants of the workshop. Most in fact had no idea what to expect from the experience. This was a valuable commonality, as it allowed us all to begin at the beginning and to dispense with the “cred throw down” that can be so common to workshops.

We began with exercises that served the dual purpose of getting us comfortable and acquainted with each other quickly and helping us drop our social guard so that we might make authentic experience. These exercises often involved touching or sharing with virtual strangers in ways that were so immediately intimate that within a half a day, we were all feeling safe and among friends. As I’ve often told my students, you need to feel safe to really let go and make good art, and never have I seen a time when this was more true.

The exercises gave way to short, one minute performance piece based on a structure, an object we brought, or a film we had seen and so on. As the weekend progressed these pieces became more dynamic and personal, reflecting how quickly the group was learning to swim in the new medium.

Twice during the workshop we went for long hikes through the prairie, where nature became another collaborator, and the sometimes suffocating feeling of being too long in one room could be shaken off. The exercises and performances that occurred out on these adventures became very powerful, particularly the large group pieces done at the end of the workshop. I believe there was a video shot of one of these, I’ll update if I find it. In the mean time, click the link below for images of the experience posted to Flickr by the CSUP Today.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/csuptoday/sets/72157661684628243/with/24622839016/

My personal last piece of the workshop revolved around an a sort of paper free for all collaboration done in 5 minutes. While it was not enough time to really give the objects much of a presence at the scale I had laid out, I reduced the pieces down over the following week and made a collage, it remains a wonderful memento from an experience I will draw from for years. While I can’t see myself really entering performance seriously, the techniques learned and the genuine integrity sought is likely to influence my video work deeply.

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